Monday, February 28, 2011

Women on the Bucks County Board of Commissioners

I've written previously about the number of Bucks County commissioners who were appointed as opposed to elected. This evening I'd like to look at the history of women who have been elected to the Bucks County Board of Commissioners.

This is a relatively recent phenomenon. The first woman elected to that office was Republican Elaine Zettick, in 1979, taking office in January, 1980. She and Andy Warren were the majority commissioners. Carl Fonash was the Democrat on the board. Prior to being elected to county office Zettick was a Middletown supervisor from 1977 to 1979; she served one term on the Board of Commissioners. (English, 4/02/2003).

As Zettick was leaving the board another woman was coming in. Lucille Trench, a Democrat, was elected in 1983 and took office in January, 1984. Trench served until 1991 when she left the board to join Gov. Casey's Crime Victim's Compensation Board (Portnoy, 11/06/2007).

The third woman to serve as a Bucks County Commissioner was Democrat Sandy Miller, appointed in 1991 to serve out Lucille Trench's term when she resigned. She stayed in office until losing the 2007 election. Miller's nearly 17 years on the county board is the longest recorded term in office (Schlatter 1/10/2008).

Again, as one woman left another was elected. Democrat Diane Ellis-Marseglia was elected in 2007 and took office in 2008. (full disclosure -- Marseglia did an interview on this blog in 2007). She is up for re-election this year. No other women are running.

For thirty years Bucks County has had one woman on the Board of Commissioners but never more than one; they have served sequentially. Interestingly all have lived in Middletown.

Coming attractions: Tomorrow we'll take a similar look at women on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners (I'm still untangling Delco so it will be later).


English, Chris, "Ex-Commissioner Zettick dies," Intelligencer April 2, 2003.

Portnoy, Jenna, "Ex-Commissioner Lucille Trench dies," Intelligencer November 6, 2007.

Schlatter, Petra Chesner, "Commissioner Sandra Miller marks end of her four terms," Bristol Pilot January 10, 2008.

Affordable Care Act Fact Sheet

from the inbox:

Fact Sheet

The Affordable Care Act: Supporting Innovation, Empowering States

On February 28, President Obama reiterated his belief that States should have the power and flexibility to innovate and find the health care solutions that work best for them and announced his support for accelerating State Innovation Waivers and allowing states to apply for them starting in 2014.

Beginning in 2017, the law allows States the flexibility to receive a State Innovation Waiver so they may pursue their own innovative strategies to ensure their residents have access to high quality, affordable health insurance. These strategies – which must provide affordable insurance coverage to at least as many residents as the Affordable Care Act and must not increase the federal deficit – could include allowing large employers to purchase coverage through State Exchanges or increasing the number of benefit levels to provide more choices for individuals and small businesses.

Under the bipartisan “Empowering States to Innovate Act” introduced by Senators Ron Wyden, Scott Brown, and Mary Landrieu, State Innovation Waivers would be available three years earlier than under current law, so long as States meet certain criteria, including certifying that their proposals would cover at least as many of their residents as the policies in the Affordable Care Act would have covered.

The proposal offers States more flexibility while ensuring that all Americans, no matter where they live have access to affordable, accessible health insurance. Additionally, the proposal includes built-in protections to ensure that these waivers do not increase the Federal budget deficit.

The Affordable Care Act already creates a critical role for States. It provides them with the flexibility and resources necessary to innovate and implement reform in the manner that works best for them. The law has already made nearly $2.8 billion available to states and every State has taken steps – and, in some cases, bold actions – to implement the law and improve health insurance accountability and affordability for their citizens. States can design their own Exchanges, shape their Medicaid programs, and take the lead in enforcing patient protections and reviewing rates increases of private insurers.

Empowering States to Innovate

Under the Affordable Care Act, State Innovation Waivers allow States to propose and test alternative ways to meet the shared goals of making health insurance affordable and accessible to all Americans, including those living with pre-existing conditions. Specifically, State Innovation Waivers are designed to allow States to implement policies that differ from the new law so long as they:

· Provide coverage that is at least as comprehensive as the coverage offered through Exchanges – a new competitive, private health insurance marketplace.

· Make coverage at least as affordable as it would have been through the Exchanges.

· Provide coverage to at least as many residents as the Affordable Care Act would have provided.

· Do not increase the Federal deficit.

State Innovation Waivers are provided for up to five years, with the option of renewal. If a State’s innovation fails to meet the criteria outlined above, the policies outlined in the Affordable Care Act would take effect.

Potential State-Based Innovations

The Affordable Care Act offers considerable flexibility to States without waivers. It also recognizes that new, creative effective ideas may emerge. While States have the freedom to develop their own proposals that may qualify for a State Innovation Waiver, some proposals that could qualify include:

* A streamlined system that links tax credits for small businesses with tax credits for low-income families.
* Alternatives to the individual responsibility provision – such as automatically enrolling individuals in health plans – that achieve similar outcomes.

· Alternative health plan options to increase competition and provide consumers with additional choices.

* An increase in the number of benefit levels to provide more choices for individuals and small businesses.
* Immediately allowing large businesses interested in doing so to purchase health insurance through the new private marketplace, the State-based health insurance Exchange.

The law also allows States to submit a single application that includes Medicaid waiver requests which could, for example, seek to give people eligible for Medicaid the choice of enrolling in Exchange plans.

Maintaining Important Consumer Protections

The Affordable Care Act ends the worst insurance company abuses and gives Americans more freedom and control over their health care choices. Already, under the law, most insurance companies:

· Cannot impose lifetime limits on the dollar amount they will spend on health benefits.

· Must offer young adults without access to job-based coverage the option of remaining on their parent’s plan until their 26th birthday.

· Must cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing.

· Must allow patients to choose their own doctor in their network.

· Cannot drop your coverage solely due to your getting sick.

· Must spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care, rather than executive salaries and administrative costs.

Starting in 2014, insurance companies cannot charge more, carve-out benefits, or deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition. States that receive a State Innovation Waiver would be required to maintain these important consumer protections that prevent insurance companies from denying, capping or limiting care.

Waiver Evaluation

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Treasury are responsible for evaluating State Innovation Waiver applications and ensuring proposals will meet the shared goals of making health insurance affordable and accessible to all Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions. Under the proposed legislation, the Secretaries would continue to play this role and be empowered to grant waivers beginning in 2014. Once complete, State Innovation Waiver applications must be reviewed within 180 days of being received. The Departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury will issue proposed regulations outlining the process for applying for a State Innovation Waiver this spring. The Departments will accept public comment, including comments from States, on this proposed regulation.

President’s Plan to Cut Red Tape, Give States Flexibility

President Obama will also take an additional important step to help States, improve outcomes, and lower costs for the American taxpayer. This week, the President will issue a memorandum directing Executive Departments and Agencies to work with State, Tribal, and local governments to reduce unnecessary regulatory and administrative burdens in order to focus resources on achieving better outcomes at lower cost. In this memorandum, the President is:

* Instructing the Director of OMB to lead a collaborative process of Federal agencies, State, Tribal, and local governments to coordinate and streamline procedures that cut across agency, program and geographic bounds.

* Requiring agencies to work closely with States, Tribes, and local governments to identify administrative, regulatory, and legislative barriers in Federally-funded programs that currently prevent them from efficiently using tax dollars to achieve the best results for their constituents.

Obama Plan to Cut Red Tape

from the inbox:

A Win for States and Taxpayers: President Obama’s Plan to Cut Red Tape,
Give States Flexibility, and Save Money

Today, President Obama issued a memorandum to Executive Departments and Agencies to work with State, Tribal, and local governments to reduce unnecessary regulatory and administrative burdens in order to focus resources on achieving better outcomes at lower cost.

Over the last two years, the Administration has worked with States as well as Tribal and local governments through the Recovery Act and other means to create jobs, build infrastructure, and protect critical programs and services in the face of declining revenues. Still, through smarter government, we can do even more to help States, improve program outcomes, and lower costs for the American taxpayer. This is especially urgent at a time when many governments face large budget shortfalls.

This memorandum builds on the Executive Order issued on January 18 outlining the President’s regulatory strategy. Having heard from States, Tribes, and territories that the array of rules and regulations issued by various Federal programs and agencies may sometimes impede their efforts to modernize and integrate program delivery, the President is committed to continuing to cut this red tape while continuing to protect human health and safety.

The new Presidential Memorandum is attached.

In this memorandum, the President is:

* Instructing the Director of OMB to lead a collaborative process of Federal agencies, State, Tribal, and local governments to coordinate and streamline procedures that cut across agency, program and geographic bounds.

* Requiring agencies to work closely with States, Tribes, and local governments to identify administrative, regulatory, and legislative barriers in Federally-funded programs that currently prevent them from efficiently using tax dollars to achieve the best results for their constituents.

This work will be done in collaboration with territories as well, and with input from other key program partners.

Further, he is directing OMB to:

· Review guidance concerning cost principles and audits for State, local, and Tribal governments to eliminate unnecessary, unduly burdensome, or low-priority recordkeeping requirements and to tie requirements to achievement of outcomes.

* Standardize and streamline reporting and planning requirements in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act to develop efficient, low-cost mechanisms for collecting and reporting data and preparing expenditure plans that can support multiple programs and agencies, and

* Facilitate cost-efficient modernization of State and Tribal information systems, in collaboration with the Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Agencies are required to report back within 180 days of the date of this memorandum on their actions to identify regulatory and administrative requirements that can be streamlined, reduced, or eliminated, and where increased State flexibility could be provided to achieve the same or better outcomes at lower cost.

Progress in achieving better results at lower cost is already being made.

The President’s new memo will help expand on the success already underway in collaborating with States, Tribes, territories, and local governments, and new initiatives proposed in the President’s 2012 Budget. For example, the Administration:

* Has created a collaborative forum with States, local governments, and other stakeholders through OMB’s Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation. The forum develops promising cross-program solutions to improve program integrity, reduce costs, and improve service and results in Federal programs that are administered by States.

