Why Are You Here? A Primer for State Legislators and Citizens

The University Press of America (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield), October 2014

This book is a challenge to America’s 7,382 state legislators and their constituents to examine critically and constructively their state legislature and take appropriate action to improve it. Why Are You Here? is a handbook on how legislatures came to be, how they function and reasons they have fallen in public esteem.  The book provides an analytical discussion for evaluating how any legislature deals with four issues: personal greed at public expense, criminal and ethical scandal, the influence of money in lobbying and campaign contributions, and self-serving legislative seat apportionment.  The last section of the book is a “Legislative Toolbox” that provides information helpful in evaluating legislatures and readings of a patriotic nature that enhance idealism and spirit.

What Others Say of this Book:  

          FLASH. The May 2017 issue of State Legislatures Magazine’s review says the book “provides a concise, yet enduringly rich, source of knowledge and advice for anyone interested in the legislative process.”
          For the complete review click this link.

          “…great and valuable material and message…this should be a must- read’ for anyone who aspires to and achieves legislative office.’”
          -RICHARD STAFFORD, Distinguished Service Professor, Carnegie-Mellon University

          “This book provides a good sense of legislatures and how to get things done, whether you are a member or someone wanting to observe or affect public policy. A nice addition to the literature on state legislatures.”
          -WILLIAM POUND, Executive Director, National Conference of State Legislatures`

          “The League of Women Voters was founded…to engage citizens in the process of self-government by providing precisely the kind of information contained in this primer.”                   
          -ELISABETH MacNAMARA, President, National League of Women Voters

          “… [this book] offers an insightful, lucid and pragmatic primer for those who want to serve in or effectively petition any state legislature. [Kury] is even-handed, appropriately reverent, but also practical, in his approach to public service. Here are the tools, the sources, and the mindset you will need, should you choose to accept this challenge.”
          -State Representative ANDY THOMPSON, Ohio’s 95th District

          “I love the title. Every elected official in the country ought to ask himself that question every morning before going to work.”
          -JOSEPH McLAUGHLIN,  Director, Institute for Public Affairs, Temple University

          “In Why Are You Here? Franklin Kury presents a strong argument for the critical importance of legislators staying grounded in their commitment to public service. State capitols can be bubbles where an artificial community of lobbyists, donors, staff, and legislators come to a cozy set of arrangements and tradeoffs. But every legislator has to remember that the people in the district and the state, and their needs, have to remain the guide star for their activities and decisions. The book is a reminder of that, and will remain timely and helpful as a result.”
          -MILES RAPPAPORT, President, Common Cause, and former legislator and Secretary of State of Connecticut

          "Why Are You Here? A Primer for State Legislatures and Citizens looks deceptively slim at barely over a hundred pages, but its diminutive appearance masks a treasure trove of information on how state legislatures operate that will provide students from high school to college (and the general-interest reading public) with a key to understanding their purpose and function.
          Most political process books are overly complex, mirroring the weight of a political system that tends to bog down from its structure. Not so Why Are You Here?, which pairs analytical discussion with clear explanations of how legislatures handle issues of criminal, personal and ethical scandal, lobbyists and special interest groups, and pressures to perform.
          Citizens and elected officials will find it packed with insights on these demands and how they are (or are not) handled, with discussions including notes and assessments that stem from real-life political encounters, embracing a practical clarify that is simply refreshing to read: "Legislatures, however, are not seminaries. They cannot teach the basic difference between right and wrong. Individual legislators come to the capitol with whatever moral compass they were raised with at home. A state capitol, with all its pressures and temptations, is not the place to learn a moral code of conduct. Rather, the capitol may be the ultimate testing ground for the strength of that code. On this point all legislators must be accountable to themselves and their constituents."
          From monetary expenditures and reapportionment processes to the issues surrounding campaign funding and fairness, the focus on political process and ethical results pinpoint all facets of legislative activity in a manner especially relevant for citizens who envision serving or operating in government and public service sectors.
          Franklin L. Kury served six years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and eight in the state's Senate. Citizens and would-be political figures could ask for no clearer assessment of the ethical and political pressures involved in such service than Why Are You Here?, which should be required reading for any who would enter legislative office and for any high school to college-age student who would better understand its workings."
          -DIANE DONOVAN, Midwest Review, February 2016

How to Buy the Book:

(ISBN 978-0-7618-6462-2 for paperback.)
(ISBN 978-O-7618-6463-9 for the electronic version.)

Rowman & Littlefield (Printer) or 1-800-462-6420, ext. 3024

Amazon (Paperback and Kindle version)

Barnes & Noble (Paperback and Nook version)

You can order bulk copies at a discount by emailing:
(Please be sure to include the title, author, and ISBN along with number of copies being ordered)


Clean Politics, Clean Streams
A Legislative Autobiography

Lehigh University Press, Sept. 2011

The book tells the story of the author’s election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and later the State Senate against an entrenched Republican patronage organization. The only Democrat elected from these districts since the Roosevelt landslide of 1936, Kury was instrumental in enacting Article 1, Section 27, the environmental amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution; a comprehensive clean streams law; the flood plain and storm water management laws; reform of the Senate confirmation procedure for the governor’s nominations and a new public utility code, including a consumer advocate.

          The story draws on the author’s recollections supplemented by his personal files, extensive research in the legislative archives, and conversations with people knowledgeable on the issues.  The book is well documented with notes and appendices of significant documents.   Numerous photographs enhance the text.

          Dramatic News! In its landmark opinion on the environmental rights amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution the state Supreme Court drew on the book Clean Politics, Clean Streams in its opinion that Art. 1, Sec.27 is to be taken as an important constitutional provision. The court cited the book by name on pages 75 and 94 and in several places in between used excerpts from the book and its appendices. Click here to see the court’s opinion.

         The Harrisburg Patriot carried an in depth story of the Environmental Rights Amendment, Kury's role in it, and the Supreme Court decision in the Robinson Township case on Sunday, April 6. The story began on page one and was continued for two full pages at pages 8 and 9. The following links will take you to that story:

Click Here for the Patriot Story

Click here for more about this story

What Others Say of this Book:

          “ intimate and insightful look at the workings of the state legislature, it is much more than a legislative memoir…The author’s lively narrative is engaging and his firsthand account of how and why certain bills passed (or did not pass) is engaging…”
          Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, Winter 2012

          “Regardless of your political views, you will enjoy reading [this] autobiography…This book deserves attention for what it brings to modern Pennsylvania history.”
          Brad Bumsted, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 15, 2012

How to Buy the Book:

(ISBN 978-1-6114-104-6 for paperback.)
(ISBN 978-1-61146-074-2 for the electronic version.)

Rowman & Littlefield (Printer) or 1-800-462-6420, ext. 3024

Amazon (Paperback and Kindle version)

Barnes & Noble (Cloth and Nook version)

You can order bulk copies at a discount by emailing:
(Please be sure to include the title, author, and ISBN along with number of copies being ordered)