Saturday, March 28, 2015

Legislative Learning

Lawmakers go to school.

Legislative Learning

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

JB: Good news, boss. There's a chance things in your legislature will be different soon.

BE: Because reforms such as term limits, reduced size and staffing, pension and perk cuts are on the way?

JB: Uh, no.

BE: Damn. How then?

JB: Because this week, lawmakers attended a three-hour symposium in the auditorium of the State Museum, "Representing, Lawmaking and Balancing Executive and Judicial Power." It was put on by the Pennsylvania Policy Forum, a group of academics, and paid for with foundation grants.

BE: Highlights?

JB: Well, I could only take an hour and a-half but it had a pretty good turnout: 140 of the 253, though lawyer/lawmakers got Continuing Legal Education credits for attending so there was incentive. Legislative leaders were there, including Senate President Joe Scarnati, who's starting to look more and more like John Boehner, and House Speaker Sam Smith, who's daddy, "Snuffy," was a lawmaker before him.

BE: Did you learn anything?

JB: A fun fact. Jim Reichley, a member of the 1968 Commission on Legislative Modernization, and the father of GOP state Rep. Doug Reichley from the Lehigh Valley, fessed up to something I've never heard.

BE: That the commission didn't modernize squat?

JB: No, I've heard that. But Reichley confessed that in drawing House legislative districts to expand their number from 100 to 200, a late-night session miscounted and ended up with 203 House seats, which ended up in the state Constitution.

BE: Guess things never change in Pennsylvania: governing by gaffe.

JB: Ah, but there was a nice moment when Pittsburgh Democratic Rep. Jake Wheatley said when he first was elected in 2002 the late Speaker K. Leroy Irvis told him "the first thing that goes in front of your name is `state representative,' not your district number...members are one, you are part of a body greater than yourself."

BE: Nice sentiment. Too bad that body turned gluttonous.

JB: Speaking of which, there was, of course, a reception following the event. But they coulda used some better PR planning.

BE: Because?

JB: Because they were serving BV Coastal Estates wine from CALIFORNIA, not Pennsylvania wines.

BE: You'd rather have something from Erie?

JB: I'd rather have Gentleman Jack. Grrr.

John Baer 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
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected