Monday, August 31, 2009

Hoeffel for Gov?

The 2010 gubernatorial election is over a year away but the jockeying for position has already begun. Former congressman and state representative, and current Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel is considering throwing his hat in the ring. A statement posted on his personal website and sent to supporters on email says in part:

I am a pragmatic progressive. I am socially liberal and fiscally responsible. I have fought for 23 years in Norristown, Harrisburg and Washington for economic development, public education, government reform and social justice, all within balanced budgets.

I believe government has to learn how to deliver more services cheaper, smarter and better. I believe that government works best with coalitions that cross party lines and bridge rural and urban communities. I will sponsor summits to bring competing interests together and I will hold town meetings in every county every year. Pennsylvanians ought to have the chance once a year to come down to the town hall and yell at their governor.

So there you have it. Hoeffel for Governor? What do you think? Should I get into this race? I am very interested in your advice, so please let me hear from you.

Laura Vecsey of the Patriot News wrote today, in her online column PAPolitics:
However, it was interesting last Friday at the Pennsylvania Democratic Party committee meeting in Camp Hill that Montgomery County's Joe Hoeffel came out and laid down the gauntlet for progressive politics, echoing Joe Sestak's campaign verbiage.

The spring of 2010 could bring more than one interesting primary to the Pennsylvania polls.

Wagner on Waste

State Auditor General, Jack Wagner said last month that he is running for governor. I'm not sure if that is an official campaign announcement or not but he does have what looks like a campaign site up,

A week or so ago his office sent out a press release that I'm just now getting to. Here is the gist:

Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that a Department of Public Welfare program that provides cash assistance to welfare recipients seeking employment was rife with mismanagement and poor oversight, creating an environment for potential fraud and abuse that could cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

In a special performance audit released today, Wagner’s auditors found insufficient documentation to justify 45 percent of the 3,201 special allowance payments examined. Specifically, auditors found insufficient documentation for 163 recipients totaling $564,700 in cash for clothing, child care, tools, transportation and other expenses.

Wagner said his concern over potential fraud stemmed, in part, from the fact that DPW has acknowledged potentially fraudulent handling of special allowance funds in Philadelphia and reported cases to the Office of Inspector General for further investigation.

Here are two examples cited:
Auditors detected instances of potential fraud in at least three counties:

* In a Delaware County assistance office, an invoice for tools from a beauty school was altered, changing the amount from $321 to $821.
* In Philadelphia County, the father of five children of a Philadelphia recipient received child care special allowances totaling $7,367 to babysit his own children by changing his name and SSN.

More general figures were also provided, including:
26 recipients received special allowance payments totaling $40,800 for equipment/tools with no supporting documentation found in the case files.

I can think of a Philadelphia mansion the office might search, one that seems to absorb tools purchased with other people's money.

The document also provided a county by country breakdown of where the special allowance payments are spent across the state. SEPA gets half of it (49.53%), as follows:

Buck Co / $3,873,434.72 / 1.21% of state total
Delaware Co / $10,312,250.87 / 3.22%
Montgomery Co / $5,396,105.76 / 1.69%
Philadelphia / $138,963,199.47 / 43.41%

A complete copy of the audit report, including DPW’s response, can be found at

He also has some suggestions on how to balance the budget.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sestak Townhall on Women's Health Care

Joe Sestak
Townhall Meeting on Women’s Health Care
August 30, 2009
Great Hall, Bryn Mawr

Lynn Yeakel, moderator

LY: Introduction and welcome. Met Joe Sestak in early 2006. He has amazing credentials. He was second in his class at the Naval Academy, earned a Ph.D., and served in the Navy for 31 years. In the Clinton administration he worked in the National Security Agency as the Director of Defense Policy.

To get things started she asked Sestak, to give three examples of how current pending health care legislation impacts women’s health issues.

JS: 1) mandate that maternity services be covered. There are more women in individual health care plans than employer-based health care plans; individual plans can currently deny coverage for maternity services.
2) spread risk in the individual health care market; creates health care exchange
3) covers preventive screenings at $0 co-pay, annual mammograms at 40, biannual at 30.
Later he added two more:
4) no discrimination based on gender, currently individual plans may do this.
5) can no longer charge women more for health insurance than men are charged

LY: What may fall by the wayside in a consensus plan?
JS: 1) The public health care option. Approximately 42% of the state’s population live in the Philadelphia area, and in that area 70% of the people are insured by one company. Through the state two companies insure 70% of the population.
2) How the pay for half of it; the president’s plan he reduces the mortgage deduction for the very wealthy to pay for part of the proposed health care reform.

Questions from the audience:

Q: What options would suggest for a cancer survivor who is self-employed?

JS: 1) Under the new plan companies would not be allowed to deny insurance for pre-existing conditions
2) Small businesses can go onto the health care exchange, the charge depends on what the company makes, can get 50% subsidy
3) If your income is less than 400% of the poverty level you would get a subsidy
The benefits level is based on the plan congressman have. You would never pay more than $5,000 a year per individual or $10K a year per family.

Q: What is the likelihood of the bill passing?

JS: If the senate majority leader, Sen. Reid, leads, there is a good change of the bill passing in November, but I am fearful of the public plan. It would start in 2013.

Q: What should we doing?

JS: Call, write, push. If necessary the bill can pass through reconciliation with 51 votes. Politicians should not worry about their jobs but what is good for Pennsylvania

Q: What is the bracelet you are wearing?

JS: My daughter made it.

Q: Why aren’t there numbers to show that preventive care is cost effective?

JS: Studies disagree. How do you measure the cost of a longer life with end of life care for someone who had treatment for breast care at a younger age with the cost of that treatment? One study showed that the uninsured cost us $100 billion in lost productivity. A Rand study says $260 billion in lost productivity due to the uninsured.

Q: c-section rate higher for insured women with access to prenatal care than among those who might medically need it more because of limited access to prenatal care; infant mortality rate

JS: 2 out of 5 African Americans [blogger’s note – this might be just women] are without health insurance for 6 months of the year. Our current health care system is good but accessibility is an issue.

Q: Will we maintain the same level of coverage for abortion?

JS: This legislation only reinforces legislation in place; no federal money can be sued for abortion.

Q: student health insurance, cancer survivor almost out of college and will soon be ineligible on parent’s insurance, won’t be able to get insurance on own

JS: Under the proposed legislation you wouldn’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. Under our current system my daughter will be in your situation when she graduates from college.

Q: Are you in favor of allowing states to have their own single payer system?

JS: I voted against it. Dennis Kucinich presented it in committee, there was a line in it that would prevent people from using private insurance for something not covered under the single payer plan. Could not support that so voted against it.

Q: In favor of single payer?

JS: 1) We subsidize other countries single payer plan; they buy American drugs at 30% the cost we pay and we can’t buy it back from them at the lower cost.
2) Medicare is not a single payer system; our bill keeps it alive until 2022 (currently bankrupt in 2017)
3) In the long term if you are able to get rid of the worst aspects of market, like monopolies, but keep innovative aspects, develop new drugs, etc., our system will be even better.

Q: please clarify death panels

JS: The provision in the bill will reimburse doctors who voluntarily sit down with clients who sit down voluntarily and talk about who will make decisions if the patient is incapacitated, especially if the patient does not have any family. The VA has had a similar pamphlet since the mid-1990’s; it was there in the Bush administration.

Q: There is a huge difference in the information presented on Fox and MSNBC.

JS: I’m on Fox 4 or 5 times a week. Likes going on Fox because both sides should be heard. There are philosophical differences of opinion. I blame the Democrats for not coming out of the gate to the recess to present the bill better.

Q: terrible practices like recision

JS: This is where insurance companies will deny you coverage for things like making a clerical error on an application ten years ago. Under the new plan recision would be outlawed.

Q: have primary care providers been reading the bill and giving feedback and advice?

JS: There are a number of doctors in congress and the AMA and other organizations have been invited to go over it. The bill also enhances tuition reimbursement for primary care physicians. It changes reimbursement to doctors from the quantity of service provided to the quality of service provided, to emphasize preventive care; that will best benefit primary care.

Q: Does the $5K cap on out of pocket outlay include premiums?

JS: I don’t think so but will have someone get back to you on this for certain.

Q: What is the affect of this legislation on community health care centers?

JS: Theoretically the need for them will go away, like SCHIP. Also, we can make them part of the network.

Q: Will this affect pharmacists who refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions because of their religious beliefs?

JS: The bill will not change that.

LY: Joe Sestak was picked as the most productive member of congress and has demonstrated his support for women and families.

