HARRISBURG, March 18, 2013 — State Sen. Rob Teplitz and state Rep. Bryan Cutler today announced the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral Government Reform Caucus to develop and promote legislation to reform state government.

Teplitz and Cutler discussed the new caucus during a news conference today in Harrisburg. They also presented their own pieces of reform legislation. They said they believe that bringing fundamental reforms to state government is the only way to put the General Assembly in a position to truly address the commonwealth’s major issues.

“Pennsylvania faces critical substantive challenges, including the need for great schools, good jobs, lower taxes and safe roads and bridges. The best way that we can address these issues is by first reforming the way this state government operates,” said Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York). “An open, transparent, and inclusive government will not only restore the public’s trust, but it will also allow elected officials to work together more efficiently and effectively in order to move Pennsylvania forward.”

Teplitz has authored bills that would allow independent audits of the General Assembly and its accounts; eliminate the automatic annual mid-term cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for state legislators; suspend pay for both the governor and legislators if the state budget is not approved on time; prohibit lame-duck legislative sessions; prohibit state agencies from hiring lobbyists to lobby other state agencies; and allow registered independents to vote in primary elections.

Teplitz is also in the process of drafting a workable gift ban bill.  In addition, since taking office in January, he has co-sponsored numerous other reform bills, addressing the topics of a state constitutional convention, non-partisan legislative redistricting, same-day voter registration, no-cause absentee ballots, initiative and referenda, and reducing the size of the General Assembly.

“Our representative democracy was made to put the citizens in control of their government,” said Cutler (R-Lancaster).  “This push for good government is about ensuring lawmakers remain focused on serving the needs and the will of the people.  Their priorities should always be considered first.  There should be no room for corruption or abuse in our system.  This Government Reform Caucus will act as a bipartisan sentinel to defend the interests of the citizens of our Commonwealth.”

Cutler has authored legislation that would restore the part-time Legislature to combat escalating costs and the excessively slow legislative process, restructure appointments by the governor to base them on merit rather than political favors, increasing penalties on lobbyists who fail to properly register, forfeit gains of lobbyists realized through illegal means, select judges based on merit to focus on qualifications and experience rather than fundraising and politics, reform the policy on reimbursement of legal fees for lawmakers and staff to comply with the Constitution of Pennsylvania, limit the base amount of annuities to prevent public retirees from earning more in retirement than they did while working for the government, ensure that there is a very clear line between governmental functions and political activity, and budget on a two-year cycle to save costs and budget more efficiently.

Teplitz and Cutler will co-chair their newly formed Government Reform Caucus. Other charter members of the caucus include Sens. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe), Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland), Pat Browne (R-Lehigh/Monroe/Northampton), Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland), Mike Brubaker (R-Chester/Lancaster), John Eichelberger (R-Bedford/Blair/Fulton/Huntingdon/Mifflin), Ted Erickson (R-Chester/Delaware), Scott Hutchinson (R-Butler/Clarion/Erie/Forest/Venango/Warren), John Rafferty (R-Berks/Chester/Montgomery), Judy Schwank (D-Berks), and Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia).

Participants from the House include Reps. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), Rosemary M. Brown (R-Monroe/Pike), Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-Northumberland/Snyder), Tina Davis (D-Bucks), Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), Pamela DeLissio (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery), George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), Eli Evankovich (R-Westmoreland/Armstrong), Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), Mindy Fee (R-Lancaster), Jaret Gibbons (D-Lawrence/Beaver/Butler), Glen Grell (R-Cumberland), Rob Kauffman (R-Cumberland/Franklin), Patty Kim (D-Dauphin), John Lawrence (R-Chester), Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks/Lehigh), Steven Mentzer (R-Lancaster), Rick Saccone (R-Washington/Allegheny), Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh), Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Northampton), RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon) and Dan Truitt (R-Chester).

Government Reform Legislation
State Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York)

Independent Audits of the General Assembly: Senate Bill 690 amends the state constitution to authorize an independent audit of the General Assembly and its accounts by the Auditor General.  Senate Bill 691 requires that those audits be conducted annually.

Elimination of Annual Legislative COLAs: Senate Bill 692 eliminates the automatic annual mid-term cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for legislators. Senate Bill 693 amends the state constitution to make clear that no legislator can receive a COLA in the middle of a term.

Suspension of Pay for Late Budget: Senate Bill 694 suspends pay for both the governor and members of the General Assembly if the state budget is not passed by the midnight June 30 deadline.

No Lame-Duck Sessions: Senate Bill 695 prohibits the General Assembly from holding votes in even-numbered years during the period of time between the general election and the swearing in of the new legislature, with an exception for special sessions called by the governor.

Open Primaries: Senate Bill 696 allows registered Independents to temporarily change their registration status so that they can vote in primary elections.

Lobbying Reform: Senate Bill 697 prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars by all three branches of state government to hire outside lobbyists to lobby other state government agencies.

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