Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rendell's Reform Address on 3/26 to Pa Press Club

Thank you all.

Thanks Peter, and you know I always stay away from the intercene workings, political workings, of any organization, but I guess this is about my fourth or fifth time here at this luncheon, and I am shocked and dismayed that it appears that [the Philadelphia Daily News’] John Baer has been overthrown. [Audience laughter]

He’s sitting out in the audience looking very lonely and lacking in power and importance. [More laughter] And truth be told, the only reason that I accepted the invitation is because of this deep fear that I and all of my colleagues in elective office have of John. [laughter]

Well it’s a pleasure to be back and I know that all of you are going to have a lot of questions that will range on a whole number of issues, so I will try to be relatively brief, but the topic I wanted to talk to you about today is one that is extraordinarily important and one that the press in Pennsylvania has not only shown a great interest in, but has been a tremendous participant in achieving some real progress.

You know over the last year, year-and-a-half we have seen the reform movement come very far in Pennsylvania - certainly in the primary election of lat year and to some extent in the general election, certainly in some of the reforms that are aborning right now. The press has been a prime mover in all of that, and I want you to know how strongly I applaud your efforts in making these things happen, and in bringing some facts and circumstances to light that were an important precedent to making these things happen.

No better example was the long fight waged by the members of the media to get the records of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). Those records revealed what I thought was a shocking and dismaying pattern of abuse, a pattern of abuse that is in the process of being changed in part – and those changes will be official probably with this week’s board meeting – but, literally, those changes are the tip of the iceberg of what needs to be done. We have to, in fact, build an entirely new culture over in PHEAA.

Even in the articles -once the material was, once the court case was won and the materials rolled out – even in the articles, PHEAA spokesmen kept defending what was done because they tried to say, “We compete with all of these private agencies, and we’re a essentially a private agency, and we have to be if we’re going to compete.”

No they’re not. They never have been, never will be, and until they start thinking like a public agency and understand that their duty is first and foremost - not to themselves, not to the board members - but first and foremost to the students, the college students of Pennsylvania, and their families, no culture, no amount of changes will make a difference.

I still believe there is much, much work that has to be done at PHEAA, but I want to commend the press. With that long and hard battle, we would never have had the impetus to bring those changes about.

Now some of you may think that it’s odd to hear me praising the press, but I’ve always believed, because I can and have been hard on you in the past, but I always believed that the press has an important role to play in disseminating to the citizens what their government does.
My only beef, and it’s been a substantial one, is that the dissemination to the citizens about what government does comes in one mode: when government screws up the press properly and appropriately conveys that to the citizens, but it doesn’t convey good news, it doesn’t convey what the government is doing right.

You know I said during last year when we started achieving the highest rate, the number of employed people in Pennsylvania, in the history of the commonwealth. This happened month after month after month. This happened 18 of the last 19 months.

But when it first happened, we barely got an article on page three of the business section.
I said [back then] if we had achieved – or I guess achieved wouldn’t be the word – but if we had reached the lowest level of jobs in the commonwealth’s history, does anybody believe for a moment that that monthly report would have been on the third page of the business section? Not at all. It would have been headlined on the front page.

Take an issue not quite as important or widespread as economic development and growth: childhood obesity. It is an issue on which a lot of articles have been written and there’s tremendous amount of citizen interest - I get asked about it by citizens often as I go across the state. And nowhere has it been written or conveyed to the citizens that Pennsylvania is one of the three states that are used as a national model for the programs that both the Department of Education and the Department of Health have instituted to begin dealing with diet and exercise and things such as that.

That has not in any way been reported to the citizens.

The problem of childhood obesity is written about every other week by the press, but none of the good news about what the state has done has been conveyed by the press.

But, having said that, I still think this is a good occasion as we talk about the reform movement, to take a deep breath , to understand that the press in Pennsylvania has more than fulfilled its traditional role of letting the public know what goes on with the government. And it has been a tremendous plus.

I also want to congratulate some of my colleagues in the public sector for taking steps to deal with the problem of reform.

I want to congratulate new [House] Speaker Dennis O’Brien [R-Philadelphia] for the efforts he has put together with Rep. [Josh] Shapiro [D-Montgomery] and [Rep.David] Steil [R-Bucks], veteran reformers like [Rep.] Kathy Manderino [D-Philadelphia] and [Rep.] Curt Schroder [R-Chester], they have been focusing on reform and they [the House of Representatives] have adopted a package that, although not necessarily perfect, certainly has taken a lot of good steps and almost moved us light years from where we used to be.

I thank Sen. [Joe] Scarnati [R-Jefferson] and [Sen. Dominic] Pileggi [R-Delaware] in the Senate, Sen. [Robert] Mellow [D-Lackawanna] also deserves credit, for the reforms that they have taken and instituted [in the Senate].

