Thursday, January 31, 2008

Coming Attractions

Fourth quarter FEC reports are due today and I hope to have a review of them for you early next week. This week I went to a multi-candidate forum and hope to have a write up of that for you as well. You can also look forward to a few quick looks at state house races. Plus, in addition to the weekly legislative update and mentions of PA in the Wall Street Journal, I'll have some presidential notes for you this weekend.

Someone told me there is a football thing this weekend? Is that true? Well, you enjoy that while I dig through FEC reports. To each their own.

Keeping Track of SEPA Candidates

Keeping track of state and local races can get a time consuming task, even if you have all the 3 x 5 cards, color-coded post-its, and spreadsheet programs available. Fortunately, one of the area's bright young minds has decided to keep track for you. He has created a wiki for South Eastern Pennsylvania congressional, state senate, and state house races. Thanks to Thomas for setting this up. I will be using it often.

AFL-CIO Health Care Survey

The AFL-CIO is asking for your health care stories. Take the 2008 Health Care for America Survey (be sure to read the submission guidelines at the bottom and, yes, you will be added to an email list). You can also read the stories and comments of others.

According to the website:

Working men and women of every age, race and income know the importance of health care to our families. This survey is our chance to make our voices heard and ensure that leaders and candidates at every level understand what working families are experiencing.

Survey responses will be given to the presidential candidates, every U.S. senator and representative, every candidate for Congress and state and local officials in every state in our country.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Few More Congressional Updates

Bruce Slater, who is challenging long-time incumbent Republican Joe Pitts in the 16th congressional district, has revamped his website, www.slaterforcongress.com. Worth a look if you haven’t seen it before, or a second look if you have.

In the 6th congressional district, the Chester County Democrats have endorsed the candidacy of Bob Roggio, www.bobroggioforcongress.com. Incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach's slim victories make him seem like an easy target but he has proven difficult to dislodge. According to “Chester Co dems endorse Roggio,” by Nancy Petersen (1/26):


Although this is his first run for office, Roggio, 60, is no stranger to politics. He was Philadelphia volunteer coordinator for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004, suburban Philadelphia coordinator for Sen. Bob Casey's campaign, and until recently, Casey's field representative in southeastern Pennsylvania.


From the tone of the article it sounds like fellow Democrat Mike Leibowitz plans to stay in the race.

Second term Democrat Allyson Schwartz, (campaign: www.allysonschwartz.com, legislative: Schwartz.house.gov) of the 13th district has picked up not one, not two, but three likely challengers. See “Trio of Republicans line up for chance at Schwartz’s seat in Congress,” by Bradley Vasoli, The Bulletin (1/29):

Upper Moreland businessman Lee Falgoust has officially entered the Republican primary for Pennsylvania's 13th congressional district, currently held by Democrat Allyson Schwartz.


Mr. Falgoust's announcement widens to three the field of GOP candidates officially vying to challenge Ms. Schwartz for re-election. Marina Kats, an Abington resident and president of Kats, Jamison, Van der Veen and Associates, has announced her candidacy as has Upper Dublin homemaker and former Elite Limousine service owner Frank Szabo.


So it looks as though the initial cast of characters in the regional congressional races is set.

Schwartz Heads Health Care Task Force

From the inbox:

Today, the New Democrat Coalition launched a health care initiative aimed at dramatically improving Americans access to quality, affordable health insurance through prevention, innovation and competition. New Democrats Allyson Schwartz (PA-13), Lois Capps (CA-23) and Jason Altmire (PA-04) have been tasked with leading the effort. Combined, Schwartz, Capps and Altmire bring over 60 years of health care policy experience to the task force and represent all three major Committees charged with shepherding health care policy through the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The U.S. invests more resources in health care than any other country in the world,” said Congresswoman Schwartz. “Yet, more than 45 million Americans remain uninsured, and our health care delivery system is too often inaccessible and inefficient. We can do better- we must do better. Now is the time to address the shortfalls in our health care delivery system by embracing innovative advancements and effective interventions, and work towards the goal of providing access to high quality, affordable health care for every American.”


Full press release on Rep. Schwartz's site.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Seth Williams is Eastern PA Obama Coordinator

According to Jeff Shields at "Heard in the Hall," Stradley Ronon attorney and former Philadelphia inspector general, Seth Williams, is the Eastern Pennsylvania coordinator for Barack Obama.

Philadephia Democrats Bite Off Own Nose

State Rep. Tony Payton, Jr., of the 179th district, won his place in the state legislature in 2006 without the endorsement of the city's Democratic party. It looks like he will get a chance to do it again in 2008. The party has, inexplicably, endorsed another candidate.

A number of people I think well of have encouraged me to write about Rep. Payton but time and opportunity have not appeared. Nonetheless, he is highly regarded. He is also a favorite of the bloggers at Young Philly Politics. Two recent posts, "What Big Ed said," by Ray Murphy (1/29) and "A house divided" also by Ray (1/26) provide some background.

Primaries are a fine idea and I don't like to see anyone get a free ride into office, but this does look like a case of an entrenched machine not appreciating any new blood.

The 179th was represented for years by Rep. Bill Reiger who was not known as a legislative powerhouse. His decision not to run in 2006 left it an open seat. Payton fought hard to get onto and stay on the ballot. He may have another fight on his hands.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Word on Reform

It has been said that the reason legislative and campaign finance reform are the most important issues before the state. Why? Because it is the lack of transparency in a number of areas that impacts the ability to make progress in energy, health care, and assorted other areas.

So, I took a look at some of things. For instance legislative spending accounts – how is your elected state senator or representative spending his or her office money. I’ve heard that reports on how these monies are spent are available. But, try as I might I can’t find them. They aren’t on the state house or state senate home pages. I have checked a variety of individual legislator’s websites, nothing there.

Lobbying expenditures are supposed to be available but really all you can find is a large pdf directory with business card info on a lot of lobbyists though it often doesn’t say what lobbying firm they work for. Nor can you find out who lobbyists spend their money on. Who got the free pricey dinners? You’ll never know.

Looking for campaign finance reports on the state level? Good luck to you and hope you have a lot of patience. At the federal level I can look at www.fec.gov for easy access to individual congressional representative’s or senator’s reports and use www.opensecrets.org for aggregate data, who has contributed across campaigns, who donated to pacs, who did pacs donate to, etc. Two stop shopping. On the state level? I have, by and large, given up. Granted I review my state rep’s and state senator’s reports now and then. But reports don’t have to be filed all that often, especially in off years, and trying to do any kind of aggregate searching seems to be impossible.

For example, I tried to see who at Exelon had donated at the state level, by searching the state political contributions database for Exelon as an employer. What I retrieved from that search as an alphabetical list, by the donor’s FIRST name, of people who had contributed, for the screens I reviewed, to Exelon’s PAC. You can ask the data to be listed by recipient but again, it went primarily to the Exelon PAC. You can search for Exelon as a contributor name and see the total of 18 contributions listed for 2007/08 for the Exelon PAC. You can also look at Exelon PAC’s reports, but must look at each report individually. Unless you download the report you have to look at each section manually and the default is set at 10 entries per page so to cut down on the clicking and paging you have to reset the default with each section of each report.

People paid by lobbying firms may muster the time and patience to jump through all these hoops and review everything but for the simple voter trying to get a handle on how much the energy or health care or banking or any other industry spends on campaign contributions or lobbying and on whom that money is spent, it is all but impossible unless you can take several days to do nothing else. Most of us do not have that option.

It may very well be true that no other meaningful changes can be made in Pennsylvania until there is legislative and campaign finance reform. Right now we can’t tell. The only way to be sure is to enact the legislative and campaign finance reforms that would allow us to check.

PA in the WSJ

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

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


PA Politicians

Not PA politicians but politics in PA, sort of.

In “For Edwards, a role as possible kingmaker,” by Christopher Cooper (1/25), we find this sentence: “Recent polls in delegate-rich states such as California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey give him [Edwards] about 10% of the vote.” So, see we do count.

Amy Chozick reports on Hillary Clinton’s 737 woes in “Mechanical woes of ‘Hil Force One,’” (1/25). Tire trouble on the plane made a short flight from Washington to Philadelphia longer.

PA Businesses

Not so good news in “Hershey posts 65% drop in quarterly net,” by Julie Jargon (1/25)

Then we have “Behind Greenberg contest with Comcast’s Roberts,” by Merissa Marr and Dionne Searcey (1/22)

Other PA

In “Housing slump starts to hit stronger cities,” by James R Hagerty (1/24), Philadelphia is not specifically mentioned in the story but does show up in a chart, mentioned as having a weak economy and 3.24% of housing loan payments overdue. The article also has this week’s requisite Mark Zandi of West Chester-based Moody’s Economy.com quote

“Big endowments fuel debate on school aid,” by Robert Tomsho (1/24) mentions Lehigh and Carnegie Mellon universities.

A Philadelphia condo is among three highlighted in “Money’s worth / real eastate on 1/24.

