Dan the Man

Article posted on February 29, 2008

My day wasn’t quite as hectic as yesterday so I got more than the usual paperwork done but still not enough.  I read to the St. John’s School in Lakemont this morning.  They had all of the students in the gym and I read a couple of books, Dr. Seuss, of course and a book written about a former intern in our office, Dan Burkhart.  The schools and the kids always love the book about Dan.  Dan was born with his legs paralyzed and eventually had them amputated.  He was alone at home when he was 9 years old and his house caught on fire.  He managed to get out with his dogs.  His story was included in a series about children with courage.  Today, Dan is a senior at Penn State and a great young man.  He just helped us out with the Sports Show last weekend.  The kids today were great as were the teachers and administration.  My neighbor, Gretchen Robison teaches at that school and asked me to come.  I have three schools to visit on Monday, it’s Read Across America time.  By the way, I enjoyed my time at the Hollidaysburg Library last evening.  We had about 20 people and they had a lot of questions.  You just can’t beat the face to face access to people, that’s how you really know what’s on their minds.

– John

My upcoming townhall meeting

Article posted on February 28, 2008

I have been scheduled all day since 8:00 this morning and am about to go to the Hollidaysburg Library for a public forum and then do a radio program in Philadelphia at 9:00.  We got word today that an environmental group called Penn Future wants to attend our Town Hall meeting in Tyrone next week.  We saw an email they sent out that said that I had organized this Town Hall Meeting on Wind Energy, they are incorrect.  This is not a meeting restricted to “wind energy” or any other subject.  We contacted their office today to politely explain what the Town Hall is about and were told that they might attend anyway.   I don’t mind people attending these meetings from outside of the area but hope that they respect the fact that the meetings are held for the constituents of the 30th Senatorial District.  This is one way that I get information from the people I represent and is a way to provide my constituents with information about what I am doing and why.  Again, I hope that anyone who attends is respectful of everyone else’s time.

– John

The fallacies of current ethanol production

Article posted on February 27, 2008

It’s cold and getting colder tonight.  I got the oil changed in my truck today, it was a little past due.  Tonight I went to an event for the employees of New Enterprise Stone and Lime Company at the Blair County Convention Center.  The people were friendly and the information was interesting.  Later I attended the Bedford/Blair Crop Management Association’s annual banquet.  The speakers were great.  We had a Deputy Secretary of Ag and an economist from Penn State.  The economist really laid out the fallacies of current ethanol production.  He called it “feel good” science, sounds like something I have said on many occasions.  He is also projecting that the current methods will change soon, maybe in two to five years.  My question has been, with discussions and, or projections like this, why would the government fund millions of dollars of current technology facilities?  I don’t know either.

– John

Asking the right questions

Article posted on February 26, 2008

I got to speak this morning at an open house for the Huntingdon County “Base Service Unit” operated by Meadows Universal Community Behavioral Health. These are the folks who do admissions screening and monitoring for the mental health, mental retardation and early developmentally challenged people in Huntingdon County. They also provide some emergency mental health help in that community. I enjoyed my stay and tour of their facility. I worked the remainder of the day on paperwork, emails and telephone calls. A read a few reports about some of the Senate Appropriations Committee hearings and see that at least a few of the Republicans are asking the right questions to the Budget Secretary and others. One of the problems with the budget process is that the legislature can’t trust the information we receive from the administration. It’s pretty tough to figure out what to do when you aren’t sure what you are to start with.

– John

A busy day

Article posted on February 25, 2008

As I said yesterday, I have a busy week.  I had several constituent meetings today and other discussions with folks by phone or in person.  I needed to get out some paperwork and accomplished only some of that.  I also got hit with plenty of emails that I am still trying to answer as best I can.  I did a newspaper interview this afternoon with a Philadelphia paper on a bill that Senator Shirley Kitchen introduced which would prohibit the use of inflammatory or insightful symbols, most notably, nooses used intentionally to offend or scare someone.  I can’t see this bill withstanding a 1st Amendment legal challenge and I think that we should move the societal debate past the kinds of issues that could potentially bring more attention to misguided individuals who would use something like this.  We shall see if this bill has any momentum. 