These are important first steps, and it is always difficult to go down the road of reform because there are many oxen that are still being gored.

But legislative leaders have gotten the message, and, I think, are willing to take the bull by the horns and move forward.

What I am about to suggest today will be over the next year, maybe the next year-and-a-half, the true test of how committed we are to reform in Pennsylvania. Because I think reform is more than just about what you get paid. I think reform is about opening up the process to make government better, to give the citizens more input into governing itself, to produce a better product.

I think we need to make some legislative changes and some changes to our state constitution to get where we want to go, fully.

Again, that doesn’t diminish the work that the press has done, the work that political leaders, like the Speaker and the senators have done, these are all significant steps in the right direction. But if we’re going to get to where we need to go, we have to do much more.

It is good that both the House and the Senate have begun to do something that deals with our open records problem, but we need a strong open records law passed into law soon.

Let me begin by saying you all know that a 2002 report ranked our [Pennsylvania’s] Freedom of Information law forty-seventh out of the fifty states in the nation. The only two states that we outperformed – Alabama and South Dakota – each received a score of zero. So it’s clear we have some work to do.

In 2003, some improvements were put into place that ensured speedy access to records that were subject to Right-to-Know statutes, but obviously the key question still remains, is what is a reasonable definition of what records are subject to Right-to-Know and the breadth of government and quasi-government agencies required to comply with out Right-to-Know law.
Since taking office, since I took office, we have received more than 5,000 Right-to-Know requests. Due to the constraints of the current law, we’ve denied about 50 percent of those requests. Even though many of those denials were mandated by law, they denied reasonable public access, and in about 50 percent of the 50 percent that we denied, our agencies turned over records notwithstanding, not under the Freedom of Information Act or the open records act, but just because we thought it was an important and correct thing to do.

The administration has been for about four or five months working on a draft bill. We have submitted the draft bill. We actually received a draft bill from the Publishers Association. We looked at their draft bill, prepared out own, and our proposal, first and foremost, shifts the burden so that if an agency does not believe that a record can be released, it has the burden to document that it is not a public record, and the permissible framework for denial is substantially narrowed to matters of public security or personal safety.

It virtually opens up every governmental body and every quasi-governmental body to the jurisdiction and the mandates of the open records act. It creates an Office of Public Records advocate to create guidelines and hear appeals, to make written decisions and offer training to public officials and employees.

Last Friday we sent out invitations to 43 external organizations that would be directly or indirectly affected by out new law to review the draft of the law, to make proposals and suggestions and improvements to our draft. Working with these external stakeholders, it is our hope to have legislation to forward to the House and the Senate April of this year.
I think it is crucial that we have an open records law that clearly applies to everything we do. The PHEAA example is absolutely the most telling. For an agency to delay for well over a year-and-a-half the dissemination of records that involve spending the public’s money is absolutely unconscionable. We see what has happened those records got subject to the light of day. Reform and change happened at a breakneck pace.

I would, again, submit to you that the reform and change is scratching the surface - it is not nearly significant. The culture of PHEAA has to change. The attitude of PHEAA has to change. I think the hierarchy and the structure of PHEAA has to change.

But I have agreed with Sen. [Sena] Logan [D-Allegheny] and Rep. [William] Adolph [R-Delaware] to give them some time – not a long time – to see what changes they intend to bring about and what changes they intend to propose before I go forward and do anything else.
Next I think we need to change the way we select our judges, our appellate judges.

Pennsylvania is one of only six states that elects all of its judges in partisan political elections.
To make lawyers or judges from lower courts campaign for office, to make them raise money is an absurd procedure. First of all, in raising money, the only one’s interested in giving money to a judicial election are lawyers, who will appear before those judges, or businesses that happen to be the subject of a great deal of litigation. So virtually everyone who gives money in those races has some direct ax to grind, has some influence that they want to bring about, by contributing money to a judge’s campaign.

We go through the fiction of isolating judges by saying they’re not allowed to solicit money themselves, nor are they allowed to know who contributed money, or how much is contributed to their campaigns. Ludicrous. Don’t think for a moment that a judge doesn’t know. It is absolutely a system that couldn’t be designed worse.

My wife, Judge Rendell, will routinely, if asked by another party, will routinely disqualify herself if the litigant or the lawyers appearing before her have made substantial contributions to my campaign. If we did that in Pennsylvania, no matters would be heard. Literally. The appeals process would grind to a halt. It is ungodly what we do.

Are we taking away the citizens’ right to vote? You know whenever you poll this issue, the citizens are very, very guarded about losing their right to vote.

Well I remember when Good Judges Pennsylvania, the group that’s been trying to achieve merit selection for a long time, they hired a pollster to do exit polls, and in that election we were electing three Commonwealth Court judges, five Superior Court judges and two Supreme Court judges – it was an unusual confluence of events. They polled people within two minutes after they voted and they asked them to name any of the judges that they had voted for, any of the judges, including Supreme Court. Fifty-eight percent of the people could name one, 12 percent of the people could name two. And they had just cast nine votes … so there is no question that we need to go to a different system.

