House Dems ask leaders to reconvene session to move 'critical' bills

An angry group of Democratic state representatives today called on its leaders to bring the chamber back to work to vote on what they called critical bills before the end of the legislative session this month.

The call went unheeded by House Majority leader Todd Eachus (D., Luzerne) who said through a spokesman he had not changed his mind and there would be no more voting days before the Dec. 1, the end of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

At a news conference today 30 Democrats said voiced their frustration over a slate of bills - virtually all of them with bipartisan support - that would die if they do not reach Gov. Rendell's desk before Dec. 1. Among the bills awaiting final passage are several environmental measures, including the creation of a statewide electronic recycling program. Other bills would help create more housing opportunities for low income residents, the disabled and the elderly, modernize the food safety law and ensure both parents get fair treatment in child custody hearings.

Members blame the decision on Eachus, Democratic House Speaker Keith McCall of Carbon County and Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans of Philadelphia.

McCall abruptly announced last week the House would not be returning except to hold caucus elections.

Eachus and Evans have said the reason behind not coming back is their opposition to a public pension bill also on the calendar that they consider unconstitutional. The pension bill, aimed at addressing the skyrocketing costs for government retirees, passed the Senate and is endorsed by Rendell.

Some House members today pointed to Evans as the problem, saying they believe he is afraid the creation of a new fiscal office - which is part of the pension bill  - would strip him of power or reduce his budget, a charge Evans' spokeswoman denies. 

No members of the Philadelphia delegation appeared at the news conference.

House Democrats also held a closed-door meeting on the topic, but none of the three top leaders attended it.



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