It would be tough to explain why the legislature thinks they know better

Article posted on September 30, 2013

After a packed schedule today, I agreed to participate in a panel discussion tonight in Harrisburg on the legalization of marijuana. There were 6 of us on the panel, State Rep. Mark Cohen, Gubernatorial candidate John Hanger, a local Coroner, a county drug and alcohol administrator, a NORML representative from Philly and me. I had little support for my position on the panel and most of the hundred people in attendance were against my position as well. These folks support a spectrum of changes to state law with the most restrictive being the legalization of marijuana for medical use that is in a form other than smoking to complete legalization of marijuana for any use in any form. There were several personal stories used as examples of marijuana helping children with seizures and other health issues. Parents who have a child who is having 100 seizures a day, are grasping for help, and I can’t blame them. What I didn’t hear, however, was any acknowledgment of the documented problems associated with the use of marijuana and the gateway it often is to other drugs. I don’t see anything changing in the foreseeable future. With every national medical organization I could find being against legalizing it, it would be tough to explain why the legislature thinks they know better.

-John

That should help clarify things for now

Article posted on September 29, 2013

The Altoona Mirror’s weekly polling question this past week and today’s cartoon are evidence of how the story about a drink tax option for Act 47 municipalities was mishandled from the outset. To clarify a couple of apparent misnomers, there are 3 new tax options included in this legislation, including the drink tax. Act 47 has always had extraordinary taxes, the drink tax is simply an option in the new proposal. It is not an additional tax because the legislation permits this option in lieu of another tax, not in combination with another tax. Also, the tax is up to 10%, not 10%. The bottom line is that each municipality will have to determine what is best for them. These taxes are only in place during Act 47 status. The new 5 year time limit will make them very temporary and there is no provision in law for any of the current or future extraordinary taxes to continue. That should help clarify things for now.

-John

I guess summer is really over

Article posted on September 28, 2013

Charlotte and I made it to Heritage Fair at Camp Blue Diamond this morning. I used to always go, but with my schedule, it’s not a sure thing anymore. I saw a lot of people and ate a lot of food. This evening, I attended the Blue and White Mass at the Cathedral in Altoona. This mass is dedicated to emergency service workers and is held annually. The Knights of Columbus host a reception at their hall afterwards. People were very nice at both places and appreciated the government officials who came in support of the police, firefighters and EMS personnel. I didn’t get to watch the Bucs beat the Reds today. This win gives us home field advantage in the Wild Card playoff. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last regular season game of the year. I guess summer is really over.

-John

He is always a crowd pleaser

Article posted on September 27, 2013

I was at 3 meetings in Bedford County today. We had a LEAD meeting at 8:00. The focus was on the inability of sewer authorities to stop service to customers who don’t pay and the subsequent difficulty in collecting overdue charges. We brought in the director of the PA Municipal Authorities Association and someone from DEP. Word got out about the Bedford meeting and we had authority members from Blair and Huntingdon Counties make the trip. It was a great informational session for me. I learned more about just how much money these entities lose under these circumstances and how difficult and expensive it is for them to collect pennies on the dollar. I’ll be working on this. I got to an R.C.& D. meeting then to a Bedford Chamber luncheon with Ag Secretary Grieg. He is always a crowd pleaser.

-John

The weather was great and the company exceptional

Article posted on September 26, 2013

I spent most of the day at the Ag Progress Days site for the Annual Penn State College of Ag Science Research Tour. Today’s program included food safety, pollination, federal crop irrigation regulations, and vegetable plant disease. We received a tremendous amount of information from 6 professors/researches and got a general overview of what’s happening at the college from the Interim Dean. It was a beneficial trip. Tonight, I spent a couple of hours on Lake Raystown with the Huntingdon County Business & Industry folks. We had a nice night. The weather was great and the company exceptional.