* Is taking steps to reduce reporting and documentation requirements that sap school resources from classroom learning. Specifically, the Department of Education and OMB are developing new guidelines to focus reporting and audits on performance outcomes and enhanced transparency instead of activity-based recordkeeping.

* Proposed Pay for Success pilots in the 2012 Budget. These innovative projects offer Federal, State and local governments a market-based mechanism to finance and deliver services that achieve better results at lower cost. Under this new initiative, the private sector provides intervention services to a target population and the government pays only when clearly defined outcomes are achieved.

* Proposed a new Workforce Innovation Fund in the 2012 Budget, which provides almost $380 million for grants to support systemic reforms of workforce development programs to deliver more cost-effective services and improve outcomes for participants. To maximize flexibility to test bold approaches to achieving better results through cross-program collaboration, the Budget requests waiver authority for the Departments of Labor and Education, contingent on strong State plans to measure outcomes and evaluate program impacts.

· Proposed a “First in the World” competition among colleges and universities to help America restore its international leadership in the number of students graduating college. In 2012, this competition would invest $120 million in innovative institutional and State strategies to increase college access and comple­tion and improve educational productivity.

Together, these and other initiatives could substantially reduce State and federal taxpayer costs and redirect resources to achieve improved outcomes for State, Tribal and local constituents. And these improved outcomes will play an important role in supporting the long term economic strength and competitiveness of our Nation.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Contraception for Horses but Not Humans? PA Version

Two related amendments to H.R.1 were voted on this month. Both were sponsored by an Indiana Republican. Both deal with contraception.

H.AMDT.95 (A085)
Amends: H.R.1
Sponsor: Rep Pence, Mike [IN-6] (offered 2/17/2011)
An amendment numbered 11 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.

Wonder how your representative voted? You can find the vote either in the Congressional Record or on THOMAS (

• Altmire, Jason, (D-04) NO
• Barletta, Lou, (R-11) YES
• Brady, Robert, (D-01) NO
• Critz, Mark, (D-12) NO
• Dent, Charles W., (R-15) NO
• Doyle, Mike, (D-14) NO
• Fattah, Chaka, (D-02) NO
• Fitzpatrick, Michael G., (R-08) YES
• Gerlach, Jim, (R-06) YES
• Holden, Tim, (D-17) NO
• Kelly, Mike, (R-03) YES
• Marino, Tom, (R-10) YES
• Meehan, Pat, (R-07) YES
• Murphy, Tim, (R-18) YES
• Pitts, Joseph R., (R-16) YES
• Platts, Todd, (R-19) YES
• Schwartz, Allyson Y., (D-13) NO
• Shuster, Bill, (R-09) YES
• Thompson, Glenn W., (R-05) YES

In contrast, Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, introduced an amendment, to the budget of the Bureau of Land Management, in the section concerning the management of wild horses, that, in the words of Politico (“GOP pushes birth control for horses?,” by Sarah Kliff 2/16:

The amendment would modify the budget to bar “funds made available by this Act [from being] used for the gathers and removals of free-roaming wild horses and burros, except for the purpose of fertility control.”

Want to know how your representative voted on H. Amdt 39 to HR 1? It was a voice vote, which means there is no official tally in the Congressional Record, to say who voted for and against.

Both were amendments to the same bill. The Planned Parenthood amendment was voted in with 240 for and 185 against. That is a 55 vote difference. Surely that is enough of a difference to tell by voice vote. So why did one get a roll call vote and one a voice vote? Good question.

Those interested in the topic might call their representative and ask how he voted.

I find it odd that some representatives might vote for contraception for horses and not for people. If your representative voted against government money being used to allow human females access to contraception, but did think it a good use of federal money to use contraception in horses (who, after all, cannot consent to such a thing), it might be worth asking him why.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Schwartz Talks to 10,000 Constituents

This evening Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz held a teletownhall meeting which reached over 10,000 constituents. I called in after it started and so did not hear all of it. She spoke briefly about issues she has been working on and then took questions. Questions from listeners were broad ranging, from tax breaks for the elderly to the cost of education, and worries about the deficit. The sound quality was not as high as other calls she has done and it was sometimes difficult to hear or words were dropped. According to Schwartz the call lasted about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Amuso for Judge

Peter Amuso has announced his candidacy for Springfield Township (Montgomery County) magisterial judge. For more details see "Peter Amuso runs for Springfield Township judge," by Nicole Jenet, Montgomery Media 2/14/2011. Here's a brief excerpt:

Amuso currently runs a law practice in Erdenheim and has previous legal experience as an active duty member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps while he was stationed in Albania and Germany. He also practiced civil litigation with Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia.

Amuso's facebook page is:

Amuso ran for Montgomery County District Attorney in 2007. I wrote a brief biographical post, and also an interview with him.

SEPTA Flower Show Pass

from the inbox:

Say “au revoir” to winter and “bonjour” to spring by purchasing SEPTA’s Independence Pass to travel to “Springtime in Paris,” the 2011 edition of the Philadelphia International Flower Show. The Flower Show will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center March 6-13. Discounted Flower Show tickets — $26 for adults and $15 for children ages 2-16 — are also available through SEPTA. For details, visit

SEPTA’S “One Day Independence Pass” and “Family Independence Pass” offer riders convenient, economical and unlimited one day travel on all SEPTA trains (with the exception of Regional Rail trains arriving to Center City before 9:30 a.m. on weekdays), trolleys and buses.

The Flower Show is open Sundays, March 6 and 13 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Monday-Friday, March 7-11 from 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; and Saturday, March 12 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Showgoers can beat the morning and evening commuter crowds by traveling to the Convention Center before and after rush hour.

The One Day Independence Pass costs $11 per person. The $28 Family Independence Pass provides unlimited travel for one family of up to five people, traveling together on any one day, on all regularly scheduled SEPTA service (at least one person, but no more than two, must be 18 years of age or older). While additional fees apply on Regional Rail travel to and from Trenton and West Trenton, NJ, passengers still save when purchasing Independence Passes over individual rail tickets.

Passes can be purchased in advance — they are not activated until the month and date they are punched by a SEPTA operator, cashier or conductor.

Independence Passes and discounted Flower Show admission tickets are sold at all SEPTA Regional Rail Ticket Offices, SEPTA Sales Offices, the Transit Museum Store and SEPTA Sales Office at 1234 Market Street and online at

Independence Passes can also be purchased on board SEPTA Regional Rail trains. The cash fare receipt provided by conductors will serve as the Independence Pass for travel on Regional Rail trains. Customers planning on using bus, subway or trolley service can exchange the cash fare receipt for the Independence Pass at a SEPTA Ticket or Sales Office.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Update on Non-Discrimination Ordinances

Last month I wrote an overview of nondiscriminiation ordinances in Pennsylvania communities. Since then another community, Haverford, has passed a similar ordinance ("Anti-discrimination ordinance passes in Haverford Township," by Lois Puglionesi, Main Line Times 2/18/2011).

Update on HR 3

Remember H.R. 3, the Republican bill that limited abortion rights to those who had been "forcibly" raped? The bill that exempted statutory rape? Remember that, according to Politico ("GOP loses 'forcible rape' language," by Jonathan Allen, 2/03/2011), the GOP said the bill would be altered to remove the "forcible rape" language? That was about 3 weeks ago. According to Thomas (, H.R. 3 has not been altered or amended. The language remains in place. None of the Pennsylvania representatives who co-sponsored it have removed their name. The bill is currently in the Judiciary Committee. Hearings on it were held on Feb. 8th and there has been no further action since then.

These are the Pennsylvania congressmen who co-sponsored the bill:

PA Co-Sponsors:

Lou Barletta (PA-11)
Mark Critz (PA-12)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Jim Gerlach (PA-06)
Tim Marino (PA-10)
Tim Murphy (PA-18)
Joe Pitts (PA-16)
Bill Shuster (PA-09)
Glenn Thompson (PA-05)

More on Teacher Salaries

Yesterday I wrote a post on teacher evaluations. In it I mentioned the average salary of teachers in Pennsylvania and how many average years of experience they had. I also mentioned the average starting salary of a newly graduated college student. There was not a lot of difference. Today I found a chart showing the average teacher salary and average salary of people with a college degree, listed by state. In Pennsylvania the average teacher earned $1,014 weekly in 2006. The average salary for all college graduates in Pennsylvania was $1,241 weekly in 2006. That is [update: should read, that is a difference of ]about $900 a month, or roughly $10,000 a year. Teachers do have an 8 week (or thereabouts) break in the summer; we'll assume most college educated workers get 2 weeks of vacation per year, though some may get more. So even assuming there is a 6 week difference in annual work schedule teachers earn less per year than other college graduates.

EPLC Education Notebook for Feb. 22nd

from our friends at the Education Policy and Leadership Center:



The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on February 16 on Senate Bill 1 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-15) and co-sponsored by Sen. Anthony Williams (D-8). The bill would amend the Public School Code by providing for opportunity scholarships to low income students and expand the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credits program.

Following Sen. Piccola’s opening remarks in which he framed the debate and the reasons why SB 1 was being introduced, the Committee heard testimony from the following:

· Acting PA Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis testified that Gov. Corbett’s agenda includes education reform and noted that “although many education opportunities exist for children in Pennsylvania’s public schools, parents should be able to make a choice outside the public sector.” Secretary-Designate Tomalis spoke in support of school choice but stopped short of endorsing SB 1.

· Otto Banks, Executive Director of REACH, spoke in support of SB 1 emphasizing promotion of school choice and support for the creation of opportunity scholarships and the expansion of the EITC program.

· Philip Murren, an attorney with Ball, Murren & Connell, presented a brief to the committee which outlined the three provisions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth that might be cited as obstacles to the implementation of SB 1. His brief concluded that no court has ever held similar legislation invalid under these provisions, and argued there is no likelihood that a court would strike down school choice legislation under any available precedent.

