Friday, May 29, 2015

Capital Trick or Treat

Harrisburg's fiscal woes are being pulled between a state takeover of the city and a bankruptcy filing by city council. Take a guess who wins.

Capital Trick or Treat

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: Well, boss, the ongoing, nationally watched drama of Harrisburg's fiscal collapse is kicking into high gear this week.

BE: You mean Harrisburg has a nude bike race like Philly's?

JB: More like people wearing barrels. The Capital City's city council voted to file for bankruptcy, which the legislature says it can't legally do and so the legislature is poised to move a state takeover bill, which the governor says he'll sign, which the lawyer council hired says is unconstitutional.

BE: I'm confused.

JB: It's simple really. And all explained in a front-page story in today's Harrisburg Patriot-News.

BE: Gimme the tabloid version.

JB: Lawyers Set to Cash In: Film at 11.

BE: Ok, gimme a little more.

JB: First, clear your head. Take a deep breath. Ready? Council filed a federal bankruptcy petition. The state on Friday filed a motion to dismiss it because the legislature last summer amended the state fiscal code to prevent the city from filing for bankruptcy before July 2012.

BE: So no bankruptcy?

JB: Not so fast. Harrisburg Democratic Mayor Linda Thompson was to meet with a federal judge today to argue the legality of the bankruptcy filing.

BE: So the mayor wants bankruptcy not a state takeover?

JB: Not so fast. Her spokesman says she will not try to stop the takeover.

BE: Oh, brother.

JB: Hold on. Republican Harrisburg veteran state Sen. Jeff Piccola, a lawyer, the same Piccola who's pushing vouchers, and the sponsor of the Harrisburg takeover bill, says city council's bankruptcy filing "blatantly violated state law." But the lawyer hired by council, Mark Schwartz, the same Mark Schwartz who represented those opposed to moving the Barnes Foundation art collection from Montco to Philly, says the state takeover bill is "unconstitutional."

BE: My head's starting to hurt.

JB: There's more. The Patriot-News reports there might be a technical glitch in the takeover bill and quotes Piccola as saying such a glitch can be fixed in a matter of days and the bill can be adopted by Halloween.

BE: Trick or treat, Harrisburg.

JB: Exactly. And you know who wins in all this?

BE: I'm guessing you're gonna tell me.

JB: Same as in anything else. The lawyers. Grrrr.

 

 

 

 

Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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