We've been thinking a lot about the Pennsylvania legislature, wondering whether ethics reform will remain a priority. As you may know, legislators gave themselves a big pay raise about 18 months ago, setting off a political firestorm that resulted in one-quarter of the state House seats now being occupied by freshmen.
Many are skeptical that the notoriously creaky Pennsylvania legislature will actually change its ways. But the freshmen have made this their cause, and their numbers are significant. What's more, there continue to be new outrages that will help fuel their cause.
Yesterday, state Senator Vincent Fumo was indicted on 139 charges of conspiracy and fraud. He is charged with defrauding a charity and using staff as his personal servants. He resigned an important Appropriations Committee post but says he did nothing illegal.
That comes on the heels of news last week that House Democrats gave aides more than $2 million worth of bonuses over the past two years. Republicans handed out $900,000. There's been some suggestion that bonuses were tied to political work and correlate with campaign contributions made by the same aides.
Dennis O'Brien, the new House speaker, is ordering annual disclosure of bonuses and a reform commission he appointed is looking into the practice.
I've written a profile of O'Brien that will appear in Governing's March issue. Rob Gurwitt is working on a broader piece for the magazine about how ethics issues are playing out in Pennsylvania and other legislatures.
And Governing was covering Fumo way back in 1989, with a five-page profile of him.