Nearly a year ago, I was honored to have been named the first chairman of the newly formed House Government Oversight Committee. As someone who has long espoused the need for greater oversight in state government, this appointment was particularly meaningful to me.
The aim of the committee is rather simple: Using only the facts, examine laws to ensure they are meeting the intent by which they were passed by the General Assembly and signed into law. The thing with facts is they are definite. No matter how much people attempt to alter them, the truth is, the facts can’t be changed.
I believe President John Adams summed it up best when he said: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Adams’ words are words to live by and are fittingly the motto of the committee.
Since the inception of the bi-partisan, nine-member House Government Oversight Committee, we have issued a report on the recently enacted Lobbyist Disclosure Law, Act 2 of 2018
. According to the rules of the committee, only the majority and minority leaders can request an investigation into a certain matter. It was extremely fitting then for Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) to request the committee launch an investigation into his own law, the Lobbying Disclosure Law. I applaud Cutler for being willing to have his own bill scrutinized after the hard work of getting it signed into law.
What the committee found was striking. While the statute, its administration by the Pennsylvania Department of State and enforcement by the State Ethics Commission, the vast majority of principals, lobbying firms and lobbyists diligently follow the law regarding registration and reporting of expenditures, the actual rate of compliance cannot be determined. This is the primarily the result of the way the law is structured and, to a lesser degree, implemented. Changes in the law are needed to enhance its goal of providing the public with an accurate picture of the level of spending to influence decision making by state officials and employees in the legislative and executive branches.
The recommendations made by the committee don’t mean Act 2 of 2018 is a bad bill by any means. Like anything, it can be made better. In this case, the report recommends legislation to require lobbyists be the primary reporters, rather than their employers, to the state. It also recommends doing away with a $300 lobbyist registration fee, which appears to keep some principles from registering with the state. This fee only covers about half the cost to administer the registration program.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to create bills to fix these issues so the public has a clear window into who is lobbying lawmakers in Harrisburg.
In addition to the lobbying disclosure report, the House Government Oversight Committee also released a report on Medicaid provider fraud and improper payments in Pennsylvania. The report found $694.1 million in state funded improper payments and $43.5 million paid for provider preventable conditions, an example of which is the wrong surgery being performed on a patient. The Republican members of the committee had also penned a letter to the State Inspector General’s Office requesting an investigation into how certain County Assistance Offices have enrolled individuals who are income noneligible into the Medicaid expansion program. These examples of government waste and potential fraud are inexcusable and need corrected. As chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, I look forward to working toward real solutions to this very serious problem.
Another key component of the committee is transparency. Being transparent and open is one the principles that guides me as a state representative. With this in mind, I had created on my website, RepGrove.com
, a page dedicated solely to the House Government Oversight Committee. On this page, you will find the reports I mentioned, as well as all news releases and other information about the committee. I urge you to check it out to learn more about our work.
With the second half of the 2019-20 session about to get underway, I remain at the ready to investigate matters to come before the committee. The General Assembly has taken great strides, particularly this year, to pass laws to improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians. It would be irresponsible of us if we didn’t follow up to ensure the laws are actually doing what they intend to do.
Representative Seth Grove
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross