Heading back to the district without a budget

Article posted on June 30, 2007

It’s Saturday evening and I am getting ready to leave Harrisburg. It is a difficult situation. The Senate’s budget has been in the House for 10 days with no action. The Democrats in the House have worked with the Governor to hold up the process. The Governor has not cooperated in the process. His objective is to hold the budget hostage until he gets his new programs. He has not been willing to put the state’s budget first, the state employees first, the state’s obligations in issuing permits, inspecting restaurants and performing needed functions for our economy first, he is selfishly more interested in getting his big government programs. I hope that he changes his mind soon before much damage is done.

– John

A bad bill

Article posted on June 29, 2007

The Senate is now considering a transportation budget that either does or will contain a tax increase. It contains billions in borrowed money and little or no cuts or alternative initiatives. I have been dissapointed with a number of things since coming to the Senate, this is the most disappointing. This bill will pass tomorrow, I’m sure. It won’t have my vote.

– John

Budget in full swing

Article posted on June 28, 2007

I had my son Johnny, my wife Charlotte and my mom, Faye at the capitol today. For regular Eichelblog readers, you know that I was very impressed with a look at the state’s rare book collection, the finest in the world. I was given an opportunity to have my family come in and see it, that’s what they did this morning. They were as impressed as I. We had a very long caucus today, the budget process is in full swing. I think that the Senate’s budget would pass in the House if it comes up for a vote. The problem has been that the Democrats in the House won’t put it up for a vote. If the Senate can put together a transportation package and get it to the House, they will have to do something. When it’s all said and done, the Governor may veto the agreed upon budget and hold out for more, it could be a long couple of weeks. Look out for the transportation bills being discussed, some current and former law makers may be involved in some lucrative deals, some are already.

– John

Calm before the storm

Article posted on June 27, 2007

Had visitors to the Senate today, Charlie States, my District Director was joined by Mike Simon, an intern in our Hollidaysburg office, they came down for the day. Mike is a bright kid who will be a senior at IUP this fall. He has been a great help in the office and has done much more than we expected an intern to tackle. Since he is my first intern, he has set a high standard for the ones to come. Also visiting today was my Legislative Director Jason High’s family. His wife Patty, daughter Jasmine and son Trevor spent most of the day seeing the capitol. It’s always good to see faces from home. We voted on a number of bills today but still nothing about the budget. The schedule was rearranged for tomorrow to give some people the chance to get home tonight and get back tomorrow for a 3:00 start instead of an 11:00 start. I have a meeting at 8:00 and my family coming in later in the morning for an event so I couldn’t leave. I also had too many things on my desk! The Senate is still hopeful that we can get a budget passed, minus a component or two, by Saturday. We should have a pretty good idea by tomorrow night what the House has given us and what to expect. I have learned that the Governor has been AWOL throughout this process. He has been quick to criticize the legislature but absent at the table. I frankly, am surprised at how he has operated and thought better of him before I got my inside view from this office. I should have more to report tomorrow.

– John

Senator focuses on staying in touch

Article posted on June 27, 2007

Freshman state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, feels strongly about privacy.

That’s why, six months into his term, a construction crew has divided his Hollidaysburg office with metal beams.

Wires holding yellow work lights are strung across the room, creating mood lighting in the formerly large, one-room office.

Soon, paint will color the walls, the crew will even the floor and individual offices will take shape.

Eichelberger laughed when he said it’s “pretty rough in there,” and he’s glad he doesn’t work there all the time.

Read the full Altoona Mirror article here.

