Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Road Trip: Colonial Williamsburg

Another in a short series of notes on recent family vacations.

This summer we took a minivacation, about 4 days, in Virginia. We drove down to Williamsburg, stayed at a Homewood Suites, spent about a day and a half at Colonial Williamsburg, and a day at Busch Gardens. The kids got a little bored with the colonial town but perked up when we found the section with historical children's games, and when we took a ghost tour one evening. They loved the amusement park. We also went to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.

If the idea appeals to you but the traveling doesn't, check out Pennsbury Manor in Bucks County and then go to Sesame Place.

My favorite part of the whole trip was sitting in a back booth at the local Friendly's, having ice cream, and laughing about something that happened earlier in the day.

Hatfield Passes "Lost or Stolen," Are McCoys Next?

from the inbox:

On December 21, 2009, the Hatfield Township Board of Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, in favor of an ordinance requiring lost or stolen firearms be reported to the police upon discovery of their absence. Hatfield Township has set itself apart as a leader in Montgomery County as the first local municipality in the county, the first Pennsylvania township and 19th Pennsylvania community to adopt the reform – to address the statewide proliferation of illegal guns. In accordance with the new law, Hatfield gun owners will have 72 hours to report a lost or stolen firearm missing to the police, from the time the loss or theft is discovered.

Ward V Township Commissioner Thomas Landauer spearheaded the reform. “I am proud that this board came together as one to adopt this commonsense reform. An illegal gun in a criminal’s hands is just as deadly in the suburbs as it is in the inner city. We need to be proactive and take every step we can to make it harder for dangerous criminals to get illegal guns. To be most effective – we need to see reforms like this one statewide.

In a recent survey of NRA members conducted by conservative pollster Frank Luntz, and commissioned by the national Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, 78% of NRA members were found to be in favor of mandatory lost or stolen handgun reporting as a tool to keep illegal guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals.

Board President and Ward I Township Commissioner Scott Brown explained the law’s intention. “This is a law enforcement issue. Criminals who aren’t allowed to have them due to a past offense commit most crimes committed with guns. We’re not interested in hunters and collectors or any other legal gun user, and most gun owners understand that. This is about illegal guns in the hands of criminals. We’d never take an action against legal gun ownership. We are working against illegal guns only.”

Hatfield Township Police Chief Mark Toomey was present at the Board of Commissioners’ meeting and previously made his support for the reform. This fall, State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski released a statement endorsing lost or stolen handgun reporting and applauding cities and towns that had already taken the important step, encouraging communities to continue pressing for statewide reform to address the proliferation of illegal guns. The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have also come out in favor of the reform.

Hatfield is the 19th Pennsylvania community to pass this commonsense reform in the last year, including: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Reading, Pottsville, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Wilkinsburg, Erie, Homestead, West Homestead, Clairton, Oxford, Munhall, Bradock, Castle Shannon, Aliquippa, and West Mifflin. Others have passed resolutions calling for action by the General Assembly, and more than a dozen additional cities are currently considering it.

For more information see

Welcome to New PA Reporter / Blogger

The Morning Call has introduced it's new DC-based reporter, Colby Itkowitz. She was born and raised in the Lancaster area. Ms. Itkowitz previously worked for CQ. Her first blog post at Pennsylvania Avenue, the Morning Call's DC blog, is now up. She's starting off with good political story that bodes well for her coverage of Pennsylvania's DC contingent.

End of Campaign Finance Reporting Period

Today's political time was taken up with a phone call, an extended email exchange, and an actual in-person conversation, all with delightful people, but it does mean there isn't an original blog post this evening, just a re-post from the inbox.

So let me take this evening's blogspace to remind you that the end of this month marks the end of a campaign finance reporting period. Should you have any loose change, you can donate to Pennsylvania candidates at ActBlue:

My friends across the aisle can google their candidate's name, look for their campaign site, and contribute there. Remember, you get the government you pay for.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Obama Statement Today on Detroit Incident

from the inbox:

Good morning. Yesterday I updated the American people on the immediate steps we took -- the increased screening and security of air travel -- to keep our country safe in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. And I announced two reviews -- a review of our terrorist watch list system and a review of our air travel screening, so we can find out what went wrong, fix it and prevent future attacks.

Those reviews began on Sunday and are now underway. Earlier today I issued the former [sic] guidelines for those reviews and directed that preliminary findings be provided to the White House by this Thursday. It's essential that we diagnose the problems quickly and deal with them immediately.

Now, the more comprehensive, formal reviews and recommendations for improvement will be completed in the coming weeks, and I'm committed to working with Congress and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country.

I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It's been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son's extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list.

There appears to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We've achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.

The professionalism of the men and women in our intelligence, counterterrorism and law enforcement and homeland security communities is extraordinary. They are some of the most hardworking, most dedicated Americans that I've ever met. In pursuit of our security here at home they risk their lives, day in and day out, in this country and around the world.

Few Americans see their work, but all Americans are safer because of their successes. They have targeted and taken out violent extremists, they have disrupted plots and saved countless American lives; they are making real and daily progress in our mission to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world. And for this every American owes them a profound and lasting debt of gratitude.

Moreover, as Secretary Napolitano has said, once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253 -- after his attempt it's clear that passengers and crew, our homeland security systems and our aviation security took all appropriate actions. But what's also clear is this: When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable.

The reviews I've ordered will surely tell us more. But what already is apparent is that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security. We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system, because our security is at stake and lives are at stake.

I fully understand that even when every person charged with ensuring our security does what they are trained to do, even when every system works exactly as intended there is still no one hundred percent guarantee of success. Yet, this should only compel us to work even harder, to be even more innovative and relentless in our efforts.

As President I will do everything in my power to support the men and women in intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security to make sure they've got the tools and resources they need to keep America safe. But it's also my job to ensure that our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security systems and the people in them are working effectively and held accountable. I intend to fulfill that responsibility and insist on accountability at every level.

That's the spirit guiding our reviews into the attempted attack on Christmas Day. That's the spirit that will guide all our efforts in the days and years ahead.

Thank you very much.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sneak Peak at Rendell-Edited Politics Magazine

The cover of the January 2010 issue of Politics Magazine, guest edited by Ed Rendell, is on Facebook. It's a sneak peek. The issue itself has not yet been released.

Lentz on Reform

State Rep (and candidate for the 7th congressional district) Bryan Lentz published a guest editorial in the Delaware County Daily Times on Saturday, called "Restoring faith in our politicians." Here is an excerpt:

I have already proposed one simple, common-sense measure designed to minimize corruption by limiting officials to one elected office at a time. This bill challenges the assumed right of career politicians to expand their power despite potential conflicts of interest and the disservice they do to the people. And yet even this bill has been attacked by those who believe any reform is a threat to their power.

We must do more. I strongly support a ban on all gifts from lobbyists and legislation that would make all lobbyist connections with government more open and transparent. Campaign finance reform and harsh fines for violations should be a top legislative priority. We need to modernize our outdated state laws and stop well-financed special interests from trying to purchase influence with free dinners and endless corporate money.

