Saturday, May 31, 2008

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Nope, no PA politicians this week, but some politics in Pennyslvania.

According to “Obama intensifies push for seniors’ support,” by Amy Chozick (5/27), of Pennsylvania voters over 65, 63% voted for Sen. Clinton in the commonwealth’s primary.

PA Businesses

Robert Toll of Toll Brothers gives Minnesota a failing grade in an assessment of regional housing markets, as noted in “Foreclosure bill puts a governor on hot seat,” by Amy Merrick (5/28). In “AMR, Home Depot and Hershey gain,” by Rob Curran (5/28), Toll Brothers stock is up 1.6%

Brief notes: U.S. Steel of Pittsburgh (5/29)

Other PA

Dan Lerner of Merion is a Hydrox cookie fan (as was my grandfather), according to “Hydrox redux: cookie duels Oreo, again,” by Christopher Rhoads (5/28)

Laurie Woodward of Pittsburgh writes a blog devoted to a particular cookbook, as noted in “Latest web bloggers give cooking the books a whole new meaning,” by Lee Gomes (5/28).

Wharton grad George Karibian is one of the examples given in “New law makes escape tougher for tax exiles,” by Martin A. Vaughan (5/28)

Other Interesting Tidbits

Take note, Gov. Rendell, “Dallas utility to install 3 million ‘smart meters’,” by Rebecca Smith (5/27). Note: “The meters are part of an important trend to help consumers control electricity use and to help utilities cut operative costs, and improvie electricy-system reliability.” Rendell would like to bring smart meters to Pennsylvania.

Hey, people, don’t mess with the chocolate. Seriously. See “Candy companies blame higher prices on hedge funds’ chocolate cravings,” by Aaron O. Patrick (5/28).

One of the things I like about Sen. Obama, from “Candidates split sharply on Bush’s no child left behind law,” by Anne Marie Chaker and Amy Chozick (5/29):

Sen. Obama wants to see parents – not just schools – held accountable, by requiring districts to adopt school-family contracts that lay out expectations for student behavior, attendance and homework, the campaign says.”

Friday, May 30, 2008

weekly legislative update

No bills were voted on in the Pennsylvania Senate or House of Representatives this week. A few were introduced and shuffled off to committee, even though the full legislature was not in session. Even our steadfast friends at PICPA took the week off. The Senate did do something noteworthy but it was noteworthy enough for a separate post.

The House Republicans did provide a weekly update.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Redistricting Bill Pulled

Rep. Babette Josephs, chair of the House State Government committee, decided not to call a vote on the proposed redistricting bill. See "Proposal to take politics out of redistricting stalls," by Tracie Mauriello (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5/29).


(h/t Capitol Ideas)

Return of the PA Progressive

The Pennsylvania Progressive is back. It looks like it will be a group blog with diaries. Further tweaking will probably be necessary but it is up and there a few new posts to be read.

Camp Wellstone Comes to Philly

Camp Wellstone, a training program for aspiring candidates, campaign workers, and community activists, will be in Philadelphia July 26-27. A former candidate that I think very highly of attending Camp Wellstone and said it was a great program.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Freedom's Watch Watching PA Races

According to the Politico, ("Freedom's Watch launches robocalls against Dems," by Josh Kraushaar, 5/23), Freedom's Watch, a conservative advocacy group, has targeted several congressional races, including a handful in Pennsylvania:

Joe Sestak (PA-07)
Patrick J. Murphy (PA-08)
Chris Carney (PA-10)
John P. Murtha (PA-12)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Marina Kats: Million Dollar Baby

Ace reporter Josh Drobnyk who also blogs over at Pennsylvania Avenue, has reviewed a new filing by GOP candidate for the 13th congressional district, Marina Kats:

Kats' financial disclosure, filed this month with the House, could shed a little light. The suburban Philadelphia trial attorney has between $10.4 million and $42.4 million in assets, according to her disclosure. The range is broad because the forms only require candidates to list assets between certain dollar figures. But the conclusion is clear: Kats has a lot of money.

Democratic incumbent Allyson Schwartz is known for her ability to raise money. See my first quarter FEC report round up for a comparison on how much each candidate had on hand as of April 2.

A Note on Green Collar Jobs

Today Rep. Patrick Murphy held a press conference at the Keystone Industrial Port Complex to hail the passage of the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act. From the press release:

Kicking off his Memorial Day district work period, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) announced the bipartisan House passage of legislation that will deliver green energy jobs both locally and nationally. At the green energy hub in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex, Rep. Murphy cited the economic and security needs of the future and praised the tax credits in the House bill that will spur green collar job growth. Murphy was joined by Chris Chang from AE Polysilicon, Falls Township Supervisor Jonathan Snipes, Nathan Willcox from Penn Environment and local workers. Standing at a Wind Power Component Staging Area for Gamesa, they hailed the House of Representatives’ passage of the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act which will create green energy jobs locally and nationally if signed into law. The bill passed the House by a bipartisan majority and will increase the production of renewable fuels and renewable electricity. It extends critical tax credits for research and development as well as business investment. It also extends and expands tax incentives for renewable electricity, as well as for plug-in hybrid cars, energy efficient homes, buildings, and appliances.

What are green collar jobs? Here are a few links with some further explanation:

Where are all the clean, green jobs? By Joel Makower 3/21/08
Also discusses a Pittsburgh conference in March, with excerpts and links from documents that conference and other materials.

Green Collar Blog

Earth, Inc.; Green collar jobs signal employment shift toward eco-friendly economy,” by Jason Lee (a version of this document was published in the Jobs section of the Inquirer on April 27, 2008).

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Brief Note on Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, let us remember those from Pennsylvania who have and are serving their country in the military and related services.

These statistics from a press release from Rep. Allyson Schwartz:

It is especially important to acknowledge the tremendous service of Pennsylvania troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today there are over 9,615 Pennsylvania soldiers currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2001, more than 65,385 Pennsylvania soldiers have served in these two nations.

203 Pennsylvania soldiers have given their lives and 1,319 others have been wounded while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan . We must never forget the commitment and courage shown by these men and women who have sacrificed so much for America and for us.

The full press release is or will be on the congresswoman's legislative site.

Brief Notes on May 7th Environmental / Green Jobs Town Hall Meeting

Earlier this month I attended an Environmental Issues and Green Jobs Town Hall Meeting in Bensalem. I had intended to expand it with related articles and other materials but time has not allowed this at present. That will have to go in another post at a later date.

As always, these are rough notes, and being interpreted a little over 20 weeks after the event. In trying to get the gist and yet maintain the authenticity of the comments made, some detail is lost. Apologies in advance for any errors or misinterpretations.

May 7, 2008, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Bensalem Municipal Township Building

The focus of the meeting was two bills currently in the Pennsylvania legislature. One is House Bill 2200 (bill text / PennFuture fact sheet):

House Bill 2200 is landmark energy conservation legislation that will save families and businesses money and create jobs. It will move Pennsylvania to the national forefront of the clean energy economy, protest our environment, and reduce the need to build new power plants and transmission lines.

The bill creates new electricity conversation program sin each utility service territory that would give business and residential consumers the tools to save about 20 percent on their electric bill. Without such programs, demand for electricity will increase at the current rate, about 1.5 percent each year.

The other is Special Session House Bill 1(bill text / PennFuture fact sheet):
Special Session House Bill 1 (SHB 1) provides $850,000,000 for the development of solar and wind power, energy conservation, green buildings, and rebates to consumers who replace old appliances with new energy efficient ones. The funding would come from a clean energy bond, financed by a portion of the existing gross receipts tax.

The bill ensures critical investments in clean energy technologies such as solar and wind power, and in energy efficiency and green buildings. In order to compete with other states that are also vying to attract clean energy businesses, these incentives must be available soon, over the next four to six years, when many clean energy companies will be making business decisions about where to locate.

John Hangar, President and CEO, PennFuture spoke first. He said both bills have passed in the house and are now in the senate (update, on May 13 a hearing was scheduled). Sen. Tomlinson is chair of the committee they will be introduced into.

Mike Russo, President of Local 4889, United Steelworkers spoke next.
Many Gamesa workers were under or unemployed before working at Gamesa. The Polycom plant may be located on the same site. It will be the largest US solar collector east of the Mississippi.

Rick Ewing of the Lower Makefield Township Environmental Advisory Council took the floor. He talked about energy audits and finding simple things to do to reduce carbon footprints.

Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo was not on the program but spoke anyway. His nephew is State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo. He said the new police building is likely to be solar. They are also looking at smart cars and rain gardens.

Governor Ed Rendell arrived looking tanned and wearing glasses and a flag pin. The previous Friday he received an email from a local company saying they were moving out of Pennsylvania because they didn’t know what would happened when the utility rate caps came off in 2010. The only way we can meet the energy demand by 2025 is to conserve or find new energy sources (or both). One simple way to reduce energy use is to keep air pressure in your car tires at the correct level and keep car oil filters clean.

