PA Senator Responds to Corbett’s “Don’t Watch” Comment

The following piece is reprinted by permission from Daylin Leach's State Senate site:

Gov.  Tom Corbett said he would sign a proposed law to make women getting a  state-paid abortion watch a fetal ultrasound but said: “I don’t know how  you make anybody watch it, OK? Because you just have to close your  eyes. … But as long as it’s "on exterior, not interior,” he will approve  it.

By Peter L. DeCoursey
Bureau Chief
Capitolwire

HARRISBURG  (May 15) – The new Quinnipiac Poll says Pennsylvanians disapprove of a  proposal 48-42 percent to show a fetal ultrasound to women getting  state-paid abortions, but an unexpected demographic led that opposition:  men.

Women are tied on the idea, 45-45 in the new Quinnipiac Polling Institute survey, but men oppose it 51-39.

Voters with a college degree opposed it 57-35, while those without a degree are essentially tied, 45 percent for it, 44 against.

The poll surveyed 1,256 registered voters and its results carry an error margin of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Gov.  Tom Corbett said Tuesday he continued to support the bill, and would  sign it “as long as it’s not obtrusive,” and the ultrasound is done  externally, over the belly, not intrusively in the vagina.

“But as  long as it’s on exterior, not interior,” he will approve it, Corbett  said. The bill awaiting House action, from Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, is  silent about whether the mandated ultrasound would be external or  trans-vaginal. A bill signed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell requires the  mandated ultrasound to be external.

Corbett was then asked if he  considered forcing women to watch it “obtrusive?” He said: “I don’t know  how you make anybody watch it, OK? Because you just have to close your  eyes” to avoid seeing it.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery,  responded: “I'm going to assume he meant ‘intrusive’ instead of  ‘obtrusive.’ And while I'm not a woman, I would imagine that any woman  would find a tube inserted into her vagina against her will to be  ‘intrusive.’ This, coupled with his admonition to women to just ‘close  your eyes,’ shows a breathtaking, almost inhuman, insensitivity. I mean,  oh my God.”

Reminded that Corbett said he would only sign a bill  that mandated an “exterior, not interior” ultrasound, Leach responded:  “Well, I'm also told he said he'd sign the Rapp bill, which, if you read  it, is ‘interior.’ If he now says he veto Rapp, then that's different.  But we can't let him get away with looking slightly less crazy while  signing a fully crazy bill.”

Medical groups have said that  interior ultrasounds are needed during the early term when many  abortions are performed, to see the fetus, and asked that the Rapp bill  be clarified so that like the Virginia law, it is limited to exterior  ultrasounds.

The poll showed voters opposed trans-vaginal  ultrasounds 64-23. Men opposed it 67-18 and women, 61-28. It also showed  voters favored abortion to be legal in all or most cases, 54-37.

Tim  Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, said  they were not sure why men opposed the bill more than women.

I'm proud and pleased that Daylin is in the State Senate. I'm considering moving 2 miles so he can be MY  state senator. It gives me hope that there are a few (Daylin is one of 3  I can think of offhand) people in the PA Senate who are thoughtful,  conscientious and sane. Hopefully the Pennsylvania electorate will elect  more of them. I feel ashamed that I pay taxes to support a  gubernatorial administration that supports these ultrasounds, as well as  the new Voter ID law.

Academy of Music 155th Anniversary Concert and Ball


Major movers and shakers in Philadelphia’s economy were among the 1500 supporters at Saturday night’s 155th Anniversary Academy of Music Concert and Ball, including (left to right) Ron and Rachelle Kaiserman, Robert and Caroline Zuritsky, and Renee and Joe Zuritsky.

— by Bonnie Squires

Philadelphia’s premier white-tie event took place at the historic Academy of Music, preceded by receptions and dinner at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 155th Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball featured the debut on the Academy of Music stage of. Music Director Designate Yannick Nézet-Séguin , with special guests multiple Grammy Award®-winners singer/pianist Diana Krall and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Tipping its hat once again to the first Academy concert, the program was a mix of popular and classical music, just as the 1857 opening concert was.

