Look forward to showing off a local business

Article posted on November 19, 2017

I didn’t see anything in the papers today worth repeating.  The House will be in session tomorrow and Tuesday; I didn’t see anything about what they’ll tackle, but if their schedule is like the Senate’s, they’ll start to clean up bills that have been sitting on the calendar for a while.  I was in another parade today and the weather wasn’t great, better than yesterday’s heavy rain, but not great.  Hollidaysburg residents hosted their annual Winterfest Parade and came out in large numbers despite the cold drizzle.  I got some office work done after the parade, and was able to be home for dinner with Charlotte this evening.  The Governor will be in Blair County tomorrow morning, and I rearranged appointments to be with him on an industry tour.  Despite our political differences, he is generally a nice guy.  I have been with him before at similar venues and look forward to showing off a local business to him and his staff.

-John

They always do a great job

Article posted on November 18, 2017

It was a cold, wet day, not great for a parade, but we went through with the Martinsburg Christmas Parade anyway.  It’s part of the town’s celebration that included other events at the park.  Unfortunately, few people turned out, but the parking lot looked pretty full for the Soup Skirmish.  I ran a lot of errands this afternoon and got a little office work done.  Penn State was doing well, the last time I got a chance to check.  Charlotte and I are headed to the Mishler tonight for Altoona Community Theatre’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  I’m sure it will be terrific; they always do a great job.

-John

Make this substantial project a success

Article posted on November 17, 2017

This morning I was part of a group that toured the closed Wright Elementary School in Altoona.  A Christian non-profit organization, The Nehemiah Project, which has renovated a church on the next block, built a playground and fixed up homes in the neighborhood, is buying it.  They have plans to make a life center, which could include a medical clinic, programs for youth and the elderly, a community gym and an auditorium for presentations and the arts.  Given the success of this organization over the past 10 years, I’m confident they have the vision and can pull together the resources to make this substantial project a success.

-John

Meet new people and see old friends

Article posted on November 16, 2017

I was the speaker at the Blair Chamber Breakfast this morning.  They had a good crowd and good questions for me.  We finished up their questions and fielded some from the audience with the time remaining.  I appreciate the opportunity each Fall to speak to this gathering.  I had lunch with my 4 year old friend, Branson, this afternoon at Begin With Us Childcare’s Thanksgiving Dinner.  It’s always fun to be with the kids and parents at this special meal.  This evening I was at the Shirley Twp. Municipal Building for a town hall.  About 20 people turned out for an hour-long discussion on the PA constitutional convention, the budget, various pre-emption issues, gun control, vo-tech education, and other subjects.  It was good to meet a few new people and see some old friends.

-John

Bring detailed clarity to this issue

Article posted on November 15, 2017

The hearing this morning on the state-owned universities confirmed what we knew from reports and previous discussions: the system, as it currently operates, cannot sustain itself.  The union contract in place provides generous salaries and benefits to the teaching staff and others, which is a burden on the universities financially.  In addition, the restrictions in the CBA prevent the system from adapting to changing circumstances, making progress nearly impossible in many situations.  The union and the administration both say the answer, as always, is more money.  The university presidents, at least a group of them, would like the ability to manage more independently and get out from under the costs of the failing schools being charged to the more profitable schools.  The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee is doing a study of this system for the legislature that will be done in January.  I hope to see some unvarnished factual information in that report that will bring detailed clarity to this issue.

-John

Senate and House Education Committees Hold Joint Hearing on State System

Article posted on November 15, 2017

HARRISBURG (November 15, 2017) – The Senate and House Education Committees held a joint hearing today focusing on the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Strategic System Review.

Over the past year, the state system hired the National Center on Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) to examine the current system and to provide recommendations for changes. As part of today’s hearing, members of the committees asked important questions related to their concerns about the report after hearing from University Presidents, the Chancellor’s office, and the faculty union.

“The universities are trapped in a system where they are unable to enact efficiencies, redesign their programs, or collaborate with outside interests to improve their institutions because of their union contracts. The universities that are financially stable are forced to pay the bills of the failing schools in their system, leaving few resources and even fewer options to make their universities better. Without substantial change, the system, under its current structure, is unsustainable for the long term,” Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. said.

