Share This Page

Pennsylvania GOP playing 'safe politics' in Harrisburg

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

HARRISBURG

People on the periphery of politics often ask if Republicans control the state House and Senate with a GOP governor, why aren't they ramming through laws such as making Pennsylvania a right-to-work state?

Or banning teachers strikes. Or killing the “prevailing wage” law — where union wages are applied to some public works projects. Republicans in Harrisburg also could weaken collective bargaining by limiting contract disputes to wages for public employees as was done in Wisconsin.

When Tom Corbett became governor and Republicans recaptured the House in 2010, conservative Republicans believed at least some of these things would get done. The GOP had comfortable majorities to make sure it happened.

They did get Voter ID. Yes, it's intended to curb fraud. But requiring photo ID, some Republicans believed, also would cut Democrat voter margins in Philadelphia. Voter ID remains tied up in the courts.

Other than the voter ID law, Democrats and labor couldn't be happier watching Republicans “run” Harrisburg.

Some Dems might not believe it but “Republicans” aren't monolithic. There is no “Republican” ideology or viewpoint that fits all or most of them.

As Republican governors in other states were racking up victories on conservative causes, Corbett didn't push right to work or seek to limit collective bargaining. He did take on the union representing state store clerks, in a thus far unsuccessful effort to privatize the state stores. House Republicans pushed through an aggressive state store divestiture plan but Senate Republicans have not been supportive.

Corbett also pushed a $1.8 billion transportation revenue bill, funded by uncapping the state's tax on wholesale fuel. Senate Republicans liked it so much they upped the ante to $2.5 billion.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, suggested a $500 million “critical needs” bill.

You get the picture.

There was talk last week of a possible vote Monday on transportation. It remained unclear whether a sweetener for the House GOP conservatives — a slice of prevailing wage reform — would be enough to induce some House Republicans to vote for what some consider to be a tax hike at the pumps.

Turzai has scheduled transportation votes before and Corbett has asked him to hold off.

Portions of the House GOP Caucus, perhaps one-third, are very conservative (think Rep. Daryl Metcalfe). Yet the House also has its share of largely Southeastern Pennsylvania lawmakers sympathetic or supportive of organized labor.

Another third is in the middle between moderate (read liberal) Republicans and the right wing.

In addition to ideological differences, there are institutional rivalries between the House and Senate. Distrust underlies that problem.

Finally, safe politics for Republicans, despite their majorities, is not to mess too much with organized labor. So if they get even a piece of prevailing wage it will be pretty amazing. The fact remains there's a lot of money in that transportation bill for union jobs.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.