We must also fix the legislative salary system — legislators should not control their own salaries or give themselves pay raises at the taxpayers’ expense. I have never voted for a pay raise for myself, and I regularly donate my cost of living increase to charity. That this broken system has continued despite widespread public condemnation of the practice is indicative of how disconnected the old crony-style politicians are from the people.

I have also proposed a 20 percent cut of the state Legislature’s oversized budget — nearly $300 million — for its own operations. That is close to $60 million in savings to the taxpayer by simply shrinking the size of the Legislature and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. We have to face tough choices. In a time when hard-working families are being asked to tighten their belts, it is only right that the government should consider these types common-sense reforms.

Lentz Calls for Eachus to Step Down

From the inbox:

Representative Bryan R. Lentz (D-Delaware County) today released the following statement calling for the removal of current Majority Leader Todd Eachus and for the election of newleadership in the House Democratic Caucus. Rep. Bill DeWeese, a former speaker of the state House and majority whip, has already resigned his leadership post after being indicted on several charges relating to the use of tax-payer money for campaign purposes. State Representative Frank Dermody, a former prosecutor, was elected to replace DeWeese. The resignation and subsequent election were followed by the release of grand jury testimony describing the current Majority Leader as using taxpayer funded assets for campaign purposes.

“My experiences as an officer in the 82nd Airborne Division tell me that there are times when an entire chain of command must be relieved in order to restore confidence in an organization.

“That time has come for the House Democratic caucus.

“A cloud of corruption has hung over our Commonwealth for too long and we must take clear affirmative steps to regain the confidence of the citizens of Pennsylvania.

“The election of new leaders will show the people that our caucus is capable of self-correction and serious about cleaning up Harrisburg.

“Elected representatives have a sworn obligation to the citizens of Pennsylvania and are responsible for moving legislation to confront and conquer the challenges we face as a Commonwealth. Dramatic action must be taken in order to fulfill this obligation and begin a new day.

“A caucus reorganization focused on developing and executing reform will allow us to better serve the public and restore the prestige of this important and historic institution.”

Bryan Lentz is a former Airborne Ranger, criminal prosecutor and Iraq war veteran who currently serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Delaware County. He was awarded both the Bronze Star for Service and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for his military service. He lives in Swarthmore with his wife Jennifer and their son Thomas.

Statement by the President on the Attempted Attack on Christmas Day and Recent Violence in Iran

From the inbox:

Hey, guys. Good morning, everybody. I just want to take a few minutes to update the American people on the attempted terrorist attack that occurred on Christmas Day and the steps we're taking to ensure the safety and security of the country.

The investigation is ongoing and I spoke again this morning with Attorney General Eric Holder, the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and my Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan. I asked them to keep -- continue monitoring the situation, to keep the American people and members of Congress informed.

Here's what we know so far. On Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Detroit. As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body, setting off a fire.

Thanks to the quick and heroic actions of passengers and crew, the suspect was immediately subdued, the fire was put out, and the plane landed safely. The suspect is now in custody and had been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft. And a full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.

This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland. Had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their families and friends.

The American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your families safe and secure during this busy holiday season. Since I was first notified of this incident I've ordered the following actions to be taken to protect the American people and to secure air travel.

First, I directed that we take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the traveling public. We made sure that all flights still in the air were secure and could land safely. We immediately enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. We added federal air marshals to flights entering and leaving the United States. And we're working closely in this country -- federal, state and local law enforcement -- with our international partners.

Second, I've ordered two important reviews because it's absolutely critical that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent future acts of terrorism. The first review involves our watch list system, which our government has had in place for many years to identify known and suspected terrorists so that we can prevent their entry into the United States.

Apparently the suspect in the Christmas incident was in the system, but not on a watch list such as the so-called no-fly list. So I've ordered a thorough review not only of how information related to the subject was handled, but of the overall watch list system and how it can be strengthened.

The second review will examine all screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel. We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks.

Third, I've directed my national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country. We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses -- we will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle, and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us -- whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.

Finally, the American people should remain vigilant, but also be confident. Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as Americans. This incident, like several that have preceded it demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist. As a nation we will do everything in our power to protect our country, as Americans we will never give in to fear or division, we will be guided by our hopes, our unity, and our deeply held values. That's who we are as Americans. And that's what our brave men and women in uniform are standing up for as they spend the holidays in harm's way, and we will continue to do everything that we can to keep America safe in the New Year and beyond.

Before I leave let me also briefly address the events that have taken place over the last few days in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries and even death.

For months the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people, who are a part of Iran's great and enduring civilization.

What's taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country -- it's about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran's leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away. As I said in Oslo, it's telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.

Along with all free nations the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people. We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I'm confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.

Thank you very much, everybody, and Happy New Year

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Consultant Winners & Losers List for 2009

Campaigns & Elections Politics Magazine has published the annual winners & losers list for 2009, giving candidates by the consulting firms they hired and how those races turned out. Once again, the publication has given me permission to cull out the Pennsylvania data. I corrected a few typos but if anything else looks odd, check the original list to see if the error is theirs or mine.

Each entry starts out with the consulting firm's name, their party affiliation (or N for neutral), and their specialty. Below that are Pennsylvania candidates, office sought, and whether they won or lost (or lost primaries). A w/l indicates a primary win and general election loss, w/w is a win in both.

As a service I have searched for a URL for each consulting firm listed. If there isn't a link it's because nothing came up in the first screen of search results on Google. I'm just not willing to look any further than that.

Anzalone Liszt Research, D – polling
Anne Scheuring PA state house (special) – L

Buzz Communications, D – web polling, communication
Steve Pollock, PA, Commonwealth Court – L

Campaign Solutions / Connell Donatelli , R – internet consulting
PA Republican Party --

Chris Russell Consulting, R – direct mail
Tom Creighton, PA Lehigh County Commissioner – W
Percy Dougherty, PA Lehigh County Commissioner – W
Bob Smith, PA Lehigh County Commissioner – L
Mike Welsh, PA Lehigh County Commissioner – L
Glenn Eckhart, PA Lehigh County Commissioner – W

Devine Mulvey, D – media consulting
Chris Doherty, PA Scranton Mayor – W/W

Edward Mitchell Communications, D – media
Carole Walbert, PA, Carbon County Judge – L
Jim Goodman, PA, Schuylkill County DA -- W

Global Strategy Group, D – polling
Chris Asplen, PA, Bucks County DA – L
Dan McCaffery, PA Philadelphia DA – Lp

Gold Communications, D – direct mail
Luke Ravenstahl, PA Pittsburgh Mayor -- W

Mission Control Inc, D – direct mail, print advertising
Dan Anders, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas – W

Momentum Analysis, D – polling
Chris Doherty, Scranton Mayor – W

New Media Campaigns, N – Internet software, services
Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh Mayor – W
Alexander Bicket, PA Judge – Lp

Northeast Tele-Services, R – grassroots, direct mail, general
Frank Castellano, Lackawanna County Judge – L
Richard Hughes, Luzerne County Judge – L
Andy Jarbola, Lackawanna County DA – W
George Skumanick, Lyoming County DA – L

Pathfinder Communications, R – direct mail
Wendy Demchick-Alloy, Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas – W
Linda Fleming, Cambria County Court of Common Pleas – W
Kelly Wall, Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas – W
PA Republican State Committee (Supreme Court) – W

