It’s an honor to serve as their Senator

Article posted on January 31, 2013

I had a bus load of Huntingdon County folks at the capitol all day. Republican County Chairman Arnie McClure called me a little while back and asked if I was interested in hosting, “A Day in the Senate.” It turned out to be a great idea. I lined up four speakers, a nice lunch and a tour of the capitol. We had Senator Mike Waugh talk about agriculture and touch on how the Senate operates, David Taylor, from the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Assoc. (PMA), spoke about the Commonwealth’s business climate and what we can do to improve it (Dave is a Huntingdon County native), Senator Mike Folmer came in to talk reform and education and our last speaker was Michael Greer from the Pennsylvania Family Institute who discussed a few of the social issues facing our society. They all did an exceptional job. The capitol staff that gives the tours does amazing work. They have tremendous knowledge about each painting, light fixture, staircase, etc. I usually meet a group before or after their tour for a photo or to greet them. This is the first time I went along and I’m glad I did. I appreciated having these people take a day to come see their state capitol and learn more about their government. It’s an honor to serve as their Senator.

-John

I don’t think things will be any different with this pot of gold

Article posted on January 30, 2013

The Governor announced his state store privatization plan today. When asked about supporting the system’s privatization over the past couple of years, I’ve said that I will look at three key components of any proposal before signing on. 1. The numbers have to work so that the state isn’t harmed financially. 2. There must be strict accountability measures for retailers who engage in sales to underage or intoxicated customers. 3. There must be an appropriate licensing system so that we don’t have liquor stores on every corner or the wrong people running a liquor store. After reading through the material we received today, it appears that his proposal hits the mark. I don’t have details and I’m sure the language will change somewhat, but so far, it covers all of my initial concerns. I told his staff a while ago that tying the licensing windfall of privatizing liquor stores to money for kids in schools is a mistake, however. I don’t like that message and I saw how the schools blew through the “stimulus money” they received. I don’t think things will be any different with this pot of gold.

-John

I have a feeling that the information provided so far is just the tip of the iceberg

Article posted on January 29, 2013

I am known for starting the “Bonusgate” investigation in Harrisburg. It has come to light that Altoona has its own version of paying generous rewards to employees in the Altoona School District. Thanks to Ryan Beers, President of the School Board, we know that salaries of a select few were bumped up by thousands of dollars with no public process taking place. We now know what people in Harrisburg did to get this money. I’m wondering who received the extra dollars in Altoona and what they did to get it. I would also like to know if these increases jumped up their pensions. The taxpayers deserve to hear the full story about these expenditures of public funds and must hold anyone connected accountable. I have a feeling that the information provided so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

-John

Lillie and Keano will be jealous

Article posted on January 28, 2013

We’re back in Harrisburg. My schedule is pretty full, but it’s been worse. As I said before, we don’t have many bills ready for floor votes at this point in a new session. But, the committee schedule is grinding out legislation and the Governor’s Budget Address is days away, so things will heat up very quickly. A group of Senators was invited to the Governor’s Mansion tonight for a reception and to talk issues. It was a beneficial evening. In addition to the discussions, I got to see the dogs, Harry and Penny. They probably recognized me as an Airedale fan and treated me well. Lillie and Keano will be jealous.

-John

Taxpayers are asking how we can justify these generous plans if they can’t, and there’s no good answer

Article posted on January 27, 2013

There were a few interesting stories in the Sunday papers. I read several about how the Governor’s proposed agenda will be handled between the House and Senate, including a rumor that privatization of the liquor stores could be tied to the transportation package. The Governor’s pension changes appear to be his #1 priority, but are out of step with the thinking of the House and Senate. Tinkering with the current defined benefit plan isn’t real reform. We have to change our system to defined contribution and see an end to the tremendous risk assumed under today’s program. One story talked about the SERS Board investing over $3 Billion in hedge funds over the past few years and the way they did it. Fortunately, the investment netted a 2% gain, a rate below their other investments, and certainly not worth the high risk factor. The private sector has virtually eliminated DB programs because they are unaffordable. Taxpayers are asking how we can justify these generous plans if they can’t, and there’s no good answer.

-John

It’s nice to get a breather

Article posted on January 26, 2013

I don’t have any events this weekend, so I’m getting caught up on some paperwork and trying to get a few things done at home. It’s tough given that I’m essentially down to one hand. I didn’t get back last night from D.C. until after 11:00 and was pretty beat. Standing out in the cold for most of the day zaps the energy out of you. So, I slept in this morning and skipped the Lighthouse. Charlotte and I have a couple of meals planned for the weekend, since we’re cooking for ourselves. We’re having fish tonight and homemade beef vegetable soup tomorrow. It’s nice to get a breather.

-John

Our prayers today are for this slaughter to end

Article posted on January 25, 2013

As I write this I’m on my way back from the 40th Annual March for Life in Washington D.C. I traveled on a bus with nice folks from Huntingdon County. It was a cold day with a little snow, not as much as I understand we have back home. I haven’t seen a crowd estimate for today, but it was noted by many veteran marchers that it was as big as they’ve ever seen, 400,000 plus. It is always an inspirational day in many respects. The speakers before the March are great, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum were there with other leaders on the life issue. But, to me, being with the people who attend is the real blessing. People in wheel chairs, mothers pushing strollers, students of all ages, seasoned citizens, and families marching together. All with the shared hope of erasing the horrors of abortion in our country. Over 55 million abortions have occurred in this nation since 1973. Our prayers today are for this slaughter to end.

-John

These boxes are coming, ready or not

Article posted on January 24, 2013

Boy is it cold. Tonight the forecast is for a low of 3 degrees. I’m headed to Washington D.C. tomorrow and I hope it’s a little warmer there. My trips to Harrisburg often include carrying boxes of materials back to the district office. I didn’t think about the problem my broken hand presented for this task until yesterday. I had help in Harrisburg getting things into the truck and had to rely on Bill Jones, our intern in the Hollidaysburg office, to get the boxes back out. I’ve followed the doctor’s orders so far and don’t want any more problems or delays in the healing process, so I have to be careful. We have a lot of material coming for the Sportsman’s Show at the Jaffa. We go through about a pick-up truck load of material that weekend, so these boxes are coming, ready or not.

-John

It’s an important time in the session

Article posted on January 23, 2013

I’m back from two days in Harrisburg. In the beginning of a new session, there aren’t any bills that have made it through the committee process for a floor vote, so we don’t do much in the chamber. Our time is spent working on legislation, including developing strategies to get bills through the process. Committee chairs are particularly busy trying to establish an agenda for meetings and hearings, which includes prioritizing bills. It’s an important time in the session and most people overlook it because we’re not voting.

-John

I hope that things go better after our hearing

Article posted on January 22, 2013

I had a whirlwind day in Harrisburg. I had a few constituent issues to settle and a lot of planning for the new session plus a media request, session, caucus and meetings. We started this morning with a hearing on the recent prison closings. The objective of the Judiciary Committee was to develop a policy for closings in the future. The collective opinion is that the process should have been far more sympathetic to the workforce, but that the dollar savings justified the changes. I hope that things go better after our hearing for the employees and that future closings are handled differently. The good news for the taxpayers is an expected $35 million in annual savings.

-John