We Need a Change
It’s not that Rep. Quinn and the rest of the Republican majority in the Pennsylvania House aren’t nice people. They are nice. They are warm and friendly. They would be good neighbors in any community where they weren’t trying to make law. But we need to look beyond the handshakes.
The Republicans in the Pennsylvania House should be replaced. Their foolishness over Obamacare, Act 13, and limiting Democratic votes (the VoterID law) ended up costing taxpayer money. It gets really bad when implementing law starts to require expensive lawyers, advertising, extra personnel, and special printing. Oh? You thought all that legal stuff was free to the Pennsylvania legislature? Folks we send to Harrisburg ought to be able to read the constitutions, both state and federal. Going to court is a very expensive way to find out what a law means.
Choices for women were also under assault last term. The Republican House thought a law requiring vaginal ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy was necessary for women. They also thought that since doctors could not be trusted to require ultrasound images, a severe penalty had to be added for any doctor that went a different direction. For now, the bill is “tabled”. It needs to be abandoned forever.
Sensible, reasonably controlled fees from the fracking/gas industry could have returned money to our strapped state budget. Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, all have settled on fees that range from 4 to 6% on extracted gas ready to be sent to market. If jobs were lost obtaining fracking gold, no other states complained. But in Pennsylvania Governor Corbett and the legislature thought 2% was okay; in fact, marvelous. And they also thought it would be a good idea to let the state have control over where fracking was allowed. That would prevent any community Nervous Nellies from getting in the way of the big money.
The whole Republican House (and Senate) fell all over each other to pass an awful bill. And then they had to fall all over themselves again. Another bill was required to allow exceptions for certain areas, like Bucks County. As soon as the unconstitutional bill got into court judges pointed to the problem with local control and demanded changes.
And there is more! The Republicans had to back off from Governor Corbett’s full demands or some of the poorest school districts in the state would have to provide tuition vouchers to failing students. Less for the district, less for everybody, because the recipient charter or voucher school does not have to meet state or national standards.
Governor Corbett still won approval from the Legislature for two different tax credits: one designed to seal the deal for the construction of a massive new petrochemical refinery and another designed to advance his agenda to open up taxpayer-financed alternatives to public schools. Does either of these actions advance the needs of the 143rd? Rep. Quinn supported the Governor and the Republican majority on these ideas and about 400 more. A majority of her votes were on measures that carried something like 194 to 6, like naming bridges. The biggest potential saving of all was never considered. With all the cuts to schools, transportation, and state services couldn’t somebody have stood up and said, “We should take a cut ourselves”? The largest sitting state legislature in the country (and the most expensive) never shared any of our pain. A Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA) analysis of the 2009 payroll for legislative staffers shows 83 employees were paid $100,000 or more, 10 more than in 2008. By comparison, the state’s median household income is $50,173.
Being a member of the state legislature does not require any member to reveal reasoning or philosophy. Rep. Quinn refused to state where she stands on any of the issues addressed in the 2012 Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests from Vote Smart, national media, and prominent political leaders.
Transparency matters. Democrat Joe Frederick is on record as opposing Act 13 (“Fracking”). He supports fair taxation and a balanced approach to the allocation of state funds, one that maintains our schools, services and infrastructure. He would oppose any further state action against “Obamacare”, and insist that all legislative expenditures that are not directly related to state business be curtailed, especially legislative costs and the per diem freebies. Community control must not be surrendered to the “people who know better” sitting in Harrisburg. Terms should be limited. Salaries, pensions, benefits and remuneration for State Representatives should be in line with the sacrifices that everybody else has to make.
Time to vote in a legislature that is more concerned with the people it serves than with political expedience and the views of “social conservatives”. It’s time for a change.
Ann Melby Shenkle Doylestown