Saturday, September 30, 2006

HB 632, Auditing of Charities and Nonprofits

Two organizations I have come to trust have both weighed in on a bill this week. While the second organization does not specify a position on the bill, it does provide a little more information, and is mentioned as part of a coalition with the first organization. I think the amendment sounds like a fine idea.

From the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations

The charitable audit threshold bill HB 632 (PN3824) has been placed on the Senate Calendar for Third Consideration and may be put to a Final Vote on Tuesday, October 3. The bill was reported out Committee on September 26 without any amendments.

HB 632 (PN3824) will increase the audit triggering threshold for all charitable nonprofits from the current $125,000 in annual contributions to $300,000. This bill will enable smaller charities to direct more of their charitable dollars to programs and services, rather than to costly audits.

PANO's proposed amendment would require a review for charities raising between $100,000 and $300,000, and a compilation for charities raising between $50,000 and $100,000. Establishing some level of disclosure for organizations that fall below the $300,000 threshold, will help maintain the public trust.

PANO has promoted this bill with a coalition of organizations including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP).

There is more information on their website's public policy page.

The Pennsylvania Institute of CPA's, the nice folks whose weekly legislative report is one links I provide in my weekly legislative update, have this to say.

The Senate State Government Committee approved House Bill 632 on Tues., Sept. 26, without amendments, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.

House Bill 632 amends the Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act of 1990 by removing the exemption for first responder organizations, such as veterans’, volunteer fireman’s, ambulance and rescue squad organizations.

The bill also increases the audit threshold for organizations that receive annual contributions of more than $300,000—up from $125,000. Organizations that receive annual contributions of between $50,000 and $300,000 would be required to have a compilation, review or audit of their financial statements.

If any of our state senators are reading, this is something I, speaking as a community activist and someone who works in and with a number of these smaller nonprofits, strongly support.

Friday, September 29, 2006

weekly legislative update

This is a list of bills that passed the Pennsylvania House or Senate this week, and mention of any noteworthy resolutions. Standard caveats apply (resolutions not generally included, list of sponsors deleted if it was too long - three lines in the originally formatting).

Our accountants friends at PICPA have updated their legislative page.

Other weekly updates are available for this week:

PA House Democrats
PA House GOP daily updates
PA Senate Democrats
PA Senate Republicans

Regular Session


The timing of a few resolutions caught my eye.

On Sept. 25th the House designated Sept. 20th as National Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness Day. I guess they were distracted on the 20th and didn’t to it until later? Similarly, on Sept. 25th the House designated Sept. as National Preparedness Month. Umm, I understand they were in recess until late in Sept. but this sort of thing does not inspire confidence.





HB2498 Prior Printer's No. 3672.Printer's No. 4457. An Act amending Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for Gold Star Family registration plate.

SB 922 By Senators ORIE, BROWNE, RAFFERTY, LOGAN, TARTAGLIONE, O'PAKE, WOZNIAK, BOSCOLA, RHOADES, EARLL, PIPPY, D. WHITE, WAUGH, WONDERLING and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's No. 1212.Printer's No. 2046. An Act amending the act of December 15, 1988 (P.L.1235, No.151), known as the Children's Trust Fund Act, further providing for the Children's Trust Fund Board, for powers and duties of the board and for powers and duties of the Department of Public Welfare.

SB972 Prior Printer's Nos. 1309, 2052.Printer's No. 2098. An Act amending the act of March 20, 2002 (P.L.154, No.13), known as the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (Mcare) Act, further providing, in Health Care Provider Retention Program, for the definition of "emergency physician," for abatement program and for expiration.

SB 1335 By Senators ARMSTRONG and STACK. Printer's No. 2050. An Act amending the act of May 17, 1921 (P.L.682, No.284), known as The Insurance Company Law of 1921, further providing, in health care insurance, for individual accessibility, for conversion policies and for sunset.

SB 1207 By Senators RAFFERTY, LOGAN, BOSCOLA, FONTANA, GORDNER, ORIE, COSTA, GREENLEAF, RHOADES, TARTAGLIONE, PILEGGI, WENGER, STACK, C. WILLIAMS and LEMMOND. Prior Printer's No. 1767.Printer's No. 1895. An Act amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), known as The Administrative Code of 1929, further providing for the Pennsylvania State Police; and making a repeal.

SB1266 Prior Printer's Nos. 1935, 1946.Printer's No. 2085. An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for certain leaves of absence.

SB 1303 By Senators WONDERLING, VANCE, M. WHITE, CORMAN, WENGER, REGOLA, ORIE, ROBBINS, RAFFERTY, D. WHITE, PICCOLA, WAUGH, ARMSTRONG and BROWNE.Printer's No. 2060. An Act amending Title 4 (Amusements) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for expenses of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

News Round Up

This is a brief post. It has been a long week.

I caught some of the speeches about the proposed PA gun laws on PCN. The gentleman who drew an analogy between the public reaction to the recent "spinach" crisis and the public reaction to the recent increase in gun violence was wonderful. You can read more about it in the Inquirer ("The gun controversy: Philadelphia residents rally in Harrisburg to protest gun violence," by Vernon Clark, 9/26), online here and ("Mostly, a miss on gun control: The Pa. House turned aside most proposals. One lawmaker called the urban initiatives "liberal gun-grabbing legislation."" by Mario F. Cattabiani and Amy Worden) here.

Jared Goyette has a nice profile of Patrick Murphy (Democratic candidate for the 8th congressional district) in this week's City Paper (available online here).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

2006 Interview Series

Researching candidates and officials to compile questions for email interviews and reading the answers has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of blogging for me this past year. Here is a list of interviews done in 2006 (two are actually from late 2005). A few question sets went out relatively recently and haven't come back yet but I put the list together anyway so people can read through the interviews before the elections if they want. Should the other interviews come in, I'll add them to the list, as well as post them separately.

Taking a look at the interviewees I note a few things. Joe Hoeffel was willing to go through the process twice. The candidates come from varying levels of government. There is one Republican in the bunch (John Featherman), and one woman (Valerie McDonald Roberts). Some of them contacted me and asked for an interview, some I contacted and offered. There are a few others I contacted who either declined or never responded.

It's a lot of work for both parties but I think they are useful and fun to do (at least for me). I hope to have another list for you next year, though it may be shorter since there aren't state elections in 2007.

Jeff Albert, 7/06, 12th state senate
Chris Casey, 8/06, 134th state house
Charles Dertinger, 7/06, 15th congressional district
John Featherman, 2/06, senate
Joe Hoeffel, 11/05
Joe Hoeffel, 4/06
Paul Lang, 3/06, 6th state senate
Bryan Lentz, 9/06, 161st state house
Patrick Murphy, 12/05, 8th congressional district
Mike Paston, 9/06, 152nd state house
Valerie McDonald Roberts, 4/06, lt governor
Russ Shade, 7/06, 183rd state house
David Slavick,8/06, 109th state house
Rick Taylor, 7/06, 151st state house

There is No Wall Between Legislative and Campaign

Have you ever signed up with an elected official to be kept updated on their legislative work, townhall meetings, and so on? Did you think you might also get campaign and fundraising materials? All too often there is no wall, not even a low curb, between legislative lists and campaign lists. Daddy Democrat writes about received campaign sleaze from his state rep (Tom Gannon, who is being challenged by Bryan Lentz) with an address typo that matches an address typo used by his legislative email list.

I can confirm this happens. Some years ago I volunteered on a campaign for an incumbent. One of my jobs was entering data into the campaign mailing database. I was routinely sent letters and notes from consituents thanking the official for help or congratulating them on votes or community efforts, and asked to add the names and addressed to the database. Only a few of these items went to the official's home; most were addressed to the legislative office. Sometimes I just received the envelope, sometimes the letter or note was left inside.

It would be nice to think legislative and campaign work is kept separate but it doesn't seem to happen.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fitzpatrick / Murphy Debate Notes

Patrick Murphy / Mike Fitzpatrick Debate 9/24/06
Doylestown Intelligencer
Doylestown, PA

Note: There was an overflow crowd which sometimes made it difficult to hear. People were, by and large, well behaved, but there were times when audience noise and my distance from the speakers meant I could not hear what was being said. My apologies for the gaps and for anything that I misinterpreted. I think the debate was broadcast on PCN tonight but I missed the opportunity to double check my notes. My apologies.

Introductions – I missed these again. It took awhile to find a place to sit and take notes.

Q1: Why are we fighting in Iraq?

PM: When he was in Iraq there were two objectives: 1) to get rid of Hussein and 2) WMD. #1 was easy, #2, there weren’t any. We need to refocus and bring the troops home, refocus efforts on Afghanistan. We all love our country, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. Why are there only 18,000 troops in Afghanistan but 10 times that in Iraq.