Personal observations: Lynn Yeakel, who ran for the Senate against Arlen Specter in 1992, is very impressive, low key but powerful. She did a great job handling questions that were often more statements than actual questions.

There were about 65 or 70 people in attendance, which was pretty good for something not well advertised and difficult to find. The address given did not match the street address in my and other people’s gps, and there were no signs to indicate where it was. Bryn Mawr’s building signs did not make note of it and there were no Sestak signs around. As I was walking around trying to find it three people drove by and asked if I knew were the Great Hall was. Eventually a small group formed and we asked some students unpacking their cars. They gave us directions. There were no indications anywhere that the event was happening. I would imagine a number of people tried to find it and gave up. The people at the door were more interesting in getting contact info for those attending than in handing out campaign material. I had to watch to see where the handouts were and go back for one.

Sestak came into the room without a lot of farfare. He was on time and took a few minutes at the start to talk with Yeakel whom he said he called frequently for advice. He alluded to Arlen Specter twice but never mention his by name. After the formal even was over Sestak stayed and talked with people until all their questions were answered and then talked further with Yeakel.

There were three cameras taping the event, two in the back of the room and one young man with a hand-held videorecorder who stood near the front, off to the side. At one point Sestak asked him to go to the back of the room because he might interfere with the other cameras. It turned out that young man was actually working for Sestak and so was invited back to the front.

Overall it was an interesting event.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another strainge thing

You see people carrying things on the train -- usually luggage or flowers, sometimes odd shaped packages and bags, but this week, for the first time, I saw riding the train carrying a saddle. I know the old engines used to be called an iron horse, but that's a bit much.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Patrick Murphy Teletown Hall

This evening Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-08) held a teletownhall meeting on health care. Due to technical difficulties I only caught the last half of the call and then lost most of my notes transferring from one computer to another.

Murphy was joined by Ray Landis, advocacy manager for Pennsylvania AARP. People could send in questions in advance to the Intelligencer newspaper. Murphy had introductory remarks but I missed those entirely.

The questions I heard were often asking for clarification on things people had heard. For example when asked about illegal immigrants Murphy said the bill did not call for paying for health care for illegal immigrants. He also countered rumors that health care records would be made public (they won't) or that federal funds would be used for abortions (the Hyde Amendment makes this illegal). He said the bill included tort reform measures and tuition assistance for doctors going into family practice and that the bill has been endorsed by the American Medical Association.

When asked why he hadn't held the meeting in person he said that he was holding meetings with community groups and had been at Ann's Choice retirement community earlier in the day. [Blogger's note -- I'm told about 6,000 people were on the call, which is far more than could attend a physical town hall meeting.] Murphy also mentioned his frequent "Congress on Your Corner" meetings with constituents; he has held over 80 so far.

There were questions on the costs associated with the bill which Murphy described as "deficit neutral," meaning it wouldn't add to the deficit. There will be a $100 million billion per year cost for the first 10 years but he said this cost will be offset by contributions from hospitals and pharmaceutical firms who know often bear the cost of treating the uninsured [blogger's note -- I may have this wrong, it is from memory]. Ray Landis also offered that comment comparing medicare advantage to regular medicare, noting that regular medicare helped support medicare advantage as it got a larger subsidy.

Murphy has a section on his legislative web page providing more information on health care and bills on it.

Apologies for not having a more complete report.

Patrick Murphy Press Release Round Up

A few notes from the office of Rep. Patrick J. Murphy:

Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) joined health and human service leaders, patients, and community residents today to announce the awarding of $343,000 in federal funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to the Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership (BCHIP).


Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) joined environmental leaders and local elected officials to announce $700,000 in federal funding for the Cooks Creek Watershed conservation project in the Highlands region of Upper Bucks County .

This funding, secured by Congressman Murphy, will help support conservation and land acquisition efforts to ensure that watersheds, forests, farmland and trails in the Pennsylvania Highlands are preserved for generations to come, including keeping drinking water clean and safe for over 15 million people. The Highlands Conservation Act, passed in 2004, recognizes the Highlands as “nationally significant” and authorizes $110 million over 10 years toward lands conservation in the region.

“Protecting areas like the Cooks Creek Watershed preserves our natural resources and improves the quality of life for our families,” said Rep. Murphy. “By being good stewards of this landscape, we ensure that our children and grandchildren will enjoy these resources for years to come.”

“The Appalachian Mountain Club applauds Congressman Murphy's leadership in securing Highlands Conservation Act funding to help protect this watershed for the millions of residents who benefit from it," said Kristen Sykes, Mid-Atlantic Project Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club. "Our staff and members are strong advocates for the preservation of natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities in the Pennsylvania Highlands, and federal, state and local funding is essential to the Cooks Creek Watershed conservation project.”

Something Our Legislators Should Do

From the inbox:

Do you think you can save your school and your state from Pennsylvania's budget impasse? That is the question the Education Law Center and Good Schools Pennsylvania are posing to high school students this fall.

As students return to school after their summer recess, Pennsylvania's fiscal year 2009-10 budget - now more than 50 days overdue - is still unfinished. As a result, state payments to school districts have been held up, school boards are making decisions around borrowing money, cutting teaching staff and programs, and raising local taxes. In order to help students understand the forces influencing their educational experience, Good Schools Pennsylvania and the Education Law Center have prepared State Budget 101: A lesson plan for students to solve Pennsylvania's budget problems (without politics).

"The budget debate in Harrisburg may feel very far removed to many students," said Baruch Kintisch, manager of policy advocacy for the Education Law Center. "But the reality is that students and schools are among those most dependent on the outcome of budget negotiations. They should have the opportunity to understand and deliberate on the decisions being made in Harrisburg that directly affect them."

The 90-minute State Budget 101 lesson plan walks students through the mechanics of Pennsylvania's state budget. Students will receive a background primer and definitions of language consistent with the actual state budget and methods used to balance it. They will then be asked to consider specific proposals and make decisions in order to balance the education budget, which are modeled after the debate taking place in Harrisburg right now: Should they cut expenditures by reducing state spending and services, raise revenue through taxation or user fees, or a combination? Students will not play partisan roles, but rather, will work in collaborative small groups with the goal of producing a balanced state education budget.

"The State Budget 101 lesson plan is not just a civics lesson," said Janis Risch, director of Good Schools Pennsylvania. "Good Schools Pennsylvania and the Education Law Center are optimistic that this lesson plan will be a valuable tool in illustrating that a state budget can be crafted that will support students and schools while strengthening communities in Pennsylvania."

The State Budget 101 lesson plan is available online at or

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

PA's Share of Cash for Clunkers

Now that the "cash for clunkers" program is over some statistics are available. Included in a larger press release on the topic is a state by state breakdown of how much each state requested for vouchers.

Pennsylvania requested $138,651,000, which puts us at state #6, behind

CA 326,822,000
TX 183,776,000
NY 156,292,000
FL 146,565,000
IL 143,613,000

Fed Money for PA Affordable Housing

From the inbox:

As part of the Obama Administration's effort to strengthen communities and ease pressures on the housing market, the U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced $309 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funding to spur the development of affordable housing units in Arizona, Connecticut, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Vermont.

“Today’s announcement of housing funds demonstrates how the Recovery Act is putting our nation on the path to economic stability, one community at a time,” said Deputy Secretary of Treasury Neal Wolin. “This initiative will help spur construction and development, create much needed jobs, and increase the availability of affordable housing for families around the country.”

Since the program launch in May 2009, the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have been implementing new efforts designed to help families while providing important assistance to homebuilders. Specifically, the Treasury Department has implemented an innovative program that will provide more than $3 billion from the Recovery Act to put people to work building quality, affordable housing for individuals and families affected by the current crisis. The Treasury Department will work with state housing agencies to jump start the development or renovation of qualified affordable housing for families across the country. Under this program, state housing agencies will receive funds to finance the construction of affordable housing developments.

Today, the Treasury Department is announcing the sixth round of recipients for a total of $309 million: $34 million in Arizona; $16 million in Connecticut; $95 million for North Carolina; $3.6 million for North Dakota; $41 million in Pennsylvania; $118 million for South Carolina; and $1.4 million in Vermont.

PA Schools on Education Funding

From the inbox:

Local school leaders joined with the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign (PSFC) at the State Capitol today to discuss the impact of the state budget impasse and missed state funding on school districts, and to tell legislators that school districts need a state budget – but, more important, they need the right state budget, one that recognizes and meets the needs of public schools to serve our children and thereby the Commonwealth’s future.

