Governor Ed Rendell should step aside from his bid to become the state’s reformer-in-chief. While some of his ideas may have merit, the Governor has no more right than the average citizen to prescribe the structure of state government in Pennsylvania and his viewpoint is distorted by his position.
Perhaps his goal of a better open records policy is desirable, but his suggestion of creating an Office of Public Records Advocate might be just another plump patronage position to be filled by political pals. Maybe the people can come up with a better plan for making government more transparent.
Perhaps merit selection for state appellate judges is an idea worth considering, but what if the people would rather make all judicial races non-partisan affairs and ban contributions to those races by lawyers?
How could Rendell’s proposed Appellate Court Nominating Commission, dominated by a majority of legislative and executive appointees and confirmed by the Senate, improve the independence of the judiciary? Independence from the other two branches should be encouraged, but independence from the sovereign people at the voting booth should not.
Perhaps the Governor’s suggested campaign finance limits appear to level the electoral playing field. On the other hand, maybe the people of this Commonwealth realize that the voter revolt of 2006 would not have been possible under those limitations and that no financial ceiling could ever negate the current incumbency protection program.
Perhaps Rendell’s legislative term limits sound like a good idea, but reality in Pennsylvania suggests that if the General Assembly was truly part-time and was stripped of the unconstitutional perks it now enjoys, term limits would be utterly unnecessary.
Perhaps Pennsylvanians want a smaller legislature, but maybe they’d like a larger one, or to keep its size the same, with some of the above mentioned features and fewer expenses. Maybe they want to look at the other 49 states to see what others are doing before deciding which path is best for the Commonwealth.
Perhaps the time has come for citizen redistricting, but Rendell’s 11-member commission would include four legislators and three appointees of the governor, two of whom would be legislators. The remaining four would be appointed by - you guessed it - the four legislative caucus leaders. Pennsylvanians just might have a slightly different notion of how a citizens’ redistricting commission should look.
On constitutional issues in Pennsylvania, the governor’s opinion has no more real or deserved weight than the average citizen’s. Perhaps the Governor has some good ideas. Perhaps he doesn’t. Either way, today’s climate dictates that constitutional change should not be viewed only through the myopic lens of the chief executive.
The merit of Rendell’s ideas have should be discussed openly among citizens, not quietly between the three branches of government. Other citizens should be able to discuss their ideas as well. The proper forum for such a discussion is a constitutional convention. Surely, the Governor would be free to provide his vision for consideration at such a gathering.
“Citizens will not rest until there is an end to perks, an end to control by private interests and an end to political rules that shut them out of the process,” the Governor said in a press release. But his plan eliminates no perks, suppresses the freedom of speech in political races and utterly shuts the people out of the process of structural change.
Nearly two years after the reform train left the station as Ed Rendell signed the pay raise, the Governor is using his bully pulpit to try to hijack it. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that many other citizens were on board well ahead of him. Their voices on constitutional matters deserve an equally fair hearing.
In announcing his preferred reforms, Rendell expressed trepidation at the prospect of a constitutional convention, but if he truly believes in the right of self-governance as enumerated by Article I of the Constitution, a carefully crafted citizens’ convention provides no cause for hand wringing, anguish or hesitation of spirit.
A plan for such a convention of the people is available at www.PACleanSweep.com.
Citizens’ Constitutional Convention Act of 2007
Read the Governor's Proposed "Reforms"
Monday, April 02, 2007
Rendell: Hijacking the Reform Train
Great insights, as always, from PA Clean Sweep: