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Pennsylvania Constitution in the News – 2010

On Monday, 12/27/2010, the Post-Gazette reprinted a story by Zack Needles from The Legal Intelligencer suggesting that the Pittsburgh ordinance banning natural gas drilling in the City is preempted by State law, according to industry and legal sources (“Local drilling bans raise concerns, energy lawyers say”).

A November 14, 2010 Associated Press story by Mark Scolforo (“Arrest records of state lawmakers raise question of standards”), which appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reported a number of arrests and convictions attributed to members of the General Assembly.  Although not directly implicated by arrests, the story also reported convictions that would seem to raise issues of eligibility to serve based on the criminal record prohibitions of Article II, Section 7.

On 10/4/2010, a story reprinted in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette from The Legal Intelligencer highlighted the criticism of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over a number of issues, including the prosecution of members of Justice Joan Orie Melvin’s family over alleged political work on her judicial campaign on public time, the family courthouse project in Philadelphia and the Luzerne County judicial scandal and its implications for the judicial disciplinary system.  After a summer of discontent, all eyes were on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Jennifer Reeger reported in the Tribune Review on opposition by Westmoreland Township leaders to a proposed Pennsylvania constitutional amendment that would establish county government as the dominant local government in Pennsylvania.  Jennifer Reeger, Government merger plan blasted by township leaders, 2010 WLNR 15741497 (8/7/2010).

There has been a great deal of discussion in the media recently about the desirability and potential reach of a constitutional convention in Pennsylvania.  Two recent thoughtful pieces are Ruth Ann Dailey in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The Harrisburg Swamp: Drain and Change” (basically pro convention), and Paul Carpenter in the Morning Call, “Convention Idea Is Full of Danger” (basically anti-convention).  The writers share a deep dissatisfaction with the current functioning of government in Pennsylvania.

On Sunday, 6/19/2010, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorially called for Chief Justice Ronald Castille to resign from his post as Chief Justice (not resign from the Supreme Court).  On Friday, 6/25/2010, the Philadelphia Daily News echoed that recommendation.  The controversy arises from Chief Justice Castille’s role in overseeing a $12 million deal to find land to build a new Philadelphia Family Court building.

It has been widely reported in the media that on Monday, 5/24/2010, the Statewide Investigating Grand Jury issued a Report extremely critical of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and calling for fundamental reform and/or a limited constitutional convention.

On 4/15/2010, in a pair of decisions likely to be reviewed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Commonwealth Court ordered a total of $900 million to be transferred to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund from the general fund; the decisions carry significant implications for the 2009-2010 Pennsylvania budget.  See Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth, 997 A.2d 392, Pa.Cmwlth. (2010) and Pennsylvania Medical Society v. Department of Public Welfare, 994 A.2d 33, Pa.Cmwlth. (2010).

On Wednesday, April 14, 2010, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an op-ed by Professor Bruce Ledewitz concerning the possibility of a constitutional convention in Pennsylvania, Constitutional Caution.

On Tuesday,  April 27, 2010, State Senator Jim Ferlo added his voice to the discussion about holding a State constitutional convention in an op-ed in the Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania Needs a Constitutional Convention.

Karamagi Rujumba reported in the Post-Gazette that Allegheny County represented to Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. at a March 10 hearing that the County is on schedule to comply with court-ordered property tax reassessment by the 2012 deadline.