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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: Reforming state government

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | May 17, 2013 2:35 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Monday, May 20:

PA capitol from angle w fountain 300 x 170.jpg

State government reform was all the rage after lawmakers voted themselves a pay raise in a late night session during the summer of 2005.  The public outcry had an impact and the pay hike was repealed several months later.

There were a few reforms enacted although none were considered major.  After a couple years, momentum and demand for reform seemed to die down.

That doesn't mean there hasn't been criticism of the Pennsylvania General Assembly -- the largest full time and one of the most expensive legislative bodies in the country.

And now, a bi-partisan caucus has been formed with major change on the minds of its members.

Democratic State Senator Rob Teplitz of Dauphin County and Republican State Representative Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County are leading the Government Reform Caucus, that consist of 24 Republicans and nine Democrats from both the House and Senate.

Rep. Cutler and Sen. Teplitz will appear on Monday's Radio Smart Talk to discuss their proposals that include annual independent audits of the General Assembly, suspending pay for the governor and legislature if a budget isn't passed on time, making the legislature part time, and allowing independents to vote in Pennsylvania's primary elections.

What reforms would you like to see?

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Rep. Cutler and Sen. Teplitz

  • Government reform legislation introduced in Senate by Sen. Teplitz
    • Annual independent audits of general assembly
    • Eliminate mid-term cost-of-living adjustments
    • Suspends pay for governor and congress if budget is late
    • No lame-duck sessions (voting in between general election and new swearing-in)
    • Allow independents to temporarily pick a party to vote in primaries
    • Prohibit use of taxpayer dollars to hire outside lobbyists to lobby other state gov. agencies
    • Drafting gift ban bill
  • Cutler authored legislation
    • Restore part-time legislature
    • Budget on two-year cycle
    • Increase penalties on lobbyists who don’t register or use other illegal means
    • Limit base of annuities for public retirees so they don’t make more in retirement
    • Reform policy of reimbursement of legal fees for lawmakers and staff
    • Selecting judges on merit rather than politics

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  • John Orris img 2013-05-20 08:13

    Didn't Corbett run on the platform that he was going to send sweeping reform to the capitol in his first six months a governor.

    I would have though that problem would have been solved a long time ago.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-20 08:39

    Facebook Comment from Robb
    How about for starters cut down on the number of legislators, we are one of the biggest state governments in the country.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-20 08:42

    Email from Lisa:
    Reduce the size of our state government by reducing the number of representatives and senators and make them part-time. It is not financially responsible to the Pennsylvania taxpayers to support such a large full-time government. Other states are able to do the same work with a much smaller legislature and some with a part-time legislature.

  • Michael img 2013-05-20 09:33

    two comments:
    1. One of the legislators proposed allowing Independent registered voters be allowed to vote in any Primary, he went on to propose that Independents go through a process of "temporarily " changing their registration affiliation. Why? This part of his proposal smacks of the "voter ID" voter intimidation we experienced last election. If and when a voter goes through this "temporary" registration change will have this become part of the voter registration rolls which are public records. This information can and will be used to the detriment of some voters, especially those who work for any politically oriented organization. The reason many voters register as Independents is to protect their income source.

    2. I would have liked to hear the Legislators address the issue of Legislators who continually run for reelection unopposed. Politicians are fond of saying that voters have the option of voting out Legislators if they do not perform. This can not be done with the large group of PA Legislators who run for reelection with no opposition. There should be a way for voters, on the ballot, to indicate disapproval. Perhaps some sort of vote of "no confidence"?

  • Robert D Colgan img 2013-05-20 11:57

    While Teplitz and Cutler are to be praised for their courage in bucking the system..... that's the problem. With only a few exceptions the system is entrenched in the mindset of ALL of their colleagues.
    The system IS the mindset.

    Why would the legislators----[[who think they worked so hard to attain the office they hold and work so hard campaigning to hold onto against challengers]]------want to cut their own jobs/their own self importance in the pecking order of political hierarchy in PA by either reducing their pay, the size of the legislature, making the legislature part-time, losing their pensions, losing their pay scale, losing... losing...losing.... They see it as them losing. And they don't like to lose. That very competitiveness is what got them to run for office.

    95% of these entitled and aristocratically insulated "servants" of the public they serve are NEVER going to willingly reduce their own sense of being among the most privileged: they're the Masters of the Commonwealth in their minds, not the servants.

    Just look at the digs they occupy....architectural trappings worthy monarchies and rajahs.
    These are not simple functionaries of the people-----but members of an elite club "better" than the average Jane and Joe Pennsylvania.

    They dress in suits and ties as if they are dignitaries out to impress foreign heads of state.

    Realistically, since they won't go for actual reform that affects them,
    I suggest we work for a ballot referendum initiative that would allow the voters with enough signatures (500,000?) to place on the general ballot proposals for a Constitutional Convention/term limits/reduced pay/perks/reduced legislature size/part time legislators/no pensions/etc.

    If you want to get egalitarian about it, how about all registered voters being put into a pool from which names are selected randomly to serve their fellow citizens in the legislature----as long as they're not criminals and not impaired mentally, why not?
    It would be the essence of democracy in action.

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