This situation was pretty amazing

Article posted on October 31, 2015

Another item of interest I didn’t get to earlier in the week was the movement of the package of five bills that address the laws that allowed the financial problems at the Harrisburg incinerator to happen. I was one of four Senators working on this legislation for about three years and sponsored two of the five bills. These bills have been followed by local government officials, the financial industry, DCED, the Harrisburg area rate payers that were directly affected, and the legal community who are involved in prosecuting some of the people perpetrating the unethical and possibly illegal transactions. We hope to get them through Appropriations in November and then the floor shortly after. What happened in this situation was pretty amazing, but could happen again, unless the process for local government borrowing is changed.

-John

To oppose emergency funding is cruel

Article posted on October 30, 2015

A few days ago a question was raised on Facebook from my friend Tom. He asked if I could put together a list of local entities affected by the budget impasse in an effort to show that real harm is being done right here at home. I talked to staff about this and discovered that Blair County had compiled a list for a legislative meeting last week, Patrick from my office attended, since I was in session. The list, which is not exhaustive, included over 40 non-profit agencies. In addition, there are many for-profit businesses and professionals that provide services the state pays for, the county itself has departments that are largely funded by the state, a number of pre-schools and day care centers depend on state funds, and the seven school districts rely significantly on funds coming through the state. In all, there are conservatively 70 business or government entities harmed by this budget impasse in Blair County alone. Many have laid off employees, many have cut services, and some have closed their doors entirely. For the Governor to oppose emergency funding to keep these services open until the final budget is in place is cruel, not only to the people who rely on these services, but to the people who work for these entities.

-John

The court understood that

Article posted on October 29, 2015

With the budget-related floor votes over the past couple of days, I didn’t have room for several items that are worth mentioning. Speaking of the budget, despite the impasse necessitating travel restrictions and a hiring freeze from the Governor, he created a new position, state meteorologist, paying over 60 grand plus bennies and no one seems to know why we need this person. Can you say, “global warming?” And speaking of our Governor, he suffered another defeat in the court system this week. The Supreme Court ruled that he did not have the authority to fire the Office of Open Records Director, which he did just days after he was sworn in. It’s critical for this office to be independent, and not serve at the whim of the Governor because they issue rulings concerning his office. The court understood that.

-John

I don’t know how these guys sleep at night

Article posted on October 28, 2015

The Senate D’s, under the direction of Governor Wolf, voted against the veto override at noon today. Not one Democrat broke ranks. This bill simply provided funding for the first four months of the fiscal year, which would have caught up social service agencies, schools and local governments. As we prepared to vote, school superintendents came to the Capitol begging for money and the Auditor General held his second news conference concerning the amount of borrowing from school districts, now up to $431 million. Worse yet are the projections of how many districts will be borrowing in November. The General said that the current numbers will look like “child’s play” compared to what will happen next month. But, despite Rome burning around them, the Governor and his allies blocked another attempt to provide help to our citizens. I don’t know how these guys sleep at night.

-John

Reaction to Budget Override Vote

Article posted on October 28, 2015

HARRISBURG (October 28, 2015) – Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. (R-Blair) released the following statement following the defeat of the Senate’s veto override of SB1000:

“I am extremely disappointed that we are not able to get the emergency funding to the social service agencies, local governments, and schools that so desperately need it.

The governor has once again demonstrated, by urging the Democrats to vote against the override today, that he cares only about getting his way. By standing with the governor, the Democrats not only voted against the override, they voted against the citizens of this Commonwealth.

We have tried three times now to help those in need. The governor has stood in the way each time. I simply cannot understand why he thinks holding these groups hostage to his negotiating strategy is good for Pennsylvania. When service organizations close their doors and counties or schools pay interest and closing costs on borrowing money, all taxpayers lose.

I do want everyone to understand that we will continue to work on solving this budget crisis and hope to bring an end to this situation as soon as possible.”

CLICK HERE to watch an interview with Senator Eichelberger immediately following the vote

 

Please contact Patrick Schurr, Executive Assistant, at 814-695-8386 or email pschurr@pasen.gov for additional information.

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Call to Action

Article posted on October 27, 2015

The Senate will be voting tomorrow to override the veto on the Emergency Funding legislation that would provide funding for schools, counties and social service agencies along with other budget lines. The Republicans are all on board, but the Democrats are hearing from the Governor that they should hold out. With budget talks continuing regardless of what happens tomorrow, there is no reason to withhold money from the service providers until a final deal is struck. I urge my blog readers to share this post with others, have them call Democrat Senators offices and ask for their vote on this bill. If they care about what’s happening to the people they represent, they’ll vote for these emergency funds. To contact a Democrat Senator and ask for his or her help with funding for services in our communities, go to http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/index.cfm.

-John

The future viability of Pennsylvania

Article posted on October 26, 2015

The committee looking into the ability of Kathleen Kane to perform her duties as AG, got its official start today. Senator John Gordner will serve as chair of the bi-partisan committee and has outlined to the press the work they will undertake. Also today it was announced that the Senate borrowed money to continue operations during this budget impasse. We borrowed from a bank, just like everyone else in this situation (with the exception of the House Democratic caucus, of course, that borrowed, probably illegally, from the state treasury). With a Governor that hasn’t moved much on his massive tax and spend numbers and refuses to address the largest cost driver, pensions, we’re still fighting for the future viability of Pennsylvania.

-John

This practice needs to stop

Article posted on October 25, 2015

There didn’t appear to be nearly as many budget stories in the papers today. I saw surprisingly few. One that grabbed my eye was about the Republican Congressmen from PA sending a joint letter to the Governor asking him to release the federal funds held up in the state’s budget impasse. These funds are used as directed and not part of any budget philosophical differences, but are held up because of the Governor vetoing the budget in its entirety. The Governor didn’t seem to appreciate the letter. There was a story in the Tribune-Review about how the teachers union has shorted the pension fund about $1 million. They have teachers working full time for the union and continuing to be paid by the school. The unions reimburse the school for most of these charges, except for the pension contribution, which they, the union, shorted about $1 million. This practice needs to stop.

-John

We’re helping the animals

Article posted on October 24, 2015

I heard often from people today about the Senate’s look at the AG. Every person I spoke with or heard from electronically, wanted her out of office as soon as possible. This process will take weeks, and the Senate’s role has yet to be determined. However, forming this committee is the first step in reaching a decision about her ability to perform the mandatory duties of her office. We’ll know more as this unfolds. After my mens’s fellowship group this morning, I hit paperwork for an hour or so, then met a few friends to do some sporting clays. We had a great time, despite the cool rainy weather and our scores. I got my grass mowed this afternoon and Charlotte and I went to the Fur Ball, benefitting the Central PA Humane Society, tonight. They had a big crowd, as usual. We had a nice time and as Charlotte says, “we’re helping the animals.”

-John

The circumstances the Commonwealth faces are extraordinary

Article posted on October 23, 2015

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati announced today that the Senate was forming a “Special Committee on Senate Address,” whose members will be announced on Monday. This is a bi-partisan committee comprised of 3 R’s and 3 D’s, along with the Pro Tem as an ex-officio member. The committee will bring a written report back to the Senate within the next 30 days concerning the ability of Kathleen Kane to perform her office without a law license. They will also recommend if the Senate should start any removal proceedings. The Governor also appears to support this effort. This constitutional process has never been done before in PA, but the circumstances the Commonwealth faces with her not being licensed to practice law are extraordinary.

-John