· Baruch Kintisch, Director of Policy Advocacy at the Education Law Center (ELC), spoke in opposition to SB 1 and provided an analysis that contended that the bill was not drafted to protect the education rights of the neediest children in Pennsylvania, it would not strengthen public education and it would not give all children a fair opportunity to learn. The Education Law Center feels that SB 1 is written to allow private and religious schools to take state funding while picking and choosing only the students they prefer, excluding most students with disabilities and other significant educational challenges, and avoiding real state oversight and accountability for demonstrating performance or achieving results.

· Joe Watkins, Chairman of Students First, spoke in support of SB 1. As a Pastor from Philadelphia, he said he has seen firsthand that access and options make a difference in the lives of children. He feels that students and their families cannot wait another year for the current system to improve.

· Michael Crossey, Vice President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), spoke in opposition of SB 1 and the use of taxpayer funds to provide vouchers to nonpublic schools without any fiscal or academic accountability. Crossey testified that at a time when Pennsylvania faces a $4 billion dollar deficit and public schools could face cuts by as much as $1 billion dollars, it is illogical to impose a costly, unproven program with little or no accountability.

· Jean Allen, President of the Center for Education Reform (CER), spoke in support of SB 1 and provided testimony concerning the school voucher movement in other states based on data compiled over the past 17 years from the 12 states and the District of Columbia where school vouchers and/or scholarship tax credit programs are operating.

· Darlene Callands, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), spoke in support of SB 1. She testified that BAEO, which provides scholarships funded through the Pennsylvania Education Improvement Tax Credit, has seen the benefits when children are given a choice in the school they attend.

· Ted Kirsch, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – Pennsylvania, spoke in opposition to SB 1. Kirsch’s testimony focused on four areas of concern: voucher track record, voucher accountability, voucher costs, and a lack of support for the use of proven strategies that improve education for all students in under-performing schools.

· Matthew Brouillette, President of the Commonwealth Foundation, spoke in support of school vouchers and providing school choice for parents. Brouillette testified that the supply of school choice options is not meeting the demand of parents and students for options.

· Richard Fry, Legislative Committee Chair of Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), stated that PASA is not currently taking a position on the bill because its members’ views range from unequivocal opposition to some members who support it with certain caveats.

· Thomas Gentzel, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), testified that PSBA is opposed to SB 1. PSBA believes that SB 1 would implement a system that is unaccountable, unaffordable, unpopular, unproven and unconstitutional.

SB 1 is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate Education Committee on March 1.

To watch a video of the proceedings and to read the full text of participants’ testimony, click here.


The following education-related bills were introduced the week of February 14:

· House Bill 684 (Rep. James Roebuck, D-188) would allow the Secretary of Education to grant a provisional vocational education certificate to individuals who meet certain requirements of the State Board of Education. The certificate would allow the person to teach for “eight annual school terms”.

· House Bill 685 (Rep. James Roebuck D-188) would enact recommendations made by the State Board of Education to make the Master Plan for Higher Education more relevant in providing guidance to state policymakers on issues pertaining to postsecondary education.

· House Bill 686 (Rep. James Roebuck D-188) would repeal the previously enacted higher education articulation language from the Fiscal Code and transfer it to the Public School Code. Last week, the Senate Education Committee reported out to the full Senate companion bill SB 203 (Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19).


Ø On February 17, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the appointment of 28 commissioners representing various education and political perspectives to the Equity and Excellence Commission. Members include leaders of both major teachers’ unions, business leaders, school district officials, civil rights advocates and former Republican Illinois governor Jim Edgar. The commission is tasked with “examining the disparities in meaningful educational opportunities that give rise to the achievement gap, with a focus on systems of finance, and recommend ways in which federal policies could address such disparities.” The first meeting of the commission is scheduled for February 22 in Washington, DC. For additional information, click here.

Ø The U.S. Department of Education will hold four community college regional summits titled “Challenges, Solutions, and Commitments” over the next two months to identify promising practices for increasing completion rates at community colleges. The summits will bring together 150 participants representing community colleges, business and industry, philanthropy, labor, state and local government, and students to identify strategies that will help students succeed. Each summit will have a different focus and will be held in different locations throughout the US, including one at the Community College of Philadelphia on February 28. For further details, click here.


Ø The Center for American Progress has released a study that measures educational productivity of more than 9,000 school districts across the US. The report examines what districts are getting in terms of student achievement in math and reading for their dollar investment. According to the Center, almost every K-12 school district in the country with more than 250 students was included in the study. The report is part of a series examining government accountability and efficiency. Information has been compiled in a website that allows a comparison of districts within states.

Ø A report entitled “Governance in the Accountability Era” published by the National School Boards Association, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Iowa School Boards Foundation has been released. The report is a result of a survey of 900 board members and 120 superintendents from 418 different districts. The purpose is to provide parents, voters, policymakers, advocates and educators with a formative look at the individuals and governance structure that make up local boards of school directors. The report focuses on the following six areas of interest: who serves on school boards; what board members think; how boards go about their work; how boards are configured; elections and the relationship between school boards and their superintendents.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Few Words on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability

Teachers have been getting a lot of bad press lately. One would think they spent their days sipping bourbon in the classroom and earning six figure salaries. In fact, in Pennsylvania, in 2006-2007 the average teacher's salary in Pennsylvania was $54,977 with an average of 14 years experience (see list of salaries and time in teaching county by county from the Morning Call). For 2008-2009 PSEA reported similar data, the average annual salary was $56,092, with an average of 13.5 yeas of experience. For a profession requiring a college degree that is not bad, especially considering many teachers have advanced degrees. For comparison, nationally new college graduates in 2010 were offered an average starting salary of $48,661 (from National Associate of Colleges and Employers).

Evaluating teachers is tricky. What criteria do you use? I had a high school math teacher that I thought was terrible. He doubled as a sports coach and spent a lot of his time on that. I thought he was an ineffective classroom teacher. In recent years as various kinds of social media has brought me into contact with people I went to high school with and have not communicated with since then, I am amazed at how many people loved him. He inspired some to become math teachers themselves. Other wrote fondly of the tutoring he did in the summer and the school year. Was he a good teacher? Depends on who you talk to.

Carl Bialik discussed various evaluation methids in the Wall Street Journal last summer ("Needs improvement" where teacher report cards fall short," August 21-22, 2010). He writes about the rise of the standardized test score as an evaluation criteria, but notes: "in a group of elementary-school math teachers who ranked in the top 20% in five Florida counties early last decade, more than three in five didn't stay in the top quintile in the following year, ..." Bialik notes that some teachers do well with students who tend to score poorly, but that can bring down the teacher's ratings, and therefore make those teachers less eager to take on more difficult students. Also, those with small class size means there is a very small sampling of test scores to work with. Other evaluation criteria are subjective and frequently very brief classroom observations.

The use of test scores is tricky for other reasons as well. You can view Pennsylvania's test scores on the state Dept. of Education's state report cards (that site also has links to school report cards for individual school scores). Note what is being tested: math and reading, with science added in to a few grades in recent years. What if you teach science in a grade that doesn't test it? What if you teach Social Studies? What are those teachers evaluated on? There aren't any state-wide test scores. Classroom grades? Everyone knows the easiest way to get good classroom test scores is to make easy tests or give open book tests. A challenging curriculum will invariably lead to a few poor grades. What teacher will do that if is means a lower grade for the teacher? Test scores alone don't take into account what happens outside the classroom. A group of students whose parents value education and supervise homework will, by and large, do better than a group of students whose parents don't care or are too busy working multiple jobs to oversee homework or create a good environment for doing homework. Students who get enough to eat and sleep soundly and safely at night are more likely to do better in school than those who don't.

A 2006 NEA report found that half of all new teachers left the job in the first five years on the job. The reasons were low salaries and poor working conditions ("Half of teachers quit in 5 years," by Lisa Lambert, Washington Post, May 9, 2006). So how do you find the good teachers and get them to stay? Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the New Yorker ("Most likely to succeed," 12/15/2008) comparing the identification of good football players and good teachers and the training of good financial advisors and good teachers. Here's an excerpt:

In teaching, the implications are even more profound. They suggest that we shouldn’t be raising standards. We should be lowering them, because there is no point in raising standards if standards don’t track with what we care about. Teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree—and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before. That means that the profession needs to start the equivalent of Ed Deutschlander’s training camp. It needs an apprenticeship system that allows candidates to be rigorously evaluated. Kane and Staiger have calculated that, given the enormous differences between the top and the bottom of the profession, you’d probably have to try out four candidates to find one good teacher. That means tenure can’t be routinely awarded, the way it is now. Currently, the salary structure of the teaching profession is highly rigid, and that would also have to change in a world where we want to rate teachers on their actual performance. An apprentice should get apprentice wages. But if we find eighty-fifth-percentile teachers who can teach a year and a half’s material in one year, we’re going to have to pay them a lot—both because we want them to stay and because the only way to get people to try out for what will suddenly be a high-risk profession is to offer those who survive the winnowing a healthy reward.

Tenure itself has come under fire. The general perception is that tenure means it is impossible to fire a teacher. That's incorrect. Look at the fine print closely enough and all contracts or policy manuals will contain information on how to remove a tenured teacher, even at the college level. It may not be easily done but it can be done. What becomes problematic is when a teacher has been given positive evaluations for years and then suddenly someone wants them removed. Truly egregious behavior can get someone removed from the classroom immediately while a more thorough evaluation is conducted. More common, though, is a teacher who is having trouble in the classroom who doesn't realize their techniques are ineffective or have become stale. More than one year of flat or poor evaluations should lead to mentoring and supervision and if that doesn't help improve performance, then that teacher should be encouraged to find another line of work. There should be, and most often are, guidelines and procedures for doing this. It's just a matter of following them.

It distresses me that teachers have become public scapegoats. Vilifying teachers does not improve our educational systems. It merely drives good people out of the profession and discourages our best and brightest from going into teaching.