Public Opinion Strategies, R – polling
Bob Mensch – State Senate (special) – W
Dave Heckler, Bucks County DA – W

Stanford Campaigns, R – research, general
Dan McCaffery, Philadelphia DA – Lp

Strategy Group for Media, R – polling
Bernie Coates – Dauphin County Court – W/W
Deborah Essis Curcillo, Dauphin County Court – W/w
Craig Daily, Northampton county court – W/W
Devin Brobson, PA Commonwealth Court – W/W

Susquehanna Polling & Research, R – polling
Jerry Knowles, PA state house – W
Craig Dally, Northampton County Court of Common Pleas – L
Linda Fleming, Cambria Court of Common Pleas – L
Greg Mousseau, Carbon County Court of Common Pleas – Lp
Mike Rozman, Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas – Lp
Ann Wilson, Johnstown City Council – W
Stan Robert, York County, DA – Lp
Republican State Committee of PA for Jane Orie Melvin for Supreme Court – W
House Republican Campaign Committee -- --
YES on Liquor Referendeum in Warrington Twp – W
YES on Liquor Referendum in West Lampeter Twp – W
Joe DiGirolamo Bensalmen Mayor – W
Richard Hughes, Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas – L
Schuylkill County GOP committee for Dale Repp Sheriff – L
Schuylkill County GOP for Christie Holman DA – L
Chester County Republican Committee, PA Row Office Candidates -- W

Traz Group, R -- direct mail
Joan Orie Melvin, PA Supreme Court – W

Winning Connections, D -- telephone contact services
Don Cunningham, Lehigh county Commission – W
Hillary Kwiatec Lehigh County Commissioner – L
Jeanne McNeill, Lehigh County Commissioner – L
David Jones, Lehigh county council – W
Dan McCarthy, Lehigh County council – W
Francis Acost, Reading City council – W

Some WSJ Notes

A few notes from last week’s Wall Street Journal:

12/26, “As slump hits home, cities downsize their ambitions,” by Conor Dougherty, there are several paragraphs on Philly noting that 800 staff positions have been lost, snow removal cut on short one-way streets, and parades having to pay their own way.

“Does golden pay for the CEOs sink stocks,” by Jason Zweig, 12/26, “It turns out that the bigger the CEO’s slice, the lower the company’s profitability and market valuation.” Something to keep in mind.

From “Recession alters migration patterns in U.S.,” by Mark Whitehouse on 12/24 is a note that migration patterns may affect redistricting after next year’s census. In the past year Pennsylvania actually gained population. For the past several years California and New York have lost population. The article notes that birth rates can also have an effect. For those who missed the tweet last week, one of the Democratic candidates for the 6th congressional district, Dr. Manan Trivedi and his wife are taking a lead on this, and are expecting their first child next spring.

For those unaware, Brite Star Manufacturing, the only US manufacturer of tinsel, is headquartered in Philadelphia, as noted in “Tinsel: can’t live with it, can’t get past Christmas without it,” by Clare Ansberry 12/23

From “Defense bill earmarks total $4 billion,” by John D McKinnon and Brody Mullins (12/22), we learn that Congressman John Murtha sponsored 23 earmarks totaling $76.5 million.

SEPTA Service Today for Broncos Game

from the inbox:

Brian Dawkins returns to Philadelphia to face his former teammates this weekend as the Eagles take on the Broncos – and SEPTA has the best travel options for fans who are heading down to Lincoln Financial Field for this homecoming.

The Birds square off against Denver at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, December 27th. In addition to Dawk’s return, the game has major playoff implications. The Eagles clinched a playoff berth with last week’s win over the 49ers, but remain locked in a tight battle for the NFC East title. The Broncos, meanwhile, are fighting for a Wild Card spot in the AFC.

Fans heading to the Linc for this match-up can look forward to the following services from SEPTA:

• A total of 10 Sports Express trains will supplement regular service on the Broad Street Line, running every 10 minutes starting at 1:10 p.m.
• Sports Express trains depart at the Fern Rock Transportation Center and stop at Olney, Erie, Girard, Spring Garden, Race-Vine, City Hall and Walnut-Locust, before reaching the Pattison Avenue Station at the Sports Complex in South Philadelphia. An average Sports Express trip from City Hall to Pattison Avenue takes just 8 minutes.
• After the game, fans will find Express and Local trains waiting at Pattison Avenue for the trip home.

There will also be additional service on the Market-Frankford Line, which provides a quick connection to the subway at City Hall. The Broad Street Line is also easily accessible by Regional Rail. Riders are encouraged to take advantage of free weekend parking available at most Regional Rail stations, then take trains to Market East or Suburban stations to connect to the subway. A number of bus and trolley routes also provide quick and easy connections to the Broad Street Line, as does the PATCO High Speedline.

For more information on SEPTA’s Sports Express service, and for full schedule, trip planning and fare information, visit

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Road Trip: Baltimore's Inner Harbor

No politics tonight.

On the off chance that anyone is looking for quick weekend getaways for the family, let me suggest Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We went down in late fall, 2008. It was a great and inexpensive trip. We bought Harbor Passes, which lets you visit five attractions, including the aquarium, over four days. We stayed at a Homewood Suites, which are great hotels for a family as there are two rooms, allowing Mom & Dad to have a little privacy, and a small kitchenette. The one on the harbor is on a block with a drug store, grocery store, small theater, and an ice cream store. Something for everyone.

There are a lot of restaurants, with a variety of cuisines and price ranges, that also allows something for everyone. Shopping venues are also available. I stopped in at the nearby department store just in time for the store detectives to chase out several teens suspected of shoplifting. Unfortunately the only thing between them and the door was me and I was knocked into a display table during the melee.

Other than that it was a really pleasant weekend. I can't guarantee the businesses I mentioned are still there but the aquarium surely is, and that is well worth the trip.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

President's Comments on Passage of Health Care Reform

From the inbox:

Good morning, everybody. In a historic vote that took place this morning members of the Senate joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a landmark health insurance reform package -- legislation that brings us toward the end of a nearly century-long struggle to reform America’s health care system.

Ever since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform in 1912, seven Presidents -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- have taken up the cause of reform. Time and time again, such efforts have been blocked by special interest lobbyists who’ve perpetuated a status quo that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people. But with passage of reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we are now finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people.

The reform bill that passed the Senate this morning, like the House bill, includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition. They will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get sick. No longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for the treatments you need. And you’ll be able to appeal unfair decisions by insurance companies to an independent party.

If this legislation becomes law, workers won’t have to worry about losing coverage if they lose or change jobs. Families will save on their premiums. Businesses that would see their costs rise if we do not act will save money now, and they will save money in the future. This bill will strengthen Medicare, and extend the life of the program. It will make coverage affordable for over 30 million Americans who do not have it -- 30 million Americans. And because it is paid for and curbs the waste and inefficiency in our health care system, this bill will help reduce our deficit by as much as $1.3 trillion in the coming decades, making it the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.