Schools across the state start opening this week and next, but the joy of a new beginning for 1.8 million Pennsylvania students is tinged with program and staff cutbacks, economic uncertainty about the year ahead, and fears that state support for public education is waning, according to the PSFC.

School districts will miss their second monthly state subsidy payment due tomorrow because of the state budget stalemate. Between that and the missed payment last month, districts will now be out almost $1.3 billion. School districts receive monthly subsidy payments from the state, known as unipay, on the last Thursday of every month. The payment includes state funding for special education, transportation, vocational education, debt service for construction and the single largest allocation of state support – basic education.

“That’s $1.3 billion that could have been put to work hiring teachers to create and expand programs for our children, $1.3 billion that would have meant the difference between cutting programs and keeping them, $1.3 billion that would not have to be made up by school districts scrambling to find other sources of income to help keep them afloat,” said Fred Botterbusch, School Director in the Dallastown Area School District and President of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).

Dr. Richard Fry, Superintendent of the Big Spring School District and member of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) Legislative Committee, said his district anticipates having to borrow funds to meet payroll due to the delay in state funding.

“I am not anxious to move forward with such borrowing, but, more importantly, I can’t imagine having to live with a budget agreement that does not support adequate and equitable funding for all of Pennsylvania ’s public schools,” said Fry. “Though tomorrow represents the second missed subsidy payment, the dire concern is not the challenges this lack of subsidy creates for us now, but the devastating consequences that a budget not focused on adequate and equitable funding would create for all districts throughout the state for this year and in the future.”

Laura Cowburn, Assistant to the Superintendent for Business Services/Board Secretary in the Columbia Borough School District and President of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), said the organizations represented at the Capitol today are asking the state to be a partner in the shared responsibility for student achievement. “We are not just seeking a payday or a payoff,” said Cowburn. “We want a partner that puts its money where the mandates are for accountability and success of our students. We want a partner that understands adequately funding our schools is not just a local responsibility.”

The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign calls on the Governor and members of the General Assembly to act promptly to pass a budget – not just any budget, but one that upholds their constitutional responsibility to public education, supports the increase in basic education funding needed to achieve the Year 2 funding targets of the six-year plan to fully implement the new school funding formula, and avoids cutting the state’s own commitment to the basic education subsidy.

The PSFC is a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations representing hundreds of thousands of parents, students, educators, school board members, administrators and other concerned citizens advocating for adequate and equitable funding of Pennsylvania’s public schools. For more information about the Campaign, visit

Fed Funds for SEPTA

From the inbox:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $49.9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds for transit improvements in Philadelphia.

“The Recovery Act was put in place quickly to rescue the economy from the worst recession since the Great Depression and rebuild it for a stronger future,” said Secretary LaHood. “Rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure is a key part of that prescription for strength. It creates jobs today and builds a better, more sustainable economy moving forward.”

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will use the funds to make the following improvements to stations throughout the area: Girard and Spring Garden Station Improvement Project; Darby Transit Center; Roof Replacements - Lansdale, Warminster, Glenside; North Wales Station Renovation; Fox Chase Station; Bridge Rehabilitation; Tulpehocken Station; Philmont Station; Elwyn Parking; Catenary Poles - Frazer Yard; Norristown High Speed Line Route 100 Power Control-Fiber Optics; Langhorne Station Building; Station Buildings - Morton, Folcroft, Clifton-Aldan.

Since President Obama signed ARRA into law on Feb. 17, 2009, grants totaling more than $6.7 billion have been made available for transit improvements throughout the nation.

“These funds are creating jobs now while investing in the future of our transit systems,” said Administrator Peter Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). “The public’s demand for transit service continues to grow, and these dollars will help meet that need.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation has made $48.1 billion available for highway, road, transit, bridge and airport construction and repairs nationwide. Of that, $26.5 billion already has been obligated to fund more than 7,988 approved projects in 55 U.S. States and Territories.

Happy Birthday to Keystone Progress

Statewide progressive blog and website Keystone Progress celebrates its first birthday today. They have an impressive list of accomplishments in such a short time.

More Endorsements for Anne Scheuring

From the inbox:

On Wednesday evening about a dozen prominent members from the Lansdale community gathered to support one of their own, Anne Scheuring for State Senate in September’s special election to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Wonderling earlier this summer.

“Anne Scheuring is like your friendly neighbor next door. She's very involved in what's going on in our community. She will be an asset in Harrisburg representing
families and the business community in our area” said Richard Digregio, Vice-President of Lansdale Borough Council.

“Anne will be a refreshing change that is so sorely needed in Harrisburg,” said Bill Henning, member of Borough Council. “She is someone who uses a strong common sense approach to tackle issues rather than one with political motivations. I am confident that as more people meet and get to know her they we see that too.”

“The people of the 24th District have had enough of politics as usual in Harrisburg. I’ve had enough. I am running because it’s time to bring an independent voice to Harrisburg, someone who will stand up for the people in the district, not someone who will continue the same games” said Scheuring. “I’m ready to go to Harrisburg to fight for better education for our children, for greater accessibility to healthcare and more government accountability, which is so sorely needed.”

Anne Scheuring has served as a member of Lansdale Borough Council since January of 2008. She is the Chair of the Board of Parks and Recreation and on the Code and Enforcement Committee.

When asked about serving with Anne on Council, Council President Jack Hansen had this to say “Anne Scheuring is the most capable person I know for the State Senate. She is not a Harrisburg insider, she is one of us. What we are missing in politics today are people who really care about those they serve, Anne really does care. She gives her time and her abilities at a moment’s notice. Not for her, but for our community. We will miss her in Lansdale but the Commonwealth will get a real jewel and the people of the 24th District will reap the benefits.”

Anne Scheuring is a Lansdale Councilwoman, wife, mother of four and grandmother of seven. She is a lifelong Lansdale resident and is active in many community organizations. She is the Democratic candidate for the 24th State Senate District special election on September 29th.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nero: Where Are Those Fiddles?

We read this evening on Capitol Ideas that Pennsylvania's Senate Republicans decided to take the day off from budget debates. Here is an excerpt:

The Senate Republican Campaign Committee ...
... is holding an annual fund-raising golf tournament at the Lehigh Country Club in Allentown this afternoon. And for the bargain price of $500 for cocktails and $1,000 for golf, you, too, can stroll under a blinding late-summer sky in an absolutely bucolic setting and wonder, "Now why the heck don't they have a budget done yet?"

Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said his boss was taking a pass on the annual fund-raiser and was instead bound for one of his district offices in the scenic Philadelphia 'burbs.

And when we asked, Arneson insisted that short duration of today's Senate session had nothing to do with freeing up GOP lawmakers so they could go raise money on the links.

While I wear many hats the most important is the mother of my children. In that role I would like to politely ask today's golfers:

Where is my school funding? WHERE IS IT? WHERE?

The state has missed one expected payment to the state's schools and another will be missed soon.

One of the governor's proposals is to remove the sales tax exemption on candy and gum. As someone who consumes, perhaps, more than her fair share of chocolate, I would like to volunteer to pay sales tax on my M&Ms if that means my children will not see a decrease in their educational opportunities or expectations. Or that parents whose children are still in preschool won't see those preschools close. Or that local foodbanks will see an end to empty shelves.

But maybe you can't see all those scenarios from the Lehigh Country Club drinking a $500 cocktail.

Girl Cooties on "Politics as Usual"

John Micek, ace blogger at Capitol Ideas, has been hosting a weekly podcast called "Politics as Usual," featuring Micek and two of his fellow reporters discussing state political activity for the week. To date all panelists have been male, but this week history was made when Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Tracie Mauriello joined the scrum. I am told she even ended the podcast with rap lyrics. You will have to listen yourself to see if that rumor is correct.

Only Tibet Can Have a Book of the Dead?

Senatorial competitors Joe Sestak and Arlen Specter are going at it again. You can get the details in two posts at Pennsylvania Avenue.

Yesterday the blog ran a letter from Sen. Arlen Specter calling for a hearing on a pamphlet the Veterans Dept is developing on end-of-life care.

Today the blog went with a statement released by Congressman Joe Sestak, taking a swipe at Specter. Sestak is challenging Specter in a Democratic primary.

I also received Sestak's statement, which reads:

"As a Veteran, I read with deep concern an editorial entitled 'The Death Book for Veterans,' which accuses the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of deliberately sending Veterans a 'hurry-up-and-die message' with a pamphlet on living wills and end-of-life care. Anyone may criticize -- and, indeed, suggest improvements to the pamphlet -- but to seriously allege that an honest effort by the VA that sincerely helps families plan for the most difficult emotional experience of their lives is a 'death book' is counter to the public's and Veterans' interest.

