Let's set the record straight
Thousands of Pennsylvanians will cast ballots for state lawmakers Nov. 6 without knowing for sure if the incumbents' records are complete.
Despite an earlier agreement not to do so, House Speaker Sam Smith has scheduled a post-election, "lame duck" session of that chamber. The speaker circulated a memo advising members that the session would be for caucus reorganizations, "farewell speeches and other house-keeping matters."
Farewell speeches? Well, such speeches can be momentous, such as when President George Washington departed while warning against "foreign entanglements," or when President Dwight Eisenhower sagely warned against the permanence, power and cost of the "military-industrial complex." Since departing House members have taken a pass on abundant opportunities to reform the state government, it's not likely that they will offer much inspirational insight to their successors - certainly not anything worthy of extra session days at public expense.
Those lawmakers who continue to collect a second salary through untaxed, unaccountable per diem expense payments, however, will be able to collect four extra days of that pay regardless of whether they are re-elected. In several cases, representatives will be able to collect those payments.
Per diems, combined with other costs associated with the Legislature being in session, will drain at least several hundred thousand dollars from the treasury. The advocacy group Democracy Rising PA estimated the cost about $1 million.
The greatest issue with lame-duck sessions is their potential for chicanery. Mr. Smith says the House will meet but not legislate, and Senate leaders say they won't leave anything on the table on which the House would have to act after the election. But there's no way to guarantee that unless legislative leaders forgo lame-duck sessions.
There is plenty of time in the year for lawmakers to complete their work prior to the election, so that voters may assess their complete record. If schedules need to be adjusted, legislative leaders should adjust them for the many non-session days between now and the election.