Pa. state senators propose to clean up government

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HARRISBURG -- In the wake of a recent grand jury report that depicted a widespread culture of corruption in operations at the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a bipartisan group of state senators announced Monday they will introduce legislation aimed at cleaning up state government.

"Reform, openness, transparency and accountability in government -- we've spoken these words many times, we hear them all the time, but I think we put them into action far less than we should," said Sen. Mike Stack, D-Philadelphia, speaking at a briefing Monday in the Capitol Rotunda. Mr. Stack is sponsoring the legislation with Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair.

The package of nine bills would require the reporting of all gifts to state legislators and members of the executive office, prohibit lobbyists from owning a portion of a gaming license, prohibit lobbyists from working as a campaign manager or political consultant for a candidate, and require the state to post online the final scoring of all qualified vendors who submitted a bid on a contract, among other requirements.

One bill would suspend the salaries of legislators, Cabinet members, the governor and lieutenant governor if the assembly fails to pass a budget on time.

Other proposals put forth by the senators would require disclosure of payments to vendors by political action committees or a candidate's committee, require that contractors disclose their subcontractors, require that members of the governor's advisory commissions and task forces disclose contributions to the governor, codify the governor's code of conduct as state law, and prohibit the governor and executive agency employees from accepting gifts from companies that do business with or are regulated by the commonwealth.

"This is common-sense reform," Mr. Eichelberger said.

The recent grand jury report regarding Turnpike operations resulted in charges against eight individuals, including a former state senator and Democratic floor leader, Robert Mellow. He is in prison on unrelated corruption charges, one of a number of Pennsylvania legislators who have been imprisoned on public corruption counts in recent years.

Sen. Rob Teplitz, a Democrat representing Dauphin and York counties, who has formed a government overhaul caucus, said the changes are needed to restore public trust in legislative decisions.

"The public is never going to buy into those tough decisions if they constantly feel like they are being sold out," he said.

state

Kate Giammarise: 1-717-787-4254 or kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.


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