MF: We’re there because a decision made by Congress before MF elected. We deposed a dictator and freed Iraq. In ’04 a provisional government was set up, in ’05 there were elections, mid ’05 10 million Iraqis voted, later in permanent elections 11.5 Iraqis voted. Gen. Abizaid says there are 300,000 trained Iraqi soldiers. The troops will come home with Iraqi democracy is complete.

Q2: In Oct ’02 neither candidate was in Congress when military force was approved. If you had the information available to Congress at that time would you have voted to use force? If you knew what we know today would you vote to use force?

MF: Yes, in ’02. The information used to make that decision was developed in part by both the Bush and Clinton administrations. It is not always right in war to look over your shoulder, you need to look forward. Now, he would not vote to use force. We did not send enough troops or adequate equipment. Quotes Tony Blair – “If we went in and found no WMD the world would forgive us, if we didn’t go and he has them and uses them the world would never forgive us.”

PM: In ’02, he would have believed the president and Colin Powell. Now, it is easy to play Monday morning quarterback. He would not vote yes now. What to do now? We need the moral courage to say we need to turn things over to the Iraqis. It is important to show we are not an occupying force. He served in Bosnia and Kosovo in ’02. They had enough troops and diplomatic leadership. They found peace and did the job right. Now we don’t have diplomatic leadership. We need leaders how have been there.

Q3: Cite specific instances where Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s decisions and actions were detrimental in Iraq?

PM: When he was in Ambush Alley in Iraq his humvee didn’t have doors. If troops don’t have body armor it isn’t a laughing matter. Rumsfeld is trying to close the Willow Grove Naval Air Base and cut National Guard units. He wants Rumsfeld to resign or be fired. Think about which candidate would keep Bucks Co. safe.

MF: Donald Rumsfeld didn’t make the decision on Willow Grove. Fitzpatrick testified before the congressional committee making the decision, in favor of keeping Willow Grove open. Concerns with Rumsfeld – 1) his chief of staff came to the senate to talk about levels of troop force and didn’t ask for enough, and 2) his remark about going to war with the army we have not the army we want to have. Our troops had insufficient equipment. Congress passed special funding to increase equipment funds. MF has been to Iraq twice to see for himself how facilities were working – there was a big improvement in Dec of 05 and June 06.

Q4: President Bush says leaving Iraq before the mission is accomplished would lead to a more dangerous world.

MF: Early withdrawal would be dangerous. Timelines give the enemy a date of withdraw and then can then turn Iraq into a terrorist training ground.

PM: Served in the military, where there are timelines for everything. Until the Iraqis have a timeline it is human nature to sit on the sidelines. Troops serving honorably deserve respect. We should leave a small strategic strike force, 20,000 to 30,000 troops. He mentions that the president doesn’t read the papers.

Q5: What measures would you support to avoid war in the future?

PM: The iconic American eagle has arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. American is a moral beacon to others. We need true leadership using diplomatic and economic means, and be a reluctant warrior.

MF: First we need to promote more aggressive diplomatic efforts and he has opposed cuts to diplomatic efforts. Second we need to promote programs that promote peace. For example, he supports Seeds of Peace, which brings children from differing sides of the Mid East conflict to America in the summer, similar to programs for Irish children. Third we need to project a more positive image. He goes back to Murphy’s previous remark and quotes from the Intelligencer from 2.5 months ago, opposing a timeline. We can’t cut and run.

Q6: The Los Angeles Times reports that the United Nations’ anti-American rhetoric is emblematic of the world view of America. How can this be improved?

MF: All of us need to do a better job of projecting a positive image but the UN rhetoric is emblematic of the UN, anti-American and anti-Israel. We need to reform the UN.

PM: It is wrong for foreign leaders to talk about the U.S. president badly, that’s our president. We need leadership. We don’t need folks who don’t get it. President Bush has been derelict in his leadership duties. We need to be an America leading a diplomatic change.

Q7: President Bush says we will fight in Iraq and win. Who is our enemy? It looks like a civil war between Shi’ites and Sunnis.

PM: Our troops are doing a great job. Only when the Iraqis stand up for themselves will the enemy be clear. A poll showed the 80% of the Iraqis want us out.

MF: The enemies are radical fundamentalists. They blow up themselves and others, trying to break the US’s will.

Q8: John Kerry has said the central front of the war is Afghanistan. Has Afghanistan be overlooked?

MF: We have 23,000 troops in Afghanistan, 70% of the troops in Afghanistan are under NATO command. Other NATO nations have made commitments to Afghanistan. If they follow through there will be enough troops.

PM: Kerry is right. 9/11 had one culprit, Osama bin Laden, who is in Afghanistan. We are losing ground in Afghanistan, and the Taliban is stronger. We need to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. The National Guard can provide homeland security. Whether NATO is involved or not, they killed Americans and we can’t forget that.

Q9: Can we fight a war against terrorism when we have such a large national debt?

PM: Discusses debt. Mentions that MF voted for funds to build a teapot museum. We need to implement the 9/11 commission report. We need to protect mass transit. PA has 9 nuclear plants, more than any state except Illinois. He sees no sense of urgency in government. We still aren’t checking ports, etc. We can’t fund VA benefits. Why fund a bridge to nowhere, etc? We need leaders in Washington to work in a bipartisan fashion to pay down the debt.

MF: On the economic issue – PM has not acknowledged the deficit is dropping and there is an 11-14% increase in revenue, job growth, [lost something here]. He voted for radio interoperability, increased homeland security, etc.

Q10: Should we have a plan or legislation to redefine the war on terror? [lost some of this question]

MF: Wish we had a larger coalition of willing to go in. Our allies need to get over their hurt feelings when we went into Iraq without them. We need to learn from history. JFK suggested a flexible response in one of his state of the union addresses. MF sent a copy to the Dept of State for them to read and think about.

PM: We need to understand the war on terror started on 9/11. Colin Powell who said the lesson of Vietnam is to have a clear mission and an exit strategy. Our mission is to capture and kill Osama bin Laden and Al Quada and its network in Afghanistan not Iraq.

Q11: Colin Powell said “the world is beginning to doubt…. [ lost the rest of the quote] / treatment of prisoners.

PM: The US does not condone or conduct torture. It is not right morally and it not right strategically. In a previous war enemy people surrendered to the US because they knew they would be treated humanely. Army values cannot be breached. We must follow the laws of war.

MF: Agrees with PM. He stood with McCain and voted for the McCain amendment.

Q12: What should we do about illegal immigration?

MF: 2 approaches. He opposes amnesty, which was proposed in the senate. The House supports better border security and he likes this. We need to secure the southern border, and he voted to build a fence and increase border patrols, increase funding, punish employers of illegal immigrants.

PM: agrees with MF. There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. He supports a fence and patrolling the north and south borders. Use high tech surveillance, crack down on employers. Don’t be fooled by the Bush administration. There has been a decrease in the number of employers persecuted for employing illegal immigrants. Last week the house voted on more border agents, MF didn’t show up to vote. PM doesn’t condone illegal behavior by granting amnesty.

Q13: Terrorism has led to warrantless surveillance. Do you support this?

PM: I support warrantless surveillance when law enforcement agrees it is needed, go retroactively and get the paperwork done. Abide by the law – no unreasonable searches. The war on terror has changed things.

MF: The warrantless surveillance program has saved lives. The New York Times was wrong to put sensitive information on the front page.

Q14: What is your opinion of Pres. Bush, especially in regards to the war in Iraq?

MF: Our troops are doing a great job. The president is bold, resolute and mistaken from time to time. He is a principled man. We should support him as we support the troops.

PM: Bush has not done a good job and it pains him to say that. The Republican majority in Congress has been his accomplice. He has heard that “we are turning the corner” so many times we’re doing laps around the Pentagon. Mentions again making public transit safe and that his pregnant wife takes public transit to work. He wants public transit to be safe. MF has a 37% record on voting for VA benefits. We need to change directions to make families safe.

Q15: What is your position on the US speaking directly to Iran and North Korea?

PM: We need to use every diplomatic means possible to keep America safe. We need multilateral talks but if one on one is needed then we should do that. The clock is ticking.

MF: Increasing diplomatic efforts called for, leverage interests of other countries. Questions PM berating Bush for not speaking to the Iranian president when the Iranian president calls for wiping out Israel and denies the Holocaust.

Q16: Iran and nuclear weapons – how close are they? [missed the wording of this]

MF: yes and quickly [since I didn’t catch all of the question I can’t offer interpretation of his answer]

PM: He is not a career politician. MF was wrong to say PM berated the president. When PM was in the army he was in Germany and visited Dachau and he has been to the Middle East. We need leaders that understand that we need to sit down with the Iranians now, when they are still 5 to 10 years away from having nuclear weapons.

Q17: [something about Bush and making peace in the Middle East an objective]

PM: Israel must understand the US is an ally. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. We shouldn’t play politics with foreign aid. We need to understand what is going on in the world and be proactive not reactive.

MF: [missed first part] Israel has never had a better friend than America, never had a better friend in the White House than George Bush. He has visited Israel. When they pulled out to the 67/68 boundaries but were still bombed. He also saw Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in peace.

