Roll call: Several lawmakers absent for budget bill votes

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It is often said that the only constitutionally mandated duty of lawmakers is to pass a budget. But in reality, and individually, they don’t really have to do that, either.

Last week was arguably the most important week of the year in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

“Any time you do the budget, it’s a significant week in Harrisburg,” said Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), the minority chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

But it was also the most significant week in decades for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A lifelong fan, Rep. Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland) just had to be there for the team’s first World Series appearance in 29 years.

Rothman took his son to games one and two.

And he missed voting yes or no on the state budget.

Rothman was marked E on the voting sheet for an excused absence. There were, on average, 18 E’s on the budget-related bills.

In a statement, Rothman said he regrets missing the vote.

To be fair, the House initially canceled the voting session for last week. Rothman went to Los Angeles to watch baseball and make a family memory. The House then decided to throw a curveball and have the session and vote the budget. Rothman notes that his attendance rate is 96 percent, missing just seven of 176 days.

Then, there’s Rep. Kevin Haggerty (D-Lackawanna) who left Harrisburg in early July and hasn’t returned since. He continues to collect his $86,479 a year salary. In a statement, Haggerty admits staying away from the Capitol and says he’s doing it for the good of his family. His statement read in part:

“I am a dad with young kids, going through a public divorce, but none of this changes my first responsibility to help ensure their wellbeing. My staff and I never miss a day of work serving the people of our district, but because of the many concerns I still have for my young kids, my presence in their young lives is critical.”

“I don’t think the gentleman (Haggerty) has strictly violated any of the House rules,” Markosek said.

Not showing up is not a violation for lawmakers. Their only boss is the voters who elect them.

But in 36 years in the legislature, Markosek says he’s never seen anything like Haggerty’s absenteeism.

And in those nearly four decades, Markosek hasn’t missed a single session day.

“My son was born on Christmas Day, so I didn’t miss a day. I had a death in the family at one point in my career, but it was a non-session day, so a little bit of luck. Knock on wood and thank God I’ve been healthy, but I also have put off a lot of other life events because I knew we were going to be in session.”

None of the votes on the various budget-related bills were close, so the absentees didn’t materially affect the outcome.

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