Some repealed their ordinances, some did not

Article posted on September 30, 2016

The PASSHE union agreed to return to the negotiating table yesterday, despite their earlier statement that they would not return until sometime in October.  Rumors are that the talks have gone better over the past two days.  I have heard from lots of people about an amendment I was proposing this week on a 2nd Amendment bill.  The bill was gone over on the calendar and we hope to bring it up for a vote when we get back in a couple of weeks.  My amendment is agreed to by the sponsor of the bill, Senator Rich Alloway.  It makes the language the same, with one exception, as what was in a bill passed by the legislature a couple of years ago, but was subsequently thrown out by the State Supreme Court because of a procedural issue in how it was passed.  The bill is what is referred to as a preemption bill.  It clarifies that an issue is the purview of the state, not local government.  In this case, some municipalities have passed gun control ordinances, which they do not have the authority to do.  The bill makes clear that the ordinances are not permitted and gives individuals and organizations the ability to file suit against the municipality if they are charged with violating the ordinance.  The exception to the first bill is the addition of language saying that the claimant must give 30 days notice to the municipality of their intention to file suit.  This would permit the municipality to repeal the ordinance if they so chose.  Some municipalities repealed their ordinances when we passed the first bill, unfortunately, some did not.

-John

There’s a lot of chrome on these babies!

Article posted on September 29, 2016

I was traveling most of the day and got to see some interesting things. I had a tour of the new natural gas power generator at American Eagle Paper Mill in Tyrone; it was converted from a coal-fired system and is much more efficient and eco-friendly. They have done a lot to increase production and modernize the facility over the past few years. I travelled to Camp Hill for a meeting and then to Carlisle for the Carlisle Car Auction. I have never been to an auction like this and loved it. I’ve watched them on television, and was told that the Velocity Network was there to broadcast some of the action. I’ve included photos of three of my favorite cars in this auction, all Cadillac Eldorados: a ’47, a ’54, and a ’59.  There’s a lot of chrome on these babies!

-John

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It’s important to get these bills through

Article posted on September 28, 2016

The Governor’s address on the opioid crises to the joint session of the General Assembly was relatively short and to the point.  He was gracious in his praise of several members of the legislature and acknowledged the work that has already been completed.  There is a bi-partisan effort on this front, but the path to progress may not always be one that is universally agreed to.  We had another long list of bills on the calendar today including the local government borrowing package that I, and a few other members, have been working on since the Harrisburg incinerator disaster.  It’s important to get these bills through the House before the end of session.  As I said today on the floor, the same financial and legal consultants that put those deals together are working on other projects throughout the Commonwealth.

-John

There is no quick fix for this problem

Article posted on September 27, 2016

I had more committee meetings today, a very long caucus, and more time on the Senate floor than anticipated.  The bills that are moving include many that have become controversial and/or complicated and are taking more time.  Tomorrow, in addition to our regular session schedule, the Governor is giving an address to a joint session of the General Assembly on the opioid problems facing Pennsylvania.  No one expects anything new; we’re hoping for a genuine commitment to work together to address this problem in a comprehensive fashion.  We voted on two bills today in committee that will have an impact on this issue.  The Senate has conducted two years of hearings on opioid abuse and is continuing to work on legislation to help.  There is no quick fix for this problem.

-John

It was a diverse group

Article posted on September 26, 2016

We’re back in session and started the Fall schedule with a number of committee meetings.  As the clock clicks down, there are only so many bills that will get through the process.  Those starting from scratch have a long road ahead, but can make it under the right circumstances.  More likely for passage are bills that have a good start and leadership agrees are important to finish in this session.  I have several bills in the mix for the last few days; they are good bills for the people of this state and I’m working to have them passed.  I attended the PA Chamber Annual Dinner this evening.  This is their 100th year and they had a special program, starting with a conversation with four former governors, and their keynote speaker, Michael Strahan, a former NFL player (NY Giants), Super Bowl champion, and current co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America.  It was a diverse group.

