State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Slowing the revolving door

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 5, 2013 6:59 PM

The fall legislative session begins in a few weeks, and among the hearings marking the gradual return to action in the Capitol is an upcoming hearing on a variety of ethics-related proposals. The House State Government Committee plans to survey a smorgasbord of options for how to police your own.

One proposal aims to slow the revolving door of government lobbying. State law requires public officials, including lawmakers, to wait a year after leaving government before they come back to peddle influence with the entity that employed them.

Rep. Frank Burns (D-Cambria) says that's not long enough. Up it to two years, he proposes, and you'll minimize the chances that ex-legislators don't come back to lobby and see mostly familiar faces.

"If a legislator becomes a lobbyist, it's almost guaranteed that the legislators they served with will still be in office after that one-year waiting period," Burns wrote in prepared testimony for the committee.

But he acknowledges a two-year gap wouldn't be such a big handicap.

"[I]t's not likely that there will be a 100 percent turnover in the House or a 50 percent turnover in the Senate in two years, but this two-year time period further divides the relationship between a legislator and a lobbyist and any special influence that may exist," Burns wrote.

The highest ranking state senators have been in office for at least eight years. The top House members have all been in for at least a decade.

No other state has a revolving door gap longer than two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The vast majority of states mandate a gap of one year or less.


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