Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Sixth State Senate District in Pennsylvania

Tonight I'm posting a description of the 6th state senate district. Tomorrow I will post an interview with Paul Lang, Democratic candidate for that office.

The Sixth State Senate District in Pennsylvania

Where is it?
The district is part of Bucks County, comprising the townships of Bensalem, Bristol, Lower Southampton, Middletown, Northampton, Warwick and Wrightstown, and the boroughs of Bristol, Hulmeville, Ivyland, Langhorne, Langhorne Manor and Penndel. Part of the district borders the Delaware River and is prone to flooding. Most of the population in Bucks County lives in the lower Bucks area (now being referred to as the “heritage region”), including parts of the 6th district, but these residents earn a lower income generally than those in the less populous parts of the county. The Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-95 cross but do not meet, in the district.

What is there?
It has one of four race tracks in the state, Pennsylvania Park. By odd coincidence the district is also home to the nation’s only amusement park based on the Sesame Street characters, Sesame Place. No large (or even medium sized) industries are located in the district, although there are a few smaller hospitals, and Jones of New York has its headquarters in Bristol. There are a number of industrial parts in the area. The only higher education institution is the Philadelphia Biblical University. A Bucks County Community College campus is nearby. Also just outside the district borders is the Willow Grove Naval Air Station. The private and prestigious George School is in the area, as is the Langhorne Civic Center. Some public schools are in need of assistance. Of the 16 “most in need” school districts in the state, Bristol Township is the only one in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. Expert teams have been sent in to help the schools improve. Since many area attractions are near but not in the district, collaboration with elected officials in adjoining districts, most of whom are Republican, and the state representatives whose districts are within the senatorial district, also primarily Republicans, would seem especially important. Some of the regions largest shopping areas, including Neshaminy and Oxford Valley malls are in the district. Like much of the Philadelphia area, the region is rich in history and tradition and has strong neighborhoods with stable populations, but industrial jobs have left and nothing has really replaced them. The region is ripe for a renaissance but whether one will happen is not is uncertain. One promising sign is that filmmaker M. Night Shayamalan, who grew up in Bucks County, recently finished filming The Lady in the Water in Bristol Township at the old 3M building.

Who is the current senator?
Currently represented by Republican Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson, a former funeral home owner, and school board member who was first elected to the 18th house district in 1991 and in 1994 to the state senate. Tomlinson voted against the recently repealed pay raise. He also voted against easing the requirements on wearing motorcycle helmets and voted for increasing fines and punishment for DUI offenses. He did receive some criticism when he neglected to report profits from stock in IGA Federal Savings, as did three of the other nine state legislators and political leaders who bought stock in the company when it went public. In 2001, the company was purchased by First Penn Bank, headed by state Sen. Vince Fumo. Tomlinson and three others did not report the profits until this year when prompted by the Inquirer. He received $22,200 in the stock sale. At the time Tomlinson said he did not know ethics rules required him to report capital gains. It was not the only time Tomlinson seemed unaware of the rules. He was one of two co-sponsors of the slots bill, but seemed surprised that the gambling legislation allowed legislators to own a small percentage of a gambling company.

Cattabiani, Matt, Jennifer Lin and Craig McCoy, “8 other political leaders invested in IGA Federal, “ Philadelphia Inquirer May 16, 2005, p. B1.

Finley, Ben, “State helping district improve,” Bucks County Courier Times December 18, 2005, p. C1.

Sullivan, John, Mario Cattabiani and Amy Worder, “Lawmakers could benefit from slots….” Philadelphia Inquirer July 2, 2004, p. A1.

“Where We Live: A Special Report on Life in Lower Bucks County,” Philadephia Inquirer Wed. Dec. 7, 2005, section G, pages G1-G10.

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