HARRISBURG, February 1, 2012 – Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Sen. Vincent J. Hughes strongly suggested that Senate Republicans reconsider their decision to cancel the budget hearing for state courts and allow justices to discuss their financial needs before the full Appropriations Committee.
The judiciary’s hearing was scheduled for February 23. Hughes was notified earlier this week of the abrupt cancellation. The cancellation was announced less than a week after the Supreme Court rejected the state legislative redistricting plan.
Hughes’ objection to the cancellation was contained in a January 31 letter sent to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte).
“The court should be given the opportunity to come before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss its budgetary needs for the next fiscal year,” Hughes said. “In these lean times, it is important for the members of the Appropriations Committee to hear directly from courts since they are one of the three co-equal branches of government.
“The failure to learn about the funding needs of the courts through the budget hearing process reduces transparency and accountability.”
In his letter to Corman, Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) said his concern was that there should never be even the slightest appearance that future actions by this committee and the General Assembly could be influenced by the Supreme Court’s redistricting rulings. “As committee chairmen we must be particularly sensitive to this concern for both of our caucuses. Unless your decision resulted from a court initiated request seeking more time to prepare for their hearing, your action appears inappropriate.”
Hughes said in the letter that it was important that separation of powers among the branches of government be maintained and that the legislature “must never take any action to call our respect for their independence into question.”
The West Philadelphia lawmaker asked for an immediate action on his reconsideration request.