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'Superfluous ... time-warped' Legislature

We have prepared the following Report, which demonstrates the systemic problems that permeate the Pennsylvania House of Representatives . . ."

We have prepared the following Report, which demonstrates the systemic problems that permeate the Pennsylvania House of Representatives . . ."

Thus begins the must-read document of the year: the grand jury report on Bonusgate that has grown into a scathing indictment of the "time- warped" Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Twenty-three citizens identified only by their occupation - sheet-metal mechanic, food-service worker, clerk, coach driver, car salesman- could turn out to be the kinds of heroes of whom we build statues. So enlightening was their investigation into the Bonusgate scandal that they insisted on issuing a separate report with recommendations for the Legislature as a whole. And since we would have a hard time improving on their language and their points, we excerpt the report here. We urge you to read the rest at

"One 'time warp' issue . . . is the creation, use and maintenance of taxpayer funded partisan political caucuses in Pennsylvania . . .

"There are 2805 staff people employed by the General Assembly that equates to on average, more than nine support staff individuals for each state rep, and 17 for each state senator. A consensus among those who have worked inside the legislature is that the number of employees could be significantly cut with no measureable decrease in the ability of members to perform duties.

"More than half of the House Democratic Caucus (HDC) employees currently paid by the taxpayers are superfluous . . .

"Patronage employees, no matter how incompetent are in fact often more secure than the positions of staff members who are more adept at their jobs but less at navigating the shifting allegiances of the 'time warp' patronage system.

"Not a single person who testified gave a credible explanation as to why each caucus needed its own IT budget or IT staff."

"To the great surprise of the Grand Jury, members of legislature have for years taken on the task of serving as an intermediary for constituents with regard to PennDOT. The legislature has no legitimate justification for using its taxpayer-funded resources to assist constituents with their PennDOT issues. This must end immediately.

" . . . One way to stop the time warp culture of the General Assembly is to remove the ability to hire staff from the select few individuals who comprise the leadership of the HDC and HRC.

"The evidence presented to this Grand Jury has failed to convince us that the amount of legislative work performed in this commonwealth demands a full-time legislature . . .

"Per diem payments should be eliminated . . .

"The Grand Jury recommends an independent audit of all legislative expenses . . .

"[We] find that the house Democratic Campaign committee and the house Republican Campaign committee . . . were accomplices in the misuse of taxpayer resources.

"One of our largest concerns related to this Report is that the General Assembly will . . . meddle with, obfuscate, ignore or kill every recommendation noted in this report. Moreover [we] have determined that the General Assembly, if left to its own devices, is utterly incapable of reforming itself.

"In the strongest possible way , the Grand Jury calls upon the General Assembly to . . . pass legislation to create a limited constitutional convention to address the rampant public corruption of the General Assembly."

The rest of us should join these 23 citizens and pressure lawmakers -and both gubernatorial candidates - to acknowledge these problems and tell us what they will do to fix them.