One that fits your circumstances

Article posted on November 30, 2017

The weather app on my phone isn’t always very accurate.  I looked at it this morning and it said that we’d be getting rain at about 6:00 tonight, the same time the Altoona Christmas Parade starts.  I was leaving the Tyrone Chamber’s Soup Sampling event at 5:15 and thought, great, no rain.  By the time I hit the interstate, it started to sprinkle and the rain got more steady by parade time.  It never rained hard and the large crowd stayed till the very end.  There were 104 units in the parade, I’m told the largest in recent history.  Thanks to everyone who put it together, job well done.  The Acting Insurance Commissioner was in Altoona this afternoon to talk about the enrollment period for Obamacare; it ends on December 15th this year, instead of the end of January like previous years.  If you are interested in purchasing a policy, this is your window and there are two websites in PA designed to help.  If anyone is interested, please contact my office and we’ll direct you to the one that fits your circumstances.

-John

The new salary for the rank and file legislators

Article posted on November 29, 2017

Another unseasonably warm day, which was great for most of us, not too great for the deer hunters.  Over the past week there have been news stories about the annual cost of living increase for state officials in all three branches of government.  The law, passed many years ago, provides that these salaries are adjusted at the start of the new payroll year (Dec. 1, for the legislature, Jan. 1, for the executive and judicial officials).  The adjustment is based on a federal inflation index and amounted to a 0.8% increase for this coming year.  Every official’s paycheck is increased and there is no way to turn down the additional salary, so, as I have done for 10 years, I will write a check each month to the Commonwealth for my cumulative increase.  The new salary for the rank and file legislators is just under $87,200.

-John

Always spectacular

Article posted on November 28, 2017

I had a good start on the day, but got swamped with additional issues that kept me from staying on schedule.  Last night and this morning I wrote a response to the Morrisons Cove Herald’s editorial from last week about SB 745, my legislation on changing local government advertising from newspapers to a central website operated by the Office of Open Records.  The newspapers don’t like this idea because they would lose tens of millions of dollars each year in forced ad buys.  This law has subsidized them for a long time and hurt the taxpayers not only monetarily, but deprived local governments from getting more competitive bids on projects, more talented applicants for job openings, and more information out to more people.  I’m tired of the newspaper industry saying their system is better when their concern is really about profit.  My formal response should be in the Herald tomorrow, or Thursday for the home delivery subscribers.  We had a bridge dedication in Snyder Twp., Blair County this afternoon memorializing U.S. Army Sgt. John Frederick Bridges, who gave his life protecting his unit in Germany during WWII.  His family was very appreciative of the honor.  I left there for the ribbon cutting of the new One North Coffee and Bake Shop in Mercersburg.  It’s a nice shop with plenty of room to sit and enjoy a cup of your favorite hot beverage.  The Mercersburg Chamber had their Annual Leaders Dinner this evening at Flannery’s Tavern, always a spectacular meal.

-John

A good time to pass this legislation

Article posted on November 27, 2017

It was a warm first day of deer season, but since I wasn’t in the woods, I appreciated it.  I hope everyone was safe today, enjoyed their time outdoors, and maybe, bagged a big buck.  Part of my time today was spent planning several workshops I’m hosting in western PA on my constitutional convention legislation.  At this point, we are planning these in Fayette County, Pittsburgh, and Altoona.  We’ll have news releases out for each one and post them on my website and Facebook page.  So far, the idea has been well received by people and groups across the political spectrum.  The press has been favorable and we are gaining co-sponsors in the Senate and House.  Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the last convention, which is the longest period of time Pennsylvania has gone without one and a good time to pass this legislation.