Dickinson College and Arcadia University are mentioned in “More students head overseas in freshmen year,” by Anjali Athavaley (1/22)

In “Extreme delays: which flights are the worst,” by Scott McCartney (1/22) Philadelphia is listed as having the 4th most flights that sat for 3 hours or more without take off (152 between Jan and Nov. 2007).

Other Interesting Tidbits

“Army effort to retain captains falls short of goal,” by Yochi J. Dreazen (1/26). Perhaps more on this later.

Altmire - Hart Rematch

From "Pennsylvania Dem Altmire Faces Likely Rematch With Ex-Rep. Hart," by Greg Giroux, cqpolitics, 1/25:

Pennsylvania Republican Melissa A. Hart, who in 2006 lost the House seat she had held for three terms, now has a clear path to a rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire in the Pittsburgh-area 4th Congressional District.

Ron Francis, a former councilman in Allegheny County, is withdrawing from competition with Hart in the April 22 Republican primary, according to a statement from Francis that was circulated on Thursday by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The committee is the political arm of the Republican minority in the U.S. House, and will provide support to Hart in her effort to unseat Altmire.

The rematch will provide the GOP with one of its strongest bids to take back a seat that the party lost in 2006. Hart, who will turn 46 years old on April 4, was regarded as a rising star in the conservative wing of the Republican Party prior to the 2006 election. She won her 2004 election with 63 percent of the vote, running 9 percentage points ahead of President Bush at the top of the ticket in the 4th District.

Friday, January 25, 2008

weekly legislative update

It was a quiet week in Harrisburg. No bills were passed in the house or senate though some were shuffled off to committee and some noncontroversial resolutions were introduced.

Even our accountant friends at PICPA are quiet this week. The energizer bunnies at the House Republican offices, though, do have one.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Presidential Notes II: When "Present" Means "No"

There is an interesting entry on the Huffington Post by Tracy Fischman, Former Vice President of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area. It explains those "present" votes that Sen. Barack Obama is being questioned about. Here is the relevant paragraph:

I formerly worked for Planned Parenthood in Illinois . I had the honor of working with Senator Barack Obama during his tenure in the Illinois Senate. He was -- and remains -- adamant about his support for women's health and access to reproductive healthcare services. His present votes on abortion-related bills were part of a broader pro-choice strategy designed to ultimately defeat bad and dangerous legislation that would have compromised the health and safety of Illinois women. As Planned Parenthood's lobbyist in Illinois has said, Senator Obama was asked to facilitate a strategy designed to help provide cover for other Democrats. Specifically, Planned Parenthood turned to Senator Obama because of his strong record on reproductive rights. At the time, Republicans were trying to force Democrats from conservative districts to register politically controversial no votes. Senator Obama initially resisted the strategy, as he wanted to vote against the anti-abortion measures, but decided to work with our strategy to help defeat these anti-choice bills. It is important to note that a present vote on a bad bill is essentially the same as a "no" vote, as the bill needs "yes" votes to pass. However, it is difficult for Republicans to use "present" votes in their campaign literature against Democrats from moderate and conservative districts (also see December 20, 2007 NY Times article: "It's Not Just 'Ayes' and 'Nays': Obama's Votes in Illinois Echo"). This strategy is now being used against Senator Obama in the same way we planned for it to work in our favor then.

Presidential Notes I: No Way to Treat a Lady

Just Between Strangers has pointed me to a very distressing article at TPMmuckraker, "'Legendary' GOP Strategist Launches Hillary Namecalling Effort," by Paul Kiel, 1/23

A Republican strategist has put together a 527 organization with this goal: educate the American public about what Hillary Clinton really is." The name chosen for this 527 doesn't make a lot of sense, but isn't intended to. The acronym is what counts and that starts with C and rhymes with punt. We might then assume that this what they are implying Sen. Clinton really is, as no other information is provided. While that word has a lot of connotations, it is an anatomical one, referring to a feature all women share.

One hopes that there will be an outcry equal to that regarding the MoveOn ad featuring Gen. Petraeus. Surely the Republican presidential candidates will call for all good Republicans to shun this effort. Surely the Democratic presidential candidates will decry it. Surely the entire Senate will rise up in response to this crude attack on one of their own. Hopefully no one will ever hire that strategist for campaign work again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

House District 151 Update

Freshman Democrat Rick Taylor (a personal fave) has an opponent. In yet another example of the Montgomery County DA's office acting as a holding pen or farm team for potential Republican candidates, Assistant DA Todd Stephens has announced his intention to run for the 151st state house district against Taylor. (Source: "Stephens to go for state house seat," by Annie Tasker, Intelligencer, 1/23; hat tip Capitol Ideas)

No word yet on whether Stephens will continue working in the DA's office while campaigning.

The 151st district includes the borough of Ambler and parts of Horsham and Montgomery, Abington, Upper Dublin, and Lower Gwynedd Townships.

Ten points to the first person who can tell me the last Montco ADA who ran for office as a Democrat. I honestly have no idea and so am interested.

PA-13 Heats Up

PAWaterCooler is reporting that Abington attorney Marina Kats is planning another attempt to be the Republican candidate for the 13th congressional district. Two-term Democrat Allyson Schwartz is running for reelection.

A regular correspondent has emailed that a phone survey is underway. It is specific to the 13th congressional district and focuses on Schwartz but mentions Marina Kats as an opponent. The standard questions concerning Iraq, immigration, health care, etc. Short statements were given about Schwartz to see if they would be positive points and another set to see if they would be negative points. No discussion of Kats beyond a question of whether you would vote for Schwartz or Kats. Also questions on positive or negative impressions of McCain, Hillary Clinton, Obama, Rendell and possibly others. I didn't get a full list or complete notes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Few Quick PA House Updates

The list of state senate and house retirements is growing. In lieu of trying to keep up with all of them I will start focusing on those in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties (and Chester County and Philadelphia when I feel like it). One of the best places for keeping track of the larger pictures is at Capitol Ideas, which occasionally prints the whole list and has a regular series called "A is Running for B at C."

Today's post will briefly look at two races.

In the 142nd district, freshman Democrat Chris King, who defeated Republican Matt Wright in 2006, will be challenged by Republican former congressman and county commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick, assuming neither has a primary challenger. The district includes Langhorne Boro, Penndel, Langhorne Manor, Hulmeville, most of Middletown Township and most of Lower Southampton Township. I can't locate campaign site for either of them (the one King used in 2006 isn't coming up, though that could be a momentary glitch.) For more info see "Fitzpatrick to run for P.A. House," by Chris English in the Intelligencer 1/22

In the 152nd district, freshman Republican Tom Murt has announced he will seek reelection. It may not have been officially announced yet but I have it on good authority that his Democratic opponent will be Upper Moreland township commissioner Lisa Romaniello (pronounced Roman yellow). The 152nd district includes Lower Moreland Twp, Lower Moreland Twp, Bryn Athyn, Hatboro, and parts of Upper Dublin Township,Horsham Township, and part of Ward 58 in Philadelphia.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rick Taylor and Bob Godshall on Comment Please

This is a running transcript of a program broadcast on Friday 1/18. It is currently available online as a sound file and probably will be until 1/25. To listen go to http://www.wnpv1440.com/, select "Comment Please" and then Friday.

As always, while I have made an effort to be accurate, I apologize in advance or any errors or misconceptions.

Comment Please by Univest with host Darryl Berger Friday 1/18
[blogger's note: Once again I am impressed with Mr. Berger's talents as an interviewer / moderator]

State Related Issues

Guests: Rep. Bob Godshall (R-53) and Rep. Rich Taylor (D-151)

DB: The time of year to decide if you are running or not. Rick, you unseated Gene McGill 2 years ago.

RT: Plan to seek reelection. I tell you what. This is a great institution. It still has a black eye in the people’s perception. When you have a chance to change people’s lives, help someone with property tax rebate, enroll a child in CHIP. That’s when you know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.

DB: It is hard to get bills passed, but you’ve found some satisfaction

RT: It is a deliberative body, intended to be slow. I came from business world, want to have a plan and go. With four diff caucuses, it can take awhile to get things done.

BG: I put out an announcement just the other day that I want to continue my service to the district. Its something, as Rick said, asked why doing it again. It’s 7 days a week and it’s basically around the clock. But is just the fact that there’s people that have no place else to go, it’s the last resort.

DB: Satisfaction is helping people not frustration of legislative process

BG: Woman came in and said if it weren’t for you guys it would be all over for her and her husband. It’s what makes those 7 days a week jobs worthwhile. Pay is about the same as our schoolteachers make. My daughter is a schoolteacher, not degrading them. It is rewarding work.

DB: Reached an age when some people retire.

BG: Thought about it. Health is really good. More than anything else thinking about going hunting and playing golf but really enjoy helping people.

DB: What term will this be?

BG: I’m seeking my 14th term

DB: What is Harrisburg today vs 25 years ago?

