|Posted:||January 10, 2013 05:05 PM|
|From:||Senator Rob Teplitz|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Government Reform Package|
|Last year, I released a comprehensive government reform plan and said repeatedly that the enactment of the plan would be my first legislative priority. I believe that bringing fundamental reforms to state government is the only way that we will be in a position of being able to truly address the critical substantive challenges to our Commonwealth, such as the need for great schools, good jobs, low taxes, and safe roads and bridges.
I am delighted that many of the items in my plan have already been introduced in this and prior sessions – for example, a state constitutional convention, non-partisan legislative redistricting, same-day voter registration, no-cause absentee ballots, initiative and referenda, reducing the size of the General Assembly, and others – and I am proud to co-sponsor those bills. In the very near future, I will be introducing a package of bills to address the several of the other items in my plan, and I seek your co-sponsorship and support for my legislation. I anticipate introducing additional reform measures, but I am starting with the following five in this package:
Introduced as SB690
|Description:||1. Audits of the General Assembly
Under state law, the Auditor General is prohibited from auditing the General Assembly or any of its accounts, including the multi-million-dollar legislative reserve fund that led to Bonusgate. In my prior role as chief counsel to the Auditor General, I found myself in the position of having to defend a lawsuit all the way up to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that sought to compel such audits despite the current state law. We prevailed in that litigation, but the public overwhelmingly believes that such audits should occur, and I agree. The status quo of the legislature contracting out for its own audits does not provide the independent review that is critical to earning and maintaining the public trust.
Therefore, the first piece of legislation in this package is an amendment to the state constitution to address the separation of powers issue that currently exists and provide constitutional authorization for an independent audit of the General Assembly and its accounts by the Auditor General.
Introduced as SB691
|Description:||The second piece of legislation would amend the Fiscal Code to require annual legislative audits by the Auditor General, with the State Treasurer withholding future payments to the General Assembly until any required corrective action resulting from the audit is taken. The language tracks the Fiscal Code’s language for all other audits performed by the Auditor General. The results of the audits would be made public.|
Introduced as SB692
|Description:||2. Elimination of the annual cost-of-living adjustment
The third bill would eliminate the automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for the state legislature and would instead provide for the salary adjustment to be effective for each legislator only at the beginning of each term. Accordingly, a legislator’s salary on the first day of his/her term would be the salary for the duration of the term.
Introduced as SB693
|Description:||The fourth bill would amend Article II, Section 8 of the state constitution to make clear that no legislator shall receive any COLA in the middle of his/her term of office.|
Introduced as SB694
|Description:||3. Suspension of pay for failure to pass a state budget
The fifth bill would suspend pay for both the Governor and members of the General Assembly if a general appropriation bill for a fiscal year (i.e., a state budget) is not passed and delivered to the Governor for signature on or before the midnight June 30th deadline. If we are not able to pass a budget on time as the state constitution requires, then we should not get paid until we have done the job that the taxpayers elected us to do.
Introduced as SB695
|Description:||4. Prohibition of lame duck legislation sessions
The sixth bill would permanently prohibit the state legislature from holding votes in even-numbered years during the period of time following a general election and the swearing in of the new legislature. There will be an exception made for special sessions of the legislature that are called by the Governor.
Introduced as SB696
|Description:||5. Open primaries
The seventh bill would amend the Election Code to allow for registered independents to vote in primary elections. The bill would allow those persons who are not registered as either Republicans or Democrats to temporarily change their registration status, and thus take part in a primary election. The status of this change would expire after the voter has cast his/her ballot, unless the voter filled out an additional form after voting.