Our local patron saint of Journalism, Tom DiStefano, writes:
Today I wish to invoke the patron saint of lost causes. I couldn’t remember what saint that is, he or she has apparently been forgotten. But I looked it up and there are actually four of them: St. Jude the Apostle (the best known), St. Rita of Cascia, St. Philomena and St. Gregory of Neocaesarea.
My skeptical side sees a move in the state legislatures as a lost cause, but my hopeful side sees, well, hope. State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from the East Side of Pittsburgh, has introduced a series of election reform bills, co-sponsored by mostly Democrats.
My skeptical side calls these bills by the legal term (I just made up) Aero Porcus – when pigs fly, you will see these bills signed into law. Still, it is good to push for these bills, to pressure legislators to back reforms and to let people know these bills exist and that our legislature is ignoring them and the will of their constituents.
House Bill 945 – Same Day Voter Registration
Thirteen states and DC have it. In 2012, voter turnout increased over 10% in states where it existed. Voters simply register at their polling place on election day, showing a photo ID. There have been no documented incidents of voter fraud due to same day voter registration. (18 cosponsors, all Democrats).
HB 946 – Early voting
Over 30% of votes in last two Presidential elections were cast by early voting; 37 states and the District of Columbia allow it. This bill would authorize early voting 15 days before the election at early voting sites set up by the county boards of election. (20 cosponsors, 19 Democrats and one Republican.)
HB 947 – Resign to Run
Any federal, state, county or municipal official must resign prior to running for an elected office that begins before the end of their current term. This avoids the additional cost of some special elections. The bill also bars individuals from running for more than one office in the same election year. In general, it means one less advantage for incumbents. (4 cosponsors, all Democrats).
HB 948 – Limiting a Legislator’s Outside Income
This bill prohibits members of the General Assembly from receiving more than 35% of their base salary as a legislator from outside sources.
Full-time legislators are paid for full-time service, and should devote all their time to being a legislator, DeLuca argues. Influences and time demands from other jobs mean legislators aren’t serving their constituents. don’t serving our constituents. (6 cosponsors, 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans.)
HB 949 – Outside Income Disclosure
This requires legislators filing a statement of financial interest to list not only the source of any outside income, but also the amount within specified ranges. This helps reveal real or perceived conflicts of interest, improves transparency, and limits the influence of wealthy individuals, corporations and special interests. (13 cosponsors, 10 Democrats and 3 Republicans.)
HB 950 – Sick Day Campaigning
This prohibits public employees from using sick time to campaign. Legislators are known to order or allow their staffers to do this. It closes a little loophole that had taxpayers supporting re-election campaigns. (12 cosponsors, 7 Democrats and 5 Republicans, including our neighbor Cris Dush.)
HB 951 – Stand Back
This increases distance campaigners must be from a polling location from 10 feet to 35 feet. DeLuca says this will help prevent any unwanted confrontations or voter intimidation. (4 cosponsors, 3 Democrats and Republican perennial gadfly Russ Diamond.)
DeLuca introduced all of these bills March 23 as a package of reform legislation. All were referred to the House State Government Committee where they will die unless people make a big stink and demand their passage.
To read the full text of these bills and to follow their progress (or lack of it), go to www.legis.state.pa.us, click on the Legislation tab, and type HB (bill number) in the top left search box.