If you look at just what happened in this election, in this election that we haven’t even had our primary, there were two judges on the Democratic side that received “highly qualified” recommendations – Debra Todd from Allegheny County and Darnell Jones from Philadelphia. Darnell Jones happens to be a minority.

For the longest time, minority leaders said, “We don’t want merit selection because it’s going to take away the peoples’ right to vote.”

I said, “Hey, take a look at the members of our appellate courts, doesn’t seem you’re doing so hot with the right to vote.”

Darnell Jones was, despite the fact that I supported him, Darnell Jones was rejected by the Democratic State Committee. Rejected for a candidate that didn’t score nearly as highly qualified in the review process by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

It makes absolutely no sense the way we do it.

So I propose, and we will be submitting to the Legislature, the beginning of what will be, necessarily, be a change to our constitution. Our bill will establish a merit selection of judges for Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme courts. Our proposal will establish an appellate nomination commission made up of 14 members – 4 appointed by the governor, 4 appointed by the General Assembly and 6 members of the general public representing law school deans, business organizations, labor organizations, civic organizations, professional organizations and public safety organizations.

When any judicial vacancy in our appellate courts occurs, this independent commission will be responsible for submitting to the governor a list of nominees who have demonstrated integrity, judicial temperament professional competence and commitment to the community. They can submit to the governor a list of not greater than five, not less than two. Once the governor selects the nominee, the Senate will have 15 days to give the appointment a vote. If the Senate fails to act, the nomination will be final. If the Senate rejects three straight nominees coming from the governor’s selection from that list, then the commission will make its own final appointment to fill the vacancy.

This, of course, will need a constitutional amendment because it’s a basic change in the way we select our judges.

Next, we need to turn our attention to some of the structural changes we need in our political process.

Now the House reform caucus has taken a look at those, and they’re planning to examine campaign finance reforms, the size of the Legislature and redistricting.

We’re going to submit to them in a short period of time, our proposals on all three.
Let me start with campaign finance – we can make that change without amending our constitution. We can make that change just statutorily.

Now I grant that having me talk about campaign finance reform may sound a little odd to people.

In fact, when I was mayor of Philadelphia, Sens. [John] McCain [R-Arizona] and [Russ] Feingold [D-Wisconsin] came to Philadelphia to hold a press conference to generate public support for the McCain-Feingold [campaign finance] bill, and I went out and attended the press conference and endorsed the bill.

The Philadelphia Daily News the next day had an editorial that said, “Having Ed Rendell endorse campaign finance reform was like having Ali Baba come out and speak out against thievery.”
I actually thought that was a little harsh, but [Audience laughter] but if [former President] Richard Nixon could be the first person to bring [U.S.] diplomatic relations to communist China, then I can certainly be the governor that spearheads campaign finance reform.
We need it. There is far too much influence in the governmental process by people and organizations with large amounts of money.

My opponent and I in the last election raised $42 million. People didn’t give us that money solely because they liked us or believed in the ideology we stood for.

That’s far too much money to be expended in a public election.

We are only one of 13 states in the nation that fail to place any limits on campaign contributions.
I was just out in Arizona on Saturday – I went out on Friday night and came back Saturday night – and I spent a day with the Democratic Governors Association. The governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, runs in a state that limits, if you go the public route, you are limited to $5 contributions for governor, and there are public funds [for the candidates]. I don’t believe that those limitations – Massachusetts has a limit of $500 – I don’t believe that they make sense.
I believe we should have reasonable contribution limits, so out legislation that we’re going to submit to the Legislature places a $5,000 limit on contributions by individuals and political action committees (PACS) in races for governor, statewide offices and local elections for executive in the most expensive places to run – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
[We also propose] $2,000 limits on contributions by individuals and PACS for all other elections in the commonwealth, including General Assembly races.

Local governments would be free to enact more stringent limits than the ones we propose. They could not enact limits more generous than what we propose, but could enact more stringent limits.

One of the big problems with campaign finance reform is you have to get at the total number of dollars that can be contributed.

For example, in New Jersey, they had heralded reform in their gubernatorial elections, and no person, individual [or] corporation was allowed to contribute more than $3,700 in a governor’s race. But those same entities were allowed to contribute $25,000 to any county political organization – there are 23 counties in New Jersey – and over $85,000 to the state party organization. You could literally give, if you wanted to, close to $600,000 to help John Jones or Mary Smith become governor of New Jersey, even though your direct contribution to their campaign was limited to $3,700.

