HARRISBURG — In the nation’s largest full-time state Legislature, many lawmakers have second jobs.
The issue of moonlighting by lawmakers has become part of the campaign in the race to fill the vacant 85th District seat in the state House. A special election is being held today to determine who will succeed Fred Keller, the Republican who was elected to Congress in May.
Democratic candidate Dr. Jennifer Rager-Kay is a physician, who has indicated she won’t abandon her medical practice if elected. That decision has been criticized by her Republican opponent, David Rowe, and his supporters.
Rager-Kay would, by no means, be the only lawmaker at the Capitol with more than one job though.
There is nothing in state law that prohibits lawmakers — who receive a base pay of $88,610 — from holding other jobs, said Robert Caruso, executive director of the state Ethics Commission. Most often, lawmakers who have second jobs are also attorneys, he said.
Of the 253 legislators, there are at least 33 attorneys in the General Assembly — 26 in the state House and seven in the state Senate, according to a CNHI review of lawmakers’ personal information descriptions on the Legislature’s web site.
The attorneys in the Legislature include: state Sen. John Gordner, R-Columbia County; state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming County; state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming County; state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County; state Rep. Carl Metzgar, R-Somerset County; and state Rep. Tedd Nesbit, R-Mercer County.
Legislators file statements of financial interest in which they are required to disclose where they are employed and whether they have any other business interest for which they get more than $1,300 a year.
Lawmakers are required to disclose their employment to illustrate potential conflicts of interest, Caruso said. Lawmakers are not required to disclose how many hours they work outside their elected positions or how much they earn doing so, he said.
Those financial interest statements show that other lawmakers hold side jobs, as well.
State Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland County, is one-third owner of catering and restaurant businesses in Shamokin and Paxinos, according to the disclosure statements. State Rep. Carl Metzgar, R-Somerset County, disclosed that in addition to his law firm, he also operates Metzgar Cattle Co. State Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette County, is president of Stefano Printing Co., according to his financial disclosures.
Elsewhere in the state, Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon County, owns a recording studio, according to his disclosure statements. State Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill County, is an insurance agent, according to his financial interest statement. State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny County, owns a funeral home, according to his financial interest statements.
Lawmakers contacted for this story said they devote full-time energy toward their elected positions, and only work part-time at their second jobs.
Everett said that before he was elected, he was in a law firm with his predecessor in the state House, Brett Feese. As Feese got busier working as a legislator, Everett picked up more of the legal work, he said. Everett has been in office since 2007. He said that over the years since he was elected to the state House, Everett learned he had less time to devote to legal work, as well. He hasn’t practiced law actively in five years, Everett said.
“I found I couldn’t do a good job for my clients or my constituents” while trying to do both, he said.
Everett said most other lawmakers who moonlight as attorneys are only working part-time in their legal practices.
Masser agreed that working as a legislator leaves little time for other business obligations.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my family,” he said. Masser said the time he devotes to the restaurant business is either early in the morning, late in the evenings or on weekends.
“I definitely am working full-time here at the Capitol,” he said.