Once again with feeling: The Pa. House tries to reform itself | Tuesday Morning Coffee

March 12, 2019 7:17 am

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Well, we’re going to give state Reps. Andrew Lewis and Mike Jones credit for this much: They’re going big out of the gate.

This Tuesday morning, Lewis, of Dauphin County, and Jones, of York County, will mount their burros, shoulder their lances, and charge directly at the immovable edifice that is the Pennsylvania Capitol building.
And if they’re humming the opening bars of “The Impossible Dream,” well, then all the better.

During a 10 a.m. event in the East Wing Media CenterLewis and Jones will “outline a proposal to phase in term limits in the state House and Senate.”


We don’t mean to be blithely dismissive. We wish the gentlemen from central Pennsylvania the best of luck. Certainly there’s some evidence to suggest momentum could be on their side, what with the new legislative session has taken on an encouraging bipartisan cast and all.

Yes, there’s now an Oversight Committee in the state House. And new Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, strikes us as earnest and well-meaning.

But … the Capitol grounds are littered with the skeletons of failed reform efforts.

And two decades of watching state government has taught us the bitter lesson that, when it comes to choosing between self-preservation and shrinking their prerogatives, political self-interest always wins out.

Just last year, the House tanked when it came time to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have shrunk the chamber. We’ve seen campaign finance reform proposals floated under at least three governors (two Toms and an Ed), only to watch them sink like a stone.

In 2017, our colleague John Baer, of The Philadelphia Daily Newsmapped out a five-stage plan for the Legislature to clean up its own act and to improve openness and transparency in state government.

Among other things, Baer called for open primariescampaign finance reformgerrymandering reform and reducing incumbent protection measures.

Nope. Nope. Nope. And … nope.

So we wish Reps. Lewis and Jones every success in their Man of La Mancha-esque plan to improve the workings of the General Assembly. Goodness knows, the place could use it.

Our Stuff:
Consumers would foot the bill for a state House plan to prop up Pa’s ailing nuke plants, Elizabeth Hardison reports.
Stephen Caruso covers the legislative reaction to the long-awaited measure that critics are deriding as a multi-million dollar bailout for the nuclear industry.

(State Rep. Thomas Mehaffie, R-Dauphin, unveils his proposal for Pennsylvania’s nuclear industry at an ironworkers’ union hall in Harrisburg.)

Speaking of things in danger of going nuclear, Pennsylvania could face a meltdown over transportation fundingSarah Anne Hughes explains why that’s the case
‘A slap in the face’ – that’s how environmental activists are describing the Trump White House’s plan to slash funding for cleaning up Chesapeake Bay. Capital-Star Washington reporter Robin Bravender has the story.

On the Opinion side of the house, a University of Dayton law professor explains why politicians generally do a lousy job of helping new and expectant moms – and why that doesn’t have to be the case.  And when you’re debating hate crimes legislation, the numbers don’t tell the full storyJohn A. Tures argues.

Republican hopeful Daphne Goggins has dropped out of the Philly mayoral raceThe Inquirer reports.
If he could turn back time… President Donald Trump supports ending daylight saving timePennLive reports.
A bill making the rounds in the General Assembly would craft a new higher education funding formulaPennLIve also reports.
And a Butler County lawmaker facing sexual abuse allegations remains on leave from the state HousePennLive further reports.
A video shows Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner ‘going from giggling to screaming’ during an altercation involving Detroit police and her husband, who is African-American (via The Post-Gazette).

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

A community group in Pittsburgh is suing Mayor Bill Peduto and another city official over a landscaping dispute, The Tribune-Review reports.

An Easton City Councilman will propose cutting council salaries by halfThe Morning Callreports.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. is urging a ‘transformative’ investment in childcare subsidies, WHYY-FM reports.
Philly’s 22nd Street in Center City is getting a new bike laneBillyPenn reports.
With her movie about to debut, The Incline explains how a Pitt grad wrote the novel behind it in just 14 days.
Surprising no one, a Congressional Republican PAC is training its sights on Democratic U.S. Reps. Conor Lamb, Susan Wild and Matt CartwrightPoliticsPA reports.
Republicans are looking for a way out of their border fight with the White House, Politicoreports.

What Goes On. 
As we noted earlier, Reps. Lewis and Jones will charge the term limits windmill during a 10 a.m newser in the Capitol Media Center.
9 a.m.: House Human Services Committee, G50 Irvis
9:30 a.m.: House Health Committee, 140 Main Capitol
The following House committees meet at the call of the chair: Consumer Affairs, Game & Fisheries, Judiciary and Appropriations.
Once more … listen for this ….

Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Once again, another day, another full slate of fundraisers.
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Mary Jo Daley
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Bud Cook
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Brad Roae
8 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Mike Carroll
8 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Brandon Markosek
5 p.m: Reception for Rep. Greg Rothman
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Ryan Aument
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Pam Snyder
6 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Donna Oberlander
Ride the circuit, and give at the max at each event, and you’re out a mere $16,750 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s some new music from Piroshka to shock your Tuesday morning to life. Play this one loud. It’s “This Must be Bedlam.”

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
 returned to its winning ways, blanking the Avs 3-0 on the road on Monday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.