There’s no excuse for what happened this evening, none

Article posted on June 30, 2012

At this late hour on Saturday, we’re still working on the budget and side agreements thereto.   It looks like we should have everything done, or at least done as well as could be expected given this environment.  There is one exception, however, the bill that addressed charter schools.  It became very evident yesterday that the PA House is controlled by a public sector union.  That’s right, the same House that has a substantial Republican majority is controlled by the PSEA.  The deal on the language in the charter school bill was broken yesterday by the House.  A new deal struck today was broken by the House tonight.  So, the bill that the House/PSEA sent over to the Senate will not receive a vote, leaving this subject for discussion in the fall.  I would urge everyone who is concerned about Pennsylvania’s quality of education and the cost of education in this state to ask House members why they blocked opportunities for kids to attend charter schools.  There’s no excuse for what happened this evening, none.

-John

We’ll know soon if the House honors the deal or caves to a special interest

Article posted on June 29, 2012

We were in session tonight until 8:30 or 9:00.  We were planning to stay later, but another glitch came up, this time with the House.  As has happened before, the House broke a prearranged deal.  And as has happened before, the House backed down to a public sector union.  Tonight’s problem was over language concerning the establishment of charter schools.  The PSEA doesn’t like charters and doesn’t want public school districts to have the authority to create them without going through the existing hoops.  The Senate and the Governor are standing firm (the last I heard), on the agreed upon language, which allowed school districts to more easily authorize charter schools.  We’ll know soon if the House honors the deal or caves to a special interest.

-John

Think of how much better our financials would look now, if we would have followed that philosophy then

Article posted on June 28, 2012

Things finally broke loose tonight.  The appropriations bill that passed the House and the Senate moved the various code bills through committee.  It looks like we should have the budget done on time, my guess is late Saturday morning or early afternoon, that’s a guess.  There are a few wins in the budget and the bills that are going through along beside it.   The biggest victory, and what I believe will be the legacy of Tom Corbett, is the level of spending.  For the second year in a row, the state’s spending has been in line with the rate of inflation or population growth, a fiscal position scoffed at by the previous administration.  When Mike Folmer and I introduced legislation to force this spending cap a few years back, we were roundly criticized, even by some in our own party.  Think of how much better our financials would look now, if we would have followed that philosophy then.

-John

I hope we do at least a little better this year

Article posted on June 27, 2012

We had another light day on the floor, light for this time of year.  We are waiting for the House to move on some legislation and from what I see on PCN tonight, they still haven’t gotten to the key issue.  The projection last week of possibly finishing Thursday is off the table and I don’t know how feasible Friday looks.  Everyone is still saying that we’ll finish on time, which is Saturday at midnight.  Last year, the budget was signed by the Governor at 11:50 PM on the 30th.  I hope we do at least a little better this year.

-John

I was the brunt of many Pop Tart jokes today

Article posted on June 26, 2012

Thanks to last nights traffic problem, I was the brunt of many Pop Tart jokes today.  Of all the cargo that could have been in that truck, strawberry Pop Tarts?  Anyway, there’s a totally different atmosphere at the capitol the week the budget is due.  The deadline of June 30th looms and each hour of each day is viewed as a precious commodity.  There wasn’t much that happened in the Senate today.  The action is scheduled to occur in the House.  If they don’t get the appropriations bill moving tonight, we will be in jeopardy of having a late budget.  Keep your fingers crossed.

