Good conversation with those in attendance

Article posted on May 31, 2017

Over the past weeks I have had two meetings in my office with members of the Blair County Indivisible group.  They are part of a national activist organization.  Our meetings went well; they don’t agree with my positions on many issues, but they were reasonable to deal with.  They asked if I’d do a town hall meeting for their members and after some further discussion, I agreed.  The town hall tonight was everything they promised.  They kept a strict time limit on questions and my answers, no one was rude or threatening, and I believe we both learned a few things from one another.  I appreciate the effort the organizers put into the event and the good conversation I had with those in attendance.

-John

Congratulations to these students for their fine work

Article posted on May 30, 2017

Johnny travelled back to Texas today.  It was good to have him home over the weekend; I miss him already.  We had sun most of today, but I was in Huntingdon this afternoon and heard about the heavy rain, wind and hail they saw early afternoon.  I visited J.C. Blair Hospital; they announced the opening of their heart cath lab, a life saving improvement to the operations of the hospital.  I ended the day at Williamsburg High School for their Class of 2017 Awards Ceremony.  I present Distinguished Graduate Awards to a male and a female student for their concern for community, commitment to education, and acceptance of responsibility.  Congratulations to Cassidy Bowmaster and Patrick McCauley for their fine work.

-John

Served our country with honor

Article posted on May 29, 2017

I hope everyone had an opportunity to attend a service or parade to honor our active military and veterans.  I was in the Altoona Memorial Day parade this morning and attended their service at the Veterans Mall.  The speaker was Rep. Judy Ward’s son Bill, an Annapolis grad who just finished his time in the Navy.  He spoke about the importance of those serving and how we should be grateful for their sacrifice.  He said we can be assured that those who serve today are serving us well.  It was an excellent speech and much appreciated by the large crowd.  We had the Eichelberger family and some friends at our house this afternoon for a picnic.  I am thankful for today’s weather, my family and friends, and those who have served our country with honor.

-John

I can certainly see why

Article posted on May 28, 2017

Another Sunday without much in the way of substantial news about state government in our papers.  I saw an article about gifts that were reported on members of the General Assembly’s Statements of Financial Interests.  Some things were excessive like thousands of dollars in trips and sporting event tickets, others were justifiable like using a parking space at a district office.  The problem with the article was that it drew no distinction between the good and the bad, the reasonable and the unreasonable.  The reporter put everyone who listed something into the same group, and made them all look bad.  Some even reported things they were not required to report, just for full disclosure.  This is the kind of nonsensical reporting we see regularly.  Often you can see a left-wing agenda from the press, but in this case, it seems to be a lack of understanding and/or simple laziness.  I get frustrated when I hear from people who simply don’t have their facts straight on an issue, but after reading some of the articles I’ve seen recently, I can certainly see why.

-John

We can sure use a warm sunny day

Article posted on May 27, 2017

Charlotte and I attended the American Legion Post 24 – Post Everlasting Memorial Service in Huntingdon this evening.  This service recognizes the members of that Post who died over the past year.  The families are invited to attend as well as other veterans’ organizations and local officials.  Coincidentally, Charlotte had a distant relative who was a member of the Post and died this past year.  No other member of the family could attend, so she felt honored to be there for them.  The rain stopped long enough for me to get some yard work done.  I hope to finish it tomorrow, but more rain is expected in the afternoon and evening.  It does look like Monday will be nice, and we can sure use a warm sunny day.

-John

You’ll know why

Article posted on May 26, 2017

I had several appointments in the office today and took care of some scheduling and other things.  I was in Harrisburg four days this week and with Memorial Day on Monday and another Education Committee hearing scheduled for next Friday, I have a lot to do in the three days I’ll be in the district next week.  I was excited to know that the Penguins won last night, but not excited enough to stay up and see the victory; I fell asleep at the beginning of the 2nd OT period.  Johnny is coming home for the Memorial Day weekend and is supposed to get in very late tonight.  He hasn’t been home since Christmas.  I’m going to a few events over the next few days, but not as many as usual so I can spend some time with him.  If you don’t see me somewhere that you usually do this weekend, you’ll know why.

