Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Grand Jury: PA Legislature "Bloated" With Staff

The Grand Jury that spent two years listening to testimony about legislative corruption has issued a scathing report calling for sweeping changes in Harrisburg.
The grand jury’s report charges the “overwhelming majority” of lawmakers with putting personal gains ahead of serving constituents.
The jurors say they’re “appalled” by the amount of staffers assigned to state representatives and senators.
The report quotes testimony from a former House Republican staffer who conducted a study that found only 289 of the caucus’475 staffers were actually needed to conduct legislative work. That passage caught the eye of good-government advocate Tim Potts, who runs Democracy Rising PA.
"That surprised me. I knew there were an awful lot of folks there who didn’t need to be there. But I didn’t know it was that extensive."
As one example, the report points out many legislative staffers spend all their time filling out vehicle and license registration forms for constituents.
The jurors say that’s a waste of tax dollars, and argue it’s only done so lawmakers can win favor with voters.
Potts agrees with the jurors’ conclusion that lawmakers become warped by the system.
"People would come there with the idea that they would serve for a limited period of time, or they were going to accomplish particular things and then leave. And then within about six months you see people change in their attitudes. It’s no longer being there to do the job. It’s simply being there to have the job."
In addition to shrinking staff, the Grand Jury recommends routine independent audits of legislative spending, the elimination of the per diem payments lawmakers receive when they’re in Harrisburg, and legislative term limits. The Grand Jurors also say the General Assembly should shift from full-time to part time.
Many of the suggested changes can only be implemented through a constitutional convention.

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