-John

I’m hoping that we get lots done in this Fall time frame regardless of what happens with the big 3 issues

Article posted on September 25, 2013

I’m back this evening from our first session week. I got to the office briefly then to the Altoona Kiwanis Installation and Awards Banquet where they honored Michael Fiore for his service to the community. My schedule was packed the past 3 days at the Capitol. In addition to session and caucus, we had various committee meetings and hearings as well as many appointments in the office. Since we were gone for 81 days, the folks who want to get a point across want their time to talk and I talked with lots of them. I had several meetings concerning the proposed Act 47 changes. We made one improvement to the draft legislation today and expect to introduce the bill in a week or so. I’m hoping that we get lots done in this Fall time frame regardless of what happens with the big 3 issues.

-John

What’s fair about any of this?

Article posted on September 24, 2013

We had a news conference this morning on my Act 111 reform bill. Chambersburg Borough just received an arbitration decision that was incredible. The Borough lost on all of the 10 issues before the arbitrators and if that wasn’t enough, the arbitrator concluded that the Borough was not permitted to lay off anyone for the next 5 years. This award is expected to increase Borough property taxes by over 42%. Remember that this process is done behind closed doors, that the Borough pays over 2/3rds of the cost of the proceeding and that the union picks the so-called “neutral” arbitrator who makes the final determination. What’s fair about any of this?

-John

BUSINESS AND MUNICIPAL LEADERS DEMAND CHANGE

Article posted on September 24, 2013

** NEWS RELEASE**

BUSINESS AND MUNICIPAL LEADERS DEMAND CHANGE
TO ANTIQUATED BINDING ARBITRATION LAW

Harrisburg, PA – Wednesday, September 24, 2013 – State Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr., Chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee, along with Senator Rich Alloway (R-Chambersburg) and Representative Rob Kaufman (R-Chambersburg), welcomed a delegation of statewide business and municipal leaders to Harrisburg today to ask state policy makers to reform and modernize Act 111 of 1968, the state law governing uniformed union binding arbitration.

Eichelberger, who is the prime sponsor of legislation which would reform Act 111, said “Communities of all sizes across Pennsylvania are grappling with costs tied to Act 111, and that is why I’m announcing the official introduction of SB1111. My legislation would amend Act 111 for the first time in nearly a half century. It would inject fairness into the process by balancing the influence of the arbitration board, opening proceedings to the very public expected to foot the bill, splitting the cost of the neutral arbitrator equally between employer and union, and requiring that arbitration decisions are based on factors relevant to each community, including their ability pay.”

###

The clock is running out on some opportunities for major change

Article posted on September 23, 2013

We’re back in session and in many ways it feels like we never left, and I don’t mean that in a good way. We’re still grappling with the big 3 and other issues. We see signs of hope, but nothing is agreed to. I was hoping that over the summer more progress would have been made, but it wasn’t. There was work done, but at this point, we don’t have a clear path for success on any issue. We will move forward with other important legislation, but the clock is running out on some opportunities for major change.

-John

It doesn’t always work like this, but it does far too often

Article posted on September 22, 2013

There were actually a number of interesting stories today in the papers, but I didn’t get a chance to read many. I took a quick look at a piece in the Tribune Review about the Act 47 Task Force legislation. Unlike the impression left from the Altoona Mirror headline, this 101 page bill proposes significant changes to Act 47, much more important than one of several options to implement a drink tax. The 5 year time limit, with one potential 3 year extension, is clearly the biggest change. The bill was built around this time frame with the possibility that some municipalities might not ever generate enough revenue to sustain themselves. The solution for these few exceptions is a new concept to PA law, dis-incorporation. We also formalized an early intervention program and recognized bankruptcy as an alternative. Extraordinary taxes have always been included under Act 47. This proposal provides 3 additional optional taxes, with checks and balances, so that no sector of the economy can be unduly burdened and no government can stack the additional taxes on top of one another. With some municipalities currently in Act 47 for over 20 years, this bill would be a huge change from the status quo. It’s too bad that some of the media focused on one tax option that is expected to produce a relatively small amount of revenue. I saw today that the Altoona Mirror’s Opinon Page question of the week is about Altoona opting for the drink tax. This is part of the reason why major changes to our antiquated systems don’t get accomplished, the media mischaracterizes the facts and steers public perception in another direction. It doesn’t always work like this, but it does far too often. By the way, the Mirror never contacted me, their own Senator and Co-Chairman of the Task Force, about the bill.

-John