Last week, Representative Margo Davidson (D-164) submitted her letter of resignation to House Speaker Brian Cutler. She resigned due to criminal charges filed by Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The criminal charges Ms. Davidson faces are related to the misuse of campaign funds and legislative expenses. According to media reports, she received reimbursement for overnight stays in Harrisburg paid for by her campaign account (getting paid twice for the same expense). She also filed for reimbursement for nights she didn’t stay in Harrisburg (receiving money she wasn’t owed). Ms. Davidson, according to court documents, also asked witnesses to lie for her and cover up the criminal activity.
All the alleged criminal activity is a massive breach of public trust and clearly an abuse of her position as a Representative. However, she will likely not only keep her pension, but Davidson and her husband will also continue to be eligible for the taxpayer-funded health plan and long-term care insurance.
You are probably wondering how on earth any government employee, let alone a Representative or Senator, convicted of crimes like these can still be a drain on taxpayers for the rest of their lives. Former-representative Davidson will likely receive the taxpayer-funded benefits because the crimes she will probably be convicted of don’t result in losing them. Enter Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Shapiro, a Democrat, and an all-but-announced candidate for Governor charged Davidson with crimes that fall below the threshold for pension forfeiture. The criminal conviction must be related to a crime specified by the Public Pension Forfeiture Act 1978-140 and be over the severity threshold. According to an article by the Harrisburg Patriot-News:
“However, the second-degree misdemeanors of theft and hindering apprehension or prosecution misdemeanors of which Davidson is charged fall below the threshold of the crimes when the state’s pension forfeiture law applies...The House comptroller said the chamber’s policy on forfeiture of medical benefits aligns with the pension forfeiture law….” (Emphasis added)
Why did the Attorney General’s office and Josh Shapiro not pursue more serious charges? It seems like this is an open and shut case. Did Shapiro level less serious charges specifically to prevent Davidson from losing the pension and healthcare benefits? If he plans on running for Governor, the public has the right to find out the answers to this and other questions about Shapiro’s record.
CAP Gives F- To 5 In Pa House — The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) Accountability Index has been updated to reflect the Key Voted legislation for the first half of 2021. Neither chamber of the General Assembly performed exceptionally well. In the Senate, the highest grade was a C+. It was a grade shared by most of the Republican caucus. Senate Republicans tended to vote in a block more so than what we saw in the House. By comparison, there were six A+ grades in the House.
Was your Representative one of them? Click on the links in the above paragraph, or here.
If you don’t know who your State Representative or Senator is, click here and enter your address. We’ll find them for you.
Note that Chris Quinn of the 168th District which is most of western Delaware County; Craig Williams of the 160th District which is southern Delaware and Chester counties; Shelby Labs of the 143rd District in Bucks County; and western Pennsylvanians Abby Major of the 60th and Leslie Rossi of the 59th districts are the House Republicans who get F-.
Robert Tomlinson of the 6th District which is in Bucks County is the only Republican who gets an F in the Senate.
Craig, what’s up with that?
The scorecard will be updated in real-time through the end of the year. Check back regularly.
Turzai Stepping Down As House Speaker Says Source — A little birdie tells us that the rumors are right and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai is quitting the Pennsylvania Legislature. Turzai, a Republican, has been Speaker since 2015 and has represented the Allegheny County -centered 28th District since 2001.
Our source says that Turzai’s dreams of becoming governor have been dashed and that he is looking to practice law full time.
Turzai has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow (Jan. 23) and this will either be confirmed or not then.
Pennsylvania Legislative Salaries Hit $90,300 (and this doesn’t include benefits).
By Leo Knepper
As of Dec. 1, the base salary for Pennsylvania lawmakers will increase to $90,300 per year. This pay raise comes as the result of an annual cost-of-living-increase (COLA) they receive automatically. The higher salary will be on top of any per diems, health insurance, etc. that lawmakers are eligible to receive.
As an aside, lawmakers pay only one percent per year of their salary for health benefits. In other words, their annual premium is roughly $900 for health insurance that is second to none. There are many taxpayers whose monthly insurance bill exceeds that amount.
The $90,300 salary is the minimum for members of the General Assembly. As noted by the Associated Press:
“Lawmakers in leadership posts will top out at $141,000 for House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. The four caucus floor leaders in the House and Senate will each make almost 130,900 while the four caucus whips and the four Appropriations Committee chairs will receive $121,100.”
