EDITORIAL: Shocking case of political bipartisanship

York Dispatch
  • 'Clean Slate' legislation has been introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature.
  • Companion bills would seal the records of nonviolent offenders after a period of time.
  • Scott Wagner, Kevin Schreiber and Tom Wolf are all supporters of the measures.

Jaw, meet floor.

That had to be the reaction across York County and Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, listens to Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed address the media about a pair of clean slate bills in the House and Senate on Wednesday, April 13, 2016.

In a jaw-dropping moment of actual bipartisan cooperation, Republican and Democratic state lawmakers unveiled details of "Clean Slate" legislation at the Capitol in Harrisburg.

Companion House and Senate bills have been introduced that would give nonviolent offenders a "Clean Slate" by sealing their criminal records after a period of time.

The details of the measures are fairly simple. The records of people who commit nonviolent misdemeanors would be sealed after 10 years. The records of those who commit summary offenses would be sealed after five years. Of course, it's contingent on the people in question not committing additional crimes.

Wagner bill would give some criminals a clean slate

By sealing the records, folks who have proven they aren't career criminals would have a much better opportunity at earning gainful employment, getting into college or renting a home.

It's common-sense legislation. After all, people who commit nonviolent misdemeanors, but who haven't committed a crime in four to seven years, are not likely to offend again.

Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, summed it up well at a news conference on Wednesday.

"People make mistakes," he said.

Yes they do, but minor offenses shouldn't haunt them for the rest of their lives.

What is very unusual in this case, however, is the fact that men and women on opposite sides of the political spectrum have found some rare common ground. State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, is co-sponsoring the House version of the bill, and Gov. Tom Wolf is supporting the measure.

It's not exactly breaking news that the conservative Wagner is not normally a big fan of the political views of either Schreiber or Wolf, who are both progressives. Seeing those three York County men working toward a common goal nearly borders on unbelievable.

That kind of partnership is truly refreshing, especially considering the contentious atmosphere that permeated the Capitol during the bitter budget battle over the past year.

Is this kind of collaboration a sign of things to come?

Unfortunately, almost certainly not. The upcoming budget talks will likely be heated and protracted, as usual. Compromise has become a dirty word in Pennsylvania politics.

Still, the cooperation on the "Clean Slate" legislation does provide a jaw-dropping respite from business as usual in Harrisburg.