Thursday, April 17, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Chris Cillizza writes an interesting column for the Washington Post on the decreasing number of moderates in the House and Senate. ("The ideological middle in Congress is dead. So, who killed it?" 4/15).
One very interesting point, gerrymandering gets blamed for the increasing partisanship in the House, but it shouldn't affect the Senate as those are statewide races. Hadn't thought of that.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
In an alarming story of government overreach and lack of accountability and transparency, the Washington Post reports a story, "Social Security, Treasury target taxpayers for their parents' decades-old debts," by Marc Fisher (4/10/14). People are finding their tax refunds are intercepted to recompense for overpayments by Social Security going back decades, sometimes to when the person was a child and the payments were to their parents. No proof is given that the person benefited from the overpayment. One example given is for a woman who is charged for a nearly 40 year old overpayment, back to the time she when she was four. Neither of her two surviving siblings, one older and one younger, were charged.
It's all because someone put a sentence into a farm bill doing away with the statue of limitations on recovering overpayments. I really think there should be a way to find out which of our elected officials added that sentence (or which lobbyists actually wrote it and has someone add it to the bill).
This is scary.
Update: On Monday the Social Security Administration said it would stop this practice (see "social security stops trying to collect on old debts by seizing tax refunds," by Marc Fisher 4/14). I will want to know who started it.
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
from the inbox:
It’s a matchup no person or car will ever win
— a hit from an oncoming train. Yet every day, people across the Greater Philadelphia
region attempt to beat those odds by making the risky choice of walking along train
tracks or driving through grade crossings when the gates are closing or are already down.
“No one can outrun or outdrive a train,” said Scott Sauer, SEPTA’s director of System Safety and a board member for Operation Lifesaver Inc., a national organization dedicated to rail safety. “And no one should ever assume that there is a time when tracks are completly clear of train traffic. A train can come on any track at any time.”
According to Operation Lifesaver, across the country, a person or vehicle is struck by a train approximately once every three hours. In 2013, more than 908 pedestrians were injured or killed while walking on or near railroad tracks, up almost eight percent from 2012. Of the rail-related deaths, 95 percent involve drivers trying to beat a train, or people trespassing on railroad tracks.
“The majority of train related incidents are preventable,” said Sauer. “A moving train can’t steer out of the way of an object or person in the tracks and it takes more effort and time to slow or stop a train. By crossing the tracks instead of using a dedicated overpass or underpass or driving through the grade crossing when the gates are down, people are putting themselves in imminent, and unnecessary, danger.”
To remind the public that train tracks are not the place for people or cars, SEPTA is partnering with Operation Livesaver on the organization’s new “See Tracks? Think Train!” initiative. This public service campaign, which launches today, is aimed at reducing the number of pedestrian and driver injuries and fatalities around railroad tracks by highlighting risky behaviors. SEPTA’s System Safety officers will feature information from the program in the many Operation Lifesaver rail safety presentations they make across the Authority’s service area.
For more information see: www.septa.org/safety/lifesaver
Monday, April 07, 2014
Two term Montgomery County Commissioner Ruth Damsker announces that she will run as a candidate for State Senator in Pennsylvania’s 12th Senatorial District. Ruth seeks to replace 36 year incumbent Republican Stewart Greenleaf.
Damsker has served in Europe with the US Army Community service Program and was Cheltenham Finance Officer and Controller for 12 years as well as Montgomery County Commissioner from 2000 to 2008. In addition to her role as County Commissioner Damsker has also served in leadership roles in the American Cancer Society, Rotary International, the American Association of University Women and the United Parent Group.
Damsker is a member of the League Of Women Voters and was appointed by Governor Rendell to serve on the Pennsylvania Intra-Governmental Council on Long Term Care and the Pennsylvania Targeted Community Revitalization and Crime Prevention Committee.Damsker will be a fresh new voice with innovative ideas. As State Senator Damsker plans to restore education funding including early childhood education for all children; introduce a fair share extraction tax on natural gas; protect state lands, forests and streams; create jobs and grow the economy of Pennsylvania by providing grants and loans for small businesses--such as those using renewable sources of energy.
“My opponent, 36 year incumbent Senator Greenleaf has gone along with the right wing agenda of Governor Corbett, voting for a $1 billion cut in education funds, supported the tax giveaway to natural gas drilling companies as well as placing state lands, forests and natural resources at risk.” said Damsker. “Greenleaf supports Republican policies which are hurting hard working Pennsylvania families.”
