"What's black and white and read all over?"

Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Posted 5:47 PM by

Isn't it ironic

First he was against a lobbyist reform bill, now State House Speaker John M. Perzel is for it so as long as a hand-picked group of lawmakers and jurists write it - which is what scares a reform group.Sometimes you just have to sit back and let the news come to you. Read on and you'll see why I find this bit of news so funny, sad and interesting.

Common Cause of Pennsylvania, a government watchdog group, said it suspects state legislative leaders and state Supreme Court justices may have improperly swapped financial support for the court system in exchange for a favorable court ruling in legislative pay-raise cases.

Its Pennsylvania chapter included the "unsavory" allegations Monday in a revised version of a federal lawsuit it filed in October regarding the constitutionality of a July law that gave pay raises to people in all three branches of government.

For several years, Common Cause has known of claims that Supreme Court justices "may have been trading outcomes on court decisions in exchange for legislative leaders producing desired outcomes on court-related legislation," said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause of Pennsylvania.

J. Scot Chadwick, a former Republican state representative from Bradford County, said Monday he did consult with court officials about the 1999 legislation, but he called the meeting informational, not a quid-pro-quo negotiation.

So, these folks a bunch of conspiracy kooks? Hardly. As a reporter, I've known Kauffman for years. He and his slightly conservative but reform-minded group are after one thing and one thing only - Better government.

Here's the funny payoff: State House Speaker John M. Perzel, R-Philadelphia, told reporters at a Capitol news conference Tuesday that a committee of lawmakers appointed by the Legislature and former justices picked by the state Supreme Court will be formed to draft a lobbyist-disclosure bill that can withstand a constitutional challenge.

Pennsylvania is currently the only state in the nation without a law requiring lobbyists to report how much they spend to influence public policy.

Perzel was originally against such a bill, but acknowledged that pressure from rank-and-file lawmakers and newspaper editorials was fueling the movement.


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