HB 1202 invests in home grown alternatives, biofuels and ethanol. For biofuels, Pennsylvania is producing 40% of all of the biofuels produced in the US. The rise in food costs is due to the increase in fuel costs, not using corn for ethanol. A bill in the US senate will shift to cellulosic ethanol. The ethanol plant in Clearfield County is producing part corn and part cellulosic ethanol.

[blogger's note: As usual the governor was very well prepared with facts, figures, and details that it is very difficult to write down accurately while he is speaking.]

Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (who also took the stage) scheduled a hearing on 5/13 and said this bill is a priority.

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Rep. John Peterson is mentioned in “Oil industry, lawmakers aim to lift bans on drilling,” by Russell Gold, Ben Casselman, and Stephen Power (5/23)

In “Coal country lacks consensus on a nominee,” by Christopher Cooper (5/19) states:

Miner support also gave Mr. Bush 22 o f28 coal counties in Pennsylvania. (Mr. Dole carried only one of them). Pennsylvania may prove crucial to victory this fall.

PA Businesses

From “Big winner from carbon curbs: nuclear,” by Rebecca Smith:
Exelon favors an approach under which government officials would sell or allocate a greater portion of emissions permits to utilities with retail customers, rather than to power generators that sell wholesale power to utilities. That would help customers of Exelon’s two retail utilities, Commonwealth Edition in Chicago and PECO in Philadelphia, since the utility could sell the allowances to generators and use the proceeds to offset a higher energy costs for their customers.

“Charming swings to loss amid slumping sales,” a brief note on 5/22 on Charming Shoppes

Other PA

Kevin Ferris who pens a column for the Inquirer has a column, “Protesting the antiwar protestors,” about a group in West Chester that protests in support of the war (5/24)

Philadelphia gets a mention in “Cities start own efforts to speed up broadband,” by Christopher Rhoads (5/19)

A mention of the Iron Pigs stadium in Allentown is in “Plan to build pricey new stadium divides Omaha,” by Matthew Futterman (5/19)

A. J. Devanesan, of Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd., interviewed in “Growing a tree-friendly paper business,” by To Ching Li, is a graduate of Penn’s Wharton School, and quotes one of his professors in the interview. (5/19)

“Boeing employee charged with vandalizing helicopter,” a brief note from 5/21

Penn is one of the schools plumbing its wait list in “Elite colleges reach deeper into wait lists,” by Anjali Athavaley (5/21)

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices of Horsham is a focus of “Report links Pfizer drug, to accidents, heart trouble,” by Avery Johnson and Alicia Munday (5/22)

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is the focus of “Abertis, Citi win turnpike lease,” by Santiage Perez (5/20)

The Pittsburgh Penguins are mentioned in “Goal: to make fans love hockey,” by Matthew Futterman (5/23)

Linda Wood, a Pittsburgh accountant, is mentioned in “Losing a mint: curb on coin sales angers collectors,” by Ianthe Jeanne Dugan (5/23)

Other Interesting Tidbits

“U.S. military launches alternate-fuel push,” by Yochi J. Dreazen (5/21) highlights the use of synthetic jet fuel.

“House votes tax breaks for alternative energy,” by Martin Vaughan (5/22)

Friday, May 23, 2008

weekly legislative update

The Pennsylvania state legislature was not in session this week. Some bills were introduced but nothing was voted on.

Nonetheless our accountant friends at PICPA produced their usual weekly update. House Republicans also have an update. The Senate Democrats put up a page honoring Pennsylvania soldiers for the Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Update on Willow Grove Naval Air Station

A late night note from the inbox:

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment tonight offered by U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz (Pa-13) and Patrick Murphy (Pa-8) that will prevent future use of the airfield at NASJRB Willow Grove for commercial and cargo purposes.

The amendment offered by Schwartz and Murphy, as part of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, follows:

“Would prevent future use of the airfield at NASJRB Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, for commercial passenger operations; commercial cargo operations; commercial, business, or nongovernment aircraft operations not related to missions of the installation; and as a reliever airport to relieve congestion at other airports.”

The Schwartz/Murphy amendment, which was drafted in coordination with Pennsylvania’s Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, is one additional step further codifying that there will be no commercial or cargo use at the base. Their successful amendment will work in concert with efforts already underway on the state level, including bipartisan legislation which has passed both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to enact a prohibition against the use of the airfield for this purpose. Governor Rendell has expressed his support for this state level legislation.

A joint statement from Schwartz and Murphy follows below:

“We have both been long outspoken in our adamant opposition to any possible commercial or cargo use of the runaway, and we view tonight’s Congressional passage of our amendment as an important victory for the local community.

“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is currently working with the DoD to transform Willow Grove into a Joint Interagency Operation Installation dedicated to national defense, homeland security, and emergency preparedness. This effort is supported by federal, state and local leaders – including virtually all of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation and both Senators.

“Despite the outpouring of local support for the base during the BRAC process – and the unified voice with which we fought for continued military presence at the base – there remain significant concerns in the community that the base could be opened for commercial passenger and cargo operations.

“We offered this amendment and fought for its successful bipartisan passage to directly address these lingering concerns and to make clear once and for all what Governor Rendell and bipartisan elected officials of all levels of government have long made clear: Willow Grove will not become a commercial cargo or passenger airport.”

Iraq War Veterans in the PA House

There is only one Iraq War veteran in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania's 8th district. Two Iraq War veterans have been elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Tom Murt (R-152) and Rep. Bryan Lentz (D-161).

Greg Vitali's Campaign Site Launched

State Rep. Greg Vitali (one of my personal favorite legislators) has launched his first campaign website. Check out His legislative site is

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Schwartz and Shapiro Host Veterans Event

This past Monday Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz and State Rep. Josh Shapiro sponsored a Veteran's Resource Fair. This was an opportunity for veterans to find out about small business loans, state and federal benefits for housing, education, etc. Organizations, such as the BuxMont Womens Veterans Association and the American Legion. There should be more federal / state cooperative ventures like this!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Brief Talk With ACCCE

Watching the CNN election returns tonight I notice one of the sponsors is the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). This is the nudge I need to finish up a post that has been in draft form for a few weeks now.

Just before the presidential primary here in Pennsylvania I was invited to sit in on a conference call with, among others, Joe Lucas of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC). In part this was to announce the launch of ACCCE, “a new group supporting the robust utilization of coal to provide affordable, reliable electricity.” The goal of the ABEC is to make available information on the coal industry and new and developing technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, and ultra low emissions. According to their statistics, coal provides over 56 percent of the Keystone State’s electricity. Their URL for Pennsylvania info is The site has a map showing where clean coal research is happening in Pennsylvania

Mr. Lucas is nothing if not dedicated to his cause. He said coal produces 50% of the electricity the US uses each day and that it is 70% cleaner today than it was a decade ago. However, when asked if coal today was “clean” he said it was a relative term, just as a mother and child might differ on whether or not a room was clean.

ACCCE has released it’s guidelines for federal carbon management legislation. None mention worker safety. I asked on the call if unions were involved in the development of these 12 points. The answer was no, as only board member companies contributed and although they are open to compromise they will go forward with or without union support. None of the presidential candidates has responded to their legislative guidelines at the time of the call.

Mr. Lucas mentioned some relevant bills moving through congress and when I asked for details, a list of bills on climate change was sent.

Other Sources

Sourcewatch article on ACCCE

For a glimpse of current coal mining in Greene County, Pennsylvania see “In the black,” by Jane M. Von Bergen, Inquirer 5/11/08.

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that a Republican strategist specializing in new technologies who posts a note on a social networking site targeted to those in white collar professional jobs, asking how to ensure that the presumed Republican presidential nominee wins the votes of Gen Next is in some serious trouble. Either that or it is a pr ploy of some kind. Either way it strikes me as odd.

What Would You Ask PA Democrats

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has been asking a series of survey questions each week on their website, Now they are letting people pick the questions, well, one anyway. Be nice, now, because the gentleman who reads through the suggested questions is a good guy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Drexel Dems

An annual feature on this blog over the past few years is a post highlighting one of the local college Democrats organizations. This year The Drexel Dems are stepping into the spotlight.

Drexel is viewed, with considerable reason, as a university more oriented toward pocket protectors than political activity. The programs are heavily slanted towards the technical; there isn’t even a separate political science department – it is combined with history.

And yet, the school is currently home to a feisty group of Democrats. Maintaining student organizations is tough when of the nearly 13,000 undergraduates and close to 7,000 graduate students, only 2,000 live on campus.

Reorganized in 2004, the Drexel Dems currently has 600 members and rumor has it they will be recognized this year as student organization of the year.

Students belonging to the organization campaigned in 2006 for Democratic congressional candidates including Joe Sestak, Lois Murphy, Patrick Murphy and Allyson Schwartz, and some state level candidates as well. In 2007, 250 Drexel Dems helped out with the presidential debate held on their campus.