"This is the same kind of sensationalized rhetoric and misleading accusations behind the misinformation on 'death panels' in the health care reform debate, and I am disappointed that Arlen Specter would lend credence to this insincere rhetoric by calling for a Senate hearing without, by his own admission, even reading the pamphlet.

"In the active service and as a Veteran, I've seen many attempts to use our nation's fighting men and women as a political tool, rather than truly helping assist them. What we should really be focused on -- especially those who supported the policies of the previous administration -- is restoring coverage to the nearly one million 'Priority 8' Veterans who make as little as $29,000 a year and have been blocked out of VA care since 2003; clearing the backlog of nearly 600,000 VA disability claims so they can get proper support; and passing the Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act (H.R.3155) into law to meet the needs of those who make great sacrifices at home to provide daily care for our Nation's heroes.

"We need to give Veterans real respect, attention, and care -- not political rhetoric that fuels accusations and misinformation."

Making end-of-life information available to anyone, veterans or not, via insurance or other venue, does not mean you are trying to kill them. When Mr. J and I were having our wills prepared the lawyer suggested having a durable power of attorney included, and explained what that meant. That doesn't mean he was suggesting we try to knock each other off. As an adult, when I've had surgery, I've told the surgeon, in the presence of my husband or a nurse or both, that if something goes horribly wrong I want my organs to be used for transplant if possible. That doesn't mean I want the surgeon to have an "oops!" moment.

It is important to know the options available and the best time to think about it is before a time of crisis.

The Speed of Pennsylvania

Speed Matters, a project of the Communication Workers of America, provides some data on download and upload speeds across our Commonwealth. You can check it out here:

Fed Weatherization Money for PA

From the inbox:

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced that the Department of Energy is providing more than $101 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand weatherization assistance programs in Pennsylvania. These funds, along with additional funds to be disbursed after the state meets certain Recovery Act milestones, will help to weatherize more than 29,000 homes, cutting energy costs for low-income families that need it, reducing pollution, and creating green jobs across the state.

Today’s announcement also includes around $450,000 in weatherization funding for Guam that will help to weatherize approximately 200 homes in the territory.

“These awards demonstrate the Obama Administration’s strong commitment to moving quickly as part of the country’s economic recovery -- creating jobs and doing important work for the American people -- while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly," said Secretary Chu. "Today’s investments will save money for hard working families, reduce pollution, strengthen local economies and help move America toward a clean energy future.”

The Department of Energy also released a video today showing Secretary Steven Chu visiting a Columbus, OH home as it is being weatherized. He is joined in the video by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, where they discuss the benefits of weatherization and how funding from the Recovery Act is having a direct impact in communities across America. Click HERE to see the video.

Pennsylvania today will receive 40 percent of its total weatherization funding authorized under the Recovery Act, adding to the initial 10 percent of the state’s funding allocation that was awarded previously for training and ramp-up activities. The remaining 50 percent of funds will be released after the state meets specific reporting, oversight, and accountability milestones required by the Recovery Act.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, Pennsylvania will receive an additional $126 million, for a total of more than $253 million. The state may spend up to 20 percent of its total funds to hire and train workers.

Pennsylvania will use its Recovery Act WAP funds to weatherize or re-weatherize more than 29,000 homes over the next three years. These resources will enable the state to achieve greater energy independence, increase demand for skilled weatherization professionals, and help low-income residents reduce their energy bills.

The Pennsylvania Weatherization Assistance Program is administered through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which works with forty-three proven local agencies to deliver services. Pennsylvania has a comprehensive plan for increasing weatherization activity while improving the program’s overall energy reduction performance for the low-income residents it serves. To ensure accountability, monitoring and reporting as part of its weatherization plan, DCED will add new oversight staff with expertise in areas such as financial management and technical assistance.

DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program will be available to families making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level – or about $44,000 a year for a family of four. Weatherization projects allow low-income families to save money by making their homes more energy efficient, which results in average savings of 32 percent for heating bills and savings of hundreds of dollars per year on overall energy bills.

The Recovery Act includes a strong commitment to oversight and accountability, while emphasizing the necessity of rapidly awarding funds to help create new jobs and stimulate local economies.

Shapiro Distracts DC

From Josh Shapiro on twitter last night:

Obama Admin invited me to participate in national summit on distracted driving next month in Washington. chance to make roads safer.

Another Verizon Update

Phone and internet service restored this morning. Thank you, Verizon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Verizon Update

No Internet for me today. About 1:00 p.m. I called Verizon just to confirm that they intended to have the phone back on today. Nope, the automated voice told me they were committed to having it back by 7 p.m. tomorrow and would I like to confirm the appointment. Appointment, what appointment? No one said anything about any appointment when Mr. J called it in Saturday morning. The system did let me connect to a real person who said that yes indeed someone needs to be home tomorrow because they might have to get in to the house. They can't tell me when tomorrow the service rep might come, but they can text me when someone is dispatched, although I will be responsible for any charges associated with that text. Given that text messages, like those electronic key fobs, are beyond my technical understanding, I declined. Plus, it wouldn't give me enough time to get home if I went to work. They can't call or anything apparently, because, I guess, you know, they aren't the phone company or anything and it's not like my cell phone is purchased through them as well.

However, if I will call tomorrow after 9 or 9:30 they might be able to give me a four hour window. How nice of them.

To be continued.

Bucks Flies Again.

Last Thursday:

Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) joined representatives from Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and Bucks County based Brenner Aerostructures to announce a contract Boeing awarded to Brenner for construction of KC-135 spares metal-bonded assemblies.

The contract will bring good-paying technology jobs to Bucks County , and allow Brenner Aerostructures to hire new employees and utilize local suppliers for construction and assembly.

“When Boeing awards a great local company like Brenner Aerostructures a contract to produce the technologies that keep our country safe, everyone wins,” said Congressman Murphy. “Bringing good-paying high tech jobs to Bucks County is one of my top priorities, and I look forward to continuing to work with both of these companies in the future.”

“We are extremely pleased that Boeing chose Brenner Aerostructures to be the strategic metal bond supplier for the KC-135 Spares Program,” said Michael Porter, Brenner Aerostructures General Manager. “This contract award gives Brenner the opportunity once again to demonstrate its commitment to provide high-quality metal bonded assemblies that exceed the expectations of our customers and their customers.”

“The strategic agreement between Boeing and Brenner Aerostructures will allow us to continue providing the highest levels of service to our U.S. Air Force customer in support of the KC-135 fleet,” said Ken Shaw, director, Global Services & Support Supply Chain Management, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. “We are pleased to partner with Brenner to supply components to keep the KC-135 fleet flying and battle-ready for our nation’s warfighters.”

Brenner Aerostructures, a woman-owned small business located in Bensalem , PA , manufactures high-quality components and assemblies for the marine, power generation, rail, automotive, aerospace and specialty industries. For nearly five years, Brenner Aerostructures has provided metal bonded and structural assemblies to Boeing for the military KC-135 Stratotanker as well as the commercial 737, 747 and 767 aircraft.

Well, this was intriguing, a woman in the aerospace industry, so I spent a little time rooting around. There is not a lot of info out there, though I did find one site that referred to the company as "a small woman owned business." She must be very tiny indeed because I had to search the state list of corporations to find her name. You'll have to look it up yourself because I can certainly appreciate a lady who likes to keep a low profile. But the name of the company's treasurer is a traditionally female name.

For the cynical, I also searched the opensecrets database. While there are Brenners in Pennsylvania who had made political donations, none were located in the towns or had the names of those I found listed as corporate officers for Brenner Aerospace or any of the affiliated companies I could locate. That doesn't mean state donations weren't made, but no to Patrick Murphy.

You can read more at "Brenner awarded contract with Boeing," by John Anastasi, of the Intelligencer 8/21.

It's Like Living With Blinders On

Last Friday's storm knocked out our phone line, and therefore our DSL. So I've have very limited internet access, just what my Verizon LG phone will access, and it has a small screen. Verizon promises to have service restored by tomorrow. We shall see.

Good thing the state budget fiasco hasn't started cutting public libraries yet. I'm here with a uniformed EMT, a guy in his 30's, and a lady with white hair, all glued to public screens. If the library weren't here with internet service I'd be in real trouble. A few businesses in the area advertise wifi but most charge and the service isn't reliable -- I've tried a few times when out and about.

