I will keep trying

Article posted on March 31, 2008

We’re back in Harrisburg and not much has changed since I left.  The MCare fight doesn’t look like much of a fight at present.  The deadline for us to reauthorize this fund expires tonight and nothing was passed today to save it.  The House Democrats and the Governor killed this vital fund by attaching the mammoth “Cover All Pennsylvanians” program to it.  Something may work out in the future, but for now, the fund is dead.  The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania’s spring conference is in town today for a couple of days and I saw several of our area’s Commissioners tonight.  I also saw a number of Commissioners from around the state that I have known for years and miss seeing regularly.  That is a tough job in anyone’s estimation and it isn’t getting any easier.  I try to stop the unfunded mandates coming from Harrisburg and have stopped some, but I can’t get them all.  Washington sends their share too so their budgets get tighter and taxes often get raised.  We really need a comprehensive tax reform plan in this state.  The most recent “reform” plans passed by the state have just involved school districts and obviously have not worked very well.  I am trying to work through issue with all of the various local government interests but have not gotten as far as I would have liked.  I will keep trying, someone has to.

– John

Freedom of speech at Penn State?

Article posted on March 30, 2008

I had my first race of the year this afternoon, The Ken Brumbaugh Memorial Race.  It is a 5 miler that starts at a park outside of Altoona, goes up to the Horseshoe Curve and back to the park.  I came in third in my age group today with a time of 36:04, not as good as usual.  I got some work done at the office but never enough.  I have a busy schedule in Harrisburg this week and don’t see getting caught up with too many things as a good possibility.  The MCare situation will come to a head tomorrow and the Marriage Protection Amendment is at the forefront after the same-sex ceremonies at Penn State on Saturday.  It was interesting to see the remarks given by a Penn State spokesperson in a Centre Dailey Times article I appeared in on Friday.  The spokesperson said that this decision at Penn State was in accordance with others they have made to invoke discussion and learning and that it is a freedom of speech issue and largely one of approving the actions of an organization on campus.  I wonder how many, if any, denials have been issued by the university regarding conservative speakers or forums for the conservative organizations on campus.  Given the speaker series lists I have seen over the years, I would bet that the decisions have not been balanced.  If anyone knows of anything like this, please let me know.

– John

Wipeout

Article posted on March 29, 2008

I got a lot of paperwork done today after my men’s fellowship.  I went to the Blue Knob Volunteer Fire Company’s annual banquet tonight.  This is a company that is just over 25 years old and has done very well.  I got to present them with a certificate from the State Fire Commissioner for achieving professional standards.  I went to the PRIDE Telethon in Huntingdon this evening.  I played in a trio that did some jazz and played “Wipe Out” by special request.  I had a good time and we raised over 500 dollars for charity, maybe more when it’s all said and done.  Who knows how much we could have raised if we would have practiced more.  It’s a late night but we had some fun.  We might get a video of the show on the web site, we’ll see.

– John

It’s nice when the voices from our district are heard

Article posted on March 28, 2008

This morning I attended an event with the PA Dept. of Aging.  It was at the Raystown Resort and was very well attended.  The Dept. is collecting input from around the state concerning a four year plan for services for the elderly.  It is nice when the voices from our district are heard and I think that the people this morning understood and appreciated that.  I got some work done at the office today and had an eye doctor’s appointment.  I got a new prescription for my contact lenses (I’m getting older).  I will be ending the day at the Precious Life Spring Banquet in Altoona.  I have gone to this dinner for many years and have seen some tremendous speakers there.  This year’s guest speaker is Gianna Jessen, who has been with us once before.  She was the victim of a chemical abortion but survived.  She has had some medical difficulties over the years because of what happened to her but has led a full life.  This dinner, and my conversations afterward, often go late, so I am writing my blog before I leave so that Jason, who posts it on the site for me, can get his beauty sleep tonight.