Penn State and College Rankings

The Feb. 14th and 21st issue of the New Yorker has an article on college rankings, written by Malcolm Gladwell. "The order of things: What college rankings really tell us," is not available freely online (an abstract is) but it is worth the trouble to track down in print.

Gladwell takes on the college rankings you see printed up each year. Penn State is one of the schools he discusses in depth. The gist of his argument is that the criteria used and how it is weighed dramatically affects the way the colleges are ranked. That makes sense when you hear it but we seldom look at what criteria are used in things like college rankings. For instance, price is often not taken into account but that is a factor most students and their parents weigh heavily. Penn State has a greater than expected graduation rate when demographic data is taken into account, higher than many Ivy League schools but that also is often not considered in college rankings.

Relying on ranking lists is quick and easy but perhaps not very effective when choosing a college. However, if you do review the rankings, please also review the criteria used. Gladwell's article is very informative and it points out some real positives about Penn State, even it if doesn't get a high ranking on the college ranking lists.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Note on Planned Parenthood

Some Congressmen are trying to defund Planned Parenthood. I don't understand the rationale for that. The government funds aren't used for abortion. Even if they were, I'm not sure the fact that some people don't want their taxes used for particular purposes is a good reason to stop funding those organizations. I would rather not fund the Iraq / Afghanistan War, gambling, liquor stores, or oil company subsidies, and there are a number of people who agree with me on that, but the government keeps spending money on them.

At any rate, I'd like to put in a good word for Planned Parenthood. About 30 years ago, as a young college student, I took advantage of my local Planned Parenthood office for one of those annual exams that young women are supposed to get. I used the college health clinic for any needed run of the mill health problems but didn't want to get such a personal exam there.

One year Planned Parenthood called to tell me there was a problem with the exam, or rather that the exam had found a problem. I followed up with a gynecologist who took some cell samples and froze some cells off. Both Planned Parenthood and the other doctor told me that if I'd let the situation go for a few years there was a good chance I would have developed cervical cancer.

It may not be accurate to say Planned Parenthood saved my life but certainly having access to low cost easily available preventive medical care at that stage of my life made a big difference in my long term overall health.

I hope that Congress will continue to fund something as important as Planned Parenthood. It is an important health care provider for women of all ages.

Atul Gawande on Cutting Health Care Costs

The January 24th issue of the New Yorker had a very interesting story on some pilot programs to cut health care costs. "Hot spotters," by Atul Gawande highlights two programs in New Jersey among his examples. These programs focus on the few individuals who spend the most on health care, driving up the costs for everyone in the enrollment group. Each program he looks at has lowered health care costs by double digits in a few years time.

Definitely worth a read.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Shapiro, Richards Endorsed for Montco Commissioner

I'll have more on this later but here's something from the inbox:

With a great display of unity, the Montgomery County Democratic Committee last night endorsed its slate of candidates, led by commissioner candidates Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, for the 2011 county-wide elections.
Shapiro, a four-term state representative from Abington, and Richards, a Whitemarsh Township supervisor, were enthusiastically endorsed as the leaders of the Democratic ticket and they sent the Democratic committee members into the night with high hopes that 2011 would be the year that Democrats seized the majority in the courthouse for the first time in history.
Shapiro and Richards emerged as the commissioner candidates after incumbent Commissioner Joe Hoeffel decided not to seek re-election.
“We are united. We are excited. We have two great candidates, who have the issues on their side and have proven to be successful in reaching across party lines,” said Montgomery County Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen. “This is a ticket that Democrats, independents and a significant number of Republicans will embrace.”
The committee also endorsed incumbent row officers Clerk of Courts Ann Thornburg Weiss Upper Dublin; Controller Diane B. Morgan of Lower Gwynedd; Coroner Walter I. Hofman of Lower Merion; Prothonotary Mark Levy of Plymouth; and Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes of Cheltenham. Also endorsed were Recorder of Deeds candidate Linda Hee of Abington, Sheriff candidate William A. Holt, Jr. of Abington, and Treasurer candidate Jason Salus of Conshohocken.
Shapiro, 37, represents the 153rd Legislative District, and has worked in federal and state government for more than 15 years. He was named “Best State Legislator” by Philadelphia Magazine. Shapiro was first elected to the House in 2004 and reelected in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and served as deputy speaker of the House from 2006-2008.
Richards was elected in 2007 and has served as both Chair and Vice Chair of the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors. She is a Senior Project Manager at a woman-owned civil engineering firm that specializes in managing multi-million dollar infrastructure projects like bridge rehabilitations, road repairs, streetscape improvements, trail and park development, environmental assessments, and feasibility studies.

Less Access to Campaign Finance Info??

Finding out who contributed to state level political campaigns in Pennsylvania is far more difficult than it needs to be. Years ago State Rep. Greg Vitali sponsored a database of campaign finance information. It was a nice little system and I used it quite a bit. Then the state decided it would make the information available to the public, which was a grand idea. Except that their system is not as easy to use as Vitali's was. And it has errors on it. When campaigns and PACs file electronically the information goes straight to digital but when the file in paper the information has to be input manually and a misspelling or a misplaced zero can make a world of difference.

Now, with state budget cutbacks, there are fewer people to work on inputting and uploading the information, which means that you and I and anyone else interested, won't get to see who is giving what to whom in a timely fashion, if at all.

Not good.

(See "PA will has less campaign finance info on-line," by Chris Brennan at the Daily News blog Philly Clout)

Lentz Appointed to Gun Violence Task Force

Bryan Lentz, who served as a state legislator for four years and ran for the 7th congressional district this past year, has been appointed to the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force. The task force:

Started in December 2006 as a joint effort by the District Attorney's Office and the Office of the Attorney General. This task force is comprised of veteran police officers and assistant district attorneys with the primary goal of aggressively investigating and prosecuting the sources of illegal firearms used in crimes throughout Philadelphia.

Lentz worked in the Philadelphia district attorney's office for six years in the 1990's. For more information read "Philly D.A. adds to gun-violence task force," by Joelle Farrell in today's Inquirer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Playing Telephone in Montco

In 2007 Montgomery County Commissioner Ruth Damsker, Democrat, was running for re-election. Another commissioner, Tom Ellis, left voicemail messages for her telling her to enjoy her last few months on the board and bragging about the fundraising activities of Jim Matthews campaign for commissioner. (The original press release from Damsker had recordings of the messages but I can't find it online. I wrote about it but the link to the source material no longer works. PAWaterCooler also wrote about it.)

Fast forward a few years. Damsker is out of office. Ellis is the county treasurer and has been serving on the board of Independence Blue Cross. Now Ellis says fellow Republican Jim Matthews, currently chair of the board of commissioners, left messages on his phone threatening him because he didn't vote the way Matthews wanted and because of Ellis's activity with the re-election campaign of the other Republican commissioner, Bruce Castor. (See "Matthews and Hoeffel vote to boot treasurer from board," by Keith Phucas, 2/16).

Maybe Ellis should stay away from phones.

China, Facebook Clones, and the Delaware Connection

China's version of Facebook has a University of Delaware connection. In "The Facebooks of China," by April Rabkin, which appeared in the February issue of Fast Company, we learn:

Do not call Wang Xing the Mark Zuckerberg of China. Mark Zuckerberg is the Mark Zuckerberg of China. In 2003, Wang dropped out of a PhD program at the University of Delaware and returned to Beijing to create a local version of Friendster. It flopped. Two years later, he heard about this new thing called Facebook and decided to copy it.

who knew?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On the Counting of Vegetables

In a recent article on education Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick ("Fitzpatrick: No progress in school oversight," by James McGinnis, Phillyburbs) made a comment about school lunch:

“I have greater faith in a locally elected board of school board directors then I do in some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Washington who decides how many vegetables my kid should eat for lunch,” the congressman continued. “My wife and I can figure that out on our own. We don’t need to pay someone in Washington to do that for us.”

I've seen this comment on school lunches other places, too. And, you know, he's right; parents should have a say in what their kids eat. But the easiest way to count your own veg is to pack your own lunch. If you want to have the final say in what your kids eat then send them in with a brown bag or lunch box. A few grades ago one of my kids went through a chicken and vegetables phase. Every weekend I'd roast a chicken and microwave a big bag of mixed vegetables, and then bake some cookies. Every morning Mr. J would heat up some meat and some vegetables, put them in a food thermos, two cookies in a ziploc bag, a water bottle or a juice box and there's lunch. We knew exactly what the kid was eating. These days a lot of schools have online lunch payment that lets parents transfer money from their bank account to a lunch account. The kid swipes their id or types in a code in the lunch line and the money is subtracted. You can make a note about allergies and the system won't allow the purchase of foods containing those ingredients. Parents can say no desserts or chips. You can specify exactly what your child can and cannot buy, and then review what they did buy. That is really putting power in the hands of the parents.

But I've sat through enough pta meetings to know that trying to make those decisions on a school level is next to impossible. Some parents don't want any snack foods in the cafeteria. Some want only organic foods. Some don't want any peanut items at all. Some think this is all hooey and kids should eat what they want. Some would be horrified at the thought of the hormones in chicken and the possibility of pesticides in frozen vegetables. It's almost as bad as the discussions over whether or not to allow dodgeball. How do you decide and who decides? Is it majority vote? Is it a fiat from the school board? Is it consensus? How?

I do get concerned about the quality of food prepared and available in school cafeterias. It should be safe and reasonably nutritious, and I would rather the overall policies be made at a higher level, by nutritionists. Once the structure is in place parents can make individual decisions based on the menus provided (and they are usually provided on a monthly basis), and talk to their kids about food choices, or just block what they don't want from the online system.

Or pack a lunch.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Times Herald: Paston Running for Judge

According to the Times Herald ("Mike Paston announces candidacy for district judge," by Thomas Celona, 2/15) Michael Paston is a candidate for district justice for district 38-1-10, which covers Ambler Borough and Upper Dublin Township. He is currently president of the Upper Dublin School Board.

