Wednesday, January 03, 2007

stay at home, lockstepping local leadership

Rep. Dennis O'Brien became speaker of the PA General Assembly by defeating former speaker Rep. John Perzel in a 105-97 vote.

O'Brien, R, got nominated by the D. And, O'Brien got six Republicans to break ranks with the R leadership. These voted for O'Brien: Reps. Kerry Benninghoff (R., Center), Jim Cox (R., Berks), Brad Roae (R., Crawford), Sam Rohrer (R., Berks), Curt Schroder (R., Chester) and David Steil (R., Bucks).

Meanwhile, three Democrats in the House split from D leadership and voted for Perzel: Reps. Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks), Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) and Rosita Youngblood (D., Phila.).

Summary: All the locals went with leadership -- lockstepping into the future without breaking ranks. None of them were original.

Furthermore, should a Libertarian, or a Green, or an Indie be in the PA House in Harrisburg, then more interesting deals would get made with these 'lone wolf reps.' Kings would be made by these lone voices, as I'd expect.

It only took a few to topple the log jam. I'd rather see the few be real thinkers and real reformers -- other than the backstabbing among cronies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

PA Clean Sweep message:

As The House Turns... soap

On January 2nd, Harrisburg witnessed more drama in a few short hours than some TV soap operas provide in a year. While the action was breathtaking, the process by which a new Speaker of the House was elected leaves a lot to be desired. What began as a classic clash of the titans between Democrat Bill DeWeese and Republican John Perzel ended up as just another back room deal.

In dramatic fashion, the Democrats took a 102-101 majority in the House on the heels of a 28-vote victory in a Chester County legislative race. DeWeese was poised to take the Speakership from his arch-rival Perzel.

Just days before the scheduled election of a Speaker, Tom Caltagirone (D-Berks) threw a monkey wrench into the works by proclaiming his intent to support Perzel, citing questionable past leadership practices by DeWeese. Democrats went into a frenzy, accusing Caltagirone of "political treason."

DeWeese and Co. realized their tenuous hold on power was in serious danger and set out to rewrite the script. Taking all observers by surprise, DeWeese nominated Republican Dennis O'Brien for Speaker while giving the appearance of falling on his own sword. (Oddly, there have been no Democratic cries of treason over this action.)

Observers weren't the only ones shocked by this development. House Republicans were clearly stunned, but even the vast majority of Democrats on the floor had no clue. The deal was quietly cut by a few Democrats in the days leading up to the election and kept secret.

Once again, a major decision impacting every Pennsylvanian was made by a handful of characters and sprung on the rest of us at the last minute. Just like the pay raise. Just like the slots bill. Just like the free-drinks-at-casinos bill.

While DeWeese, O'Brien, and even the Governor touted the dramatic results as victories for reform and bi-partisanship, nothing could be further from the truth. This battle was fought over the same issues that most battles in Harrisburg are fought over - personal power and ego.

Any Pennsylvanian who believes DeWeese won't be pulling O'Brien's strings should think again. Any Pennsylvanian who believes this is a great victory for reform should reserve judgment for a year or two.

Speaker O'Brien may offer something different than a Speaker DeWeese or a Speaker Perzel would provide, but it will only differ by degrees. Clearly, Harrisburg is still the domain of the back room deal, not a haven for the will of the people. Otherwise, Pennsylvanians would have known who the actual nominees for Speaker were long before the vote took place.

As with a TV soap opera, there are more episodes to come in this drama. We may witness a rash of party-switching. We may see further reorganization of the two House caucuses. New and improved internal rules for the House may be enacted. We night even see O'Brien removed and a new Speaker elected.

Reform is little more than a catch-phrase in Harrisburg at this time. Actual reform will not occur until personal power and ego are expelled from the back room and relegated to the cutting room floor.
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