-John

It was a bad experience for me, but much worse for the truck driver

Article posted on June 25, 2012

Well, I missed a vote on the Senate floor for the first time today.  I always worried about either breaking down or getting stuck in traffic on my way to session.  I was about 10 miles from the capitol when traffic came to a grinding halt.   There was a major accident about one mile ahead; a truck loaded with Pop Tarts went over an embankment into the Susquehanna River.  Eventually, the road was closed and traffic was funneled onto side roads with no detour signs or direction of any kind.  I asked a local lady how I could get to Harrisburg;  she explained that I needed to backtrack to cross the river in Duncannon then take 11/15 into Camp Hill then back across the river to Harrisburg.  That last 10 miles of my scheduled trip took me 2 and 1/2 hours.  Since the Senate schedule this week is pretty intense, I only missed the role call vote on the journal and was back in time for votes on the bills.  I wasn’t the only member stuck in that mess, two others were in it and one was at the accident scene just after it happened, before the emergency vehicles arrived and therefore, before any traffic delays.  I understand that no one was hurt and that a crane was being brought in to retrieve the wrecked truck.  It was a bad experience for me, but much worse for the truck driver.

-John

This is not the end of the legal battles surrounding this crime, this is the beginning

Article posted on June 24, 2012

Whatever is going on in Harrisburg has been overshadowed by the Jerry Sandusky trial.  I stayed up late Friday night switching through every local and cable news broadcast watching the aftermath of the verdict.  I haven’t spent as much time following the day by day coverage as many people, because of my work, but I heard about it virtually everywhere I went.  The national coverage was more intense than I realized.  Every cable news channel was locked onto this story live on Friday from the announcement of the verdict until the attorneys finished their remarks to the public in front of the court house.  As was noted in a story I read today, this is not the end of the legal battles surrounding this crime, this is the beginning.  With at least two more Penn State employees charged with crimes, rumors of Graham Spanier being investigated and all of the civil law suits to come, this could play out for years.  If the people in charge would have just done what they were supposed to do many years ago, this would be a minor footnote in the history of the university.

-John

Our role is to weigh each claim against the greater good of all citizens in this Commonwealth

Article posted on June 23, 2012

I didn’t see or hear of any news on the budget today.  Tomorrow’s papers will likely be full of speculative opinions on what will or should happen over the next 6 days.  Everyone who is getting funding currently wants that same amount of money or more.  Many of these groups offer reasonable arguments for what they want, some don’t.  Arguments usually fall into two general categories; an argument explaining that for every dollar spent, many more dollars are saved in other areas or made in tax revenue; the other often used argument is that, essentially, the world will fall apart if something isn’t continued as is.  There is usually some degree of truth in everyone’s argument.  Our role is to weigh each claim against the greater good of all citizens in this Commonwealth.  It’s not always easy, but that’s how the collective decision of the General Assembly is formulated.

-John

Unfortunately, many policy changes in this state are done incrementally

Article posted on June 22, 2012

My schedule wasn’t too bad today, so I got caught up and prepared for next week as best I could.  The Senate is scheduled to be in session Monday through Friday with the potential of Saturday.  With responsibilities here in the district, I have a lot of juggling to do.  Details of the budget are starting to become evident.  It looks like a higher limit will be approved for the EITC program and there’s a possibility that another program, similar in nature, will be funded and will do even more to get kids out of failing schools.  If the House can’t muster the courage to vote for a limited voucher alternative in PA, this is the next best thing.  Unfortunately, many policy changes in this state are done incrementally and that’s a big reason we don’t make much progress.  I talk to people daily who witness this and express their frustration with government.  It’s a shame.

-John

Everyone involved should welcome that opportunity

Article posted on June 21, 2012

I did three media interviews today on the budget and the proposed petrochemical tax credit.  There are still details to be worked out, but most of the news reports I saw were positive about getting the deal done.  The old days of late budgets are over for good, I hope.  I met with police and firefighters over the past two days concerning a yet to be introduced bill on Act 111.  This is the law that governs binding arbitration.  These groups do not want the current law reviewed, the cities and other municipalities do.  After two days of hearings on Act 47 (municipal distress) several months ago at the capitol, the chairs of the committees conducting the hearing met to discuss the key issues identified, Act 111 was one of those key issues.  I understand that the municipalities and the unions have different views on the current law, I don’t understand why addressing concerns and modernizing the law should not even be attempted.  Those of us charged with working on this area of government will need to continue this discussion, fairly and honestly.  Everyone involved should welcome that opportunity.

-John