As Pennsylvania welcomes a new governor and ushers in a new legislative session, Democratic lawmakers in the state House of Representatives will continue pushing for a new era of good government in the three branches of state government.
House Democrats are preparing a “good government” package of more than 20 bills, with the goal of building trust and accountability in offices under the governor’s jurisdiction, the judicial system and both chambers of the legislature, ensuring that they operate more effectively and responsibly.
“The people of Pennsylvania have a right to expect efficiency and honesty from elected and appointed officials in state positions. House Democrats will work hard and offer specific legislation to see that these expectations are met,” said Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny)
The legislative package will focus on four key goals:
-- Ensuring that all offices of state government are transparent and open to the public through increased oversight and accountability;
-- Requiring that the spending of taxpayer money – and all public dollars – be done legally, responsibly and ethically, and that public expenditures be open and accessible to public review;
-- Providing broader protections against abuse of public office, and ensuring that elected officials and state employees are held to the highest legal, ethical and professional standards; and
-- Reinforcing through additional safeguards the requirement that no public, taxpayer-funded resources be used in campaign activities.
Democratic Whip Mike Hanna (D-Clinton), said, “These are significant changes and it makes perfect sense to have this discussion at the beginning of a new administration when new individuals are taking the reins of numerous state agencies. The moment is ripe for passage of new laws to restore public confidence in government.”
Rep. Dermody said that three bills in particular offer large potential to raise the quality of state government. One would direct the auditor general to conduct performance audits of every state program under the governor’s control within two years.
Another bill would establish the Pennsylvania Government Accountability Portal, an Internet tool to let people review all state government spending. The House passed this bill unanimously in 2009 but the Senate did not act on it.
The other would create the Commission on Realignment and Restructuring of State Government, consisting of four people appointed by legislative leaders and 10 appointed by the governor, to evaluate state agency operations and identify opportunities for creating efficiencies, including potential privatization of some operations. The commission’s initial report would be due Deember. 31.
“Governor-elect Tom Corbett indicates he is serious about reform. We are poised to help in that effort with a number of ideas,” Rep. Dermody said.