House Bill 2431 (PN 3570) was recently introduced and is a joint resolution to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to radically alter the structure of local government in Pennsylvania.  It would establish counties as the basic level of local government in Pennsylvania.  Municipalities would only be allowed to exist under the jurisdiction of the county who would then determine what type of duties they would perform.  Counties would be tasked with all control of personnel, law enforcement, land use and zoning, sanitation, and health and safety.

This bill was introduced by Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks).  The cosponsors are: Daley (D-Washington), Gibbons (D-Lawrence), Harkins (D-Erie), Mahoney (D-Fayette), Marshall (R-Beaver), McIlvaine Smith (D-Chester), Preston (D-Allegheny) and Youngblood (D-Philadelphia).

Status: The bill is currently before the House Local Government Committee.  The Majority chairman is Rep. Robert Freeman (D-Northampton) and the Minority chairman is Rep. Thomas Creighton (R-Lancaster)

***CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS TO TELL THEM TO OPPOSE THIS BILL: House member emails and contact information***

Further info: PSATS issued a news release yesterday to newspapers statewide about House Bill 2431.  Please call your local newspaper and urge it to tell our side of the consolidation story by publishing this response (see below) or interviewing your executive director, David M. Sanko.

You can direct reporters to PSATS Director of Communications Ginni Linn at (717) 763-0930 or glinn@psats.org.  Ginni is taking care of arranging interviews with Dave.  Thanks in advance for your help on this important issue!

NEWS RELEASE

PSATS Leading Fight Against Legislation that Would Eliminate Townships, Cities, and Boroughs

The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, which represents the commonwealth’s 1,455 townships of the second class and more than 10,000 local officials, strongly opposes House Bill 2431, which was introduced last week and would radically change the way Pennsylvanians are governed.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Caltagirone of Berks County, calls for a constitutional amendment to establish Pennsylvania’s 67 counties as the basic level of government. Under the plan, which would eliminate townships, cities, and boroughs, the counties would oversee all municipal operations, including roads, land use and zoning, sanitation, health and safety, and law enforcement.

PSATS members, who held their annual statewide educational conference last week in Hershey, were alerted April 19 during the opening general session about this latest attack on local government.

“For years, people have been saying that Pennsylvania has too many local governments. So-called reformers refer to townships as ‘fiefdoms’ and ‘relics of the past,’ and they complain about duplicated services and the rising cost of government,” PSATS Executive Director David M. Sanko said. “But you know what? No one has ever proven that bigger government is better – or even more cost-effective – government.

“In fact, the opposite is true. Just look around this state, and you’ll see the evidence. Townships aren’t failing, declaring bankruptcy, or imposing widespread tax increases. Instead, it’s the bigger governments – places like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Reading – that are in real financial trouble. Townships have been doing more with less – and doing it successfully – ever since the days of William Penn, and they are still around for a very good reason: They work.”

PSATS President John Haiko disagrees with critics who say that local leaders oppose legislation like House Bill 2431 because they want to preserve their power and their jobs.

“This isn’t about self-preservation at all,” Haiko said. “It’s about holding onto a good thing: townships. There, you’ll find committed elected leaders and employees who would much rather put off buying a piece of equipment than raise taxes. These people, who live and work in the communities they represent, are more committed to pinching pennies, increasing their efficiency, and working together to stretch tax dollars than anyone else in government today.”

In a 2005 report, titled Growth, Economic Development, and Local Government Structure in Pennsylvania, consolidation expert Wendell Cox concluded that lawmakers should back off on efforts to consolidate Pennsylvania’s 2,562 local governments. He praised the state’s municipal leaders for their frugality, their accountability to their constituents, and their willingness to work with other local governments.

In fact, a recent PSATS survey revealed that 82 percent of township respondents are involved in projects with neighboring municipalities. These efforts are saving tax dollars and enhancing government efficiency.

“I don’t dispute that government is broken – in Harrisburg and Washington. And that’s where we really should be focusing our attention,” Sanko said. “It’s important to remember, too, that Pennsylvania has so many local governments because that’s what the people want. In this debate – so focused on quantity – many are forgetting that quality does exist in government, and it’s in Pennsylvania’s townships.”