Tag Archives: Democracy Rising PA

DR News: A final word, a new beginning

By Tim Potts, Democracy Rising PA News, Oct. 19, 2012

A while ago, a DR supporter unsubscribed from DR News, saying that he thought DR could change things in Harrisburg, but we haven’t.

I replied that DR never could change things in the Capitol. Only citizens can. DR’s role is to educate citizens and empower them so that they can get a constitutional convention and repair their government.

While we can wish we had more success in the eight years since I co-founded DR, we also can celebrate some victories:

• The Pay Raise of 2005 was repealed, a first in PA history.
• PA has a new open records law for the first time since 1957.
• PA has a new lobbying control law. When DR began, there had been no law at all for years.
• Our General Assembly has not held a lame-duck session since 2006, although it has not made lame-duck session unconstitutional as 86% of PA voters want.
• WAMs are gone along with other suspect spending, which saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
• Legislative staff no longer receive millions of dollars in bonuses, a practice that rewarded political work at taxpayer expense and led to two dozen criminal convictions for public corruption.
• The General Assembly’s surplus is down from more than $200 million to around $122 million at last release.
• Not a single legislative leader who brought us the Pay Raise of 2005 remains in leadership. Some are in jail or headed there. Others have re-joined the rank and file.

Citizens achieved these victories.

DR worked alongside organizations like Rock the Capital, Common Cause/PA, and the League of Women Voters of PA to provide leadership and focus on important problems of constitutional concern and public integrity as evidence of the need for a constitutional convention. But citizens were the deciding force. Without impressing upon their lawmakers and candidates that voters expect positive change, nothing would have happened.

Beginning in November, Democracy Rising PA will be searching for new leadership and a new approach to raising the money needed for this work. It’s time to re-invent DR with a greater focus on social media and grassroots activism. Although I will not be involved in day-to-day operations, I will continue to serve on DR’s board of directors.

Uniquely, Democracy Rising PA was created to advocate for a constitutional convention where citizens can repair our conspicuously broken government. That mission will not change because citizens remain eager for it. When we began, only 24% of voters thought a constitutional convention was a good idea. Today, a convincing (except to lawmakers) 68% of voters think it’s necessary, and they’re right….

continue reading at Democracy Rising PA News

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Happy New Year! Save $1 million a day!

from Democracy Rising PA, 8/30/12

On September 1, it will be 122 days until New Year’s Day. At last report, the General Assembly continues to sit on a surplus of $122 million, and they gave none of it back to taxpayers for this year’s budget. Last year, they gave back $62 million of their $184 million surplus.

Whether you observe Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, the winter solstice, or any other mid-winter celebration, putting $122 million back in the state Treasury would be a good holiday present for taxpayers.

That’s a million dollars a day without having to cut anything.

Lawmakers often say that if they give the money back it will go to Philadelphia or some other purpose supposed to frighten or anger taxpayers. That’s a lie. Unlike its repository in the various House and Senate accounts, money in the Treasury can’t be spent unless the General Assembly appropriates it and the governor approves it. Once in the Treasury, the legislature and governor have to pass a law for it to go anywhere….

continue reading at Democracy Rising PA

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Democracy Rising Pennsylvania – how to support

email, 4/30/12

Dear Friends,

I know you’re as tired of being asked for money as I am of asking for it.

So let’s try something new: As of today, you can make a recurring donation to DR by clicking here.

We’re asking for just $5 a month. That’s it. Just five bucks a month to:

support projects like the 2012 Public Integrity Poll, a DR exclusive. Now everyone knows what voters really want from their government.

keep pushing for a Constitution convention – which 68% of PA voters want – where citizens can repair their government. DR is the only statewide organization whose mission is to restore this basic power to citizens.
force the legislature to tell you how much of your money they’re hoarding. (They promise it will happen tomorrow. We’ll be there.)

inform citizens and media through DR News about how the capitol works so that all who care can have informed conversations with their lawmakers.

spread the word to more than 2,000 DR members who rely on costly surface mailings to stay in touch.

While it’s five bucks a month to you, it’s priceless to us. Just click here.

Recurring donations allow us to plan, knowing that we can count on a certain amount of money each month. We’ve never had that luxury, and with foundation funding harder than ever to find, your continuing support is even more critical.

