By encouraging citizens to get the facts and use them, Democracy Rising PA and its coalition partners created a new political climate - a climate where voters could do things that the "experts" said were impossible.
Pay Raise of 2005 Repealed. For the first time in our history, voters demanded and got a pay raise for the legislature repealed.
Pennsylvania has elections again. Voter turnout is expected to hit a new record this year after increasing in three of the last four elections. The turnout in the fall of 2006 was the highest in 40 years!
For the first time in our history, three legislative leaders (plus 14 other inc umbents) lost their primary elections while seven more, including another powerful leader, lost their general elections. One of the vanquished called it an "Earthquake in Pennsylvania."
31 incumbents retired in 2006 rather than face the voters again.
For the first time in our history, PA voters threw a sitting Supreme Court justice off the bench.
No More Bonuses. Lawmakers stopped bonuses for legislative staffers after the state's attorney general began investigating why taxpayer-funded bonuses were so much higher in the 2006 election year ($3.6 million) than in previous years (under $1 million) and went overwhelmingly to staffers who worked on or donated to political campaigns.
A New Speaker. For the first time in our history, Pennsylvania has a Speaker of the House from the minority party because the two House leaders - and former Speakers - who brought us the pay raise couldn't be elected Speaker again. January 2, 2007.
33% Turnover. Pennsylvania's General Assembly will begin its 2009-10 session with at least 83 new lawmakers since the Pay Raise of 2005 - the largest number of new lawmakers in decades. January 2, 2009.
A New Lobbying Control Law. After five years (2002-2007) when PA was the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbying, there is now some control over lobbying but not nearly enough. Even though two-thirds of PA citizens want to prohibit public officials from taking gifts and favors from lobbyists, each lobbyist can still provide up to $900 worth of "benefits" to each public official without having to report it.
New Rules in the Senate. On the first day of the 2007-08 session, the Senate adopted rules to increase transparency - although not nearly enough. January 2, 2007.
New Rules in the House. On January 24, 2007, the Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform met to begin work on comprehensive improvements in the House. Work is expected to last until the summer break in June. Here's a DR News Special Report on the first meeting.
Cutting Perks. In the summer of 2006, the State Senate announced a roll-back on "perks," canceling the $600 per month car allowance for Senators and requiring the full Senate payroll to pay 1 percent of gross wages toward their health insurance. July 2006. In the House, Democrats have stopped providing catered meals to Representatives, although Republicans have not.
A New Open Records Law. In 2008, PA finally updated its open records law, the first comprehensive reform since cars had fins in the 50s. But it's a weak law that allows the legislature and the courts to police themselves, creating an invitation for mischief.