Monday, October 15, 2007

Mustio To Legislature: “Put Up or Shut Up”

Bill To Reduce Legislature Stalled

The Post-Gazette’s Brian O’Neill reminds us that Rep. Mark Mustio (Moon) will hold a press conference today hoping to shame his fellow legislators to “put up or shut up.”

In response to the public outrage over the “Midnight Pay Raises”, many state senators and representatives have touted various government reform initiatives in an attempt to convince their constituents that they have seen the light. Shrinking the size of the state legislature has topped the public’s wish list, forcing the General Assembly to at least pretend they’d address this important reform soon. In that regard, a bill was introduced to shrink the House from 203 to 161 members and trim the Senate from 50 to 40. But considering much of the Assembly’s newfound zeal for reform is anything but earnest, the bill was shuttled over to the state government committee where it has been sitting “on ice” since January. The Assembly no doubt has been hoping it would languish there until hell freezes over or until the public’s ire passes, whichever comes first.

Mustio needs 102 House members to pass a “discharge resolution” which would free the government reduction bill from its current suspended animation status. Does that mean it would then come up for a vote? Not really. There would undoubtedly be other roadblocks for this bill which no one wants but everyone is too afraid to admit. Mustio is not deterred, however. He plans on taking the roadblocks on one at a time.

“I got elected to get some stuff done,” Mr. Mustio said, “not to make friends.”

With that, Mustio hopes to build public and media pressure by reading the names of the bill’s 33 co-sponsors, the names of the 50 freshman legislators who were elected primarily on the promise of reform, and the names of every other lawmaker who has ever claimed to support a smaller legislature. To date, only freshman Rep. Matt Smith of Mt. Lebanon has signed on to the discharge resolution.

By the way, Pennsylvania spends more per capita on their legislature than all other states with the exception of Alaska and Rhode Island. In 2005 our legislature cost each Pennsylvanian $23.86. In that same year, similar-sized states such as Ohio and Illinois spent $3.69 and $5.83 respectively.

If you have strong feelings one way or another about this issue ….. today might be a good time to let your state representatives know how you feel. Legislator look-ups with phone, fax and email contact information can be found here.

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