BG: It has totally changed. Can’t change what’s ingrained in the system. Much more partisanship. Didn’t have it in the past, one reason for thinking about retiting. But work in district is what made decision for him. About at the end, but hopefully enjoy another 2 years.

DB: Partisanship due to issues or evenly split parties in house?

BG: When I started, Ds in majority and we just didn’t have, it was a pretty tight difference between the numbers of D and R. I used to work with D area leader on school boards. Now more throat cutting than anything else.

RT: That’s a funny thing. BG and I talking about that just yesterday. It is always the atmosphere of “gotcha” politics. I look at and I can see why people get cynical about this. From my perspective I can say I get along with both sides of the aisle. I believe almost everyone there for the right reasons. Most people get past personalities of individuals. You want to win so badly that you want to trip someone up to get in majority. That is part of gridlock and partisanship. It is supposed to be a deliberative body but not partisanship. Very organized and gotcha stuff.

BG: in the 90s I had a fairly tough race and was chair of tourism committee. Four D legislators from the committee came and worked on his polls. That was the kind of camaraderie that was out there.

DB: resolution that passed unanimously, pulling back our dependence on property taxes based on a constitutional amendment. Majority in both chambers want less dependence on property tax

RT: The amendment that came out yesterday was to abolish property tax on homesteads, not businesses, etc. Voted upon, needs to be approved by senate. Must pass again next year then out to people for a vote. My citizens, from a well to do district, a lot of people getting killed on it, but some aren’t. I have a group that has a bigger magnitude. The state provides only 10-15% of school costs per year. Those on social security getting creamed. Met a widow in Ardsley said she couldn’t afford to pay property taxes. My district contains part of 5 school districts. All considered affluent districts. Has a zip code with median income is $125K. A lot of other folks living close to the edge getting killed by taxes. Great schools that don’t scrimp on amenities. Needless to say, it’s a hard thing to do, especially find a solution for the whole state.

BG: With this amendment, what is really does is it allows for 100% property tax rebate on homes and farmsteads. Not a repeal. Now state constitution says all taxes must be equal, so can’t give some rebates. If the senate passes and we do the same next year, then to voters. Different from a plan like Act 1.

DB: Act 1 passed but rejected by individual school districts. Statewide referendum rejected.

BG: Real problem comes in. We have such a diverse state. Our part of the state gets very little coming in from formula, based on wealth, value of homes, and so forth. When we send our money to Harrisburg we only get about 30% back.

DB: agree that doing away with prop tax a good idea?

RT: don’t expand sales tax, creating a 13B whole in budget. Property taxes a dependable source of revenue. Sales tax more dependent on economy. If economy goes down, can you pay for schools?

BG: Up in Michigan they tried that and 2 years later threw legislature out that put it in. $15B item, just under 15B, sales tax now brings in 8-9B at most. If leave sales tax as is on items, we’d have to double it. Can’t handle it, would destroy the state. Would have to tax textbooks, drugstore items. We know already it won’t bring it in.

DB: What can we do?

RT: Rep. Levdansky, HB 1600, to raise the sales tax .5% (6 to 6.5%), upping personal income tax from 3.07 to 3.29%. That would take us, including gaming revenue, up to 50% allowed in constitution. How will that affect our districts. Skeptical that money going to Harrisburg will come back.

BG: Okay with Levdansky’s plan, but based on school funding formula only get 20 to 30% of monies back. It is bad for this part of the state but works for everyone else. The only way to get equity is like Act 1, pay income tax but money stays in district. Act 1 misunderstood. Only thing we can do equitably in our district is a one on one deal.

RT: We’re on the same page, working for our constituents.

DB: health care. Governor’s plan.

RT: I support governor’s plan. He wants to insure everyone but not a universal single payer health plan. Plan to get everyone insured but not everyone will get insured. Universal access to affordable health care. Drive down cost of health care, get those in underserved areas, let nurses practice to full extent of training. Monitor and reduce risk of hospital acquired infections. Managing chronic care. Plan basically calls for health care to be paid for in a number of different ways. First, increase tobacco tax, recently increased it for MCARE abatement. Start taxing cigars and smokeless tobacco. We are the only state in the union that doesn’t tax cigars or smokeless. This is a way to say smokeless tobacco is a cost on society and use tax for health care, the right thing to do. Health care provider retention program. Right now about half a billion surplus, in MCARE, successful in reducing medmal suits. Gov proposes taking half of surplus to invest in this plan.

BG: Last I heard he was taxing businesses at the rate of 3%, all businesses in PA paying 3% to PA. If you offered health insurance you would get the money back at some point. The rest of the money would be used to provide a government run program to provide health insurance. Sin tax stuff for tobacco is only a small amount money coming in there. Can’t begin to run this thing on that money.

DB: Business that offer health care would get 3% back, others pay

RT: Actually opposed that, didn’t want to kill our small businesses. Sending that money in and waiting for it to come back could be the difference in staying in business or going out of business. Governor heard that this was a nonstarter, and that’s where the surplus thing came in.

BG: I have no idea. I only know the sin tax on tobacco is not going to cover what is estimated a 1.4B to cover costs of health care. Monies just aren’t there. Taking money out of MCARE fund is important. Haven’t solved medmal problem. Still can’t get specialists here, endocrinologists or neurosurgeons – fewer than we used to have. Not in the cards.

RT: Orthopedic association has gotten behind Gov. Rendell’s plan. Medmal suits declined every year. Common sense reform.

BG: That was courtesy of my legislation, stopping venue shopping

RT: From 2000 to 2006 median wage only gone up 6%, inflation 17%, premiums over 70%. Someone’s going to go to the ER we as taxpayers pay over $400. Go to doctor’s office for about $50. We are paying for it one way or another. If we can get these people on insurance we will save money. Hospital acquired infections also cost money, longer hospital stays.

DB: Universal health care something D party in general thinks it is the direction we should move.

RT: On board for universal access to health care. Single payer not affordable for a state right now, must be federal. Not just poor. 70% of people with no health care are working. Employers who don’t offer health care are shifting that cost onto the state.

BG: A lot of those people are transitional, moving from one job to another, maybe no insurance for 6 months. We don’t need or want a system where it takes 4 or 5 months to get chemo. If you need a hip replacement you can’t get an appointment with a specialist for months. We need affordable health care. Working with businesses to get basic insurance policy, costs about $300 a month. You can’t make people buy something if they don’t want to do it. Massachusetts doing that right now. When we had the CHIP problem we paid people to sign up and still couldn’t get them to do it.

DB: some people don’t want to sign up, think they are in good health.

RT: That’s true. A lot 20 year old men think they are indestructible. Those are the people you really want to expand the pool of risk. We need to do a better job of getting them involved.

DB: Update on situation on Willow Grove Naval Air Station and BRAC.

RT: This is a huge issue in the district, quality of life and property values. I don’t think there’s very many people who can’t point to a family member or friend who has worked there. In 2011 give to Navy to create Joint Naval Installation. Just had some guys back from Iraq that flew into there. Have an 8000 ft runway. To close that down in time of crisis would be a shame, a crime. Let me quickly add. People concerned about commercial flights coming in. Governmental flights to protect us are one thing UPS landing jets all hours of the night is something else. That is not what we were anticipating. Right now we have to figure out how that piece of property can be most effectively used. PA Air National Guard not going anywhere. Looking at other governmental agencies, national defense, homeland security, emergency preparedness. Maybe some nongovernmental agencies in those areas. I think it will be very vibrant in the coming years. 2011 is the key date.

DB: didn’t solve energy problem.

BG: would love to come back and talk about that.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Carney and Murphy Receive Web Award

Blogger extraordinaire Gort has brought my attention to the fact that the Congressional Management Foundation has released its 2007 Gold Mouse Awards (pdf link). This is for excellence in congressional websites (html link). The entire report is a 115 page pdf file (also available in an html file). Their purpose is spelled out in “About This Project” :

The 2006 and 2007 Gold Mouse Reports are the heart of our research project “Connecting to Congress,” generously funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Digital Government program (NSF Award Number IIS-0429452). The project is the result of a partnership between the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, the University of California-Riverside, and Ohio State University.
The goals of the project are to:

1. Determine how Members of Congress can use the Internet to enhance communication
with constituents and promote constituent engagement in the legislative process;
2. Understand how Members and staff learn to use best and innovative practices for their
Web sites and Internet communications;
3. Identify how information about technology and innovation spreads among staff and
congressional offices; and
4. Identify best and innovative practices for congressional Web site and technology use
that can be more widely adopted by congressional offices.


As a personal note, one thing that is not on their criteria that I wish were, is a list of upcoming events. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania’s 13th district is very good about doing this.

Four freshman Representatives won Gold Mouse Awards, two of them are from Pennsylvania: Chris Carney of the 10th congressional district and Patrick Murphy of the 8th congressional district. No other Pennsylvania senators or representatives received gold, silver, bronze awards. Carney and Murphy are given particular attention in the report, with quotes from congressional staff in those offices regard the design and maintenance of those sites. Site descriptions, quotes from staff involved, and page numbers (print and pdf page numbers do not exactly match up) are listed below.