The salary differences between rank and file members and “leadership” are especially noteworthy. It presents another clear example of how our beloved judicial branch ignores the plain text of the Pennsylvania Constitution. According to Article II, Section 8, “The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, whether for service upon committee or otherwise.” (Emphasis added)
Members of the General Assembly aren’t the only ones who will benefit from taxpayers’ forced generosity in the new year. When January rolls around, members of the executive branch will also see an increase in their pay. Governor Wolf’s salary will increase to over $200,000 per year. The Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Tom Saylor, will make over $220,000 per year.
Many lawmakers will, if they haven’t already, make a show of donating their salary increase to a charity. It is a standard public relations move on their part, and has become as regular as the leaves changing colors. However, despite their righteous indignation, there is never any real interest in eliminating the automatic COLA by changing the law. Finally, for any lawmakers in the defined benefit pension plan, the higher annual salary, regardless of charitable contributions, will be used to calculate their pension benefits upon retirement.
Unlike members of the General Assembly, CAP can’t force anyone to pay for projects we want to undertake. Next year is going to be incredibly busy for us. If you value what CAP does and would like to help us continue holding Harrisburg accountable, please consider making a financial contribution to our efforts.
Pennsylvania Legislative Salaries Hit $90,300 (And This Doesn’t Include Benefits)
Mike Folmer Charged With Child Porn Possession — Pennsylvania State Sen. Mike Folmer, the Republican who represents the 48th District which consists of Lebanon County and parts of York and Dauphin counties, has been charged with possession of child porn.
If the charges hold it might help answer why no significant reforms occurred in this state when the Republicans held the House, Senate and governor’s office.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released its version (see image) of the congressional districts map on Monday. As we noted previously, the Court lacks authority under the Pennsylvania Constitution to draw districts. It is likely that Republicans will file suit in federal court to stop the Court-created Congressional districts from being used in the 2018 elections. One avenue for seeking a federal injunction is summarized by Justice Max Baer, the lone Democrat to dissent from the final opinion:
“While I have expressed my misgivings with allowing an election to proceed based upon a constitutionally-flawed map, I continue to conclude that the compressed schedule failed to provide a reasonable opportunity for the General Assembly to legislate a new map in compliance with the federal Constitution’s delegation of redistricting authority to state legislatures.[US Constitution, Article 1, Section 4]
“My skepticism regarding the time allotted the Legislature has been borne out. Democracy generally, and legislation specifically, entails elaborate and time-consuming processes. Here, regardless of culpability, the Legislature has been unable to pass a remedial map to place on the Governor’s desk for signature or veto.Under these circumstances, Pennsylvania and federal law permit the use of the existing, albeit unconstitutional, map for one final election.” [Emphasis added]
A second issue is the Court’s districts do not minimize the number of splits to local governments (i.e., townships, municipalities, counties, etc.). An analysis by Amanda Holt found that the districts adopted by the Court resulted in more splits (79) than the district maps submitted by Republicans (61) and a separate plan offered by the Senate Democrats (60). You may not recognize her name, but Ms. Holt’s research in 2011 was the primary evidence used to throw out the state House and Senate districts for constitutional reasons. Her current finding is significant because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated in their original decision that local governments could only be split to ensure equal population. Furthermore, as she notes on her blog, the fact that the Court’s districts are drawn with more splits could demonstrate to a federal judge a lack of “good faith effort.”
The high likelihood of another lawsuit being brought by Republicans to the federal court regarding the Congressional districts means the issue is still up in the air. We will keep you posted as the story continues to develop.
By Rocco Polidoro
The political career of retiring State Representative William F. Adolph,165th District is a clear case of why Pennsylvania needs a State Constitutional amendment to install term limits and to lower the number of legislators.
The 165th state house district covers parts of Morton, Springfield, Marple and Radnor. I hear Bill Adolph is a good guy in Delaware County but many people don’t know about the Bill Adolph in Harrisburg.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly has 203 members and the PA Senate has 50 members. Government watchdog groups have labeled PA as the fifth most corrupt state in the Country.