A few years ago I did an email interview with Paston and have seen him at a few events. He's a nice fellow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Schwartz on Obama's Budget Proposal

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, senior member of the House Budget Committee, issued the following statement today on President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Proposal.

“The President’s budget proposal is a long-term economic blueprint that strikes the right balance between reducing our deficit and making strategic investments in our country’s economic future. The Budget released today will cut our deficit by $1.1 trillion and stabilize our national debt.

“President Obama’s proposal makes smart, strategic investments in education, innovation, infrastructure, and research and development. These targeted investments will help us continue the economic growth we have seen in the last six months.

“In contrast, Congressional Republicans have proposed immediate and extensive cuts that slash spending solely for the sake of reaching an arbitrary number. Republicans do not have a plan to address long-term deficit reduction or to promote long-term economic growth. Their slash and burn approach to the budget will do more harm than good.

“This budget is about tough choices and shared sacrifices. The President’s plan makes strategic investments to promote private sector jobs and strengthen America’s economic competitiveness, while also making targeted spending cuts to tackle the deficit responsibly.”

Big Bloggy Welcome to the Big Tent

Inky reporter Tom Fitzgerald has started a blog, called The Big Tent. Welcome to the blogosphere, Tom, and best wishes.

Rick Santorum: Phoning In Fatherhood

You may have heard that Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin had a dust up over comments Santorum made at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. Here's a quote from the Huffington Post "Rick "Santorum: Sarah Palin May Be Skipping CPAC Due To Lack Of 'Financial Benefits'," by Nick Wing):

"I don't live in Alaska and I'm not the mother to all these kids and I don't have other responsibilities that she has," Santorum, a father of seven, said.

Yes, Palin's five children must keep her busy, far busier than Santorum's seven children keep him. Remember when Santorum's book came out and he talked about how important it was for mothers to stay home with the kids and people said he meant that one parent should stay home? No, he meant women with children should shoulder the majority of the burden for raising them. Men just need to bring home money. And people who can't live on one income just need to reorder their priorities. For more of the former Pennsylvania senator's wisdom, you can read the book, or skim my multi-post review of it ("Reading Rick") from about five years ago.

The New HuffPo?

In These Times magazine has tweeted that they'd like to offer themselves as the new independent alternative to the Huffington Post. I'd like to second that. It's a fine publication with a good website.

Full disclosure: Several years ago I served on a committee with someone who is now in an editorial position at In These Times. So I'm not completely objective about it. And I think this is as close as I'll get to a Bill Ayers moment.

Friday, February 11, 2011

White House White Board: Goolsbee on National Wireless Initiative

The latest White House White Board video again features Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. He explains the president's new National Wireless Initiative. While American entrepreneurs have fueled the Internet revolution, as a country we are not leaders in wireless access. Goolsbee has some interesting charts to show the explosive growth of Internet-related jobs. Listen carefully and you will hear a reference to Angry Birds.

One observation: the White House must be really cutting costs, Goolsbee's white board marker appears to be drying out -- the writing is faint in places.

Upcoming Campaign Announcements

A few races that are getting underway:

Keith Collins announces his candidacy for Delaware County Council tomorrow. I don't see a website but Friends of Keith Collins does have a facebook page.

Jason Salus, currently on the Conshohocken Council, is thinking of running for Montgomery County treasurer; I don't know if a formal announcement has been made or not.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New DVRPC Report on Food Sustainability

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission has released a new report called Eating Here: Greater Philadelphia's Food System Plan. The full 124 page pdf report is available online or you can pay $10.00 for a printed copy.

According to the abstract:

Food, a good produced, consumed, and shipped throughout our region, is a major component our region's transportation, land use, energy, and environmental systems. DVRPC's Eating Here: Greater Philadelphia's Food System Plan will identify a set of shared values and goals, key indicators, and recommendations for a more sustainable food system.

Through the plan, DVRPC and the Greater Philadelphia Food System Stakeholder Committee will seek to:

* Support local agriculture and grow the local food economy while improving profitability for farmers.
* Protect the environment.
* Ensure safety, security, and healthfulness of food and the food supply.
* Improve nutrition and reduce obesity and preventable diseases.
* Ensure residents of the region have access to enough nutritious food to eat.
* Encourage collaboration between individuals, organizations, and government agencies.

The plan follows ups on the Commission's first phase of food system planning, the Greater Philadelphia Food System Study, a large surveying effort and analysis that identified prominent stakeholders, successful programs, regional competitive advantages, recommendations for improvement, and differing interests.

The executive summary lists the following conclusions, which are expanded upon in the text of the report:
Access to affordable farmland: Maintain affordable land for farmers through a range of potential innovations and
new business models. These include addressing the retirement needs of farmers, identifying opportunities to transition preserved land into food production, and creating investment vehicles for long-term agricultural production on preserved land.

Natural resource protection through markets: Develop technical assistance programs or market-based solutions that enable farmers to protect natural resources. Agricultural enterprise development: Create or expand new and specialized programs to reduce the barriers of entry for new food entrepreneurs and new, beginning, and minority farmers, and encourage value-added activities. Examples include training programs and revolving loan, micro-loan, and low-interest loan funds.

Healthy food awareness and access: Promote the use of new technology and community-based communication outlets by all partners—government, private sector, and nonprofits—to educate people about healthy food.

School system solutions: Integrate all aspects of Farm to School programs into a robust and comprehensive education program.

Regional convening and increased collaboration: Continue to convene the Greater Philadelphia Food System Stakeholder Committee and encourage shared efforts.

Implementing the numerous recommendations included in this plan will take the dedicated efforts of many actors within the Greater Philadelphia Food System. The award of several Greater Philadelphia Food System Implementation Grants1 to a number of collaborative efforts has begun to transform several of these recommendations into reality, but more work remains to be done, and each participant in the Greater Philadelphia Food System has a role to play—from those businesses and organizations that actively participate in the food system to those individuals eating here.

I haven't read the full report yet but it looks interesting

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Follow the Money

Our friends at the National Institute on Money in State Politics have prepared an overview of the funding of Pennsylvania races. On the organization's homepage ( you can type in your home address and get an overview of their campaign financing.

One of their search options:

The Legislative Committee Analysis Tool (L-CAT) on displays legislative committee rosters alongside campaign donor data. This data mash-up provided by the National Institute on Money in State Politics and Project Vote Smart allows citizens to see which special interests have (or don’t have) political-donation relationships with lawmakers who sit on influential committees; committees that have the power to pass laws that directly affect these interests.

Interesting stuff!

Brief State House Updates

A few interesting articles for your reading:

"Democrats try again for state tax on Marcellus Shale," by Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2/08

Some Democratic legislators, aided by environmental groups, are making another try at enacting a severance tax on natural gas pumped from the vast areas of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.

Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, today proposed House Bill 33, which would impose a two-phase extraction tax. There would be a 5 percent levy on the gross sale value of each 1,000 cubic feet (mcf) of gas pumped from deep underground. There would also be a second tax, of 4.6 cents per mcf, which wouldn't vary according to the price of the gas.

Mr. Vitali estimated that if the tax is enacted this year, it would generate $245 million in 2011. That would rise to $320 million in 2012, $400 million in 2013 and $477 million in 2014, as the value of the natural gas and the amount of gas pumped rises, he estimated.

"Pennsylvania House approves 6-bill package aimed at reform," by Jan Murphy, Patriot-News February 08, 2011

HR3 and HR358 Updates

Last week I wrote about HR3 which was introduced into the federal House of Representatives and co-sponsored by some of our local congressional representatives, including Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick. It restricted any taxpayer funds, including insurance funds, so that they could only be used for abortion in the case of life of the mother, incest with minors and forcible rape. The word forcible would not include all statutory rape, cases where the woman is unable, due to physical or intellectual impairments, to provide consent. Drugged? Underage? Unless you could prove the rape was "forcible" it wouldn't county. The GOP said the wording would be changed, but it hasn't yet been done. For more details see "'Forcible rape' Language Remains In Bill To Restrict Abortion Funding," by Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post 2/09/11. It also mentions HR 358, which the article describes as:

Another piece of legislation restricting abortion access, H.R. 358, also initially included the forcible-rape language, but Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) has reintroduced that bill without it. Now, however, it includes a provision that would allow hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion on a woman, even if that refusal threatens her life.

More information from "GOP Backs Massive Tax Increase To Phase Out Abortion Coverage By Private Insurers," by Brian Beutler, TPM,
Here's another one: The GOP's plan to ban tax-payer money from funding abortions includes giant tax hikes for businesses.

More specifically, it would eliminate tax incentives on employer-provided health care benefits if those benefits cover abortion as a medical procedure.

Supporters of the bill say those incentives essentially constitute federal spending on abortion.

"We want to live up to our commitment to make sure that there is no government funding of abortion," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. "And the provision that you speak to does have some connect with a government's support and funding of abortion."

Former HuffPo CEO to Journal Register

The Journal Register Company, based in Yardley, publishes a number of local newspapers across the country announced yesterday:

Journal Register Company, a leading local news and information company and parent company of The Reporter, has announced the election of Betsy Morgan to the company’s Board of Directors.

Morgan, the former CEO of The Huffington Post, was recently appointed as CEO of The Blaze – an information network curating content and community debate.

During Morgan’s tenure, The Huffington Post grew from 4 million to 22 million unique visitors a month, launched seven content verticals and doubled its blogger roll to more than 3,000 influential bloggers including celebrities, politicians and policy experts. Morgan had previously been a member of Journal Register Company’s Advisory Board.

For the full story see "Former Huffington Post CEO Named to Journal Register Company Board of Directors," in the Reporter.

Schwartz on Egypt

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz issued the following statement today after participating in a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing with State Department and Middle Eastern policy experts to discuss recent developments in Egypt.

The hearing focused on the political implications of President Mubarak’s resignation, the political and social reforms needed ahead of any free and fair elections this fall, the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in politics, and how the United States can best support the people of Egypt as they work to successfully transition to democracy. Also discussed was the need for a continued commitment to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and securing the Suez Canal as an International Waterway.