– John

We are again against the wall with no plan

Article posted on March 27, 2008

The pressure will be on the Senate when we return on Monday concerning the fate of the MCare/Cover All Pennsylvanians bill.  The MCare Fund is set to expire on Monday and the Governor has tied his universal or health care package to the MCare bill.  The Republicans opened the door to the Governor to do this and have talked about it being too expensive and how this fund is not the right vehicle to fund the program.  What we heard precious little of was that we philosophically do not agree with the premise that the government should provide health care to everyone.  Furthermore, this has been an opportunity to bring up the Governor’s short comings on issues like caps on non-economic damages, and joint and several liability.  These are two things that could help our medical system and he doesn’t support them.  Again, we have not addressed the medical issue substantially since I have been in the Senate and we know that this has been a priority for the Governor.  We are again against the wall with no plan and probably not the political will to do the right thing.  I hope that we stay together and say no to CAP but I’m not betting the truck on it.

– John

Big differences between here and there

Article posted on March 26, 2008

I had another busy day.  I had appointments in the Hollidaysburg office and the McConnellsburg office.  It is undeniable that regions of Pennsylvania have distinct differences.  Our area is generally more rural and has problems that are not similar to the south east or Pittsburgh.  I don’t think people from those areas have a good understanding of our issues and unfortunately, the current administration is loaded with people who are not from outside of Philadelphia.  I ended the day in McConnellsburg at a town hall meeting, the subject came up about how different things are here and there.  Although I think that many of the Governor’s people are very capable, I don’t think they are reflective of the people of this state.

– John

The People of Pennsylvania are Watching Us

Article posted on March 25, 2008

I was up and gone early this morning so that I could make a 9:15 appointment in Harrisburg with PCN (Pennsylvania Cable Network).  They have a new show on Sunday evenings at 7:00 and I will be on this Sunday discussing the budget and several bills that I have either sponsored or co-sponsored.  I took care of some errands at the capitol and got some work done there.  I went to the Huntingdon County Chamber’s Business After Hours at Cisney and O’Donnell’s tonight then the Huntingdon County Farm Bureau’s dinner.  I got to see a lot of people at both events.  It still surprises me when I talk to people who pay close attention to what is happening in Harrisburg.  I think that there are many more people paying attention now than before the pay raise vote a couple of years ago.  I wonder how many members of the legislature realize that the people of Pennsylvania are watching us.

– John

Consistency is not something the legislature does well

Article posted on March 24, 2008

I spent most of the day on staff and paperwork. I did do a radio taping on the Marriage Protection Act. A special radio show will air on Thursday evening on three stations around the state; at least some of my comments will be used. I was somewhat surprised to read about the “outrage” from people in the legislature concerning the unchecked spending by our Governor on government contracts without competitive bidding. It’s interesting to me that when I proposed an amendment to just one bill last year that would add competitive bidding, I had little support. In fact, I ended up pulling the amendment at the urging of leadership. Consistency is not something the legislature does well.

– John

Happy Easter

Article posted on March 23, 2008

Happy Easter! I went to a large community church service this morning in Altoona. I have gone to this on Easter Sunday for a number of years and enjoy it. It is sponsored by the First Church of Christ in Altoona and is held at the Roosevelt Jr. High School auditorium. I would guess that about a thousand people were in attendance. As I do on just about every holiday, I went to my mothers for a big meal and saw all of my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. Johnny was there but left late in the afternoon to get back to school, he has a busy day tomorrow. I was right about the newspaper coverage today, not much other than the continual discussion of the Democratic Presidential Primary. I did get a few hours of work in today but am going to spend a little time with Charlotte this evening. I have another whole week where I won’t be home in the evening.

– John

An even more difficult budget this year?

Article posted on March 22, 2008

I got some work done this morning after my men’s fellowship group, The Light House, then went shooting sporting clays with my son Johnny. He is home from college for Easter. We didn’t take Lillie along this time because of the snow that we got last night and this morning. There’s nothing like a wet dog in the back seat of the truck. The state-wide news is still mostly focused on the Democratic Presidential primary and I doubt if there will be much big news breaking over Easter weekend. Things will really start to get compressed when we get back to session. With the election coming up, I would guess that the budget process will be even more disrupted and prolonged than it was last year. Hopefully I will be wrong, but I doubt it.

– John