Reforms take root
In our view
Is reform blossoning in Harrisburg alongside the flowers and trees?
Last week, the state Senate unanimously approved three bills that would make government actions and voter registration more transparent, efficient and cost-effective.
One bill, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, would require all political candidates to file campaign finance reports electronically. Currently, only about one-third of all campaign finance reports are filed electronically. The legislation would improve the timing and accuracy of reports. The bill also requires additional filings if a candidate or his/her committee raises more than $10,000 in a calendar year. Pileggi said the legislation could save the state $100,000 per year.
A second bill, offered by Sen. Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, would require state lobbyists to file disclosure reports online.
Those bills affect candidates and those who seek access to lawmakers.
The third bill, authored by state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, would affect all eligible voters by allowing them to register online.
Smucker initially introduced the proposal last year after a constituent asked him about registering to vote online. That legislation did not make it through the process and Smucker re-introduced the legislation this year.
Smucker's online proposal would not only allow people to register on line but to make address and party affiliation changes as well as name changes in the event of marriage.
The Department of State has spent more than a year preparing to implement the system. Applicants would be required to provide the final four digits on their Social Security number and produce a driver's license which carries an actual signature.
Under the current system, counties are deluged with thousands of new applications at the deadline. That forces them to hire temporary workers to input the data. The online system would eliminate that need.
Sixteen states, including Maryland and Delware, currently have online voter registration and legislation has been offered in 14 other states besides Pennsylvania to pass online registration.
In Arizona, which was the first state in the nation to enact online registration, voter registration jumped 9.5 percent within the first two years and participation in the general election rose 6 percent in the presidential election and 4 percent in the off-year elections.
Smucker, who chairs the Senate State Government Committee, said his goal is to make state government more open, transparent and to increase public participation.
These three bills go a long way toward that goal.