Mr. Lentz Goes to Washington

From the inbox:

PA State Representative Bryan R. Lentz (D-161st Legislative District) is among a select group of regional and national energy leaders invited to the White House next week to engage with Cabinet Secretaries and White House staff to discuss the ongoing debate over our country's energy future. The event will be held at the White House on Monday, August 24th.

As President Obama said two weeks ago outside Elkhart, IN:

"The battle for America's future will be fought and won in places like Elkhart and Detroit, Goshen and Pittsburgh, South Bend, Youngstown -- in cities and towns across Indiana and across the Midwest and across the country that have been the backbone of America. It will be won by making places like Elkhart what they once were and can be again -- and that's centers of innovation and entrepreneurship and ingenuity and opportunity; the bustling, whirring, humming engines of American prosperity."

"This is an excellent opportunity to represent Pennsylvania and Delaware county at the White House in a important discussion about job creation, the environment and national security as they relate to our nation's energy future," said Representative Lentz.

Rep. Bryan Lentz is a second term member of the Pennsylvania House of Representative currently serving on the Intergovernmental Affairs, Veterans Affairs, and Energy Preparedness and Transportation committees to name a few.

He is a fourth generation Army veteran. After graduating from Valley Forge Military Academy and College in 1984, Bryan received a full Army scholarship to attend Georgetown University.

He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry in 1986. After completing the Infantry Officers Basic Course (IOBC) and U.S. Army Ranger School, Bryan was assigned to the Second Battalion of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. He is a veteran of overseas tours to the Sinai Penninsula, Bosnia and Iraq where he recieved the Bronze Star for service

Among his accomplishments in office, Lentz received a perfect score from Penn Environment for advocacy of renewable energy programs. Representative Lentz was leading advocate of Pennsylvania's Governor's energy independence program. As an Iraq war veteran, Bryan knows that a renewable energy policy is directly related to national security because of our dependence on hostile nations that produce oil.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bill Cahir Memorial Fund

Bill Cahir, former reporter, veteran, and one time Pennsylvania congressional candidate, was killed last week in Afghanistan. You can make a contribution to his family, including a wife expecting twins, at:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not Sharing the Wealth

Perhaps this is better late than never. I found it in the "to be blogged" pile. From the Wall Street Journal 7/21/09. "Top earner's pay is seen eroding social security," by Ellen E. Schultz:

Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the U.S., according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Social Security Administration data -- without counting billions of dollars more in pay that remains off federal radar screens that measure wages and salaries.

This doesn't include stock options and other incentives. Above a certain amount of money salaries are not taxed for social security. Ten people earning $100,000 pay considerably more into the social security trust than one person earning $1,000,000.

The Wall Street Journal is not what you would call a working man's paper so if they are taking note of this perhaps we should too.

Stimulus Money for PA Transit

From the inbox:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces $7.5 Million in Federal Recovery Act Funds to Pay for Transit Improvements in Pennsylvania

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $7.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds for transit improvements in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

“The Recovery Act was put in place quickly to rescue the economy from the worst recession since the Great Depression and rebuild it for a stronger future,” said Secretary LaHood. “Rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure is a key part of that prescription for strength. It creates jobs today and builds a better, more sustainable economy moving forward.”

The following grants are being awarded:

· Hazleton Public Transit: $879,623 for an intermodal parking facility and a vehicle locator system.

· County of Lackawanna Transit System: $2.6 million to purchase four hybrid-electric buses and communications and security equipment.

· Cumberland-Dauphin Harrisburg Transit Authority: $3.4 million for the purchase of five hybrid-electric buses, and for operating expenses.

· City of Sharon: $616,815 to purchase three buses, and make facility renovations.

Since President Obama signed ARRA into law on Feb. 17, 2009, grants totaling more than $5.7 billion have been made available for transit improvements throughout the nation.

“These funds are creating jobs now while investing in the future of our transit systems,” said Administrator Peter Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). “The public’s demand for transit service continues to grow, and these dollars will help meet that need.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation has made $48.1 billion available for highway, road, transit, bridge and airport construction and repairs nationwide. Of that, $25 billion already has been obligated to fund more than 7,701 approved projects in 55 U.S. States and Territories.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dahlkemper on Double X

Pennsylvania congresswoman and blue dog, Kathy Dahlkemper (D-03), gets a shoutout on one of my new favorite websites, Double X:

See "Blue Dogs I would mind adopting," by Rachel Larimore:

Kathy Dahlkemper, a businesswoman whose pro-life views are typical of Pennsylvania Democrats, is another Dem I could support. She and her husband run a landscaping business, and she embodies the “citizen legislator” ideal that I find appealing. (Also, according to this story, she had to train three people to take over her duties at the business when she started campaigning. Superwoman!)

Rendell and Cosby on Larry King

Bill Cosby and Gov. Ed Rendell were on Larry King Live tonight to talk about the Pennsylvania budget. It was a brief segment and included a brief statement from State Sen. Dominic Pileggi. Rendell said the Senate Republicans were counting stimulus money, which will end eventually, and other funds earmarked for specific purposes, as part of their general education funding.

Cosby said it cost $5,000 to educate a child / year and $33,000 to keep someone incarcerated; so it makes more sense in the long run to keep kids in school than to let them get into trouble and eventually prison.

Cos was not at his most articulate but Rendell was more personable and charming than usual so it all balanced out.

Campaign Training

from the inbox:

Pennsylvania Women's Campaign Fund
The Winning Edge Campaign Training
Philadelphia, September 11-13, 2009

Learn how to run a political campaign and win!

This training is a three-day interactive campaign simulation and training.

World class campaign experts guide you through a hands-on process for creating and implementing a winning campaign strategy.

This bipartisan program gives women like you, with political passion and aspirations, the skills to run successful campaigns as candidates or campaign staff.

Any woman interested in increasing her political effectiveness should attend this training!

Tuition fee for the Campaign School is $385 and includes registration, all instructional materials and meals.

Apply before August 23rd and pay only $335. Groups of 3 or more can register at $300 per person.
The Winning Edge Campaign Training
DATES: September 11-13, 2009
LOCATION: Municipal Services Building, Philadelphia
For more information go to:

Another PECO Survey

You can tell the utility rate caps are going to come off soon. I got another telephone survey call this evening on electrical and gas usage, etc. There were several questions on who supplied us with electricity and gas, how we would rate the service, the price, and so on. There were a lot of questions on how well PECO provided customer service and what kind of work their field people did. It was a LONG call. Most of the questions had a Lickert scale (on a scale of 1 to 10 ....) but a few were open ended. They guy who called me could be heard repeating what I said and typing in the background. He was a slow typist and asked me to repeat some things.

It was actually an annoying call, and I am usually fairly patient with these things, mostly because it was far too long and there were several questions that I could not answer and there was no "not applicable" or "no answer" answer. There was some frustration with my refusal to make a guess on how helpful customer service was during power outages when I've never called customer service during a power outage. That sort of thing.

There was also a series of questions on PECO's community involvement and conservation efforts. They aren't sponsoring or promoting anything I go to so I have no clue on their community involvement.

Mr. J has signed us up with a program that lets us prepay a little money each month to lessen the impact of rate increases over the next couple years. He said they will add some interest and if you move before the program clicks in you will get your money back with interest.

Make of it what you will.

Stimulus Funding for Education in PA

From the inbox:

The Recovery Act: Strengthening America’s Schools for the 21st Century

Below is a fact sheet outlining the impact of President Obama’s economic policies on Pennsylvania:

Title I, Part A– Supporting Low-Income Schools:

The ARRA provides $10 billion in additional Title I, Part A funds to state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) to support schools that have high concentrations of students from families that live in poverty in order to help improve teaching and learning for students most at risk of failing to meet state academic achievement standards.

As of today, $200,301,839 in Title I funds have been awarded to Pennsylvania.

IDEA Grants, Parts B & C – Improving Special Education Programs:

The ARRA provides $12.2 billion in additional funding for Parts B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part B of the IDEA provides funds to state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) to help them ensure that children with disabilities, including children ages 3 through 5, have access to a free appropriate public education to meet each child's unique needs and prepare him or her for further education, employment, and independent living. Part C of the IDEA provides funds to each state lead agency designated by the Governor to implement statewide systems of coordinated, comprehensive, multidisciplinary interagency programs and make early intervention services available to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.

As of today, $227,969,605 in IDEA funds have been awarded to Pennsylvania.

Education Technology Grants:

The ARRA provides $650 million in additional funding for Education Technology Grants. The primary goal of the Education Technology Grants program is to improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in schools. It is also designed to help ensure that every student is technologically literate by the end of eighth grade and to encourage the effective integration of technology with teacher training and curriculum development.