So to prevent that from happening in Pennsylvania, our legislation limits the total amount that any person or political action committee can contribute in a two-year campaign cycle to $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a PAC. This limit will apply to contributions to candidates, PACs and party committees. As a result, we will limit the impact of any one person or PAC to have a disproportionate impact on the total government.

Let me give you an example of how that works.

Let’s assume the PAC gives $5,000 to the gubernatorial candidate, and let’s say they give $5,000 to the lieutenant governor candidate. They can do that – let’s say they give the governor $5,000 in the primary [election], $5,000 in the general [election], give the lieutenant governor $5,000 in the primary. [That’s] $15,000, in that cycle where we elect a governor, a lieutenant governor and members of the Legislature. That would leave them $35,000, in $2,000 increments, that they could either give to members of the General Assembly or political committees like the Allegheny County Republican Committee or the Philadelphia Democratic State Committee.

All totaled, an individual can only give $25,000 in that cycle, or, if it’s a PAC, $50,000 in that cycle. Without those limits, the individual limit to campaigns are a fraud because they’re too many loophole that you can go around.

Our legislation will also close the loopholes that allow partnerships and shell organizations to make contributions that skirt the law.

It is my hope that this legislation would become effective after the 2008 election cycle. So the first state election that it will be relevant for is 2010.


Nothing is more important than to change the way we redistrict. Other states have begun that process.

We need to redistrict to get that same type of spirit and the same type of electoral contests in the law, and in actuality, that we had in the primary elections of 2006.

Despite the changes in the primary election, there were very few change in the fall of 2006 – despite the reform movement.

Between 1986 and 2006 – what till you hear these numbers – there were 2,508 House and Senate races. In [those two] decades, only 38 House seats and 7 Senate seats were lost to the challenger party – 2,508 and in those two decades only 38 House seats and 7 Senate seats were lost to the challenging party. That’s 1.8 percent of all seats changed party hands in 20 years – 1.8 percent. Folks, that’s unacceptable.

You know what the Legislature has done and both parties are to blame, and there’s no political gain here. What they’ve done here is protected each other.

Republicans wanted safe Republican seats. Democrats, instead of fighting that and saying, “No, let’s have more contests,” they decide they’d create safe Democratic seats.

When control was the other way around, the flip took place.

We simply cannot do that.

Redistricting should be based on what’s good for the public -what are good geographic limits. We shouldn’t have people in Montgomery County and people way up in northern Lehigh County in the same state senatorial district because they have different needs and different approaches to government. We should try to make the redistricting create districts that are as close as we can in their demographics, as close as we can in their financial status, so that the representative can represent a body of thinking that comes from the public themselves. We should end gerrymandering.

There’s a simple way to do this, and other states, as I said, three or four other states have already gone down these roads.

We need to make the decisions on drawing on the boundaries, we need to take it out of the hands of sitting legislators. Sitting legislators - and a number of them are tremendous people, and I don’t think they have gotten the credit, certainly didn’t get the credit for my first four years for the impressive legislative agenda that was put forth. I think you can make a case that Pennsylvania made more significant changes in economic stimulus, in environment, in education, in tax reform, in healthcare – we made more significant changes in the first four years than any state in the union during that four-year period, and I didn’t do it myself. We had a lot of strong legislative leaders who contributed to that process.

But we all know that self-preservation is the first and most important motivation in the Legislature.

So out proposal takes the state legislative redistricting and places it in the hands of an independent, non-partisan commission. The commission will be made up of nine members, none of whom hold elective office or serve as lobbyists, and where no political party constitutes the majority. This independent commission will create a redistricting plan based on sound representation, not politics. One member will be appointed by the governor, four members will be appointed, one each by the [General Assembly] caucus chairs, and four members appointed by the [Pennsylvania] Supreme Court. Of the four members appointed by the Supreme Court, one from each of the two major political parties, and then the two remaining members must come from non-partisan registrations and independents, or members of other political parties not Democrat or Republican. So no political party will have more than four out of the nine votes.
Neither the Legislature not the governor has the right to approve or reject the independent commission’s redistricting plan. Instead, the plan will be put forward for public comment, and after a public comment period, seven [commission] members have to approve the plan, and the plan can be changed by comments that are approved. Seven members vote to approve the plan, it is approved as final.

Next, shrinking the size of our Legislature – something that has to, in my judgment, be done.
Our Legislature is the second largest in the nation, with more members per capita than any of our peer states. Only New Hampshire has more legislators, and that state has a true part-time citizen assembly.

With the size of our General Assembly not only comes gridlock but also extraordinary costs to the taxpayers. Our General Assembly has an annual budget of $340 million. That’s $1.3 million each, for about 2003 House members and 50 senators, and nearly 3000 staff members - $340 million, $1.3 million each for every senator or House member. I don’t think our democracy would be harmed, by having fewer members.