“As Americans, we cherish the democratic process and our right to free and fair elections. The people of Egypt deserve those same rights and I applaud their demands to have their voices heard.

“The violence that has ensued as a result of this demonstration is deplorable and has no place in a free society. The Egyptian people are expressing legitimate grievances that their government must address peacefully and democratically.

“I join President Obama in calling for a peaceful transition of power and believe the United States can and should assist Egypt and its people in developing a stable democracy and a civil society that works in the best interest of the Egyptian people.

“We have long been an ally of Egypt and I think now more than ever it is in everyone’s best interest to continue that relationship and support the Egyptians in this process moving forward.”

Schwartz on Budget Meeting with Bernanke

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz issued the following statement today after participating in a Budget Committee hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to discuss the state of the U.S. economy.

“During today’s Budget Committee hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke provided a detailed outlook on America’s economic recovery – how it has strengthened in recent months and what work still needs to be done to continue economic growth.

“With action from President Obama and Congressional Democrats the last two years, we have seen six straight months of economic growth and the economy has added nearly 1.3 million private sector jobs over the last year. But with unemployment still at 9 percent and many American families and businesses still hurting, there is a lot more work to be done.

“Congress should be focused on job creation and providing businesses with the opportunity to strengthen and grow. However, Congressional Republicans have proposed immediate and expansive cuts to the budget this year—a move that threatens our economic recovery.

“We are committed to reducing our deficit, but we cannot do so at the expense of jobs and investments in growth. We must put a fiscally responsible plan in place that will not dismantle the progress we have made.

“As we work to create jobs and rein in our deficit, we cannot play politics with the nation’s debt ceiling. Chairman Bernanke said that not raising the debt ceiling would be ‘catastrophic’ to our financial system and Congress should not use this vote as a bargaining chip.

“But once again, Republicans are willing to put our nation at risk for the sake of politics. House Republicans have put forward a proposal to put foreign creditors – including China – before American families. They want to make sure we pay foreign debt before we pay Social Security beneficiaries, veterans and service members, or even pay back tax refunds.

“This Congress has been in session for five weeks now and in that time Republicans have voted to add a trillion dollars to the deficit and strip American families and businesses of their health care coverage. Now they are proposing severe cuts to our budget that could slash economic progress and put foreign creditors before Americans.

“I hope we can work together in the coming months to move our focus back where it belongs—on strengthening the middle class, creating jobs and reducing our federal deficit.”

Dress Barn "Send One Suit" Event

Between Feb. 24 and 27 Dress Barn stores will be holding their annual Send One Suit event. Last year was very successful as noted on their website:

Dress for success

We believe that one woman, one suit and one job can save the world. Dress for Success is an organization which encourages the self-sufficiency of women. Our customers and associates have donated over 240,000 suits and career separates during the S.O.S—SEND ONE SUIT—WEEKEND, (along with 50,000 brand new suits from dressbarn), to help women who are taking steps to reach their full potential. Thanks to you, we are proud to announce that we collected and donated over 45,000 suits and career separates during our annual Dress for Success suit drive! Thank you for all your support!

Contact your local Dress Barn store for details.

On a personal note, while admittedly I'm not a fashionista, this is where a good percentage of my wardrobe came from. They have good clothes at good prices with friendly salespeople. It's great, and not surprising, to discover they participate in something worthwhile. Women who have been unemployed or out of the workforce for various reasons may not have the clothes needed to go to job interviews. Programs like this help them feel more confident and present a better image.

Democratic Endoresments for State Judicial Races

This past weekend the state Democratic organization made endorsements for state Superior and Commonwealth courts. Here are the results:

Final Endorsement Tallies for Superior Court

First Ballot: Robert Colville 93 votes, David Wecht 200 votes (Unofficial).

Robert Colville withdrew his candidacy and seconded the endorsement of David Wecht. No Second Ballot was cast. David Wecht won the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee endorsement for Superior Court by acclamation.

Final Endorsement Tallies for Commonwealth Court

First Ballot: Kathryn Boockvar 191 votes, Barbara Ernsberger 62 votes, Todd Eagen 25 votes.

Since no candidate received 2/3 of the vote on the first ballot, the lowest performing candidate, Todd Eagen, was removed from the ballot, and a second ballot was cast.

Second Ballot: Kathryn Boockvar 221 votes, Barbara Ernsberger 43 votes.

Kathryn Boockvar won the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee endorsement for Commonwealth Court.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Montco II: Note from Shapiro / Richards

from the inbox, note from the Josh Shapiro / Leslie Richards campaign:

Last Monday, we stood with Joe Hoeffel as he announced that he would not seek re-election to another term as Montgomery County Commissioner. At the same time, Joe announced that he supports us to lead a unified Democratic ticket in the 2011 county elections.

We are grateful to Joe for his years of service to the public and commitment to our party. Joe has fought tirelessly for progressive values and to build our party. We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

The 2011 elections are critical to our county and our party. We are confident that unified behind the Shapiro-Richards ticket we will win a Democratic majority in the courthouse and bring about real change that will improve the lives of all who live and work in Montgomery County.

That road to victory begins with you. On February 17, we will respectfully ask for the endorsement to lead our Democratic ticket at the county convention. Then on February 18, all the way through to Election Day we will ask for your hard work and commitment to bring about a new day in the courthouse and for our County.

We look forward to hearing from you. Please visit for more information and to get involved.


Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards

Montco I: Note from Hoeffel

from the inbox on 2/07, from Friends of Joe Hoeffel

Bipartisanship Trumps Civility

February 7, 2011

Everybody likes bipartisanship.

We believe our public servants represent us better when they cast aside partisan motives and work cooperatively across the party divide. We bemoan the hyper-partisanship in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. that leads to government gridlock. We applaud when our federal representatives pair up and sit together, Republicans next to Democrats, to hear the State of the Union address.

Everybody likes civility in government.

We believe that people ought to get along and treat each other respectfully. That is how our mothers taught us to behave. We want our elected officials to be civil to one another and to calmly accept opposing points of view.

But what happens when the very bipartisanship we want is the cause of the incivility we don't like?

That is what we have in Montgomery County. A county government that works effectively in a bipartisan gridlock-free manner, but is uncivil because the Republican Party can't stand that a Democrat is sharing power.

I submit that the daily bipartisanship of Montgomery County government is far more important than our occasional, albeit spectacular, incivility. What counts is what we achieve.

Jim Matthews and I, in this first-time-ever bipartisan coalition, and over the frequent vocal opposition of Bruce Castor, have passed balanced county budgets that have reduced spending and trimmed the county bureaucracy three years in a row with no increase in taxes. We have maintained our commitment to core county obligations for human services and public safety. We have started prudent and highly successful economic development and transportation programs responsible for 600 more jobs in Norristown and five traffic-easing projects around the county. We have reduced political activity in the courthouse, expanded our ethics code and strengthened the competitive selection of professional vendors.

The fact is that while the people love bipartisanship, the political bosses hate it, because they lose control. We hire workers, award contracts and select professionals through a competitive process that we recently improved and codified. Neither party headquarters is controlling those decisions and they don't like it.

Frankly, there has been lots of civility through the years in Montgomery County government, when one party dominated government decisions. That civility masked and hid from public view years of one party rule, patronage abuses and no-bid contracts to political donors. Those days are over.

I know we should do better and be nice to each other. I always try to be respectful to friend and foe alike in public and, frankly, I'm not doing the name-calling in Norristown. But if I was, so what? Civility is beneficial, but not essential, to good government.

So the next time Bruce Castor calls Jim Matthews names, don't worry about it.

The next time Jim Matthews responds in kind, let it slide.

The next time Bruce Castor refers to me as a hypocrite, a liar, and corrupt, as he routinely does, just laugh it off. That's what I do (at least in public).

We have important work to accomplish in Montgomery County this year. We have to operate effectively in a continuing recession. We have to decide whether tolling is needed to fix US 422. We have to get state funding restored for the new Norristown turnpike slip ramps to encourage development of the Norristown riverfront. We must fund a major upgrade of our emergency radio system. We need to switch our open space funding toward promoting the Schuylkill Greenway proposal.

If the past is any indication, these and other good government steps will usually occur with 2-1 votes, with one Republican and one Democrat working together, and one Republican screaming bloody murder. So be it.

Speculation on PA Redistricting

Aaron Black over at the Washington Post's The Fix blog speculates on how Pennsylvania congressional districts might be changed when the new boundaries are drawn. Read "Lots at stake for GOP in Pennsylvania redistricting."

Monday, February 07, 2011

PA Harry Potter

PoliticsPA ran a celebrity look alike contest not long ago, and you see "separated at birth" photo essays in other places from time to time. I'd like to add my contribution. This was originally compiled over a year ago to be used elsewhere but it didn't work out that way. So I'll run it here. However, after checking with my intellectual property advisors I'm just using links instead of the photos themselves, given that the blog is syndicated in a couple of places and I don't have rights to all of the photos. Apologies for all the back and forth-ing necessary to get the full flavor of it.

Please note that I'm going by physical appearance only and there is no intent to imply any resemblance of personality (even so I didn't look for doppelgangers for the serious villains), but my partisan views do become somewhat obvious. I made some changes to the list due to some election results, but left in a few people who are no longer in office (reddish hair is hard to find).

So now that all the legalese is covered, here are my impressions of which of our Pennsylvania politicians resemble the characters in the Harry Potter movies.

Harry Potter / State Rep. Josh Shapiro

Ginny Weasley / Leslie Richards (candidate for Montco Commissioner)

Ron Weasley / former congressman Patrick Murphy

Prof. McGonigall / Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz

Gilderoy Lockhart / State Rep Mark Cohen

Lucius Malfoy / State Sen. Dominic Pileggi

Madam Hooch / Abington Township Commissioner Lori Schrieber

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Schwartz on Energy Efficiency Initiative

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz applauded President Obama’s proposal to retrofit commercial buildings to be more energy efficient, which he announced yesterday during a visit to Penn State University. For years, Schwartz has championed the effort to make both commercial and historic buildings more energy efficient.

