The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sea Change in the PA Legislature?

I've been meaning to write about this for months. As some of you may know, there's been a big controversy for the last 6 months over the PA leg voting itself a pay raise last July. This created an entirely unexpected firestorm, for the following reasons (beyond a basic taxpayer revolt):

- The PA constitution forbids pay raises taking place in the same session in which they're voted on. So the Assembly & Senate (both Republican-run) came up with an end-around, calling the pay raise reimbursement for "unvouchered expenses."

- The vote took place at 2 am, with no public announcement beforehand.

- The vote included raises for the PA Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of its constitutionality, despite its clear intent to run around the constitution.

Note that the Chief Justice was voted out in a retention election in November - the first time that's ever happened in PA. And this was after badgered legislators voted to rescind the pay raises. The grass roots anger over this pay raise has not abated, and is like a tidal wave.

And here's the thing: the most organized group on this issue is PA Clean Sweep, which is run by a fairly conservative Republican from Mt. Lebanon, a comfortable suburb of Pittsburgh. But he has been entirely nonpartisan in his attacks on the leg (although the Republicans were more culpable, both because they wrote the pay raise bill and voted for it at higher rates, both parties are guilty on this issue), and is recruiting challengers of both parties for November.

Because of PA's geography ("Philly and Pittsburgh with Alabama in the middle"), this presidentially blue state has had a solidly red state house for years. But any kind of major upsetting of the order can only be good for the Dems. While quite a few challengers will be Republicans going against incumbents in primaries in red districts, the resulting candidates will tend to be weaker in the general election (as they will be single-issue and, more often than not, more conservative).

Both Pittsburgh and Philly could really benefit from a Democratic State Ho. Furthermore, given how bitterly partisan redistricting has become, we need as many blue state capitals as possible. So keep an eye on PA - times may be a-changin'.


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