I know there are concerns that if we reduce the size of Legislature that rural districts will not get proper representation. I believe if you do it on a good plan, do it concurrent with citizen redistricting, I think every element – rural-urban, suburban, big city, small city, mid-sized cities – all of their interests can be protected.

I propose – this also, of course, takes a constitutional amendment – I propose that we set up a commission, and that commission makes the recommendations on the appropriate size for shrinking the state House and the state Senate.

The commission will be made up of six legislators and five members of the public. I think it’s very, very important that the General Assembly itself have the majority stake in deciding this. They can hear from all of us, they can understand that we want this done, but I think it has to be done by themselves.

Once the commission deliberates and comes up with its recommendations, I hope the Legislature moves forward with the necessary constitutional amendment in time to ensure that when the 2010 redistricting is done and put to a vote, we have fewer House members and fewer senators.

I want all of these constitutional amendments, and I have one left to go, all of these constitutional amendments to be focused on, and to be carried out with, the 2010 redistricting. So all of them would impact the Legislature that takes its office in 2012.
Why? For a very simple reason: you can’t do redistricting and two years later reduce the size of the Legislature. That would create total chaos. If you were going to reduce the size of the Legislature, it has to be concurrent with redistricting.

And it has to be done concurrent with the last constitutional amendment that I am proposing, but I think, in many ways, the most important. This constitutional amendment is one that I never believed that I would be publicly in favor of: term limits for legislators.

When I served as mayor of Philadelphia, I didn’t believe in term limits for legislators. When I was elected governor of Pennsylvania, I didn’t believe in term limits for legislators. I believed that the public had the right to make those changes for themselves.

But when you think of the statistics - 1 percent [of] House and Senate seats changed in 20 years – it’s clear that the public doesn’t have the ability because of redistricting - it doesn’t have the ability to make those changes. Secondly, self preservation is too much of a motivating force here.
Now you can say the same thing about governors in their first terms, or legislators, and maybe that’s true. I believe that I took steps, including raising taxes, that we’re obviously not steps designed to appeal to necessarily the prevailing public opinion. I think I did things which created some political risk for me.

Nonetheless, I can’t stand here and tell you that when I did things, the political impact wasn’t a consideration that weighed on my mind. Anyone who tells you that it isn’t is lying to you, is lying to you.

Now I believe in my case, and the vast majority of things that we did, I fought back the tendency to let those political considerations outweigh good policy and good substance for the public. But if I stood here and told you that I never considered the political impact, I’d be lying to you.

Self-preservation is important, and it’s important to all people.

In my case, it was one term or two terms, because of the term limits. I said, and I think some of you will remember from the 2002 campaign, I said during the campaign that I would rather get things accomplished in four years, and take the political risks that would result in me not being re-elected, than to sit around as governor for eight years and do nothing other than appoint a few people to office and have people say “your excellency.”

I believe I lived up to that pledge in my first term, but I knew it was four years or eight years. It wasn’t 12 years or 16 years. I didn’t look down the road. I didn’t look at it as a career – it’s not a career. I think it is important to get back to citizen soldiers.

I think it’s the only way we’re going to have truly pure, honest and effective government.

Are there sacrifices in skill and expertise that we’re going to, that will be a natural consequence of term limits? Absolutely.

We can mitigate them, and our plan – I’ll roll it out in a second – does, in fact, mitigate those, to an extent, but we’ll lose some level of expertise. But we’ve got 3,000 staffers that we’re going to have to help out, right? [Audience laughter]

Our legislation calls … and let me go even further – there’s real anecdotal evidence about this. I don’t know how many of you, after the session in September [2006] on guns [and crime in the House], how many of you read Tom Ferrick’s column in the [Philadelphia] Inquirer.
Tom Ferrick quoted a legislator, a veteran legislator, who said that everybody up here [in the state Capitol] knows that [a] one-gun-a-month limitation makes sense. Think about it. One handgun a month, you can only purchase one handgun a month. It stops straw purchasers. That individual who goes into a store in Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, in Wyoming County and buys 16 9mm Smith and Wesson automatic pistols. The gun owner knows, the state police know, local police know, the ATF knows. That person is buying 16 of the exact same pistol, handgun, to sell on the streets of the city. To sell to felons and juveniles who can’t buy guns legally. And yet we’re helpless to stop them.

I know the gun-rights folks say, “Well, put a tail on him.” You can’t put tails on people for three or four months. That person takes those guns, puts them in his house and sits on them for four months. Then [he] takes them to the streets of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and sells them for 300 percent of what it cost him to buy – 300 percent. And almost 42 percent of our crime guns are traceable to multiple purchases. When we go back and say to the multiple purchasers, “ Do you know that your gun was used in a homicide to kill Chris Crawford last night?” the original purchaser says, “Ah, geez I’m sorry.”

“Well how did that gun get into that 17-year-old’s hands?”

“Geez, I don’t know, it was stolen from my House.”

“Did you report it?”