A resident of Upper Gwynedd, Damsker was married to the late Dr. Jeffrey Damsker for 35 years, a Radiation Oncologist. She graduated from Temple University and has three sons, Jason, Keith and David, who are physicians and a daughter, Rebecca who is a secondary Social Studies teacher. Damsker is the proud grandmother of 6.
from the inbox:
Council President Darrell L. Clarke has unveiled the City Council Budget Center, an online hub of documents, transcripts and video of the FY2015 City of Philadelphia budget hearing process.
Departmental budget proposals and hearing testimony, transcripts and video will be added to the City Council Budget Center –http://phlcouncil.com/BudgetCenter/ – as they become available. The City Council Budget Center also has information on the FY2015 budget hearing schedule, which is subject to change.
Council President Clarke encouraged members of the public to use the City Council Budget Center as a tool to stay informed about the FY2015 budget process as well as opportunities to attend public hearings and testify on Mayor Nutter’s spending proposals.
CeaseFire Pennsylvania, a gun safety organization, has released a 19 page pdf report on the six candidates running for governor. Given that the two Republican candidates (Bob Guzzardi and Gov. Tom Corbett) did not respond to their questionnaire, the report focuses on the four Democratic candidates. For those who do not want to read the entire report, the short answer is that Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz and Katie McGinty both received a 100% rating, Rob McCord 84%, and Tom Wolf 79%. You can read the full report at:
Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, indicating that women must work a year, three months and eight days to earn as much as a man does in a year. The bipartisan bicameral Women's Health Caucus is sponsoring two bills:
The bills are H.B. 1890 and S.B. 1212. They would update the conditions under which employers could pay different wages because of a factor other than sex. These factors would include specific, job-related attributes such as education, training and experience. The bills would also strengthen anti-retaliation protections for employees attempting to bring a pay-equity lawsuit against their employer and those who share information about their pay.
The group is also distributing an infographic showing the discrepancy between men and women's income in Pennsylvania counties. It is available at: http://www.pahouse.com/Photos/44201415220_EqualPayCountiesMap.jpg
Update: Rep. Stephen Bloom was unintentionally omitted from the list. He has been added.
In August, 2011, I posted a list of state representatives and state senators who posted their monthly expense reports. Earlier this month I updated the list of state senators. This evening I update the list of state reps. In 2011 there were 20 state reps on the list, seven Democrats, and 13 Republicans. Following my standard practice I linked to the individual legislator's sites from the www.pahouse.com and www.pahousegop.com pages.
Things have changed since 2011. There are now four Democrats, and
22 23 Republicans. Some of the Republican representatives use a special "monthly expenses" icon on the page, others put a tab on the left hand menu bar. The Democrats all use the menu bar. Seeing the discrepancy I went back and spot checked some of the Democratic sites again, just in case I had missed something. It is possible that I overlooked a listing somewhere as I didn't review all the sites a second time but I did make an effort to be thorough. I encourage the curious to check for themselves; if there are errors please let me know. There are several state reps running for higher office. Interested voters might take note of whether or not they are on this list.
There is an aggregate increase in the number of state reps posting their expenses but I am disappointed in the party discrepancy.
Here is the list:
Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-199)
Thursday, April 03, 2014
Two notes from our friends at SEPTA:
- Some of the Regional Rail lines are shifting their schedules starting on Sunday; new timetables are now available.
- Progress was made tonight during an informal meeting attended by SEPTA management and TWU Local 234 negotiation team leaders. A possible two-year contract is being discussed. Talks will continue tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at an undisclosed location.
from the inbox:
The Keystone Progress Political Action Committee (KP PAC) announced today that it is endorsing Billy Smith in the 164th Legislative District.
KP PAC is the political action committee of Keystone Progress. Keystone Progress is a multi-issue progressive organization with over 200,000 members. This is only the third endorsement by the progressive organization since it began making endorsements earlier this year.
The following is the endorsement announcement from KP PAC:We are honored to announce that the board of directors of the Keystone Progress Political Action Committee (KP PAC) endorses Billy Smith for State Representative in the 164th district.
We are proud to be able to make this endorsement because of Mr. Smith’s clear support for progressive values, including civil rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, protecting our environment, supporting public education and affordable health care. These are the values that our members want to see championed in Harrisburg. We believe that Billy Smith is the best candidate to assure that working families in the 164th Legislative District will have a strong, progressive voice in the House of Representatives.We look forward to working with Billy Smith as the next State Representative from the 164th district.
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
The Bucks County Democratic Committee has named Eric Nagy their new executive director. According to the press release:
Nagy has spent the last eight years managing top-tier campaigns – from State Representative to County Judge to United States Congress – all around the country. Nagy, a native of nearby Easton, PA and graduate of Ithaca College, returns to Bucks County having managed the Commissioner slate during the 2011 cycle