One of their more notable projects this year has been voter registration and turnout. During this school year they have registered nearly 2,000 voters and turnout among dorm residents in the April primary was about 80%. Their registration efforts was noted in the university paper (“Drexel U organizations register 1,950 voters,” b Stephanie Takach) and then picked up by CBS. In March of this year they co-sponsored a one day workshop for Neighborhood Networks that brought in speakers such as Mayor Michael Nutter and once (and future?) DA candidate Seth Williams.

While not officially endorsing a presidential candidate in the primary election some Drexel Dems did put their design and technical skills to use for Sen. Obama, creating four original campaign buttons and distributing over 15,000 of them when Philly for Obama were running out of their own buttons.

They have also held townhall meetings, debates with college Republicans, and hosted movie nights and other social events.

In the past the activity of student Democrats has waxed and waned with presidential elections but has maintained a consistent level of activity since 2004, in large part thanks to the dedication of past and present officers like Brad Levinson, Sean Miller, and John Lloyd.

It is great to see college organizations taking an active role in not only presidential but local politics. I wonder if the dragon will breathe fire in their honor on election day?

Quash in Philly June 7

It seems ironic somehow for a scavenger hunt to raise funds to fight dementia, but that is what's happening in Philadelphia on June 7th. The Alzheimer's Association is hosting Quash, Quest to Unravel Alzheimer's Scavenger Hunt. It sounds interesting, and if you find the car keys that I misplaced twice today, please let me know.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Phila Fundraiser in Washington Post

From "Rival Camps Plan Inevitable Merger," by Matthew Mosk and Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, 5/18, we find a mention of a Philadelphia fundraiser:

Mark Aronchick, a Philadelphia lawyer who has raised more than $1 million for Clinton's bid, said that while her supporters have not given up on their candidate, they recognize the need to start preparing for the general election.

"Only if we do this right, and see this through in the right way, will there be a chance for a full, rapid and largely complete unification of the party," Aronchick said.

Aronchick was one of about 35 Clinton and Obama insiders who attended a dinner last week in Washington aimed at what he characterized as helping the two sides "grope towards unity."


Aronchick said that in his own discussions, he emphasized the need for the senator from Illinois to stop describing Clinton and her backers as representing the politics of the past.

"They need to understand how corrosive that has been among her supporters," Aronchick said. "For this to work, they need to correct any impression that he thinks we represent the old ways of doing things or Washington Beltway ways of doing things."

Hot Guys!!!

Saturday's Inquirer included a story on 15 public officials, city employees, reporters, and lawyers who completed "Fire Ops 101" at the city's Fire Academy.

Participants who hold elected or high ranking office included "Pennsylvania House Speaker Dennis O'Brien, U. S. Rep, Patrick Murphy, State Rep. George Kenney, City Councilmen Bill Green and James F. Kenney, and Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety."

One of the two lawyers represents the city in negotiations with the firefighters' union; the other represents the firefighters. Margaret Brogan, the only woman mentioned as being involved, is the arbitrator for the negotiations.

Among the tasks in the training were climbing to the top of a five-story building and cutting a hole in the roof, setting up a ladder to a third story window, using CPR and the Jaws of Life, and working in a room with 900 degree flames.

See, "After fire training, Nutter has hot idea," by Jeff Shields (5/17)

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Sen. Specter does this honors this week. In “FDA seeks extra $275 million to beef up overseas inspections,” by Jared A. Favole (5/1), correspondence between Specter and Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, FDA commissioner is detailed.

PA Businesses

W. Atlee Burpee & Co., of Warminster, the seed packet people, are metioned in “Pushing the envelope on vegetbles. (5/16)

Ariella Furman, a Temple senior, has a small business making virtual movies for Second Life (“My virtual summer job,” by Alexandra Alter (5/16)

“EarthLink to end Philadelphia municipal wireless service,” by Andrew LaVallee (5/14)

Other PA

A Pittsburgh condominium / town house within walking distance of a baseball park is highlighted in “Money’s worth” on (5/15)

From “Matchmakers: patients meet clinical trials,” by Laura Landro (5/14):

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is offering an unusual interactive Web site that lets patients click through video interviews with physicians and other patients who have participated in clinical trials. “Our goal is to provide information that helps patients reduce their fear of participating in clinical research so that they can make well-considered, informed decisions,” says Samuel Jacobs, associate director for clinical investigations at UPMC’s cancer institute.

The lawyer trying to find out the number of times HMOs “rejected pharmacy requests to fill Medicaid enrollee’s prescriptions,” Sheldon Toubman, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s law school. From “Disclosure push roils state Medicaid program,” by Jane Zhang (5/13)

Other Interesting Tidbits

From, “Mesa sets major order from GE wind turbines,” (5/16):
Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens’s Mesa Power LLP placed the biggest-ever single-side order for wind turbines with General Electronic Co., the latest sign of growing momentum behind clean-energy initiatives despite lingering uncertainty over government support.

Mesa will purchase 667 GE 1.5 megawatt wind turbines, as part of the $2 billion first phase of the biggest wind farm in the U.S.

From the Washington section of “U.S. Watch” (5/13), a collaborative report between the Energy Department and industry says that by 2030 wind turbines can produce 20% of the national electricity needs.

“New sites make it easier to spy on your friends,” by Vauhini Vara (5/13), gives me new reasons to keep personal information off the Internet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

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 accountant friends at PICPA have provided their usual informative weekly update.

Other updates this week:

PA GOP Senate
PA Democratic Senate
PA GOP House
PA Democratic House


HR 737 May 16 is Bike to Work Day


Regular Session


HB 775 Prior Printer's No. 895.Printer's No. 3081. An Act amending the act of June 11, 1935 (P.L.326, No.149), entitled "An act relating to counties of the first class; defining deceased service persons; providing for contributions by the county to the funeral expenses for such persons and their widows; providing for the erection and care of markers, headstones, and flags, and for the compilation of war records," further providing for flags, markers and headstones.

HB 776 Prior Printer's No. 896.Printer's No. 3082. An Act amending the act of August 9, 1955 (P.L.323, No.130), known as The County Code, further providing for flags and grave markers of certain deceased service persons.

HB 777 Prior Printer's No. 897.Printer's No. 3083. An Act amending the act of July 28, 1953 (P.L.723, No.230), known as the Second Class County Code, further providing for markers on graves and for flags to decorate graves.

HB 1090 Prior Printer's No. 1322.Printer's No. 3748. An Act amending Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for powers and duties of Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission.

HB 1281 Prior Printer's Nos. 1542, 1834, 2935, 3175, 3497, 3533.Printer's No. 3767. An Act amending the act of April 28, 1978 (P.L.87, No.41), known as the Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail Act, further providing for actions by municipalities and their powers and duties; and making editorial changes.

HB 1858 Prior Printer's No. 2527.Printer's No. 3765. An Act amending the act of September 2, 1961 (P.L.1232, No.540), known as the Model Act for the Regulation of Credit Life Insurance and Credit Accident and Health Insurance, further providing for premiums and refunds.

HB 1438 By Representatives SEIP, GOODMAN, ARGALL, HERSHEY, HORNAMAN, McCALL, REICHLEY, YOUNGBLOOD, GRUCELA, MANN, BEYER, BRENNAN, DALLY, HARHART, KORTZ, TANGRETTI, MANTZ and CALTAGIRONE. Printer's No. 2482. An Act amending the act of June 26, 1931 (P.L.1379, No.348), referred to as the Third Class County Assessment Board Law, further providing for appeals by corporate authorities.

HB 1439 By Representatives SEIP, GOODMAN, ARGALL, HERSHEY, HORNAMAN, McCALL, REICHLEY, YOUNGBLOOD, GRUCELA, MANN, BEYER, BRENNAN, DALLY, KORTZ, TANGRETTI, MANTZ and CALTAGIRONE. Printer's No. 2483. An Act amending the act of May 21, 1943 (P.L.571, No.254), known as The Fourth to Eighth Class and Selective County Assessment Law, further providing for appeals by municipalities.

HB 2353 Printer's No. 3415. An Act amending Title 64 (Public Authorities and Quasi-Public Corporations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for indebtedness.

HB 1177 Prior Printer's Nos. 1457, 2804.Printer's No. 1457. An Act amending Title 40 (Insurance) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for clinical social work services.

HB 1699 Printer's No. 2249. An Act amending the act of December 12, 1994 (P.L.1023, No.139), known as the Independent Living Services Act, further providing for the composition of the Statewide Independent Living Council.

HB 1786 By Representatives CUTLER and CALTAGIRONE. Printer's No. 2383. An Act authorizing the Department of General Services, with the approval of the Governor, to dedicate, grant and convey to the Strasburg, Lancaster County, Borough Authority, a water main and appurtenances to be constructed by the Department of General Services, together with easements for public water purposes, situate in Strasburg Township, Lancaster County, and to grant such further easements and licenses as may be necessary to provide the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania with access to public sewer service.

HB 2036 Prior Printer's Nos. 2855, 3321.Printer's No. 3719. An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for the offense of neglect of care-dependent person.