Lots going on today

Article posted on June 26, 2007

We had a long day on the floor and in caucus and we didn’t do any budget bills today. The smoking ban bill was a difficult bill that has just about everyone upset at this point. No one seems happy about a bill that restricts smoking in some places but has a number of exemptions. I have heard that it is too tough for the House and is too easy for the Governor. We’ll see how it works through the process. We still didn’t do much with the budget today. The education piece is just about ready for a vote, maybe tomorrow. We expect the House to have more to us by Thursday, but that is not guaranteed. Most are projecting that we will be done by Saturday, but again, this is a guess. I had meetings all morning and session all afternoon with a couple of meetings this evening. Tomorrow looks like a lighter schedule so I hope to get caught up on some more paperwork. I have done some over the last couple of days but always have more. The Reverend Paul Johnson, from Altoona gave our invocation today at session. He is a great guy who continues to do a lot for his community. We had a number of kids in today form the American Legion’s Keystone Boys State program. They were all bright, polite and inquisitive. I’m going to try to beat the cleaning lady out of the office tonight.

– John

My first bill through the Senate

Article posted on June 25, 2007

I got my first bill through the Senate today. It went without much fanfare, no fanfare actually, had no co-sponsors and did not reflect my noted positions on reforming state government, getting tough on taxes and spending or fighting for an important social issue like the right to life or the protection of marriage. Today’s bill was a technical change to a tax bill that allowed the City of Hazelton to use a half of a percent of their earned income tax to pay for benefits of retirees with a commensurate lowering of a half of a percent from their pension contribution. The bill passed 49 to 0. There was no real celebration in our office, although we were glad it got through. We are working with some members of the House to get it through there this week. Not much happened on the budget in the Senate today, at least with anyone outside of leadership. We discussed some issues and what we thought would happen over the week. I’ll probably know a lot more by Wednesday. The Smoking Ban bill was the biggest issue we faced today and it was a culmination of about 4 months of emails, discussions and visits from people in the District. Various amendments were run today and the winner was an omnibus amendment which included exemptions for bars with certain criteria, casinos, private clubs, cigar bars, cigar fundraisers, nursing homes, residential treatment facilities and tobacco exhibitions. The bill, as amended, will be voted on tomorrow. I think that the bill will pass tomorrow but don’t know what will happen to it in the House. I’d better get to my hotel tonight, the cleaning lady is in the office.

– John

Revitalized for the week ahead

Article posted on June 24, 2007

I heard one of the best sermons I have ever heard this morning at Faith Baptist Church in Altoona. Dr. Ergun Caner, author of 14 books, national commentator and President of Liberty Seminary in Lynchburg VA was the speaker. This man was funny, insightful, extremely bright and had a powerful message. I think the program is available on the churches’ web site: www.fbcaltoona.org, let me know what you think. I hit the office the remainder of the day and am getting prepared for the longest time away since starting in January. Who knows how things will go this week, I’ll do my best to keep my readers updated.
– John

Answering your questions

Article posted on June 23, 2007

Just got back from a pig roast at the Ceasar Battisti Club in Altoona. The people treated Charlotte and I very well. I had a busy day but not with scheduled appointments, other than my men’s fellowship group at 7:00 this morning and the event tonight, I just worked all day. I must have done a hundred emails today and am still behind. Getting this close to the budget means getting emails from many people on many issues. I try to give each person a straight answer. I don’t want people to say, “I got a note back that didn’t really tell me anything”. I have heard that about various politicians over the years and I don’t want it said about me. Sometimes I don’t know anything about what the emailer is requesting and I tell them that I’ll check into something, but generally, I know what someone is asking about and I state my position whether they share that position or not. Most people are pretty good about any disagreement but not everyone. It still surprises me when someone is nasty. I like to think that everyone will be nice, I guess that’s the way I was raised. I still keep going regardless.

– John

The budget could get ugly

Article posted on June 22, 2007

I started and ended the day with public events in Bedford County.  The morning program was about social services including education.  The various participating organizations did an excellent job.  The evening event was the graduation ceremony for the State Police sponsored Camp Cadet.  These 12 to 15 year olds spent the past week at the camp and got a real taste of discipline and structure.  It is an impressive operation.  I discussed, by phone and email, the budget situation with a few other Senators today.  Things have changed since we left the capital on Wednesday and not for the better.  The Governor seems contrary, the House seems crazy and I am still trying to figure out the Senate.  Stay tuned, it could get bloody.

– John