“No, the police never do anything about burglaries.”

Well, we have to report the loss of a car - the loss or the theft of a car – but we don’t even have legislation to require us to report the loss or the theft of a gun. If we did, just that one change would make it so much easier to crack down on gun traffickers.

One-gun-a-month says you can’t buy 16 of the same handguns. You have to do it one gun a month. It only applies to handguns. It doesn’t apply to long guns. I t only applies to handguns, and it has no impact on the rights of lawful gun owners who want to use handguns to hunt or want to use handguns to protect themselves or their houses. If you’re single, you can buy 12 handguns a year. If you’re married, you can buy 24 handguns a year.

I remember giving this speech before the gun manufacturers, and their lobbyist raised his hand and said, “Well, what you say makes sense, but what if you want to give guns for Christmas presents?” [Audience laughter]

I said, “I’m not going to comment on the appropriateness of giving someone a handgun in the name of the Lord’s birthday, but we have an answer for that: gift certificates.” [More laughter] One gun a month.

So that law, obviously, should be passed. There is nobody who is sane and rational who would be against one gun a month.

The legislator told Tom Ferrick, “If we voted by a secret ballot, one-gun-a-month would pass by 3 to 1.”

Well we didn’t vote by secret ballot, and when one-gun-a-month went before the September session, it lost 3 to 1. Think about it. Think about it. Why did it lose?

Because our legislators are worried about the NRA [National Rifle Association] and other gun organizations that make the NRA look liberal. They’re worried about that. They’re worried about self-preservation.

Voting money for education. Our legislators know how important it is, but heaven forbid a vote for a tax increase. “I might lose.” It’s self-preservation.

No more self-preservation.

Let’s have legislators that go in there and know they’re going to serve –“Well it’s my fifth year, I’ll either be here for six or eight. What’s the big deal. Let me vote for what I believe is right.”
It’s about time. That’s the way the country was founded. Citizen soldiers.

Thomas Jefferson served as a delegate to the Virginia assembly for four years, and then he went home. He went home, back to his farm. That’s the way it was meant to be.

We wouldn’t be here facing the mess that we’re facing on pensions … do you know that by 2011, coincidentally the year I will no longer be governor, the state budget will increase by $1.1 billion just because of the pension vote we cast in 2000. The motivation for the pension vote in 2000 was not to help state employees. The motivation behind the pension vote of 2000 was to build up legislative pensions. It’s going to cost us $1.1 billion more in 2011’s budget than in 2010’s [budget], because that’s the way they [the Legislature] has it scheduled. That’s when the spike is going to occur.

I’m going to recommend to the Legislature that we take steps to flatten that out, but just think about that. We shouldn’t be worried about pensions. This shouldn’t be a career. This should be a venture by citizen soldiers who want to participate in their democracy. Period.

Can we mitigate against the lose of expertise? Sure we can.

We can’t repeat the mistakes that states like California made. The entire California Legislature turns over every eight years. That’s nuts.

We have to figure out a way, and there’s a way to do it, and that’s to stagger it. So that one-third of the Legislature turns over every two years.

I believe we must have term limits: eight years for representatives and eight years for senator. So if somebody really has the bug to serve, they can serve for eight years as a House members and then run for the Senate and serve for eight years as a senator. By the way, these are total caps. They are not consecutive. They are total caps. Just like the governor cannot run again for governor in Pennsylvania after serving two terms – can’t sit out a couple years and run again – legislators are limited to eight years for their lifetimes in the House and eight years in the Senate. As I said, the term limits will be phased in.

This requires a constitutional amendment and it should also be done for the 2012 election.
So for legislators who have served for more than eight years, they have another six years to contribute. Another six years to get done what they hoped they could get done. We’re not pulling the plug on people precipitously.

Let’s do all of these things: redistricting, smaller size of the Legislature, term limits. Let’s do them in a way that we can have the benefits of all of these things going forward for future generations in the year 2012.

I think it’s workable and it’s doable. I’m counting on the Legislature and the reform movement.
We have, as you know – and you talk about it all of the time – we have 50 new members [in the Legislature]. I’m seeing those 50 new members this afternoon in the [governor’s] residence to spell out these plans to them directly, because many of them ran on similar proposals.

It’s my hope that this reform movement, fueled by the press, that continues to press for change, and by a public that will hopefully be interested in these issues, that in the long term are so much more important than pay raise. If you have term limits, you’re not going to have pay-raise issues. You’re not going to have pension issues.

It’s my hope that the public and the press will keep the momentum going so we can get things done in the next year or year-and-a-half.

Now I’m looking at my good friend Fred Anton [chariman of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association], and Fred and I have been friends dating back to my time as [Philadelphia] district attorney. I met with Fred and his group back in 2006 at the beginning of the election cycle. I met with them because I believe in the governmental process. I didn’t think that any of them we’re going to support me. I met with them because I believe in talking with everybody. And truth be told, none of them did support me. But we met and we talked about a lot of these same issues, and Fred will recall that.