HB 2087 Prior Printer's No. 2942.Printer's No. 3452. An Act amending the act of December 17, 1968 (P.L.1224, No.387), known as the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, further providing for definitions; and adding provisions relating to unsafe children's products.

HB 2109 Prior Printer's No. 2994.Printer's No. 3720. An Act amending the act of November 6, 1987 (P.L.381, No.79), known as the Older Adults Protective Services Act, further defining "facility"; and further providing for reporting by employees, for reports to department and coroner and for penalties.

HB 2114 Prior Printer's Nos. 3022, 3322.Printer's No. 3721. An Act amending the act of November 6, 1987 (P.L.381, No.79), known as the Older Adults Protective Services Act, further defining "facility"; providing for the definitions of "chronic dementia" and "cognitive impairment" and for certain disclosures to facility residents; and making editorial changes.

HB 2161 Prior Printer's No. 3078.Printer's No. 3593. An Act requiring certain long-term care facilities to coordinate with licensing agencies and local area agencies on aging to provide assistance to consumers in circumstances involving relocation of consumers; and providing for powers and duties of the Department of Aging.

HB 2242 Printer's No. 3222. An Act requiring public notices relating to long-term care providers; and providing for compliance and enforcement, for certain information to be posted on the Internet, for certain information to be provided directly to consumers and consumers' designated persons and for certain duties of Commonwealth agencies responsible for licensure, certification and other approval of long-term care providers.


SB 615 By Senators GREENLEAF, COSTA, RAFFERTY, BOSCOLA, EARLL, STACK, BROWNE, O'PAKE, KITCHEN, WAUGH, FONTANA, GORDNER, WASHINGTON and WOZNIAK. Prior Printer's No. 666.Printer's No. 2051. An Act regulating bail bond enforcement agents; requiring licensure and registration; and providing for penalties.

SB 949 Prior Printer's Nos. 1675, 1685, 1710, 1744, 1921.Printer's No. 2050. An Act providing for bituminous coal mines; and making a repeal.

SB 1093 Prior Printer's Nos. 1383, 1761.Printer's No. 2038. An Act amending the act of May 29, 1956 (1955 P.L.1804, No.600), entitled, as amended, "An act providing for the establishment of police pension funds or pension annuities in certain boroughs, towns and townships; authorizing the establishment of police pension funds or pension annuities by regional police departments; providing for the regulation and maintenance of police pension funds or pension annuities; providing for an actuary; continuance of existing funds or transfer thereof to funds herein established; prescribing rights of beneficiaries; contributions by members; providing for expenses of administration; continuation of existing authority to provide annuity contracts; credit for military service; refunds; exempting allowances from judicial process; and repealing certain acts," further providing for applicability of certain benefit provisions for certain beneficiaries; and making a related repeal.

SB 472 An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, establishing the Science Technology Partnership Program; and providing for State grants.

SB 1065 By Senators ARMSTRONG, FOLMER and BRUBAKER. Prior Printer's No. 1367.Printer's No. 1465. An Act designating State Bridge No. 36-4009-0030-0000, the newly replaced bridge on Dillerville Road in the City of Lancaster, Lancaster County, as the Edward Anthony Davis Memorial Bridge.

SB 1116 Prior Printer's No. 1480.Printer's No. 1770. An Act amending the act of December 4, 1996 (P.L.911, No.147), known as the Telemarketer Registration Act, further providing for duration of a listing.

SB 1277 By Senators ROBBINS, REGOLA, McILHINNEY, EARLL, PILEGGI, RHOADES, BOSCOLA, EICHELBERGER, FERLO, GREENLEAF, KITCHEN, PICCOLA, RAFFERTY, STACK, C. WILLIAMS and WONDERLING. Printer's No. 1767. An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, in disruptive student programs, further defining "applicant."

SB 1278 By Senators GREENLEAF, COSTA, MELLOW, ERICKSON, M. WHITE, RAFFERTY, ORIE, FONTANA, WOZNIAK, O'PAKE, VANCE, C. WILLIAMS, BROWNE and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's No. 1768.Printer's No. 1844. An Act amending Title 23 (Domestic Relations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for child medical support, annual fees, review of orders of support, effect of incarceration, pass-through of support and assignment of support.

SB 1281 By Senators PIPPY, RHOADES, ERICKSON, ORIE, BROWNE, DINNIMAN, WONDERLING, GREENLEAF, PICCOLA, RAFFERTY, KITCHEN, WAUGH, REGOLA, A. WILLIAMS and FERLO. Prior Printer's No. 1791.Printer's No. 2021. An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, in pupils and attendance, further providing for residence and right to free school privileges.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Redistricting on PCN Call-In Show

PCN Call-In Show, Wed. May 14th

This show focused on the issue of redistricting and discusses a bill introduced by Rep. Steve Samuelson, HB 2420.

The host was Bryan Lochman. Questions from Lochman are marked Q, questions from callers are marked C, the representatives' answers are noted by their initials (MC and SS). This was a lively show and will be on the pcn website for about another week. I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO WATCH THIS EPISODE OR AT LEAST PART OF IT to get a flavor of the two sides. As always, what I am presenting are rough notes and I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Rep. Mark Cohen D-Philadelphia, chairs house majority caucus

Rep. Steve Samuelson, D-Northampton and Lehigh Counties

Q: Redistricting?

SS: System we have now puts redistricting in hands of caucus leaders of house and senate and. Chance to adopt a new system, a non-partisan system. We introduced this bill last week, has 90 co-sponsors, 50 Democrats and 40 Republicans

MC: Now we have a bipartisan system, he wants a nonpartisan system, chance for more problems with nonpartisan. The League of Women Voters has 8 goals this doesn’t meet 5 of them

Q: Explain why this maters

SS: A fundamental reform, to respond to MC, LWV of PA strongly in support of this legislation, helped develop this legislation. To see what’s wrong with current system just look at maps, look at districts, twp of 20,000 people split into 3 congressional districts, one place has 6 different state senators. Going to a nonpartisan process you will have compact contiguous respect boundaries of counties, townships, etc. Central to representative democracy.

Q: explain how it works now

MC: bipartisan redistricting with both parties involved. Nonpartisan hurts individual interests, no parties involved. Right now citizens have access to leadership through their elected representatives, can say they want to be in X’s district or Y’s district. Can submit plans. Can submit directly to decisions makers as people who have some power over decision makers, vote for legislators who elect leaders. Legislators can be thrown out of office. Most legislators at last reapportionment won’t be in office in 2009, people have no power over legislative reference bureau who would do redistricting under new plan. No one knows who they are, can’t throw them out of office. Turning power over to legislative reference bureau a step away from transparency toward back room dealing. Accountable solely to leaders.

Q: Who decides who the people are who currently draw lines?

SS: 5 people, leaders of house and senate, D and R, and neutral person selected by leaders. Leaders engage in bipartisan mischief, goes on behind closed doors. This new proposal would open up process, plans posted in the Internet. Currently trade this township for section of that city to create district that is more powerful for that party. By taking politics out of it as state of Iowa has done, makes it more transparent, starting with census data. Under this bill the very first plan developed by legislative reference bureau goes not to legislature but to the public, LVW calls it voter first, 5 public hearings around the state, before legislature decides

MC: no power over decision-makers, legis ref bur then legislators, people address commission

Q: what is legis ref bur

SS: unquestioned reputation for fairness, integrity. Sometimes strong divisions over issues but leg ref bur not involved. They actually write the bills and amendments but don’t get involved in partisanship. In Iowa it is legislative service bureau. In Iowa in 1980 and 1990 plan adopted on first try.

MC: I dispute that system has worked in state of Iowa. They have put system of selective term limits on legislators. In Iowa in last round 62 legislators forced into districts with another legislator and then retired or ran for another office.

C: What you’re saying should happen is a good idea. The party leaders are never going to allow this to happen, asking them to give up some of their power.

SS: Proposals have been around for several years, bill in 2002 but strength of movement growing, in 2002 25 sponsors, in 2006 up to 38 sponsors last year 56 sponsors, this one has 90 sponsors, almost half the legislature. Had open meeting in Philly. On May 29th there will be a committee hearing in committee chaired by a co-sponsor of the bill. But will be very difficult to get party leaders to bring this bill up for a vote. The importance of citizen involvement in getting this bill up for a vote.

Q: require constitutional amendment?

SS: yes, vote in two legislative sessions, 2008 and 2009/10 and then go on ballot and citizens have the final say. In order to get this done by 2011 has to pass this session. If it doesn’t pass this session it can’t be done again for another 10 years. Senate state government committee considering a very similar proposal the first week of June.

Q: Can leadership kills this?

MC: No, if the public really wants a bill that will reduce its role they can. Right now legislators directly accountable to the public. This bill will take that away and give power to legis ref bur, nor is leg ref bur in support of this bill, no expertise on the subject.

SS: In fairness legis ref bur has taken no position in favor or against it

MC: This is a step backwards.

