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Legislative gobbledygook: Say what?

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

If the Pennsylvania Legislature wants to do the public it supposedly serves a major favor when it returns from summer recess — other than forswearing naked corruption, that is — eliminating the kinds of unbecoming disbursement games it plays would be a good place to start.

As the Trib's Brad Bumsted reported on Tuesday, a bill voted on in the Senate this week employed quite vague language to disburse millions of public dollars. And as the Commonwealth Foundation's Nathan Benefield notes, it's by design to bypass best-government practices.

To wit, legislation required to enact the new state budget directs, in part, $3 million to an unnamed hospital in a third-class city in a county classified as “2nd-class A,” Mr. Bumsted reports. And an unnamed community college would get $500,000 in “a county of the fourth class with a population between 175,000 and 190,000.” And the gobbledygook goes on and on.

Mr. Benefield says such earmarking, in addition to making the public work too hard to discover how its money is being spent, serves to subvert the competitive grant process. But Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House GOP, defends the practice, if not the linguistic gymnastics: Recipients are not specified for legal reasons to avoid the scarlet “S” — generally disallowed “special legislation.”

Yeah, we're scratching our heads over that non sequitur, too.

Representative government requires transparency. Translucence doesn't cut it.

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