Rep. Christopher P. Carney (http://carney.house.gov)

Site description

Freshman Congressman Christopher Carney’s Web site makes the services of his physical office easily available for constituents on the Internet. His site shows how effective an online presence can be when content is tailored to meet constituents’ needs. Everything from the menu options to the issue descriptions is presented in a way that visitors from both inside and outside the beltway can understand. The constituent services section brings the personal touch of the physical office to online visitors. For those who wish to initiate casework requests, clear guidance concerning each type of casework is offered. The names and e-mail addresses of the caseworkers are provided so users know the real people behind the support they are getting. A “forms library” allows users to quickly identify and easily fill out the relevant forms. FAQs on other constituent services and legislative issues are offered for those who may not be sure of what they need. The Congressman’s site offers an array of services from requesting a meeting, to information on how to register to vote. The press resources section contains releases by date and by topic, video and transcripts of floor statements, and the name, number and e-mail of the communications director. (p. 77 or 65 depending)


staff quotes

Graham Mason, a Staff Assistant in Congressman Christopher Carney’s office announced his office was “going for the gold” when they planned and launched a new Web site within three months of the Congressman taking office. He said the office combed through CMF’s 2006 Gold Mouse Report to identify the best practices the office wanted to employ. “It took a lot of research and leg work beforehand,” said Mason. “I went through the entire [2006] Gold Mouse Report to try and figure out what effective Web sites had.” He then led the effort in the office and looked to what other offices were doing for inspiration and guidance. “I must have looked at more congressional Web sites and would take notes about what they had or that I thought was particularly useful or effective,” he said. The office compiled a master list—a wish list—of all the things that they wanted to include and delegated them to individual team members. “We gave them timelines, and kept on them about it, and they got it done very effectively,” said Mason (p. 67 or 55 depending)


later

“We wanted everything we did to be very focused on the district,” reported Rebecca Gale, freshman Congressman Christopher Carney’s Communications Director, “and the Web site was part of that.” When asked what the role of the Congressman and his Chief of Staff were in the early success of their Web site, she said “most of their role has been to empower the staff” to launch a site that meets the needs of the district. The Carney office reported that they had the blessing of the Congressman “to move forward and create a great product.” Gale went on to say that the staff was given the time and the room to create the best Web site that they could. She also credited several stellar interns who dedicated a good portion of their time to updating and improving the content necessary for the launch as an additional factor in their success. (p. 68 or 56 depending)


Representative Patrick J. Murphy (http://patrickmurphy.house.gov)

Site description

First-term Congressman Patrick Murphy’s Web site demonstrates just how accessible and easy to use an effective online presence can be. Everything from the menu options to the grants information page is presented in terms and language that experts and newcomers alike can understand. The site allows users to spend less time trying to figure out which section they are interested in and more time focusing on the substance of the site. The site employs navigation and site design practices that anticipate the needs of its users. The design and layout provide clickable breadcrumbs that allow users to figure out where they are in the site and move around quickly. A “Related Items” box delivers other resources that might be of interest to users, while a site map, privacy policy, and consistent and clear menu choices on each page also contribute to the site’s overall usability. The “Front and Center” section of the homepage is laudable for informing users about the most recent or pressing issues the Congressman is active on. The constituent services section is extensive, with all the guidance and information users would want, as well as one page of the issues section devoted to “local issues” specifically for constituents. A thorough FAQ which answers questions about the site, casework, and finding legislative information further enhances the site’s usefulness for constituents and other key audiences. (p. 83 or 71 depending)


staff quotes


Though Congressman Patrick Murphy is among the freshmen members of the 110th Congress, his office has made the Web site a priority according to the Congressman’s Legislative Correspondent, Marc Boom. When asked about how he prioritizes the Web site with everything else that he has to do, Boom stated that he doesn’t “view the Web site as something that is separate from [his] duties. It really is an integral part of understanding constituent outreach and getting our information out there. If you can answer people’s questions before they actually have to take the time to write you about it, that’s a good thing. We certainly get plenty of letters, and we’re happy to get those, but one of the goals of the Web site was to give people another easy way to contact our office.” The office quickly launched a quality congressional Web site within months of Congressman Murphy’s swearing in, and everyone on staff clearly understands that, as Boom put it, the Web site is “the front door to [our] office.” (p. 54 or 66 depending)


As a personal note, Marc Boom worked on Paul Lang’s state senate campaign and is a thoughtful and very well organized young man.

Later

It can take time for any office to develop a well-oiled team, but Adam Abrams, freshman Congressman Patrick Murphy’s Communications Director, reported that teamwork contributed significantly to their success. “Everyone in our office—from our district offices to the D.C. office—plays a role in making sure we flag the important photos of the day, the videos, press releases, and statements by the Congressman to make sure that the material is always fresh,” said Abrams. According to him, their early success is due to the team effort with regard to identifying the material that needs to be posted to the Web site. Abrams also said that the team approach extends all the way up to the Congressman himself, saying, “Congressman Murphy plays a large role in making sure the issues important to our district are always front and center on our Web site.” (p. 69 or 57 depending)


Kudos to Representatives Carney, Murphy, and their staff.

Clinton is to Obama as Brutus is to Antony?

Many a college student has had to write a paper comparing the speeches of Brutus and Antony after Caesar’s death in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act 3, Scene 2). Both men speak to the crowd, attempting to sway them. It is said by many scholars that Brutus appealed to reason and Antony to emotion. (See list of links below.)

One of the most famous lines in Brutus’s speech is this:

If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather that Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?


There are far more well-known lines in Antony’s speech, which starts with, perhaps, the second most quoted line from the play: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” (The most famous is surely “Et tu, Brute?” also rumored to have been said by the real Caesar upon realizing Brutus has betrayed him.)

Antony goes on to address the claims of Brutus against Caeser, listing Caesar’s good points and then saying “But Brutus says he was ambitious and Brutus is an honourable man.” He shows the crowd the cloak Caesar had on when killed, recalls when Caesar first wore it, a summer’s evening, then shows the tears made by daggers, providing those personal details that listeners love so much.

It’s a great speech. You get a real sense of how he used words and the images they conjured and conveyed to bring people to his side. I’m not a big Shakespeare fan but if you haven’t read this, you should.

But what has this to do with modern politics? As regular readers will have noted, I enjoy political autobiography, not so much for what truths may be revealed but for what these men and women have to say themselves, how they define themselves, their lives, values, and worldview. And sometimes contrasts and similarities strike me.

Take, for example, two of the Democratic candidates for president. Hillary Clinton seems to be widely regarded as brilliant but not very good at reaching people. Barack Obama is widely admired for his speaking ability and inspiration, but is, by some, perceived as lacking in political experience. These contrasts can also be found in their writings. And, like Antony and Brutus, one touches the intellect and the other the heart.

Using one topic, children, as a demonstration, see for yourself.

From Obama’s Audacity of Hope, on legislation (p. 59):
And sometimes our ideological predispositions are just so fixed that we have trouble seeing the obvious. Once, while still in the Illinois Senate, I listened to a Republican colleague work himself into a later over a proposed plan to provide school breakfasts to preschoolers. Such a plan, he insisted, would crush their spirit of self-reliance. I had to point out that not too many five-year-olds I knew were self-reliant, but children who spent their formative years too hungry to learn could very well und up being charges of the state.

Despite my best efforts, the bill went down to defeat; Illinois preschoolers were temporarily saved form the debilitating effects of cereal and milk (a version of the bill would later pass). But my fellow legislator’s speech helps underscore one of the differences between ideology and values: Values are faithfully applied to the facts before us, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question.


From Clinton’s Living History, on legislation (p. 64)
In New Bedford, Massachusetts, I went door to door trying to identify the source of a troubling statistic. At CDF [Children’s Defense Fund], we took census figures of school-age children and compared those numbers to school enrollments. We often found significant discrepancies, and we wanted to determine where these unaccounted-for children were. Knocking on doors was revelatory and heartbreaking. I found children who weren’t in school because of physical disabilities like blindness and deafness. I also found school-age siblings at home, baby-sitting their younger brothers and sisters while their parents worked. On the small back porch off her family’s home in a neighborhood of Portuguese-American fishermen, I met a girl in a wheelchair, who told me how much she wanted to go to school. She knew she couldn’t go because she couldn’t walk.

We submitted the results of our survey to Congress. Two years later, at the urging of CDF and other strong advocates, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, mandating that children with physical, emotional and learning disabilities be educated in the public school system.


From Obama’s Audacity of Hope, describing a daughter’s birthday party (p. 350-351):
As a grand finale, after all the pizza was eaten and the juice boxes drunk, after we had sung “Happy Birthday” and eaten some cake, the gymnastics instructor gathered all the kids around an old, multicolored parachute and told Sasha to sit at its center. On the count of three, Sasha was hoisted up into the air and back down again, then up for a second time, and then for a third. And each time she rose above the billowing sail, she laughed and laughed with a look of pure joy.