Jazz performer Krall surprised the audience by calling back on stage her friend and collaborator, Yo-Yo Ma, to the delight of everyone.

More after the jump.


Terese Casey, wife of Senator Bob Casey, and Felice Wiener

Yannick also had the Philadanco dancers, reflecting the rainbow of colores which lit the stage and columns of the Academy, perform to the strains of the orchestra.  A surprise finish was the appearance of the Society Hill Dancers, dressed in formal attire of the 1850s, doing a waltz.

The Jewish community was among 1500 supporters of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Academy of Music, an historic monument to music, opera and dance. The Gala evening began with a pre-concert dinner. Guests could choose from two exciting offerings this year: the President’s Cocktail Party and Dinner at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, or a Dine Around option, which allows patrons to dine at selected restaurants along the Avenue of the Arts, or on their own. In a nod to the Academy’s early years, and in a unique departure from recent history, both the Anniversary Concert and the Academy Ball were held entirely within the Academy of Music. A “symphony in three movements,” this unique evening gave attendees the chance to celebrate the “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street” within her very walls.

Public officials attending the evening included Governor and Mrs. Tom Corbett, Senator and Mrs. Bob Casey, a number of city and state officials, and corporate, cultural, arts organizations and philanthropic foundation leaders.


Christina and John Saler

The gala was co-chaired by Joanna McNeil Lewis, president and CEO of the Academy of Music,  and John R. Saler, chairman of Stradley and Ronon’s Government Affairs Practice Group, who also serves on the board of the Philadelphia Orchestra.


Corbetts greet Richard Worley, chairman of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Joanna McNeil Lewis and John Saler, co-chairs of the Academy of Music Concert and Ball, in the background.

In the receiving line with the co-chairs and the Corbetts were Richard Worley, chairman of the Philadelphia Orchestra board of trustees, and Allison Vulgamore, CEO of the Orchestra.

The energy of Yannick, the Orchestra, the guest artists and the dancers enthralled the audience.  And the impressive program journal, reflecting the support of various segments of the community, was the parting gift as people finally left the Academy balls, held in various sections of the Grand Old Lady of Broad Street.

Photos credit: Bonnie Squires.


More photos
David and Susan Lipson Ken and Nancy Davis Ron and Marcia RubinHelen and David Pudlin, Esq.
Sandy and David Marshall, with Dianne and Jeff Rotwitt Scott and Lynne Mason with friends Pat and Rob Schaffer Harmelin Group

American Vision – Prologue

Prologue of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

Bruce Ticker has written a new book American Vision. He has given us permission to publish this work as a weekly series. Here is the prologue.

Even on a day when almost nothing happens, the course of American history can be set for more than two centuries.

One such day was July 17, 1787. The birth of the Connecticut Compromise is customarily dated to July 16, 1787, when the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved a fresh but flawed legislative system, as part of a broader package of provisions for the budding Constitution.

Prior to 10 a.m. on the 17th, delegates from the most populous states to the Convention gathered at what is now Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to assess the convention’s vote from the day before.

The Connecticut Compromise created a split form of government: Each member of the House of Representatives would represent the same number of Americans, on a proportionate basis, and each state would be represented by the same number of senators regardless of population.

More after the jump.
The compromise split the difference between the Virginia Plan for proportionate representation in both chambers and the response to the Virginia delegates, the New Jersey Plan. New Jersey’s delegates, afraid that the large states would overwhelm smaller states like New Jersey, demanded equal representation in all chambers.

Under Convention rules, each delegate had the right to raise any issue whenever they wanted, even after a decisive vote was taken. That means the issue could be reopened on any given day, and that day was July 17.

The main players of this caucus – Virginians James Madison and Edmund Randolph, Pennsylvanians James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris, and Rufus King of Massachusetts – reopened the issue, however briefly. They met to discuss how to react to the July 16 vote on the basis of their insistence that both the House and Senate should represent the people on a proportionate basis.

As constitutional scholar Richard Beeman writes, Madison reported that “the time was wasted in vague conversation on the subject, without any specific proposition or agreement.”

