In George Orwell's 1945 classic Animal Farm, the humans running the farm are displaced in an uprising by the animals who take charge. As time progresses, the revolutionary leaders become corrupted by power and morph into new versions of the people they displaced. That is an apt description of the Pennsylvania senate. In this case though, the animals who took charge and then lost their way are RINOs (Republicans in Name Only.)
Four years ago, on the heels of the infamous middle-of-the-night pay jacking, Republican primary voters ousted the top ranking members of the senate; President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer and Majority Leader Chip Brightbill. Never in the history of Penn's Woods had both leaders been defeated at the polls in the same election.
Republican voters did this because the senate leadership had lost its way. Like GOP leaders in Washington, Jubelirer and Brightbill became big spending, big government liberals who failed to reflect the core principles of their party. Voters reacted by tossing them from office, electing in their districts two stalwart conservatives.
On the leadership level, Senator Joseph Scarnati of Jefferson County and Senator Domenic Pileggi of Delaware County were respectively elected President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader. Unfortunately, over the course of the last four years, they have also drifted from their party's core principles and are currently advancing an agenda so liberal Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would be proud.
Among the leftist legislation pushed by Scarnati and Pileggi:
A bill that would increase the number of "jackpot juries" in Pennsylvania by allowing trial lawyers to suggest to jurors at closing the amount of damages that should be awarded. Such a change would prejudice the jury toward a guilty verdict and fix an amount for damages in their minds. After a furious lobbying campaign by business, taxpayer and TEA party organizations the bill was pulled from the agenda.
The so-called "Sub-Contractor Extinction Act" passed with the amazing support of 14 Republican senators who voted to make it next to impossible for the 85% of Pennsylvanian workers who choose not to join a union to get work on major projects. The legislation will dramatically increase the cost of construction. It also was a sop to the labor unions, who contribute heavily to Pileggi's campaigns.
Having climbed into bed with trial lawyers and labor unions, the senate's Republican leadership also wants to have a dalliance with the radical environmental movement. Scarnati and Pileggi plan to bring to a vote a bill which would increase the percentage of solar power which must be purchased by Pennsylvania electric companies. Pennsylvania Power Light alone estimates that will increase its generation costs by $200 million per year. Consumers will pay in the end with significantly higher electric bills.
Senate leadership has pledged to enact a severance tax on gas pumped from the Marcellus Shale reserves. The tax was agreed to in the budget deal struck with Governor Ed Rendell last summer. Proponents of the tax claim Pennsylvania is the only state without a severance levy. What they fail to say is that Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that imposes both a Corporate Net Income Tax and a Capital Stock and Franchise Tax on companies. A severance tax would have a chilling effect on one of the few industries in Pennsylvania that is actually growing.
Stuck it to citizens who want to obtain documents from state, county and local governments by watering down the Right-to-Know law. The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association opposed the legislation because it narrowed the scope of the law and will also allow governments to place onerous per page copying fees on information requested.
Scarnati and Pileggi are pushing for the creation of a legislative fiscal office. This new bureaucracy would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to provide budget information to lawmakers who already employ sizably staffs on their appropriations committees.
And, let us not forget that it was the Senate Republican caucus that has partnered with Governor Ed Rendell in passing state budgets with unaffordable levels of spending and massive debt that has created a fiscal mess of historic proportions.
Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled senate has become indistinguishable from the Democrats. In true Orwellian style the animals have morphed into the humans - and the result is a government that steals personal freedom and economic liberty from the governed.
The Declaration of Independence established that liberty as a God-given right. It also says that: " . . . whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government."
That time has come once again.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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