As I’ve said before, these are not small reforms; these are big reforms. If passed, this will be the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s. And what makes it so important is not just its cost savings or its deficit reductions. It’s the impact reform will have on Americans who no longer have to go without a checkup or prescriptions that they need because they can’t afford them; on families who no longer have to worry that a single illness will send them into financial ruin; and on businesses that will no longer face exorbitant insurance rates that hamper their competitiveness. It’s the difference reform will make in the lives of the American people.

I want to commend Senator Harry Reid, extraordinary work that he did; Speaker Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership and dedication. Having passed reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we now have to take up the last and most important step and reach an agreement on a final reform bill that I can sign into law. And I look forward to working with members of Congress in both chambers over the coming weeks to do exactly that.

With today’s vote, we are now incredibly close to making health insurance reform a reality in this country. Our challenge, then, is to finish the job. We can't doom another generation of Americans to soaring costs and eroding coverage and exploding deficits. Instead we need to do what we were sent here to do and improve the lives of the people we serve. For the sake of our citizens, our economy, and our future, let’s make 2010 the year we finally reform health care in the United States of America.

Everybody, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Q Do you have a holiday wish for the troops?

THE PRESIDENT: I do, and I will be actually -- I'm on my way right now to call a few of them and wish them Merry Christmas and to thank them for their extraordinary service as they're posted in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Patrick Murphy on the Advocate

Last November PA Congressman Patrick Murphy was featured in an article in The Advocate on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. (See "Straight Guys Tell," by Michael Joseph Gross. This month's Philadelphia Magazine published a comment from him on the article:

It was an honor. Sure, it comes with political risk. I won by .6 percent; I'm on the second Democrat ever to hold this seat. But I've been in Washington for three years, and I've learned that if you want to effect change, you have to get in people's faces. I'm going to say what I think -- I think people respect you if you stand on your own two feet and articulate why you think something is good for the country. Thought I did get in a little bit of trouble for using the F-bomb in that story. Mostly from my wife and mom.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Legislative Audit Materials Available

from the inbox:

State Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission (LAAC), today released the independent financial audit of the General Assembly for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. The LAAC voted unanimously to approve the audit report and its recommendations to tighten financial controls within the legislature.

The General Assembly audit, completed by independent auditors from Ernst & Young, found that the legislature dispersed more than $327 million on operations in 2008-09, held more than $37 million in commitments, and ended the fiscal year with a $201.4 million legislative surplus.

The audit shows an unprecedented level of transparency in the spending of the General Assembly and progress being made on reforms recommended by the LAAC last year. This audit, for the first time, includes a detailed accounting of legislative expenditures, which includes spending listed by category to show the public how its tax dollars are being allocated. Additionally, last year the LAAC recommended that the expenditure process in the House be centralized through the Comptroller's Office as opposed to using individual checkbooks controlled by certain House members. Today, only a small handful of checkbooks remain; the rest were closed and those House members now make use of the centralized payment system.

The audit recommends this year that the House and Senate utilize benchmarking or other measures to determine the appropriate amount of budgetary reserves necessary. To help accomplish this recommendation, the LAAC will meet in January to try and adopt a specific policy that could then be considered by House and Senate leaders and members. Additionally, the LAAC recommends that the remaining checkbooks be eliminated and that the House and Senate enhance the financial statement close process and implement a centralized financial information and control system for the General Assembly.

"I am pleased that the LAAC has unanimously approved the audit and recommendations as set forth in this report,” said Shapiro. “While we have taken important steps to improve transparency and accountability in our legislative budget, there is more to be done. I urge the leadership of both the House and Senate to implement the recommendations from this report. It's critical that the public has confidence in knowing how their tax dollars are being spent and that there is no waste in their state government."

The LAAC was created in 1970 for the purpose of overseeing, reviewing and reporting on audits performed on the financial affairs of the General Assembly and making recommendations for improvements. The LAAC appoints a certified public accountant to audit the financial affairs of the General Assembly and its legislative service agencies. At least one audit is performed each year, with more performed as deemed necessary by the commission. Shapiro was appointed to chair the LAAC in October 2007.

The audit documents can be found at

Shapiro represents the 153rd Legislative District in Montgomery County. For more information, visit

Comcast Execs Guaranteed 12% Interest; Workers Lost Money

Read it and weep. From "For executives, sure-thing retirement plans," by Ellen E. Schultz and Tom McGinty, Wall Street Journal 12/15, we find out that some corporate executives are guaranteed a certain percentage of growth per year in their retirement plans, regardless of market performance. Local angle:

Comcast Corp, the cable operator, provides top executives with 12% interest on supplemental savings. This provided Executive Vice President Stephen Burke with gains of $7.4 million in his deferred-compensation account, helping to boost his total retirement savings to $71 million, show corporate findings.

The retirement funds of more than 70,000 workers in the Comcast 401(k) plan lost $649 million, a drop of 28%, filings show. Their average account size by year end was $24,000. The company, which confirmed the calculations, declined to comment.

Something to think about next time your cable goes out. The repairmen and lower level employees are at the mercy of the market. The corner office guys not so much. Fair? Hardly.

Big Bloggy Welcome

A big bloggy welcome to Scott Detrow's new Pennsylvania political blog: Should be interesting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Note on the State Supreme Court Election

from the inbox:

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC) today announced that the 2009 Supreme Court election between Republican Joan Orie Melvin and Democrat Jack Panella is likely to set fundraising and spending records. Final figures are not yet available because fundraising can continue until the end of the year. The numbers to date are staggering: the Supreme Court election cost at least $4.5 million dollars. PMC believes the total is significantly higher, though it is difficult to determine with certainty because of gaps in our campaign finance reporting requirements. Who’s footing the bill? Not just the usual suspects – lawyers, law firms, businesses, unions and political action committees that contribute to the candidates -- but also some well-funded third parties, most notably the state Republican Party.

The candidates have raised and spent over $3.6 million to date: $2,646,735 for Judge Panella and $940,224 for Judge Orie Melvin. Fundraising by judicial candidates is of concern because perceptions are created that money might buy favor in later court cases. This year, the fundraising seemed lopsided, especially because of particularly large contributions -- totaling $1 million -- to the Panella campaign from the Committee for a Better Tomorrow, the PAC of the Philadelphia Association of Trial Lawyers. But the direct contributions to candidates’ campaigns was only part of the money story.

Executive Director Lynn Marks explained, “During the campaign, the candidates themselves argued about money and who was funding the other’s campaign. This raised a red flag for the public. It became clear that examining the fundraising and spending by the candidates’ campaigns would not give the whole story of the financing of the 2009 Supreme Court election.”

PMC therefore researched who else was spending money for the Supreme Court election. We found that the state Republican Party outspent its candidate’s own campaign in support of her election. The television campaign for Judge Orie Melvin was funded largely by the state Republican Party, to the tune of at least $975,849, based on data collected by Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), a nonpartisan media research organization. By contrast, the Panella campaign funded its own television buys.

Political parties and PACs are not required to identify specifically on their expenditure reports the candidates for whom money was spent. Therefore, the total amount the political parties spent on their candidates cannot be determined for certain without further inquiries of the state parties. But reports reveal that from January 1, 2009 until November 23, 2009 , the state Republican Party spent over $5 million; the state Democratic Party reported spending $1,828,851. An additional $85,000 was spent on media advertising by the Republican Senate Committee between September 15, 2009 and October 19, 2009 (the only time period for which that PAC was required to report its expenditures).