Q18: How to you balance security and civil liberties?

MF: We should be guided by the Constitution and our own heart. Says he has lived his whole live in Bucks Co. Takes a piece of each of one of you when he goes to the House floor.

PM: Those in the military take an oath to support the Constitution. We can’t throw that out in a time of war. We need to do what is necessary to make our citizens and families safe. He taught Constitutional law at West Point. On the House floor he will have a copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket, close to his heart.

Closing remarks

PM: Thanks the moderator and the newspaper for sponsoring the debate. We must put partisan politics aside. Mentions making mass transit, nuclear facilities, borders, etc. safe. Will serve and make you proud.

MF: He will put his voting record against Patrick’s any day of the week. He is a true independent representative, 2nd most independent of Republican representatives. Pat has been running for Congress longer than I have. Remark about PM moving into the 8th to run. MF says he is not a career politics. Was a Bucks County commissioner for 10 years. Lived here his whole life. Mentions that on 9/11 he was a county commissioner sacrificing for his community.

Monday, September 25, 2006

PA legislation update

Three items of note:

Matt Stoller over at mydd has a note on net neutrality in Pennsylvania.

Mike Paston, Democratic candidate for the 152nd state house seat, has announced his plan to freeze property taxes for senior citiziens. Details on his website.

Jeff Albert, Democratic candidate for the 12th state senate district, is making merit selection of judges one of the central themes of his campaign. See this entry on this website and this article (pdf file of "Merit selection of judges an issue in senate race" by Jodi Siegel Arthur, in the Sept. 20, 2006 Intelligencer)

PA-08 Update

I attended the Mike Fitzpatrick / Patrick Murphy debate on Sunday evening but matters arising haven't allowed me to finish typing up my notes yet. Hopefully tomorrow. In the meantime, here is another bit of news from the 8th congressional district. Excerpted from emails:

There is a push poll being distributed:

Here is the information mentioned on immigration:
- Patrick Murphy wants to let 68 million illegal immigrants into the country
- Patrick Murphy will give Medicare benefits to “illegals”
- Patrick Murphy will give full in-state college tuition to “illegals”
- Patrick Murphy wants to dissolve the Patriot Act, making it easier for terrorists to attack our country

At Sunday's debate Murphy said he doesn't support condoning illegal behavior by granting amnesty to illegal aliens, supports the use of high tech surveillance, and cracking down on those who employ illegal aliens. He pointed out that Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick missed a vote on increasing the number of border agents.

I see a disconnect between what Murphy said and what is being said about him. I wonder where the money trail on the poll leads....

Inky Flooding Series

The Inquirer is running a great series on regional flooding. In the first installment on Sunday the article mentions a new map of the Pennypack Floodplain, drawn up by a team from the Temple, Ambler Center for Sustainable Communities. The map and the articles in the serie are available online at One note, FEMA says it can't use the map in its current form because it is too detailed. [sigh]

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gannon Joins Weldon in Slimy Tactics

There must be something in the water in Delaware County. Earlier this year incumbent Republican Rep. Curt Weldon (PA-07) criticized his Democratic opponent, Joe Sestak, for where he was taking his pre-school aged daughter for treatment of a brain tumor. Now incumbent state Rep. Tom Gannon (161st state house district) is slinging mud at his Democratic challenger, Bryan Lentz. In 2005, Lentz was hired by a summer camp when it was taken to court after one of it's counselors took three inappropriate photos of one of the children. According to the Inquirer, the counselor "pleaded guilty to a harassment charge and paid a $50 fine. He returned to South Korea.." ("Political ad 'despicable,' Lentz says" by Mari A. Schaefer, 9/22/06, full text here).

I have been aware of this event for several months, researched it as much as I could, and have had no qualms about supporting Lentz. (see Lentz press release here).

Dinosaurs for Sestak

This weekend Don Lessum opened his home, including models of the dinosaurs used in the movie "Jurassic Park," as a fundraiser for Joe Sestak, Democratic candidate for the 7th congressional district. The little Janes went and brought home some interesting stories. I think they were as impressed with the Bengal cat (of the house pet variety) in the backyard as they were with the dinosaurs in the front.

PA in the WSJ

PA Politics

In “Wal-Mart to launch campaign urging its U.S. works to vote,” by Kris Hudson (9/20), we find these sentences, “In a press release announcing the effort, Wal-mart notes that it employs ‘a significant number of associates in states that play pivotal roles in national elections.’ Those include 94, 163 Wal-Mart employees in Florida; 49, 724 in Ohio, 47,904 in Pennsylvania; 17,273 in Iowa; and 7,993 in New Hampshire.”

In “The web-video factor,” by Peter Grant (9/21), we find this, “While no statistics are available on political videos on the Web, clearly the number is mushrooming. Debates of Senate races in most of the toss-up states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, and Virginia, have started to show up on Web sites of TV stations and on shows like NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’.” There is a quote from a Penn professor and a mention of Comcast carrying candidate statements or debates.

PA Businesses

Mention of Brian Tierney, et. al.’s recent purchase of the Philadelphia newspapers in “Tribune faces pressure to sell Los Angeles paper,” by Sarah Ellison (9/18).

Pennsylvania features prominently in “Shaking up the lineup: In minor-league affiliations, musical chairs has replaced baseball as game of the week,” by Russell Adams (9/20), the Phillies farm team’s moved from Scranton / Wilkes Barre (the Red Barons) to Allentown (with a year in between in Ontario). Scranton is looking at the possibility of having the Yankees farm team.

“Philadelphia Fed posts sharp drop in factory gauge,” by Rafael Gerena-Morales and Michael S. Derby (9/22) discusses a new report by the local fed. Extra bonus points for the region as noted here, “The Philadelphia fed report is widely viewed as a proxy for national manufacturing trends, and as such its decline raises questions about the health of the broader factory sector.”

The Philly Fed also features in “Investors finally break from calm; Dow drops 79.96,” by Michael Hudson and Serena Ng (9/22). Note: “Though it covers a narrow slice of the economy, the Philadelphia Fed index sometimes grabs the attention of investors because it is one of the earliest reads available on monthly economic activity.”

Other PA

In the special section on Top Business Schools (9/20), the business schools at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, and the University of Pittsburgh show up somewhere in the rankings. In an article on specialized masters degrees (“Is less enough” by Ronald Alsop), there is a mention of Lehigh University’s recent master’s of health and biopharmaceutical economics.

weekly legislative update

A few bills were shuffled, some were given first consideration (they don't vote until the third consideration), and some resolutions (e.g. Goat Cheese Day or similar resolutions) were passed. Next week may be more exciting.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cable Choice and Competition Act Hearings on PCN

As I've been blogging tonight PCN was on in the background. I've had one ear on the House Consumer Affairs Committee hearings on the Cable Choice and Competition Act. It has been interesting and I'm impressed with the knowledge of the committee meetings and the earnestness of those testifying. The Verizon people sound very slick. The community and municipal witnesses have been well-prepared. Chairman Flick is clearly good with people (at least in this setting). It has been very informative to listen to, even if only sporadically and in snippets.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Watching Bob Casey

Recently I had the opportunity to watch Bob Casey work a crowd. I missed the speeches and so can only report on the "meet and greet" segment of the event. This was my first "in person" observation of our would-be senator. As has been widely reported, Casey has a low-key personality. Certainly he could be livelier but far be it from me to criticize someone for being, perhaps, a little dull and methodical (pot, meet kettle). In small groups or talking with one person at a time, these understated qualities might be an advantage for him. His quiet demeanor allows the other person the chance to shine, or at least not be overshadowed. Casey focuses on whoever he is talking to and lets them talk as long as they want; he leans in towards them, listens intently, and seems comfortable with both the suited and the K-Mart clothed. My impression is that his staff does not always share his patience, but he does not seem to be easily deterred. He is thorough, making sure that everyone who was lined up to talk with him had a chance to talk (excluding those who, like me, merely lurked). In fact I was struck most with what I interpreted as an underlying resolute determination. You may not see a fiery display but he is a man with a mission.

The other candidates and other luminaries in attendance should be noted.
Sandy Miller, Bucks County Commissioner
Patrick Murphy (candidate for the 8th congressional district), as always surrounded by a crowd. Given the number of people around Casey, Murphy's crowd was a little smaller, but he seemed to be as attentive and pleasant as always.
Chris Serpico (10th state senate) -- every time I see Serpico he is talking with people in what appears to be a friendly, congenial, adn purposeful manner.
Larry Glick (143rd state house) -- people I think well of have emailed me that this is a race and candidate to be watched. My apologies for not looking into it more closely.
Mike Diamond (31st state house) -- He is challenging Dave Steil.
Chris King (142nd state house) -- I hear that he is giving Matt Wright a serious challenge.

