There's something rotten in Pa.
A few blocks from the state Capitol, a preliminary hearing in the Dauphin County Courthouse last week has detailed conduct by people connected to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission that is rotten even if it is found not to be criminal.
Inside the Capitol, little has been heard about the proceedings down the street. A new bill that nibbles around the edges of reform or, in some respects parodies reform, has been introduced.
For example, one amendment calls for the turnpike's chief financial officer - for an enterprise with revenue of more than $800 million in the 2012 fiscal year - to have financial management experience.
The preliminary hearing is for a raft of allegedly corrupt turnpike officials, two contractors and former Sen. Robert Mellow of Lackawanna County, who is serving a 16-month federal sentence for unrelated corruption. They are charged with bid-rigging and related offenses.
House members backing the new bill correctly have perceived that greater transparency would help to dissolve the corrupt commission culture that is on display during the preliminary hearing. The legislation calls for more frequent audits and more frequent legislative testimony from commission members, for example.
But they are partial measures. A bill to bring about the only true reform languishes as lawmakers race toward their long summer recess.
That bill would roll the turnpike commission into PennDOT, which would make sense even if the commission did not have a history of corruption. Pennsylvania doesn't need two highway departments; a merger would reduce administrative costs without adversely affecting the turnpike or roads administered by PennDOT. Under the bill, the highway department would establish a toll division to administer the turnpike.
Lawmakers, who have used the commission to keep highway debt off the state's books, should fully take responsibility for transportation by combining the agencies.