The candidates’ spending and the CMAG data for the state Republican Party are verifiable and add up to approximately $4.5 million. But it seems reasonable to assume that a good part of the remaining $4 million in Republican Party spending and nearly $2 million in Democratic Party spending also went to the Supreme Court election. Adding in the spending by the state parties and other political entities such as the Republican Senate Committee could add millions to the cost of the election. PMC’s Marks opined, “Pennsylvanians have a right to know what the Supreme Court election cost; we urge the campaigns and the political parties to give a full accounting of their spending.”

Pennsylvania had the nation’s most expensive Supreme Court elections in the 2007-08 election cycle, and the available data is leading elections experts to predict that Pennsylvania will earn that title again for 2009-10. According to Charles Hall of the Justice At Stake Campaign, a nonpartisan national group that works to protect courts from special-interest influence, “In the last three years, Pennsylvania has become the new Ground Zero of high-price Supreme Court politics.”

As PMC’s Marks explained, “Pennsylvanians should not take pride in leading the nation in spending for judicial elections. Each dollar raised and spent raises yet another doubt in voters’ minds about whether or not justice is for sale.”

Schwartz on Health Care

From the inbox:

As one of the leading members of the U.S. House of Representative negotiating health care legislation, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz praised the U.S. Senate for including legislation she authored to protect health coverage for children with chronic medical conditions in the final package of amendments to The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The legislation would ensure that children suffering from debilitating and life threatening illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, asthma and heart disease, have access to comprehensive and affordable coverage and would prohibit employers and insurers from imposing pre-existing condition limitations on children before they reach the age of 25. In both the House and Senate bill, there is a commitment to end insurance discrimination against pre-existing conditions for all Americans.

“With 20 percent of school-aged children suffering from chronic diseases, it is imperative that we ensure every child gets the care and medical attention they need and deserve,” Schwartz said. “The provision included in the Senate bill will immediately prohibit health insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. This legislation ends a failed policy that has enabled insurance companies to deny millions of children who need health care coverage the most.”

The congresswoman’s legislation would help nine million American children who are uninsured obtain the insurance they need to ensure prompt treatment for their chronic conditions. In addition, it would potentially help millions of children who are at risk for becoming uninsured if their parents lose their job and health insurance in these difficult economic times.

The package of amendments, which passed in the Senate 60-39 last weekend, moves us one step closer to final passage of health care reform. The House passed its version of health reform, The Affordable Health Care for America Act, on November 7th. The two Houses will come together to reconcile differences in the two bills and a final bill is expected to be signed by President Obama in 2010.

Dr. Trivedi Makes A House Call

Democratic candidate for the 6th congressional district, Dr. Manan Trivedi made a house call at Daily Kos today, outlining preventive health measures for the holidays. You can read through it online, and the diary entry has a link to his previous health care post (on H1N1) at Kos. Interesting stuff. Trivia -- there are some remarks that might be of use to those who make their own eggnog.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Miscellaneous Notes

Postings have been light lately -- I've been working on some longer posts that will be showing up on the blog soon, digging out of the snow, and getting ready for the holiday, but here are a few quick notes:

Political Events

I've been out and about a few times. Over the past few weeks I went to one event for State Rep Bryan Lentz who is running for congress in the 7th district. Lentz is politically savvy but still very down to earth.

Joe Hoeffel, Montgomery County Commissioner and candidate for governor has been holding a number of events. The one I attended brought in some other elected officials and once and future candidates. It was a nice group of people. Joe was, as always, very informed and easy to talk to.

Both of them, and everyone else running for office, would love to have a donation from you before the campaign finance deadline at the of this month. If your stocking is full of green instead of coal, and you've already bought a toy or two for Toys for Tots, then consider dropping a few dollars down the chimney for your favorite candidate.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Game's Afoot!

Some times it is nice to do a number of things that have a theme.

Some years ago the People's Light and Theatre had a wonderful King Arthur play. We took the kids and talked about the similarity between the play, the "Sword in the Stone" cartoon movie, and the Harry Potter books / movies.

A similar opportunity is coming up this year. Starting Friday at 8 p.m. TCM is showing a number of Sherlock Holmes movies, beginning with "The Hound of the Baskervilles." It looks like the channel is playing other Holmes movies through Saturday. As you might have heard, the new Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey, Jr., opens Christmas Day. To round it off, this July and August the People's Light and Theatre in Malvern is putting on "The Secret of Sherlock Holmes."

We'll throw in some Nancy Drew to mix it up a bit but looks like we'll be doing a magical mystery tour this year!

Statement by the President on Health Care and Climate Change

From the inbox:

THE PRESIDENT: Hello. Good afternoon, everybody. You know that I am from Chicago, so let me first say that with the place where I live covered with snow I'm finally starting to feel like home. And I am sorry to drag you guys out in this weather, but I wanted to speak briefly to you about the significant progress that we've made on two of the major challenges facing the American people: the crushing cost of health care and our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

On health care, with today's developments it now appears that the American people will have the vote they deserve on genuine reform that offers security to those who have health insurance and affordable options to those for do not. And so I want to thank Senator Harry Reid and every senator who's been working around the clock to make this happen.

There's still much work left to be done, but not a lot of time left to do it. But today is a major step forward for the American people. After a nearly century long struggle we are on the cusp of making health care reform a reality in the United States of America.

As with any legislation, compromise is part of the process. But I'm pleased that recently added amendments have made this landmark bill even stronger. Between the time the bill passes and the time when the insurance exchange gets up and running there will now be penalties for insurance companies that arbitrarily jack up rates on consumers. And while insurance companies will be prevented from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions once the exchange is open, in the meantime there will be a high risk pool where people with pre-existing conditions can purchase affordable coverage.

And a recent amendment has made these protections even stronger. Insurance companies will now be prohibited from denying coverage to children immediately after this bill passes. There's also explicit language in this bill that will protect a patient's choice of doctor. And small businesses will get additional assistance as well.

These protections are in addition to the ones we've been talking about for some time. No longer will insurance companies be able to drop your coverage if you become sick and no longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for treatments that you need.

Under this bill families will save on their premiums; businesses that will see their costs rise if we don't act will save money now and in the future. This bill with strengthen Medicare and extend the life of the program. Because it's paid for and gets rid of waste and inefficiency in our health care system this will be the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade. In fact, we just learned from the Congressional Budget Office that this bill will reduce our deficit by $132 billion over the first decade of the program, and more than one trillion dollars in the decade after that.

Finally, this reform will make coverage affordable for over 30 million Americans who don't have it -- over 30 million Americans.

As I said before, these are not small changes. These are big changes. They're fundamental reforms. They will save money. They will save lives. And I look forward to working with the Senate and the House to finish the work that remains so that we can make this reform a reality for the American people.

I also want to briefly mention the progress we made in Copenhagen yesterday. For the first time in history all of the major -“the world's major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change. After extremely difficult and complex negotiations this important breakthrough lays the foundation for international action in the years to come.

This progress did not come easily and we know that progress on this particular aspect of climate change negotiations is not enough. Going forward we're going to have to build on the momentum that we established in Copenhagen to ensure that international action to significantly reduce emissions is sustained and sufficient over time.

