The students were very engaged, polite and respectful

Article posted on April 30, 2015

Senator Don White’s student program went well today. I sat on a panel this morning that addressed a mock education bill, which would allow public school employees to carry a firearm on school property if they have a concealed carry permit and undergo further training provided by the school. The kids were evenly split on the bill and debated the pros and cons for well over an hour before arriving at a compromise that allowed the owner of the gun to bring it onto school property but secure it in his or her vehicle. This eventually was not passed in the afternoon session of the full Senate when it was considered with four other bills on subjects including transportation, drugs, and standardized testing. I chaired the afternoon session and instructed them about parliamentary procedure as they debated the bills on the agenda. The students were very engaged, polite and respectful and IUP provided a beautiful facility with excellent food service. Kudos to Don and his staff for another great event.

-John

Maybe I should do a little more prep work tonight

Article posted on April 29, 2015

I had a series of meetings today and an afternoon of phone calls. Tonight, Charlotte and I attended the Altoona Community Theatre’s version of “Singin’ in the Rain.” ACT did their usual great job. Today’s news cycle was again dominated by Kathleen Kane. When they start to do polls about whether you should resign or not, it might be time to hang it up. I was on the phone preparing for a substantial agenda next week, when we’re back in session. We expect to see SB 1 (the pension reform bill), there are several confirmation hearings scheduled, and the budget negotiations continue. I head to Indiana University of PA early tomorrow morning for Senator Don White’s student program. I help out with two or three of these each year. Don always asks me and has me doing double duty tomorrow. I am on panels answering questions from the kids in the morning, and am the presiding officer in the mock Senate session in the afternoon. Maybe I should do a little more prep work tonight.

-John

Good question

Article posted on April 28, 2015

I had phone calls and meetings throughout the day including speaking at the Huntingdon Rotary Club and attending the Tyrone Chamber’s 99th Annual Dinner. The latest on the Kathleen Kane case is that since the presentment of the grand jury was made public yesterday, the District Attorney reviewing the case has included the firing of her employee in her review. The papers today reported how bad things looked for her after seeing the grand jury’s presentment. I spoke with a friend today who asked me why the people who looked at dirty email jokes were dismissed from their jobs immediately and the Attorney General is still standing after everything reported about her? Good question.

-John

I will look into this issue further

Article posted on April 27, 2015

The stories about Kathleen Kane’s case in court today dominated the state news. The presentment from the grand jury said that she was not truthful with her testimony before the grand jury and that her testimony was designed to divert attention from her role in leaking information. The quotes were actually more salacious than my summary. Her defense seemed useless as the evidence was being presented against her. I can’t imagine that she can escape guilt in all charges faced, but these cases take months to come to trial and receive a verdict. In the meantime, her office flounders, or worse, is used for vindictive actions against those who don’t support her. I have concerns about allowing her to act as the state’s chief law enforcement officer under these circumstances. At this point, she has not been charged, but if that happens, as I understand it, she would remain in control of her office until convicted. Given the unique powers of her office, her authority after being indicted should be altered to prevent any misconduct. I will look into this issue further.

-John

We have a spending problem

Article posted on April 26, 2015

There were quite a few stories of interest in the papers today. More information surfaced on Kathleen Kane and Bill Shuster; one story made its rounds that was released a couple of days ago about the Independent Fiscal Office’s analysis of Governor Wolf’s proposed tax plan. His claim that the plan would produce a tax break for the middle class was shown to be false. According to the report, there would be a net increase for members of every income bracket. As I have said many times, if anyone thinks that the state can raise taxes $4.7 billion and somehow you aren’t going to pay more, you are kidding yourself. The temporary offset of school property taxes was calculated into this analysis using the immediate decrease, not the long-term increases the schools would certainly take advantage of. As has also been said many times, we don’t have a revenue problem in Harrisburg, we have a spending problem.

-John

Happy Birthday Lil!

Article posted on April 25, 2015

After my men’s fellowship this morning, I attended St. John’s Pancake Breakfast in Hollidaysburg, then had the remainder of the day free to get caught up on a lot of work at home. This was my first and last free Saturday for a while. My mower was in the shop, so retrieving it was my first order of business. As much as I was looking forward to Spring, I don’t like the commitment of weekly mowing, which started today at the Eichelberger household. Tonight we had a special dessert in memory of Charlotte’s mother, Lillian. If she were alive, she would have turned 100 yesterday. Happy Birthday Lil!

-John

The jury is still out on how they’ll handle Bill

Article posted on April 24, 2015

There were more stories this week about AG Kane’s legal problems. She filed for a continuance in the case concerning her firing of a staffer who testified against her. The case will continue in part, but the news of her problems doesn’t stop. Congressman Shuster’s relationship with a transportation lobbyist was the subject of a new Politico story today focused on the flow of legislation coming from him and his committee and the legislation’s ties with his girlfriend, the lobbyist. This story line seems to have legs and already has generated followup stories providing even more information. Although the media should always be fair and balanced, they all too often protect public officials when they shouldn’t or unfairly criticize them to fit their own agenda. In the case of Kathleen Kane, she’s gone from media darling to a scandal sheet headline. The jury is still out on how they’ll handle Bill.

-John

America’s first superhighway

Article posted on April 23, 2015

imageI was on a legislative tour today of the Pike 2 Bike project in Bedford and Fulton Counties. This is a 13 mile strip of Turnpike abandoned in 1968, which includes the longest and the shortest tunnels built in the system. It is a unique trail, and one that could draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, if it was to be properly developed. Thousands come to the trail currently, despite it being posted to prevent users. We went through a control center in the big tunnel (there is one at each end) and went into a wind tunnel above the tunnel used for traffic to see how the ventilation system worked. We saw along the way: a former CCC Camp, the site of a former service center (a Howard Johnson’s), some parts of the railroad bed the highway was aligned with, the testing area for the first rumble strips, and the testing area for sunken highway reflectors. I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this first hand and learn about the history of the site, America’s first superhighway.

-John
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Congrats to the many, many people who gave their time and resources

Article posted on April 22, 2015

The Township Supervisors were in town this week. I was their guest for dinner last evening and attended their legislative reception on Monday. I met a few Supervisors from new parts of the 30th and saw a couple from territory lost in re-districting. These folks are the true front line of government and generally operate very efficiently. I’m back home tonight for a dinner recognizing 50 years of the Blair County Library System. Charlotte has volunteered on the County Library Board for years and will be there, as well. Congrats to the many, many people who gave their time and resources to achieve this tremendous milestone.

-John

We have to weigh what they tell us against their history

Article posted on April 21, 2015

The discussion about several of the Governor’s embattled nominees continues in the hallways and caucus room. I haven’t seen a whip count, but the comments appear to be more negative now than earlier. The problem concerns what several of the nominees have said on the record since being appointed versus what they have said in the past. Their credibility is obviously important, and with concerns about the cabinet advancing an extreme agenda, their commitments now have to be believable. We have to weigh what they tell us against their history of public statements and actions, which in some cases provide a much different picture of who they are and what they will do in their position of power.

-John