We need to work on and fix the health care system

Article posted on April 30, 2008

I’m glad to be back home after three days in Harrisburg. We did pass SB 1063 today, the bill that would combine earned income tax collection into county-wide collectors with the exception of Allegheny County, which got special treatment. We had a Policy Committee hearing today on the affordability of health care. It was a very informative hearing and laid out a lot of the facts that I have been talking about for a long time. Tort reform, eliminating mandates on insurance companies and allowing insurance companies to truly underwrite their risks were just a few of the recurring themes discussed today by most of the presenters. We need to work on and fix the health care system, the proposals discussed by this administration, won’t do that. I hope that many in the legislature were paying attention today.

– John

SB 1063 amendments

Article posted on April 29, 2008

I had a pretty open schedule today but had several people drop in to see me and things filled up quickly. I did get some things done but had a busy day on the floor and in caucus. We worked through a large number of amendments to Senate Bill 1063 today. There was an “omnibus” amendment (which means that several issues were addressed collectively by that one amendment) that passed and then a number of carve out amendments that didn’t, with one exception. The carve out amendments wanted to exempt certain counties from this bill and, or provide special circumstances for a certain city or county. I voted against all of the carve outs but one did pass, which set up special rules for Allegheny County. In case you haven’t noticed in the past, there are a lot of special rules for Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties in a lot of areas. Another exemption was done for them today. The bill, as amended, goes to the floor of the Senate tomorrow and is expected to pass. Pennsylvania will be a better place to do business if this bill becomes law.

– John

Consolidated tax collection

Article posted on April 28, 2008

I’m back at the capitol and hope to get some things done this evening. I did go through a little paperwork today on the floor of the Senate, in between bills, and some tonight. I get caught up with impromptu meetings and dealing with staff so I don’t get things done as planned, but try to plow ahead as best I can. I have a reception tonight, just one, with the Pennsylvania Rural Leadership Program. I haven’t gone to an event of theirs before so I am not sure what to expect, we’ll see. We are moving some legislation this week, most notably Senate Bill 1063. This bill would change the earned income tax collection to one collector per county. Pennsylvania has well over 2,000 collection points; the state with the next closest number is Ohio with about 600. We are reported to be loosing millions of tax dollars from missed collections and high overhead. Pennsylvania needs sweeping changes to make our government more efficient. This is a significant change and one that should help.

– John

Running and Boy Scouts

Article posted on April 27, 2008

I ran 6 miles this morning before church. I have managed to keep my schedule of 22 miles per week for about two years now. When I trained for marathons I would run that much in a day and often feel like I should go longer when I have a little extra time. My 22 mile rule has kept my time commitment to running in check, I have too much else to do. I worked in the office for a few hours and tried to mow my yard for the first time this year. I didn’t quite finish before I had to leave for a Boy Scout dinner where I was the speaker and Charlotte was the emcee. The Scouts are a great program for our youth, I was a Scout and never forgot what the program stands for and teaches still today. I do a lot of Scout events and will continue to do them. The Scouting program has a history of producing the next generation of leaders. I’m glad to help where I can.

– John

More on leasing the Turnpike

Article posted on April 26, 2008

I left the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference this morning in Harrisburg and took the Turnpike to Everett where I was in the parade for the first day of Little League season then threw out the first pitch. They have a pretty big organization in Everett with Tee Ball, Coach Pitch, Minor and Major Leagues and girls’ softball. I talked to a few Turnpike workers who are concerned about the potential lease of the Turnpike. My position on this issue has been consistent; I am open to looking at a proposal to lease the Turnpike. I can’t believe that any elected official would be closed minded enough to not at least look at a proposal, but I know some who are. If the proposal isn’t a good one, for any of a variety of reasons, I wouldn’t support it. I offered today to sit down with some of the workers, if they are interested, to talk about the issues. I’m sure that there are good people who work for the Turnpike and perform well; my concern is the overall performance of the Turnpike. Anyway, I am anxious to see what the Governor presents on this subject. He has not gone about the proposal process openly and will therefore generate a lot more questions about what he presents. The legislature must have oversight in any decision that is made of this magnitude. Sometimes I wonder what he thinks about.