-John

A lot more six figure annuitants

Article posted on November 26, 2017

There were a couple of interesting stories in the Sunday papers.  One was about a court ruling last week on a budget issue.  Part of this year’s revenue package included $200 million from the reserves of the PA Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Authority.  The legislature and the Governor agreed that the reserves were excessive and that the state could put that money into the General Fund.  The authority is arguing that the reserves are needed and that they are an independent entity so the state cannot take a cent.  A judge ruled that the authority did not need to release the funds by the December 1 deadline set by the state and that a trial would be expedited to decide these questions.  The other story was about who receives very large pension payouts.  It’s no surprise that most of the top payouts are to education employees with Penn State and PASSHE and K-12 schools producing many of the highest annuity payments.  The top three people in the system are receiving over $400,000 per year.  This is based on salary and longevity.  With the changes we’re making only affecting new employees, there will be a lot more six figure annuitants coming on-line as the baby boomers retire.

-John

Go State!

Article posted on November 25, 2017

Johnny and I did the 4.5 mile Turkey Trot this morning in Hollidaysburg.  This was the first time he beat me in any race since we started running races when he was very young.  I’m not in the best shape, and he’s been working on his speed, but he did exceptionally well, averaging a 6:40 mile and earning him 15th place overall in a field of 237 runners.  Good job, Johnny.  We also got some hunting in this afternoon.  Oakley flushed all five birds we had out, but gave us a bit of a rough time as he got tired toward the end.  All and all, it was a good first outing for him this season.  And as far as football seasons go, Penn State was finishing their regular season with a romp over Maryland, 66 to 3.  Go State!

-John

That debate will be interesting

Article posted on November 24, 2017

I hope everyone survived Black Friday.  Johnny and I had to get a couple of items for tomorrow so we opted to go shopping late Thursday night.  It wasn’t too bad and we got a better deal than expected.  Judging by the parking lots and traffic today, I think we made a smart move.  We got news on Wednesday that the Supreme Court finally issued a decision on a case raised three years ago by the Senate’s leadership.  Then Governor Corbett vetoed part of the 2014-15 General Appropriations Bill and the Fiscal Code.  His veto was not done correctly, said the court, but the issue about how to resolve what had been vetoed was not addressed.  There are, of course, different opinions concerning what should happen about the money that was vetoed improperly.  That debate will be interesting.

-John

Thank God for the blessings

Article posted on November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  We had a wonderful time at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Bedford County this afternoon, and had entirely too much to eat.  Charlotte and I ended up skipping supper with no regrets.  I hope everyone had a great time with family and friends and remembered to thank God for the blessings he has given this nation.  As you wade through ad sheets and venture out to the stores over the next few days, please be careful.  We saw full parking lots tonight as some stores started their sales earlier than ever.  The Senate offices will be closed tomorrow in honor of the holiday.

-John

Pleased to see the progress

Article posted on November 22, 2017

I met with staff and did a tour this morning at Nason Hospital in Roaring Spring.  I haven’t been out there for an official visit for a while and was encouraged to hear about their progress and plans for the future.  I had a meeting in the office with a state business association and then left to meet with staff and take a tour of the Central PA Digital Learning Foundation Charter School in Duncansville.  This cyber charter is operated by the Intermediate Unit.  I toured it years ago when they were in a different location and under different management.  They have more options for students now and work with districts and the IU on another program, Open Classrooms, that offers cyber classes to traditional students that can’t take that course through their district.  We need more of those opportunities for students across PA.  Every child should be given the chance to take any reasonable course and not be restricted to just what their district offers.  These options can help everyone, including their vo-tech students who can’t otherwise schedule a course they want because they’re out of the building for half of the day.  I was pleased to see the progress this cyber charter has made.

-John

It was a productive meeting

Article posted on November 21, 2017

I left for Pittsburgh very early this morning to observe an educational program at UPMC.  The program involves teaching teachers about things they are working on and partnering to find ways to bring the science to their classrooms.  The subject of the workshop was ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  We had presentations from researchers this morning then went to the lab to see the work they were doing with stem cells.  It was a fascinating experience.  I got back in time to attend a meeting of the Blair County Fire Chief’s Assoc. called for the purpose of clarifying the roles of the fire companies, PennDOT, and the State Police when a traffic accident or other incident blocks a highway.  As you can imagine, sometimes clean up can take hours to finish and fire companies can have a difficult time keeping volunteers on site for that long.  It was a productive meeting.

-John