Congratulations Sue!

Article posted on July 31, 2015

The big news in Harrisburg today was about the Governor, who was ranked as the “Most Liberal Governor” in America by the Huffington Post. I haven’t seen any comments from him about this yet, but would think he wouldn’t want that distinction. I can’t say that this is a surprise to anyone in the legislature. The number one rating is evidence of his mindset on the budget and why we’re so far apart. I attended the Commencement Ceremony for Summer Academy 2015 at Penn State Main Campus this morning. 24 high school students who are blind or visually impaired graduated from the 3 week program geared to make them more independent, able to attend college, and ultimately get a good job. Taylor Carini, from Altoona, was one of the graduates and it was an honor to meet him and his family. This afternoon I presented a citation to Sue Griep, Blair County’s Victim Witness Coordinator, for being named as the 2015 Governor’s Pathfinder Award for Excellence in Victim Services. Sue does a great job professionally and in many ways for her community. Congratulations Sue!

We spent time discussing the pension problems

Article posted on July 30, 2015

I attended a luncheon to benefit the Miracle League of Blair County today. The speaker at the event was Frank Coonelly, President of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He talked about the long road to success for his organization and how they started from scratch in rebuilding the team. It was very interesting for a long time fan, like me. Tonight, I had a town hall meeting at the Antis Twp. Building in Blair County. We had a full house of around 50. The main subject was the budget, but we spent time discussing the pension problems. Thanks to everyone who turned out.

The focus will be the budget

Article posted on July 29, 2015

I was at an early ribbon cutting ceremony this morning, 7:30. Home Helpers was celebrating their 10th year in business and hosted the Blair County Chamber’s Business Before Hours at their office in Hollidaysburg. I also attended the Open House for Blair Senior Services’ Southern Blair County Senior Center a little later. They had a full house and I spoke with lots of people who miss seeing my mother at the center. I got as much paperwork, scheduling, constituent work, etc. done the remainder of the day. It’s good to have at least a little time to catch up. As a reminder, tomorrow night is a Blair County Town Hall meeting at 6:30. It will be held at the Antis Twp. Municipal Building – 909 Second St., Bellwood, PA. The focus will be the budget. Hope to see you there!

Funding Planned Parenthood was never acceptable

Article posted on July 28, 2015

I was in Harrisburg for an appointment this afternoon and spoke with a few other Senators and staffers about the issues of the day. There’s nothing really new on the budget. We’re still waiting for the Governor to get a dose of reality. President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati recently asked the Governor, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and the Attorney General to investigate what Planned Parenthood was doing in PA with selling body parts. To date, none of these officials has been willing to look into anything regarding this organization’s behavior. With the videos of their admissions of criminal activity being released to the public, the citizens of PA have every right to know if those crimes are occurring here. To make matters worse, state tax dollars help to fund their operations. If the Governor and the AG won’t act, the legislature should. Funding Planned Parenthood was never acceptable, now the public understands why.

-John

A great turnout, as usual

Article posted on July 27, 2015

I finished up a busy weekend last night with a dinner at Royer Mansion outside of Williamsburg, Blair County. The dinner was to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the home and unveil a marker from the PA Historic and Museum Commission. Photos of the marker are on my Facebook page. The property is currently owned by the Blair County Historical Society. Those folks have done a great job of restoring the home and telling the story about the forge and related iron businesses of that period. Earlier that day, Charlotte and I attended a luncheon for the Rev. David Haydue, who is retiring from the St. John’s Reformed Church in Hollidaysburg. David is a gifted speaker and made a difference in many lives over his 23 years at that church and 40 plus years in the ministry. Saturday night I attended the pre-tournament banquet for the Little League PA State Tournament. Over 400 players, coaches, and parents were there at the official start of the week-long event. The folks in Newville have been preparing for this for months and will do an admirable job, I’m sure, with the entire schedule. I just hope the weather holds. Tonight, I was in the Shade Gap Picnic Parade. I talked to a lot of people and went through a lot of candy. It was a great turnout, as usual.

