Pa State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phila., said she thinks she knows why House Republican leaders abruptly ended session this week and set plans into motion to penalize House Democrats: bigotry.
On Wednesday, House members were on the floor, ready to vote on several government reform bills, including several amendments that would address domestic partners of public officials and public employees under the state ethics and lobbyist disclosure laws, when House Majority Leader Mike Turzai abruptly ended session. He then called an impromptu meeting of the Rules Committee to reduce the number of Democrats in House standing committees by 10 percent and allow the majority leader to table any amendment to legislation arbitrarily for the rest of the 2011-12 session.
Josephs said that she believes the Republicans are trying to keep from having to bring up any issues that run counter to their agenda and that is what caused these strong-arm tactics.
“Upon reflection, I believe of all the amendments we put up for consideration only one or two really got stuck in the Republicans’ craw,” Josephs said. “Those had to do with extending prohibitions and disclosure requirements to domestic partners of lobbyists and state elected and appointed officials. Some extreme right-wing Republicans were in a quandary. If they voted against the amendments, they would be saying that a state representative, for example, could use his or her office to direct a contract toward a domestic partner and get away with it. That is hardly reform. If they voted for the domestic partnership amendments they would be legitimizing intimate sexual relationships other than marriage, and might, in words of one extremist, “advance the homosexual agenda.
“In order to protect their right-wing members from having to cast a hard vote, Republican leaders attempted to shut down the entire democratic process.”
“It’s incredible to think that business in the House chamber may have been brought to a halt by a few amendments that related to domestic partners. I never knew that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens had that much power.”
Josephs said the amendment process has been set up in the House so that the rank-and-file members had more input on legislation. In fact, her Republican counterpart in the House State Government Committee, Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, refused to consider amendments to these reform bills when they were reviewed in the committee, and told Josephs that Democrats would have the opportunity to offer them on the floor.
“We were denied that opportunity to amend bills on the floor Wednesday,” she said. “And now, if the Rules change is adopted Monday, representation of our constituents in the legislative process will be limited and our ideas and proposals will be withheld from consideration. And we’re the ones being called obstructionists?”
“Is this how the Republicans see good government? Every legislator elected by the people has a right to participate in the legislative process, even those in the minority party; all of whom represent Republican citizens as well as independents, Libertarians, Greens and Democrats. We have taken steps to improve government accountability and access over the last four years. Our amendments to this package of bills were a sincere effort to continue that progress. And, we have our own package of good government legislation offered to improve trust and accountability. Let’s welcome debate and a vote on these proposals so we can continue moving forward rather than back.”