There were likely other candidates and officials there and my apologies for not recognizing them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New PA-08 Poll

A new poll for the 8th congressional district is out:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a poll today that shows Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy within striking distance of Mike Fitzpatrick in a head to head match-up. Fitzpatrick and Murphy are in a tight race in Pennsylvania ’s 8th District which includes Bucks County and parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia .


The poll was conducted during the first week of September by Grove Insight and shows a 43-38 initial head to head match-up between Fitzpatrick and Murphy. The poll also showed Bush approval rating at only 35% with 62% of respondents indicating that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Sen. Tomlinson's Double Standard

Republican State Senator Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson (6th district) has sent out one of the stranger press releases I’ve seen recently, criticizing his Democratic opponent, Paul Lang, for having a fundraiser in Newtown, just outside the district boundary.

Thinking that, having been so incensed at Lang for going a few miles outside the district, Sen. Tomlinson would practice what he preaches, I looked around a bit. I see that Malady & Wooten is hosting a fundraiser for him in Harrisburg on Sept. 27th. I note that there was another fundraiser for him in Harrisburg this past December. There may very well be others. This is just what I found doing a quick search.

I also took a look at his campaign finance reports (use search form here). In his 30 day post-primary report (cycle 3), I see that he took in $11,300 in PAC money from organizations based in places like Plymouth Meeting, Richmond, VA, Philadelphia, Ft. Washington, Washington, DC, Columbus, OH, and Harrisburg. In fact, I only saw two PACs, one in Bensalem and one in Langhorne, that are in the 6th state senate district. They totaled $600 of the $11,300. I also looked at his individual donations and noted several from outside the district, including a nice couple in New York who gave him $5,000.

In the 2006 cycle 2 (2nd Friday Pre-Primary) I see $8,550 in PAC donations and none of the addresses look like they are in the 6th district.

So, it looks like Sen. Tomlinson is not averse to raising money himself outside his district; he just doesn’t like it when the people running against him do.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

PA-08 Debate (Murphy / Fitzpatrick) on Sept. 18

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, the Republican incumbent in Pennsylvania's 8th congressional district debated Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy on 9/18/06 at King’s Caterers in Bristol, PA.

I took notes as carefully as I could but apologize for any errors or misconceptions. Feel free to let me know if I got something wrong.

The debate moderator had to repeatedly ask the audience to quiet down, stop waving signs, applauding, cheering, and so on. It was a very rowdy audience, and at times it was difficult to hear the candidates over the sniping and swearing coming from those in attendance.

This debate focused on health care and many of the questions seemed to overlap or repeat. I tended not to note where the candidates repeated their stance in answers or told stories about individuals. There just wasn’t time to get all the details right so I let those go. The debate was taped so it may show up on PCN at some point.

My notes on the debate are followed by some websites that provide information on the basic concepts being discussed in case people are unfamiliar with them. After that is some commentary and observations.

The Inquirer ("Social issues divide candidates" by Christine Schiavo) and the Bucks County Courier Times ("Differing views" by Elizabeth Fisher) published stories on the debate.

Opening Statements: I was getting settled and missed these. Sorry

Q1: Do you agree with Medicare cuts that will start January 1:

MF: He is working to see that cuts don’t occur. He wrote to the chairman of the committee and Speaker of the House. They were able to hold ’06 to ’05 rates.

PM: His first job in the Army was as a hospital attorney for Keller Army Community Hospital. He points out that the health industry gave Fitzpatrick $65,000. He proposes buying prescription drugs in bulk like the Veterans Administration does, and closing the “donut hole.”

Q2: What should caregivers of aging parents that are not low income and cant’ get assistance do?

PM: People are living longer and that is good, as our loved ones are with us longer. 25% of medical bills go to administration (paperwork), we need to protect social security. Fitzpatrick is for privatization of social security

MF: long term care insurance is expensive and we need to rein in the cost; more Medicaid waivers; reverse mortgages; tax credit for adult children to care for adult children.

Q3: Why not allow Medicare to bargain to lower costs for prescription drugs?

MF: He has written letters to the president on this, mentions Medicare pt. D and says he is for importation or re-importation of prescription drugs from other countries

PM: $40.1 million could be saved in Pennsylvania if we could buy drugs in bulk. “I won’t write letters.” We need to fix Medicare pt. D. [Someone near the stage shouts something at Murphy who asks if Fitzpatrick needs his campaign manager to come up and hold his hand. Moderator intervenes]

Q4: Should lobbyists work for the government and should government officials go work for lobbyists?

PM: No. Returns to theme of buying things in bulk. Says that is what he does for events. Mentions that “Big Pharma” (the pharmaceutical industry) is spending money for Fitzpatrick ads on television

MF: He wasn’t in congress when the Medicare Modernization Act was passed. He thinks is it a bad practice for those with an interest in the outcome to write legislation. He wrote an ethics reform act to lengthen the period of time before members of congress can become lobbyists. He says that will encourage congressmen to go back home when they are out of office and not stay in Washington. He says that is what he will do, go home to Levittown.

Q5: The AARP is supporting a Senate bill to permit importation of prescription drugs. Would you?

MF: He meets with the AARP regularly. He is in favor of importation if the FDA Commissioner certifies the drugs are safe.

PM: Yes.

Q6: What is the federal government’s responsibility for seeing that all citizens have health insurance?

PM: when George Bush came into office 40 million Americans were uninsured. Now 46 million are uninsured, 8 million of those are children. Mentions CHIP and thinks a state / federal / local partnership would be good. Children should go to a pediatrician not the ER for health care. We need to fix our fiscal house first.

MF: This is a priority. We need to reform the Medicaid system. We should require people who have a lot of equity in their house to spend it down before going on public money.

Q7: What revisions would you work to enact in Medicare Part D?

MF: Sometimes the best plans are not from DC. He mentions the Bucks County Health Improvement Program.

PM: Negotiate to buy drugs in bulk, close the donut hole. On day 1 a congressmen should know who he is fighting for, who his constituents are.

Q8: What can be done to make health care more affordable?

PM: We need to solve the health care crisis in America. We need to bring doctors, the insurance companies and patients together. The federal government needs to be lean and mean. We should pay down the national debt.

MF: We need liability reform, federal and state health clinics. PM is not for malpractice reform. Ties PM to trail lawyers.

Q9: The trend is for the government to take less responsibility for individuals. People’s taxes are cut they you take care of yourself. Is this good?

MF: This is a good thing. Jobs are being created. There has been 36 months of consistent job growth.

PM: He believes in personal responsibility. When people pay money into social security they are making a bond with the government to get that money back. Privatizing social security is breaking that bond.

Q10: A request for Murphy to clarify, should we cut taxes and increase personal responsibility?

PM: “I don’t believe in cutting taxes for the wealthy, especially during a time of war.”

Q11: Most recently both candidates oppose privatizing social security.

PM: It is wrong for both Democrats and Republicans to go into the social security fund. Mentions (for the 2nd time) that Fitzpatrick has stated in newspapers three times in 2005 that he was for privatizing social security.

MF: This is a serious concern. He is against raising the retirement age, raising payroll tax (didn’t catch the rest of this thought).

Q12: Should we extend the social security payroll tax to all income?

MF: From an actuarial point of view this would help but it needs to be studied.

PM: Stop raiding the trust fund.

Q13: The problems we have now are the problems we had 50 years ago. How will you change this:

PM: Change who you send to Washington

MF: “It helps in the nation’s capitol to have a little experience.” Points to his years as a county commissioner. He says country commissioners have more experience in dealing with people’s day to day problems that state representatives and state senators, which is where most congressmen get their start. He specifically mentions human and social services problems.

Q14: PM to MF – Why did you change your views on private accounts instead of social security:

MF: He is against raising benefits, the payroll tax, etc. He considered the president’s idea. We should have discussion on these things.

Q15: MF to PM: Frankford Torresdale Hospital has stopped delivering babies. There are no pediatric neurosurgeons in Bucks County. Are you in favor of liability reform?

PM: We need tort reform. There are some frivolous lawsuits. He proposes a “3 strikes and you’re out” rule. Three frivolous lawsuits and you can’t file any other suits. He does not support caps.

Q16: stem cell research

PM: Positively absolutely for embryonic, adult and umbilical stem cell research.

MF: He is for stem cell research that shows promise, adult, and umbilical stem cell research and germ cell research. He says the most promising stem cell research is adult. He suggests people visit [I tried this site and did not find any data there.]

Q17: To clarify, what about government funded stem cell research / can private companies fund stem cell research?

PM: When JFK said we should reach the moon he didn’t say let private industry go to the moon. Same for stem cell research. Should use government funding.

MF: He says it is okay for embryonic stem cell research in the private sector and other countries but save government funding for the most promising research.

Q18: Do you support a plan suggested by Congressman Stark (D-CA) to let people switch plans in Medicare pt. D at times other than the open enrollment window?

MF: He is not familiar with Congressman Stark’s legislation. He says he had introduced legislation to reform Medicare pt. D. He says people must stay in a plan for a year until open enrollment to allow companies to plan but companies shouldn’t change the drugs covered by plan mid-stream.

