A single legislative action and one "irrepressable" individual proved to be the major forces in Pennsylvania politics in the past decade. The Associated Press, in its decade in review, points to the ill-fated legislative pay raise of 2005 and Gov. Rendell were the catalysts that shifted the Commonwealth's political landscape.
The middle-of-the-night vote by the General Assembly to fatten their salaries spurred voter anger that helped bring about major reforms, such as the open records act, and the Bonusgate investigation that has ensnared 25 people - including current and former lawmakers and their aides. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party - backed by record-breaking fundraising efforts - surged ahead of the GOP in most political contests, sending Pennsylvania into the "blue" category with its presidential votes and capturing the majority in the state House.
For political junkies, the AP has pulled together a comprehensive timeline. (See below) For another take, check out Capitol Ideas of the Morning Call of Allentown.
Highlights of major developments in Pennsylvania politics in the first
decade of the 21st century:
2000: — George W. Bush is nominated for
president at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, but
speculation that Gov. Tom Ridge might be picked as his running mate fails
— Former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell spends the year as general
chairman of Democratic National Committee.
— Longtime Senate Republican leader F. Joseph Loeper resigns from
the General Assembly after pleading guilty to violating federal tax laws and
later serves six months in prison.
2001: — In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ridge resigns as
governor to accept Bush’s appointment as the nation’s first homeland
— Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker sworn in as governor to complete the 15
months left in Ridge’s second term.
2002: — Rendell elected governor after raising and spending more than
$40 million to overcome challenges from then-Auditor General Bob Casey
in the primary and then-Attorney General Mike Fisher in the general
— Catherine Baker Knoll, Rendell’s running mate, elected
Pennsylvania’s first female lieutenant governor.
2003: — Touting his “Plan for a New Pennsylvania,” Rendell advocates
legalizing slot machine gambling and increasing the state income tax to
finance increased education spending, property-tax cuts and expanded
economic development. All will eventually be approved in some form, but
not much in the first year.
2004: — The Legislature votes to legalize slot-machine gambling at 14
casinos to raise an estimated $1 billion a year to reduce local property
— Voters fill the statewide row offices with new faces — Democrats
Casey and former Sen. Jack Wagner as treasurer and auditor general
respectively, and former federal prosecutor Tom Corbett, a Republican, as
2005: — In a secretive July vote taken while most Pennsylvanians slept,
lawmakers approve generous pay raises for themselves, judges and top
executive branch officials — igniting a powder keg of voter wrath, scathing
editorials and protest rallies at the Capitol.
— In November, voters deny state Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro
a second term after government-reform activists turn a normally humdrum,
up-or-down “retention” vote into a referendum on the pay raise.
— Eight days after the Nigro ouster vote, the Legislature repeals the
2006: — With help from national Democratic leaders, Casey defeats
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in his bid for a third Senate term.
— Rendell wins a second term as governor, handily beating Republican
— Democrats win a majority in Pennsylvania’s delegation in the U.S.
House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, and control of the
state House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years.
— In balloting that reflects lingering voter animosity over the pay raises,
17 incumbent state legislators are ousted in the primary and seven more in
the general election.
— The state Supreme Court restores pay raises for 1,000 judges in a
September decision that also concludes lawmakers violated the state
constitution by approving their own midterm raises.
2007: — A reform effort spawned by the pay-raise mess falls mostly flat
in the Legislature. Lawmakers impose an 11 p.m. curfew for daily
sessions, but turn their backs on more substantive proposals such as curbs
on campaign contributions and legislative term limits.
— Spurred by news reports, the attorney general’s office opens an
investigation into millions of dollars in bonuses that legislative leaders paid
to staff members in 2005 and 2006.
2008: — The Legislature approves a long-sought overhaul of the state
Right-to-Know Law, strengthening what was regarded as one of the
weakest such laws in the nation. Supporters tout it as a belated
— In July, Corbett announces the arrests of 12 people connected to the
House Democratic caucus, including former Democratic whip Michael
Veon, for allegedly using taxpayers’ money and resources for political
— Democrats widen their majority as voter registration surges to record
levels during the U.S. presidential election campaign. By Election Day,
there are 4.5 million Democrats and 3.3 million Republicans.
— Knoll dies of cancer in November; Senate President Pro Tempore
Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, automatically becomes lieutenant governor in
addition to his duties as a senator.
2009: — Multiple candidates line up for the 2010 elections for governor
and U.S. Senate, all but guaranteeing primary contests in both parties for
— In April, Toomey announces his candidacy for the Republican
nomination for U.S. Senate. Within two weeks, Specter switches parties,
saying he is unlikely win the primary in an increasingly conservative GOP,
and receives pledges of support from top Democrats including the
— Longtime Senate Democratic power broker Vincent Fumo is
convicted in federal court of 137 counts of fraud, obstruction and tax
evasion. The Philadelphia lawmaker begins serving a 4- 1/2-year prison
sentence for defrauding the Senate and two nonprofits of several million
— Corbett’s office arrests 10 people connected to the House
Republican caucus in November, including former Speaker John Perzel,
R-Philadelphia, on charges they illegally spent millions of taxpayer dollars
to influence political campaigns.
— In the first trial resulting from the state corruption probe, former Rep.
Sean Ramaley, a Democrat, is acquitted on all counts. Several days later,
three more Democrats are charged, including longtime House Democratic
leader Bill DeWeese and a former legislator serving in the governor’s
cabinet, bringing the total charged so far to 25.
AP-ES-12-28-09 1141EST deftext.xrul 091228114220A.0 Mon Dec
28 11:42:21 EST 2009
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