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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Two-arm bandits
Slots more still to be angry about.

Even the most fervent supporter of gambling expansion in Pennsylvania should still be seething about the way state lawmakers passed the bill making slot machines legal.

In the dead of night on the July 4 weekend, they bypassed publicly airing the measure by inserting the 146 pages written by pro-gambling lobbyists into a 46-line bill designed to require background checks on harness racing personnel. Then, after meeting secretly in caucus, top politicos pushed the measure to a floor vote while allowing themselves to own up to 1 percent of any slots parlors.

In the process, legislative leaders bypassed the state constitution, created huge loopholes in the state ethics act, exposed Pennsylvania's lack of legitimate campaign finance laws and, for my money, violated the intent of the state's Sunshine Law.

Not bad for two summer night's work. Machiavelli and Plunkitt of Tammany Hall would have been proud.

It's doubtful state lawmakers will ever be prosecuted for this nefarious sham. But voters will get their chance to toss some of them in November.

Or will they?

"Throwing the bums out isn't even possible," Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause of Pennsylvania, said last week. His good government watchdog/lobbying group of 9,000 members can do little to help either.

"One hundred and one of 203 House members have no opposition in the primary," Kauffman said. "That's one short of a majority. If you have no opposition, there's no accountability because you don't have anybody else to vote for. The Senate's almost as bad."


This wasn't supposed to be able to happen.

"This is a prime example of how campaign money and lobbying can drive the governing system," Kauffman said. "This bill truly is a culture changing piece of legislation. It was also clearly special interest. ... They had the votes, the leadership wanted it and they pushed it through."

Article 3 of  the state Constitution requires that any measure to be voted on must get "three days airing in the house and the senate," Kauffman said. "It was completely violated. Lawmakers can't read a 146-page bill in an hour, let alone understand it.

"You can take this to court at any time," he added.

That's just what Common Cause did in 1995 when the Legislature tried to use the same loophole to take over the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. The state Supreme Court eventually ruled in the group's favor, finding that in cases where an amendment eats a bill, the two must be related.

"Legislative leaders have pretty much designed a process that will routinely fail the citizens of the state," Kauffman said. "It clearly violates the spirit of the state constitution, which is to prevent log rolling. And they rolled the logs down the mountain in an avalanche on this one."

A citizens movement to amend the amendment is not possible either.

"Unfortunately, Pennsylvania isn't among the 28 states that allow initiatives and/or referendum," Kauffman said. The state is also one of "a handful" that does not set limits on campaign contributions.

It does have a Sunshine Law, which says all governing bodies in Pennsylvania must debate the public's business in full view of the public.

However, the Legislature is the only governing body in the state exempt from that law.

And that's just what I told state Rep. Paul I. Clymer (R-Bucks) last week after he sent me an e-mail urging me to look into this further.


"In particular, the 1% investment in local slot operations by the legislators is immoral," Clymer wrote in his e-mail.  "They pass legislation then go to the 'trough' to suck up the benefits. ... We must alert our citizens to this impending menace."

I wrote back to say that if the Legislature was subject to the Sunshine Law, "I doubt such seriously flawed legislation would ever see the floor."

Clymer hasn't replied.

Kauffman helped me understand why.

"The real public policy debate in the state Legislature is done in caucus," he said. That's where the lawmakers meet in secret with their party leaders.

"They should be open to the public as they are in Florida. But here, a bill would never see the light of day. You can't even get that in a bill."


The Senate voted 30-20 July 2 to approve 61,000 slot machines in Pennsylvania. Voting yes were 9 Republicans and 21 Democrats. Voting no were 20 Republicans.

