More on House Reform

Pete DeCoursey of Capitolwire (subscription) with a scathing column about the lack of propsects for real reform:

If you wanted to see how much is changing in the state House of Representaives, regardless of its new operating rules, take a look at what the chamber’s leaders did.

Their conduct regarding changes to the House’s rules, especially the conduct of Minority Leader Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, showed how little is going to change

One [of Smith’s defenses] was that if Democrats were going to say that the Republicans used the rules to run roughshod over Democrats from 1995 until early this year, Smith could tell them about similar Democratic tactics in 1990 and 1991. Yeah, he really said that. Imagine using that defense in court: yeah, judge, but they did the same thing, 16 or 17 years ago.

…DeWeese, of course, broke his promise to support all of the Reform Commission’s proposals. He sided with Smith and House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, on the commission’s most significant loss during the floor votes.

…What Smith and DeWeese did, and refused to do, when it comes to reform, is more important than what they said.

One area I take issue with DeCoursey is his characterization of the “roll call vote” amendment:

Smith also tried to stick the Democrats with two “reforms” that could have empowered Republicans to halt committee meetings if they didn’t like a given bill, and to give himself and DeWeese the power to demand roll call votes to grind the chamber to a halt.

Even if Smith called for a voice roll call vote on every single final passage vote (it only applied to final passage), what would that mean? That the House needed to be in session six days a month instead of five? That they would have to start their sessions earlier than 6 pm (as they did Monday)? That they might have to vote in the morning, instead of watching the performance of two girls doing Irish dances (as they spent their Tuesday morning doing, before recessing for 2 and a half hours)? That the couldn’t spend Tuesday Afternoon voting on such important “people’s business” as:

  • Resolution declaring March 2007 as “American Red Cross Month” in PA.
  • Resolution designating March 28, 2007 as “Helen Phillips CASUAL Day for Colon Cancer Awareness” in northeastern PA.
  • Resolution recognizing the week of March 11 through 17, 2007 as “Girl Scout Week” in PA.
  • Resolution designating the month of March 2007 as “Junior Achievement Month” in PA.
  • Resolution commemorating the achievements and contributions the late Honorable K. Leroy Irvis made to the General Assembly and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • Resolution designating April 4, 2007, as “Thaddeus Stevens Day” in Pennsylvania

They have too much time on their hands, not too little. And most of the time, I wish they would “grind to a halt”.