As of today, $25,302,703 in Education Technology Grants have been awarded to Pennsylvania.

Vocational Rehabilitation Funds:

The ARRA provides $540 million in additional funding for the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) State Grants program. The VR State Grants program provides grants to states to help individuals with disabilities, especially those individuals with the most significant disabilities, prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment.

As of today, $10,462,971 in Vocational Rehabilitation Funds have been awarded to Pennsylvania.

Independent Living Services Fund:

The ARRA provides $140 million in additional funding for the Independent Living (IL) programs. The IL programs support services to individuals with significant disabilities and older individuals who are blind to maximize their leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity, and to promote the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society.

As of today, $2,189,305 in Independent Living Services Funds have been awarded to Pennsylvania.

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Funds:

The ARRA provides $70 million under the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth program to assist States and local educational agencies (LEAs) in addressing the educational and related needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our society – homeless children and youth – during a time of economic crisis in the United States.

As of today, $1,874,497 in McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance funds have been awarded to Pennsylvania.

Pell Grant Funds:

The ARRA provides $17.1 billion in additional funds for students across the country in need of Pell Grants. The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain post-baccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education. Students may use their grants at any one of approximately 5,400 participating postsecondary institutions. The additional funding allowed the Department of Education to raise the maximum Pell award from $4,731 to $5,350.

Pell Grants are awarded based on student applications, not by state. As of today, $271,544,495 in Pell Grants have been awarded to students attending schools in Pennsylvania.

Work Study Funds:

The ARRA provides an additional $200 million to the Work-Study program, providing colleges and universities with additional funding to provide jobs to students to help with their college and living expenses.

Work Study funds are distributed to qualifying schools which select students based on financial need. As of today, $11,711,624 in Work Study funds have been awarded to students attending schools in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Return of the Smart Meter

Smart meters, those devices Gov Ed Rendell wanted to have installed in 2007, are back. Remember when Rendell suggested it? PECO was less than thrilled. From "PA may give 'smart' electrical power a try," by Jeff Gelles, Inquirer, Sept. 10, 2007:

Peco and most of its counterparts have resisted Rendell's "smart meter" proposals, particularly a requirement that advanced meters be installed in all customers' homes and businesses within six years.

"We're not opposed to smart meters," said Peco spokeswoman Mary Rucci. "It's important to conserve -- we certainly support demand-side management. But we have to be very aware how customers would react to it and what the costs would be."

Some of the argument centers on just how smart a smart meter needs to be.

Rucci said Peco's current meters would allow real-time pricing with a $40 million upgrade. But she said the utility's cost would rise to $300 million, nearly $200 per customer, if it were required to install a higher-tech meter capable, for instance, of ratcheting back a home's air-conditioning when power prices soar on a hot summer day.

PECO's tune has changed. From "Peco, PSE&G debut 'smart-meter plans" by Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer August 7, 2009:

Peco Energy Co. yesterday offered its vision of the electrical grid of the future:

In a few years, "smart" electric meters will be able to do much more than measure the power consumed in customers' homes. They will tell customers how much money they are spending on electricity in real time, and offer options for cutting costs.

"Your air conditioner will be able to talk to your dishwasher and sequence their usage to save money," Glenn Pritchard, a Peco engineer, said as he surveyed a table of meters and thermostats at the utility's Center City headquarters.

Where's the money coming from? At least in part, federal stimulus funding.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Budget Post

The state budget impasse continues. This evening I was out at an organization meeting and one of the people there also volunteers at a foodbank. She said they were really hurting, especially with no state money coming in.

John Micek wrote a great post today over at Capitol Ideas on the problems daycare centers are having with no state money. it's a wonderful explanation of the snowball effect this is having.

As for myself, I'm still waiting for public school funding. My kids will be going back to school soon, theoretically at least, and we're still waiting for state funding. I don't see any way, at this point, that schools can really open and be ready to go, with teachers, textbooks, ids, etc. as if nothing were wrong.

List of PA Earmarks has released a list of earmarks requested by Pennsylvania congressional representatives. The information was collected by someone whose day job is with the Cato Institute. I'm not sure what time period the earmarks are for.

For the list see:

Who is Behind the Health Care Reform Ads?

CNN has put together a nice chart on what organizations are sponsoring what ads on health care reform, where they stand on the issue, and where their money is from. Well worth a look:

State by State Telemarketing Guide

Politics Magazine has put together a state by state guide to political telemarketing. The rules, etc. Link to it online at:

Anne Scheuring Runs for 24th State Senate

Anne Scheuring is running as a Democrat for the 24th State Senate district. The special election is set for late in Sept. Current senator Rob Wonderling is stepping down to take the helm at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Scheuring has a website set up: and is testing out the waters at twitter:

Her long record of community involvement will have brought her into contact with a lot of movers and shakers in the district. She is currently a Lansdale Burough Councilwoman.

She is definitely a candidate to watch.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Philly Mag's Best Politician Notes

The August issue of Philadelphia Magazine is the "Best of Philly" issue. This year the best blogger nod goes to Dan McQuade, formerly of Philadelphia Weekly. I read regularly and miss the political commentary that showed up on the PW version, but still enjoy the author's work.

Best Politician, City is Matt Ruben, president of Northern Liberties Neighbors Association. Matt ran a good campaign for City Council and hopefully will run for elected office again in the future.

Best Politician, 'Burbs goes to State Rep Mike Gerber (D-148). According to Philly Mag:

he keeps pushing for a "false claims" act, which would enable the state to recoup millions drained by fraud. He's pushed through an ambitious statewide smoking ban. He seems to shun the old politics, declining to think of voters as cattle to be prodded along racial or religious lines.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Politico Reports Death of Bill Cahir

In 2008 Bill Cahir ran for Congress in a Democratic primary in Pennsylvania's 5th district. Before running for office Cahir worked as a reporter and served in the Marines, with two tours of duty in Iraq. After the election he went back into the Marines and was serving in Afghanistan. Two Pennsylvania papers and Politico are reporting that he has been killed. Our prayers and condolences to his family.

For more details:

Lehigh Valley Live

Daily Item


(h/t db)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Off Topic: Another One Bites the Dust

I'm still mourning the demise of Working Woman magazine, which ceased publication back in 2001. Pink Magazine, in print for the past few years, picked up some of the slack but they too are now calling it quits.

It's not quite the same but has some good stuff on it.

From Monday's inbox:

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced that nearly 550 workers in auto-related industries in Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania are eligible to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

"Over the years, our nation has benefited immensely from the work and dedication of those employed in auto-related industries across these states," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. Trade Adjustment Assistance is one way we can support these workers as they seek re-employment in promising regional industries that pay family-supporting wages.

Workers eligible to apply through today's certifications include approximately 290 workers from L and L Products Inc., Romeo, Mich.; approximately 32 workers from Progressive Metal Stamping Co., Royal Oak, Mich.; approximately 67 workers from Flabeg Automotive US Corp., Brackenridge, Pa.; and approximately 155 workers from Noble Metal Processing, Butler, Ind.

DVRPC Report

From the inbox:

Connections - The Regional Plan for a Sustainable Future was adopted by the DVRPC Board on July 23, 2009 as the long-range plan for the Greater Philadelphia region. The Plan addresses land use, environmental, economic competitiveness and transportation policies, and includes a set of fiscally constrained transportation projects. The Connections plan puts a strong emphasis on creating livable communities, managing growth and protecting resources, building an energy-efficient economy, and creating a modern multi-modal transportation system. The Plan includes a needs assessment which identified a significant gap between anticipated transportation funding and system maintenance and reconstruction needs.

To view the plan online, please visit:

DVRPC staff are willing to give presentations on this plan to local organizations.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rendell on Libraries

This morning Gov. Ed Rendell held a press conference to discuss the effect of the Senate Republican's proposed budget on Pennsylvania's libraries. PCN replayed the press conference this evening. I missed the first few minutes but here are my rough notes for the rest of it. A doctor (Besselman?) who volunteers in the library spoke after the governor and before the governor took questions, but, no offense to the good doctor, my attention was distracted and I missed it.