Armstrong (R-Lancaster), N
Boscola (D-Northampton), Y
Brightbill (R-Lebanon), N
Conti (R-Bucks), Y
Corman (R-Centre), N
Costa (D-Allegheny), Y
Dent (R-Lehigh), N
Earll (R-Erie), Y
Erickson (R-Delaware), Y
Ferlo (D-Allegheny), Y
Fumo (D-Philadelphia), Y
Gordner (R-Columbia), N
Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), N
Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Y
Jubelirer (R-Blair), N
Kasunic (D-Fayette), Y
Kitchen (D-Philadelphia), Y
Kukovich (D-Westmoreland), Y
LaValle (D-Beaver), Y
Lemmond (R-Luzerne), N
Logan (D-Allegheny), Y
Madigan (R-Bradford), N
Mellow (D-Lackawanna), Y
Mowery (R-Cumberland), N
Musto (D-Luzerne), Y
O'Pake (D-Berks), Y
Orie (R-Allegheny), N
Piccola (R-Dauphin), N
Pileggi (R-Delaware), Y
Pippy (R-Allegheny), Y
Punt (R-Franklin), N
Rafferty (R-Chester), N
Rhoades (R-Schuylkill), Y
Robbins (R-Mercer), N
Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Y
Schwartz (D-Philadelphia), Y
Stack (D-Philadelphia), Y
Stout (D-Washington), Y
Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), Y
Thompson (R-Chester), N
Tomlinson (R-Bucks), Y
Wagner (D-Allegheny), Y
Waugh (R-York), N
Wenger (R-Lancaster), N
White, D. (R-Indiana), Y
White, M.J. (R-Venango), N
Williams, A. (D-Philadelphia), Y
Williams, C. (D-Montgomery), Y
Wonderling (R-Montgomery), N
Wozniak (D-Cambria), Y


The House voted 113-88 on July 4 in favor of slot machines.Voting yes were 25 Republicans and 88 Democrats. Voting no were 83 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Not voting were 1 Republican and 1 Democrat.

