What would elected office in Pennsylvania be without the trappings of power? Take judges, for instance.
In addition to being able to accept gifts - like a trip to last weekend's Pennsylvania Society festivities in New York City, or a round of golf at an exclusive club - judges in the state get to lease fancy cars courtesy of taxpayers. The details were spelled out in a recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report, complete with a list of top jurists' choice in vehicles.
Nothing new there, but the recession and another looming state budget crisis offer a good opportunity to rethink all costs associated with maintaining elected officials in the high style to which they've become accustomed. Gov.-elect Tom Corbett should add that to his to-do list.
In regards to gifts, it's clear that judges shouldn't be allowed to accept them, period. Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille has a task force crafting a new policy that could result in a ban or tightening the rules on gifts, which judges now have to disclose. That can't happen soon enough.
On their rides, why shouldn't judges get to work the same way the rest of us do - on their own nickel? If judges need to travel for work, they should be reimbursed for their expenses, or be assigned a fleet car, complete with at least an AM radio.
Many elected judges are fond of defending the state's partisan judicial elections as a great way to get in touch with voters' everyday concerns.
Well, if it's the common touch that judges are after, there's nothing like jumping on a bus to get down with the people.