PM: We need to reform legislation. We should negotiate to buy in bulk and close the donut hole.

Q19: Why can’t US citizens purchase foreign drugs?

PM: We need to make sure drugs are safe.

MF: He is not opposed as long as the FDA commissioner approves.

Q20: Isn’t it silly to export drugs and then bring them back to the US?

MF: Many imported drugs are manufactured in India, etc., and we need to certify that imported rugs were manufactured in America.

PM: We need to make prescription drugs more affordable. Why are US drugs more expensive in America than overseas?

Q21: In 2008, will universal health care be a presidential issue? Will corporations be pushing for universal health care to reduced corporate health care costs?

PM: Can say what the presidential race will involved. We need universal health care. Says he has a record of being fiscally responsible.

MF: He points out that Murphy is for universal health care. Mentions Canadian system, says wealthy Canadians come here for health care because there are waiting lists in Canada. He says the US has the best health care system because of the free market system. There is more than enough money being spent on health care but we need to reallocate how we spend it.

Q22: Would you support a bill that would allow seniors and the disabled to write off all their medical expenses on their taxes?

MF: Likes the idea

PM: Likes the idea, too.

Q23: What should we do with increased government revenues?

PM: Pay down the debt. Mentions tax cuts to the wealthy in time of war.

MF: Going to reduce the deficit.

Q24: What can we do about doctors leaving Pennsylvania?

MF: We need caps on non-economic damages. We need to support physicians and more competition among health insurance companies.

PM: He uses the phrase “roll up our sleeves” but I didn’t catch his answer.

Q25: abortion

PM: He is pro-choice. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Women and their doctors should decide. [Follow up: how to make them rare?] Contraceptives should be covered by health insurance, make adoption easier, sex education in schools, be proactive not reactive.

MF: He is pro-life.

Q26: health savings accounts

MF: yes, but carry amounts over from year to year.

PM: Not the solution, just like privatizing social security is not the solution. We need to tackle health care costs and pay down the debt.

Q27: how to make health care accessible to small businesses and their employees?

PM: Solve the fiscal discipline problem. One possible solution is what Massachusetts did, make it like car insurance.

MF: This would go a long long way towards solving the health care problem. The House sent legislation to the Senate but it went nowhere from there. There is no one single bullet. He takes a swipe at Murphy by asking people to look at who has solutions and who talks about change.

Q28: What about the moral issue of stem cell research?

MF: “My faith teaches me that it is wrong to destroy human life." Points out that he and Murphy were both embryos once.

PM: His sister-in-law and her husband went to a fertility clinic and by using frozen embryos were able to have children. The unused embryos were discarded as medical waste. American scientists are going other countries to do embryonic stem cell research. He would support the use of ethical research and restricted means.

Q29: improving Amtrak and local mass transit

PM: for mass transit. Agencies need to know their funding 5-10 years in advance to allow for planning. He supports Illinois Senator Obama’s “health care for hybrids” program.

MF: He mentions that Bush zeroed out funding for Amtrak. He asked to join the Amtrak caucus and discovered there wasn’t one. So he formed on with Mike Castle of Delaware. After 9/11 people got around by rail while the planes were grounded. He has introduced legislation to make rail transit more affordable.

Closing comments:

PM: Mentions his service in Iraq in 2003, Medicare pt D, embryonic stem cell research. Ties MF to Bush, says we need a change in direction.

MF: Says PM wants to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House. Makes three variations on the statement that he is from the area. Says he is an independent member of congress and opposes the administration on energy, the environment and the budget.


Terms – “donut hole” – from wedmd

Medicare Pt. D from seniorlaw and the Foundation for Health in Aging here and here

Wardrobe notes: MF black suit, moss green shirt, green tie; PM blue jacket, light blue shirt, red tie

Commentary: The most interesting statement I heard during the debate was Fitzpatrick’s answer to question 13 when he said county commissioners were more involved with people’s day to day problems than state representatives or state senators. The hard working state reps I have known were very involved in the problems their constituents brought to them. Bucks County state reps and state senators may disagree with Congressman Fitzpatrick on this. Some residents of the county might as well.

Personal observations: I’d only seen Fitzpatrick in person once before, when he was campaigning two years ago. On that occasion he was surrounded by admirers, reaching out to shake hands with people, looking very charismatic. I didn’t see any of that at the debate but it might have been the angle I was looking at him from as he spoke or bad lighting or something. He was very low-key and I didn’t really see any real sparks or passion in anything he said. Murphy was feistier than I had seen him before. I did think his remark about Fitzpatrick’s campaign manager at question 3 was a little out of line but I wasn’t close enough to hear what the campaign manager said to him.

Santorum Meets the Press

Y'all thought I was joking, didn't you, when my blog post on the Casey / Santorum debate ended with the remark that I wouldn't sit with my back to Santorum unless I were wearing kevlar?

You've probably already seen the reports Santorum's encounter with Patriot-News reporter / blogger Brett Lieberman ("Tightening races boost state GOP's confidence," 9/17):

Santorum, who alluded to his rocky relations with the press as he hopped from room to room to meet with regional caucuses earlier in the morning, later refused to talk when a Patriot-News reporter approached with a question about Iran. He complained about what he called biased coverage.

"I have to raise tens of millions of dollars because of the junk you feed the people of Pennsylvania," he said. He then used an expletive to describe the coverage and slammed down a newspaper.

(It was also reported in John Micek's "Resurrection of pay hike issue haunts GOP," in the Morning Call, as well as discussed in Tom Ferrick's blog.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Michelangelo, Poetry, and Santorum

I've gone out to a some political events over the past few days but haven't had the time to write them up yet; tonight was parent's night at school and that took precedence. Expect posts later this week on observation of Casey and on the Fitzpatrick / Murphy debate.

For this evening, I leave you with this:

Did you know Michelangelo wrote poetry? I didn’t either until I recently chanced upon “The Complete Poems of Michelangelo,” translated by John Frederick Nims. These are not light happy poems; they have sharp edges. One in particular (#75, p. 59) struck me. It’s sort of a Renaissance precursor of Carly Simon’s “He’s So Vain.” It reminds me of Sen. Rick Santorum, though you may think it fits some other candidate or official better. Here it is:

Too much! The way he flaunts himself around,
knocking folks dead, he’s such a handsome sight.
[missing line]
showing off, gallivanting on the town.
Too much! The way he makes the sun dim down
by batting his brighter eyes, till noon seems night.
And then his song, his laugh! The pure delight
dumbfounds. O he’s a prince! Get out the crown!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Meeting Paul Lang

I wrote some time ago about criteria I used for evaluating candidates, especially those I can see in person. In a later posting I used the criteria to evaluate a specific candidate, Patrick Murphy (running for the 8th Congressional district). It’s a time consuming process, finding opportunities to go out and observe a candidate, how they speak, what they say, how they relate to people, especially since so few campaigns will actually post information on when and where they will be.

Over the past several months I’ve had a chance to see another candidate enough times to do a thorough observation. Paul Lang is the Democratic candidate for the 6th state senate district, running against incumbent Republican Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson. I’ve been to 6 public events that Paul has attended and at 5 of those he spoke, even if briefly (link to posts where he spoke at length here and here). At some of these we exchanged a few words but did not have extensive conversations. This was my choice as he usually asked open-ended questions to which I could have given lengthy answers but didn’t. As a rule, if I interact with people as Jane I avoid talking with them in my civilian identity. He answered questions for an email interview and we’ve had a consistent email correspondence for several months.

The Utility Test

Regardless of how useful I think I may be to a candidate or official, when I meet them for the first time I take a very low profile and keep credentials to a minimum. Why? Because no matter how useful I may be at any given time, there will come a day when I am obsolete or replaced. I want to know how this person treats those who they think are of no particular interest.

Paul did very well here. He is uniformly pleasant and welcoming. He’s also very hospitable, making sure people have a place to sit, can find what they need, and so on. It’s important to say that up front because one of the things I like best about Paul is that he doesn’t fawn on people. It is sometimes a fine line but he manages it well. He gives the impression of being very grounded with a solid core of values. His parents have been at a few of the events I attended and they have the same sense about them. In this case it seems the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Paul is polite to everyone equally. Meet him more than once and he’s likely to remember your name, even if you aren’t a big donor or influential in the community. He doesn’t hold himself back and participate only in the “important” things. He pitches in where help is needed, talks to whoever is near and will walk across the room to greet someone he recognizes or someone who just appears lost. If you spend a little time watching him you quickly pick up on his organizational and planning abilities. He scans a room and can zero in on people he hasn’t talked to and where the forks are and what might be needed at the next two steps of the event. Plus, he can keep all these details neatly arranged in his head and retrieve the information as needed. If you are at an event that Paul has had anything to do with you will want for nothing and he will be sure to wander over, say hello, and ask how you are.

