Last week, I wrote about the hatchet job Babette Joseph did to the Pennsylvania Open Records act. In that post, I said that she essentially admitted that Bill DeWeese had told her to gut the bill and pass it. Here’s what I wrote then:

Both the committee’s process and the content of the bill are outrageous. Committee Chair Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, pushed through amendment after amendment, most of which the members were seeing for the first time. Their cumulative effect was to exempt broad categories of state records from being open. When members of the committee pleaded with Rep. Josephs to slow down by either holding more hearings or not reporting the bill to the floor for a quick vote, she refused. Alarmingly, at one point she even said she could not do so because the Democratic leadership (Majority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Waynesburg) didn’t want to.

Now the bill is the target of this editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

In Harrisburg today, House legislators are set to go back to work on a putrid open-records bill that has become a tribute to loopholes. Unless legislators make significant improvements to this turkey, they ought to kill it and focus on a better Senate version.
As it stands, the House measure would weaken Pennsylvania’s “right-to-know” law, already one of the weakest in the nation. For example, legislators’ e-mail on matters of public policy would be exempt.
Under current law, e-mail is not specifically protected from public scrutiny. “You should never make exemptions based on the delivery system,” said Barry Kauffman, head of the government watchdog group Common Cause-Pennsylvania. “It should be based on content.”

According to various articles I’ve read, Pennsylvania already has a bad record on transparency issues. It sounds like this bill would make a bad system worse. The Inquirer takes direct aim at Bill DeWeese with this graph:

How did a reasonable bill turn bad so fast? Word is that House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese (D., Greene), anxious about an attorney general’s investigation into legislative bonuses he doled out, wanted to quickly serve up a bill that he could tout as “reform.”

The hasty committee action wasn’t pretty, even for a sausage factory. The House State Government Committee had members voting on amendments they’d barely had time to read. The legislation was completely rewritten in about 48 hours.

Some 50 amendments were offered to this bill. The end result was so bad that Common Cause-PA revoked its endorsement of the legislation. As a result of the House State Government Committee’s gutting of the bill, I said that this was another RINO (Reform In Name Only). It’s obvious that the Inquirer have figured it out and that they aren’t going to take it anymore.

Rest assured that this bill won’t be adopted by a more reform-minded Senate. This is nothing more than an attempt to shift the spotlight away from DeWeese’s ethical lapses. That’s what happens when you’ve served in a position of power for 30+ years:

After leaving the Marines, DeWeese was elected to the Pennsylvania House in a 1976 special election and has served the 50th district (all of Greene and parts of Fayette and Washington Counties) since.

DeWeese’s ascent through the echelons of House Democratic leadership began when he was elected by his colleagues as Majority Whip in 1988. Upon the death of Speaker of the House James J. Manderino, DeWeese was elected House Majority Leader in January 1990, serving in that position until he was elected Speaker of the House for the 1993-94 term. In 1994, he lost the Speakership when Democrat Rep. Stish switched parties, giving the GOP the majority. He went on to serve as Minority Leader from 1994 until 2006.

Here’s another bit of information about DeWeese:

Following November 2006 elections, a tight race in Chester County gave a slim 102-101 majority to the Democrats, DeWeese became Democratic speaker-designate. Days before the General Assembly convened on January 2, 2007, Rep. Thomas Caltigirone (D) of Berks County announced he would not support DeWeese as speaker but would remain a Democrat. For the second time, DeWeese was denied the speakership by a member of his own party. DeWeese made a shocking move in the Hall of the House when he nominated Philadelphia County Republican Rep. Dennis O’Brien for the office of Speaker. O’Brien defeated fellow Northeast
Philadelphia Republican John M. Perzel in a 105-97 vote. Many political analysts speculate DeWeese’s leadership style led to the 1994 and 2007 party defections.

It isn’t a stretch to think that DeWeese is a bitter man, having been passed over twice by his own party for Speaker. It’s time that the voters in PA-50 retired him if he won’t retire on his own. He’s been in office far too long, which likely contributed to his corruption.

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