Weird politics in the Democratically controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Should politicians in Pennsylvania's House be employed by lobbyists while they are state legislators? From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

HARRISBURG - For 10 1/2 minutes, it appeared that the state House of Representatives would operate for the next two years under a new, iron-clad ethics rule barring members from being paid by lobbying firms.
The idea received a unanimous vote - 198-0 - late Wednesday as representatives were setting internal operating rules for the new legislative term.

Then Democrats had second thoughts and flexed their majority muscle, 100-98, to undo the measure, which could have cost several legislators lucrative side jobs.

The episode raises questions about whether legislators are indeed being paid to lobby. It also amounted to a public embarrassment for Democrats, who control the lower chamber.

"Incompetence is the kindest word you can use to describe this," said Tim Potts, co-founder of Democracy Rising Pennsylvania, a Harrisburg-area public interest group.

Here's how the situation, unusual even by Harrisburg standards, unfolded:

At 8:47 Wednesday night, the House voted overwhelmingly to suspend its rules and allow a vote on a just-drafted amendment. Less than 90 seconds later, members unanimously endorsed this simple restriction: "Members may not receive compensation for affiliating with or being employed by a lobbying firm registered with the Department of State."

Then Democrats, who hold a 104-99 majority, started asking themselves what they had really voted on. Democratic staff lawyers weighed in. At 9:06, the House voted to revote on the measure and later, along mostly party lines, ruled that what they had passed only minutes earlier was actually unconstitutional.

"This was a bright-line standard that legislators shouldn't be paid by lobbyists," said Rep. John Maher, a Republican from Pittsburgh who offered the rule change. By defeating the idea, Maher said, Democrats "trampled on the public's faith in the House." . . . .

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