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The Legislature: The joke’s on us

What does one call the country’s largest “full-time” state legislature that’s in session for only a few months a year?

A misnomer.

And if that steams Pennsylvania’s lawmakers — base salary, $81,000 — who insist there’s no reason to change what “works,” then let them produce a log each year detailing their “constituent services,” time devoted to “writing legislation” and whatever else they’re supposedly doing outside of Harrisburg.

After a nearly three-month summer break, state representatives and senators will return to the Capitol on Monday for a few weeks of what’s sure to be inconsequential business before heading out on the campaign trail in mid-October, The Philadelphia Inquirer reminds. And those who win re-election on Nov. 6 won’t return to work until mid-January.

Total time “in session” for 2012 will be about 60 working days, The Inquirer reports. The actual time spent “legislating” isn’t much different than when the Legislature was part-time, says political analyst G. Terry Madonna.

What’s revealed is a legislative calendar that’s tailored not to the public’s business but to campaigning and fundraising, says former state Rep. Jeff Coleman, an Armstrong County Republican.

Pennsylvanians deserve better. And if incumbents seeking re-election want to be taken seriously about the reforms they promote, they can start with a serious examination of a part-time state Legislature.


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