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Cut legislative corruption in Pennsylvania at its roots

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

America's largest full-time state Legislature will keep Pennsylvania known as the State of Corruption until and unless Pennsylvanians demand that lawmaking revert to the part-time pursuit it once was and should be.

Pennsylvania's 253 full-time lawmakers have a budget of $277 million, about 2,700 staffers, salaries of $84,012 to $131,129, generous pensions and health coverage, state-paid cars and per diems with little accountability. They are rewards so lavish that too many members are tempted to break the law to further enrich themselves and/or retain their seats, with 15 who've served accused of corruption since 2007, including two this year.

The Legislature morphed from part time to full time after voters approved a constitutional change from two-year to annual budgets in 1959. Lawmakers spent more time in Harrisburg, hired more staff and opened Capitol and district offices. Combined with longtime “machine politics,” the full-time Legislature's corruption scandals leave many Pennsylvanians feeling “this is how politics works,” says Muhlenberg College political scientist Christopher Borick.

Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Hempfield, who has been urging a return to part-time status for three sessions, says his bill “will never move until the public says, ‘We want it,' and the public hasn't said that yet.”

But only strong, sustained public pressure will end the full-time lawmaking that has led to the pursuit of full-time corruption.

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