Fred’s group wanted the calling of a constitutional convention.

I believe there are dangers in calling a constitutional convention. We’ve looked at this, and I don’t think you can limit the scope of a constitutional convention. I think there are significant dangers and substantive harm that can occur to the commonwealth.

But notwithstanding that, if the Legislature will not take these changes and reforms to heart - if they will not move in the near future to make these reforms a reality – I think I and every other like-minded Pennsylvanian, who seeks to have reform become a reality, is going to have to consider the constitutional convention route.

I don’t think we need it. I think we can do all of this and have it in place by the 2012 election, and benefit generation after generation after generation of Pennsylvanians.

This is an effort, and I don’t want this to become the governor’s effort – it’s the reason why the commission on restructuring, the majority of the appointment are legislators themselves - because I don’t want this to be mine. I don’t want this to be politicized. I don’t want it to be Democrat or Republican. I don’t want it to be us against them. I don’t want it to be rural against urban.

I want it to be Pennsylvanians trying to improve the product of our government. That’s so important.

I think we did wonderful things the last four years. Wonderful things to change the quality of life of Pennsylvanians.

But we could do so much more, and do it in an atmosphere that is so much better, and we’ll be so much more likely to restore confidence of people in their government.

More confidence in the government, means more people will vote, more people will take part in the process.

We’ll have more people like the [Rep.] Josh Shapiros coming to the Legislature, just because it’s the thing to do, and not because it’s a career.

But, gee, wouldn’t it be great to spend eight years trying to change the laws of Pennsylvania and make them better? Absolutely.

You’d be getting idealists from all over. You’d have corporations saying to some of their best young managers, “Go out and run for the Legislature. Get out for four or six years and see what you can do and then come back to us.”

We’d have good people – good women and good men - coming and running for office, not burdened by having to raise tons of money - to go to lobbyists or political action committees to raise money – to be able to get out there and run in a system that rewards competence, ability and the courage of one’s own convictions.

Nothing is more important to future generations than the things that I have talked about today, and all of you have been talking about for a long while.

It’s something that ought to be done. We have to be resolute. We can’t flinch. We’ve got to go down that road, and go down that road with determination and focus.

Thank you all very, very much.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Example Survey for a Candidate

Please choose as many as apply
" - Candidate (or staff) for statewide office
" - Candidate (or staff) for countywide office
" - Candidate (or staff) for municipal office
" - Candidate (or staff) for school board

Did you contact the Voter Registration office in advance of your decision to run for office in Northampton County?
" - Yes " - NO
If so, please check the statement that most accurately describes your experience.

" - A totally positive experience - My request(s) was handled professionally, courteously, and accurately.
" - A mostly positive experience - My request was handled professionally and accurately.
" - Neither good nor bad.
" - A somewhat negative experience – there were lapses in professionalism, accuracy, and/or courteousness.
" - A totally negative experience

Have you visited the Voter Registration office to obtain petition forms and candidate filing forms?
" - Yes " - NO
" - A totally positive experience - My request(s) was handled professionally, courteously, and accurately.
" - A mostly positive experience - My request was handled professionally and accurately.
" - Neither good nor bad.
" - A somewhat negative experience – there were lapses in professionalism, accuracy, and/or courteousness.
" - A totally negative experience –

Do you have any suggestions for actions and/or procedures that would have made it easier for you to acquire materials and register as a candidate?
" - Yes " - No


In your opinion, were results tabulations made available to you in a timely manner?
" - Yes " - No " - Not applicable


Do you have any other issues/concerns that you would like to see the Citizens Advisory Committee address?

If you wish to be contacted by the Citizens Advisory Committee, please provide contact information.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Elections Panel Letter to VanSickle

February 28, 2007

Mr. Harry Van Sickle, Commissioner
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Department of State
Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation
210 North Office Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Dear Mr. Van Sickle,

In early January 2007, the Northampton County Executive formed an ad-hoc, non-partisan advisory committee to research and make recommendations to improve the customer service and performance of the Northampton County Elections Office. This committee has publicly met regularly and listened to various testimonies from citizens, employees, elected officials, and Northampton County Elections Commission board members regarding the above subject material.

Also addressed in the Committee discussions has been the topic of the PA Department of State certification of the Advanced Voting Solutions (AVS) WinVote machines purchased and used by Northampton County. Specifically, the topic of whether or not the voting machine hardware that was certified by the Commonwealth was in fact in the machines received by Northampton County.

At the February 21, 2007 the Committee made a motion to direct the County Administration to send formal communication to the Secretary of State, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requesting to see the certification of the specific machines used in the last two elections. The Committee wants documentation that the hardware shipped by Advanced Voting Solutions is, in fact, what was approved.