President Obama’s proposal will seek to make commercial buildings in America 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020 through incentives, such as tax credits and cost-effective upgrades. The tax incentive is one of five components of the new initiative, which will be included in the President’s FY 2012 budget proposal to Congress.

“Preserving old buildings is smart policy—it invests in communities and adds to their economic development,” Schwartz said. “The President’s initiative to invest in clean energy industries and make all commercial buildings more energy efficient will have a great impact on our environmental and economic future.”

In October 2009, Schwartz introduced the bipartisan Community Restoration and Revitalization Act, which would make the historic tax credit (HTC) a more efficient and effective strategy for economic development and help save the nation’s older and historic buildings for future generations. The legislation improves the current credit by targeting historic Main Street buildings, which are in critical need of economic investment. It also includes an innovative incentive to improve the energy efficiency of historic buildings when they are rehabilitated.

The HTC is the premiere federal tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic and older buildings. Over the last 28 years, the HTC has proven to be extremely successful in attracting capital to the nation’s older and historic neighborhoods.

"As Chairman of the Historic Tax Credit Coalition I believe making commercial buildings, particularly our nation's historic buildings, more energy efficient is critically important,” said John Leith Tetrault, Chairman of the HTCC. “The Coalition looks forward to working with Congress and the President to make sure this proposal is enacted."

Schwartz has also introduced the Buildings for the 21st Century Act, which would increase and extend the tax deduction for energy efficient commercial building costs.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Austan Goolsbee, the White Board and Startup America

Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, returns to the White House White Board to explain the new Startup America initiative. He doesn't flip the white board over but there is a very clever yellow lightbulb on it, and several black and white lightbulbs in the "pit of death."

Should you prefer a more academic, less colorful explanation, on the White House site, with the video imbedded if you want to watch while you read. There is also a separate website called on partnerships with private industry.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

One More Note on Mike Fitzpatrick and H. R. 3

Yesterday I wrote about H.R. 3, a bill co-sponsored by several Pennsylvania congressional representatives, including Bucks County's Mike Fitzpatrick. The bill would not allow federal funds to be used for abortions in the case of rape unless the rape was forcible. No definition of forcible was given. The GOP has backpedaled from this wording now, saying it had not intended to redefine rape. (See "GOP loses 'forcible rape' language," by Jonathan Allen, Politco, 2/03) But I think it's important to remember who supported that legislation in its original form.

This evening I reviewed the definitions of rape in the Uniform Crime Reports, including a note that in cases of statutory rape people are encourage to question "10 or 12 year olds" regarding their giving of consent. That makes my skin crawl.

During Mike Fitzpatrick's first term in Congress, he sponsored a bill called the Rape Prevention and Education Grant Program Act of 2005. The Findings section of that bill states:

(1) According to the FBI's 2004 Uniform Crime Report, the only violent crime to show any increase from 2003 to 2004 was forcible rape at 0.8 percent.

(2) In America, 302,091 women and 92,748 men are raped each year, and 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men has experienced an attempted or completed rape as a child or adult.

(3) Sexual violence starts very early in life. More than half of all rapes of women (54 percent) occur before age 18; 22 percent of these rapes occur before age 12. For men, 75 percent of all rapes occur before age 18, and 48 percent occur before age 12.

(4) Victims of sexual violence may experience a variety of long-term physical and psychological consequences such as chronic pelvic, head, back and facial pain; gastrointestinal and eating disorders; substance abuse; depression; and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Sexual violence has a devastating impact on individuals, families, communities, and our society as a whole.

(5) Total costs of rape and sexual assault are estimated to be $127 billion a year in the United States (excluding children), including the loss of productivity, damage of personal property, use of medical and mental health care, police and fire, social/victim services, and negative effect on the victims quality of life.

(6) More than two-thirds of rape and sexual assault victims are assaulted by someone they know, almost 40 percent by someone they know very well, such as a boyfriend or a spouse. Only 30 percent are sexually assaulted by strangers.

Granted you can't expect a congressional representative to remember every single bill they sponsored or co-sponsored (in his initial 2 year term Fitzpatrick sponsored or co-sponsored over 300 bills), but this does seem very contradictory. In 2005 he sponsors legislation in response to his findings that 54% of the females raped were under 18 and a whopping 22% were under 12! Only 30% of those who are sexually assaulted are attacked by a stranger. Almost 40% are assaulted by "someone they know very well."

And yet 5 years later he signs on as a co-sponsor of a bill that restricts the ability of those assaulted to a full range of health care options unless their rape is "forcible." H. R. 3 made no provision for statutory rape so those under 12 were out of luck unless they could come up with some proof of force. Remember that the average age of menarche in the U.S. these days is 12. It's not unheard of for 10 and 11 year olds to become pregnant. A year ago an 11 year old in the U.S. gave birth (See "Girl, 11, gives birth to baby boy in Northeast hospital," by Jessica Ryen Doyle, Fox News, Feb. 5th, 2010). An obstetrician specializing in high risk pregnancies listed some of the risk factors:
Al-Khan said other medical challenges facing a pregnant girl as young as 10 or 11 include:

— The pelvis is not defined for natural childbirth;

— The vagina could sustain injury during a natural birth;

— The patient is at high risk for preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, and which can lead to convulsions and multi-system organ failure;

— A higher risk of pre-term labor and delivery, which would mean the baby’s size would be compromised, leaving the baby at risk for developmental issues, fetal growth restriction and chromosomal abnormalities;

— Higher incidence of stillbirth;

— Higher incidence of cholestasis of pregnancy, a condition caused by the blockage of bile, which can lead to stillbirth and placenta issues;

— A chance of developing fatty liver, which can be fatal.

Later he says:
Al-Khan said it was likely that the possibility of terminating the baby would have come up in this case, because as sensitive a subject as it is, going through with the pregnancy would be a greater risk than having an abortion.

H. R. 3, which Congressman Fitzpatrick co-sponsored, as originally worded would bring us more teen and pre-teen, 10, 11, and 12 year old mothers.

Mike Fitzpatrick: Your Kids Are Stupid

From "Fitzpatrick: No progress in school oversight," by: James McGinnis, 2/03; Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08) is quoted:

“In the 1950s, we educated the kids that eventually landed on the moon with no federal Department of Education,” the congressman said. “Our children were healthier. Our children were smarter. Our children achieved better grades in standardized testing when the locals controlled the school districts.

Speak for your own family and school, Buddy. My kids are sharp as tacks.

UCR on Forcible Rape

Since posting last night on H.R. 3 I keep wondering where the "forcible rape" concept came from. I did some checking and it is used by the Uniform Crime Reports, statistic compiled by the FBI.

The UCR Handbook (revised 2004) has definitions of terms used. It is a 164 page document, available online as a pdf. Page 26 of the print, 19 of the pdf provides the rather vague definition:

Forcible Rape—Rape by Force (2a)

[insert]Reporting agencies must classify rapes or attempts accomplished by force or threat of regardless of the age of the female victim.[end insert]

Definition: The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.

Carnal knowledge is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th ed. as “the act of a man having sexual bodily connections with a woman; force as forcible sexual intercourse.” There is carnal knowledge if there is the slightest penetration of the sexual organ of the female (vagina) by sexual organ of the male (penis).

“Against her will” includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity (or because of her youth). The ability of the victim to give consent must be a professional determination by the law enforcement agency. The age of the victim, of course, plays a critical role in this determination. Individuals do not mature mentally at the same rate. For example, no 4-year-old is capable of consenting, whereas victims aged 10 or 12 may need to be assessed within the specific circumstances regarding the giving of their consent.

Oh those 10 and 12 year old vixens, you really need to question them!

The age question is further defined on the next page:
Agencies must not classify statutory rape, incest, or other sex offenses, i.e. forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, forcible fondling, etc. as Forcible Rape (2a or 2b). The UCR Program applies the following definitions:

Statutory rape–nonforcible sexual intercourse with a person who is under the statutory age of consent.

Incest–nonforcible sexual intercourse between persons who are related to each other within the degrees wherein marriage is prohibited by law.

However, if the female victim associated with either offense, statutory rape or incest, is forced against her will to engage in sexual intercourse, the incident must be classified as Rape by Force (2a).

My male friends might be concerned to read the following:
NOTE: By definition, sexual attacks on males are excluded from the rape category and must be classified as assaults or other sex offenses depending on the nature of the crime and the extent of injury.

According to the UCR it impossible for one man to rape another.

I think these definitions need to be updated.

Obama Remarks At Penn State Today

This is long but it's (relatively) local so I'm running the whole thing.

Penn State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
12:35 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Nittany Lions! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Please have a seat. Have a seat.


THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I love you back. Thank you. It’s great to be here. (Applause.) It is good to be back in Happy Valley. (Applause.) It’s good to be back at Penn State. I want to say, first of all, thank you to Graham Spanier, your President; -- (applause) -- Elizabeth Goreham, the Mayor of State College. (Applause.) Congressman Glenn Thompson is here.

I met this guy -- I hadn’t heard of him before, but apparently he coaches your football team -- Joe Paterno is in the house. (Applause.)

And one last introduction I want to make. Some of you know I have these military aides. They go with me everywhere. They’re from each branch of our Armed Services. They’re the ones who carry the football -- you’ve heard of that? So they’re really important guys. Well, it just so happens that the military aide with me today is Mr. Sam Price, lieutenant colonel in the Air Force -- happens to be Penn State class of ’95. (Applause.) Sam Price right here. (Applause.) So we've got some Lions who are taking care of business on Air Force One as well as here on campus.

Now, last week I visited a small town in Wisconsin that was right next to Green Bay.

So in the spirit of fairness, I've come to Pennslyvania -- (laughter) -- not too far from the center of Steeler Nation -- (applause) -- to wish Steelers’ fans good luck in the Super Bowl, too. (Applause.)

