The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

October 2006

Special Dossier: Decision 5767
• Rick Santorum On Iran
• Allen: Days Of Refusal
• Electing Nonchristians
• Casey: $50M For Israel
• Political Reform
• Lieberman's Loss

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• Smart Israel Support
• Victim To Criminal
• Demonizing Israel
• Tip Of The Iceberg
• Immoral Equivalence
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• Another Internet Hoax
• 'W' Is For 'Wealth'
• Letters To The Editor

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In Their Own Words
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Living Judaism
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• A New Year and Nu?

Raising A Mensch
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The Kosher Table
• Happy New Year

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Pennsylvania's "creatively drawn" 172nd House District and 6th U.S. Congressional District.
Special Dossier: Decision 5767


Update On Political Reform

Our April 2006 Special Dossier focused on political reform. We are delighted to provide the following updates on local candidates to taking stands on these important issues.

Daylin Leach's Three Step Solution

-- PA State Representative Daylin Leach (D-149)

Recently there has been a lot of talk about reforming the political process in Harrisburg, and rightly so. There are a number of ways in which our political system is fundamentally, and in some cases uniquely broken. The increasing recognition of this has spawned many proposals for reform, some good, some not so good. However, after studying the issue in great depth over the past four years I have come to the conclusion that if we could enact three reforms, we could fix 95% of the problem.

Before laying out the 3 essential reforms, I would like to just parenthetically say that the overwhelming majority of legislators I have met, on both sides of the aisle, are honest, descent, hard-working and sincere people who genuinely want to make Pennsylvania a better place as they see it. I don't always agree with all of my colleagues on policy, but they are good people. The problem is that the system is structured to create at least the appearance, and sometimes the reality of self-dealing and corrupt motives. This is a catastrophe because it causes people to loose faith in their government and their leaders. Here's what we need to do to fix it. 

  1. Redistricting Reform - Every 10 years we are required to redraw the lines of legislative districts to reflect shifts in population. However, in recent years gerrymandering has become a high-tech art where we blatantly redraw the lines to prevent as many competitive elections as we can. As a result, the chances of an incumbent loosing in a general election (as opposed to a primary, where gerrymandering is not relevant) are less than 2%. We need to take the politics out redistricting so we have competitive elections and true accountability again. 
  2. Public Financing of Campaigns - We simply have to take the money out of politics. Right now, if you want to give a contribution to a presidential candidate, you are limited to 2,100 per election cycle. But there are no limits whatsoever for state candidates. So if a legislator receives a $20,000 contribution form some interest, it will be very difficult to vote against that interest down the line. We need to stop having to ask for money from people we are supposed to be regulating. Public financing, coupled with a ban on accepting any contribution would completely change how government works for the better. 
  3.  Automatic Calendar - In most states, if I, as a legislator, were to introduce a bill, I would get a vote in committee within a certain number of days guaranteed. I may loose, but I get a vote and people have to go on record. If my bill passes in committee, I get a floor vote within a certain number of days. None of this is true in Pennsylvania. Here, if I want a vote on my bill in committee, I have to get the chairman, who has dictatorial control over what runs in his or her committee to agree to schedule that vote. Think of how much power that gives one person. Similarly, on the floor, only the Speaker of the House can schedule a vote. He uses that power to control members. If we had an automatic calendar, rank and file members would have a great deal more power and you'd see much less of the back-room deals that have plagued our legislature. 

These reforms will not be easy to accomplish. We're asking people to give up power, which people do not like to do. The only way that this will ever happen is if there is a huge public outcry demanding it. From here, it's up to you. 

Bucks County Democratic State Senate Candidates Stand Together to Reform Harrisburg

-- Kristen Stoner

Jeff Albert, Chris Serpico, and Paul Lang, Democratic candidates for the Pennsylvania State Senate, believe that it is time for real reform in Harrisburg and that this is the year to bring it about. 

They are standing together to highlight their Ten-Point Program to make Pennsylvania's General Assembly a First Class Legislature so that people in their districts will know that, upon their election to office, reforms will be made. The candidates have labeled this The Keystone Contract. These changes include Lobbyist Disclosure Reforms, Open Records Law modifications, and Structural Changes to the manner in which Senate sessions are conducted. 

The Keystone Contract

  1. Adopt Term Limits: 

    • 3-term limit for Senators; 6-year limit for leaders and committee chairs

  2. Lobby Reform:

    • Require quarterly disclosure of the value of all resources that principals commit to their lobbying related activities (including support staff and efforts to influence the public to lobby); and disclosure of all gifts, meals and travel provided to public officials by a lobbyist or principal.

    • Bar receipt of gifts of any kind, and reimbursement of personal expenses, such as books and legal fees.

  3. Walking Around Money (WAM) Reform:

    • End use of the Commerce Department as means of funding legislative WAMs.

    • Publish list of WAMs in a searchable database by Legislator and recipient

  4. Stop Accrued Benefits:

    • End all accrued benefits (benefits based on length of time served)

    • Prohibit any increase in any form of compensation beyond inflation

  5. End "Committees as Fiefdoms":

    • Permit one-third of members to bring up a bill or amendment in order to prevent unlimited control of agendas by Committee Chairs

  6. Open Records Reform:

    • Post all voting records within 24 hours

    • Publish all Legislative Journals within 20 days of session

    • Provide timely access to essential documents prepared for pending decisions

    • Ensure that access to documents is not denied through excessive retrieval processing, copying fees, and time delays

  7. No Promotion of Personal Business:

    • Bar the use of official position in the State Senate to promote personal business interests

    • Restrict the Legislator and the Legislator's family and business partners from doing business with any state or local agency and with any state regulated business.

  8. Stop Lame Duck Sessions:

    • No Lame Duck Sessions where you can raise taxes and approve spending

  9. Redistricting Reform:

    • Create an independent redistricting commission

  10. Increase Fiscal Accountability:

    • Publish budget notes online for every bill and amendment, after the last budget note has been issued, with at least three legislative days of notice before voting

    • Provide an online database searchable by sponsor, co-sponsor, Legislator and the aggregate for spending

    • Adopt campaign finance limits similar to existing federal law

All three candidates have pledged to fight for the people of Pennsylvania by pushing for true reform in the Senate.