In his book “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution,” Beeman characterizes the outcome this way: “He discovered much to his chagrin that only a handful of delegates felt as strongly about the issue as he did, and no one was willing to risk the outcome of the Convention on it.”

So on March 4, 1789, the newly-revamped Congress convened in New York City for the first time at Wall and Nassau streets, eight blocks southeast of the future site of the demolished World Trade Center. Actually, it took roughly a month before either chamber had a quorum. Come April 30, George Washington was inaugurated at the same site as the first president of the United States.

Madison and the other four were apprehensive about a Senate where each state is authorized to send the same number of senators to Congress. As Beeman puts it, “They held the principled view that it was wrong to give any state government, be it a large state or a small one, too much weight and authority within the national government. The only way to avoid that injustice was to represent the people according to their numbers.”

History would repeatedly prove Madison and associates to be right. For example, the senators from New Jersey, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and Maryland, Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, discovered in 2010 that the wealthy would retain their tax cuts and health-care reform would be watered down. Delaware Sens. Thomas R. Carper and Christopher A. Coons advocate for most of the same concerns affecting the three states.

Such lapses are mainly rooted in how the Senate is composed in combination with its much-abused filibuster rule.

More than two centuries earlier, the chief opponents of proportionate representation in the Senate represented Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Though Delaware ranks 45th in population with 844,000 residents, New Jersey now ranks 11th with 8.7 million people and Maryland is 19th, population 5.6 million, according to Census Bureau figures. With 19.5 million people, New York is now the third most populous state.

Many of the 37.5 million Americans from these states are paying today in large part because of the Connecticut Compromise.

Voting Rights: One Step Forward in S. Carolina, One Step Back in PA

This year, the GOP is working to capture key voting demographics: Students, the poor and seniorsFrom Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire:

The Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s controversial voter ID law, according to the Columbia State, “saying it would prevent black people from voting.It was the first voter ID law to be refused by the federal agency in nearly 20 years.”

Rick Hasen predicts the case will go the Supreme Court — and most likely be expedited ahead of the 2012 election — making “a momentous term even more momentous.”

The letter from the Department of Justice can be found on Talking Point Memo.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett fails to provide proof of the alleged voter impersonation fraud while he continues to push for  voter ID laws which will exclude many eligible Pennsylvanian from their right to vote.

More after the jump.
State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) has written a second letter to the governor, this time blasting the “nonresponse” she received from the governor’s aide and again asking the governor for evidence of voter impersonation fraud.

Josephs, Democratic chairwoman of the House State Government Committee, sent Gov. Tom Corbett a letter in October after reading a newspaper article in which Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele signaled her support of legislation to require voters to provide photo identification. She said the bill would make it harder for someone to commit voter impersonation fraud.

In her initial letter, Josephs pointed out to Corbett that Aichele’s remarks were missing one important point: any evidence that voter fraud has occurred. She asked Corbett to provide the number of complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions of voter impersonation fraud during his service as Pennsylvania’s attorney general.

The Nov. 1 response on behalf of Corbett was penned by Secretary of Legislative Affairs Annmarie Kaiser.

According to State Rep. Babette Josephs:

Her letter provided no credible evidence. It was a non-response. Ms. Kaiser’s only example of voter impersonation fraud is a vague allegation of voter registration fraud. There is no indication in her letter if any alleged fraudulent registrations led to voting fraud or whether any one was prosecuted for such voter registration fraud. She also makes the dubious claim that the ‘prevalence of voter fraud has steadily increased in the Commonwealth over the past few years.

In the absence of any solid information, Josephs replied back to Corbett, repeating her request for specific evidence.

Considering that a law to require voter photo identification could cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $4.3 million — the low-ball estimate by the majority Appropriations Committee chairman – and will potentially disfranchise thousands of law-abiding Pennsylvanians, I would like to know specific examples of fraud. In the absence of any evidence of fraud, it is shameful for this legislation to be enacted.

As attorney general, you prosecuted numerous public officials for using their offices with the intent to rig elections. House Bill 934 is an obvious attempt to rig elections in Pennsylvania.