They have requested that this letter ask for a response within 10 days of receipt and for copies of this letter to be sent to the various state legislative representatives from the Lehigh Valley.
The Northampton County Executive and the Voter’s Registration - Citizen’s Advisory Committee thank you in advance for your prompt assistance in this matter.


John R. Conklin
County Administrator

Friday, March 02, 2007

February 28, 2007 Minutes For Citizens' Advisory Committee

In conjunction with
Voter’s Registration Office

Meeting Minutes
February 28, 2007 – 4:00 p.m.

The scheduled meeting of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee was held at 7:00 p.m. on February 28, 2007, in the County Council Meeting Room #307.

WELCOME – Margaret “Peg” Ferraro
Ms. Ferraro welcomed everyone to this meeting.

Roll Call

Mr. Conklin gave the roll and the following members were present:
Jack Bradt Russ Shade NOT PRESENT Greta Browne
Peg Ferraro Richard Benner

Motion to approve minutes from February 21, 2007. Motion seconded. Motion carried.

Courtesy of the Floor

Lawrence Otter, Esq. was present to represent Deb DePaul regarding statements made to the newspaper by panel members and members of the political parties. The process in Pennsylvania for electronic voting machines is outlined by state statute therefore issues should be addressed with the state legislature.

Committee does not want these meetings to become a confrontational forum. It is to be a support network to work through the various issues at hand.

The office previously conducted its own survey. Results were shared with the committee.

Straight party ticket issues, certification of the machines, and the counting of the votes were addressed.

A few people, including Elections Office staff and political party representatives spoke about how the office is run and how political parties are treated. Everyone needs to be treated equal.

Election calendar handed out with deadlines listed. Calendar should be available to the staff and anyone else who may want it. District maps with precinct boundaries either hardcopy or on line would be helpful, which is already in process. Thorough training of all staff is suggested.

Several Election Judges gave positive comments about Deb DePaul and the Elections office as well as the new system in general. John Stoffa was praised for putting leadership ahead of partisanship by forming this committee.

“Best Practices” can be attained by comparing the procedures and results of different counties. In comparison, Northampton County had a much larger margin of error than Lehigh County. Inaccurate counts were posted for 13 days. Ballot design, a discussion about where or not straight party voting is being “encouraged” as opposed to “available” by the first screen on the machine.

Past elections judges training new judges would be a benefit.

Old Business

Letter to Pennsylvania Department of State was distributed to the group. Suggestion to slightly change one of the words in the letter was made; change “assurances” to “documentation”.

Screen layout in Montgomery County shows all the candidates. Northampton County machines have a smaller screen so all the information does not fit on one screen. The committee will make a recommendation to have uniformity across the Commonwealth with regards to the machines and screen views. Deb will try to get as many screen prints as possible to distribute to the group.

Surveys suggestion. Use one as a general survey to be given to everyone (randomly selected voters) and one to be given to specific groups (election judges, parties, poll workers). A check box will be added to the survey to identify which group the individual is associated. Surveys will also be posted on the web for anyone who wishes to fill it out. Surveys will be mailed out early next week pending final approval from the Committee.

New Business:

Next Meeting: March 14, 2007 @ 7:00 PM, County Council Meeting Room 307.

Courtesy of the Floor

Prior to elections, both parties were notified that they may look at the machines. Last election, both parties signed off on the machines. County Executive should investigate what needs to take place in the Voter Registration office. Unofficial counts are just that, unofficial. With 149 Judge of Elections, each having 3 County Workers, there is opportunity for many different answers to the same question.

With 463 voting machines, it takes hours to check each counter and serial number on each of them. Machines are checked 7-10 days prior to Election Day to ensure counters are set to zero. Ballot design is also checked.

One of the Election Judges had an issue. Each individual machine totaled but once each USB was put into the master, it didn’t total. Additional staffing is needed during election times to handle issues that arise.

People need to know the Elections Office is there to help them. Neither AVS nor the Department of State have responded to any requests regarding the machines. The committee’s purpose is to make recommendations only.

Several election office workers spoke. The goal of the Committee and the Elections office should be to work together. Additional phone help is necessary. The S.U.R.E system is being utilized; more are needed to accommodate the incoming requests. The office would like to see signatures on the survey for validation.

Thanks you notes are sent to poll workers by the Elections office and the County Executive.

The letter going out to the State has a return reply requested and a reply date on it. A minor grammatical error on the letter will be corrected before it is sent out. Documents should be proofread before sent out.

Brief synopsis of the Election office was presented.

Recommendation for Counties to change their password each election was mentioned.

There is nothing in the letter from AVS that says the equipment was certified before the election. The County needs assurance the correct steps were taken, regarding machines, before the Election.

Meeting Adjourned.

Motion to adjourn, seconded, meeting adjourned at 9:20 PM.