-John

We had a good and wide-ranging discussion

Article posted on May 25, 2017

I left early this morning for a PHEAA Board meeting.  A motion was approved to support allowing grants to students taking online courses.  The board has been dabbling in this through a pilot program, but was reluctant to open it up any further.  I was glad to see this progress.  I met with the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, their department heads, and two of their judges this afternoon to talk budget issues.  It was good to hear about their concerns directly from their staff.  Tonight’s town hall in McConnellstown was great.  We had a nice group with almost no organized disrupters.  I say almost, because we had two, out of district, PSEA people show up after we started.  They argued with my staff for over 10 minutes about getting in.  Two members of the audience went back to support my staff as did members of the McConnellstown Fire Company.  Thanks to staff and the others who attended; we had a good and wide-ranging discussion.

-John

It continues to be a very busy time for our Committee

Article posted on May 24, 2017

We did a “gut and replace” on a House gaming bill today.  The gaming expansion is expected to generate over $100 million in revenue for the state.  The House worked with the Senate on the new language, so it should go through that chamber and be signed by the Governor soon.  I was a “no” on the bill.  As controversial as this legislation was, the final vote was a bipartisan 38-12.  The hearing this morning on the Education Savings Accounts went well.  We heard from two national organizations about how other plans are structured.  Several of the Senators, including me, had to leave for a Finance Committee meeting during the hearing and missed the panel of parents who were the last to testify.  But the information we received about what has and has not worked in other states has helped us a lot.  We have two more Education Committee hearings in the next two weeks.  It’s been, and continues to be, a very busy time for our Committee.

-John

There will be opposition to this bill

Article posted on May 23, 2017

All three bills on our agenda for the Education Committee this morning were passed unanimously.  It’s nice to work on a bi-partisan basis through most of the issues we’re addressing.  As we get closer to June 30, more issues come to the floor that have an impact on the budget.  One of those bills will be on the agenda tomorrow, changes to the gaming laws.  A bill that will have a long term impact is Senate Bill 1, changes to the pension plans for new hires.  This bill is not what I wanted, but appears to be a step in the right direction.  We just got the language and I’ll be looking at it more closely in the coming days.  Tomorrow morning’s schedule includes another Education Committee hearing, this one is on Education Saving Accounts or ESA’s.  This program would allow parents more options for their children to succeed.  Unfortunately, many folks in the education industry don’t put students’ interests first, so there will be opposition to this bill.

-John

Committee Approves Three Bills

Article posted on May 23, 2017

HARRISBURG (May 23, 2017) – The Senate Education Committee today unanimously approved three bills, including bipartisan legislation requiring legislative approval of any state plan that the Pennsylvania Department of Education submits pursuant to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Senate Bill 53 (Greenleaf) – The legislation would permanently allow for distance education inclusion in the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency State Grant Program. Act 59 of 2013 created the five-year State Grant Distance Education Pilot Program (SGDEPP) and provides PHEAA grant funding to students who take more than 50 percent of their term credits online or are enrolled in programs of study that are structured to be more than 50 percent online. The legislation would fully integrate the distance education grants from a pilot program.

Senate Bill 634 (Aument) – The legislation would amend current law to ensure that students who have taken Advanced Placement courses (and scored 3 or more) would receive college course credit from Pennsylvania public institutions of higher education.

Senate Bill 725 (Eichelberger) – The legislation would require that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan proposed by the PA Department of Education be submitted to the Education Committees of the General Assembly prior to its submission to the federal government and require legislation be enacted prior to its implementation.

“As Pennsylvania’s Constitution grants authority to the legislature in providing a system of education in the Commonwealth, we are required by law to review the implementation and the Department’s proposed changes to accountability, academic standards and assessment in Pennsylvania’s education system. Many of my colleagues and I have heard from residents across Pennsylvania who have expressed concern about our education system and this legislation ensures their concerns are addressed,” Senator Eichelberger (R-Blair) noted.

For media inquiries specific to pieces of legislation, please contact the prime sponsor:

Senator Stewart Greenleaf: (717) 787-6599

Senator Ryan Aument: (717) 787-4420

Senator John Eichelberger: (717) 787-5490

For all other media inquiries, please contact Dr. Andrew Armagost at (717) 783-3563.

###