Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Our "full-time" Legislature

PA, one of only four full-time legislatures in America, is the only one that hasn't yet passed an annual state budget.

Our "full-time" Legislature


Pennsylvania's Legislature is one of only four full-time legislature's in America and -- as perhaps you've noted, since I mention it nearly daily -- the LARGEST full-time legislature in America.

And yet this year like almost every year we again are witnessing the stumbling, bumbling struggle to meet the June 30 deadline to pass a new budget by the July 1 start of the new fisal year.

Meeting this deadline and passing a new budget is literally the ONLY thing our Legislature is required to do.

And so its leaders and members plan to work Saturday and Sunday in yet another last-minute effort to do the one thing they are charged with doing.

(Maybe "charged" is the wrong word since so many have been "charged" in another sense, which is why we now have eight former legislative leaders serving time in various prisons.)

This raises the question of what do they do the rest of the year to earn the top pay and generous benefits and pensions taxpayers provide?

The answer is obvious: precious little of consequence and zero preparation for actually passing a budget on time without having to risk mistakes or (the usual) late-night tomfoolery during their rush to completion.

This is a prime reason the body should be (a) smaller and (b) part-time.

Oh, and the other three full-time legislatures? They are New York, California and Michigan.

For those keeping score, Michigan passed its $49.2 bilion budget -- increasing school funding by 3% and adding $65 million for early childhood education -- on June 4.

California passed its $96.3 budget -- with significant education increases -- on June 14.

And New York passed its $141.3 billion budget -- which included increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9-an-hour -- on March 29.

I don't know, maybe we should export some of our lawmakers to those states to heighten their legislative drama; or import some of their lawmakers to lessen ours.



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 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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