At home, that means continuing our efforts to build a clean energy economy that has the potential to create millions of new jobs and new industries. And it means passing legislation that will create the incentives necessary to spark this clean energy revolution.

So even though we have a long way to go, there's no question that we've accomplished a great deal over the last few days. And I want America to continue to lead on this journey, because if America leads in developing clean energy, we will lead in growing our economy and putting our people back to work, and leaving a stronger and more secure country to our children. That's why I went to Copenhagen yesterday and that's why I will continue in these efforts in the weeks and months to come.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Schwartz Brings Home Eight Gifts for Hanukkah

From the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz praised the inclusion of eight projects for the 13th district in the Fiscal Year 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this week. The legislation increases funding for infrastructure, health, and education projects in order to create jobs immediately while investing in our local communities and workforce for the long-term.

The appropriations bill includes funding for the city of Philadelphia to establish electronic medical records; the Abington, Montgomery and Jenkintown police departments; the downtown streetscape expansion in Lansdale; the Liberty Housing Development Corporation in Philadelphia to assist disabled individuals; the Community College of Philadelphia; and the Jewish Employment and Vocational Service (JEVS).

“It is imperative that in these difficult economic times we make smart, targeted investments that will grow our economy and create jobs,” Schwartz said. “I am particularly pleased with funding for the city’s health information technology system, which will improve care and increase coordination between Philadelphia's multiple hospitals. These funds will improve transitions in care between primary care and tertiary care providers, resulting in improved patient outcomes and savings for the city and its hospitals.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act includes funding for the following projects in the 13th District:

· $535,000 for the City of Philadelphia to establish an electronic health record (HER) system.

· $500,000 for a Downtown Streetscape Expansion in Lansdale. This investment will encourage commercial growth, enhance property, and transform the downtown area of Lansdale Borough while creating new gateways to the community.

· $300,000 for the Liberty Housing Development Corporation in Philadelphia, which will enable the organization to assist disabled individuals seeking to move from live-in nursing facilities to independent living by retrofitting residences and providing opportunities for occupants to become part of the community. These funds will increase community participation and access for disabled individuals.

· $100,000 for the Community College of Philadelphia to expand the Center for Small Business Education, Growth and Training, which will be an economic engine for Northeast Philadelphia, providing training and resources for locally owned small businesses. The expansion efforts will fulfill critical economic needs by enabling programs tailored to the demands of local and regional industries and businesses. These funds will improve the regions workforce and encourage economic growth.

· $165,000 for the Jewish Employment and Vocational Service (JEVS) for an associate degree program in court reporting.

The appropriations bill also includes funding for three area police departments:

· $195,000 for the Abington Township Police Department to assist in its ongoing effort to upgrade the in-car computer technologies used by its officers. This will allow all relevant and necessary information about police calls to be accessible to officers in their vehicles. Additionally, it will allow officers to remotely file reports back to the station for approval.

· $40,000 for the Jenkintown Borough Police Department to purchase new in-car video cameras, computer technology for its cars and offices and a new fingerprint system. The funds will also provide for the maintenance of the department’s newly formed K-9 and traffic safety units.

· $75,000 for Montgomery Township Police Department to acquire and deploy in-car video cameras to provide a permanent record of police activities. Such records are beneficial for criminal prosecutions - primarily driving under the influence cases - and protecting police officers against allegations of misconduct, false arrests, and excessive force by establishing an audible and visual recording of encounters.

“These critical funds will go towards strengthening our police force by providing officers with the tools they need to improve effectiveness and efficiency and ensure the safety of our citizens,” Schwartz said. “The funds for the Montgomery Township Police Department will enhance the accountability of the department by providing permanent records of police activities.”

The FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act combines appropriations bills for Transportation and HUD; Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Labor Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; and State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Judicial Elections or Appointments? McCaffery Weighs In

Bill Mears wrote an article for the CNN website on the judicial elections / appointments controversy. Former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is clearly on the side of appointing judges. For additional opinions Mears talks with the Ohio Chief Justice and PA Supreme Court Judge Seamus McCaffery. Here is McCaffery's comment:

But as Pennsylvania's newest elected high court member, McCaffery said it was a treat visiting all of his state's 67 counties on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

"That's the beauty of having electoral process where we need to be responsive to the community," said the Philadelphia former cop-turned-judge. "And I think it's important that judges should be out there. It's just as important as other elected officials."

I disagree with McCaffery. Judges should be responsive to the law, not popular opinion.

For more info read "Former Justice O'Connor Leads Push to End Judicial Elections." For a more local perspective see Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts

SEPTA Sports Express This Weekend

From the inbox:

The Eagles playoff quest returns home this weekend – and SEPTA has the best options for fans to get down to Lincoln Financial Field for all the action.

The Birds square off against the San Francisco 49ers at 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 20th. To accommodate fans, SEPTA will begin Sports Express service on the Broad Street Line hours before the game. Here’s SEPTA’s game plan:

• A total of 10 Sports Express trains will supplement regular service on the Broad Street Line, running every 10 minutes starting at 10:10 a.m.
• Sports Express trains depart at the Fern Rock Transportation Center and stop at Olney, Erie, Girard, Spring Garden, Race-Vine, City Hall and Walnut-Locust, before reaching the Pattison Avenue Station at the Sports Complex in South Philadelphia. An average Sports Express trip from City Hall to Pattison Avenue takes just 8 minutes.
• After the game, fans will find Express and Local trains waiting at Pattison Avenue for the trip home.

There will also be additional service on the Market-Frankford Line, which provides a quick connection to the subway at City Hall. The Broad Street Line is also easily accessible by Regional Rail. Riders are encouraged to take advantage of free weekend parking available at most Regional Rail stations, then take trains to Market East or Suburban stations to connect to the subway. A number of bus and trolley routes also provide quick and easy connections to the Broad Street Line, as does the PATCO High Speedline.

For more information on SEPTA’s Sports Express service, and for full schedule, trip planning and fare information, visit

Another Community Passes "Lost or Stolen" Gun Law

From the inbox:

On December 15, amid a contentious public comment session, and despite strong opposition by the PA Firearms Owners Association and NRA-ILA, West Mifflin Borough Council voted to pass a commonsense law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms missing to the police. West Mifflin joins forces with the growing group of Southwestern Pennsylvania communities that have passed this commonsense reform, including: Braddock, Wilkinsburg, Clairton, Homestead, West Homestead, Munhall, Pittsburgh, Castle Shannon, Heidelberg, and Aliquippa in Beaver County.

With a 6-to-1 vote, West Mifflin Council passed the lost or stolen firearms reporting ordinance at its regular meeting Tuesday evening. Under the ordinance, firearms owners will have 72 hours to report a loss or theft of a firearm to the police after they have discovered it missing. Penalties include a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail. The law applies to handguns and other short-barreled guns - not to shotguns, or hunting rifles.

West Mifflin Council Vice President Arlene Jabbour said, “This is a step in the right direction toward controlling illegal handguns in our communities. We fully support the right of individuals to own firearms, but we also think it is necessary to take action to protect our citizens and police officers from dangerous criminals who illegally obtain guns.”