-John

“Running of the Bull(expletive)”

Article posted on July 26, 2015

The papers today had two main story topics: the budget and the federal court decision on 3rd party candidates. There’s nothing new on the budget and, apparently, the court decision to strike down assessing court costs to 3rd party candidates who lose in court may also affect the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot. Most people do not think the decision applied to that requirement; time will tell. The Altoona Mirror’s cartoon today was a drawing of me being chased by an angry herd of bulls that are branded with the words “Teachers’ Union.” The title of the cartoon is the “Running of the Bull(expletive).” Enough said.

-John

Bad idea

Article posted on July 25, 2015

The Altoona Mirror this week editorialized about the license plate sticker issue. The transportation bill, passed a couple of years ago, removed the requirement to display a registration sticker on a license plate, which saves the state about a million dollars. Even though other states have done this for years, some police have complained about the change, saying an outdated sticker gives them a reason to pull someone over (I couldn’t believe they said that). There is a debate in the legislature right now about reinstating the stickers. The Mirror recommended we change the law citing proof of insurance as one reason why. They even recommended we make insurance companies provide an additional sticker to make it easier for the police. I doubt if anyone thinks that would work, but in case anyone would, let me explain how people get away without having insurance in a state that requires insurance to register a vehicle. People that cheat the system, buy insurance when their car registration is due, make a minimum down payment, then after the state receives proof of insurance, allow their insurance to cancel for nonpayment. The insurance company notifies the state that the insurance has been cancelled, but the state can’t keep up with tracking down the violators. The insurance sticker would have no benefit whatsoever, unless the Mirror thinks the insurance companies will arm their employees with razor blades and have them out scraping cancelled stickers off cars in driveways across the Commonwealth. Bad idea.

-John

She has done a great job with the foundation

Article posted on July 24, 2015

I got more TV time in today than my wife. I did “Weekend Wrap Up” this morning in Altoona and taped a segment in Harrisburg of the PA Manufacturer’s Association’s program that airs Sundays on PCN. I spoke about the budget and other issues in Altoona and municipal pension reform in Harrisburg. Tonight, Charlotte and I attended the 6th Annual Griff’s Run and Gun Dinner in Altoona. Greg Griffith was a friend of mine and his widow started a foundation to raise research dollars for Pancreatic Cancer. This form of cancer now ranks as the 2nd deadliest and is expected to be number 1 in the next few years. She has done a great job with the foundation and tonight’s dinner was packed, as usual.

-John

What could be done to turn around a failing system

Article posted on July 23, 2015

I’ve seen several stories recently about the significant downturn in PSSA scores. The schools, the Dept. of Education and the PSEA are all coming up with reasons, or excuses, to explain why. Interestingly, they don’t all agree. Regardless of who or what is to blame, our Commonwealth’s 3rd through 8th grade students’ proficiency rates dropped 9.4% in language arts and 35.4% in math. Although this year’s steep decline is getting attention, it actually marks the fourth straight year of declining scores on this test. Given that funding is at an all-time high, with PA ranking as one of the highest in the country per pupil, money, no matter what some may say, is not the issue. The antiquated rules which govern our schools by trapping students into unproductive and/or dangerous environments, protecting bad teachers, and prohibiting engaging curriculum from being offered, are elements of what could be done to turn around a failing system.

-John

I appreciated him coming in

Article posted on July 22, 2015

The big news in Harrisburg was the resignation of Governor Wolf’s Chief of Staff Katie McGinty. The rumor is that she will soon announce her bid for U.S. Senate. It remains to be seen who her replacement will be and how much influence he or she will have. Questions about who was really calling the shots in the Governor’s office have persisted since January. Titles often don’t tell the real story. This is a disruption for the budget process, but nothing major. I worked with the Altoona Curve to get Ag Secretary Russell Redding and former Secretary Sam Hayes to the game tonight. We had a ceremony on the field before the game to honor Ken Mowry, who’s Holstein, Corrine, broke the milk production world record back in 1974. The Secretaries then threw out the first pitches. We got around the stadium during the game and met with many of the dairy farmers there with the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Assoc. Russell was officially sworn in this morning as Secretary; I appreciated him coming in.

-John