The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

December 10, 2012

More to the job than just voting

The state Legislature has been in session 67 days this year and just 14 days in the last six months. Lawmakers have not had a voting session in a month.

The number is actually fairly typical of the Legislature's history of spending little time in Harrisburg in even-numbered years.

In the second half of 2008, lawmakers were in session 14 days.

In the second half of 2006, they were in session 15 days.

In the last two years in which there was no election, lawmakers were in session 31 days (2011) and 40 days (2009).

Two of the Valley's state lawmakers -- Reps. Fred Keller and Lynda Schlegel Culver -- argued that it is unfair to suggest that the amount of time they spend working is limited to those days when they are in voting session.

But, if voters are expected to measure lawmakers' performance based on factors other than how often they legislate, then how should they be judged?

Voters did not elect our lawmakers to be listeners and liaisons with state agencies, they sent them to Harrisburg to lead.

Lawmakers must do more.

Lawmakers approved a measure that granted wide-reaching authority to the Department of Welfare, then expressed dismay when the agency used that authority to cut funding to programs popular with constituents. Republican leaders in the House had proposed, then withdrew the legislation after a national outcry over the issue, that any woman seeking an abortion undergo an ultrasound to determine the age of the fetus. One of the region's representatives was among those responsible for sponsoring legislation that would have required women to claim they were raped to get financial benefits for children born while the mother was collecting welfare.

The Valley's delegation of state representatives is completing its first term in office. Regardless of the missteps associated with following the party leadership on key issues, in that time, Keller, Culver and Rep. Kurt Masser have all demonstrated that they understand the values of the people who elected them.

Lawmakers ought to be able to explain or demonstrate what they are doing that adds value to their constituents. Moving forward, the representatives could start by becoming intensely informed about what is happening and what will happen in the Capitol and use that information to help voters understand how the public's interest is being served or not served by state government.

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