EDITORIAL: Metcalfe needs to go
Butler County sounds like a nice place.
The tourism board for the county just north of Pittsburgh likes to promote its rolling farmland and abundance of festivals the area offers. With 800 square miles and 186,000 people, it has less than half the population of York County in a slightly smaller space.
But this rural area is having an outsized effect on state government, thanks to Republican state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.
Metcalfe represents the 12th District, which is a large chunk of Butler County. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has called him the state's No. 1 conservative, a title he touts on his website.
Metcalfe is in his 10th term in the state House, and for four of those terms, he has wielded an iron hand as chair of the House State Government Committee.
In eight years, the Democrats in the House have managed to pass one single piece of legislation through his committee. And he's very proud of that.
"I block all substantive Democrat legislation sent to my committee and advance good Republican legislation!" Metcalfe wrote in a Facebook rant last month.
That "good Republican legislation" is apparently so good that Metcalfe sees no need for debate or even time for Democrats to read some bills and amendments that come to his committee.
In April, the Republicans on the State Government Committee, including York County Reps. Seth Grove, R-Dover, and Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, twice voted to amend bills that would establish an independent redistricting committee without debate or advance warning about the change.
The bills originally called for an 11-member commission of citizens to redraw the state's legislative and congressional boundaries every 10 years. The amendment changed it to a six-person commission, with the state House and Senate caucus leaders each appointing one person, then the full House and Senate voting on the fifth and sixth members.
Metcalfe has promised that any similar bills that his committee sees will be dealt with in the same way.
The original version of the redistricting bill had 110 co-sponsors, according to WITF, with support on both sides of the aisle.
Members of the anti-gerrymandering group Fair Districts PA, which supports the goal of an independent commission, are angry with Metcalfe.
"It's incredibly disrespectful to the legislative process, to voters and to his colleagues," said Carol Kuniholm, chairwoman of Fair Districts PA.
None of this is a surprise to anyone who pays attention to state government. Metcalfe has stopped progress on the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would extend protection against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations to the LGBT community, for years. He regularly cuts off Democratic lawmakers and brings security to his committee meetings.
Last week, the Democratic leaders sent a letter to House Speaker Mike Turzai informing him that all bills from their party that had been sitting in Metcalfe's committee would be reintroduced under different numbers in the hope that they will be assigned to a different committee.
That's not enough. When a legislator gleefully blocks the opposition party from participating in the business of a committee, when he rants about his colleagues on the other side of the aisle, it's time for the Republican leadership to step in and stop this.
Daryl Metcalfe has proven that he is not fit to lead the State Government Committee. Republicans need take the committee out of his hands and give it to someone who is actually interested in governing.