Are All Lawmakers Crooks?

Term LimitsThis past Friday, former State Rep. Mike Veon, who had served as PA House Democrat Whip, was sentenced to 6 to 14 years in prison for his role in the ongoing public corruption case. Under indictment, but still to face trial, are former Pennsylvania Speakers of the House Bill DeWeese (D) and John Perzel (R), and former Representatives Brett Feese (R) and Steve Stetler (D).

On the same day, the FBI and IRS raided PA State Senator Bob Mellow’s home and office (Mellow is the Senate Democrat Leader). This becomes the fourth high-profile case on that side of the Capitol, following an FBI raid of Sen. Ray Musto (D), the indictment of Sen. Jane Orie (R), and the conviction of former Senator Vince Fumo.

The leading spokesman for those opposing legislative reform, Sen. Daylin Leach, is certain to repeat his chorus that not all legislators are corrupt. But the crime rate in the Pennsylvania Capitol must be higher than any city in America. And Sen Leach and the vast majority of his colleagues sat around and did nothing, said nothing, or saw nothing while this corruption was taking place. In fact, most of the lawmakers who have been convicted, indicted, or are under investigation for corruption were elected to positions of leadership by their peers.

So I think we can move past the idea Pennsylvania does not need drastic reform in our legislature. Noting that most of those convicted or facing charges are among the longest serving members (indeed, several were first elected during the 1970s), term limits should be among the top priorities. Likewise, restoring the Pennsylvania General Assembly to a citizen legislature – as most other states have – is a necessity.

But it is becoming increasingly obvious legislators will not reform their own house, and it is high time citizens take control of their state government by demanding a Constitutional Convention or Initiative and Referendum.