Your state legislators are hoping you’re in a forgiving mood.

They’re also hoping you’ll forget that they gathered in secret, late at night, to give themselves obnoxiously high pay increases in July.

Don’t be tricked by what appears to be a treat from Harrisburg.

There are still more questions than answers, and the problem did not miraculously go away.

Late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, both chambers of the state General Assembly approved bills that would repeal the huge pay raises they adopted for themselves and other officials.

However, both the House and Senate bills contain loopholes, or provisions that would nullify the attempts at reconciliation.

The bills could impact the future salaries of1,300 officials – including legislators, the governor, state court judges, county judges and even district judges. Also affected would be top members of Gov. Ed Rendell’s cabinet.

The plan approved in July and signed by the governor gave all of those folks double-digit raises, some at more than 30 percent.

That decision sparked a public outcry from Philadelphia to Erie, with residents calling for the political heads of anyone involved. Grass-roots organizations– including the vocal PACleanSweep, based in Annville – sprang up in opposition to the pay raises.

Voters were urged to maintain their anger through Tuesday’s elections and on into next year.

State lawmakers apparently heard that message, and scrambled last week to come up with a method for pulling back the salary increases. That’s what led to bills in the House and Senate, each aimed at repealing the decision and each passing overwhelmingly.

Or so it seemed.

Here’s the rub: If the Senate bill becomes law, judges apparently could sue over their loss of pay. The Pennsylvania Constitution says that judges can’t have their pay reduced while they’re on the bench, unless as part of a decision that applies to all “salaried officers of the commonwealth.”

The debate will center on whether it is a reduction of pay if the increase hasn’t yet taken effect.

“The constitution says you cannot reduce the (compensation) of the judiciary,” Robert C. Jubelirer, R-Altoona, the Senate president pro tempore, told The Associated Press. “The reason being so the General Assembly can’t blackmail the judiciary; otherwise, we could cut their salaries every time we disagree with them.”

Across the hall, the House version contained language that would make the bill “nonseverable.” That would mean a successful legal challenge to one part – say, the judicial salaries – would invalidate the entire law and reinstate all pay raises, according to the AP.

So the first question is: Did your legislators approve a bill to appease your anger, figuring it could never pass constitutional muster?

If they did, such a ruse would be more despicable than approving the pay raises in the first place.

The next question is: If the repeal goes through and the raises are withdrawn, will you feel any less angry about your state government?

In other words, would that be enough to head off an uprising at the polls on Tuesday in the retention vote for the state courts, or in elections for the state Senate and House in 2006?

“The electorate was upset about more than just unvouchered expenses,” state Sen. Sean Logan, a Monroeville Democrat who sponsored the Senate bill, said of how lawmakers skirted the constitution to accept the raises early.

“Pennsylvania citizens opposed the entire pay raise. I think the will of the people has been expressed so strongly on this matter that we, as their elected representatives, had to respond.”

They responded, sort of.

But we fear the response may be negated.

We also fear that this attempt to repeal the raises – whether it goes through or not – may serve the lawmakers’ hopes that voters will not remember the initial action when it matters: When they vote.

In an e-mailed news release, PACleanSweep told voters: “Do not relent. Do not rest. Do not forget.”

Your lawmakers are betting that you will.

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