The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 12, 2013

Reform caucus meets

John Finnerty
CNHI Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG — A group of 35 reform-minded state lawmakers met Wednesday to compare notes and set priorities, said Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, who was one of the co-founders of the reform caucus.

There seems to be the greatest interest in enacting legislation that would crack down on perks for lawmakers, Teplitz said.

The group was announced earlier this year as Teplitz unveiled a package of reform bills he’d authored.

Teplitz’s bills include:

• Legislation calling for election reform to allow anyone to vote in the primary; legislation that would eliminate the automatic pay increase that lawmakers receive each year.

• A pay freeze for lawmakers and the governor if they don’t pass the budget on time.

• Legislation that would eliminate lame duck sessions, which would prevent lawmakers from passing legislation in the period between an election and the time when new lawmakers are sworn into office.

Teplitz said that his bills do not specifically represent the priorities of the rest of his reform-minded colleagues.

Many other members of the reform caucus have sponsored bills aimed at tackling perceived flaws, he said.

The reform caucus includes 11 senators – five Democrats and six Republicans – and 24 representatives – five Democrats and 19 Republicans.

But the reform spirit hasn’t been limited to those who have signed on as part of that group. Last week, Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford, announced he has authored a bill that would include safeguards on the way lawmakers bill the state for travel and lodging.

While many private-sector firms require workers to turn in receipts for reimbursement, state lawmakers can claim a set sum of money, regardless of how much they really spent on lodging and meals, Roae said.

Roae’s bill would bar lawmakers from billing the state for business travel to a committee meeting if the lawmaker is not on the committee. Roae’s bill also would bar lawmakers from submitting per diem requests for holidays or weekends.

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