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Beware demagogury of Stilp and company who are themselves showing how little they understand the PA Constitution

Wants PA Constitutional convention
 

"You have to trust the people. Don't look down on us," said Stilp, who asked the court to set precedent and rule that the pay raise was unconstitutional. "We are the constitution."

OK NOW "We are the Constitution," says Gene Stilp.
 
What kind of argument is that against the pay-raise the state legislators passed July 2005?  It's a populist argument. 
 
A better argument is the unvouchered expenses the legislators took should be ruled unconstitutional because the Compensation clause is clear that legislators cannot take salary increases during the same term in which they passed the salary increases.  Period.  The Constitution of PA is the law of the land.  Period.  The legislators who took the salary increases in the form of unvouchered expenses went against the intent of the PA Constitution.  PERIOD. 
 
Actually, passing salary increases during an incumbent's term of office is not illegal or unconstitutional.  Legislators can pass such salary increases for themselves and others under their jurisdiction.  Its the legislators, however, who couldn't receive the increases during the same term in which they passed the increases.  Those under their jurisdiction could have received the salary increases all along.
 

Compensation

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. No member of either House shall during the term for which he may have been elected, receive any increase of salary, or mileage, under any law passed during such term.

http://members.aol.com/DKM1/C2.html

Justice Michael Eakin:
"Things aren't unconstitutional because people don't have confidence," he said. "They are unconstitutional because they violate the constitution."
 
Exactly!
 
The pay raise controversy appears to incorrectly state The most contentious point of the raise is the fact that the new law allowed legislators to effectively receive their pay as "unvouchered expenses," a term similar to the IRS's term of "unaccountable expenses," before the next term. The state Constitution expressly forbids state legislators from voting themselves a pay increase in the current term.
 
We'll correct that for wikipaedia users
 

The most contentious point of the raise is the fact that part of the new law enabled incumbent legislators to effectively receive their salary increase as "unvouchered expenses," a term similar to the IRS's term of "unaccountable expenses," during the term in which they passed the increase. State legislators can pass legislation that increases their own salary, and that of those under their jurisdiction during the current term. However, legislators cannot receive the increases until the next term.

PA Constitution Article II The Legislature Section 8. Compensation [1] "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. No member of either House shall during the term for which he may have been elected, receive any increase of salary, or mileage, under any law passed during such term."

Critics have charged that the "unvouchered expenses" are unconstitutional, though Pennsylvania's appellate courts have ruled similar legislation to be constitutional three previous times. Several legislators and even the Governor have distanced themselves from the legislation they supported in the aftermath of populist outrage and the media backlash.

"People are paying attention" to how Pa.'s justices will rule. They heard arguments yesterday.
By Mario F. Cattabiani

Inquirer Staff Writer

The Pennsylvania legislature might have repealed the controversial pay raises last year, but the state Supreme Court now will decide whether to reinstate higher salaries for themselves and more than 1,000 other judges or whether the law was unconstitutional from the start.

For 2 hours yesterday, the state's top court heard arguments from all sides of the issue - from an activist who described the pay raise as a fraud on the public, from lawyers who defended the legislative action, to lower court judges who want their repealed raises back.

So unwieldy has the issue become that at one point yesterday Justice Michael Eakin described it as a "morass and quagmire."

It was standing room only at yesterday's hearing as journalists, lawyers and clerks crowded the Supreme Court courtroom in Philadelphia City Hall.

G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst at Franklin and Marshall College, said he could not remember a decision so eagerly anticipated by the public, which will have this issue on its mind when it votes for House and Senate candidates in next month's primary election.

"There is no question that the Supreme Court is under a microscope here," he said. "People are paying attention to this in a way that they don't normally for a case before the Supreme Court."

Before the court are a series of complex issues dealing with arcane constitutional provisions and the rules of lawmaking.

The court's decision could have broad ramifications in how a bill becomes a law in the future.

That's just what Gene Stilp is calling for.

