Brings about good solutions

Article posted on February 28, 2018

Another day of budget hearings.  We had the Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs, Dept. of Ag, and DCNR.  Before the hearings start at 10:00, we have a briefing on the budgets for the departments scheduled that day.  We go over the proposed changes, their requests for funding, and how they are performing in the current fiscal year.  We discuss our opinions and learn more about the operations of government.  Preparing for the hearings is a lot of work for the Appropriations Committee staff that give the Committee members all of the preparatory financial and other information.  It’s a busy time for everyone involved with the committee and if done well, brings about good solutions.


An interesting exchange of information

Article posted on February 27, 2018

Another appeal from the legislature on the new redistricting map was turned down today by the State Supreme Court.  They were asked to delay the implementation of the new map until the next election cycle; the vote was 4-3 against.  Everyone is now waiting for the federal case to be heard on March 9th.  We had Justices Baer and Mundy before the Appropriations Committee this afternoon at the budget hearings.  They were asked quite a few questions about the map redrawing.  The two Justices explained that since they both dissented, they were not part of the map drawing and didn’t even speak with the “expert” the court hired to assist in the process.  It was an interesting exchange of information.


Create the environment for these conversations

Article posted on February 26, 2018

We have an Education Committee Hearing scheduled for this Friday at 10:00; the subject is school safety.  I was asked about the hearing today by a newspaper and said that this will be helpful in gathering information, but no legislation has been discussed specifically.  There are bills that have been introduced since the Florida shooting, but none have been worked on with the committee staff.  One idea that is in the process of being introduced is to add security discussions at school board meetings to the list of subjects eligible for executive session.  It makes sense to keep this information about where the weaknesses are in the system away from people who could use the information for evil.  There are lots of common sense ideas that can be beneficial, and I hope the hearing creates the environment in the legislature for these conversations.


A very interesting question

Article posted on February 25, 2018

We finished out the last day of the Jaffa Sports Show.  I never heard any official attendance numbers, but my guess is average or a little better than average for the weekend.  The number one issue today was gun control/school safety followed closely by the redistricting map.  Most of the people did not support any change to existing gun control laws, but a few were interested in the mental health record of the purchaser.  I had one person argue with me about the “assault” weapon used at the school in Florida.  She described it as an automatic weapon.  I told her it was a semi-automatic weapon and explained the difference.  She told me I was wrong and asked if the NRA gives me money.  I quickly realized that having a dialogue with this person who doesn’t understand the basic facts would be a waste of time.  This, fortunately, was the only hostile person I encountered all weekend.  I also talked with folks about fish license fees, hunting license fees, boat regulations, and other topics including a very interesting question from a family member of someone who was brutally murdered.  They asked if there would be notification given to the relatives of the victim when the inmate died in prison after serving a life sentence.  I didn’t know the answer, but will get back to this gentlemen.


I enjoyed the conversations

Article posted on February 24, 2018

Another day at the Jaffa Sports Show and another good crowd.  The rain may have helped the attendance; who knows?  We heard more about the map again today than anything else.  I’m impressed that so many people are aware of what’s happening and are questioning the overreach of the court.  I heard a lot about school safety, including arming teachers and having armed guards, and about any further restrictions on our 2nd Amendment rights.  I also answered questions about the PIAA, salary issues at the state, a state job application, a railroad trestle in Altoona, gas drilling on state land, and road and bridge funding, among other topics.  I enjoyed the conversations and look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow.


Look forward to seeing many more people

Article posted on February 23, 2018

The first step in the map challenge is to have the federal court assign a panel of three judges to hear the case and that was done today.  I don’t have any information about when the case will be heard and the Dept. of State has not changed anything in the election calendar.  Today was the first day of the Jaffa Sports Show.  I thought the crowd was good; maybe the rain will bring in folks over the weekend.  The biggest subject asked about today was the Congressional maps.  We also talked about CDL licensing, gun control, real estate taxes, active shooter training, and taxidermy license violation, among other things.  Look forward to seeing many more people tomorrow.


Another day of budget hearings

Article posted on February 22, 2018

Top brass from the Pennsylvania State Police testify Thursday afternoon during Budget Hearings with the Senate Appropriations Committee.

On the map, the legislature, along with 8 Congressman, filed a challenge today in the federal court.  There has not been any news on the stay petition filed yesterday.  We had another day of Budget hearings.  Today’s agenda included the State System of Higher Education, the State Police, PEMA and the Fire Commissioner.  The toughest questions were asked of the PASSHE Chancellor.  The collective bargaining agreement they have makes it nearly impossible to manage the system and the raises that were given make their budget worse than it already was, which is unsustainable.  If things don’t change, this system won’t be around much longer.  The schools could be there independently or under some other umbrella, but the current structure is not able to adapt to current market trends and is running out of money.


Surprised to see their lack of planning

Article posted on February 21, 2018

The Pro Tem and Speaker, today, filed for an emergency stay in the redistricting matter with the U.S. Supreme Court.  They are asking for the map drawn by the State Supreme Court to not be implemented until a decision can be reached on a challenge to be filed with the federal court.  I haven’t been told how long a decision on this filing is expected to take, but I imagine it would be within a couple of days.  The argument is that the court is violating the U.S. and State Constitutions by drawing a map themselves and gave no realistic time period for the legislature to draw a new map, and that new criteria was added to the map drawing process that goes beyond the constitutional requirements.  Obviously, everyone will be watching to see what happens next.  Coincidently, the Dept. of State appeared before the Appropriations Committee today and told us they were moving ahead with the election process based on the new map.  They were tough to pin down about what would happen with any delay and didn’t appear to have a plan B.  We were all surprised to see their lack of planning for a contingency in the middle of this issue that has gotten national press.


Discussion on the issues

Article posted on February 20, 2018

The Appropriations Committee hearings on the budget started today in the Senate and the House.  The tradition in the Senate is to allow the chair of the oversight committee to lead the questioning on the subjects that fall under his or her committee.  This afternoon, we had people in from the Schools for the Deaf and Blind, and the Intermediate Units, so, I started things off.  Nothing really unusual today came out of the hearings, but there are 2 ½ weeks to go.  This evening I was a guest on the PCN call-in program along with Rep. Jim Roebuck, Minority Chair of the House Education Committee.  We talked about school issues. Several of the callers were from back home, Altoona, Saxton, and Johnstown, and interestingly, most of the rest were from the Philly area where Rep. Roebuck lives.  I’ll be on the radio in the morning, 103.7, at 8:10 for my usual every-other-Wednesday discussion on the issues.


Confusion for everyone involved

Article posted on February 19, 2018

The Congressional redistricting map was issued this afternoon from the state Supreme Court.  The map has more municipal and precinct splits than the Republican map with one less county split.  The people who determine how a district leans (Republican or Democrat) say the state currently has 4 solid Democrat districts and goes to 5, with 2 more leaning Democrat and 2 more in play.  The partisan nature of the court without regard for the split requirements they, themselves, established, is stunning.  There has been no official response from legislative leadership, but they told the press that a challenge would most likely be filed.  I’m not sure of a hard date, but if this issue isn’t settled soon, the May 15th Primary Election will have to be delayed.  This was another reason why one of the Democrat Justices voted with the Republicans, in the 4-3 decision.  The timing of this entire situation has created confusion for everyone involved, including the voters.