It is common in politics for candidates and campaigns to expect those interacting with them to keep track of when and where they met and what their common business is. If I am emailing someone at a campaign regarding a topic that we emailed about more than a day ago I give them the background on it because they will have undoubtedly forgotten. Political campaigns move at light speed and they just can’t remember. Paul is unique in that he will mention or send me a link regarding something we emailed about weeks ago, with clarity, and all details correct. Trust me, this is impressive.

The Staff and Supporters Test

People who has a high level of expectation for themselves is likely to hire staff with similar behaviors. You seldom see an ethical, efficient, and engaged politician with a sloppy staff. If you do, chances are they are patronage hires and the official is beholden to a powerbroker or party boss somewhere. While all candidates have to constantly troll for money, most will have a core of loyal supporters. See if these are local people or special interests. Talk to others who attend an event. What kind of people are they? The character of candidates is sometimes also reflected in the character of their supporters.

Paul is running a low-key campaign and I’ve had few interactions with his campaign manager and none with other staff. The people who attend his events or events that he attends are diverse, in age, education, life experience, and so on, but they share an attachment to the party and to Paul. He is, without a doubt, a hometown boy, and many of his prospective constituents are very possessive and protective of him. This is a good sign. They know him. They like him. They look out for him. They tell me how wonderful they think he is. By and large the people at Paul’s events are proud of their district and proud of Paul. They are nice people, the liveliest and sometimes the most boisterous of the audiences at political events I’ve attended. They are also the most down to earth. While the conversations I’ve had with people at events where Paul or his prospective constituents predominated may not have been the most polite they were almost always pithy and practical.

The Motivation Test

One key skill that can be a big help to an elected official is the ability to persuade people to do things they may not want to do, to involve people in a cause, or in their community, to get people who don’t like each other to talk. Paul is one of those people you want to do well for. Remember in school there was one teacher whose homework you always had done even if you blew off all the other classes? Paul is like that. He works hard himself and holds himself to high standards. He’s one of those people that you always want to be on your best behavior around. Getting out enough to write this blog post has taken a lot of time and effort, not to mention some money, but it has been a priority for some months now, because Paul is someone that I think is worth it. Paul often sends me information on events or mentions candidates, never with an explicit request to attend or look into the person or the race, but just a note that I might find it interesting. He’s very knowledgeable about regional politics and often passes along tidbits that have nothing to do with his race but are still useful. One thing I have consistently heard about Paul is that he has a talent for building goodwill and loyalty and bringing together people who otherwise disagree and by example, nudging people to take the high road. This is a rare quality indeed.

Paul’s diverse life experience lets him speak with authenticity to a wide audience. As a veteran he can speak to veterans. As the son of an established family he can speak to those who have lived in the district for generations. To those who have faced adversity he can relate his own experiences with physical rehabilitation after a serious accident in the Coast Guard and his potential exposure to anthrax in Washington, D.C. He worked his way through law school and picked up an MBA as well. When he talks about dedication and hard work and encourages people to, at least temporarily, pool their efforts for a good cause, he has some knowledge of what he is asking. As has been pointed out, he is a novice to elected political office, though not to political activity generally. In some ways that allows people to get a better view of him as a person. He doesn’t have that spray on social polish that seasoned pols have.

The Rope Test

My mother's basic judge of character is to ask this: If you were dangling over a cliff and hanging on to a rope, would you want this person to be holding the other end of the rope? It's a good question. Having watched Paul and seen his ability to plan ahead and his attention to detail, I am fairly certain that Paul would have foreseen that someone might be dangling over that cliff or a cliff in general. Any rope he handed down would have knotted handholds on it, perhaps a loop at the bottom to hang on to. There would be food and water waiting when you got back up, if not tucked away on a nearby ledge, and he would have arranged for you to have a ride home. This is all in addition to hauling you up and organizing a team to help with logistics.


It is important to look at policy positions, campaign finance reports, press releases, votes, and the like, but it is also important to look at the person. If you find someone you can trust, you can skip a campaign finance report now and then and feel comfortable that if he or she didn’t vote the way you like on an issue, there is probably a good reason for it, even if you never know what that reason is.

I have no doubt of Paul’s moral compass. I have tried to think of examples to support this conclusion but it is hard to pinpoint exactly what behaviors or words formed this opinion. There are no individual actions; it is pervasive in everything he does. He is far and away the most connected person as far as regional matters I have run into and he has been very willing to share what he knows. If you mentioned a state house or senate race anywhere in the region I’m sure he could tell who was running and why. When I have questions about regional politics Paul is my first stop for questions; he often has the answer or at least an opinion. He is informed on the issues and when I have heard him speak on those issues most important to his district he has marshaled his facts and explained his views and arguments well. His deep and abiding love of the 6th district is clear in his choice of issues to champion and the way he talks about the families, the children, and the older widowed veterans who live there. I think the 6th district would be well represented by Paul.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

PA in the WSJ

Once again I'm listing the PA related articles that caught my eye in this week's Wall Street Journal. No particular reason for doing this, it's just the sort of thing I do, and it helps pass the time until the state legislature goes back into session and the weekly legislative updates can start up again.

PA Politics

“Party Lines Blur in Surveillance Debate,” by Sarah Leuck features Sen. Arlen Specter, Chair of the Judiciary Committee. (9/11)

Former Pennsylvania congressman Pat Toomey, now with the Club for Growth, is quoted in “Republicans’ Strategy May Backfire,” by Jeanne Cummings (9/14)

PA Business

Mention of new Sunoco director. (9/12)

It isn’t specifically a business but it is in a special section on the business of sports. There is a mention of a program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business being one of a handful of business schools that have put together business management sessions for NFL players. “When the Cheering Stops,” by Fara Warner (9/16)

Other PA

“Near Shanksville, Pa., Local ‘Ambassadors” Tend to Flight 93 Site,” by Jeffrey Zaslow (9/11)

“Restrictions Curb Use of Powerful Acne Drug,” by Jennifer Corbett Dooren discusses the difficulty some patients have in getting and filling Accutane prescriptions, due to the side effects the medication can have when taken by pregnant women. It is associated with birth defects in babies. The article quotes a Philadelphia dermatologist. (9/12)

Swarthmore is accepting more students who attended public high schools than it did five years ago; the University of Pennsylvania’s ratio remains about the same. This information appears in “Opting out of Public School,” by Nancy Keates (9/15).

National Journal House Race Ranking Update

The National Journal has updated its House race ranking list. Here are the relevant PA listings in the top 50.

PA-04 makes it's debut at #50, with incumbent Republican Melissa Hart facing Democratic challenger Jason Altmire.

PA-10 stays at #21. Democrat Chris Carney is challenging incumbent Republican Don Sherwood.

PA-08 dropped from #14 to #19, because the national Republican party has been putting more of its resources into PA-06 and PA-07 instead of supporting incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick's battle with Democrat Patrick Murphy. I question this logic but the folks at NJ know oodles more than I do about these things.

PA-07 moved up from #16 to #13. Incumbent Republican Curt Weldon is facing Democrat Joe Sestak.

PA-06, where Democrat Lois Murphy is going for a rematch against incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach, dropped from #3 to #4

Friday, September 15, 2006

New State House Commercials

Mike Paston, Democratic candidate for the 152nd PA legislative district, has put his new commercial on the web (view here).

Not to be outdone, Rick Taylor, Democratic candidate for the 151st PA legislative district, has a new commercial out, available on youtube here. I've seen Taylor a few times in person and I don't think the camera effectively captures his folksy charm.

Both commercials concern health care. Must be a popular issue in that part of the region.

May PA Senate Journals

Not much happened in May. The Pennsylvania State Senate met for 3 days and one of those, May 2nd, was devoted primarily to memories of and testimonials to the life of Sen. Robert Thompson. The prayer on that day, by the pastor of Sen. Thompson’s church was beautifully written.

If you look at the May 2nd journal, there is an interesting story about Sen. Thompson and a governor (there was more than one governor during Thompson’s term and the name of the governor isn’t given) on page 7 of the pdf, page 1587 of the printed volume. On page 9 (1589 of the printed volume), Sen. Tomlinson explains why he is wearing a tie with horses’ backsides on it (not necessarily the reason you might think).

The Pay Raise That Wouldn't Die

In this morning's Inquirer ("Pa. court splits its decision on raises," by Mario Cattabiani and Amy Worden), we read:

In a decision that is renewing public anger, the state Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the legislature violated the state constitution by allowing lawmakers to take midterm pay raises last year.

But the court stopped short of requiring House and Senate members who accepted the extra money to reimburse the state, ruling that they "acted in good faith" that the law was constitutional.

Separately, the court reinstated the raises for 1,000 members of the state judiciary - including its own - that ended when the legislature repealed the pay hikes amid an outpouring of public outrage in November.

Read the entire article here ( Previous Inquirer coverage on the topic, as well as a list of state legislators and how they voted, can be found at

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Santorum Said What??!!!