As always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Rich Bowra, Dauphin County Library introduced the governor and discussed library services

State money pays for staffing, electronic resources, bread and butter items, Power library, resource delivery, and others

EGR: Library funding levels, cut would take up back 11 years. The best thing we’ve done in the Commonwealth over the last 6 years is for our young people. Many of our young people have learned to use computers in the library. In 6 years, 30% more proficient in reading and math. Education Weekly named us 10th best education system in the country. The budget is all about message. Many Republicans say we can just cut spending and not raise taxes. People don’t understand what the cuts would do. 57% to 37% in Quinny poll asked if they would pay more to keep education levels where they are. What I’ve proposed is not just raising taxes but 2.4 billion in cuts, including a cut to the libraries by 10%, but a 53% cut would decimate libraries. If we cut 53% 1000 employees lose their jobs [list of other effects of cuts]. We need to make our legislators understand that libraries are important. Libraries are a sanctuary where kids can get away from the rough tough aspects of life. They bring cheer and a sense of peace and calmness and peace. Maybe not life and death but life changing experiences. In many places they are the only community center the community has. Maybe we can pay sales tax on candy and gum because they aren’t really food anyway. Maybe pay sales tax on basic cable. Do we want to be a society that says I got mine, my kids are out of school. To be economically viable you have to have an educated workforce. We can’t sacrifice education; we have to be better than that.

Q: sales tax?

EGR: no, just hypothetical examples. If legislature covers education and solves this year and next year’s budget problems he will support.

Q: mtg with caucus committee

EGR: trying to urge them to get conference committee back and running as soon as possible. Rep. Evans had unexpected tragic death in family, down in George. Hoping in Thurs to get back to conf committee

Q: autism, libraries

EGR: Message from other side, just cuts. Our message is a harder sell.

Q: Evans stepping aside on conf comm.?

EGR: don’t know about that

Q: only politician in H’burg?

EGR: On Satuday and Sunday, yes. Some momentum on Philadelphia problem. Politicians back.

Q: is this resonating with Senate Republicans?

EGR: only if people communicate with them. I communicate with them all the time. They don’t want to hear from me, want to hear from ordinary citizens. People aren’t happy about paying more but will if that is what it takes to keep schools, libraries, and state police out there. Ask them to explain why they think it is a good idea to cut libraries 53%. Did you see what happened in the first two meetings of conf comm? [Makes joke about Goldfinger movie where people in room are gassed.] If we can get past the partisanship we can get things done. There are smart people in that room.

Q: critical of Sen Republicans for cutting libraries but you cut state library

EGR: That is more administrative. The people don’t use that as much. It is more of a repository.


EGR: It was an increase of 70 cents a day. That doesn’t impact anybody’s quality of life.

Effect of Health Insurance Reform on PA

The feds have put together a state by state analysis of what effect health insurance reform will have. The info for PA is at:

Here are a few of the fun facts presented:

# Eliminating Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions, Health Status or Gender: 9% of people in Pennsylvania have diabetes9, and 28% have high blood pressure10 – two conditions that insurance companies could use as a reason to deny you health insurance. Health insurance reform will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on your health, and it will end discrimination that charges you more if you’re sick or a woman.
# One-Stop Shopping – Putting Families in Charge: With the new health insurance exchange, you can easily and simply compare insurance prices and health plans and decide which quality affordable option is right for you and your family. These proposals will help the 1,206,100 residents of Pennsylvania who currently do not have health insurance to obtain needed coverage, and it will also help the 648,500 Pennsylvania residents who currently purchase insurance in the individual insurance market.11

There's a lot more along those lines, plus, be still my heart, footnotes!!

More on Healthcare

Two of our local congressional representatives have linked detailed information on proposed healthcare legislation to their legislative home pages. Check out the info (not the same on both sites) at:

Patrick Murphy (D-08)

Allyson Schwartz (D-13)

Joe Sestak has a little info but it seems dated. Chaka Fattah does have a link but it goes to most of the same info that one of the reps above have. Charlie Dent has some info on his site but it does not seem to concern current legislation.

Public Service Announcement

While the weather has been very uncomfortable lately it is still necessary to wear clothing on the public transit. Tattoos do not count as clothing. Tattoos and miniscule flesh colored shorts do not count. In public you must wear clothes. Thank you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Response to 8/04 Intelligencer Ad

On Tuesday, Aug 4th, the Intelligencer ran a full page ad entitled "National Healthcare at a Glance, not all 1,017 pages" providing page references to national health care information. No bill number was referenced but it seems to refer to HR 3200 which is 1,018 pages. A website on that bill responds to many of the statements in the ad, Healthcare Reform Myths,, with footnotes for further information.

As an example, the ad references "page 58: every person will be issued a National ID Health Card."

Health care myths provides this clarification:

Myth says this is on page 58 of HR 3200. Anyone currently covered under a health insurance plan has an insurance card. It assumes that the government issues the card, when in fact, the INSURER issues the card, just as they do now. The actual text of page 58 mentions nothing of the sort.

Note that due to the length of the bill the pdf for it can take some time to load.

New and Updated Websites

A few politically related websites that have been updated or introduced:

Pike for Congress -- updated campaign site for Doug Pike, Democratic candidate for the 6th congressional district (

To learn more about the proposed federal health care legislation, check out takes the view that climate change and energy is a matter of national security.

Another information source for school funding is

Budget Rally Tomorrow

From Young Philly Politics:

Protect families, children, and investments in stronger communities by raising your voice for a state budget that supports Pennsylvanians.

TUESDAY, August 11
12 noon
MEDIA, PA, Courthouse
201 Front Street (Front Street and Veteran's Square)

Join us in the legislative district of some of the leading voices in the state budget battle (and loudest proponents of budget cuts - such as State Senator Dominic Pileggi.)

Featuring speakers from education, child care, business, housing, prevention services, health, children's healthcare, disability rights, community development, the arts and more.

Political Google Ads Hit a Snag

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article last Monday (8/02). From "For state, local office seekers, web ads present potential pitfalls," by Emily Steel:

The Florida Election Commission has decided a mayoral candidate's ads on Google and Facebook appears to violate the state's election law because they don't include a disclaimer that indicates who bought them. Many other state, including Texas, Alaska, Connecticut and Ohio.

Pennsylvania is not mentioned in the article and I don't know what the state rules are here. Interesting

A Scene from Two Marriages

About 10 days ago The New York Times ran an excellent article on a marriage that could easily have ended but didn't. Read "Those aren't fighting words, Dear" by Laura A. Munson (7/31). I wish there were more stories like this in the media and fewer celebrity quickie marriage articles.

On the other hand, some people should think about calling it quits. Yesterday I was out and about. As I was walking towards the entrance of one store five people, presumably Mom, Dad, and three kids, maybe 15, 13, and 10, were coming out. Mom and Dad started literally shoving each other, with occasional profanities thrown in. The saddest thing was that the kids didn't bat an eye; it must be a common occurrence. I watched from inside the store as they kept it up the arguing; the shoving started up again once they reached their van. I went back outside and, from the safety of the sidewalk, called over and asked if I should call someone (say, 911). I addressed the question to both of them but just Mom answered, saying no, it hadn't gotten to that point or something along those lines. She was giving as good as she was getting in the shoving department so I was as worried as much about her as I was the kids. What an awful life they must have.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Word on State Funding and Education

Gov. Rendell has signed what Capitol Ideas is referring to as the Frankenbudget, which will fund most state worker paychecks, corrections, and assorted other things, but not education.

I had originally planned a long, heated rant on this but that has deteriorated into general disappointment. One of my great frustrations in life is that my political activities tend to be completely separate from my civic activities and child-centered activities. The people I see at political events are never or seldom at the other events I go to. And so, the legislature is unlikely to be aware of the large army of parents (mostly mothers) who keep much of the public education infrastructure going. Our elected officials are mostly male and while the bar is set extraordinarily low for fathers (they should be breathing, but, eh, if you position them right, it's optional) in groups like PTAs, there are very few men involved.

For the past five years I've volunteered for an hour a week in the local elementary school, filling a job because the paid staff person's hours don't cover the school day. Other parents fill in other hours of the week for that and many other jobs within the schools. Moms fund many of the basics that schools used to be able to buy themselves, maps, Weekly Reader, and so on. We provide the labor for a lot of school projects.

And we aren't stupid. One year, when there were school board elections, some of the incumbents came to a PTA meeting in October, saying they liked to visit with all the schools' parent groups and this just happened to be our month. No one could remember anyone school board members ever being there before and they were called on this politely but in no uncertain terms. A handful of the stay at home moms are lawyers, taking a few years out of the full time workforce. Think about that, lawyers with time on their hands and a vested interested in the local schools.

Generally these women are well-read and can tell you who their elected officials are, but do not attend political events. They vote. Their overriding passion in their children. They are linked through the mommy network and other informal connections, as well as parent group listservs, etc. The schools have all of our emails.