Two years ago I stole one of the team’s owners, Dan Rooney, to be our ambassador to Ireland. So I've got some love for the Steelers. I also am aware, though, that this state splits up a little bit, so I suspect there may be a few Eagles fans. (Applause.) You're with us Bears fans. (Laughter.) Sitting at home, watching. (Laughter.)

But that small town in Wisconsin and the borough of State College have something else in common besides championship football teams. These are places where the future will be won. These are the places where the new jobs and the world’s best businesses will take root -- right here in State College; right here in Pennsylvania.

In the short term, obviously we've got to focus on the devastation that occurred because of this recession over the last two years. And the best thing we can do to speed up economic growth is to make sure that people and businesses have more money to spend. And that's exactly what the tax cut that we passed in December is doing. Because Democrats and Republicans came together, Americans’ paychecks will be a little bit bigger this year. And businesses will be able to write off their investments, and companies will grow and jobs will be created. That's all good in the short term.

But the reason I wanted to come here to Penn State is to talk about the long term. The reason I wanted to talk to young people is to talk about the future and how we're going to win it.

If we want to make up for the millions of jobs that were lost in this recession, but more importantly, if we want to make sure that America is still a place where you can make it if you try, where you can go as far as hard work and big dreams will take you, then we're going to have to make some serious decisions about our long-term economic health -- at a time when we're facing stiff competition from other nations for jobs and industries of our time.

And I know every young person here feels that pressure. You understand that it’s not going to be a cakewalk, this competition for the future, which means all of us are going to have to up our game. We are going to have to win the future by being smarter and working harder and working together. If we want those jobs and businesses to thrive in the United States of America, we’re going to have to out-innovate and out-educate and out-build the rest of the world. That's that we’re going to have to do. (Applause.)

That means investing in cutting-edge research and technology. It means investing in the skills and training of our people. It means investing in transportation and communication networks that can move goods and information as fast as possible. And to make room for these investments, it means cutting whatever spending we just can’t afford.

So I’ve proposed that we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years, which will reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade and will bring annual domestic spending to the lowest share of our economy since Eisenhower was President, meaning since way before most of you were born. (Laughter.) He said, not me. (Laughter.)

Now, just like Americans do every day, government has a responsibility to live within its means. But we also have a responsibility to invest in those areas that are going to have the biggest impact. And in this century those areas are education and infrastructure and innovation. (Applause.) And that last area, innovation is why I’ve come to Penn State today.

Innovation is what this country is all about. Sparking the imagination and creativity of our people, unleashing new discoveries -- that's what America does better than any other country on Earth. That's what we do. (Applause.) And this innovation has always been driven by individual scientists and entrepreneurs. I was up in Schenectady, New York the other day at the G.E. plant that was Thomas Edison’s original plant. And anywhere you go in the country you will find inventors and businesses that created products that are now sent all around the world. But innovation has also flourished because we as a nation have invested in the success of these individual entrepreneurs, these inventors, these scientists.

In this country, from the moment you have a new idea, you can explore it in the world’s best labs and universities; you can develop it with a research grant; you can protect it with a patent; you can market it with a loan to start a new business. You’ve got a chain that takes a great idea all the way through, and that’s something that we as a nation have always invested in. It’s how we as a people have advanced ideas from the earliest stages of research to the point where you can hand it off and let the private sector run with the ball. It’s how investments and basic research led to things like the computer chip and GPS, and millions of good jobs.

In America, innovation isn’t just how we change our lives; it’s how we make a living. And to support American innovation, what my administration is trying to do is not just hand out money. What we’re doing is we’re issuing a challenge. Because right now, some of the most promising innovation is happening in the area of clean energy technology -- technology that is creating jobs, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and -- something that every young person here cares about -- making sure our planet is a healthier place to live that we can pass on to future generations. (Applause.)

So we’re telling scientists and we’re telling engineers all across the country that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on tackling the biggest obstacles to clean, abundant, and affordable energy, then we’re going to get behind their work. We as a country will invest in them. We’ll get them all in one place and we’ll support their research. And we call these places, energy innovation hubs.

At CalTech, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for cars. You like that. (Applause.) At Oakridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, they’re using supercomputers to find ways of getting much more power out of nuclear facilities. (Applause.)

And right here, right here at Penn State, a university whose motto is “making life better,” you’ve answered the call. (Applause.) So today you’re preparing to lead the way on a hub that will make America home to the most energy-efficient buildings in the world.

Now, that may not sound too sexy until -- (laughter) -- energy-efficient buildings. (Laughter.) But listen, our homes and our businesses consume 40 percent of the energy we use. Think about that. Everybody focuses on cars and gas prices, and that’s understandable. But our homes and our businesses use 40 percent of the energy. They contribute to 40 percent of the carbon pollution that we produce and that is contributing to climate change. It costs us billions of dollars in energy bills. They waste huge amounts of energy.

So the good news is we can change all that. Making our buildings more energy-efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America. And that's what we’re going to do. (Applause.)

So that's what this energy innovation hub based in Philadelphia is going to be all about. You will help make America a world leader in innovative designs for cost-effective, energy-efficient buildings, from lighting to windows, from heating to cooling. All of it.

This is where we need you to push the envelope and ask just how efficient can our buildings be. Can they be self-sufficient, producing just as much energy as they consume? What new discoveries can we make? And soon you’ll have a new place to answer these questions, a clean energy campus in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Now, this campus will be the product of a true collaboration. What, Penn State, you have done is develop an innovative model for how to do research. Government pulled resources from across different agencies to support your effort, from programs that train new workers and skills to loans for small businesses that will grow and programs that train new workers and skills to loans for small businesses that will grow from your breakthroughs.

Private sectors are already pitching in to help. So IBM is providing supercomputers. Bayer MaterialScience is providing materials for insulation and facades that save energy. PPG Industries is providing walls that reflect sunlight and windows that reflect infrared. Building this campus will support jobs in all of these businesses, and the discoveries made on this campus will lead to even more jobs -- jobs in engineering; jobs in manufacturing; jobs in construction; jobs in installation; jobs in retail.

And they’ll be more than jobs that help support families; they’ll be jobs with a national purpose. Jobs that make our economy smarter, jobs that make our planet safer, jobs that maintain America’s competitive edge in the 21st century. (Applause.)

Now, as any scientist will tell you, it’s often a challenge to commercialize research. You come up with a great idea, but moving that new discovery from theory to practice or from the lab to the marketplace, that's a challenge. So that's why today, here at Penn State, I’m announcing what we’re calling the Better Buildings Initiative, and it’s a plan to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of America’s businesses over the next decade. (Applause.)

So by reaching this goal, we could save America’s businesses nearly $40 billion a year in their utility bills. Think about that -- $40 billion. That's money that could be spent growing those businesses and hiring new workers.

I’ll just take one extreme example -- the Empire State Building. Right now its owners are investing in renovations that will reduce their energy consumption, and this investment will soon pay for itself and save them $4.4 million a year in energy costs. That one building.

Now, granted, it’s a big building. (Laughter.) So most buildings aren’t as big. They're not going to use as much energy as the Empire State Building. But what we’re saying to people is if you’re willing to make your buildings more energy-efficient, we’ll provide new tax credits and financing opportunities for you to do so. (Applause.)

And this plan would build on the HOMESTAR program we proposed last year, which would have provided rebates of up to $3,000 for homeowners to make their own homes more energy-efficient. And these are upgrades that could save families hundreds of dollars each year in energy costs.

See, the problem for both homeowners and businesses is they’ll recover the money that they make by lowering their utility bills, but they may not have the cash upfront. And if we can provide you -- if we can provide the American people an incentive, you’ll recover that money. You’ll get it back. And in the meantime, we’re making our entire economy more efficient. So steps like these also can boost manufacturing and private sector jobs.

So over the last two years we’ve offered similar incentives for cities and companies and clean energy manufacturers that wanted to help America become more energy-efficient. I'll give you a couple of examples. In Maryland, our program helped an energy-saving window manufacturer boost business by 55 percent. In North Carolina, there's a company that makes energy-efficient lighting -- hired hundreds of new workers. A company that manufacturers LEDs just down the road from here in Altoona saw their business increase by a million bucks.

We’re also going to support state and local governments who come up with the best ideas to make energy-efficient buildings the norm. So you show us the best ideas to change your game on the ground; we’ll show you the money. (Applause.) We will show you the money, states and local government. (Applause.)

To get the private sector to lead by example I’m also issuing a challenge to CEOs, to labor, to building owners, to hospitals, universities and others to join us.

Now, tax credits mean lost revenue for Treasury. It costs money. Since we’ve got big deficits, we’ve got to pay for it. So to pay for it, I’ve asked Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars that we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) They are doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So it’s time to stop subsidizing yesterday’s energy; it’s time to invest in tomorrow’s. It’s time to win the future. That's what our project is. (Applause.)

Now, Penn State is a place that knows a little bit about playing to win. Last I counted, Coach Paterno has got more than 400 wins under his belt. (Applause.) But your nation needs to win, too. We need you to be as proud of what you do in the lab as you are of what your football team does on the field. (Applause.) We need you to seek breakthroughs and new technologies that we can’t even imagine yet. And especially the young people who are here, we need you to act with a sense of urgency -- to study and work and create as if the fate of the country depends on you -- because it does. It depends on you. (Applause.)

And if we’re harnessing all the energy in this room, all the young people in this audience, then I’m confident we’ll do it. We can do this because what this university is going to lead will be more than a pioneering research center or an economic engine for Pennsylvania and America for years to come. What you’re going to do is lead a modern-day incubator for what sets us apart -- the greatest force that the world has ever known -- and that is the American ideal. (Applause.)

If you remember that and keep breaking new ground, if we as a country keep investing in you, I’m absolutely confident that America will win the future in this century, just like we did in the last.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

END 12:53 P.M. EST