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John Baer | Pa. lawmakers take a break after a year of futility

I RECENTLY misread a news release. It read, "Seip, Goodman honoring Maroons on House floor Monday." I thought it read morons - which, to me, made sense.

I RECENTLY misread a news


It read, "Seip, Goodman honoring Maroons on House floor Monday."

I thought it read morons - which, to me, made sense.

But no: Tim Seip and Neil Goodman, Schuylkill County Democrats, had a resolution honoring a 1925 Pottsville football team named the Maroons.

It's the kind of thing your Legislature does.

What it doesn't do is anything you care about.

Gun violence? Tax relief? Health-care costs? Energy independence? Health coverage for the uninsured? Significant government reforms?

Nnnno. Not this year.

The Legislature left town yesterday (What? Your work year's not over yet?), ending yet another season of ham-handed nonaccomplishment.

There were, however, a few fun highlights.

A walkout by the Legislative Black Caucus to protest lack of action of guns, which, frankly could have been staged at any point in the last decade, and which, despite much chest-beating, got nothing done, apparently has a little back-story.

Word is that House leaders asked caucus members to cancel or delay planned attendance at a national black lawmakers' conference this week in Little Rock, Ark., in order to stay in session longer.

But some caucus members pointed out that these same leaders shut down the House last month for the start of deer-hunting season.

"If the white boys get to go shoot deer," one insider tells me, "then we get to go to Little Rock."

Hey, I guess what's fair is fair.

Speaking of white boys, after the walkout, a Republican lawmaker from central Pennsylvania, Adams County Rep. Dan Moul, wondered why there is a Black Caucus.

He told Harrisburg ABC affiliate WHTM-TV, "That's repulsive to me. I'm insulted and I wish they would stop. Segregation ended 40 to 50 years ago, and they need to leave it back there."


Gives you an idea of what your Legislature's like.

And maybe helps explain why some things happen - or don't.

Take a bill giving the Philadelphia School District money from Roosevelt Boulevard red-light- camera fines.

The money goes to PennDOT.

Philly Rep. Tony Payton says no other red-light program in the country gives a state all the cash.

He says schools could get $700,000 to $1 million or more each year, and he's even willing to split it with the state.

His bill went nowhere.

(The red-light-camera program itself was renewed despite some threats by upstate lawmakers to kill it - just no money for Philly.)

How about a bill providing rape victims with immediate access to information about emergency contraception?

Well, that would make sense. So, no.

Even a touted "open records" bill, an effort to pick PA off the bottom of states on public access to government, didn't happen.

"I am disappointed," Gov. Rendell said yesterday.

He noted that lawmakers managed to pass a highway-and-transit-funding bill, a hazardous-sites cleanup bill, expansion of pre-kindergarten education and a couple of health-care cost-containment measures.

But overall, in a year billed as a year of reform and hoped-for progress, results are meager.

The state budget was late for the fifth straight year. There's an ongoing grand jury investigation of $4 million in legislative bonuses. And a long list of issues left unattended.

Still. Lawmakers this month got automatic pay raises (didn't you?) of 3.5 percent. So did the Guv, executive-branch officials, judges.

Just like every other year.

That's never delayed. And there's never any shortage of money to pay for it.

Nor for Cadillac health-care coverage (a member of Congress tells me state legislative benefits are better than Congress').

So it goes.

Even in years when little gets done, your Legislature is the gift that keeps on taking. *

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