House members start off making $85,339 a year with excellent benefits. When Adolph started in 1989, he was earning about $35,000. Employee benefit specialists estimate that a great benefit package, like what state legislators make, is equal to about an extra 35 percent of their salary. Bill Adolph ended his 28 years with a salary of $120,000.
Employee benefit specialist would also say that the schedule of a state legislator is considered part time. The average full time worker works about 250 days a year whereas state lawmakers work about 125 days a year. In addition many lawmakers have other jobs or businesses which confirms the fact that their state jobs are part time. Plus they get over $600 a month car allowance, $159 a day for expenses and a full medical package which includes Nursing Home protection. So when one adds up Bill Adolph’s salary, his benefits, car allowance, per diem expenses, office rent, staff salaries and their benefits, the State of Pennsylvania has spent over $4 million in the last 28 years.
And there is no way to add up all of the gifts, conference trips and sporting events that had come his way in those 28 years.
Now that Adolph retires in January, he will earn about $120,000 a year in a pension with full medical insurance. The complete retirement package alone can total another $3 million over the next 20 years. So the grand total for Bill Adolph could top around $7 million.
Why do we tax-payers allow all this for career politicians ? There wouldn’t be any pensions with full medical benefits if there were term limits in place. Wouldn’t a 10-year limit be enough?
Our Founding Fathers never planned for us to have public servants spend a life time as a legislator and pay them a pension and medical care for life.To make matters worse, there are 252 other state law-makers that have the potential to draw millions. Now what did we get for the $7 million that we will eventually spend for Bill Adolph?
If you were waiting for property tax relief, Adolph never brought that to PA. If you support public education, Adolph voted many times to cut funding to our public schools but did vote to give millions to Charter Schools. If you supported cutting waste in government, Adolph was a major distributor of WAM (Walking Around Money) money for years. WAM money was unappropriated and unaccounted state money for special projects in the districts of the powerful lawmakers.
Adolph has had a history of not being a good steward of our tax money. While he was on the Board of Directors and then the chairman of PHEAA, the State Auditor General did a report in 2007 which showed that PHEAA wasted $25 million over a 5 year period. PHEAA is the state agency that awards college grants and school loans to college students.
Another example of Adolph’s poor stewardship of our taxes was when he voted in 2001 to increase the pension formula of state lawmakers, judges and teachers by 50 percent. As a result the 501 school districts in PA owe over a billion dollars to the state pension system. And because of this pension-funding crisis, many school districts will be forced to eventually raise property taxes even more.
In 2005, Adolph voted to raise his salary by 34 percent on July 7th at 2 a.m. with no input from the press or the public. Adolph took the first month increase but when the word got out and the pressure mounted on all of the Legislators, Adolph returned the increase in the second month. To prevent another fiasco like the 2 a.m. vote, Adolph and the rest of his friends, voted to permanently build in a cost of living increase so their salaries can go up a little every year. This way most of the public won’t know of their annual increases.
Adolph’s salary has gone up from $35,000 to $120,000. Can you vote yourself a 350-percent increase in your pay over a 28 year period ? You see my friends, we don’t need to be spending hundreds of millions on these politicians. And that is why we need to get behind groups that want to create term limits and lower the number of law makers. I
n PA there are 50 state senate districts. We are paying salaries and benefits for those 50 senators and their staff. Then within each of those 50 senate districts, there are four state house members like Bill Adolph. Why do we need four State House members in an area where we already have a state senator? It’s excessive representation and we over-pay dearly for it. If you think Adolph’s $7 million package is mind-blowing, try to calculate what we are spending through out the State for the hundreds of retired and active law-makers and their staff.
We have to impose term limits and decrease the number of law makers. It’s no wonder our state is now $1.7 Billion in the red. If we don’t change the State Constitution, you won’t be able to afford living in PA. Bill Adolph may be a nice guy but no politician is worth $7 Million.The hard working people of Pennsylvania need to wake up.
Mr. Polidoro is an outspoken Democrat from Springfield and has been long represented by Rep. Adolph.
The Pennsylvania Constitution mandates that judges retire at age 70. Some thought that was too early and wanted to make it age 75. The amendment process requires one of the legislative chambers — both of which have been under Republican control since 2011 — to write the amendment. It is then advertised in at least two newspapers in every county at least three months before the next general election. It then must be passed again via simple majority by both chambers in the next session. The wording is then placed on a ballot as a referendum giving the general public final say.