I wonder if Sasha will remember that moment when she is grown. Probably not; it seems as if I can retrieve only the barest fragments of memory from when I was five. But I suspect that the happiness she felt on that parachute registers permanently in her; that such moments accumulate and embed themselves in a child’s character, becoming a part of their soul. Sometimes, when I listen to Michelle talk about her father, I hear the echo of such joy in her, the love and respect that Frasier Robinson earned not through fame of spectacular deeds but through small, daily, ordinary acts – a love he earned by being there. And I ask myself whether my daughters will be able to speak of me in that same way.


From Clinton’s Living History (p. 93):
In 1982, with Chelsea on my hip or holding her hand, I walked up and down streets meeting voters. I remember meeting some young mothers in the small town of Bald Knob. When I said I bet they were having a good time talking to their babies, one of them asked, “Why would I talk to her? She can’t talk back?” I knew from my Yale Child Study days – and from my mother – how important it was to talk and read to babies to build their vocabularies. Yet when I tried to explain this, the women were polite but dubious.


From Clinton’s Living History (p. 81):
Beryl [Anthony] and I presented expert testimony about the stages of a child’s development and the degree to which a child’s emotional well-being depends on the presence of a consistent caregiver in early life. We persuaded the judge that the contract the foster parents had signed – agreeing not to adopt – should not be enforceable if its terms were contrary to the child’s best interests. We won the case but our victory didn’t change the sate’s formal policy about foster children’s placement because the state didn’t appeal the decision. Thankfully out victory did serve as a precedent that the state eventually adopted.



From Obama’s Dreams From My Father (pp. 231-2):
She laughed cheerfully and walked me into the hallway where a wobbly line of five- and six-year-olds was preparing to enter a classroom. A few of them waved and smiled at us; a pair of boys towards the rear spun around and around, their arms tight against their sides; a tiny girl struggled to yank a sweater over her head and got tangled up in the sleeves. As the teacher tried to direct them up the stairs, I thought how happy and trusting they all seemed, that despite the rocky arrivals many of them had gone through – delivered prematurely, perhaps, or delivered into addiction, most of them already smudged with the ragged air of poverty – the joy they seemed to find in simple locomotion, the curiosity they displayed toward every new face, seemed the equal of children anywhere. They made me think back to those words of Regina’s spoken years ago, in a different time and place: It’s not about you.

“Beautiful aren’t they?” Dr. Collier said.

“They really are.”

“The change comes later. In about five years, although it seems like it’s coming sooner all the time.”

“What change is that?”

“When their eyes stop laughing. Their throats can still make the sound, but if you look at their eyes, you can see they’ve’ shut off something inside.”


It is not to say that one is a more effective legislator than the other. Nor is it to suggest there are any other comparisons between the senators and the Shakespeare characters. I merely noted the differences in their writing styles and it reminded me of the Antony / Brutus dichotomy.

Should you be more interested in knowing how blog posts are inspired, I will tell you that while Mr. J and I were watching “Persuasion” on Masterpiece Theatre last weekend he noticed that the actor playing the nefarious Mr. Elliott also played Brutus in HBO’s “Rome” series and then it was just a mental skip over to Brutus and Antony and then Clinton and Obama. I’m sure so very many of you took the same mental journey [sad smile in recognition of my own geekiness].

Editions used.

Clinton, Hillary. Living History. NY: Scribner, 2003.

Obama, Barack. The Audacity of Hope. NY: Crown Publishers, 2006.

Obama, Barack. Dreams From My Father. NY: Three Rivers Press, 2004.

Shakespeare, William. The complete works of William Shakespeare. (Cambridge text). London: Octopus Books Limited, 1981.

Shakespeare references

http://education.yahoo.com/homework_help/cliffsnotes/julius_caesar/36.html

http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=89856

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Caesar_(play)

http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761597631/Julius_Caesar_(play).html

PA in the WSJ

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

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


PA Politicians

From “Default fears unnerve markets,” by Sarah Leuck, John D. McKinnon and Michael M. Phillips (1/18):

”Whether or not it’s technically a recession, it certainly feels like one,” said Republican Rep. Phil English, at a recent hearing on the economy. His Erie, Pa., district is among several dozen metropolitan areas that already appear to be in recession, according to an analysis by Mark Zandi, chief economics at Moody’s Economy.com


From “Deal fees under fire amid mortgage crisis,” by Liam Pleven and Susanne Craig (1/17):
”As soon as you’re out of the deal, you’ve made your profit,” says Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D., Pa.), who heads a House subcommittee overseeing markets. Last year, the House adopted a series of changes to the mortgage market. The Senate is considering its next step.


PA Businesses

Both Mark Zandi of West Chester based Moody’s Economy.com and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia are mentioned in “Home starts tumble to 16-year low,” by Michael Corkery (1/18). The fed report “showed that the manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region contracted sharply in January, reflecting a steep drop in orders. It was the worst reading since October 2001.”

Comcast gets a double whammy on 1/18. First “Comcast holder seeks CEO’s dismissal,” by Merissa Marr and Dionne Searcey whacks at Brian Roberts. Then in “FCC chief taking cable-industry fight to final bell,” by Amy Schatz points out that the FCC chair is a Comcast subscriber and so those rate increases hit home.

American Eagle Outfitters is the subject of “Kids brand will target modest-income families,” (1/18)

Pittsburgh based Education Management Corp. is the focus of “Education Management plans to go public again,” by Lynn Cowan (1/17)

Charming Shoppes of Bensalem sparks controversy in “Holders seek Charming Shoppes change,” by Kathy Shwiff and Andrew Edwards (1/16)

Other PA

Hydrox cookie fan Robert Fliegel of East Stroudsburg is quoted in “The Hydrox cookie is dead, and fans won’t get over it,” by Christopher Rhoads (1/19)

Other Interesting Tidbits

I was intrigued by “New services help bloggers bring in ad revenue,” by Kelly K. Spors (1/15)

Friday, January 18, 2008

weekly legislative update

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

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

Other updates this week:

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


Bills
House

HB 377 By Representatives D. EVANS, BENNINGTON, BUXTON, CALTAGIRONE, CURRY, FREEMAN, GALLOWAY, LEVDANSKY, MARKOSEK, MYERS, PARKER, PRESTON, WALKO, WHEATLEY, PETRONE, WAGNER, KORTZ, FRANKEL and M. O'BRIEN. Prior Printer's Nos. 441, 2809, 2849.Printer's No. 3094. An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, in sales and use tax, further providing for definitions and for exclusions; in personal income tax, further providing for imposition, providing an alternative special tax provision for poverty; further providing for requirement of withholding tax; in corporate net income tax, further providing for definitions and for imposition; in capital stock-franchise tax, further providing for definitions and reports; in gross receipts tax, further providing for imposition; in research and development tax credits, further providing for carryover, carryback, refund and assignment of credit, for time limitations, for limitation on credits and for termination; providing for a small business health savings account tax credit and for a new diesel technology tax credit; in inheritance tax, further providing for imposition, for inheritance tax rates and for estate tax; and making a related repeal.

HB 1947 A Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, further providing for exemptions and special provisions.

HB 1474 Prior Printer's No. 1821.Printer's No. 2930. An Act providing for the location and operation of registered family child day care and certified group child day care in private residential homes and for the issuance of certificates of occupancy for certification and registration purposes.

HB 652 Prior Printer's Nos. 710, 2663, 2939.Printer's No. 3079. An Act providing for the exclusion of veterans' disability benefits as eligible income.

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

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

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

HB 1044 Prior Printer's Nos. 1221, 1642, 2477.Printer's No. 2918. An Act amending Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for powers and duties of the Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission, for police training and for powers of home rule charter counties; and making an inconsistent repeal of the Sheriff Fee Act.



SENATE

SB 1141 By Senators GORDNER, REGOLA, BAKER, BRUBAKER, EARLL, ERICKSON, FERLO, FONTANA, RHOADES, M. WHITE, WONDERLING and WOZNIAK. Printer's No. 1523. An Act amending the act of May 1, 1933 (P.L.103, No.69), known as The Second Class Township Code, further providing for real property, for personal property and for letting contracts.

HB 1795 Prior Printer's No. 2393.Printer's No. 2448. An Act designating the Powell Avenue Bridge on State Route 299 in Millcreek Township, Erie County, Pennsylvania, as the Staff Sergeant Jeremy R. Horton Memorial

Thursday, January 17, 2008

DFA Training in Pittsburgh

The DFA (Democracy for America) Training Academy is coming to Pittsburgh this summer. It is aimed at political activists and not at candidates per se. Topics covered include get out the vote, fundraising, communications and more. Typically training is over a weekend. More details and registration info are available.

House Republicans and Health Care

Robocall strikes again! Today it was the PA House Republicans calling to tell me that Gov. Rendell wants to raise my taxes and let bureaucrats make my medical decisions. The GOP, they tell me, has a plan that won't raise taxes and keeps our doctors in Pennsylvania but the governor won't let it even come up for a vote. The nice lady recording the message suggests I call my state rep and tell them to keep politics out of health care.