Just watching a Women for Santorum meeting/rally on PCN. Christine Olson, of the PA Republican State Committee, was introducing Sen. Rick Santorum, who was speaking from Washington on the phone. She said she had known him since he was a brash young Congressman, then she added that he was good looking. Now, she said he was a brash older Senator. As he came on the phone she said "he's going to hit me for saying he's older." He said "I'll hit you for dropping the 'good looking'."

Ummm, I thought we had all decided that it was no longer amusing for male politicans to joke about hitting women.

Santorum went on the speak warmly of his women and his women supporters. I think it would have been better to word this as the association or organization of women who support him. His use of the personal possessive here just sounds wrong to me. There is no male candidate or elected official, regardless of how strongly I support him, that I would want to refer to me as one of his women or one of his women supporters.

I'm changing the channel now.

Allyson Schwartz Update

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Democratic congressional representative for the 13th district (parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia), has updated her campaign website. It is still lacking an issues page but does currently have a news page, an updated biography, etc. A speech she recently made on the house floor regarding the Iraq war is now available on You Tube (here).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

State House Race News

Michael Paston, Democratic candidate for the 152nd state house, is now airing commercials. Bryan Lentz, Democratic candidate for the 161st state house, is too (available here).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Congressional Campaign Updates

Patrick Murphy, Democratic candidate for the 8th congressional district, has updated his plan to bring the troops home from Iraq. (press release here via The full plan is available on Murphy's website ( here.

Two congressional candidates have new campaign television ads. Joe Sestak, Democratic candidate in the 7th congressional district has an ad available here. Patrick Murphy's new ad is on his website here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Bob Casey at the Democratic State Committee (via PCN)

Today I taped the Democratic State Committee on PCN and watched it this evening. I’m not sure when the event actually happened but it was sometime in the past week, between the Casey / Santorum debate and this past weekend. The most notable portion of the 90 minute program was the speech by Bob Casey, Jr. He was wearing a gray suit, light gray tie, and standing in front of an off-white background. You would think that all that monochrome would just swallow Casey up but it had the opposite effect; the bland canvas really let him stand out.

He was the most animated I have ever seen him, gestures, smiles, even a little melody in his voice. He started off discussing the debate and said Santorum’s support of Rumsfeld and Bush were the equivalent of the president congratulating Michael Brown after Hurricane Katrina. (“You’re doing a great job, Brownie” being compared to Santorum saying Bush was doing a great job.)

My favorite line in his speech was “We cannot tire. We cannot falter. We cannot stop.” He said we have to work night and day to change course and reverse some of the effects of Republican policies. As one example he mentioned that 8.3 million children with no health insurance is an abomination. In his view the Republican priority is to give tax cuts to the very wealthy, instead of supporting homeland security or fiscal responsibility.

One of his parting lines is that he will focus on the people who live on Main Street not the people who peddle influence on K Street, a direct swipe as Sen. Santorum.

These may be oft repeated chestnuts but they were all new to me. Other features of the program were lengthy remarks by Lt. Gov. Knoll and remarks by party officials to the effect that state committee members should support endorsed candidates or find something else to do. The rest of the program involved memorials to the late Pittsburgh mayor and someone else whose name I did not catch (apologies to the family) and party business.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

An Interview with Mike Paston (152nd State House District)

Michael Paston is the Democratic candidate for the 152nd Pennsylvania state house seat, which includes Hatboro and Bryn Athyn, Upper and Lower Moreland townships, parts of Upper Dublin and Horsham townships, all of Montgomery County, and the Philmont Heights section of Northeast Philadelphia. While this is not exactly an open seat, there is no incumbent. Thomas Murt defeated the current representative, Sue Cornell, in the Republican primary. Mike Paston and Tom Murt will face off on the November ballot.

Paston's website provides a biographical background:

Mike was born and raised in Upper Dublin, and graduated from Upper Dublin High School. Mike attended Penn State University and Temple University School of Law, earning degrees in Accounting and Law. Mike was a state and local tax consultant for Price Waterhouse, and later practiced law in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey with emphasis on business litigation, taxation, municipal court and family law. Mike is currently the owner of a respected printing company, Jaguar Press (Formerly Minuteman Press of Fort Washington). Mike is also a member of the Eastern Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Fort Washington Business Alliance. Mike is currently the Vice-President and serves as the finance committee chairman of the Upper Dublin Board of School Directors.

I’ve heard Paston speak twice. He is a good speaker and presents himself well. He's also a snappy dresser and has a somewhat formal demeanor. He is willing to take time to talk with people and shows a familiarity with his district and the issues, as you can see from his answers to the following interview questions:

You have changed parties a number of times (Democrat in New Jersey, GOP in PA, then back to Democrat). Does that represent philosophic shifts on your part, or by the parties, or a pragmatic response to the political atmosphere of where you were living at the time?

I have always been a democrat philosophically. When I moved back to Montgomery County I made the wrong assumption that it was still GOP dominated like it was back when I was growing up. I had lived in Burlington County, NJ which remains GOP controlled and was very frustrated. Thinking I did not want to fight more uphill battles I became a Republican when I first registered. And at the time the local Republicans were very welcoming. Very quickly I realized I was out of place in the Republican party and switched back. Although I ran for School Board as a Republican I was never involved in the Republican party like I have been in the Democratic party. For all but 5 of my 42 years I have been a Democrat and I will be a Democrat forever.

The most recent party shift was in Feb. of 2006 after the local Republican organization’s early endorsement of incumbent Rep. Sue Cornell. Why the sudden shift and how were you able to get the Democratic endorsement in such short order?

I had planned to quietly switch back this summer in anticipation of my school board reelection in 2007. I did not want it to be very public because my switch was going to change School Board control from 5-4 Republican to 5-4 Democrat. Most people do not care, but the party insiders would have taken notice. I went to the Republican endorsement of Cornell. I spoke to the committee people and told them they were making a mistake. I warned them that this seat was vulnerable and sticking with Cornell was not going to help them keep the seat. My appearance at that meeting was in the newspaper. Soon after I received a call from an Upper Dublin Democrat who was not impressed with the only announced Democratic candidate at the time and asked if I would consider switching parties and running. I consulted some people in the Democratic party and jumped into the race. After that another candidate entered the race and all three of us worked hard for the endorsement. I ran a campaign to get the votes needed for the endorsement. The Democratic committee is a group of hard working dedicated people who want their towns, county, state and country to be a better place. The majority of committee persons were convinced I was a good philosophical fit as their candidate and had the best chance to win in November. One candidate stayed in the primary and I won with 65% of the vote.

You are on the Upper Dublin School Board and served on the school board in Mount Laurel, NJ. Why the interest in school boards?

Education is very important to me. I feel very strongly that a quality education is the best way to make sure our children are productive members of society and this country stays great. I first ran in Mount Laurel, NJ because I had three young children and the direction of the Board was troubling. Soon after I moved back to Upper Dublin I recognized that I could be a valuable member of the School Board and I ran. I am now Vice President and have been chair of finance since first taking office.

Why did you decide to stop practicing law?

I practiced law in Philadelphia and New Jersey for 12 years. In 2000 the opportunity to take over the family printing business became available and the idea interested me. After discussing it with my wife I closed my law practice and switched careers. I enjoyed practicing law and had some very interesting cases. The printing business is different and presents different challenges, and I enjoy the work. My father built a successful business that is part of the community and I have just tried to not mess that up.

You are currently working in a family owned business. What would you like to see the state do to encourage small businesses?

The State needs to examine the tax structure and health care. I try to provide health care to my employees but it is very difficult.

Would you be a full-time legislator or continue to work in your current position also?

I will be a full-time legislator with an eye on the business. I have ten wonderful employees at Jaguar Press. My manager will continue to run the business and hold everything together. I expect that when we are in session I will check in once a week to make sure everything is under control and see what I need to do to help. Many of our employees have been with Jaguar for over 20 years, and only one less then five, and they take great pride in their work, so I have no concerns that the business will be successful even when I am in Harrisburg.

You’ve been involved in politics for several years, running for office in NJ as early as 1998 and had a floor pass to the National Democratic Convention in 1996. How did you become interested in politics and do you have ambitions for higher office?

I do not have ambitions for higher office. I am only running for this seat because I was not happy with the job the current State Representative was doing. I first became interested in politics during high school. At the time the Upper Dublin Board of School Directors had voted to close the high school and turn the middle school (Three Tuns) into the high school. It was very controversial and eventually two candidates ran and won as write-in's on the ballot. It was an amazing exercise in democracy. The previous decision was overturned and Three Tuns was sold. Now that decision haunts the district three decades later. In my senior year in high school I spent a week in Washington D.C. as part of the Presidential Classroom program. It was a wonderful eye opening experience.

You’ve criticized Rep. Cornell’s newsletters and press releases. What you would you to keep in touch with your constituents?