The chambers approved this: Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges and justices of the peace (known as magisterial district judges) be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years, instead of the current requirement that they be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 70?
The Senate leadership had second thoughts, however. Cynics are saying they feared the public might vote it down which would have forced the removal of Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, a Republican, giving the Democrats control of the state Supreme Court.
So they filed a legal challenge claiming the words were too confusing. The state Supreme Court laughed and threw it out.
The legislature then passed resolutions, April 6 and April 11 invalidating the election two weeks away. They re-wrote the amendment for the Nov. 8 general election as: Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices, judges and justices of the peace be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years.
Democrats filed a legal challenge saying the delay was unconstitutional because the legislation was not presented to Gov. Wolf as required. Commonwealth Court rejected the argument.
They filed another challenge saying the delay illegal because it was political in nature. Commonwealth Court rejected this claim on July 6.
A challenged was filed on July 21 by former Supreme Court justices Ronald Castille and Stephen Zappala Sr, and Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague saying the new wording was deceitful.
Supreme Court took the case and voted 3-3 which left the wording as the short version. Saylor appropriately recused himself.
Yesterday, Sept. 16, the court ruled 4-2 that the case can’t be reconsidered, hence the short version without the mention of an existing mandated retirement age is what the voters will see.
The Court got it right with the last argument. It isn’t their job to determine the wording of amendments. On the other hand, it is judiciary’s job to judge process and if constitutional amendments require legislative votes in consecutive sessions with advertising in between, then one wonders how changes in the wording can be made at the last minute.
And what’s it say about our solons if they can’t get it right in the first place?
The word changes are pointless gamesmanship and political pettiness at the highest level. This stuff always backfires especially when one learns it has wasted $1.3 million of our money.
And, for what it’s worth, the retirement age should not be increased. Vote this amendment down on Nov. 8.
FBI Pranks Pa Senate In Sting LOL — The FBI pranked the Pennsylvania Senate into unanimously passing a bill pushed by a fake business to limit who could dispose of used textbooks.
The vote on Oct. 14, 2010 was 49-0 to pass SB 1379. The bill never got out of the House and never became law.
It was part of a sting to catch corrupt Pennsylvania pols. It worked and is working. Good one, feds. Applause and a big LOL.
The FBI created the phony firm Textbook Bio-Solutions LLC in Florida as the bait and hired lobbyist Long and Nyquist — good choice, there — to do the fishing.
Long and Nyquist, who didn’t know they were being used, worked their magic and if the FBI wasn’t just goofing, the people of Pennsylvania would have had to deal with another stupid, corrupt, wasteful, special-interest law.
Since 2010, there have been significant, for-the-better changes in the Pennsylvania legislature including the arrival of Scott Wagner from the 28th Senatorial District. Wagner has been going after Long and Nyquist in the most beautiful fang-and-claw way.
Bill Adolph Tribute –Bill Adolph has announced that he will not seek re-election which will mean that come 2017 the 165th District in the Pennsylvania State House will have a new face for the first time since 1989.
The 165 District consists of all of Morton Borough, most of Springfield and Marple Townships and a large part of Radnor. Specifics can be found here.
Since this blog came into existence, we’ve probably been harder on Bill more often than not — actually we have been seriously hard on him at times — but we will never deny he cares deeply about his community. A Springfield resident, he has lived in the same house off Springfield Road for as long as we can remember, and the same can be said about his accountant’s office on Saxer Avenue. He was easy to find and easy to approach and if he wanted to hold the seat for another 28 years we suspect he’d have no problem doing so.
So Godspeed Bill. Hopefully you stay in Springfield and stay active on the political scene.
Now, regarding those who seek to replace him regardless of party registration, we have your issue.
The (non-partisan) Springfield School Board has approved a new high school with an estimated cost of between $118 million and $140 million. The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act of 1961 requires wages to be paid at an amount set by the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance. This law inflates the cost by perhaps up to 40 percent albeit 20 percent seems to be the consensus. Using the lowball estimates, simply repealing the law — and it doesn’t have to be replaced with anything — would save the Springfield taxpayers $23.6 million on this project alone.
And of course, other communities would save in the same proportions for all county, school and municipal projects.
Repeal should really be a no-brainer.
And so there you have a winning issue, candidates for the 165th District.