Agreement Among States to Elect President by National Popular Vote

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.

The bill has been enacted by the District of Columbiaand 8 states (VT, MD, WA, IL, NJ, MA, CA, HI) shown in green on the map. They total 132 electoral votes bringing us almost halfway towards the 270 necessary to activate the National Popular Vote.

Eleven more states (shown in purple) have passed NPV bills in at least one chamber of their legislature. For example, recently the Republican-controlled New York Senate passed NPV in a 47-13 vote. Republicans supported the bill 21-11 while Democrats supported it 26-2. Across the country, NPV has been endorsed by 2,124 state legislators.

The shortcomings of the current system stem from the winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state).

The winner-take-all rule has permitted a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in 4 of our 56 elections – 1 in 14 times. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected Kerry despite Bush’s nationwide lead of 3,000,000.

Another shortcoming of the winner-take-all rule is that presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign visits and ad money in the November general election campaign in just six closely divided “battleground” states — with 98% going to 15 states. This makes two thirds of the states mere spectators. (The maps on the left show a similar situation during the final five weeks of the 2004 Bush-Kerry election. Each purple hand represents a visit from a presidential or vice-presidential candidate and each dollar sign represents $1,000,000 spent on TV advertising.)

The winner-take-all rule treats voters supporting the candidate who comes in second place in a particular state as if they supported the candidate that they voted against.

Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives the states exclusive control over the manner of awarding their electoral votes:

“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”

The winner-take-all rule is not in the Constitution. It was used by only three states in our nation’s first election in 1789. The current method of electing the President was established by state laws, and that these state laws may be changed at any time.

Under the National Popular Vote bill, all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes – that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).

The bill preserves the Electoral College, while assuring that every vote is equal and that every vote will matter in every state in every presidential election.

The bill has been endorsed by New York Times, Sacramento Bee, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Common Cause, FairVote, LWVUS, and NAACP.


As seen in this state polls are extremely favorable. Supports ranges from a “low” of 67% in Arizona to a high of 83% in Tennessee. On this map, shades of blue represent the highest support and 50/50 support would be represented in purple.

The movement for the National Popular Vote is bipartisan: The national advisory board includes former Senators Jake Garn (R-UT), Birch Bayh (D-IN), and David Durenberger (R-MN) as well as former congressmen John Anderson (R-IL, I), John Buchanan (R-AL), Tom Campbell (R-CA), and Tom Downey (D-NY). Former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Governors Bob Edgar (R-IL) and Chet Culver (D-IA) are champions.

This Spring, Pennsylvania House Bill 1270 was introduced by Rep. Tom C. Creighton (R-Lancaster County) and Senate Bill 1116 was introduced by Senators Alloway, Argall, Boscola, Erickson, Fontana, Leach, Mensch, Solobay, Vance and Waugh. These bills have not yet be acted upon action by the State Government Committees.

Additional information is available in the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.

Pennsylvania poll results follow the jump.

To support National Popular Vote efforts, donate money, contact your state legislator and get involved.
Pennsylvanians Strongly Support Popular Vote for President

Two out of three Pennsylvanians believe the President should be the candidate who “gets the most votes in all 50 states”, according to a recent poll conducted by noted Political Science Professor Dr. Terry Madonna.

The strong showing came in Madonna’s March Omnibus Poll involving a telephone survey of more than 800 Pennsylvania residents and voters. Among those interviewed, seven in ten agreed “it would be unjust to have a President who did not receive the most popular votes.”

The survey findings were released by the National Popular Vote Project even as state House and Senate sponsors are garnering additional support for enabling legislation on the matter.

Madonna said polling showed bipartisan public support for the project. “A clear majority of Republicans and Democrats favor popular voting in place of the Electoral College’s current method for choosing the President,” Madonna said. “The fundamental reasons the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College system no longer exist, and the voters of Pennsylvania understand that.”

