Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "The Contemporary Pennsylvania Legislature"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "The Contemporary Pennsylvania Legislature"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

It has been a quarter century since anyone has researched and written about the Pennsylvania legislature, according to "The Contemporary Pennsylvania Legislature." Fortunately, author John J. Kennedy has responded to the screaming demand for such a book by writing this. Since a few "D"Tails readers have an interest in the subject, this book may prove worthwhile.

The book is slightly dated, as it examines data based on surveys of legislators and legislative candidates from 1993-1994. Fortunately, these years were the last glory years of the legislature when the House was in Democratic control. The legislature has gone steadily downhill since the time evaluated by this book.

An interesting observation the author makes is how the legislature has become more ideologically divisive. In previous studies from the 1950s, legislative elections were fought over few issues and legislative matters seldom reached "liberal/conservative" perspective splits. Today, legislative matters are considered far more partisan.

The book provides a historical basis for our current legislature. The Pennsylvania legislature, which began in 1682, is our planet’s oldest legislative body. We then learn about the composition of past legislatures, in terms of qualities such as political party (too many Republicans), educational achievement (the legislature has become a smarter crowd over the years), and occupation (fewer lawyers lately). Readers further learn about the importance of political party organizations in legislative campaigns (they’re important), how legislators spend their time (mostly on constituent matters), and how most legislators think (moderately conservative.)

A critical change in recent decades has been the increased professionalism of the legislature as more of us critically important staff have been hired to assist operating what once was a part-time body into a full-time operation. Interesting, the composition of the legislature in terms of race and gender varied little during this change.

Students of Pennsylvania politics, legislative systems, and those learning how our collective bosses filled out their surveys will find this book very interesting.


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