Baer: A good idea from Mike Stack's mess

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Probe
FILE – In this April 12, 2017 file photo, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack apologizes to his state police-provided security detail and other staffers for how he and his wife Tonya treated them, during a press conference in his office in Harrisburg, Pa. A spokesman for Lt. Gov. Stack says Tonya Stack is receiving care "regarding a difficult mental health issue." Chief of staff Matt Franchak said in a statement Thursday, May 11, 2017, the Stacks are like many families that face mental illness and are addressing it "in a comprehensive way." (Sean Simmers/ via AP, File)

Believe it or not some state lawmakers – from both parties! – want to fix one of the oh-so-many flaws of Pennsylvania politics.

Granted, it’s a relatively minor one. But still. Every little bit helps, no?

And the fix is served up as a side to one of the year’s more savory political dishes.

That would be the still-simmering soup of contention involving Gov. Wolf’s stripping Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and his wife of security details and domestic staff amid allegations the Stacks treated them like chattel.

But, get this, the fix could mean something good comes from Stack being Stack.

Offered by State Sen. David Argall (R., Berks), it would allow gubernatorial nominees to pick their running mates, replacing our current system under which candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in primaries.

I’m betting Wolf’s thinking, “Where were you guys when I needed you?”

And it must have caused momentary celebration in Wolf’s reelection camp. A chance to rid the Guv of his second-in-command, a Philly pol he never picked, never liked, and, these days, wishes would go away.

Alas, campaign crew, this proposal requires amending the state constitution, a process that takes years. So it couldn’t impact next year’s cycle, in which Wolf and (as far as we know) Stack both stand for reelection.

Still, the impetus of Argall’s plan is the Wolf/Stack fissure and an ongoing investigation of the Stacks by the state’s inspector general.

“Let’s be honest, this is embarrassing,” Argall said at a Capitol news conference announcing his legislation. “Let’s call it what it is: a very strange and unusual situation.”

Regardless of the impetus, replacing the current crapshoot with what’s done at the presidential level and in a bunch of other states is a good idea for Pennsylvania.

I’m pretty sure former Gov. (Edward G.) Rendell would have preferred it to the present system, which gave him Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, who more than once referred to him in public as “Edward G. Robinson.”

And it’s just possible that if candidates for governor get to pick their running mates, the duties and impact of the LG’s office could be expanded, and future holders of the office might end up less marginalized than many of their predecessors.

Of course, there’s the option of eliminating the job and joining half-a-dozen other states that don’t have an office of lieutenant governor.

Ah, but ours already is annually budgeted at $1 million-plus, pays a $162,373 salary, and comes with a $2.5 million stone mansion (with swimming pool) that cost taxpayers $452,900 to run in 2016.

And this is Pennsylvania. Eliminating political perks isn’t part of the state’s DNA.

Neither is fixing fundamental flaws in our political system. Though this fix, as mentioned, would be a welcome start.

Argall, a 32-year legislative veteran, says he has 15 cosponsors, including a couple of Democrats, and believes his bill can win passage in two successive legislative sessions and voter approval on a statewide ballot, as required to amend the constitution.

One cosponsor, Sen. Mike Folmer (R., Lebanon), who chairs the Senate committee that will handle the bill, says he likes constitutional amendments because “they allow the people to have their say.”

What a concept.

So I ask Folmer how he feels about pushing for a limited constitutional convention to address other political reforms such as term limits, size of the legislature, merit selection of judges, and gerrymandering.

Folmer says he’s all for it (his nickname is “Citizen Mike”) but has a sense the majority of his legislative colleagues haven’t much appetite for fundamental change.

This guy knows his colleagues.

Doesn’t mean the LG selection change is dead on arrival. Hey, some good still could come from Mike Stack’s mess.