We’ll have to wait and see

Article posted on February 28, 2011

The Acting Budget Secretary spoke at the Pennsylvania Press Club today and didn’t reveal much of anything about what will be released next Tuesday. No one I’ve spoken with in the legislature knows anything more. The new Governor is tight lipped about this so we’ll have to wait and see. The entire General Assembly joined together this afternoon for a symposium on the history of the PA legislature. There were a number of speakers, including former House and Senate members and former members of the Constitutional Convention in the 60’s. One interesting fact that was disclosed concerned the number of PA House members. The two people that were in charge of presenting that information at the Constitutional Convention were up all night working on things and miscounted the number of districts. They were supposed to have 201, but asked for 203, which became the constitutional number. That’s really something.

-John

It was a busy three days

Article posted on February 27, 2011

The Sports Show is over and Charlie States and I are ready for a little rest. It was a busy three days. I don’t know the final gate numbers, but it was a good count. I talked to a lot of people today, but no one issue seemed to stand out. I was asked about the budget, public sector unions, what to expect from the new Governor, pay discrepancies between bargaining unit employees and management at SCI’s and pensions to name a few subjects. It is back to Harrisburg tomorrow with a full schedule there for three days. Maybe I’ll get some sleep at the end of the week.

-John

A record attendance day at the Sports Show

Article posted on February 26, 2011

We might have witnessed a record attendance today at the Sports Show. I was there all day and there was a steady stream of people. I spoke with one long term vendor who said that they had broken their previous Saturday sales record by 3:00. I spoke to hundreds of people and the comments that stood out to me the most were about Marcellus Shale drilling. I heard the pros and cons about how the industry is being handled in PA. I always seem to hear some misinformation and I did my best to correct those inaccuracies. I had to leave this evening to get to the Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission’s dinner at the Bavarian Hall. The Respected Citizen Award went to Tom Bradley from the Altoona Area School District. The speaker was Steelers legend Rocky Bleier. He’s a nice man who has done great things with his life and continues to contribute much to our society today.

-John

“We all have to sacrifice”

Article posted on February 25, 2011

The first day of the Sports Show was a success. The crowd was bigger than expected and we went through a lot of material. The interesting thing for me to is hear from people about what is on their minds. I spoke with people from all over western PA today and heard two main themes, sell the state stores (no one talked to me about not selling them) and repeat, to some degree, what is happening in Wisconsin. I talked to several people today who said that they were private sector union members and didn’t think that their brethren in the public sector should continue to receive the pay and benefits they’re getting in these tough economic times. I heard this phrase over and over again, “we all have to sacrifice”. This tells me a lot.

-John

This site is a vital link to the people I serve

Article posted on February 24, 2011

If you’re reading this Eichelblog post, you know that we have a new website. This site was designed by my friend, Jeff Coleman, at Churchill Strategies in Harrisburg. I may be the only legislator that does not use their caucus’ promotional office to design and administer their web site. I am proud of that and proud of the work Jeff has done on this site. My old format was in place for four years so we were ready for a change. We listened to people who view the site and tried to incorporate as much of that feedback as we could. Since I don’t do a conventional newsletter, this site is a vital link to the people I serve. Let me know what you think.

-John

The feds need reigned in on this quickly

Article posted on February 23, 2011

I spent most of the day in Harrisburg at a meeting for the Local Government Unfunded/Underfunded Mandate Task Force. We met with DEP to make sure that there was nothing we were missing with Chesapeake Bay and storm water requirements coming from their office. They confirmed that what they are forcing on local communities is coming from the EPA. These requirements are doubling or tripling sewage rates in some areas and have prompted the PA Farm Bureau to sue the EPA. There are serious concerns about the long term restrictions on growth, as well. The feds need reigned in on this quickly. As bad as it is, it can get worse. If you don’t have it on your schedule yet, the Jaffa Sports Show is this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We will have our booth just inside the front door as usual. Hope to see you there.

-John

Only eight more to go

Article posted on February 22, 2011

We really got hit with snow over last night. I didn’t measure, but I would guess we had about 10 inches or more. My only constituent appointment got cancelled this morning because of the weather. The roads actually cleared up quickly and our town hall meeting tonight in Claysburg went on as scheduled. We didn’t have the biggest crowd, but they were nice people concerned about the actions of their government. We talked about the budget, libraries, SB 1 (the school voucher bill), welfare abuse, downsizing the legislature and other issues. This was my first town hall of 2011, only eight more to go.

-John

It is a very unfortunate set of circumstances

Article posted on February 21, 2011

The office was closed today in observance of Presidents Day. There wasn’t much news either. The Senator Jane Orie trial was in session, however, despite the holiday. The prosecution was still presenting their case today. I had heard that they would wrap up at the end of last week, but the witnesses keep coming. Mostly former staffers to the Senator who testify about the political activity in the office. I don’t know everything the defense has to offer when they get their turn, but it appears to me that it will be difficult to rebut what the prosecution has presented. They certainly made a case that political activity was not done on an isolated or occasional basis, that it was going on for years and included all facets of campaigning such as fund raising, calling voters, handing out materials, etc. Everyone in Harrisburg will be watching the remainder of the trial. It is a very unfortunate set of circumstances for many reasons.

-John

There is always a new angle you never see coming

Article posted on February 20, 2011

There was an interesting story in the Harrisburg Patriot today about paying bonuses to legislative staffers. After all of the attention “Bonusgate” received, I really doubt if anyone is paying their staff a bonus with public money. However, the new twist described in the article is paying the bonuses with campaign funds. This appears to be legal if they are paid for campaign work done outside of work time and outside of the office confines. Two of the legislators questioned about paying their staff said that their payments are given at Christmas as a bonus for good constituent service. Payments of this nature don’t pass the smell test in any event, but paying for good constituent service is really tough to understand. First of all, the staff is well paid to provide good constituent service already. Secondly, campaign funds are to be used, under the law, to advance your campaign, not to be given away to House or Senate staffers for a Christmas gift. This is an example of why you never get too far ahead of the shenanigans in Harrisburg. There is always a new angle you never see coming.

-John

Sometimes what goes on off the floor gets the most attention

Article posted on February 19, 2011

I had a lot going on today and can say that it was one of the most productive Saturdays that I’ve had for a while. I need one of those now and then. On top of all of the usual work this past week, the conversations among members and staff in Harrisburg was about the Senator Jane Orie trial, the aftermath of Super Bowl trips by legislators and proposed changes to the Senate rules. Sometimes what goes on off the floor gets the most attention.

-John