NOW FOR MY annual self-imposed confession column, in which I admit mistakes made in the calendar year coming to an end.

I do so because those with the privilege of a public voice bear responsibility to own up to errors committed in the exercise of that voice.

So, here goes:

Last January, I wrote about Mark Chilutti, a 1996 Philly gunshot victim who ran against and was beaten (by 92 votes) by Rep. John Perzel in 2000.

Months after losing, Chilutti went to work at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, and he has since helped raise millions of dollars for the disabled.

The column suggested that he probably contributes more to society than if he'd won a House seat, our Legislature not being a hotbed of accomplishment.

But the column called Chilutti "an ex-Eagle Scout," bringing a torrent of e-mail saying that "Eagle Scout" (like "Marine") is a lifelong distinction - there is no ex-Eagle Scout.

I was wrong. Apologies to Mark and his fellow Eagles.

In July, as your Legislature left for its annual (undeserved) months-long summer break, I wrote a rant (if you can imagine) about do-little lawmakers (again) getting out of town without addressing issues that need to be addressed.

I mentioned health insurance for those without, campaign-finance reform, redistricting reform, budget-process reform and efforts to cut the size and cost of the Legislature.

I failed to note that lawmakers earlier had passed an open-records law (that takes effect this week) to make government more transparent than before.

It was an error in judgment. I constantly criticize the Legislature's sluggishness. I also should mention any progress.

In August, I tore into this same Legislature for spending - while under investigation for allegedly stealing millions of tax dollars for political campaigns - millions more of your money on outside lawyers to defend itself.

I wrote how the House requires employees convicted of crimes to repay such costs, and I said that Senate policy makes "no mention" of repayments.

True, but wrong.

The House, which is run by blowhards, stressed the repayment issue as if doing us a favor. But after the column appeared, it was pointed out to me that state law, since 1996, mandates such repayments.

My mistake. I should have dug deeper. One who blasts lawmakers should know the laws they make.

In September, at the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., I wrote about Sarah Palin's acceptance speech and how well I thought she did, especially in talking about family and her "Down syndrome son."

I heard from parents of kids with Down syndrome who were not happy.

One said, "I have a son with Down syndrome. He is not my Down syndrome son. He is not a diagnosis. Since you deal in words I hope you understand the difference and significance."

The parent went on: "If your son had cancer, would he be your cancer son? Or your leukemia boy? Labeling people with their afflictions can be fairly cruel to those who know and love them."

This parent and others are dead right. I was dead wrong. And insensitive. I apologize publicly, as I did privately to all who contacted me.

Finally, and less seriously, earlier this month I screwed up a reform proposal by state Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair County, to save millions of dollars.

He wants all lawmakers to follow his lead and stop charging us for per diems, meals, cars and other perks, and stop taking mileage for in-district travel.

But I wrote that he wants to stop mileage for out-of-district travel.

Love his ideas. Hate it when I get one wrong. No excuse. Just sloppy journalism. I'm resolving to fight against such sloppiness in 2009.

Send e-mail to baerj@phillynews.com.

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