The prime sponsor of the legislation in the House, Republican state Rep. Tom Creighton of Lancaster County, is quick to point out that his legislation (HB 1270) does not seek to supplant the Electoral College, but rather seeks to direct the electors as provided in the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution, Creighton notes, spells out in Article II, Section 1, that only the state legislatures may set rules on electors and that, in fact, the term “Electoral College” does not appear in the Constitution.

“Right now, most states allow electors to abide by a ‘winner take all’ approach which casts all of a state’s electoral college votes for the candidate who wins that state,” no matter if the candidate wins by a single vote or in a landslide. That “winner take all” practice has resulted in four elections where the candidate who received the most popular votes was not seated as President. A half dozen other elections resulted in “near misses.”

Only about one in four persons surveyed believe that electing a President by the national popular vote will favor one party over another. And of those who believe that, there is a clear split over which party would be favored.

Support was strong for the popular vote across the state although the most vigorous support was noted in Northwestern Pennsylvania, where 72% supported the concept. Philadelphia and suburban counties came next with 69% supporting a National Popular Vote. 63% supported the concept in both Southwestern(including Pittsburgh) and Northeastern Pennsylvania. A clear majority (58%) supported the idea in Central Pennsylvania.

The Madonna survey included the questions on the presidential election at the request of the National Popular Vote Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization promoting the issue nationwide. Interviews were conducted with 807 residents, of whom 659 were registered voters, using a random digit telephone number selection system that allowed for the inclusion of cell phone users, in addition to regular landline respondents. The sample error was plus or minus 3.4%.

Results in the survey were similar to those reported in a 2008 automated survey of more than 1,000 Pennsylvania voters conducted by Public Policy Polling. In that poll about 70% favored the election of the President by the national popular vote.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates Awarded Liberty Medal


Liberty Medal award-winner Secretary Robert Gates and David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center

Presenting the Liberty Medal to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates were SFC Dana Graham of the Liberty USO, Anthony Odierno, representing the Wounded Warrior Project, and David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center.

After a lifetme of public service, in the CIA, and ending with serving as Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert Gates was awarded the Liberty Medal on September 22 at the National Constitution Center.  The word “liberty” took on added meaning as David Eisner, the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, had invited Iraq war veteran Anthony Odierno, representing the Wounded Warrior Project, and SFC Dana Graham of the Pennsyvalnia Army National Guard, representing the USO of Pennslvania and Southern New Jersey (Liberty USO), to present the actual Liberty Medal to Dr. Gates.

More after the jump.


Jim Gardner, of Channel 6 ABC, hosted the television broadcast of the Liberty Medal ceremony.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was one of the dignitaries who appeared by video to congratulate Secretary Gates and sing his praises.

With Governor Tom Corbett and Mrs. Lisa Nutter joining other diginitaries on stage, the program included video tributes from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mayor Michael Nutter.  Gates is unique in having served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, which made his remarks of concern for the condition of public discourse in the country and in the nation’s capital today even more pertinent.

The VIP audience included a representation of the area’s Jewish community, some of which are pictured here.

(photos by Bonnie Squires)


Harold and Lynn Honickman

Joan Specter awaits Senator Arlen Specter, who was teaching a class before attending the Liberty Medal event.

Eugene and Roz Chaikin

A new twist on this year’s Liberty Medal ceremony was the introduction of the official timepiece by Hublot, presented to Secretary Gates at the gala which followed  the award ceremony.

Steve and Sandy Sheller

Stealing PA’s Electoral Votes: Have you no sense of decency?


— by State Senator Daylin Leach      

In America, we don’t elect our presidents directly. Each state elects representatives to the “electoral college”, which technically “elects” our president. For the past 224 years, since the first time we elected George Washington President, Pennsylvania has joined virtually every other state in casting all of its electoral votes for the presidential candidate who won the state’s popular vote. This has always made Pennsylvania a critical state in national elections because of the number of electoral votes we deliver.

On September 12, Governor Corbett endorsed changing our system and instead awarding one electoral vote to a presidential candidate for each congressional district they win. It is important to be clear. This is an obscene, transparent, blatantly partisan change in the rules, designed for one purpose only; to help Republican Presidential candidates. Republican leaders are distressed that their candidates have lost Pennsylvania in the past five elections, and they wish to correct this problem, not by fielding better candidates or making more compelling arguments, but by stacking the deck to ensure their nominees receive the majority of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, regardless of how the people of our state actually vote.    

