We, the people of the commonwealth, should consider ourselves truly blessed. We have a state Legislature that is perhaps incomparable to any other in these United States. Having lived in three other states for extended periods of time, I am continually struck by the lengths which our elected officials will go to "protect" the citizens of Pennsylvania, and how we continue to send incumbents back to Harrisburg on election day.
Then again, we tend to do the same thing at the national level no matter how distasteful the political discourse becomes.
After some reflection on our current political environment, I offer the premise that we, the electorate, have significantly contributed to this condition in that we have become "dumbed down" to the point that history, facts and truth in political discourse just do not matter anymore.
Our elected officials are way out in front of us, the citizens, on this and demonstrate it on a daily basis.
Our political process has deteriorated due to numerous sociological influences, but most of all because we just do not engage as an active electorate. In a sense we have "outsourced" our democratic heritage to others at the state and national level. Just like numerous other jobs in this country, it is no longer a job that we want to perform; we have more important things to occupy our short attention span.
You may disagree, but how else can we logically explain the behavior and apparent beliefs of our elected official?
With respect to the commonwealth, how else are we able to rationalize the need for the second largest state Legislature in the United States, whose leadership espouses the value of small government?
How else do we explain a legislative session calendar that has 10 to 11 planned meeting days for July through December of 2012? Perhaps the logic is that such a large body does not need to meet very often.
How do we explain the need for a Voter ID law in the absence of any facts supporting the need?
How do we reconcile our inexplicable laws regarding the distribution and sale of alcohol products? Wasn't the Johnstown flood in 1929 or sometime?
It's instructive to reflect on the more notable legislative accomplishments during the first half of 2012. Who can forget the landmark legislation allowing hunters to not wear their licenses on their back?
What about the prohibition of texting while driving -- a sane idea but virtually unenforceable unless the law enforcement officer is riding in the front seat with the offender? Why not simply prohibit the use of any electronic devise?
I know, each of us has been enriched by the time spent in naming of overpasses, bridges and highways for deserving individuals.
And finally, who among us cannot support annual state budgets that diminish financial support for education, the medically needy and the least fortunate among our neighborhoods?
Noticeably absent from the state legislative calendar, and in the motivation of our representatives, is any action toward those insignificant issues like economic growth, property tax reform, modernization of our liquor control laws and reduction in the size of the Legislature -- in essence those things that really matter.
One admirable quality of our elected officials is their zeal to find and root out crime among the citizens of Pennsylvania. Recently, it seems they will devote unlimited time and resources to that end to ensure we do not commit acts against society.
Worthy of the attention it has received is the 2012 Voter Identification Act that intends to drive out of our elective system the imaginary fraud that consumes our process.
If these same legislators were actually looking to reduce criminal activity, they simply have to look to their left and right when in session. Hardly a week has gone by in 2012 when newspaper stories have not delineated the criminal indictment, arrest, trial and sentencing of some member of our state Legislature and/or government.
And particularly frightening is that the crimes are not limited to just any member, but Supreme Court justices, speakers of the House, and other prominent leadership positions.
We, the citizens, should expect and demand better and reflect that demand in our voting activity. Are we so "dumbed down" that we now think that such behavior and thinking is just part of the political and legislative process?
-- Jim Payne is a resident of Manchester Township.