That last part really got me. Someone calls me with rabid partisan rhetoric and tells me to keep politics out of the matter? Uh, lady, look in a mirror.

If any tax dollars went into preparing or distributing that message I'd like my money back, please. Those caucus accounts really need to be sliced, diced, and reduced or cut off altogether. If that isn't going to happen (or even if it is), let's make the spending on those accounts public so we can all see where the money is going.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

PA House Scholarship

Who says your government isn't working for you? This is especially true for high school seniors. Check out the PA House Scholarship:

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Scholarship Program is open to all college-bound high school seniors who plan to attend a Pennsylvania college, university or career school.

The program is independently administered by The Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC)and is not affiliated with any political party.

Two scholarships are awarded per year and can be renewed for up to four years of college. The award consists of the value of one semester of tuition at a State System of Higher Education school (approximately $2,500), but scholarship recipients may attend any Pennsylvania public or private post-secondary institution. Students may also be eligible to receive matching funds from SAGE Scholars, Inc. (Savings and Growth for Education) and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency’s (PHEAA) PATH Program.

Recipients’ names are automatically submitted to PHEAA, and a matching award may be granted based upon remaining financial need. The House program is funded by private, tax-deductible donations, including gifts from former and current House members, as well as proceeds from House-sponsored events. (h/t me/bl)

More Congressional Race Updates

Things are starting to heat up. There are now Republican challengers in the 7th and 8th congressional challengers. According to the Inky (and a number of other sources) Thomas Manion will take on Patrick Murphy and Wendell Craig Williams will try to unseat Joe Sestak. (See “Father of fallen Marine to seek office,” by Larry King 12/16, and “Delco GOP picks Gulf vet to face Sestak,” by Mari A. Schaefer 12/16)

Josh Drobnyk is reporting that Sen. Bob Casey’s brother, Chris Casey, has decided not to run for the 6th congressional district against Republican Jim Gerlach.

My three guesses on who would be next to endorse Republican Dan Meuser were incorrect. Don Ely has decided not to challenge 10th district Rep. Chris Carney himself and is endorsing Meuser. This race was briefly outlined in The Politico (“Polls show Carney in strong position for reelection,” by Josh Kraushaar 1/11

Off Topic: My Inner Betsy Ross

Over the holidays I got back in touch with my inner Betsy Ross and dusted off the trusty household Kenmore sewing machine. It was one of the first things I bought after graduating from college, to replace the hand-me-down that was on its last legs. The kids had demolished the pillows on the sofa so I made new ones. But my true seamstressy love is quilting. I got out some of my quilting magazines and my fabric totes to see what went with what. A nine patch with boat and water themed fabric? A window pane pattern with jungle prints? Something with Krazy Kats in contrasting colors? Or something else entirely? In the end I went with trains and wild animals instead of marina, kats, or florals. A Halloween print lap robe I decided to tie and not quilt. The jungle print will be a single bed size and the top is almost done. The train prints, probably a full size, is almost all cut out and coming together in a much funkier way than originally envisioned. These things are organic and often change in the process. They are never error free and that can make them all the more interesting. The wonky block marks goes at the head of the bed. The extra border strip on the back marks the side. There is a story behind them all; I wish I had more time for sewing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Update on Reform

The state legislature returns to session this week with an ambitious agenda, including some items still on their plate from last year:

Still unresolved from 2007 is a bill overhauling Pennsylvania's Sputnik-era Right-to-Know law; as well as a ban on most public smoking, and components of Rendell's second-term energy conservation and healthcare reform plans.

Source: John Micek, "State lawmakers return to overstuffed agenda," Morning Call 1/14/08

Reform measures are still a priority for some state representatives. Josh Shapiro (D-153) posted a note on the state party website at the end of last November that says in part:
Reform is continuing in Harrisburg. To date we have passed more than 30 reforms in the House to make more openness and transparency in the process. Next week we will continue our debate on the state’s open records law. Coming up are serious conversations on campaign finance reform and reducing the cost of government -- two proposals that I authored. Put in perspective of the lack of reform in the last 30 years, reform today is moving at a quick pace, but we must accomplish a lot more.

With the real impact reformers have had on elections over the last few years, lawmakers in Harrisburg are not trying to read the tea leaves of past elections to look for permission to stop working for reform. The men and women I’m working with every day on reform are committed to the cause. We cannot and will not let cynical observers dissuade us from doing what is right.


Bryan Lentz (D 161) published an op ed piece in the Inky on a similar topic recently. It is also posted on his website and begins:
When I was a prosecutor, I followed a simple formula when it came to sharing information with the defense: whether the information hurt my case or not, I turned it over. In our system of public justice, the district attorney’s case file had to be an open book.

The same is true of our state government. With more than $26 billion of public money being spent every year, it is important that our public records be truly public. For years in Pennsylvania, accessing public records – particularly the expenditures of the legislature – has been a difficult process. In most cases, the individual citizen had to prove to the government why he or she had a right to see a public record. The result has been an increasing distrust of our government and a skepticism surrounding the motives of our political leaders.

Recently, the state House of Representatives took a major step toward opening up our government. In late November, the Senate sent an open-records bill to the House (S.B. 1) which contained numerous exceptions and loopholes. The Democratic majority in the House strengthened this bill and passed a law which has the potential to make Pennsylvania a leader in open government.


I was disappointed in the results of the leadership election (new wine, old wineskins, not a good idea) and hope that more reforms can be passed.

Upcoming Deadline for Political Directory

The deadline is coming up for the 2008 Political Pages:

The Political Pages directory is a comprehensive directory of political and public affairs consultants, political products and services, and lobbyists. Candidates, elected officials, campaign managers, PAC directors, association executives and party executives all use this directory as one of their most important resources.


I was surprised to see one of the categories is "blogs." Interesting.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Checking On Health Care

As a people we like solutions that are BIG, BOLD, and JAZZY!!! Alas, all to often they are mundane, simple, and require a little effort on our part. (My favorite Thomas Edison quote: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.")

Case in point, Gov. Ed Rendell's Prescription for Pennsylvania (81 page pdf). One of his initiatives is to reduce hospital acquired infections. Here is an excerpt from the state's website:

The second initiative focuses on improving patient safety and containing costs by eliminating hospital- and health-facility-acquired infections. The Governor noted that most hospital-acquired infections are avoidable. In Pennsylvania, however, the number of hospital infections reported last year was 19,154, which led to nearly 2,500 deaths and more than $3.5 billion in hospital charges.

One example of a hospital- and health-facility-acquired infection specifically addressed in the Prescription for Pennsylvania is MRSA, a type of drug-resistant bacteria that is commonly carried inactive on the skin but can be deadly if it is introduced into the bloodstream. In 2004, there were 13,722 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania in which the patient had an MRSA infection – a rate of 7.4 per every 1,000 inpatient hospitalizations. Data shows that 8.9 percent of those patients, or 1,221 people, died as a result of contracting MRSA.

MRSA can be virtually eliminated from health centers through simple patient-safety procedures. Groundbreaking work by Pennsylvania’s veteran’s administration hospitals has resulted in the near elimination of MRSA infections in those facilities.


The legislation introduced that pertains to this effort is SB 968. A simple explanation is offered, in addition to the full text of the bill. It was signed by the governor on July 20, 2007.

There are, however, even simpler ways of controlling hospital acquired infections. This past December 10's issue of the New Yorker included an article, "The Checklist," by Atul Gawande, that discussed the amazing success of having emergency room medical staff use checklists when treating patients. Yes, a piece of paper, a clipboard, and a pencil. Pilots use checklists, why can't doctors and nurses? (Top item: wash hands).

Here was the result of a pilot project that used checklist for putting lines in patients:
The results were so dramatic that they weren’t sure whether to believe them: the ten-day line-infection rate went from eleven per cent to zero. So they followed patients for fifteen more months. Only two line infections occurred during the entire period. They calculated that, in this one hospital, the checklist had prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths, and saved two million dollars in costs.


In another study:
In December, 2006, the Keystone Initiative published its findings in a landmark article in The New England Journal of Medicine. Within the first three months of the project, the infection rate in Michigan’s I.C.U.s decreased by sixty-six per cent. The typical I.C.U.—including the ones at Sinai-Grace Hospital—cut its quarterly infection rate to zero. Michigan’s infection rates fell so low that its average I.C.U. outperformed ninety per cent of I.C.U.s nationwide. In the Keystone Initiative’s first eighteen months, the hospitals saved an estimated hundred and seventy-five million dollars in costs and more than fifteen hundred lives. The successes have been sustained for almost four years—all because of a stupid little checklist.


And the cost?
I asked him how much it would cost for him to do for the whole country what he did for Michigan. About two million dollars, he said, maybe three, mostly for the technical work of signing up hospitals to participate state by state and co√∂rdinating a database to track the results. He’s already devised a plan to do it in all of Spain for less.