C: I’ve never seen such spurious reasoning as the caucus leader (Cohen) is giving. This will give us more competitive districts.

MC: This bill does not mention the word competition, does not encourage competition, takes away a measurement of competition, voting returns in prior elections. Cannot consider voting returns in prior elections in designing districts. The only strength of this bill is to encourage compactness but that has nothing to do with competition.

SS: The section of the bill mentioned is good. Right now the districts are drawn to create safe D and R districts. Draw lines in nonpartisan manner, don’t consider prior returns, address of incumbent, party membership. Dispute that legislators have a voice now, only 4 do – legislative leaders. Only 4 party leaders in a back room drawing lines. This bill gives us fairer and more compact districts that more closely reflect communities.

MC: You’re right there are cases like that. Your district was given more D’s but you were against this. My district was given more R’s was 14% now 23% after last redistricting, now about 40% R. Doesn’t always work as SS says. Sometimes become more partisan sometimes less.

Q: Look at maps, John Murtha’s congressional district 12th congressional.

MC: This was done by House and Senate vote. This was recommended by Rep Nat’l committee, R had majority then and was adopted. Spread R’s out throughout state, created many districts with narrow R majority, right in short run, wrong in long run, started out with slim R majority now have narrow D majority, now 12 of 19 seats, strongest since D landslide year of 1964. Attempts to gerrymander backfired.

SS: District looks like long 100 mile snake around Pittsburgh. This bill attempts to change bipartisan michief to nonpartisan.

C: Thank you SS. When legislators are making these decisions, there are many pressures on them. Strongly in favor of bill. Main goal should be rational more fair and balanced districts. [Mentions an odd district in Philly.]

SS: That district is 172nd in Philadelphia, represented by former Speaker of the House John Perzel. Changed shape dramatically in last 10 years.

Q: Is that what happens, create safe district?

MC: When we started the process, there were 5 R districts in Phila, Perzel and R leadership decided to lower number of R districts to 4 and one of the remaining districts, held by George Kenney would get more D’s and he is retiring and district will probably become D. R districts went down to 3. So Perzel got more R’s. That was a reasonable agreement. Fewer R in Philly. Leaves some R representation in city.

SS: As an alternative, almost every sentence of that explanation had a partisan word in it. We need to create nonpartisan districts. Partisan considerations should not be central thing people drawing lines worry about.

MC: Differences in legislation along partisan lines. Saying no partisan interests does not stop backroom manipulation.

C: Why does the US govt have 2 senators in each state regardless of R and D. Why not have districts with contiguous population. Then representatives have to satisfy all population not just one particular group. Concerns of that general area need to be concerns of rep.

SS: was a time when districts were drawn that way. Supreme Court case, Baker vs. Carr, said districts should be as nearly equal as possible in number of people represented.

Q: have any of you been in session to draw lines

SS: no

MC: yes. There are discussions about the pros and cons of drawing lines in one way or another way. Public policy discussions about voting data. In certain cases there is trading as SS says to strengthen D and R. In some occasions it doesn’t. I’ve gained significantly more Rs than it had previously.

SS: In my district I got a district that got more Ds. I was trying to keep a community together. I had city of Bethlehem, D, and Hanover Twp, R, which has had legislators of both parties. In 2001 party leaders took Hanover township away to another district. Decision made behind closed doors, no reporters, no citizens. I Imagine someone wanted to give R twp to an R district. Trade that benefited party leaders but not citizens of those two communities which are intertwined including school district. I had no input.

MC: he had input but it was ignored.

Q: Are there times when someone is a thorn in someone’s side and they get rid of them?

MC: yes. But rare. This proposed bill bans acting in preference to strengthen a candidate but does not ban hurting an incumbent.

SS: No, legis ref bur can’t even consider where the incumbent lives.

MC: It says can’t draw in favor of party incumbent or group. Doesn’t say you can work against someone.

SS: The system where there are political paybacks would be removed.

C: [describes 2 oddly shaped districts] Let’s get back to idea of having districts as geographically square as possible.

Q: [gives history of gerrymander, Gov. Eldridge Gerry, district looked like salamander, thus gerrymander] have computers changed how we do this

SS: Computers are used but sometimes results same. Gerrymander looks like 2?th senate district, Emmaus, Quakertown

Q: protect minority rights?

MC: Under voting rights act, minorities are entitled to be represented in a reasonable proportion to their numbers provided there is no adverse results for any other groups. This bill makes the art of drawing those districts more difficult. Bans consideration of election returns.

SS: It’s hard to argue that a totally non partisan system is unconstitutional. One possible amendment to take out words to favor one group.

C: Are there any independent districts

SS: under the current system required minority and majority party to have 4 seats at the table, no wording on independent.

MC: The two co-authors of current system were R and D, serves to represent minority interests very well. In 93 of the 203 districts there has been a change of party label of person holding the seat at least once since 1967. 26 additional districts where one party came within 100 votes of winning district. Competitive districts.

C: lends support to Samuelson’s proposal. Cohen’s position is horrible.

MC: There is a lot of cynicism about how things are. Seen that it exists now is worst possible system. Current system is a major reform led to a system of fluidity in which role of independent voters is enhanced. Cites change in majority and minority parties in House. There is an awful lot of fluidity here. The charge that this protects incumbents and politicians acting again public doesn’t stand up to examination.

SS: Cohen and I work together well on other things but disagree on this. 2 weeks ago a public meeting in Strasburg, 75 people came out on a Saturday morning.

MC: if the citizens win on this change get the opportunity to have legis ref bur draw up districts.

C: cites one compact district that has one office, a long distended district that has 3 offices.

MC: People in the district often have commonalties of interest, goes over township, ward and borough lines. Mass transit in my district links people together. All sorts of thing can link one end of the district to the other end of the district. Doesn’t really have anything to do with redistricting, staff size and number of offices. Depends on individual operating styles.

SS: One senator has 4 district offices. If you switch to a system with a respect for political boundaries, counties, cities, townships will get districts that are more compact.

C: reduce size of legislature

MC: Not necessary to have any legislators, can just have governor make all decisions. Could have 3 member legislature. Only reasons we have 203 house and 50 senate is to recognize wisdom and interest of people across the state. Could cut but we limit power and influence of citizens.

SS: Agree with Cohen. Can meet with legislator who represents 60,000 people. If fewer districts and make them larger then costs more to run for office, more money in elections, more special interests.

Q: Laws preventing house and senate leadership running roughshod when drawing lines?

MC: yes, laws against racial discrimination. Laws saying districts compact and contiguous and split boundary lines only when necessary. Necessary to accomplish what? Language in this proposal also vague but a little less so. The more you try to equalize districts and focus on population, constant fluctuation and over time that leads to odd shaped districts.

Q: If people don’t like outcome can they challenge this in court?

MC: the reapportionment commission done a better job in 1981 29 cases, in 1991 there were 25, in 2001 there were X [missed number but it was fewer than 25] cases.

Q: right to carry act, house bill 2231, nov 2005

SS: firearms proposal, amendment

Q: what happens to redistricting bill?

SS: May 29th hearing, roughly half of committee sponsored the bill. The timetable is very tight. If out of committee must persuade leaders to bring it up for a vote.

MC: If citizens demand and get this change will have less influence over redistricting than they have today.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Allyson Schwartz on PCN Call-In Show

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz of the 13th congressional district, was the guest this past Monday on PCN’s Call-In Show.

These are my rough notes from the station’s online archives. As always apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions. The show will be available on pcn’s website for a few more days (and after that a tape is available for a fee) so you should review the broadcast for yourself if it is of interest.

Q indicates questions from host Theresa Elliott, C is a caller, AS is Rep. Schwartz.

Q: Thoughts on candidates?

AS: I am a strong Clinton supporter. We feel so excited about the degree to which we engaged the voters. Saw several counties go from a Republican majority to a Democratic majority. A lot of people angry about where Bush administration has led us and really want to see a change. This is happening all across the country. Voters want to be heard. The Democrats will make a decision and join together. The real fight is in November. [a lot more about Clinton that I didn’t catch.]

Q: My name is Theresa Elliott. Rep. Schwartz thank you so much for joining us.

A: Thank you so much for televising the state senate where I served for several years.

Q: The Democratic primary. Pundits are speculating that the sooner the primary wrapped up the better. Do you agree?

AS: The pundits do a lot of talking. It is important for us to see it through the rest of the primary. Then once the primaries are counted and the delegates counted. I suspect we’ll know in June and not go all the way to the convention.

Q: Delegates vote on basis of state or caucus other think they should vote on their own opinion?

AS: Some Obama delegates represent areas where Clinton won. There are some people said we ought to vote our districts. There are also people looking at who they think would be the best president.

C: Thank you for taking my call. My concern is the economy. Really want both Democratic candidates to address trade imbalance with China. Bad for labor and bad for America in general. Wants nominee to look at these trade agreements.