We should be extremely suspicious anytime one political party unilaterally tries to directly affect the outcome of future elections. In this case, the Republicans in Harrisburg want to award electoral votes according to congressional districts. And who is drawing those congressional districts? Harrisburg Republicans! They control the congressional redistricting process completely. So they will essentially be deciding ahead of time just how many votes to guarantee future Republican presidential candidates. In fact, the congressional redistricting now occurring is likely to create 12 solidly Republican districts and 6 Democratic ones. This assures any Republican presidential candidate a clear majority of the state’s electoral votes. This means that your vote in the presidential election will be meaningless.

Not only will our votes as individuals be rendered useless, this plan will also end Pennsylvania’s status as a battleground state and will make us completely irrelevant to presidential campaigns. Why should candidates come here when we will know in advance what the final electoral vote count will be? Presidential candidates will spend far more of their time in states where electoral votes will actually be in play. It is extremely strange and distressing that our governor is pushing a plan that would make Pennsylvania matter less in national politics.

Notice that Republicans who control states that Republican presidential candidates usually win show absolutely no interest in changing their rules. We won’t be seeing this proposal moving in Texas or Mississippi. It is only states that Republicans currently control, but which tend to vote Democratic in national elections which will see the rules of their elections altered. Any change to our electoral college should be adopted uniformly across the nation, with buy-in from both red and blue states so there is no effort to rig future elections.

The Governor gives lip service to improving our electoral system. However, this bill has nothing to do with good government. It is simply a partisan power-grab. If Governor Corbett was really interested in improving Pennsylvania’s electoral structure, he would support bi-partisan proposals such as early voting, no-excuse absentee voting or a national popular vote. But he opposes all of these. Instead, the governor supports this bill, as well as additional legislation which will make it harder for people who disproportionately do not vote Republican to vote at all, such as requiring photo ID every time someone goes to the polls. This will disenfranchise millions of the poor, the elderly, and those who live in cities. In the past, there were times when Democrats have controlled the whole process. They could have passed anything they wished, and when it comes to substantive policy, they often did. But nobody ever attempted to abuse their temporary control to fix future elections. As the prime sponsor of redistricting reform, I find it particularly disheartening that this proposal will make gerrymandering an even more entrenched part of the system. This is extremely disappointing coming from a governor who ran on a promise to reform our political system.

Elections in a democracy are sacred. Permanently changing the rules which were created by our founders and which we’ve all lived by for centuries, in order to benefit your political party is profoundly wrong. It desecrates our history and is a repugnant attack on the very core of our nationhood. The governor’s endorsement of this profanity brings to mind the famous words of Joseph Welch spoken to Senator Joe McCarthy during another attack on the basic structure of our democracy. “Have you no sense of decency?”

Let’s Privatize the Legislature

— PA State Rep. Daylin Leach (D-17)

Governor Corbett really likes Commissions. In his short tenure he has appointed several to deal with issues such as Transportation, Marcellus Shale, and the role of Government.

Commissions can be very useful, particularly if you, like Governor Corbett, stack them with people who are already committed to recommending what you have already decided to do. For example, the Marcellus Shale Commission was composed largely of administration officials, energy executives and advocates from groups like “People for a More Noxious Tomorrow”.

I adopted a similar strategy recently when I had a dispute with my friend Walter. We were having a fight over which one of us is the bigger Dufus (it is a fight we frequently have). So I appointed a Commission to explore the matter composed of me, my mom, and 3 dudes who owe me money. Oddly, the Commission still found that I was the bigger Dufus (the evidence was compelling).

I am particularly intrigued by his new commission on privatization. The purpose of this commission is to find the “core functions” of government and to privatize everything else. I worry that the Commission will find that there are no core functions of government, particularly since the Chair of the Commission is also the President of the “There Are No Core Functions of Government” Foundation.