Sign up  today. You’ve counted on DR for the past seven years. Let us count on you in the months and years to come.



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Redistricting – Our corrupt legislature strikes again

Democracy Rising PA News, 12/20/11

House and Senate leaders promised citizens the most transparent redistricting process in history. If that is true about this year’s experience, which is hard to imagine, that only speaks to how secretive the process has been in previous years.

Across PA, the verdict among those who decry partisanship is unanimous about the new Congressional districts: the process and the people who controlled it have done a great disservice to the Commonwealth. All has been designed to undermine competitive elections and to give partisan advantage to the Republican Party, which controlled the entire affair.

Some say that Democrats would have been equally awful, and that may be. But it doesn’t excuse what the Republicans did, and it doesn’t make the product any better for the citizens. The R’s are entirely responsible for it. They had every chance to do it right, to restore public confidence, and to set a new standard for the future. They threw it all away.

Common Cause/PA and the League of Women Voters of PA created a project called Fair Shape Pennsylvania to document the slow-motion train wreck. Here are some of their comments:

“This congressional redistricting plan is breathtakingly brazen in its defiance of the interests of Pennsylvania’s voters,” said Common Cause Executive Director Barry Kauffman, after the House State Government Committee rubber-stamped the Senate’s legislation. Like the Pay Raise of 2005, the legislation was shoved down the people’s throats without any real chance for input from citizens.

The census data on which the new districts are based became available in early April. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission didn’t release its plan until December 14, when it passed the Senate and had its hearing in the House on December 15. After defeating House Democrats’ proposed amendments last night, the House votes today to make the plan official. In short, there was plenty of time to develop a plan, share it with the public, hold hearings, and come up with a final product by the end of October. That, of course, is not what happened. Again.

Kauffman notes that other states such as Iowa, California and Arizona perform this work with independent agencies comprised of people who don’t have a conflict of interest in the outcome.

“If Pennsylvanians ever hope to take back control of their government, we must reform our system for drawing legislative and congressional district boundaries. This plan is a clear-cut case of politicians picking their voters in order to prevent voters from having a meaningful opportunity to pick their elected officials,” Kauffman said.

The review by the LWV is equally scathing:

“These maps demonstrate, once again, what is wrong with Pennsylvania’s system for redrawing political boundaries. The current partisan, incumbent controlled system is clearly in need of reform. Apparently competition, which is good for free enterprise is not seen by politicians as good for democracy. A healthy democracy depends on fair and competitive elections. We preach it abroad – let us practice it at home. Self-interested politicians cannot be trusted to make the system work. It is time to amend the Pa Constitution to turn redistricting over to an independent, non-partisan body that will put the interests of the voters first,” the League said in a news release.

As DR members know, this is just one of many reasons why the majority of PA citizens (72% in January 2010) want a Constitution convention to repair their government. It also is just one of many reasons why lawmakers refuse to authorize the referendum that would allow citizens to have a convention.

Here is a sampling of how the state’s newspapers outside the big cities view the travesty that occurred this year.

Let the people draw the maps, York Dispatch, Dec. 15
A hasty redistricting effort, The Sentinel, Cumberland County, Dec. 18
Pa. incumbents win, voters lose in redistricting, Pottstown Mercury, Dec. 18
Reform redistricting, Pottsville Republican Herald, Dec. 19

Next year is an election year for the entire House and half of the Senate. Most of those who run for re-election will be the same people who this year made a mockery of the American system of governance. It’s up to us whether we let them get away with it.

Please support Democracy Rising PA

It’s the end of the year, and everyone is asking you for a tax-deductible contributions. So are we! But unlike other organizations, Democracy Rising PA is home-grown. There is no national organization that backs us up if we can’t raise money from PA citizens. Now’s the time, and here are our thank-you gifts:

Robert Surrick, Esq., author of Lawyers, Judges and Journalists: The Corrupt and the Corruptors, and Larry Hohol author of Luzerne County Railroad, are providing copies of their books at cost for DR to give to donors as thank-you gifts.

Click here for more information about the books and to make a secure, tax-deductible donation online. Or mail your donation to: Democracy Rising PA, P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013.

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