– John

Pennsylvania Leadership Conference

Article posted on April 25, 2008

I went to the Altoona-Blair County Development Corporation’s annual breakfast this morning; the speaker was DCED Secretary Dennis Yablonsky. It is interesting, with my different approach to economic development, going to an event where you are with folks who want many things to continue as is or almost as is. Certainly not everyone there is of one mind and many do see that things have to change. My goal in Harrisburg is to try to get large directional changes to how we do business. We have seen some changes and some others look like they are on the way, but it is very tough to get the big ones accomplished. Again, many things are tied to making the legislators look good. I went to the capitol this afternoon to get some things caught up and am headed to the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference tonight. I am looking forward to meeting with conservative leaders from across the Commonwealth and discussing the issues of the day. This conference is a breath of fresh air and I look forward to it every year.

– John

A hard look at the Turnpike Commission is in order

Article posted on April 24, 2008

I had what most people would term a very interesting day. I went on a tour of SCI Smithfield this morning, went to lunch with a county official, took a tour of a local paper mill with the Secretary of DCED and had a town hall meeting. A small group of Turnpike Commission employees showed up at the town hall meeting to ask about my views on the potential lease of the turnpike. I have always been open to looking at a proposal on this and they didn’t want to hear that. Most people are open to looking at leasing from this district, but not the employees. A hard look at the Turnpike Commission from top to bottom is in order. What an inefficient and wasteful organization.

– John

Changes are a no brainer

Article posted on April 23, 2008

I tried to get some things done today but had appointments that took most of my time. I got to an opening of a facility in Altoona that, on top of some other uses, is a place for families to go when they have lost a family member. They said today that 1 in 20 school children will loose a parent before they graduate from high school. A lot of people don’t have extended families close or are as connected to neighbors or their church as they were years ago. This new operation by Home Nursing Agency is a place that can help. I am slowly but surely explaining my views to the business people in this district concerning the shortcomings of the general direction of the state’s economic development programs. The cardboard check situation got everyone’s attention, it seems. Some people are concerned about getting their dollars first and good government second (maybe third or fourth), but most people do agree with my philosophy on this subject. Given Pennsylvania’s economic rankings, changes are not only needed, they are a no brainer. Then again, a lot of things in Harrisburg are no brainers, but they don’t change.

– John

Election Day

Article posted on April 22, 2008

Our offices were closed today for election day. I went to Lewistown this morning for the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation’s annual meeting. It is tough to represent one township in a county and keep up with the overall economic development picture. There are various relationships and intricacies under the surface that are difficult to keep up with and by not being as involved county-wide, it is even tougher. My son Johnny was home today to vote so I spent a little time with him this afternoon before he hurried back to Virginia. I got to the Tyrone Area Chamber’s annual dinner tonight and had a great time there. Later I am joining Matt Brouillete and Eric Epstein on PCN to discuss some issues. I’m on between 11:00 and midnight; I hope I’m not too tired to handle any tough questions, we’ll see.

– John

Who are you?

Article posted on April 21, 2008

I was in Harrisburg today and got a few things done. I never have time to organize and I am a guy who likes to be organized. I created some files today and got through the waiting paper work. Two groups of 8th grade students from the district were at the capitol today and I had my picture taken with them in the rotunda. The first group was in place early and the tour guide called my office to say that they were there so I went downstairs for the photo. After the picture was taken they asked if I wanted to speak to the kids for a couple of minutes before they started on their tour. I talked to them briefly about the building and then asked them if they had any questions for me. One girl raised her hand and said, “Who are you?” About the time that your ego starts to grow even a little bit, somebody puts you into place.

– John