But I always try to be a “when-in-Rome” kind of guy. So I have a suggestion for the new Commission on something we can privatize, Let’s privatize the legislature!!!

More after the jump.
I know what some of you are thinking; Isn’t making laws a core function of government? Well that’s the sort of loathsome Socialist monkey-crap I’ve come to expect from your type (howdy mom!). Since the private sector does everything better, wouldn’t it obviously do a better job at making laws? Here’s how it would work:

We could keep the same number of seats we currently have in both the House and the Senate. But instead of electing people to fill those seats, we’d sell them, to the highest bidders. To be fair, the poor would have the same chance as corporate CEOs to bid for these seats.

This would have two huge advantages over the current system. First, we could then use the money raised by selling the seats to plough back into tax-breaks for the corporations that bought the seats in the first place. See, its Win-Win (a big “win” for the corporation. I’m still working on who the other “winner” is). Second, if we know that a particular seat was bought by Conoco Energy, it would save lobbyists time in unnecessary persuasion.

We could also make money selling naming rights. Think of the added cache our legislative chambers would have with the right branding. I think we all agree that the term “House of Representatives” is a bit stuffy. But the tourists would flock to, say “Keebler’s Law-a-Pallooza”. The Senate could be ‘Exxon-Ville” and the decor could be changed slightly from a Roman theme to more of a Fossil-Fuel Extraction motiff.

Think of the money we could raise (and give away to billionaires) if we could name the capitol building itself the “Cialis Center”. We could install adjacent bathtubs in the rotunda with sculptures of Ben Franklin and William Penn sitting in tubs next to each other looking pleased that their state was thriving, and that their genitals were working as intended.

In fact, our tax-pledge friend Grover Nordquist once said he wanted to “shrink government to the size where he could drown it in a bathrub”. He could use one of our Cialis tubs to do that, although he would have to work around a pharmacalogically aroused Ben Franklin.

Look, some people say our government is for sale already as big campaign contributions beget even bigger tax-breaks and subsidies to people who don’t actually need them. Why not just embrace that? What has democracy given us other than a social safety-net, clean air and some really annoying regulations about sending 6 year olds into sulfer mines?

A private legislature, on the other hand, could give us what Pennsylvania really needs. Blue-light specials on school funding, 2-1 deals on tax cuts, Instead of passing resolutions about Diabetes Week or recognizing some soft-ball team, we could pass resolutions honoring “The People who Own Us”. And to think, people claim I don’t do enough to support the private sector.  

Musing on Friction

— State Senator Daylin Leach

I like to think of myself as a pretty worldly guy. I’ve been to the rodeo. I’ve eaten the Easter Peeps. I’ve paid full price for a muffler. But every once in a while, something so outrageous, so off-the-charts awful happens (like Celine Dion making a new album) that even I am shocked.

Such a thing happened last Tuesday in Harrisburg when our new Governor, Tom Corbett gave his budget address. I entered the Hall of the House for the joint session all prepared. I had my ankle warmers and flask of hot cocoa, because one can get cold in the capitol. The Senator sitting next to me had his flask of Jaegermeister, because one can get sober in the capitol.

I was wearing my “Tony Luke’s Makes the Best Sausage” T-Shirt (I get a small fee) and my giant foam hand with extended index finger in case Corbett mentioned Temple University and my jar of mace, in case… well… just in case.

The governor’s speech started off promisingly enough in that he didn’t trip walking up the stairs. That is no small thing. In 1822 Governor Joseph Heister fell off of the dais during his budget address and hit his head. For the rest of his term he could not be persuaded that he wasn’t a large chicken, which led to some very restrictive, yet innovative agricultural legislation.

While there was much in Mr. Corbett’s budget I disagreed with, that is for another day. After the address was over, I dragged my neighboring Senator (he finished his flask) back to his office and started lazily paging through the 1,124 page Policy Statement which accompanied the budget. In it, I found something truly shocking.

Governor Corbett included the following paragraph which set forth a new policy on how we regulate. It turns out that the Governor wants a “friction free” relationship between regulators and the industries they regulate.