Unfortunately, in the time-honored fashion of bureaucracies everywhere, the program has been shut down because it is impossible to get the informed consent of all patients and doctors participating. Gawande outlines the problem in a Dec. 30th New York Times op-ed, "A Lifesaving Checklist," and suggests Congress step in.

This is the sort of thing that, if widely implemented, say in a state or commonwealth, could make a huge difference for a small amount of money.

I hope the informed consent issues can be worked out (let it be known that I formally grant my consent for a nurse to make sure a doctor has clean hands before treating me) and that the gov's folks take note of the possibilities inherent in mandatory medical checklists.

Grant Writing Workshops

In her continuing series of workshops on practical matters, Rep. Allyson Schwartz is sponsoring a some how-to's on grant writing. Small non-profits don't usually have full-time grant writers on hand and depend on volunteers. I've been to one or two workshops like this and wrestled with more than a few grant applications in my day (the most important rule: Follow. The. Instructions.)

These would be well worth the time of anyone interested in the topic.

General description, place and time below, registration and other information available on the congresswoman's website:

Thousands of Philadelphia area nonprofits compete every year for funding in order to support their organization’s programs and services. For many nonprofits, particularly small organizations, grant applications can be a source of much anxiety.

To provide local nonprofits with a better understanding of how to develop a successful grant proposal, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is hosting a half-day grant workshop, “The Nuts and Bolts of Developing a Successful Proposal.” Workshops are scheduled for January 23 and January 24 in Horsham and Philadelphia.

The Nuts and Bolts of Developing a Successful Proposal

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Horsham Township Community Center
1025 Horsham Road
Horsham, PA 19044

Thursday, January 24, 2008

8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

CORA Services, Inc.
8540 Verree Road
Philadelphia, PA 19111

NOTE: These are the same workshop, offered in different locations.

The agenda for the workshops includes a comprehensive overview of the basic components of a successful grant proposal, how to tailor a grant proposal to a funding source, what grant reviewers look for in proposals, and an introduction to each local Foundation Center’s resources. Each workshop will include plenty of time for questions. A complimentary continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Workshops are targeted to staff, board members and volunteers of local nonprofits, as well as to those seeking to start up nonprofits. The workshops are a follow up on the highly successful nonprofit workshops hosted by Schwartz in June 2007 that attracted nearly 150 participants.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

6th Congressional District Update

John at the Pennsylvania Progressive and Brett from Pennsyltucky Politics have been posting reports from the state Democratic convention.

Among John's reports are that Bob Roggio is tossing his hat in the ring for the Democratic candidacy in the 6th congressional district. Roggio has set up a campaign website, http://www.bobroggioforcongress.com/; though it remains skeletal at the moment, with only a biography and an email address.

He also reports that former state senator Bob Rovner is on the verge of running. I note that rovnerforcongress, bobrovnerforcongress, and bobrovner web addresses are all parked. That means something, though I'm not certain what.

While Keystone Politics has reported Mike Leibowitz as a certain candidate I have not been able to locate any potential web addresses for him. In his 2006 primary run he used www.mike06.com. Good choice, that last name is easily misspelled. However, www.mike08.com is being used by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Hmmm, wonder what that means.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

PA in the WSJ

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

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


Either it was an exceptionally slow week for the commonwealth in the WSJ this week or I was exceptionally sloppy in looking. Very little to report.

PA Politicians

He’s not currently in politics but once (and future?) Philadelphia District Attorney candidate and, until recently, the city’s inspector general, gets a brief mention (and a woodcut of the man himself smiling) on 1/11. [Update, I forgot to mention his name, Seth Williams.] It notes his joining law firm Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young. That makes two people now that I have actually spoken to (in this case very briefly at an event a year or two ago) who have appeared in the WSJ as woodcuts.


PA Businesses

Sue Meier at Allegheny County’s Landmark Home Healthcare is quoted in “Finding day care – for your parents,” by Jeff D. Opdyke (1/10)

Brief mention of Exton’s Isolagen, Inc. on 1/11


Other PA

Heather Shenk an audiologist in Lancaster is quoted in “Clearing wax buildup with a candle in the ear,” by Laura Johannes (1/08)

Other Interesting Tidbits

In “Clinton’s primary win resonates with women,” by Carol Hymowitz, Katherine Rosman and Amy Merrick (1/10) we find this paragraph:

In New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton scored best with women who had lower incomes and less education as opposed to highly-paid, educated women. Half of women who earn between $15,000 and $30,000 voted for her, compared to 39% for Mr. Obama. Just 31% of women with post-graduate degress voted for Mrs. Clinton, however, compared to 43% for Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton also did well with women who are single, separated, divorced or widowed, carrying single women by 17 points in New Hampshire while Sen. Obama carried them in Iowa by 13 points.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Congressional Race Updates

Two updates in Pennsylvania congressional races.

Dan Meuser, who is among the horde of Republicans trying to unseat Chris Carney, freshman Democrat in the 10th congressional district, is announcing that he has been endorsed by Hazelton mayor Lou Barletta. Meuser was previously endorsed by former Sen. Rick Santorum. One wonders who will be next: Grover Norquist? Ralph Reed? Daryl Metcalfe?

Closer to home, Keystone Politics is reporting that Democrat Mike Leibowitz will take a second run at the 6th congressional district. Leibowitz did not do well in the 2006 primary against Lois Murphy but she had greater name recognition. Leibowitz is young, 20 29 or 30, and has a law degree but instead of practicing law owns a firm that works on historic houses. His 2006 campaign is still filing FEC reports as there is an unpaid loan of around $8600, from the candidate himself.

According to a 2006 press release:

He has twice served on the Lower Merion School District Community Advisory Committee and currently serves as an officer of the Haverford Civic Association. Leibowitz attended American University in Washington, DC where he received a BA in economics and Villanova University School of Law in Villanova, Pennsylvania where he received his JD.


Pennsylvania Avenue is reporting that Democrats continue to court other candidates as well.

If 2006 was the year of the veteran candidate (Patrick Murphy, Joe Sestak), this must be the year of the historic house rehab candidate. In addition to Leibowitz, we have Bruce Slater, who is running in the 19th 16th district.

Money Talks

Or at least mine did today. This morning was hectic and I was out the door without breakfast so a bagel stop along the way was in order. One of the one dollar bills in my change was stamped google ronpaul. Two lines, google above ronpaul. It was a large, thick font, with kind of an edgy gothic look to it. The letters were all lower case. Each line was maybe one half inch tall.

I passed it long to someone else later in the day. She noticed the slogan and said "that's not happening." As a word of mouth marketing tool, though, it is on the inexpensive side. Just give followers a stamp and an ink pad and ask them to stamp every bill that passes through their hands.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Military Matters III: Disabled Vets Tax Exemption

According to the Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax Exemption Program, veterans in Pennsylvania who have been declared 100% disabled and met other criteria are exempt from paying real estate tax. Recent changes in the program have made additional veterans eligible so applications have increased, as has the time it takes to process requests. Some veterans have been waiting for more than six months. That seems like a long time, especially considering that cases are reviewed for eligibility every five years.

Military Matters II: Support the Troops Update

Before the holidays I wrote a post about www.anysoldier.com, which will let you get in touch with servicemen and women in the field, Iraq and Afghanistan. A group one of the kids is in prepared care packages and we mailed them off. So far we've received two notes in reply. One specifically mentioned how much she enjoyed getting pictures the kids had drawn. It doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't have to be long. Just send someone a note or ask your church or synagogue or neighborhood youth group to consider sending letters or pictures.

On a related matter, you may be aware that it is Girl Scout cookie time. You may not know that if you don't like or can't eat the cookies yourself, you can purchase a box (or more) that will be shipped to soldiers overseas, via Operation Taste of Home.

Military Matters I: Veterans Cemetery Update

Those trying to keep up with the proposed veterans' cemetery in Bucks County will have to wait until the end of the month (no specific date set) to hear the next decision in the saga. Theresa Katalinas in "Judge defers Melsky decision," Bucks County Courier Times (1/04) gives a good history of the project. Even so, all of the twists and turns escape me. I would just like to see this settled and the cemetery open this year if possible.

Swearing and Swearing In

Those who keep up with local happenings will know that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (gosh that sounds wonderful) help an open house at City Hall this evening. This is a tremendous harbinger of things to come.

In other inaugural news, primarily from PhillyBurbs:

As they had said they would, Jim Matthews (R) and Joe Hoeffel(D) elected themselves chair and vice chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. It is the first time since the late 1800's that a Democrat has been either chair or vice chair. The other Republican elected commissioner, former District Attorney Bruce Castor, lost this round of musical chairs. (See "A Done Deal," by Jacob Fenton, the Intelligencer 1/08; GrassrootsPA has links to articles on this from the Inky and the Morning Call).

Det Ansinn, whose path I have crossed a time or two and gives every impression of being organized, strategic, and an all around nice guy, has been appointed President of the Doylestown Council. (See "Dems assume council control," by Christine Kristoric, the Intelligencer 1/08).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Seth Williams Update

According to Jeff Shields at Heard in the Hall, outgoing Philadelphia Inspector General will be taking a job at local law firm Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young. Other politicos at the firm include John R. Saler, Josh Shapiro, and Herb Vederman.

