Sunday, February 14, 2016

Our AWOL Legislature

Eight days since June: that's how often your state Legislature was at work in the capitol on your dime.

Our AWOL Legislature


Most of yuns know I occasionally -- okay, constantly -- growl about the workload and productivty of our largest-in-the-nation, "full-time" Legislature.

It's 253 members cost taxpayers roughly $300 million each year.

It's members just got their annual, automatic pay raise, which its members voted into law back in 1995, lifting base pay for rank and file members (and soooo many are rank!) by 2.2 percent to $83,802.

This, of course, does not include over-generous pension and health benefits well beyond what most private-sector workers who pay for all this can these days expect. And "leaders" get much more.

Well, today, I ask you join me in growling about the total number of days your Legislator was in voting session since June.


The total number of days was eight.

Yep, our honorables left town after passing the budget at the end of June, had all of July and August off and most of September, during which there were just two voting days.

The other six voting days were in October before they took off to campaign for reelection and before they took the month of November to rest up after all that hard campaigning. And Decemeber, well, it's the holidays.

So, eight days in six months. "Full-time" work if you can get it.

Harrisburg's WHTM-TV, an ABC affiliate, just offered a report quoting two folks I've written about in past who actually get it: Tim Potts, a veteran activist who was one of the Inky's "Citizen of the Year" award winners back in 2005; and state Auditor General-Elect Gene Depasquale, a now-former state House member from York County.

Potts tells the TV station eight session days in six months "is simply not acceptable." He notes while lawmakers might be engaged in constituent or committee work, if that work doesn't result in anything getting to a vote during a session "you have to wonder what that time was spent on."

Depasquale says critics who say lawmakers don't do enough are right. He says if we pay a Legislature full-time it should work full-time, adding, "There is still work that needs to be done."

There is a school of thought that says the less they vote the better for all of us. And there is some truth to that. Also, you really don't want ousted or retiring lawmakers voting after an election they lost or chose to forego.

But. Eight days in six months for full-time pay? Certainly a growl-worthy situation.




Daily News Political Columnist
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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

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

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