AS: Thank you, a constituent, for calling. Certainly the issue of trade and fair trade agreements is incredibly important. The labor movement has been very involved in making sure our trade agreements are fair for workers, labor standards which levels playing field for our workers as well, environmental standards and [did not catch]. We’ve got to get these trade agreements written in a way that is good for America and workers. The agreement with Peru is a new kind of agreement that creates opportunity for our businesses, like Mack Truck. You did mention the issue of China. We don’t have a trade agreement with China. The Bush administration has been at great fault for not using the World Trade Organization to go after some of the dumping that China has done. One example is toys made in China and sent here. Hard to compete with labor costs and trade with China fairly, government subsidizes businesses, hard to differentiate between public and private sector. First priority has to be jobs in America. Looking forward to a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democratic president.

C: Thank you for taking my call. I’m a taxi driver in Philadelphia. Over the last year 3 taximen killed and more than 100 robbed. What can you do to help us? We’ve been to Harrisburg and city government and PPA.

AS: Would like to have a further discussion to find out what could be done, what are your recommendations? I am concerned about violence in any of our communities. Our new mayor is very concerned about violence, especially gun violence and working with state legislature in Harrisburg. He’s also been interested in having a dialogue at the federal level. I’m very supportive of COPS bill, federal money to hire more policemen. Government and private sector need to work together and private citizens need to get involved as well. Make sure people can get good jobs that pay well. Terrible tragedy last week with a police officer shot. A criminal having access to an assault weapon. Meant as a military assault weapon to kill people. Those weapons should not be available in our community. Need to make sure we have the right tools for law enforcement.

Q: in reference to Philadelphia police officer slain, both the governor and mayor calling for a new ban on assault weapon.

AS: I do support it and have signed on to legislation. No problem with hunting for sport and recreation. There is a big difference between weapons used for sport and recreation and weapons designed to kills people. We did take action in Congress after the shooting at Virginia Tech to tighten the rules for not selling guns to the mentally ill. Encourage everyone to be in touch with their state legislators and governor and congressional representatives to talk about difference in weapons.

C: I was member of the group Parent project for Muscular Dystrophy, wanted you to sign on to HR 5265.

AS: Apologize for you not getting an answer and you should have. I will certainly look at that legislation. I have been keenly supportive of dollars for medical research to find cures and better treatments. Thank you for drawing my attention to it. You should know Pres. Bush in his budget called for no increase in NIH funding for 7th year in a row. We know there are scientists who want to work on this. Some of my family has been to NIH to do research.

Q: Health care. How does the US health care system relate to other countries?

AS: The US is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee health care to all its citizens. First must set that as a goal. There are different ways of doing that. Access to health care that is meaningful. Not sure we are spending dollars in most effective way to get the most effective care. Use technology to reduce errors, improve quality. Want to use electronic prescriptions. There are 1.5 million errors just in writing prescriptions. Could save lives and dollars. Looking to get that done under medicare legislation later this year. Integrated health care system, reduce unnecessary tests, reduce diabetes and heart disease. Make sure people can afford health insurance. I was one of the architects of CHIP in the state senate. I’ve had families come up to me and say that during difficult times they were able to buy health insurance for their kids. In Congress I worked very hard to extend CHIP to the children in the US that are eligible but can’t get in because of costs. Bush vetoed it. Priority for next president. It’s what we should do in this country to meet obligations to seniors and children, access to meaningful affordable health care.

C: Frequency of meeting with constituents. Would like more meetings with short questions and short responses. We can hear about your actions by reading the paper but I think you need to hear what’s being said by the people in your district.

AS: To my constituents I would say I’m in Washington a lot, in June and July Congress will meet 5 days a week. I do try to have townhall meetings and teletownhall meetings. We’ve done many of those. You can always email me or call my office. It is difficult for me to be everywhere I might want to be. Please sign up for my email list. I wish I could rely on the media to tell you what I’m up to.

C: Thank you for taking my call and your program. Sorry for family of fallen officer and for cab driver. My family is affected by the going to and fro for medical treatment by gas prices. Is there anything you can tell us that is more positive than what we hear on the news? Is it possible to use vitamins or hypnotherapy and have it covered by insurance.

AS: All of us shocked by cost of gas. When Bush took office gas was $1.46 / gallon. In the short term, Democrats in Congress are looking at temporarily suspending buying oil for strategic petroleum reserve to help reduce prices, reserve is about 97% filled so can safely temporarily suspend. Consumers can keep tires full of air, don’t carry heavy loads, use public transit, run errands efficiently, reduce consumer demand. Long term what we have to do is take some of the tax subsidies from oil companies to energy alternatives, biofuels, solar, wind, energy efficient homes and appliances. We have passed legislation pushing that, not gotten through the senate yet. President not happy taking subsidies away from oil industries. We could be smarter, create green jobs. We did pass new fuel efficiency standards to make cars more efficient.

C: Fox News and others have been painting PA similar to West VA as similar in racial voting. Will Pennsylvanians be up for electing a black president? Do you put a lot of faith in our news people in how they characterize people?

AS: I don’t always agree with what the media says. Pundits proven wrong a number of times. Voters defied what pundits said would happen. We all listen but we want to make our own opinions. They are trying to do the best they can. Primary season was great because usually we don’t get to see the candidates up close and in person. I appreciate all the coverage by the media. Right now we don’t have a nominee but that will happen over the next few weeks. I represent a part of the state that has a willingness to really look across race lines and this is true of very many voters. Look at candidates, who they are how they live their lives. I think that voters will look at John McCain and whoever the Democratic candidate is.

C: Thanks to PCN for this opportunity. You joined all the PA representatives and voted in favor of a resolution recognizing Ramadan but did not vote for resolution recognizing Christmas.

AS: Acknowledging the holiday but difference of religious and religious observance. We as a government do not endorse or acknowledge one over another.

Q: Recently IRS began issuing stimulus rebates.

AS: Constituents pleased to see some of their tax dollars return to their pockets. More health care costs passed along to them, economic downturn has been a squeeze on people, pay down debt or meet difficulties like mortgage crisis or get ahead or do something they and their families have been hoping to do, buy an appliance (Hopefully energy efficient one). Most often I hear they are using it to purchase something they had been putting off buying. Make sure businesses don’t stop producing products and lay off workers. Worked hard to include seniors in this stimulus. Stem the tide to turn back deepening recession. Vote in House last week to reduce the foreclosure rate so we don’t see people losing their homes. We also want to encourage green jobs, renewable sources of energy. Also looking at serious investment in infrastructure, good paying jobs, need in Pennsylvania. And long term we have to make sure we are investing in a work force, grow American economy in global and very competitive marketplace.

C: Serve on board of directors of Philadelphia program for veterans that has been around for 20 years served over 5000 homeless veterans. Similar group in Pittsburgh receives over $100K earmark from Murtha. How can we get that kind of support?

AS: Certainly I’ve tried to reach out to groups in the community, office has done workshops for nonprofits to find out about grants and other programs. We look out for worthy initiatives and have been very proud to have worked with groups, including Collegiate Consortium, part of Veterans leadership Council. Lets veterans go back to community or other colleges to get additional training, get civilian job get feet on the ground. Very first piece of legislation introduced and passed out of Ways and Means Committee is credit for small businesses that hire vets from Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans should get health care they deserve and should expect. We are aware that some veterans are homeless and should help them get back on their feet.

C: What do you think of Bob Casey for VP and will you make another run for Senate

AS: VP up to presidential nominee. Thank you for remembering I did have a run for the Senate. I am so honored to represent my constituents in Congress and get on the great committees I and on and do good work. What’s next for me is I hope reelection to congress.

Q: make up of 13th

AS: NE philly and eastern montco, Delaware River out to Schwenksville. SEPA has very strong communities. Strong health care and biotech pharmaceuticals in my district.

C: Thank you for some help with medicare. On social security disability, can’t afford any kind of health insurance.

AS: You raise a very very important question. Pre-existing conditions difficult and expensive to get health insurance. We need to make sure health insurance available for people with health conditions. Have a bill that would prohibit insurance companies from excluding children with pre-existing conditions. Please call my office.

C: long statement on mental health and a personal situation with health care.

AS: Many veterans coming back have a need for counseling and support. Often mental illness still has a stigma. For veterans who can go to the VA there is a great clinic in Horsham. Our veterans have come back with real issues and should be able to reach out and receive help.

C: People with disabilities, mental health issues, amendment [did not catch number]

AS: That might be state legislation not federal. PA has a broad spectrum of services.

Q: What are some of your priorities?

AS: respond to economic downturn, housing issues, medicare access to physicians, issues of energy, serious challenges with some very good answers, hasn’t been easy, but we are working to do just that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mark Your Calendar: Hearing on HB 2420 (redistricting)

On May 29th the House State Government Committee will hold a meeting on a number of bills, including HB 2420, on redistricting reform. Among the provisions of the bill are that districts follow the lines of political subdivisions (county, township, ward, etc., boundaries) and have to be contiguous -- just meeting at one point is not contiguous. (There are districts that look like two triangles that only meet at the tip.)