Monday, January 07, 2008

O'Bama's Irish Luck

Last August Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-08) announced his support for presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.

Not content with an announcement Murphy has been working the streets. He was in Iowa before the caucus and since then has been knocking on doors in New Hampshire.

On Tuesday we will see if the Pennsylvania Irish Luck holds out.

Sources:

Hellyer, Joan, "Bucks Democrats to campaign for Obama in NH," Bucks County Courier Times 1/04

Scheid, Brian, "Guide to presidential selection process," Bucks County Courier Times 1/05

This Saturday is Dinner Day

Reading through the January / February 2008 issue of Cooking Light I found a wonderful article, "Dinner Day" by Jeffery Lindenmuth on Invited Your Neighbor to Dinner Day, designated since 2002 as the second Saturday in January. I had no idea. The article doesn't appear to be online, but it might be worth checking at your local library or borrowing a friend's copy (or, heck, just buying the issue) as it offers some suggestions on what to cook if you decide to celebrate.

There is an official Dinner Day website www.dinnerday.com. According to the background page:

Invite Your Neighbor to Dinner Day was born from the desire to develop a task that every American could easily accomplish. For one day out of the year, neighbors invite other not-so-familiar neighbors to have dinner with them, and eventually, friendships are formed to increase the strength of our communities. It seems simple, yet remarkably profound. These small gestures can directly influence individuals to make a difference in their own lives, while improving communities, and initiating a ripple of trust across the nation.


State Rep. Greg Vitali and then State Rep. Charles McIlhinny introduced the resolution to the house in 2002.

Cool idea.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Women & Politics III: The Lisa Bennington Story

The maven of Pennsylvania political newspaper blogs, Capitol Ideas, has the straight skinny on why Rep. Lisa Bennington is calling it day after only one term in the state legislature. One excerpt:

Confirming Our Suspicions that the state Legislature is really just like high school with even worse clothes and utterly tragic hair, we give you freshman state Rep. Lisa Bennington, D-Allegheny, who tells us, among other things, that freshmen lawmakers are still expected to be seen and not heard; that rank-and-file freshman House members of both parties aren't invited to the same parties, and that, if you're a legislator of the female persuasion who wants to get involved in ... oh, say ... women's issues ... you might just learn that the menfolk are handling it just fine, Missy.


The rest is well worth reading.

Women & Politics II: Every Girl Crazy 'Bout A Sharp Dressed Man

Barack Obama won 35% of the women's vote in the Iowa caucus last Thursday.

From this Sunday's "The Fix" by Chris Cillizza and Shailagh Murray in today's Washington Post:

One surprising headline from Iowa was how Obama beat Clinton among women, despite all the intense wooing by the Clinton camp and outside interest groups such as Emily's List.

Obama's real edge came with single and divorced women. According to entrance polls Clinton narrowly won among married women, but Obama dominated among unmarried women, winning by 13 percentage points. Democrats are targeting unmarried women as a potentially significant new voting pool and the Iowa causes are suggesting those efforts may be paying off.


He is ahead in the New Hampshire polls with women voters as well:
On the heels of his stunning win in Iowa, a McClatchy-MSNBC poll showed Obama with the support of 33 percent of New Hampshire Democratic voters, against 31 percent for Clinton.

Another poll, by the Concord Monitor newspaper, had Obama with a slender one-point lead over Clinton, 34 to 33 percent, and had him leading among independent and female voters.



Check out Women for Obama.

Women & Politics I: The Ladies of Law & Order

Both Bucks and Montgomery Counties will swear in new district attorneys this week.

Michelle Henry is filling out the term of Diane Gibbons who is now a Bucks County judge. (See "Petite prosecutor is new Bucks DA," by Laurie Mason (1/05)).

In Montco GOP candidate Risa Vetri Ferman was elected to succeed Bruce Castor, who was elected to a county commissioner seat.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

PA in the WSJ

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

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

PA Politicians

As a group Pennsylvania politicians and related groups received $30,000 from Ameriquest Mortgage Co, “until recently one of the nation’s largest subprime lenders,” as noted in “Lender lobbying blitz abetted mortgage mess,” by Glenn R Simpson (12/31)

PA Businesses

From “Venture capital’s new green machine,” by Rebecca Buckman (1/02), we find this paragraph;

The focus on big deals has prompted more activity at the small end of the spectrum: New venture firms that manage smaller amounts of money, such as San Francisco’s Founders Fund Management LLC and First Round Capital, of West Conshohocken, Pa, did a brisk business in early stage, or “seed” venture deals last year as some entrepreneurs complained that established venture firms wanted only to make large investements.”


This week’s requisite Mark Zandi (of West Chester based Moody’s Economy.com) quote is in “Real estate: how far will it fall?” by Alex Frangos (1/02)

Zandi doesn’t get the spotlight to himself this week, though. Sophia Koropeckyji, also of Economy.com is quoted in “Some sectors to feel brunt of job weakness,” by Andrea Coombes (1/02)

More Mark Zandi! And he’s talking Philly (sort of). From “Jobless rate spooks markets,” by Sudeep Reddy, John D. McKinnon, and Conor Dougherty (1/05):
In the past few weeks, states including New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have seen initial claims for unemployment insurance jump. “The recent weakening in the job picture is due to the ongoing problems in housing dependent economies, and the harp falloff in activity in the northeast corridor,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com.


Rite Aid of Camp Hill is among the chains listed in “Drugstores city weather, economy for weak sales,” (1/04)

Other PA

Kathleen Hall Jamison, political communications expert at the University of Pennsylvania, is quoted in “The spirit behind Huckabee’s advertising approach,” by Laura Meckler (12/31)

Wes Oliver, a lawyer from Pennsylvania who went to Iowa to campaign for Joe Biden is profiled in “As volunteers swamp campaigns, hospitable Iowans pitch in,” by Amy Chozick (12/31)

Kathleen Hall Jamison of the University of Pennsylvania is quoted (twice!) in “Who’s leading in the ad primary?” by Elizabeth Holmes, Laura Meckler and Aaron Rutkoff (1/03)

Freecycle, the online free-swap program is the focus of “Free-swap program finds homes for recycled goods,” an AP article is in the 1/02 paper. It isn’t mentioned by the Philly site is at www.phillyfreecycle.org

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are among the cities that will be visited by Star Trek the Tour, featuring sets and props from all five tv series.

Not mentioned in the article, "Commercial property gains a new caveat," by Jennifer S. Forsyth (1/02) but included in the accompanying charts. Philadelphia ranks #6 nationally in office and retail markets. The city did not make the list last year.

Other Interesting Tidbits

For those curious about Dennis Kucinich’s UFO siting, the details are provided in “What Kucinich saw: witnesses describe his close encounter,” by Michael M. Phillips (1/02)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Another End of Year Link

The Pennsylvania House Republicans have posted an end of year progress report.

weekly legislative update

No bills were passed in the house or senate this week, though a few were shuffled off to committee and the house introduced one non-controversial resolution. No weekly updates from anyone. The legislature will reconvene on January 14.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Few More Retirements

From Capitol Ideas, GrassrootsPA and PoliticsPA, here are a few more Pennsylvania political retirements. Previous post on open seats.

Congress

Rep. John Peterson (R-05) has announced that he is retiring. The 5th congressional district includes part or all of 17 counties in the north central part of the state (district map)

State Senate

Gerald LaValle (D-47) is not seeking re-election. The 47th district represents parts of Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence Counties. I can't find a good map or district description for you.

State House

Lisa Bennington (D-21) has decided to serve only one term and not run for a second. District description: Part of ALLEGHENY County consisting of the CITY of Pittsburgh (PART, Wards 07 [PART, Divisions 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 13 and 14], 08 and 10 [PART, Divisions 04, 05, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19]) and the TOWNSHIPS of Reserve (PART, Ward 03), Ross (PART, Wards 01, 02 [PART, Divisions 02 and 03], 03 [PART, Division 03], 05, 07 [PART, Divisions 01 and 02] and 08) and Shaler (PART, Ward 01 [PART, Divisions 01, 02, 03 and 05]) and O’Hara (PART, Ward 04 [the portion of District 02 that is noncontiguous and is located within the boundaries of the Boroughs of Sharpsburg and Aspinwall]) and the BOROUGHS of Etna, Millvale and Sharpsburg.

Bob Bastian (R-69) is retiring. The 69th district contains part or all of Bedford and Somerset Counties.

Ron Raymond (R-162) is retiring. District description: Part of DELAWARE County consisting of the TOWNSHIPS of Ridley (PART, Wards 01 [PART, Divisions 01 and 02], 06 and 08 [PART, Division 02]) and Tinicum and the BOROUGHS of Collingdale, Folcroft, Glenolden, Norwood, Prospect Park, Ridley Park and Sharon Hill.