More than 25 opponents to the commonsense reform – not from West Mifflin, and some open carrying handguns, attempted to intimidate the council against taking action to protect the public safety of its residents and police officers. A number of these individuals heckled others in attendance, disrupting the meeting and causing council president William Welsh Jr. to issue warnings concerning their behavior.

In contrast, many West Mifflin residents attended the meeting to support lost or stolen handgun reporting, including Mary Beth Hacke, mother of toddler Ryan Hacke who was killed by a criminal wielding an illegally obtained handgun. Ms. Hacke said, "This ordinance will not only help make our community safer, but will also provide our law enforcement officers, who put their lives on the line everyday, with an essential tool to keep illegal guns from getting into criminal hands."

West Mifflin Mayor John Andzelik, a retired police chief, explained, “We’re after the person who buys multiple guns and sells them to criminals who cannot legally buy guns… this commonsense law does not target law abiding citizens, and it will help police to pinpoint individuals who are engaged in the illegal practice of straw purchasing handguns. I hope the General Assembly will follow our example and pass this reform statewide”

West Mifflin now joins the 18 other cities and towns across the Commonwealth that have passed lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinances into law in recent months: Castle Shannon, Aliquippa, Heidelberg, Braddock, Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, Clairton, Homestead, West Homestead, Munhall, Erie, Oxford, Allentown, Reading, Pottsville, Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg. These communities represent a broad, geographically diverse cross-section of Pennsylvania cities and towns that collectively represent well over two million Pennsylvania citizens.

“The statewide movement toward reasonable handgun reform is growing every day and includes mayors, city councils, police chiefs, faith leaders, and citizens across the Commonwealth who have joined together to support this reasonable reform and urge our legislators to address the epidemic of illegal handguns in our communities and pass lost or stolen handgun reporting statewide.” said Joe Grace, executive director of CeaseFirePA. The reform has been endorsed by the PA Chiefs of Police Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner, Frank Pawlowski.

West Mifflin Council President William Welsh Jr. told the McKeesport Daily News that it is common sense to report a lost or stolen gun and is pleased his council colleagues feel the same way. "I think it's a good ordinance," he said. "We'll have to wait and see if it does good. I hope it does. I'm all for it doing good. I think it's a common sense law. If you discover your gun missing, make a phone call to the police and let them know it's missing. That's all. There's no criminality in that."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Want Less Expensive Government? Elect More Women

Another observation from the Statement of Disbursements of the House (July through Sept) -- women congressional representatives often spend less than their male counterparts.

Looking at the year to date spending in the Statement of Disbursements, I noticed that in Pennsylvania Democrats Allyson Schwartz and Kathleen Dahlkemper were both in the lowest quartile of overall spending. Interesting, very interesting, but is this limited to Pennsylvania?

I checked a few other states -- just looking at places that I knew had one or more women in congress.

Shelley Berkley -- 980,321
Dean Heller -- 904,997
Dina Titus -- 858,662

Both Berkley and Titus are female so in Nevada both the costliest and least costly congressional reps are women.

Let's keep looking. How about Missouri:

Todd Akin -- 899,741
Roy Blount -- 992,633
Russ Carnahan -- 955,846
William Clay, Jr. -- 942,605
Emanuel Cleaver -- 825,836
Jo Ann Emerson -- 882,339
Sam Graves -- 892,020
Blaine Luetkemeyer -- 877,460
Ike Skelton -- 997,291

Of the 9 Missouri representatives the only woman in the delegation ranks 3rd in frugality. Emerson is a Republican. Not bad, not bad at all.

How about Arizona?

Jeff Flake -- 905,185
Trent Franks -- 945,908
Gabrielle Giffords -- 1,029,661
Raul Grijalva -- 971,054
Ann Kirkpatrick -- 683,588
Harry Mitchell -- 951,193
Ed Pastor -- 874,470

As with Nevada, the costliest and least costly congressional offices in this state are both represented by women. Giffords is a Republican Democrat; Kirkpatrick is a Democrat.

How about Minnesota?

Michelle Bachmann -- 1,065,273
Keith Ellison -- 874,410
John Kline -- 968,362
Betty McCollum -- 888,569
James Oberster -- 1,075,743
Erik Paulsen -- 943,053
Collin C. Peterson -- 914,929
Tim Walz -- 944,350

Bachmann, who heads the second most expensive office in the state is a Republican; McCollum, whose office is the second least expensive is a Democrat.

Let's look at one more, Colorado:
Diana DeGette -- 961,964
Doug Lamborn -- 955,305
Betsy Markey -- 777,111
Ed Perlmutter -- 956,660
Jared Polis -- 1,005,985
John Salazar -- 1,007,358
Mike Coffman -- 941,820
John Shadegg -- 999,325

Of the 8 congressional representatives, Markey and Degette (both Democrats) run the least expensive and 4th least expensive.

This is only 6 of the 50 states but most of the women in the House from these states spend less than their fellows from the same state; though in two of those states the most expensive office is headed by a woman.

I'm not sure what if any conclusions can be drawn from such a small sampling and with some contradictory results, or if spending less is good for their constituents or not, but I think it is a subject that needs more study. If anyone knows a graduate student in political science, give them a nudge in that direction.

For my own part, I look at these numbers and think that women in the House do their jobs for less money, but you could make a case that I am biased.

Friends With No Benefits?

Another post on the Statement of Disbursements of the House (July through September). To recap, this is a 3 volume report issued quarterly on what the offices of congressional representatives spend. One thing I noticed about the Pennsylvania delegation is the great disparity in what is paid for personnel compensation and personnel benefits. In addition to the detailed quarterly spending, the report also gives year to date spending on major categories. Two of these are personnel compensation and personnel benefits.

For example,

Rep. Bob Brady (D-01), between January and September 2009, paid 867,753 for personnel compensation but only 489.00 for benefits. How does that work?

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-06) paid 621,578 in compensation and 2,154 in benefits.

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-02) paid 719,530 in compensation and 601.00 in benefits.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13) paid 630,290 in compensation and 2,134 in benefits.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-16) paid 703,275 in compensation and 1,511 in benefits.

There is a piece of the puzzle that I'm missing (maybe a lot of part-time employees?, central fed pays most benefits and so they aren't charged to the individual office?). Maybe it is all charged in the last quarter of the year?

Even so, the difference in what each congressional office pays as far as the benefits as a percentage of compensation. No wonder people get confused by government spending. Even if you have the numbers it doesn't make sense.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Daniel and Jordan's Mom Says "Eat Your Vegetables!"

As a mother I can really appreciate this note from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz introduced a bi-partisan resolution today, co-sponsored by 32 members of Congress, to recognize the need for a national program to provide an effective and economically sustainable solution to the problem of limited access to healthy foods in underserved communities. The National Fresh Food Financing Initiative (NFFFI) will support efforts of the private sector to open retail outlets, such as grocery stores and supermarkets, which would provide Americans with healthier food options. The initiative will improve the health of many Americans and stimulate local economic development.

The NFFFI is based on the successful Pennsylvania initiative, a public-private partnership created in 2004. The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative has helped develop 78 supermarkets and fresh food outlets in underserved rural and urban areas throughout the Commonwealth, creating or retaining 4,800 jobs in those communities.

