Ghost Voting and House Rule 47

By now anyone following the Budget process in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania knows that Ghost voting took place during the budget vote.  Much of the focus related to this involves a Representative who was not present…..was not even in the building and yet a vote was cast for that representative.

An Ethics Committee investigation of the procedure should take place but House Rule 47 forbids anyone in the investigation to publicly comment on the investigation.   For that matter, they aren’t even supposed to disclose that such an investigation is taking place.  There is a time limit to when a complaint is made and the investigation can happen meaning if it passes that time, no investigation might take place at all.   What kind of justice is that?

What this means is that even though a vote was cast in direct violation of House Rules and the vote cast was by another legislator who was not elected to represent the district for which he voted, the people of the Commonwealth are not allowed to know what is taking place during this investigation.  That’s not justice.   That’s a complete and disdainful lack of transparency to the very people these legislators were elected to represent.   Becoming a legislator makes you a servant of the people, not their tyrant with special rules of protection as they violate the rules and the spirit of a true representative government.

We may wonder about what happened to our beloved Republic  but House Rule 47 is clear example of everything that is wrong with our political process.   This lack of transparency and the corruption that places this Commonwealth in the top 5 of the most Corrupt States in the Nation.  Aren’t we all tired of a legislative process that appears to be vying for the number 1 spot?!

If our Commonwealth Government is serious about representing the people of this Commonwealth Rule 47 needs to be changed and the public humiliation of an elected representative who so blatantly broke the rules and then so dismissively passes it off should be exposed for public scrutiny.

The representative who cast this vote admitted to doing so.  It’s not a secret.    According to a news report from WFMZ (http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/lehigh-county-lawmaker-responds-to-ghostvoting-allegations/37199990)  his excuse, released in the form of a written statement, was that this sort of thing happens all the time citing examples of casting votes for legislators who: A) Lawmakers leave the house floor during votes to see constituents; B) lawmakers leave the house floor during votes to see stakeholders; C) lawmakers leave the House floor during votes to go to the bathroom.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that JUST GOVERNMENTS derive their powers from the consent of the governed.  Here we have a representative of one district who voted falsely as a representative of a second district.  He did so without the consent of the governed through an election.  He did so out of assumed authority, not any authority granted to him through the election process.

If his claim that this happens all the time is true then we have a real problem that should involve full transparency before the people of the Commonwealth including access to the hearings as they take place.  After all, it was our representation that was violated…this is bigger than House rules.

House Rule 47 is just one more of the rules that govern over us that are designed to protect legislators once elected but not to protect the people they are supposed to be representing.

How does House Rule 47 align itself to Article 1, Section 2 of the Commonwealth Constitution?

All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness.

I see nothing in this statement the excludes a legislator or the entire house for that matter by-passing Section 2 of the Constitution.   How can we have authority over a process in violation of the breaking of a law if the entire process is done in secret?

How can an individual who admits he broke the rules and do so in such a light and dismissive fashion be a reflection of the peace, safety and happiness of the people in this Commonwealth?

The victim in this crime is not the House or our General Assembly;  The victims are the people of this Commonwealth where our representative form of Government is being made an institution of mockery because a representative might have to go to the bathroom or go visit with some lobbyists.   Is that really the form of Government you want?

You can read the House rules in the following link.

http://www.house.state.pa.us/rules/2015HouRules.pdf

House Rule 47 is found on page 49.

Remember,  this is just the backstory of one of the Ghost Votes on the budget.   There are three.  They are Reps. Leslie Acosta, D-Philadelphia, Pete Daley, D-Washington, and John Maher, R-Allegheny.  It has been reported that Rep Acosta was out of the Country when this vote was cast.

The focus of the media attention is centered around Daley and the rep who cast a vote in place of Daley without Daley’s permission, according to statements from Daley.  The rep who usurped his authority to cast that vote while admitting to do so is Rep. Mike Schlossberg, a Lehigh County Democrat.

If I were any of these Reps who were not present and someone cast a vote for me in violation of House Rules and in violation of our Representative form of Government….I would be screaming for a full public investigation not just releasing a statement that says I wasn’t there and I authorized no one to vote for me.   The constituents in those districts deserve better.  The people of this Commonwealth deserve better!

The knowledge of Ghost Voting in Pennsylvania is nothing new.  News reports related to a budget impasse back in 1991 revealed Ghost Voting and it’s a story that keeps returning to haunt us.  In spite of claims to put an end to this egregious process, 14 years later its still going on.   House Rule 47 is, in my opinion, part of the reason.   The Ethics Committee is made up of 4 majority members and 4 minority members from the very bodies where Ghost Voting is taking place.

Adding insult to injury,  a ghost vote where a member is not even at the Capitol to cast a vote can be used as proof of presence in the collection of per diem fees.   All you need to do is get somebody else to cast your vote and then not only do you get a “Get out of Jail” card you can collect taxpayers money as a reward.

See this report from WGAL:   https://youtu.be/2CrMpvwdeag

 

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