-John

The faculty has voted to strike

Article posted on September 25, 2016

There was really nothing worth reporting in the papers today.  Doesn’t say much for the papers.  A story I didn’t get to last week because of my trip, was the status of the state-owned universities’ union negotiations.  The teachers union has threatened to strike in a few weeks as they walked away from the negotiations table last week.  They refused to meet this weekend and are holding out for more money, a smaller contribution to their health insurance, and keeping their schedules.  They are already nearly the highest paid faculty for state-owned universities in the country and are balking at having to pay the same contributions to their health insurance as everyone else in that system.  The raises proposed are far more than anyone in the private sector even dreams about.  As the system struggles financially and discussions on closing universities continue, the faculty has voted to strike.

-John

A good time seeing friends, both new and old

Article posted on September 24, 2016

It’s good to be back home after three days in Virginia.  I was at a shooting event this morning.  It was a difficult course, 25 trap, pretty standard, 25 wobble trap, always challenging, and 25 sporting clays; these were five stations around three traps, very unusual and difficult.  I had a 49, not too bad under the circumstances.  Got Oakley a new collar today, he’s outgrown his puppy collar, and picked up a 20 foot lead line for field training.  It’s time for him to get out into the field and work through some cover.  Charlotte and I attended the Central PA Humane Society Fur Ball this evening.  They had a good night financially and we had a good time seeing friends, both new and old.

-John

An honor to be a part of this historic event

Article posted on September 23, 2016

We had a fascinating session today.  The convention had a total of 8 proposed constitutional amendments and after numerous changes to the language over the 5 plus hours of debate, we approved 6.  Although this exercise was designed to be as close to a real constitutional convention as possible, consolidating the committee work and plenary session into just 2 days prevented the proposals from receiving as much committee work and legal scrutiny as they would have at a real convention that could last as long as several weeks.  So, I suspect that we had more debate over words and clarity issues than would occur if we had more time, but the floor and committee work was done properly and in accordance with the rules.  Most importantly, the limited scope of the topics to be addressed at the convention were honored.  There were no attempts to stray and give credence to the fear of a “runaway convention.”  We were just operating on an honor system; a real convention would have ways to immediately remove a member who deviated from the prescribed subject matter.  It was an honor to be a part of this historic event.

-John

We seemed to have the most laborious job

Article posted on September 22, 2016

img_1525After elections of officers this morning, we went to our respective committee meetings.  There were three committees looking at predetermined issues (since this is a limited constitutional convention): the Fiscal Restraints Committee, the Federal Legislative and Executive Jurisdiction Committee, and the Term Limits and Jurisdiction Committee; I served on the Federal Legislative and Executive Jurisdiction Committee.  We worked all day, even through lunch, to come up with three proposed amendments to offer at tomorrow’s plenary session.  Our committee broke into three subcommittees: Rule Making, Commerce, and Countermand; I served on the Rule Making subcommittee.  We seemed to have the most laborious job, coming up with a way to restrict the regulatory authority of the executive branch.  Our proposal was to provide for the Congress to have the power to vote on the approval of existing and proposed regulations if at least 25% of either chamber asked for a vote.  We’ll see how things progress tomorrow.

-John

We officially get underway tomorrow morning

Article posted on September 21, 2016

I was the speaker this afternoon at the Fulton County Chamber luncheon.  They had a nice crowd and I enjoyed seeing everyone.  I spoke about the reassessment review being undertaken by the legislature, the budget, the hearing yesterday on performance budgeting, and what I’m doing the remainder of this week — attending the first ever simulated Article V Convention of States.  I left McConnellsburg and drove to colonial Williamsburg, VA, for the three-day exercise.  Conventions of this kind were held frequently before the Civil War, but only once since, in 1922. The citizens of this country today have no recollection and little knowledge about this constitutional process.  As a state legislator, I am asked often about issues like term limits and regulatory control that could be accomplished through a convention.  This is a once in a lifetime experience to work through the entire process as a “commissioner” representing Pennsylvania.  I’ll keep my Blog readers informed of how this goes as we get officially underway tomorrow morning.

-John