Fumo’s reforms would empower rank-and-file lawmakers and give citizens valuable government oversight tools
For Immediate Release
December 14, 2005
Contact: Barry Kauffman
Common Cause PA backs Senator Fumo’s legislative reform proposals
Reforms would empower rank-and-file lawmakers and
give citizens valuable government oversight tools
After more than a decade-and-a-half of struggling to clean up the way the people’s business is done at the state capitol, Common Cause/PA finds it has a powerful new ally. Common Cause/PA Executive Director, Barry Kauffman, joined Senator Vincent Fumo in a press conference today, at which the Senator introduced major reforms for the legislative process. Sen. Fumo and the Common Cause leader agreed that one of the most serious threats to decision-making that serves the public interest is the increasing use of “sneak legislation” tactics that circumvent constitutional safeguards for fair and open government.
Kauffman commended Fumo for recognizing that a tipping point in government integrity and effectiveness had been reached, and for taking the initiative to clean up the way the state legislature operates. Citizen outrage over a seemingly self-serving legislature, coupled with frustration of rank-and-file lawmakers’ over a process that now minimizes their role in governing, has created the inertia and environment necessary to push reforms to passage. The nine-point reform proposal “will help Pennsylvania government better serve our citizens” through two general thrusts, Kauffman said. First by giving lawmakers better opportunities to comprehend the public policies on which they must make decisions and by giving regular lawmakers more opportunities to have input in the process. Secondly, they empower citizens by providing Internet access to votes and debates by their representatives, by providing meaningful windows of opportunity for citizen input on legislation, and solidifying their ability to challenge wrongful acts of government in court.
Specifically the proposals call for:
Requiring all votes of the General Assembly and its committees to be posted on the Internet within 24 hours of the vote being taken, plus the publication of the Legislative Journal on the Internet within 20 days after the session upon which it reports. This will permit citizens to see how there lawmakers voted, and what they said on the issues;
A 72-hour cooling off period between amending a bill and a vote on final passage by the House or Senate, so that lawmakers can fully comprehend the impact of a bill;
Committee votes on bills to have a 24-hour cooling off period between the approval of amendments and final passage, so that lawmakers can fully examine measures;
Requiring that all floor amendments to a bill be posted and notice given at least 48 hours before lawmakers are asked to vote on them on;
Mandating that all bills requiring the expenditure, or loss of, state funds to have a fiscal note based on their final amended form prior to a vote on final passage;
Prohibiting amendments to bills on concurrence votes that would change the purpose of the bill;
Permitting 10% of either legislative chamber to demand a hearing on a bill prior to passage;
Solidifying every adult citizen’s right to challenge legislation in court; and
If a court finds that a law has been passed in violation of these standards, establish that it is null and void as if it never had been enacted.
Kauffman said “Hopefully, we can make these reforms the law of the land in the very near future. Pennsylvanians deserve no less.”