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Judge Tosses Lawsuit Over Pa. Lawmaker Pay

June 12, 2006

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ A federal judge threw out a lawsuit Monday that sought to ban the tactics the Legislature used to give itself a pay raise in the middle of the night last summer.

The lawsuit alleged that legislators violated the Constitution last year when they passed a bill in the early morning hours, just before recessing for the summer. They voted to raise lawmakers’ salaries along with the pay of judges, the governor and some other executive-branch officials.

The pay raise was repealed in November, shortly after voters rejected a sitting Supreme Court justice for the first time in state history.

Common Cause, the League of Woman Voters, state Rep. Greg Vitali and four others sued legislative leaders, Gov. Ed Rendell and Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy in an attack on the way many controversial bills are handled by the General Assembly.

The lawsuit said the pay-raise legislation was ``run through the Legislature in total darkness like smugglers in the night, with no avenue for judicial redress because state judges were in on the contraband.″

U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane wrote that the dispute belongs to the ``political and electoral process.″

Voter anger over the pay raise has already taken a toll: 17 incumbent state lawmakers were defeated in last month’s primary election, including the state Senate’s top two Republicans. With retirements, it means at least one in every six seats in the 253-member Legislature will turn over.

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