Taking back government
When citizens speak with a unified voice, they can take their power back in one day.
On Nov. 7, Pennsylvania voters sent a message in the form of an earthquake with tremors being felt all over the commonwealth, from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh and especially in Greene, Fayette and Beaver counties.
The aftershocks were felt here locally when Rep. Bill DeWeese was taken to the brink and barely survived the backlash from the voters. He was defeated on his own home turf in Greene County, and ironically he maintained his seat by winning big in Fayette County. Mike Veon, the powerful Democrat from Beaver County and DeWeese's right-hand man in Harrisburg, was kicked to the curb by the voters.
The great equalizer to money and power in politics is the truth.
Now that the aftershocks are over, the handwriting is on the wall for the new Legislature in 2007. The pay-raise issue is what ignited the citizens to wake up and get involved. The key issues at the top of the agenda are reform, accountability, open government and the end of secrecy in the way Harrisburg does business.
Twenty-five percent or one out of every four state representatives elected are new to Harrisburg.
Now is the time for the new class of legislators to give us real government reform by making the state House more ethical, more service-oriented and more responsive to the public. The people have spoken with this shake-up in Harrisburg. The opportunity is within grasp for Fayette County's two newly elected state representatives, Deberah Kula of the 52nd District and Tim Mahoney of the 51st District.
Pennsylvania must control and contain the lobbyists, rewrite the Open Records Law, and cut the size of the Legislature (Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the nation and the most expensive). Finally and most importantly, we need to ban stealth legislation such as the pay raise by prohibiting a final vote on any bill in either the House or Senate until 14 calendar days after the bill is in its final form. This would ensure that citizens and news media have time to understand the bill and express their opinions.
The days of perks and privilege such as 100 percent health care coverage and $650-a-month luxury car leases must go. Multimillion-dollar leadership accounts without any disclosure, readily available public access or accountability to the taxpayers should be outlawed.
The powerful Mike Veon learned the hard way that the representatives are of the people, by the people and for the people. When citizens speak with a unified voice, they can take their power back in one day. Election Day.
Good Luck to Deberah Kula and Tim Mahoney with your new positions in Harrisburg. We're counting on you back here in Fayette County. As Kula said on her brochures, "Not Government as Usual" and Mahoney said "Honest Leadership."
That's exactly what we need!
Sean M. Cavanagh
The writer is a state Democratic committeeman.