“I concur with Senator Eichelberger,” said Representative David Hickernell, “that there are many elements to the current operations of the State System that significantly hamper the ability of the individual universities to react and respond to changing fiscal realities and higher education trends. It was also made clear from the testimony today that, without some significant changes, mandates stemming from union contracts and other system-wide and local regulations will continue to be impediments to our state-owned universities as they look to be innovative and successfully compete with other institutions across the Commonwealth’s various sectors of higher education.”

For additional information, please contact Dr. Andrew Armagost at (717) 783-3563.

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Help people in difficult situations

Article posted on November 14, 2017

We continued to move legislation today and voted on several nominees for various positions.  We’re scheduled to vote on a bill of mine tomorrow concerning guardianship law.  The bill would allow family members access to a loved one under the protection of a guardian unless the guardian has legal grounds to prevent contact.  Under current law, a guardian could prevent access for any reason forcing a relative to go to court to prove they should have it.  It also has notification requirements in the bill for the guardian to follow.  Family members should know if their loved one moves, goes into a home or is released from one, or passes away.  Believe it or not, some guardians do not contact family members with this essential information.  Hopefully, this legislation will help people in difficult situations.

-John

Pleased to show off this building

Article posted on November 13, 2017

The Senate is back in session this week; the House is scheduled to be back on Monday and Tuesday of next week.  We are working our way through bills that have been on the calendar and generally are agreed to, as well as some that have timelines connected to them.  In addition, we have a number of confirmations to vote on in the Senate.  We have 4 nominees for various positions visiting caucus tomorrow.  They are making the rounds to individual Senators and I met with three today in my office.  I was pleased to have the company of Ray and Cathy Shipp from Huntingdon County today.  They came down for a visit and tour of the capitol.  I’m pleased to show off this building to people when I get a chance and answer questions about the legislative process.

-John

Suffer any consequences for these actions

Article posted on November 12, 2017

There were a couple of stories in the papers this week about school districts not following directions.  One, New Kensington-Arnold, involved yearly pay increases for the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent without language in the their contracts to receive raises and without performance reviews.  The raises were violations of the state school code and school district policy.  The Auditor General uncovered this situation during an audit that was released on Wednesday.  Interestingly, the school board president and the superintendent are brothers.  The Scranton School District is under financial watch and their recent audit by the Auditor General disclosed reckless spending and decision making practices.  Their business manager is retiring in December.  The superintendent has a plan to restructure several positions, including the business manager position, and promote the assistant business manager in the process.  Her plan has not been approved by the school board; furthermore, according to the president of the school board, she was told at their last meeting to advertise through the statewide school websites for candidates to fill the vacant business manager’s position.  The Auditor General is not happy with this move to shut down looking at anyone else for the job.  The president of the school board isn’t happy either.  Unfortunately, these are just two of many examples of the lack of accountability in the government schools today.  I doubt if anyone will suffer any consequences for these actions.

-John

God bless them all

Article posted on November 11, 2017

Happy Veterans Day!  I hope everybody got to attend a service or parade in their community honoring our vets.  I was in the Altoona parade this morning and stayed for the ceremony they have downtown following.  Rep. John McGinnis was the MC and did a great job.  He, Rep. Judy Ward, and I all attended the service at the Hollidaysburg Veterans’ Home this afternoon, then Rep. Ward and I left there for the parade in Tyrone.  I spoke with a lot of veterans this week and heard a lot of stories.  A subject that I never heard discussed came up between three vets talking about the immunization shots they received when they traveled out of the country.  One vet said he remembers the doctor coming at him with three syringes in one hand, stuck him with all three at one time, than grabbed three more and did the same in the other arm.  He got at least one more in his posterior.  He said he was deathly ill for three days after the shots.  One of the other vets said he had a relative that had a problem with his medical records and got the series of shots twice and died.  It made me think of the many hazards these men and women faced outside of combat.  Training, traveling, and using equipment, including guns and explosives, were part of their military experience, and were often dangerous.  God bless them all.

-John