Help me drain the Harrisburg swamp
President Trump ran his campaign on what he termed “Draining the Swamp in Washington.” Regardless of whether you believe he is making progress on that issue or not, he found a cause that many support.
Even before Trump’s campaign, I have been working for several years to “drain the swamp” in Harrisburg.
I recently re-introduced a series of bills that I brought forward during the last legislative term, although none of them ever received so much as a committee hearing or review.
Already during this young 2017-18 legislative session, I have introduced bills that would limit outside income for legislators to 35 percent of their base legislative salary and also to disclose where that income is derived from.
I also introduced legislation that would require a candidate holding one office to resign from that office before running for a new elected position and a separate bill that would prohibit public employees from using accrued sick leave for campaign purposes.
Individually, these bills would establish specific limits on some of the actions of my colleagues that most concern taxpayers and can lead to substantial, unnecessary costs.
Taken in their entirety, they would provide a solid start to ensuring that we, the legislature, are focusing on our constituents and the common good for all Commonwealth residents, and not just looking for an easy payday.
My bill (H.B. 947) would address holding an elective office while running for another. In recent years, there has been significant news coverage regarding the number of special elections for seats in the General Assembly. These special elections come at an additional cost and at a time in which the Commonwealth can ill afford the expense. I do not criticize our former colleagues for leaving the General Assembly prior to the end of their terms, and for not resigning prior to running for another office because the current system allows it. However, I do believe it is time for the system to be changed.
Furthermore, the General Assembly is a full-time legislature being paid for full-time service. Influences and time demands from outside employment do nothing to further our mission of serving our constituents, so I believe my bill to limit outside income is necessary. House Bill 948 would prohibit members of the General Assembly from receiving more than 35 percent of their base salary as a member of the General Assembly in salary for services rendered outside of the salary and allowances for his or her office.
Additionally, the growing influence of money in Pennsylvania elections -- particularly that of special interests -- has made the wealthiest voices the loudest and the ones with the most influence and access to government officials in Harrisburg. The extent to which these powerful and influential special interests have become entrenched in Pennsylvania politics is one of the primary reasons for the inability to reach a solution to our historic structural budget deficit.
In an effort to bring public trust back to elections and to make our government more accountable to the people and not the special interests, my legislation, H.B. 949 would require additional financial disclosure by elected officials and public employees. Specifically, my legislation would require individuals filing a statement of financial interest to list not only the source of any outside income, but also the amount.
Comprehensive financial disclosure of outside income helps public officials and employees avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest, and reassures the public that officials and employees are working for them, not for special interests or other outside groups in which they may have a financial interest.
Each of the bills listed above is based on common-sense ideas to make sure our elected officials are working for us, and should be an easy 'yes' vote.
However, none of these bills, including the original versions first introduced as early as 2013, has ever even received a vote or hearing in the House State Government Committee. Without action by the committee, none of the bills can move forward.
I previously sent a letter to the committee chairman, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, asking that he allow these bills to be considered. He never acknowledged my letter, so I am asking the residents of Pennsylvania who want a better democracy to urge him to bring the bills up for consideration in his committee. Up or down, these bills deserve to be considered on their merits, and the committee members, and then, hopefully, the full House, should decide whether they are worthy of becoming law. Unfortunately, Chairman Metcalfe remains the main roadblock to further consideration.
Chairman Metcalf may be contacted through his legislative office, 2525 Rochester Road, Municipal Building Suite 201, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, or via phone at (724) 772-3110. You can also contact his Harrisburg office at (717) 783-1707 or email him through his webpage at www.repmetcalfe.com/contact.aspx.
State Rep. Tony DeLuca
32nd Legislative District, representing portions of Allegheny County