Adolph (R-Delaware), Y
Allen (R-Schuylkill), N
Argall (R-Schuylkill), Y
Armstrong (R-Lancaster), N
Baker (R-Tioga), N
Baldwin (R-Lancaster), N
Bard (R-Montgomery), N
Barrar (R-Delaware), Y
Bastian (R-Somerset), N
Bebko-Jones (D-Erie), Y
Belardi (D-Lackawanna), Y
Belfanti (D-Northumberland), Y
Benninghoff (R-Centre), N
Biancucci (D-Beaver), Y
Birmelin (R-Wayne), N
Bishop (D-Philadelphia), Y
Blaum (D-Luzerne), Y
Boyd (R-Lancaster), N
Browne (R-Lehigh), N
Bunt (R-Montgomery), Y
Butkovitz (D-Philadelphia), Y
Buxton (D-Dauphin), Y
Caltagirone (D-Berks), Y
Cappelli (R-Lycoming), N
Casorio (D-Westmoreland), Y
Causer (R-McKean), Y
Cawley (D-Lackawanna), Y
Civera (R-Delaware), Y
Clymer (R-Bucks), N
Cohen (D-Philadelphia), Y
Coleman (R-Armstrong), N
Cornell (R-Montgomery), N
Corrigan (D-Bucks), Y
Costa (D-Allegheny), Y
Coy (D-Franklin), Y
Crahalla (R-Montgomery), N
Creighton (R-Lancaster), N
Cruz (D-Philadelphia), Y
Curry (D-Montgomery), Y
Dailey (R-Montgomery), N
Daley (D-Washington), Y
Dally (R-Northampton), N
DeLuca (D-Allegheny), Y
Denlinger (R-Lancaster), N
Dermody (D-Allegheny), Y
DeWeese (D-Greene), Y
DiGirolamo (R-Bucks), Y
Diven (D-Allegheny), Y
Donatucci (D-Philadelphia), Y
Eachus (D-Luzerne), Y
Egolf (R-Perry), N
Evans, D. (D-Philadelphia), Y
Evans, J. (R-Erie), Y
Fabrizio (D-Erie), Y
Fairchild (R-Union), N
Feese (R-Lycoming), N
Fichter (R-Montgomery), N
Fleagle (R-Franklin), N
Flick (R-Chester), N
Forcier (R-Crawford), N
Frankel (D-Allegheny), Y
Freeman (D-Northampton), Y
Gabig (R-Cumberland), N
Gannon (R-Delaware), Y
Geist (R-Blair), N
George (D-Clearfield), Y
Gergely (D-Allegheny), Y
Gillespie (R-York), N
Gingrich (R-Lebanon), N
Godshall (R-Montgomery), N
Good (R-Erie), Y
Goodman (D-Schuylkill), Y
Grucela (D-Northampton), N
Gruitza (D-Mercer), Y
Habay (R-Allegheny), N
Haluska (D-Cambria), Y
Hanna (D-Clinton), Y
Harhai (D-Westmoreland), Y
Harhart (R-Northampton), N
Harper (R-Montgomery), N
Harris (R-Juniata), N
Hasay (R-Luzerne), N
Hennessey (R-Chester), N
Herman (R-Centre), N
Hershey (R-Chester), N
Hess (R-Bedford), N
Hickernell (R-Lancaster), N
Horsey (D-Philadelphia), Y
Hutchinson (R-Venango), N
James (D-Philadelphia), Y
Josephs (D-Philadelphia), Y
Keller (D-Philadelphia), Y
Kenney (R-Philadelphia), Y
Killion (R-Delaware), Y
Kirkland (D-Delaware), Y
Kotik (D-Allegheny), Y
LaGrotta (D-Lawrence), Y
Laughlin (D-Beaver), Y
Leach (D-Montgomery), Y
Lederer (D-Philadelphia), Y
Leh (R-Berks), N
Lescovitz (D-Washington), Y
Levdansky (D-Allegheny), Y
Lewis (R-Monroe), N
Lynch (R-Warren), Y
Mackereth (R-York), N
Maher (R-Allegheny), N
Maitland (R-Adams), N
Major (R-Susquehanna), N
Manderino (D-Philadelphia), X
Mann (D-Lehigh), Y
Markosek (D-Allegheny), Y
Marsico (R-Dauphin), N
McCall (D-Carbon), Y
McGeehan (D-Philadelphia), Y
McGill (R-Montgomery), N
McIlhattan (R-Clarion), N
McIlhinney (R-Bucks), Y
McNaughton (R-Dauphin), N
Melio (D-Bucks), Y
Metcalfe (R-Butler), N
Micozzie (R-Delaware), Y
Millard (R-Columbia), N
Miller, R. (R-York), N
Miller, S. (R-Berks), N
Mundy (D-Luzerne), Y
Mustio (R-Allegheny), Y
Myers (D-Philadelphia), Y
Nailor (R-Cumberland), N
Nickol (R-York), N
O'Brien (R-Philadelphia), Y
Oliver (D-Philadelphia), Y
O'Neill (R-Bucks), X
Pallone (D-Westmoreland), Y
Payne (R-Dauphin), N
Perzel (R-Philadelphia), Y
Petrarca (D-Westmoreland), N
Petri (R-Bucks), Y
Petrone (D-Allegheny), Y
Phillips (R-Northumberland), N
Pickett (R-Bradford), N
Pistella (D-Allegheny), Y
Preston (D-Allegheny), Y
Raymond (R-Delaware), Y
Readshaw (D-Allegheny), Y
Reed (R-Indiana), N
Reichley (R-Lehigh), N
Rieger (D-Philadelphia), Y
Roberts (D-Fayette), Y
Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), Y
Rohrer (R-Berks), N
Rooney (D-Northampton), Y
Ross (R-Chester), Y
Rubley (R-Chester), N
Ruffing (D-Allegheny), Y
Sainato (D-Lawrence), Y
Samuelson (D-Northampton), N
Santoni (D-Berks), Y
Sather (R-Huntingdon), N
Saylor (R-York), N
Scavello (R-Monroe), N
Schroder (R-Chester), N
Scrimenti (D-Erie), Y
Semmel (R-Lehigh), N
Shaner (D-Fayette), Y
Smith, B. (R-York), N
Smith, S. (R-Jefferson), N
Solobay (D-Washington), Y
Staback (D-Lackawanna), Y
Stairs (R-Westmoreland), N
Steil (R-Bucks), Y
Stern (R-Blair), N
Stetler (D-York), Y
Stevenson, R (R-Mercer), N
Stevenson, T. (R-Allegheny), N
Sturla (D-Lancaster), Y
Surra (D-Elk), Y
Tangretti (D-Westmoreland), Y
Taylor, E. (R-Chester), N
Taylor, J. (R-Philadelphia), Y
Thomas (D-Philadelphia), Y
Tigue (D-Luzerne), Y
Travaglio (D-Butler), Y
True (R-Lancaster), N
Turzai (R-Allegheny), N
Vance (R-Cumberland), N
Veon (D-Beaver), Y
Vitali (D-Delaware), N
Walko (D-Allegheny), Y
Wansacz (D-Lackawanna), Y
Washington (D-Philadelphia), Y
Waters (D-Philadelphia), Y
Watson (R-Bucks), N
Weber (R-Montgomery), Y
Wheatley (D-Allegheny), Y
Williams (D-Philadelphia), Y
Wilt (R-Mercer), N
Wojnaroski (D-Cambria), Y
Wright (R-Bucks), Y
Yewcic (D-Cambria), N
Youngblood (D-Philadelphia), Y
Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Y
Zug (R-Lebanon), N

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

July 19, 2004