Our opinion: Flawed bills often fail

With all the post-game analysis of the political logjam that caused Gov. Tom Corbett’s agenda to crumble at the 11th hour, there is little talk of the substance of those three proposals that failed.

Is it not possible that they failed because of inherent weaknesses in their enabling legislation? Let us conjecture that if the plans to reform the state’s pension system, privatize wine and liquor sales and loosen beer regulations, and provide more money to fix a crumbling transportation system had been nonpareil in their construction, they would have had no problem sailing through a legislature whose majority shares its party affiliation with the chief executive architect of the agenda.

In fact, each was fraught with problems.

The pension proposal suffered from constitutional questions from the beginning, and nothing the lawmakers could do would solve that problem without gutting the keystone of the proposal.

The booze bill, ostensibly a swing for the fence to private enterprise, ignored the realities of commerce. It made no provision for the hundreds of private entrepreneurs who have built their beer businesses over two or three generations, playing by the rules the state had set, only to watch its political representatives pull the rug out from under them with no time and little resources to adjust. At the same time, thousands of state workers looked glumly forward to losing their jobs.

There should be a rule in lawmaking that follows the medical dictum: First, do no harm.

The transportation initiative was another grand plan aimed at the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. While we won’t argue with the goal – the state’s roads and bridges are sorely needy – the grand plan came with a grand price tag that would have forced the governor’s Republican flock to return home and try to explain to their conservative constituents why they voted for a significant increase in gasoline taxes.

Yes, there were a lot of political missteps in the final weeks of this legislative session, but don’t discount the basic flaws in the proposals, which contributed greatly to their failure.