I am glad to support the efforts

Article posted on July 31, 2010

I bought a hog this morning at the Bedford County Fair’s Jr. Livestock Auction. I try to go to the 5 auctions of this type in the Senate district each year.  Today was the first of this fair season.  The young lady who auctioned off the animal presented me with a basket of muffins and cookies after she was done showing her two pigs.  This was her last 4H auction having just graduated from Chestnut Ridge High School.  Her sister also introduced herself and we had a lengthy conversation about their futures and the future of agriculture.  They were bright, polite and obviously hard working young women.  They are great examples of the kids that go through these 4H animal programs.  I was glad to support the efforts.

-John

A novel idea

Article posted on July 30, 2010

I spent the entire day in Bedford. I attended the quarterly Southern Alleghenies RC&D meeting then hit the Bedford office for a minute then did my annual tour of the Bedford County Fair. We went over a fairly new agriculture concept today at the meeting, having outsiders buy into a vegetable patch. Some farmers are planting vegetables for people who pay fees to him or her to plant what they want. Sometimes trades are worked out in lieu of cash for weeding or other chores. The farmer makes money and the buyers get the fresh veggies they want. With milk prices where they have been, many farmers are looking for additional ways to make a dollar. This can work for at least some of them. I thought it was a novel idea. I’d try it, if I were a farmer.

-John

A law is to be enforced in its entirety

Article posted on July 29, 2010

I did my every other Thursday radio program this afternoon.  We veered from our scheduled topic to discuss the federal court’s stay of Arizona’s illegal emigration law.  This decision and the President’s position pose significant threats to our current balance of power as we know it.  Not only are state’s rights threatened and the courts acting beyond their constitutional boundaries, the question is raised about the administration enforcing only the parts of laws they want to enforce.  A federal law, state law or local ordinance is the law.    A law is to be enforced in its entirety, it is not the role of any executive official to hand pick laws or segments of laws that are to be enforced and purposely not enforce others.  This is what is happening in this situation and that is scary.

-John

Way to go John!

Article posted on July 28, 2010

The Senate Transportation Committee held another hearing today.  This time the subject was the PA Turnpike.  The biggest news appears to be the discovery of a previously unknown perk to Turnpike employees, the use of the highway for free.  Employees are either issued an EZ Pass or flash their Turnpike ID card to ride without paying a toll.  I don’t think the members of the committee were upset about employees going to and from work stations, the concern was about personal use.  The Turnpike official explained that the employees are not permitted to use this privilege for other than official business, but admitted that there was no tracking system to check on the usage.  This reminds me of the bill we recently passed requiring tracking of state vehicles because there were stories of people going to the beach on vacation, etc. with a state car.  Senator John Rafferty told the Turnpike to fix the problem or the legislature will fix it for you.  Way to go John!

-John

That’s the Governor

Article posted on July 27, 2010

The Governor is finally saying publicly that he doesn’t think the $850 million of federal money is coming. He scheduled a meeting with the leadership of the General Assembly for Monday to go over the options. Of course, the Senate wanted the options before the budget was passed, but that’s the Governor. At least, it appears the legislature will have input into what happens. Don’t rule out a stance from the Governor where he holds out for tax increases and blames the legislature for not cooperating. I know this doesn’t make sense, and he knew the risk when he insisted that the money be included in the budget before the federal allocation was approved by Congress, but again, that’s the Governor.

-John

I hope common sense can prevail

Article posted on July 26, 2010

I’ve met with several constituents lately who’ve been upset about Pennsylvania’s divorce, custody and child support laws. This broad issue has been on my priority list since coming to the Senate, but I have not yet pursued drafting legislation. I am planning to tackle this problem soon. Most everyone agrees that the current laws are unfair, reward (or at least, do not punish) bad behavior, are costly for those involved, take forever through the courts, and are administered differently from judge to judge. There appears to be no penalties at all for breaking the marriage contract. In fact, some people break it and receive more expendable money while single or as a single parent. Putting aside abusive or other mitigating situations, a party in a marriage can certainly decide to change his or her life, but why should the other party be penalized? Common sense says that these rules should change. I hope common sense can prevail.

-John

“The Angel Lady”

Article posted on July 25, 2010

There wasn’t much in the papers today. The Tribune Review had a cartoon about Senator Jane Orie and her sisters. If you didn’t catch the latest story about her legal problems, she along with her sister and Supreme Court Justice Joan, apparently emailed a woman from the Philly area who claims to speak with spirits on behalf of her customers. She is called, “the Angel Lady”. According to published reports, Jane and Joan asked “the Angel Lady” to find out, i.e. ask the spirits, about how a meeting would go between the Allegheny County DA and a union leader. The meeting was allegedly concerning a decision about whether or not the DA should pursue his investigation against the Ories. You can’t make this stuff up.

-John

That’s leadership?

Article posted on July 24, 2010

I’ve spent part of the week at odds with the Governor and other liberal interests. I could list other issues if I had more room, these guys never quit. A major change of direction by the Governor was announced this week. In response to continuing questions about what would be cut in the budget if the $850 million from the feds doesn’t come in, he said, for the first time, that the legislature should raise taxes to make up the difference. After weeks of budget negotiations, including many discussions about the improbability of the federal funds being approved and if the legislature would have any input regarding specific cuts, he comes out with this. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. He should have made cuts to the budgets during the past couple of years to avoid the large year-end deficits we’ve had. He didn’t do it then, and I guess he’s trying to wiggle out of it now. That’s leadership?

-John

The changes effect both major pension plans

Article posted on July 23, 2010

I appeared in an Altoona Mirror story about the pension funding issue today. Unfortunately, the story just focused on the school pension program. I immediately got an email from a teacher who said that if I am proposing changing their system, I should change it for state employees and the legislature.  As any regular Eichelblog reader knows, the plan changes would effect both major plans, in fact, I would like to see this change made to all municipal plans as well. I did email the teacher back with my position and hopefully, all is well with the world. I hope. 

-John

Another issue that should wait

Article posted on July 22, 2010

I’ve been doing media interviews the past couple of days on the state’s various financial problems. Today I got a call on comments Tom Corbett made regarding the pension crises. He said something about not being able to afford the current system, but evidently was short on specifics. I gave the reporter more detail about the possible solutions and what the discussions have been in the legislature. I am a proponent of establishing a defined contribution plan for all new enrollees. The current system can’t be sustained and the minor changes proposed in the current House bill are not sufficient. This is another issue that should wait until we have a new administration. This Governor should not make this long term decision on his way out the door.

-John