Imaginary budget cuts, charter school costs, or the breakdown of the family

Article posted on January 31, 2016

I saw two stories of interest in the Sunday papers, both from local publications. The Tribune-Review had a piece on the line item veto for corrections, where Governor Wolf cut half of their spending. According to the article, the Governor had no explanation as to how he can legally authorize money for the prison system after they run through the remainder of their appropriated amount this coming week. Senator Pat Browne and I have scheduled a joint hearing on this issue for next Monday, if our witnesses are available. I can’t see where he has the authority to requisition funds to pay for the operational costs of the prison system, and neither can most people in Harrisburg. The second item was in the Altoona Mirror. They do a section on news from Yesteryear where they included a story recap from 25 years ago, saying, “State Senate Pro-Tem Robert C. Jubelirer proposed an educational reform that called for report cards for school districts, adding an hour a day to student time, banning school strikes and creating smaller school districts.” Sounds like the accountability issues for schools have been around long before any imaginary budget cuts, charter school costs, or the breakdown of the family.

-John

More to place blame than provide direction

Article posted on January 30, 2016

I didn’t have any events scheduled today. I got to my men’s fellowship, did some office work, visited my mother, and worked on a project at home. I have quite a bit of preparatory work to do before returning to Harrisburg on the 8th. The Governor’s Budget Address is on the 9th, I am planning to hold a joint hearing on the 8th, participate in a news conference that day, and work through whatever the Governor offers in his address. Most times, Governors distribute their speech, including explanatory information, to the legislature at least one day before their address. There is a lot of speculation about what Governor Wolf will do this year. Most people think we will receive nothing of consequence before the speech. We’ll probably have a better idea closer to the event as he conducts normal briefings and budget meetings with the legislature. The feeling is that he’ll cut them short before his speech, setting the tone for an ineffective Budget Address that does more to place blame for the budget impasse than provide direction for the new fiscal year.

-John

Little, or no savings will occur

Article posted on January 29, 2016

One of the subjects we voted on this week was a House Resolution to amend the PA constitution. A proposed change to the constitution must be passed by the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions then go to the ballot for the general public to approve. The proposed amendment would change the number of members in the PA House from 203 to 151. This 3 to 1 comparison with the Senate is what many other states have in place. I offered remarks on the floor cautioning those who think this will reduce the cost of the House. As long as campaign-like expenditures including newsletters, congratulatory letters by the hundreds, PSA’s to drive excessive constituent work, and other unnecessary operations are permitted to continue, the removed member will simply be replaced with more staff and little, or no savings will occur.

-John

She continues to do a good job

Article posted on January 28, 2016

I was at several events in Blair County today including a recognition of the Hollidaysburg Citizen of the Year, Harry Thompson. Harry is a friend of mine. He’s a wonderful gentleman who at a ripe old age, still does more than most for his community. I ended the evening at a South Central Counties Boroughs Assoc. dinner. These are quarterly meetings where borough officials come together from four counties. Tonight’s speaker was Donna Fisher, the Blair County Conservation District Director. She spoke about storm water issues and gave an update on what the District is doing. I served on her board for 11 years; she continues to do a good job.

-John

That could create a constitutional mess

Article posted on January 27, 2016

The Senate’s Special Committee on Address issued their report today, as scheduled. The bottom line is that they recommend the Senate vote on the Attorney General’s removal, but not before the Supreme Court decides to either not hear her King’s Bench appeal, or hears the appeal and decides against reinstating her law license. John Gordner, chairman of the committee, explained that their charge was narrowly defined, to look only at Kathleen Kane’s ability to perform her job as AG while her law license is suspended. And if the court would reinstate her license, the removal process would be moot. There is no way to tell how long the court will take to decide whether or not to hear her case. Her paperwork seems to be moving quickly, but you never know. The vote to suspend her license was 5-0. There are 3 new Justices on the 7 member court, as of January. She has been involved in more controversy since her suspension and appears to have a very difficult argument to make for the Justices to change their minds. So far, I did not see the media explain that the recommendation in the report was just that, a recommendation. The Senate could move ahead with a vote, without waiting for the court, but that could create a constitutional mess if she was removed and days later the court reinstated her license.