First I would have an office staff that responds to constituents needs. Even if the problem is not a state problem we will work to get the person to the right person so they can be helped. I am in the printing business and thus and very aware of how important printed communication, usually mailings, is to keep people informed. I will regularly communicate with the residents of the district, not just in the months before an election. I also plan to occasionally walk and knock on doors just as I have been doing during the campaign. I will pick a street and see what people are thinking about. One gentleman in Huntingdon Valley said when I came to his door that I am only knocking because it is election time and I want his vote. He said he has never seen a politician any other time. I promised him that I will knock on his door the day after the election so we can talk about his concerns without the "vote for me" message. In addition I would like to have quarterly meetings with groups of community members to discuss pending legislation and get feedback.

When should the religious affiliations or business interests of an elected official be considered a conflict of interest?

When they interfere with the elected officials ability to represent the people in their district. We are all shaped by our religion, education, profession, family, environment, etc. They should be part of a persons make-up not dictate their votes.

How important is reliable reasonably priced public transit to your district? Are you in favor of dedicated funding for SEPTA and regional rail?

I am in favor of dedicated funding for SEPTA and regional rail. Reasonably priced public transportation is very important. But just as important is easy to use and access public transportation. More parking spaces at train stations and more convenient train schedules will increase riders and decrease traffic and pollution as much as lower prices.

How would you balance the need for regional planning efforts against solely local decisions?

We need to plan regionally to the end result to be effective. My job as a State Representative is to bring different groups and local elected officials to the table to make decisions that help everyone in the region and then secure the finances they will need to implement the plan.

What would you like to see happen to the old Fox Chase to Newton railroad line?

I need to do some research before providing an answer to the question.

How would you describe Bryn Athyn to someone visiting from another region or country?

Bryn Athyn is a very proud self sufficient community in the heart of the Philadelphia suburbs.

What would you like to see happen to the Willow Grove Naval Air Station?

If the WGNAS is going to close we should seize the opportunity for a planned community. Rarely does such a large piece of land become available all at one time. Professional planners need to work with local officials to make sure the development of the property is good for the community. However I do not think the fight to keep the WGNAS is over.

What would you like to see happen with the retail areas (strip malls) in the district or are you happy with them as they are? I am thinking of areas like the 611 and 263 intersection and the scattered shopping areas along those highways to the north.

Local governments have some ability through zoning to improve the look of the area. I would encourage a joint effort to work towards vibrant retail districts that are safe and aesthetically pleasing while encouraging a mix of large national retail chains and local businesses.

What question didn’t I ask that you would like to answer?

What is the biggest issue facing Pennsylvania and the 152nd district and how can it be addressed? The answer is the same it has been for 30 years-property taxes. I will be announcing a property tax plan that will allow senior citizens to not be taxed out of their homes and will not cost other taxpayers any additional money. Stay tuned!

My thanks to Mike Paston for participating in this series of interviews with candidates from the suburban Philadelphia area.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


These are the PA related items I saw in the Wall Street Journal this week.

PA Businesses

UGI Corp of Valley Forge. CFO retiring. UGI is a holding company with three subsidiaries which distribute and market propane, natural gas, and generate electricity for the eastern USA (9/05/06)

“Will Hershey meet its forecast,” by Joseph H. Hallinan (9/07/06)

Other PA

“Unsettled immigration debate looms large,” by June Kronholz (9/06/06). Discusses illegal immigrant ordinance in Riverside, NJ that is based on a similar ordinance in Hazelton, PA.

“Why fans and alums pay through the nose to see Notre Dame,” by Ilan Brat (9/07/06). Mentions a Dallas, PA resident who rents a house in South Bend, Indiana on weekends to take his family to see Notre Dame football games. The price of house rentals and hotels has skyrocketed the weekend of the Notre Dame / Penn State game.

A Personal Opinion

I've read in a variety of places this week about a call for Rumsfeld's resignation being attached to a defense spending bill. I don't like this kind of political stunt. I don't like it when Republicans do it. I don't like it when anybody else does it. Stop it, eveybody, just stop it.

While I'm expressing my views, let me add a smack to the RNC. They've added me to an email list. No idea why, someone didn't do their homework, that's for sure. Most of what is sent around is trash talk. About half of the messages start out with the phrase "not for attribution." Seems kind of slimy to me.

Okay, venting accomplished. We now return to our regularly scheduled channel.

Friday, September 08, 2006

National Journal House Race Ranking Update

The National Journal has updated its House Race Rankings.

Of the four Pennsylvania congressional races in the top listing,

PA-06 stays at #3. "Lois Murphy has run one of the strongest campaigns of any Democratic challenger so far." (She is running against incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach.

PA-08 moves up from #15 to #14. Democrat Patrick Murphy is challenging incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick. “Most of the Dems' Iraq war vet candidates have lost or underachieved, but Murphy's the real deal.”

PA-07 stays at #16. Democract Joe Sestak is challenging incumbent Republican Curt Weldon.

PA-10 moves up from #25 to #21. Democrat Chris Carney is challenging incumbent Republican Don Sherwood. "polls suggest Carney is within striking distance."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blog Round Up

Daddy Democrat had an interesting exchange with Rep. Tom Gannon, who is hoping to defeat Democratic challenger Bryan Lentz. Gannon might want to try some different tactics.

The Penn Dems, the University of Pennsylvania Young Democrats organization, invited Patrick Murphy to their first meeting of the year. In a post on mydd a Penn Dem writes:

One of the great things that Patrick does - which most politicians show a strange inability to do - is to not stick to the same stump speech and to make it more personal.

I have been impressed with this as well.

New Polls

There are new congressional race polls out. Recordings instead of personal interviews were used so there is some controvery over the results. However, the polls do show Democrat Chris Carney ahead of incumbent Republican Don Sherwood and Democrat Lois Murphy ahead of incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach. (Read article from the Morning call, "Poll shows Sherwood, Gerlach trailing challengers in their races"
by Josh Drobnyk here.)

In the 8th district incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick is ahead of Democrat Patrick Murphy 53-45, with a 3.1 margin of error. This puts them roughly where they were a month or so ago in a previous poll. The full report is available here. In much of the county the race is a tie. One other interesting note, while 51% of the district is Republican, Fitzpatrick has only a 41% "strong support" base and Bush has an approval rating of 36%.

3 State Senate Candidates Issue Keystone Contract

As mentioned yesterday, 3 Democratic Bucks County state senate candidates, Paul Lang (6th district), Chris Serpico (10th district), and Jeff Albert (12th district) announced their proposed state government reforms. I don't agree with all of them, but I'm glad they are thinking about such things. (press release via politicspa)


· 3-term limit for Senators; 6-year limit for leaders and committee chairs

· Require quarterly disclosure of the value of all resources that principals commit to their lobbying related activities (including support staff and efforts to influence the public to lobby); and disclosure of all gifts, meals and travel provided to public officials by a lobbyist or principal.
· Bar receipt of gifts of any kind, and reimbursement of personal expenses, such as books and legal fees.

· End use of the Commerce Department as means of funding legislative WAMs (Walking Around Money)
· Publish list of WAMs in a searchable database by Legislator and recipient

· End all accrued benefits (benefits based on length of time served)
· Prohibit any increase in any form of compensation beyond inflation

· Permit one-third of members to bring up a bill or amendment in order to prevent unlimited control of agendas by Committee Chairs

· Post all voting records within 24 hours
· Publish all Legislative Journals within 20 days of session
· Provide timely access to essential documents prepared for pending decisions
· Ensure that access to documents is not denied through excessive retrieval processing, copying fees, and time delays

· Bar the use of official position in the State Senate to promote personal business interests
· Restrict the Legislator and the Legislator’s family and business partners from doing business with any state or local agency and with any state regulated business.

· No Lame Duck Sessions where you can raise taxes and approve spending

· Create an independent redistricting commission

· Publish budget notes online for every bill and amendment, after the last budget note has been issued, with at least three legislative days of notice before voting
· Provide an online database searchable by sponsor, co-sponsor, Legislator and the aggregate for spending
· Adopt campaign finance limits similar to existing federal law

Two Reports on Higher Education in PA

Two notes or reports on higher education caught my eye recently. In today's Inquirer ("Pa is a failure at keeping college affordable for all," by Martha Raffaele), an article mentions a report by the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education which put Pennsylvania among 43 states that fail to make college affordable. In reply:

A state Education Department spokesman said the findings were misleading, however, because the report combines the cost of attending Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities with the higher cost of four other "state-related" universities that receive state funding, but are not state-owned.

In other areas the state did well:

Pennsylvania's grades in "Measuring Up 2006: The National Report Card on Higher Education":

Preparedness for college: B
Enrollment: B
Affordability: F
Degree completion: A
Benefits to the state: A-minus

At the end of August, IssuesPA posted a brief report entitled: Measuring State and Local Government Spending: Pennsylvania’s Priorities: How Do We Compare with Other States?

It notes that Pennsylvania spends 15% less on higher education than the national average. Oddly enough, it spends 1.6% more on elementary and secondary education than the national average.

Interesting stuff.