– John

Another Jaffa Sports Show under the belt

Article posted on February 24, 2008

We finished our weekend at the Jaffa Mosque Sports Show in Altoona.  I talked to a lot of people again today about a myriad of issues ranging from the Chesapeake Bay program to DEP problems to liquor licenses to the economy to state game lands to federal boat laws to the Presidential election to naming a state mushroom and many, many others.  This opportunity to see thousands of people is great for any elected official.  You really find out what is on people’s minds at a show like this.  I did get to church this morning and ran 6 miles earlier this morning.  I hit the office for a while but will not be as caught up, and I use this term loosely, this week because I had fewer hours at the office on Saturday and Sunday.   I have a busy schedule this week with a lot of public events, speeches, reading to students and meetings.  With weeks like this, you just hang on and show up where you are supposed to.

– John

Pat gets it, and so do I

Article posted on February 23, 2008

What a day.  After my men’s fellowship I went to the office for a little while then to the Jaffa Mosque for the Sports Show.  We have a booth there for the three day event and I am at the booth for most of the three days.  This is a great opportunity for me to talk to hundreds of people about whatever they want to talk about, answer a lot of questions or make arrangements for them to see someone from my staff to get the help they need.  I thought this event was worthwhile last year and was glad to do it again in ’08.  I had a dinner tonight in McConnellsburg and spent some time with Pat Toomey.  Pat is the conscience of the conservative economic movement.  He has recently been one of the three most quoted analysts nationally concerning the GOP Presidential race.  Pat has the ability to understand and communicate economic principles and policies better than just about anyone.  If we could just follow the tested policies of less government and lower taxes in Harrisburg, we could turn Pennsylvania into an economic leader once again.  Our current Governor doesn’t understand this and neither does most of the General Assembly.  Pat gets it, and so do I.

– John

I don’t understand how things like this happen

Article posted on February 22, 2008

I learned today of a letter that went out to lots of people in the northern end of Blair County from the Northern Blair Regional Sewer Authority.  The letter was very inaccurate and has produced calls and letters to our office and to Tyrone Borough.  It stated that the Chesapeake Bay program is a state program and that the state legislature should stop or delay the program.  This is not accurate. The program is a federal mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  PA is one of six states that must comply with this directive.  Another misstatement is that the Tyrone sewer plant is currently in compliance and that the Tyrone Authority should not update their facility.  The Tyrone plant does not meet the new Chesapeake standards and must update their plant by 2010.  The Authority has timelines to file their engineering reports and must follow other necessary steps to be in compliance with DEP and ultimately the feds.  The Authority has no choice.  I sent a letter to the Northern Blair board today explaining their errors and will send letters next week to all of the people who contacted our office explaining that they got bad information and describing the Chesapeake program and requirements.  I don’t understand how things like this happen. 

– John

Policy Committee hearing

Article posted on February 21, 2008

I was at the capitol today for a Policy Committee hearing.  The subject was the Chesapeake Bay situation.  We had the DEP Secretary on the stand and she took some pretty tough questions, some of them from me.  Also attending was the Builders Association, several municipal authorities, the PA Municipal Authorities Association, the EPA and others.  I learned some things from the hearing but learned more afterwards by talking to a Deputy Secretary of DEP.  I picked up some information and had confirmed some things that I had previously thought.  This is a tremendous problem for our Commonwealth and, I believe, the biggest problem facing the 30th District.  There are some things that we are working on but much of this issue should have been addressed long ago.

– John

Concerns about methadone clinic and rehab placement

Article posted on February 20, 2008

Happy birthday Lillie!   Our little pup turns one today and I have a surprise chew toy for her when I get home.  I had a busy day with appointments in the office.  I hope that we can help these folks, sometimes government is just too onerous for people to navigate.  I spent this evening at a meeting in Allegheny Twp., Blair County discussing two potential drug rehab facilities.  Hundreds of people came out to express their disapproval.  I agreed with the concerns expressed; they were legitimate.  The state has an obligation to establish realistic restrictions on the placement and operation of these facilities beyond the health and welfare regs already in place.  I am making it my job to do something about it.

– John