John Baer: Holy inappropriate!

Posted: February 15, 2012

BE IT RESOLVED: Whereas, members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, a bloated, overperked crowd indeed, apparently do not read or even seem to be aware of items they unanimously adopt, there shall henceforth be an outright ban on silly, meaningless resolutions.

And, whereas, such a ban would obviate the need for nonreaders and nonthinkers in the House, let this be the first step in slicing House membership in half, at least.

If you missed the inspiration for the afore-offered resolution, it's born of the unanimous (193-0) adoption of a real House Resolution, H.R. 535, on Jan. 24.

That resolution declares 2012 "The Year of the Bible" in Pennsylvania.

Its sponsor is Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny County. It has 36 co-sponsors: 33 Republicans and three Democrats, including Philly Rep. Tony Payton, though he says he's unaware of his co-sponsorship (more on that later).

The resolution says we recognize the Bible because of its "formative influence" on state and nation and because of "our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures."

If this strikes you as bumping up pretty close to at least symbolically violating separation of church and state or inviting similar resolutions proclaiming "The Year of the Torah," "The Year of the Quran," "The Year of Beelzebub" etc., you're not alone.

This is why - and I am not making this up - Philly Democratic Rep. Mark Cohen this week held a Capitol news conference asking that the House reconsider the resolution that he and all his colleagues supported. In other words a redo.

You may remember Cohen from past hits such as charging taxpayers $28,000 in one year for personal books, including The Little Book of Stress, or for collecting more than $100,000 in expenses in one legislative session, including per diems for Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Labor Day and Yom Kippur.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports that Cohen apologized for essentially having no idea what the resolution was about that he and everybody else in the House voted to adopt.

Philly Democratic Rep. Babette Josephs, long a forceful advocate of individual rights, joined him in that apology and later told me she intends to actually read future resolutions before voting on them.

The Bible resolution is non-binding and therefore falls into the what-the-heck-are-you-doing- with-taxpayers'-time-and-resources category.

But it raises questions and points to some public-service realities.

The questions include what the heck are you doing with taxpayers' time and resources? Do you have even a basic understanding that those who pay your salary and perks are of various religions, beliefs and nonbeliefs? And do any of you recall that Pennsylvania was founded on religious tolerance, especially for unpopular, persecuted religions such as the Society of Friends, or Quakers?

The public-service realities are (a) our elected officials aren't paying attention, and (b) there now looms the prospect of more time-wasting by putting up votes for or against the Bible.

Nice. Why not just pass out armor, swords and lances and re-enact the Crusades on the House floor?

All this helps explain why our Legislature consistently waits until the last possible moment to act on required duties such as passing annual budgets or adopting once-a-decade redistricting plans before screwing them up. They obviously don't read anything so don't know what to do.

Payton, for example, didn't even know he co-sponsored "The Year of the Bible."

"Are you sure I'm a co-sponsor?" he asked.

I replied: Would you prefer not to be?

"Exactly," he said.

He then vowed to read stuff from now on.

Can I get an Amen?


 

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