The Harrisburg activist argued yesterday that the legislature violated the state constitution in so many ways when it approved the raises last summer that the court has to step in and restore the public's faith in government. For one thing, Stilp said, many lawmakers took the raises as "unvouchered expenses" in the middle of the term despite a constitutional ban against doing so.

"You have to trust the people. Don't look down on us," said Stilp, who asked the court to set precedent and rule that the pay raise was unconstitutional. "We are the constitution."

Sally Ann Ulrich, a lawyer representing state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. who joined Stilp in his challenge, said the way the pay raise was passed produced "a crisis of public confidence."

The original bill dealt with the salary of the governor. Legislators took the measure, cut its original language, inserted the sweeping pay-raise provisions, and "slapped a new title on it," she said.

"How can we explain to a member of the public... that the legislative process is open and deliberative?"

Eakin wasn't necessarily convinced.

"Things aren't unconstitutional because people don't have confidence," he said. "They are unconstitutional because they violate the constitution."

John Krill, a lawyer representing Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer (R., Blair) defended how the pay-raise legislation was handled.

The bill's original subject was the same in the end, Krill said, equating it to a beam of light. Sometimes, it's sharply focused; other times it's diffused. But it is still the same beam of light, he told the justices.

Whether the bill changed enough from its original purpose to render it unconstitutional "is the $64,000 question," Justice Max Baer said.

The pay raise, which was approved July 7, increased legislative base salaries by 16 percent to $81,050. Legislative leaders received much more.

It also increased salaries for top administration officials and, immediately, for more than 1,000 state judges.

After four months of intense public pressure, the legislature - in part as a self-preservation measure - reversed itself and repealed the raises.

The about-face came after voters statewide, for the first time in modern times, denied a sitting Supreme Court justice, Russell Nigro, another 10-year term. Such "retention votes" previously had been mere formalities, giving justices another decade on the bench.

Last year, however, voters saw in Nigro a way to vent their pent-up pay-raise anger, and tossed him from the bench.

The legal arguments, coming a month before the primary election, likely will keep the issue alive in the minds of voters.

Spurred by the pay raise and the belief that they can do better, nearly 600 candidates - many of them political novices - got on the primary ballots for 228 House and Senate seats. It's the largest field in at least 14 years.

In a separate but related argument heard by the court yesterday, a group of judges asked justices to reinstate their pay raise, arguing legislators overstepped their power when they stripped them of their bigger paychecks.

Robert C. Heim, a lawyer representing one plaintiff, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge John W. Herron, pointed to a section of the state constitution that bars the salary of judges from decreasing unless all other "salaried officers" of the state receive similar cuts.

Heim argued that the justices should strike only the portion of the repeal dealing with judges, and keep the remainder.

If the court agrees, it could reinstate the pay raise for all judges, from district magistrates to Supreme Court justices. Justices on the top court had seen their salaries rise to $172,000 annually, only to drop back down to $150,000 when the repeal passed.

Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, one of the architects of the pay-raise legislation, recused himself from the case.

It's unclear when the court will rule on the matter. A separate case challenging the pay raise is pending in federal court in Harrisburg.


Contact staff writer Mario F. Cattabiani at 717-787-5990 or mcattabiani@phillynews.com.

The Pennsylvania Constitution

Provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution that the state Supreme Court referenced when it agreed to consider three lawsuits related to the governmental pay raise:

• Article III, Section 1: No law shall be passed except by bill, and no bill shall be so altered or amended, on its passage through either House, as to change its original purpose.

• Article III, Section 2: No bill shall be considered unless referred to a committee, printed for the use of the members and returned therefrom.

• Article III, Section 3: No bill shall be passed containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except a general appropriation bill or a bill codifying or compiling the law or a part thereof.

• Article III, Section 4: Every bill shall be considered on three different days in each House. ...

• Article V, Section 16(a): Justices, judges and justices of the peace shall be compensated by the Commonwealth as provided by law. Their compensation shall not be diminished during their terms of office, unless by law applying generally to all salaried officers of the Commonwealth.

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Manual, December 2005; Associated Press

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