It was an honor for me to be with them

Article posted on October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween everyone. I hope that your day wasn’t too scary. After my men’s fellowship group this morning, I worked, in between the rain drops, at home on trim work around exterior doors. I got two out of three almost finished. Charlotte and I traveled to Gettysburg late this afternoon for the VFW State Commander’s Testimonial Banquet. The new State Commander is Frank Mills from Huntingdon County. It is a privilege to have a person in this position from our area. The banquet was in part a roast. These guys had some good stories and I couldn’t tell which ones were true and which weren’t. When they started their remarks by saying, “what happens in New York stays in New York, but . . .” One former Navy Captain did a card trick to illustrate his point and we had a presentation from an “Amish farmer” who had lots of stories. It was a great group of people who have served our country with honor. It was an honor for me to be with them.

– John

I’ll have more to say as things unfold

Article posted on October 29, 2009

I went to a groundbreaking ceremony this morning in Altoona for McIntyre’s Candies. This company is building a new store and manufacturing facility along 6th Ave. that should be open by next spring. After the ceremony, there was plenty of chocolate for the guests. It was a little early in the day for me to eat candy, but I forced myself. I got caught up a little today in the office and understand that we won’t be back in Harrisburg for another couple of weeks so my schedule is filling up with things in the district. The Turnpike Commission has been in the news of late for two things, re-filing their application with the federal DOT to toll I-80 and their ongoing corruption probe. Neither of these stories are good for the people of Pennsylvania and I’ll have more to say about both as things unfold.

– John

It’s economic reality

Article posted on October 29, 2009

This evening I attended a reception in Huntingdon for a new minister at the Episcopal Church. It was a nice affair with a lot of people and very good food. They told me that Episcopalians like to eat, I thought that the Brethren were the only ones that said that. I attended a Local Economic Activity Discussion or LEAD meeting in Huntingdon County following the reception. We reviewed some interesting issues including the culture of spending in today’s society, not only individually, but as government entities and organizations. People have become accustomed to getting lots of money for their needs and ,or wants. With the economic downturn and a harder look at each budget line, people are getting less and will probably get less for a while, maybe for good. This will take some getting used to by many in our state. It’s economic reality.

– John

All of the balls are in their court

Article posted on October 28, 2009

I did a couple of media interviews today and some paperwork. There is a lot of illness going around and our office has been hit with it in various forms. There wasn’t much in the news over the weekend or for the first part of this week. There are a lot of state-wide judicial election stories out there and a new poll was done by Franklin and Marshall College on the popularity of the Governor, the legislature, etc. I don’t take much stock in the F & M polling but I do agree that after this budget fiasco, no institution in Harrisburg looks good. We got word today that the House is supposed to come back into session on November 9th to tackle the remaining pieces of the budget. They have a lot to do and we in the Senate are anxious to see what they get done when they return. All of the balls are in their court, in fact, they have been for a while.

– John

It is good to be normal again

Article posted on October 27, 2009

I receive a lot of emails each day. For months now, the vast majority of them were about the budget. Most were from individuals who worked with a program that received state funding. Originally, the message was that of advocacy for increases in the budget line(s) they received funding from. Then, when reality set in this year, some emails just wanted anything, since many of the budget lines were to be zeroed out. As time went on, in addition to these messages, many people asked for the legislature and governor to get the budget finished. Some people were stretched so thin that they couldn’t hold on much longer, in fact, some businesses did close. Now, I am back to my usual emails. These often ask for help with a problem or express an opinion on legislation. There is a general feeling of normalcy with my schedule and my emails these days. Although the budget is still not completely done, what most are concerned about is in place. It is good to be normal again, well, as normal as it gets.

– John

Things can’t continue going in this direction

Article posted on October 26, 2009

I traveled to Harrisburg this morning for a Governor’s Advisory Board on Probation meeting. I represent the Senate on the board and find this work interesting. I was heavily involved with the entire courts and corrections system as a county commissioner. Corrections expenses are going to be one of the biggest issues discussed over the next year. Our prison population and costs are going through the roof. There may be a push next year for changes on mandatory prison sentences and expanded parole opportunities. Pennsylvania is now housing prisoners in county jails and in other states. Things can’t continue going in this direction.

– John

Everyone needs to do that sometimes

Article posted on October 25, 2009

Charlotte and I attended a reception this afternoon at Penn State Altoona’s Downtown Center. This past week has been a celebration of the campus’ 70th anniversary. Tonight is the final celebration, a Doobie Brothers concert and Charlotte and I are there. I am doing my blog post from my Blackberry high atop the crowd in the last row of seats at the Jaffa Mosque. These guys are great. Two drum sets, three lead/acoustic guitars plus a bass, a keyboard player and a sax. Their old songs sound like the album cuts. They have some new stuff that’s really good and is well received by the crowd. The crowd was sold out, by the way. I loved this group, growing up in the 70’s, and it’s good to relax and remember. Everyone needs to do that sometimes.

– John

That’s the way it goes these days

Article posted on October 24, 2009

I had a busy Saturday. It started with a race this morning in Bedford. It was a 5K in the rain. We had heavy rain off and on all morning, mostly on. Runners often make excuses for a not-so-good time, I might fall into that mode occasionally, but today I had a really good excuse. My time was 22:39 in the rain on a hilly course, and furthermore, for the first time in my memory ever in a race, my left shoe came untied about a mile into the race and I had to stop and tie it, then about a ½ mile later, my right shoe came untied and I stopped again. I came in fifth or six overall and second in my age group, but I was third overall when my first shoe laces went. Anyway, I went to a gun raffle this afternoon and an Eagle Scout ceremony in Blairs Mills, Huntingdon County tonight. I have a pretty full day tomorrow as well. That’s the way it goes these days.

– John

The incumbency protection program

Article posted on October 23, 2009

I talked to a constituent today who brought up the issue of downsizing the legislature. In my response to him I explained the broader issue of what the duties of a legislator now include. One of the arguments against downsizing the legislature is that there would be little money saved because the legislator would be replaced by another staffer. The reason there are so many staffers in the legislature, almost 3,000, is because citizens come to legislators to get help on all matters that pertain to state government. Legislative offices have become mini service centers for Penndot, DCED, DEP and just about every other state agency. This is done, at least in part, to endear voters to their legislator for helping them with a drivers license, etc. If the system were changed and legislators primarily focused on legislation, millions would be saved. This kind of change won’t happen overnight, but ideas like this need to be thoroughly debated. I am looking at sponsoring a bill that would be a first step in helping with this portion of “the incumbency protection program”. Stay tuned.

– John

Things will seem like normal before we know it

Article posted on October 22, 2009

I attended the earliest ribbon cutting event in my political career this morning at 8:00. It was at the Roaring Spring Department Store. They had breakfast for everyone and a tour of the newly remodeled store. I had a couple of small projects at home that needed an item or two so I picked them up there. This is the oldest business in Blair County; it is nice to see them moving ahead with a new project. I had a Hollidaysburg Veterans Home Advisory Board meeting this morning and then met with a constituent. Tonight I spoke at a dinner in Huntingdon County. Yesterday a few committee chairs in the Senate shifted because of the resignation of Rob Wonderling a couple of months ago. John Rafferty took Rob’s place as Transportation Committee Chair, John Pippey took John Rafferty’s place as chair of the Law and Justice Committee, Ted Erikson took John Pippey’s place as Policy Committee chair, Pat Vance took Ted Erikson’s place as chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee and Kim Ward took Pat Vance’s place as chair of the Aging and Youth Committee. This is an unusual set of circumstances, but the moves were necessary because of the vacancy. Things will seem like normal before we know it.

– John