And the state legislature is stepping in some really deep doodoo, if it hasn't already. The schools haven't been funded and one expected payment has already been missed. That's throwing a rock at a hornet's nest. Miss another payment? At some point the day school is supposed to start will arrive. If the schools aren't open, if classes are larger than usual, if the art and music programs are gone, if the libraries are closed, if anything, ANYTHING, is not as the Moms expect it to be, the state legislature will be treated to something similar to the Wrath of God.

Picture enraged mother bears coming your way. Party won't matter, voting record won't matter, time in office won't matter. Any effort that any particular legislator has put resolving the budget mess won't matter. The Moms won't care. The collective state house and senate will be lumped together into one big target. The Moms are mostly unaware of what is happening but unless the schools are funded, like tomorrow, they will be. The Eye of Morder will swing over to Harrisburg and the results won't be pretty.

I'm posting this as a public service, because, as previously mentioned, elected officials don't see the Moms often. The Moms don't go to political fundraisers. Elected officials don't go to the spring carnival or the fall book fair or coordinate the coupon collection. The two groups just don't meet. But the Moms are there. The legislature can mess up most things and the Moms won't take notice. But don't mess with school funding. Seriously. Really. Don't mess with the Moms.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sestak on Colbert

As most of the known world is aware, Rep. Joe Sestak is going to be on the Colbert Report this evening to talk about his senate race. If, like me, you can't stay up that late, you can watch it tomorrow on or

More Endorsements for Pike

Doug Pike, Democratic candidate for the now open 6th congressional seat, has picked up two more endorsements: Congressman Chaka Fattah, and State Rep. Mike Gerber.

I think Pike now has the endorsement of all the area Democratic congressional representatives, except Bob Brady (paging Bob, what's the hold up?)

Fed Money for PA Battery Maker

From the inbox:

Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation John Porcari visited East Penn Manufacturing Co., in Lyon Station, Penn., to award the company a $32.5 million grant to increase production capacity for their valve regulated lead-acid batteries and the UltraBattery, a lead-acid battery combined with a carbon supercapacitor, for micro and mild hybrid applications. East Penn Manufacturing is a third-generation family business with over 63 years in battery manufacturing.

Obama and the West Point Cadet Prayer

It is always interesting to listen to or read the words public officials use. At times it is clear that certain words are used for the associations they will have on certain segments of the audience. I remember listening to Pres. George W. Bush give a speech, it might have been a State of the Union Address, and he used part of a line from an old hymn, using the exact cadence of the words. It probably went over the heads of many listeners but a good many others, myself included, caught it.

Something similar may have happened in remarks Pres. Obama gave at Children's Hospital in Washington on July 20th. Here is an excerpt:

Now, we always knew that passing health care reform wouldn't be easy. We always knew that doing what is right would be hard. There's just a tendency towards inertia in this town. I understand that as well as anybody. But we're a country that chooses the harder right over the easier wrong. That's what we have to do this time. We have to do that once more.

Here is part of the West Point Cadet Prayer:

Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.

Could just be coincidence but interesting nonetheless.

A Congress on Your Corner Update

A little more than a year ago I posted a brief entry noting Patrick Murphy's 40th "Congress on Your Corner" event.

This past weekend the Bucks County Courier Times published an article on Murphy's 78th and 79th "Congress on Your Corner" events. (See "Murphy hears it from both sides of issue," by Andy Vineberg 9/02).

That's a consistent average of an informal meeting with constituents every two weeks. Impressive.

The events this weekend focused on health care and, according to the article, were lively.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bill to Cut Government Waste

From the inbox:

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA, 8th District) and Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA, 50th District) introduced H.R. 3393, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA) of 2009, to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse resulting from lack of oversight on the part of federal agencies. This bipartisan bill would reduce the estimated $72 billion in improper payments- those that occur when a federal agency pays too much or pays twice for a product or service. Improper payments may occur as a result of fraud, or from poor financial management systems that don’t detect mistakes before federal dollars are misspent.

According to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), the nearly $72 billion in improper payments federal agencies are estimated to have made in FY 2008 is more than the total budget for the Department of Homeland Security, and more than seven times as much as the federal government spent on the Children’s Health Insurance Program this year.

“At time when our families are watching our expenses, Americans expect their government to do the same,” said Rep. Patrick Murphy. “There is simply no excuse to lose billions of taxpayer dollars to improper payments every year- the savings from this bipartisan bill should be redirected to middle class tax cuts.”

“There is no excuse to waste a single penny of taxpayer’s money,” said Congressman Bilbray. “This bill brings accountability, transparency and responsibility, for the first time, to the agencies responsible for the waste, fraud and abuse that unfortunately have given our federal government a black-eye for our accounting practices. It’s time to stop just talking about it. Now is the time to be responsible stewards of taxpayer’s money, and we can only do that by being accountable and transparent.”

The IPERA Act would help identify, reduce and eliminate improper payments, as well as recover lost funds that federal agencies have improperly disbursed. Specifically, this legislation would:

* Improve Transparency
This bill would lower the reporting threshold so Congress and the general public have a better picture of the problem we face. Currently, OMB has set the reporting threshold for improper payments very low, meaning millions of dollars in erroneous payments go unreported – and potentially unaddressed – each year;

* Prevent Improper Payments
The bill would help prevent improper payments from happening in the first place by requiring federal agencies report on their corrective action plans and the improper payment reduction targets they are using to address their payment error problems;

* Recover Overpayments
Under current law, agencies are only required to seek to recover overpayments they make if they hand out more than $500 million in payments to contractors each year. IPERA would expand the use of recovery auditing by requiring that all agencies with outlays of more than $1 million perform recovery audits on their programs and activities; and,

* Hold Agencies Accountable
IPERA would require that agencies hold top managers accountable for their progress, or lack of progress, in addressing their improper payment problems.

New GI Bill

From the inbox:

Today, President Obama celebrated the beginning of implementation of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This bill, through its Yellow Ribbon Programs and partnerships with colleges and universities throughout the nation, will provide our service members with the most generous educational benefits package since the original GI Bill of 1944.

Over 3,400 agreements were received from the 1,100 schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program. The Yellow Ribbon Program, a provision of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, funds tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate.

A list of Pennsylvania schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program can be found here:

[paragraphs omitted]

Further, to honor their many sacrifices, the Post 9/11 GI Bill allows for the transferability of unused benefits to eligible career service members’ families. More information on the transferability of unused benefits can be found here:

President Obama has directed Secretary Shinseki to create a results-driven, 21st Century VA. Since the signing of this monumental legislation, VA has made meeting the August 1 implementation deadline a top priority. As of July 30th VA has processed over 112,000 claims.

For a local spin, this arrived in the inbox last Friday:

SATURDAY, August 1, 2009, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) will join Holy Family University students and administrators to discuss the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Congressman Murphy will join Dr. Leonard Soroka, Dean of the Holy Family University School of Education, to discuss the benefits the bill provides for returning service men and women. Holy Family University participates actively in the Yellow Ribbon program, which assists veterans in pursuing higher education outside of public state universities. Degree-granting institutions in partnership with the VA will agree to fund the tuition expenses.

Rep. Murphy proudly cosponsored the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which was put in place to establish educational assistance programs to aid veterans who have served since 9/11, specifically those returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan .

Pat Murphy of Richland Running for State Senate

Richland Democrat Pat Murphy (not the same person as Congressman Patrick Murphy) has decided to run for State Senate in the 24th district. There will be a special election, scheduled for September, to replace current State Senator Rob Wonderling, who is stepping down.

Santarsiero Statement on Budget

From the inbox:

State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, released the following statement regarding his opposition to S.B. 850, a stopgap budget measure approved today by the House of Representatives:

"I sympathize with the desire to get our state workers paid. However, a stopgap measure will only prolong the budget impasse. And as the process drags on into the fall, it will jeopardize long-term funding for our schools, colleges and universities, state police and a host of other critical programs upon which the people of our state, and in particular the 31st District, rely.

"Both sides should be engaged in around-the-clock negotiations until a final deal is done.

"Moreover, I cannot support Senate Bill 850 as a vehicle for any budget proposal, temporary or otherwise. It is a draconian spending bill that would negatively impact ordinary Pennsylvanians and our economy. Among other things, it would severely cut funding for education, causing property taxes to rise.

"While I understand it is the governor's intent to use the bill in a dramatically reduced form as a temporary measure, I believe using it for even that purpose sends the wrong message about what our budget priorities should be.

"I support a budget that is balanced, avoids any increase in the Personal Income Tax, holds state government accountable by tightening our belt, and protects our commitment to education, economic development, seniors and veterans."