-John

We’ll know more after we read the report

Article posted on January 26, 2016

Although both the House and the Senate were in session today, the House got all of the attention. The State Government Committee passed SB 501, my Paycheck Protection bill, on a party line vote. They amended the bill by pulling out clarifying language, which explained that other payroll deductions like “cafeteria plans” and United Way can continue. This was the result of an argument by House attorneys, who claim the bill would be cleaner without that section. I respect their opinion and will work with the bill, as amended, when it returns to the Senate for concurrence. The full House should be voting on it by early February. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved House Resolution 659. This is the first step in establishing an impeachment proceeding for the Attorney General. The full House could act on this in early February, as well, and if approved, would start on a long process involving both chambers. With the Senate’s Special Committee on Address scheduled to release their recommendation to the Senate tomorrow at noon, the timing of this Resolution was interesting. If the recommendation leads to a removal vote in the Senate, I’m not sure how the House would handle this Resolution. I don’t expect the Senate to decide tomorrow what it will do, but we’ll know more after we read the report.

I’ll be glad when everything’s back to normal

Article posted on January 25, 2016

The Senate and House sessions were cancelled today because of the weather around the state and the conditions at and around the Capitol. I haven’t seen snow so far this year at the Capitol, but in the past, the City of Harrisburg has done very little with the streets. I got in some office work in Hollidaysburg and had my truck worked on. It’s been missing terribly. I had new spark plugs put in and now we’re replacing the coils under the plugs. I’m hoping for a good trip to Harrisburg in the morning. I had a couple of appointments today that were rescheduled because of the snow. I’ll be glad when everything’s back to normal.

-John

Please contact me with any information about what happened during the storm

Article posted on January 24, 2016

There was nothing in the papers today worth mentioning. Since last night’s post on the thousands stranded on the Turnpike, I have heard from several people who were stuck this weekend for up to 24 hours. Their stories were reflective of what happened to me when I was trapped in the same predicament. They never saw or received help from Turnpike personnel or the State Police. Eventually, in this recent situation, they saw volunteer firefighters or the National Guard. I also heard from more than one person that it was lucky no one died from exposure, or some other cause, while stuck in the storm. If anyone has any information about what happened during the storm, please contact me.

-John

A hearing on their performance

Article posted on January 23, 2016

The snow storm hit our area with a bigger vengeance than predicted. We had close to 2 feet at home. I got out of my driveway, thanks to my snowblower, around 1:00. My trip was shorter than I had hoped because most of the places I needed to visit were closed. I was not impressed with the road conditions on both municipal streets and state highways. A much more serious situation existed on the PA Turnpike where about 500 vehicles were stuck since last night. The cause of the miles long back up were tractors and trailers that jack knifed on hills. Officials of the Turnpike promised me several years ago that they had changed their policy concerning allowing trucks on the highway during winter storm conditions. They said today that they tried to honor that commitment by posting signage prohibiting trucks, but it was ignored by some drivers. I was stuck years ago during a big storm returning from a hearing in Erie. What I learned as a sat there for hours was that there was little or no State Police or Turnpike maintenance help. Eventually, myself and several other drivers organized a way to get cars out and around the jack knifed trucks. I think the Turnpike and the State Police have a lot of questions to answer about how they handled this storm. I will be asking them myself and asking my colleagues for a hearing on their performance.

-John

Thanks to all who pray and work to end abortion

Article posted on January 22, 2016

I try to go to the March For Life in Washington, D.C. every year if my schedule permits. It’s held on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which is today, January 22nd. The weather forecasts stopped many people. In the 30th Senatorial District, only two buses made the trip, down from five. Andrea, from my staff, and I were on the Blair County bus. We made it to D.C. just fine. The speakers before the March were outstanding and despite the bad weather, tens of thousands braved the elements. The snow started as we began the March at 1:00. We left a little early and drove through the thick of it without incident, until we pulled out from a signal light onto Route 30 in Breezewood and the bus came to a dead stop. Three hours later, we were on a replacement bus headed back to Hollidaysburg. Despite the weather and the bus problems, I think the hearty bunch who made the trip were glad they went. Seeing all of the youth involved with the movement, and understanding that with lower abortion numbers and pro-life laws enacted around the country, real progress has been made. Thanks to everyone involved with the March and to all who pray and work to end abortion.

-John