The Pennsylvania League of Women Voters has a great deal of information on the bill. See also Chris Satullo's 5/10 column, "You can help to kill the evil gerrymander."

Sponsors and co-sponsors are:


If your legislator's name is not on this list (or even if it is), please let them know you support this bill. It needs to pass before the end of this legislative session.

Monday, May 12, 2008

FEC Flubs II?: Tom Manion

This may or may not be a flub but it is worth asking about. I noted in a previous post on the first quarter 2008 FEC reports that Tom Manion, the Republican candidate for the 8th congressional district, didn't list any paid staff. He raised a lot of money and it could be assumed that he was helped quite a bit by local party activists. However, he announced in February that he had hired a campaign manager. See "Manion faces lone challenge in race," by Scott Kraus, The Morning Call, 2/13/08:

Manion said he was grateful for the support of party activists, and is gearing up for the campaign, starting by hiring experienced GOP operative Jerry Morgan as his campaign manager.

This was in February but as of April 2nd, Mr. Morgan had not been paid.

It cannot be said that he wasn't actually working until after the report was filed. According to "House passes wiretap measure," by Brian Scheid, Bucks County Courier Times, 3/14/08:
Jerry Morgan, a spokesman for Tom Manion, Murphy's presumptive Republican opponent in November's election, said that Murphy's vote was a sign he was unwilling to work for that bipartisan solution.

Also in March, Mr. Morgan, identified as Manion's campaign manager, was the featured speaker at the March Bucks County Young Republican Meeting:
We just want to remind you that our next monthly meeting will be taking place Thursday, March 20th at 7:00 PM at Bucks County Republican Headquarters in Doylestown. (For a map and directions, click here.) We will be covering quite a bit at this meeting, and we will have a special guest: Jerry Morgan, campaign manager for Manion for Congress. So make sure you’re there!!

His hiring is announced in mid-February, by mid-March he is being quoted and appearing in public as a campaign employee but there are no salary payments listed on a report that covered campaign spending through April 2nd. Mr. Morgan may have elected to delay his first paycheck until after the reports were filed or perhaps he started after the first of March and his first check wouldn't be due until mid- or late April.

This will all be cleared up when the next quarterly reports are filed and a salary pattern is clear, biweekly, monthly, end of the month, first of the month, etc. Mr. Morgan is a well-respected political operative, having previously worked for Rep. Don Sherwood and Rep. Bill Shuster.

FEC Flubs I: Marina Kats

The very observant Josh Drobnyk, over at Pennsylvania Avenue, has noted an anomaly in Marina Kats's first FEC report FEC disclosure report. Seems it was late being filed. The details of FEC filing escape me, and are unintelligible to most mortals, but if you are running for Congress it is important to try to figure them out.

An excerpt from Drobnyk's blog:

Like many things in Congress, the rules concerning financial disclosures -- which list all candidates assets and income apart from the property they live in -- aren't particularly straightforward. But there are far trickier things to overcome.

What's clear is this: A candidate who raises at least $5,000 must file her disclosure 30 days before the primary, which was held in Pennsylvania on April 22. Kats, a personal injury attorney from Abington, broke that barrier on March 17 after receiving $5,600 on one day, meaning her statement was due less than a week later.

Kats' campaign argues that some of that money was for the general election, so she wasn't over the $5,000 threshold for a primary. But that argument doesn't hold up to the rules, which don't discriminate between primary and general election money. Besides, the campaign received even more money a month later, just days before the primary. Under House rules, a candidate would then immediately have to file a disclosure.

Uh oh....

Update: Kats is the Republican candidate for the 13th congressional district, running against Allyson Schwartz.

Virtual Library Legislative Day

One of the things I missed during the busy primary season was National Library Week. Many thanks to the nice people in sensible shoes who work in our libraries. May 13th and 14th are designated as Virtual Library Legislative Day. You are invited to contact your congressional representatives and let them know how valuable our nation's libraries are.

The linked page lists several issues of importance with relevant legislation pending. Libraries are sometimes referred to as "the people's university," providing educational and recreation reading (and these days films and computer access as well) to those with limited incomes and also to the vast store of information no longer in print and not freely available on the Internet. I find the newspaper articles cited so frequently here via a database available through a library. When I was growing up there were no bookstores in the area, and, even if there were, it wouldn't have been in the family budget to buy them. Libraries were my primary source of reading material and I spent many happy hours there.

One of my more unusual library memories happened when I was a young lass and just off to college. I was working in the university library and had been assigned a task working alone in a large store room. (Yes, I did take a few spins around the room on a book truck.) The area had once been a chemistry lab and there was an effort to see if there were any residual hazardous traces. No one had warned me though and I was quite surprised one day when a man in a full radiation suit with a geiger counter came in, swept the room, and left without saying a word.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Washington Week In Review in Philly

Mr. J and I had a real treat on Friday. We had tickets to attend the live taping of "Washington Week in Review," held in Penn's Irvine Auditorium. It was wonderful. As we sat waiting Mr. J said at some point during the taping someone would shout "We love you, Gwen," at host Gwen Ifill. "No, I said. Not this crowd." But, sure enough, as she was standing in the aisle getting ready for the show someone shouted "We love you, Gwen!"

First there were announcements, such as once we got started we had to stay put, no bathroom breaks, and to remember we were being filmed and not to do anything we didn't want broadcast, and a note from the fire marshal. We had to turn off cell phones, not just put them on vibrate. There were introductions from WHYY and sponsor AARP (see

When Ifill came out she received a standing ovation. It was interesting watching everyone get set up for the show. At least that evening the coffee cups were filled with water. It was also very clear that the panelists, Dan Balz, Jeanne Cummings, Karen Tumulty, and Mike Viqueira, got along well. A great deal of camaraderie was also evident. They joked and talked and clearly knew each other's family situations. This really came into play once the show got started. The conversation flowed easily. Ifill could indicate who should speak next and who pause by a gentle movement of the pen in her hand. The panelists themselves ceded the floor to each other effortlessly but without seeming rehearsed. The show is available as a podcast so I won't comment on it other than to say that the commercials were broadcast in the background and not put in later, and that the show went off without a hitch, no flubs that had to be re-shot.

After the show was finished we taped an additional 30 minute Q&A. The questions had been decided at some point in advance. I don't know what the process was but some people along the center aisle had orange cards with their questions on them. Since Gwen was in the audience for this part her seat on stage was taken by Inquirer political reporter Larry Eichel, who is quite dapper in person. There was a problem getting the microphone on his necktie working. A woman on the show's technical staff tried to fix it from the back, standing behind him and reaching around to clip the mike to his tie. That didn't work so she came around and squatted in front of him to position it, with more success.

The Q&A also went smoothly. Some of the questions were a little hard to follow and some were on topics that the panelists couldn't possibly answer, geared more towards candidates than journalists. Ifill walked along the aisle and selected the people to ask questions. Again, the panelists worked together to answer questions, without talking over each other or arguing.

Ifill was very at ease, and seemed very genuine, funny, and not at all pretentious. We had a great time. Having seen the show taped live will make watching it on Friday evenings even more enjoyable.

Mom Makes the Grade

The family had a Mother's Day ceremony for me this morning -- cards, gifts, and so on. One of the kids also gave me a report card, so I'd know how I was doing. It's an interesting idea, but it probably won't catch on. It is with great pleasure that I report getting A's in cooking (the oldest kid piped in that it should be an A+!), caring, style, niceness and cleaning (We almost had to give Mr. J the Heimlich maneuver when he saw that -- tidiness is not my strength). The only area that didn't get an A was attendance. At first I had an extreme pang of blogger guilt -- maybe it was my absence from home to attend political events, but no, the less than perfect grade reflected the occasional illness. Whew!!!! As soon as adolescence hits my grades will probably drop dramatically but for now I'm very pleased with my GPA.

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Rep. Jason Altmire does the honors this week in “Democrats look to life after Clinton,” by Jackie Calmes and Susan David (5/08). The article notes that even after being entertained at her home in DC he remains uncommitted.

Gov. Rendell and a handful of state representatives are mentioned in this article on the leasing of the PA Turnpike, “Public wary of increasing efforts to lease road,” by Santiago Perez (5/09)

When the senate is not in session, State Sen. Mike Stack is a regular at Lacroix in Philadelphia, as noted in “Power tables,” by Jesse Knadler. (5/10)

The rally of 35,000 at Independence Hall for Sen. Obama is mentioned in “Obama is getting back to getting close to voters,” by Christopher Cooper and Nick Timiraos (5/05).

PA Businesses

An interview with Vanguard CEO Jack Brennan, “Taking the long view,” by Leslie Scism (5/05)

Comcast is mentioned in “Big tech firms to invest in wireless,” by Amol Sharma and Vishesh Kumar (5/07)

CVS is mentioned in “Health clinics in stores likely to slow their growth,” by David Armstrong (5/07)

West Chester-based Moody’s is mentioned in “Keeping families above water,” by David Wessel (5/08) and “Mortgage firms cool to principal-cut plan,” by Ruth Simon and Nick Timiraos (5/09). No mention of Mark Zandi.

