AS WINTER break approaches, Harrisburg lawmakers are scrambling to get some work done. Normally we'd applaud our legislators for stepping up their effort before yet another long vacation. But hard work is commendable only when you do a good job. Considering what lawmakers are spending their time on, we'd rather they just go home.
Take, for instance, the voter-ID bill that passed out of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. It would require voters to present ID every time they go to the polls - in theory, to protect against fraud. But there's no evidence that voter fraud is a problem in Pennsylvania, which makes sense when you realize that voter impersonation is high-risk/low-reward: The impersonator risks prosecution for one measly vote.
Meanwhile, many low-income and minority voters who don't own an ID acceptable under the bill would have a harder time voting if it passes. (It may not be a coincidence that Harrisburg is controlled by Republicans, and those voters traditionally support Democrats). Plus, the measure would cost at least $4.3 million to implement in its first year alone.
The bill was sent back to committee yesterday, but could still be made law in 2012, and it took up attention in any case. Wasting time and money on a problem we don't have? Just go home, Harrisburg.
Then there's congressional redistricting. The Legislature redraws the boundaries of Pennsylvania's congressional districts every 10 years, after the census. Harrisburg Republicans unveiled their proposal for the new map on Tuesday and (gasp, with feigned surprise) ... it's designed to help Republicans! In fact, Rep. Patrick Meehan's 7th District is now one of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, according to the redistricting experts at Azavea, a geospatialanalysis firm.
Before our conservative readers write in, we hasten to add: Democrats would likely do the same thing if they controlled state government. But that doesn't excuse gerrymandering, and it doesn't excuse the fact that lawmakers are rushing to pass the map right after it was introduced, leaving no time for public feedback.
Make decisions that profoundly impact democracy without consulting the public? Just go home, Harrisburg.
On top of all that, the Legislature found time this week to approve a bill that threatens a woman's right to have an abortion in Pennsylvania. It now goes to Gov. Corbett's desk for signature.
In the wake of the Kermit Gosnell scandal, lawmakers penned a bill that they claim will prevent future tragedies by imposing new regulations on abortion clinics. But, according to medical professionals like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the regulations wouldn't improve safety conditions. By requiring unnecessary changes like bigger rooms, however, they might cost so much that most abortion clinics in the state would be forced to close.
Compromising a woman's right to choose, and calling it "safety"? What a bad way to end the year.