Saturday, October 15, 2005

Editorial: Can Perzel / Philly should do the state a favor and vote him out

Editorial: Can Perzel / Philly should do the state a favor and vote him out

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It's time for John Perzel to go. That's right -- Pennsylvania Speaker of the House, Philadelphia Republican John Perzel.

For those in Western Pennsylvania who haven't seen it firsthand, his arrogance was on full display during a visit Wednesday to read to students at the city's Beechwood Elementary School. Asked by reporters at the school about the grass-roots campaign to repeal the Legislature's middle-of-the-night pay raise -- only the biggest, most festering issue in the state -- Mr. Perzel responded with all the charm of a copperhead.

"Well, the reaction is the reaction. But we passed the bill on July 7. It was passed by 119 members. That was the end of it as far as I know," he said.

As far as I know? Is the man blind to letters to the editor? Is he deaf to the bipartisan din of Pennsylvanians, 1,500 of whom rallied at the Capitol, demanding a vote on repeal?

Then a reporter had the gall to ask why the 2 a.m. vote in the speaker's chamber to raise the salary of state officials by 16 to 34 percent was not preceded by debate or hearings.

"You have another question?" Rep. Perzel shot back.

Well, now that you ask, sure: What is someone so hostile to public opinion doing in public service? Only the voters in the 172nd Legislative District, where the legislator has held power since the Carter administration, can answer that. Certainly Philadelphia can come up with a better candidate, Democrat or Republican, to elect from that district next year.

John Perzel, more than any other individual in Harrisburg, is responsible for blocking action on the pay-raise repeal. Despite dozens of members in both parties who want a floor vote, the speaker ditched the proposal in the Rules Committee, where good legislation goes to die.

This is a pattern with Mr. Perzel, who, despite 27 years of living off the taxpayers, often bites the hand that feeds him.

He is the single reason that Pennsylvania is the only state with no lobbyist disclosure law. Last year, when asked if Pennsylvania would ever join the other civilized states, the speaker replied: "Why do we need it? Nobody's asked for it." The only people who want it, he said, were "you guys," meaning the press.

Sorry, boys and girls, but this Johnny can't read. An IssuesPA/Pew Poll of 1,525 Pennsylvanians last spring, taken for the Pennsylvania Economy League, showed that 86 percent favor a rule to require lobbyists to report all spending and 72 percent favor limits on lobbyist gifts to public officials.

Even Common Cause, the nonpartisan citizens lobby, called Rep. Perzel "a monolith of opposition" to lobbyist reform. The group's state chair, Robert Stein, asked in August, "Can the speaker single-handedly defy the will of the vast majority of the House, the Senate and citizens of Pennsylvania? Yes he can. He has close relationships with lobbyists. He sees it not in his personal interests to allow a vote on lobbyist disclosure. He sees it not in his friends' interests to pass lobbyist disclosure."

Now the honorable representative from Philadelphia is blocking the pay-raise repeal.

Just yesterday IssuesPA released another poll, in which 77 percent said Pennsylvania government is "only fair" or "poor" in dealing with important issues. John Perzel owns a big share of those numbers, yet we expose him to our children. (Beechwood Elementary, what were you thinking?)

Rep. Perzel is out of tune, out of touch. Let's hope he is soon out of office.


Vice Chairman of Voter Education

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