Just the facts, ma’am

Article posted on August 31, 2014

Another Sunday with little to report from the newspapers from across our state. This weekend is the unofficial start of the Fall campaign season and they focused largely on the Governor’s race. I’ve noticed that the papers have become much shallower in thought of late. The print media was always the source for more detail. Sadly, their liberal agenda has taken precedence over providing a direct source of news and they have become less interested in facts, particularly if the facts are part of a complicated story. I used to rely on newspaper reporters to wade through legislation or transcripts or current law to understand background before writing a story. Most times today, it’s a quick interview and maybe an interview with someone who doesn’t like what my side is doing and the story goes to print. I find myself in situations where another person who has a contrary viewpoint is injected into a story simply for that reason. That person may not understand the issue and may say things that are incorrect, but they are given equal status with me or whomever, who has worked on an issue for a long time. When I’m interviewed, I am seldom told about what someone else has said and therefore have no opportunity to respond to incorrect statements. I’m not talking about opinion in these cases, I’m talking about what is included in legislation or what was said at a hearing or some other factual situation where there is only one correct answer. When you skip the basics of journalism and take shortcuts to finish your story or, worse yet, try to sensationalize something that is cut and dried by creating controversy where none exists, you should quit your job at a newspaper and go to work for one of the entertainment tabloids. There are some people waiting to see what happened after the UFO’s landed. As for me, I want, as Sgt. Joe Friday so aptly put it, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

-John

Best wishes to Roger and his family

Article posted on August 30, 2014

I tried to catch up on as much work as possible today while keeping an ear on the radio to hear Penn State win their first game of the season and their first game ever in Ireland, then listening to part of the Bucco victory against the Reds. (Charlotte says my mood improves when my teams win.). Tonight Charlotte and I attended the retirement dinner for Roger Wynn, the CEO of UPMC Bedford Memorial. It was a lovely affair at the Bedford Elks. There was a long list of speakers who wished him well and spoke about his leadership and caring. Best wishes to Roger and his family in his richly deserved retirement.

-John

Clarifying proposed tax changes under Act 47

Article posted on August 29, 2014

I had to answer questions over the past week about legislation that I support to reform Act 47, the law that governs municipalities in distress. The bill is a product of a year-long task force that I co-chaired. There was a story about the bill in the Altoona Mirror that misled readers to think that a change to the tax authority of these municipalities would increase the Local Services Tax from $52 to $156. What the paper failed to report is that the LST increase would only be permitted if the municipality did not raise their Earned Income Tax. Act 47 currently gives municipalities the power to raise their property and earned income taxes above the normal legal limit. The legislation provides this new option, but it can only be used instead of an increase in the earned income tax, not in addition to an increase in the earned income tax. I will explain more about this legislation in other posts.

-John

I disagree

Article posted on August 28, 2014

When I attended the presentation on Wednesday from the Dept. of Welfare, they told us that the Healthy PA proposal was expected to be accepted by the Feds any minute. They were right; it was announced today. I’ve seen some coverage on it and the Libs are not happy that Medicaid Expansion didn’t happen. They figure that the federal government will pay the states to expand their Medicaid roles forever and that putting more people into a failed system instead of making them a little bit accountable for their own healthcare is good for Pennsylvania. I disagree.

-John

That’s why I look for a good deal on gas

Article posted on August 27, 2014

I was in Everett this morning for a Chamber Breakfast and then a meeting. On the way back to Hollidaysburg, I stopped for gas at the Bedford Turnpike entrance and filled up for $3.24 a gallon. I went to a ribbon cutting at Mercersburg Printing this afternoon. They just completed a large, state of the art addition to their building, complete with LED lighting fixtures and geothermal heating and cooling. Tonight I attended the Improved Dwellings for Altoona annual dinner at the Calvin House. I installed their board officers and enjoyed the fellowship and food. With all of the running I did today, the truck turned over 349,000 miles. That’s why I look for a good deal on gas.

-John

There are two groups today

Article posted on August 26, 2014

I had a town hall meeting in Allensville this evening. We had a nice crowd, for Allensville that is, of about 15 people. It was my last town hall there since re-districting will put that township in the 34th Senatorial District. The Big Valley is a beautiful area and the people have been very kind to me. The hit discussion item tonight was pension reform. We had one state employee in attendance who argued for no changes to the system initially, then offered to give up a provision that allows retirees to take out the amount of money they paid into the pension fund when they retire. They receive a smaller annuity payment when they do this, but it’s generally viewed as a significant benefit. His arguments weren’t received well by the remainder of the audience. My experience has been that when someone who is or will be receiving a public pension tries to defend it to others who work in the private sector, they can’t. When they talk to the legislature and lobby next to other public sector employees, they act like everyone receives a similar deal. When they are at a public gathering like tonight’s with people who have private sector jobs, they learn that no one else has a deal anywhere close to theirs. As one man put it tonight, there are two groups today, the ones that are employed by the government and the rest of us and the government employees should not be treated any better.

-John

Anxious to see the details of Healthy PA

Article posted on August 25, 2014

This weather feels like September. The nights and mornings are cool. I spoke with a group of people over the weekend and no one could remember the thermometer hitting 90 in this part of the world over the summer. I call it the summer that never was. It makes me appreciate the good weather days we have left. I attended a program on the workings of the Dept. of Public Welfare this morning. It was hosted by the Bedford Chamber. There were a lot of human services folks in the audience and I spoke with several of them afterwards. Although the case loads keep increasing, most people that I spoke with seemed to think that the state was generally on the right track. They are anxious to see the details of Healthy PA, when it gets approved by the Feds. The presenter from DPW said that an announcement would be made any day now.

-John

Hopefully the good stuff gets across the finish line

Article posted on August 24, 2014

Another week without much of interest in the Sunday papers around the state. There is always political commentary, but nothing newsworthy. There is also speculation about what the legislature can pass when we come back into session in September. The usual subjects of liquor store privatization and pension reform are only part of the mix. I get asked regularly about several local government bills that will have an impact on various communities, the legalization of medical marijuana is a hot issue, there are a number of bills that affect various industries and government reform bills that are in play like gift ban changes for elected officials are cued up for voting. Hopefully the good stuff gets across the finish line. The left is hoping for higher taxes and bigger government, those bills shouldn’t make it.

-John

There are many good causes out there to support

Article posted on August 23, 2014

Since I wasn’t quite as busy today, I was able to join most of my family for brunch at King’s in Altoona. We ended up spending more time at my house. It was good to relax for a little. Charlotte and I went to a fundraiser for the Turtle Foundation late afternoon. They raise money for children with brain tumors. They had a good turnout for their first event and hope to build on its success in the future. We enjoyed the evening and the chicken barbecue. There are many good causes out there to support, this is one of them.

-John

One of my favorite summertime meals

Article posted on August 22, 2014

I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new AgChoice Farm Credit office outside of Martinsburg this morning. This will be a nice building with room for them to hold programs for the public from time to time. I did a lot of running today and ended up at the Williamsburg Farm Show Junior Livestock Sale tonight, where I bought my last hog of this fair season. The rain stopped before the sale and the temperature was great. Instead of fair food for supper, Charlotte is making corn and I’m grilling hot dogs. It’s time for one of my favorite summertime meals.

-John