Regulatory Reform: Friction-free processes for government interaction with job creators are critical to maintain economic momentum and competitiveness. State government needs to be a partner with job creators. To address the length of time agencies take to act on permits and eliminate permit backlogs, PennDOT and DEP have begun auditing and assessing all of their permit processes to make them more responsive to the needs of job creators. In addition, the DCED secretary is empowered to expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.”

This is troubling. “Friction-free” relationships are very rare in the best of circumstances. I haven’t had a friction free relationship since my imaginary friend Dodo, when I was a kid. But by the time I turned 40, even he came to loath me.

Historically, friction doesn’t arise because regulators like Woody Allen movies and Industrialists don’t. There is only one reason for “friction,” which is that industry doesn’t like to be told they can’t dump poisons in lakes or mercury in the air or have to give their workers bathroom breaks. So in other words, a “friction-free” environment sounds frightfully like a regulation free environment.

Things then go from bad to worse. Under this new policy directive, those who head our regulatory agencies (the Secretaries of Department of Environmental Protection, Labor and Industry, etc.) will lose their power to make regulatory decisions.

Now, in order “to be more responsive to the needs of job-creators” (very little is ever said about the needs of “job-doers“) the Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development is “empowered to expedite any permit or other action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.”

Ok, lets stop there. What will our actual regulators now do since they are losing their ability to regulate. One word… Yahtzee!!

Keep in mind, that this strips the departments of their control over when to issue permits, and “any…other action.” Presumably going to the rest room now requires a call to DCED.

Of course, this only applies if “creation of jobs may be impacted.” I suppose this could have been broader. It could apply “only if air is being breathed somewhere” or “only if Lindsey Lohan is getting arrested.” But this is pretty darn broad.

Any regulation could theoretically impact the creation of jobs. For example if a regulation says you have to clean up a stream you polluted, that will cost money that could have gone to hire someone to dump more pollution into that stream. Or if a regulation says you can’t beat employees with rubber tubing, the guy who beats folks is suddenly on the street.

Finally its bad enough that there is a guy whose job is to stop health, safety, worker and consumer regulations. But its even worse when you realize who that guy is. The head of DCED is a man named C. Alan Walker.

Let me start off by saying that I do not know Mr. Walker. I have never met him. He may be a perfectly delightful man. Maybe he buys flowers for his wife on her birthday. Maybe he buys flowers for my wife on her birthday. God knows someone should. That said, his public record does not instill great confidence that he will be a strict guardian of our safety.

First, he has given $184,000 to Governor Corbett over the years. That sounds like a Kool-Aid drinker to me. I don’t have many $184,000 donors (although I am open to meeting them!). But if I did, I doubt I’d have a very arms-length relationship with them.

He is also the head of one coal company and has an ownership interest in an unknown number of other coal companies. That is also strange. At any given time, I know exactly how many coal companies I own. He also has a history of polluting and refusing to clean up until a court makes him.

More after the jump.
One Senator said to me that he’s not surprised that the Corbett Administration is doing this. He’s just surprised that they are saying it out loud. (No, this was not the Senator with the empty flask). But I disagree. Nothing like this has ever been done in the United States before, ever. This looks to be a hyper-aggressive move to gut our health and safety laws for the benefit of wealthy corporations. I’m starting to miss Governor Heister.  

Keep Out The Vote Effort

Speaking of Philadelphia voters Tom Corbett said, “we want to make sure that they don’t get 50%.” He urged his supporters, “Keep that down.”

It’s hard to believe that a sitting attorney general would tell people to make sure that citizens don’t vote, but that’s exactly what he said. See for yourself in this video.

“Keeping Out The Vote” instead of “Getting Out The Vote” like good logic when polls show Dan Onorato ahead in the Governor’s race among all registered but show Tom Corbett ahead if you focus simply on so-called “likely voters”.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Tom Corbett says he wants to make sure that voters don’t turn out to vote on Tuesday instead of protecting our right to vote, while last week we saw the Bucks County Board of Elections systematically denying absentee ballot requests to Democrats while allowing similar requests by Republicans.

It is a sad day for Democracy.

So get out and vote on Tuesday.