Black Pa. House members walk out of session in protest
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HARRISBURG -- Sixteen members of the General Assembly's Black Caucus walked off the House floor today, before a vote on a new open records bill was taken, to protest the Legislature's lack of action this year on gun control bills and other anti-violence measures.
Just after Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Uniontown, finished explaining an amendment he wanted to make on Senate Bill 1, the open records bill, the Black Caucus members walked, one by one, to a microphone and said they would be on leave for the rest of the day.
"We could be doing this (walking off) until we get meaningful gun legislation,'' said Rep. Thomas Blackwell, D-Philadelphia. "Every entity seems to get their business done on the floor except us. Our constituents aren't talking about doing something on open records. They are talking about kids dying in the streets.''
"The issue of violence is clearly linked to guns,'' said Rep. Joe Preston, D-East Liberty. He said there have been five killings in his district in recent weeks.
"It's a major situation,'' he said. "What I hear from my constituents is, when are we going to do something to stop this violence?''
"We have people dying and we have to control this, we have to address this,'' said Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia.
The principal issue the House is to discuss today is open records. But Mr. Cruz said there could be more walkouts when the House returns Monday.
"We will boycott anything else until our voices are heard,'' he said.
There are 203 members of the House. All Black Caucus members are Democrats. Votes can still be taken without them, but it would leave the 102 Democrats in the House with only 86 votes.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
First Published December 5, 2007 1:27 pm