Amerisource Bergen is the subject of “Bids don’t’ measure up, so unit isn’t for sale,” (5/08)

Lisa Goldstein of Rainmaker Trainers in Philadelphia is quoted in “Risky business: decolletage at a work dinner,” by Christina Binkley (5/08)

Other PA

Dr. Larry Frohman, a primary subject of “Medical specialties hit by a growing pay gap,” by Vanesa Hurhmans (5/05) attending medical school at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Murder spike poses quandary,” by Gary Fields (5/06) mentions Philadelphia. Hamilton County (Ohio) medical examiner O’dell Owens makes this observation:

”The homicides occur in neighborhoods where folks don’t finish high school. If you can’t make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn, you’re done.”

Charles Cortinovis of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh is quoted in “FDA panel rejects wider use of painkiller,” (5/07)

Pennsylvania is mentioned in “Humane Society: new video shows cattle mistreatement,” (5/08).

“Philadelphia officers taken off street after video of stop,” (5/08)

Noted meteorologist George P. Cressman was a Pennsylvania native, as noted in his obituary (5/10)

Other Interesting Tidbits

An interesting article on the state by state fight over greenhouse gas emissions in “Auto industry focuses on states,” by Stephen Power (5/05)

Friday, May 09, 2008

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 accountant friends at PICPA have provided their usual informative weekly update.

Other updates this week:

PA GOP Senate
PA Democratic Senate
PA GOP House
PA Democratic House


Regular Session


HB 500 By Representatives SANTONI, BARRAR, BOYD, CALTAGIRONE, CURRY, FABRIZIO, GERGELY, HENNESSEY, KILLION, KOTIK, MARKOSEK, PALLONE, REICHLEY, WALKO, YOUNGBLOOD, SIPTROTH, JAMES, MURT and SOLOBAY. Prior Printer's Nos. 555, 1845, 1909, 2777, 3216.Printer's No. 3703. An Act amending the act of December 20, 1985 (P.L.457, No.112), known as the Medical Practice Act of 1985, further providing for definitions; providing for perfusionist licensing, qualifications, supervision and scope of practice, regulations and exemptions.

HB 2204 Prior Printer's Nos. 3145, 3324.Printer's No. 3692. An Act amending the act of July 10, 1981 (P.L.214, No.67), known as the Bingo Law, further providing for definitions and for rules for licensing and operation; providing for progressive jackpots; and further providing for revocation of licenses.

HB 2297 Prior Printer's No. 3347.Printer's No. 3702. An Act amending the act of October 6, 1998 (P.L.705, No.92), known as the Keystone Opportunity Zone, Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone and Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone Act, providing for extension for unoccupied parcels, for additional subzones authorized, for substitution of parcels and for cap and trade; further providing for sales and use tax, for corporate net income tax, for local earned income, net profits and business privilege taxes and for local sales and use tax; and providing for recapture and for work performed.

HB 2343 Prior Printer's No. 3388.Printer's No. 3691. An Act amending Title 23 (Domestic Relations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for persons qualified to solemnize marriages.

HB 501 By Representatives SANTONI, BARRAR, BOYD, CALTAGIRONE, CURRY, FABRIZIO, GERGELY, HENNESSEY, KILLION, KOTIK, MARKOSEK, PALLONE, REICHLEY, WALKO, YOUNGBLOOD, SIPTROTH, JAMES, MURT and SOLOBAY. Prior Printer's Nos. 556, 1846, 1910, 2778, 3217.Printer's No. 3638. An Act amending the act of October 5, 1978 (P.L.1109, No.261), known as the Osteopathic Medical Practice Act, further providing for definitions; and providing for perfusionist licensing, qualifications, supervision and scope of practice, regulations and exemptions.

HB 2345 Printer's No. 3390. An Act amending the act of August 26, 1971 (P.L.351, No.91), known as the State Lottery Law, further providing for PACE and PACENET eligibility.


SB 731 SB 731 By Senators ORIE, CORMAN, RHOADES, WASHINGTON, PICCOLA, TOMLINSON, PILEGGI, FONTANA, MUSTO, LOGAN, FOLMER, KITCHEN, BOSCOLA, COSTA, EARLL, C. WILLIAMS, BAKER, BRUBAKER and BROWNE. Prior Printer's Nos. 803, 1986.Printer's No. 2010. An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, further providing for possession and use of asthma inhalers and epinephrine auto-injectors.

SB 684 By Senators BAKER, BROWNE, COSTA, FERLO, GREENLEAF, KITCHEN, ORIE, O'PAKE, RAFFERTY, RHOADES, WAUGH, WONDERLING, FONTANA and WASHINGTON. Prior Printer's Nos. 732, 1648, 1970.Printer's No. 2009. An Act providing for child death review.

SB 1017 By Senators BRUBAKER, WONDERLING, PUNT, O'PAKE, WAUGH, TARTAGLIONE, KITCHEN, RAFFERTY, ERICKSON, FERLO, MADIGAN, MUSTO, GREENLEAF, VANCE, FOLMER, BAKER, KASUNIC, ROBBINS, GORDNER, STACK, BROWNE, PIPPY and C. WILLIAMS. Printer's No. 1269. An Act amending the act of July 5, 1989 (P.L.166, No.31), known as the Phosphate Detergent Act, further providing for exclusions and exceptions.

SB 638 Prior Printer's Nos. 690, 1218, 1411.Printer's No. 1615. An Act establishing the Cancer Drug Repository Program for accepting donated cancer drugs and dispensing cancer drugs; and providing for the powers and duties of the State Board of Pharmacy.

SB 1149 By Senators TARTAGLIONE, GREENLEAF, LAVALLE, COSTA, RAFFERTY, STACK, ERICKSON, WASHINGTON, TOMLINSON, STOUT, LOGAN, DINNIMAN, KASUNIC, BROWNE and HUGHES. Prior Printer's No. 1531.Printer's No. 1973. An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for aggravated assault.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Truth in Tuition

A few months ago a press release showed up in the inbox touting this legislation:

The Truth in Tuition amendment would give colleges and universities two options on how to better inform students about costs as well as incentives for providing more information upfront for students and families. The first option would be for schools to give incoming freshmen a multi-year tuition and fee schedule. Under this option, tuition for all four years would be given to students ahead of time and those rates would be binding, unless the college or university was to apply for a waiver from the Secretary of Education. The other option for schools would be to give students a single-year tuition and fee schedule as well as the average deviation in tuition between previous years. Under this option schools would have to provide students with an individual and customized look at what tuition and fees – including financial aid – they would face during their time in that school.

The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy and regular readers will know that generally I write positively about Pennsylvania's 8th district congressman. But this gave me pause. On the surface it sounds like great legislation. A clear idea of what a college education will cost, what could be better?

But here is where I ran into trouble. Colleges often raise tuition because state and federal aid for education has dropped. If a state had a drastic budget situation and slashed education funding, what recourse would a state supported college or university have? Apply for a waiver? It sounded good but I still had questions. Colleges in trouble financially tend to raid the library budget, hire more part-time faculty instead of filling full-time lines, and cut back on maintenance and cleaning.

This week I finally got around to looking at the bill being amended, HR 4137, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania's 4th district. One thing that It does have a provision encouraging state's to maintain financial support of higher education (I didn't see any such provision for the federal government). [Truth in advertising: I didn't read the actual bill but a summary; it was plenty long enough and that was just skimming sections):

(Sec. 108) Requires states to maintain or increase their funding of non-capital and indirect research and development costs at public IHEs [Institution of Higher Education] and their funding of financial aid at private IHEs or become ineligible for this Act's new grants to expand college access and increase college persistence under the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership program. Allows the Secretary to waive such requirement for states facing exceptional circumstances.

Authorizes the Secretary to identify and disseminate IHE cost containment strategies, recognize IHEs that are containing costs effectively, and work with other IHEs to implement such strategies.

In the remarks of Murphy's co-sponsor Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) she clearly states the opportunities for exceptions:
It's not binding on the schools. It provides the students, though, as I say, with an idea. And there is a provision in there that if the school has some kind of an economic hardship, they can get a waiver from the Secretary of Education. This could include a cut in Federal or State funding, or any number of other economic issues that might disrupt the school's budget.

On further reviewing the history of the bill I found two amendments put forth by Pennsylvania's 7th district congressman, Rep. Joe Sestak. Amendment 940 included physical therapists in the list of occupations qualified for student loan forgiveness. Amendment 941 "Amendment amends the articulation agreement strategies that may be employed by states and institutions of higher education to include management systems regarding course equivalency, transfer of credit, and articulation." Both of those sound reasonable.

After reviewing the bill summary and some of the amendments it looks to me like this is a worthwhile bill, though I would prefer schools have greater leeway when the state of federal government decides to take a hatchet to their budget.