“Every day millions of Americans walk out their front doors and see nothing but fast food and convenience stores selling high-fat, high-sugar, processed foods,” Schwartz said. “This lack of retail outlets that sell healthy food options results in higher rates of obesity, diabetes and other heath-related issues. The success of the Pennsylvania initiative should be used as the model for a national plan to improve children’s health, create jobs and spur economic development nationwide.”

The Pennsylvania Congresswoman believes a National Fresh Food Financing Initiative will reduce health disparities and improve the health of families and children, create steady jobs at decent wages, and stimulate local economic development by sparking complementary retail stores and services nearby.

A NFFFI would attract investment in underserved communities by providing flexible grant and loan financing. These critical one-time resources will help fresh food retailers overcome the higher initial barriers of entry into underserved communities. Additionally, it would support renovation and expansion of existing stores so they can provide the healthy foods that communities want and need.

“Given the nation’s current economic climate, the need for fresh food access for these communities is even more imperative,” Schwartz said. “Grocery stores and supermarkets face higher obstacles to locating stores in underserved communities. Obesity and health related problems are expected to worsen during these hard economic times. It is important that we ensure all Americans have access to the food they need to live healthier lives.”

On December 16th at 9:30 am in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Innovations in Addressing Childhood Obesity.” The hearing will examine innovative strategies to reduce obesity among children and adolescents and Jeremy Nowak, Ph.D., President and CEO of The Reinvestment Fund, is among the list of invited witnesses. Nowak will provide testimony on how Pennsylvania has been working to address childhood obesity through the PFFFI.

Murphy on Mammograms

from the inbox:

Today, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) voted for House Resolution 971, a resolution supporting women’s access to mammography screenings and services. The resolution also encourages the National Cancer Institute to continue to invest in and provide leadership regarding research to develop more effective screening tools and strategies for improving detection of breast cancer. Additionally, the resolution recommends that any future health reform legislation voted on by the House of Representatives include provisions to protect women’s access to mammography services, and prevent insurers from rolling back the coverage of mammograms.

On November 16, 2009, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new recommendations advising against routine mammography screening for breast cancer in women between the ages of 40 and 49. These guidelines reflect a change from the Task Force’s 2002 mammography recommendations, and have caused concern among many health providers and confusion among many women. While Congressman Murphy recognizes the mission of the USPSTF and respects their efforts to bring an impartial assessment of the scientific evidence available for preventative services, he has expressed concern about the impact these recommendations could have on insurance coverage of the mammography services women between the ages of 40-49 have relied on for years. Given that the Task Force is just one of many groups involved in evaluating scientific research, the Congressman believes that additional research should be conducted as to the benefits and risks of routine mammography screening. He wants to ensure that the USPSTF recommendations would not prohibit an insurer from providing mammography services and should not be used to deny women coverage for routine screenings.

“While we don’t have any perfect breast cancer screening tool, we know that routine mammograms save women’s lives every day,” said Rep. Patrick Murphy. “I’m proud to fight to ensure that our wives, mothers, and daughters can continue to access the early detection services that will keep them healthy.”

It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. In the interest of early detection and intervention, many women have heeded the advice of medical professionals who have recommended annual mammograms for women over the age of 40. Having insurance providers cover mammograms has ensured that financial concerns are not a factor in a woman’s decision as to whether or not she will be screened, helping to ensure the decision is made between a woman and her medical provider.

SEPTA Weekend Family Pass

There are a lot of things going on downtown over the holidays, the Wannamaker light show, Dickens village, the Comcast lobby, Reading terminal marker, etc. Something you may not know -- you can use your monthly SEPTA train pass to buy a weekend family pass. It is good for up to 5 people (2 adults, 3 kids, 1 adult 4 kids, etc) and is ten dollars and some change. That is not bad -- it's half off the usual price of a weekend family pass. Not all of the ticket agents know about it so you might have to ask them to check with a supervisor or more experienced agent (they love it when you do this!). I don't know all the ins and outs of the process, whether it has to be a monthly pass, if it is only good for downtown, etc. but it might be worth asking some questions.

Now you might be asking if all the children who went downtown on my family pass were indeed my own. Or could it have something to do with going into the city with a group that one of my children is a member of, that perhaps one of the other group leaders might also have gotten a weekend family pass for half price with their monthly trail pass. On this question I will remain silent and can offer no information regarding SEPTA's policy in this regard.

Doherty Office Video

I dont' watch "The Office" but understand it is very funny, and that it is set in Scranton.

Scranton mayor Chris Doherty has created a parody using footage from the show, of the 8 year switchoff in the governors office (Doherty is a Democratic candidate for governor). Take a look:

Murtha hospitalized

David Rogers of Politico reported to day that Congressman John Murtha has been hospitalized. Check tomorrow's papers for details. (h/t GrassrootsPA)

Corbett Parties with Pols Under Investigation

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, a GOP candidate for governor, attended events at this past weekend's Pennsylvania Society with some of the people under investigation in bonusgate. From "For some, Corbett not a friendly face" by Thomas Fitzgerald in today's Inky:

"It was interesting to see Tom Corbett in the same with rooms with people he's reportedly investigating," freshman State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Phila.) said. "It's not your normal cocktail-party conversation, that's for sure."

(Note: I'm not sure who the Sean Ramiele they mention is, perhaps a distant of Sean Ramaley.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

World Class City

The Economy League has asked our help in learning what people would like to see changed in Philadelphia and what it's best features are. Take a quick survey at:

Delco 1 - 2 Punch for PHL

Congressman Joe Sestak (D-07) and State Rep Bryan Lentz (D-161), both representing Delaware County, have each introduced legislation regarding traffic flow, specifically aircraft flight patterns out of Philadelphia.

This is Sestak's contribution:

In his continued efforts to enhance Pennsylvania's transportation system, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Joe Sestak today announced legislation to require the Secretary of Transportation to assess the national transportation needs of this country and propose a national transportation plan across all modes of transportation. The Transportation Efficiency Act of 2009, will allow the Secretary to holistically evaluate the success, failure and needs of our national transportation system -- encompassing all surface transportation and aviation.

later in the same release
"One just has to look at the FAA's New York/ New Jersey/ Pennsylvania airspace redesign, specifically as it is being implemented at Philadelphia International Airport, to see that why the system needs improvement," Joe continued. "Too often decisions over the past twenty plus years have been made without enough consideration to other regions or modes of transportation. These type of national initiatives brought us the railroad networks of the late 1800's, the interstate system of the 1950's, and the airport networks of today. That is why I am introducing legislation so that we can refocus our national transportation planning, along with the proposals in the surface transportation reauthorization."

Lentz has been working on this for a couple of years now. He would like to see a regional air authority to redistribute air traffic among airports in the region. For more information see Brad Segall's brief article on the KYW Newsradio site ("State Rep. Lentz Has Big Plans For Area Airports and Trains") or a post from this blog

Mobile SEPTA

From the inbox:

SEPTA is proud to announce the beginnings of its mobile site for customers needing information on-the-go. Point your browser to for the latest travel advisories, station location information, quick links to TrainView and Next To Arrive mobile, and our Customer Service comment form.

We continue work to create the best experience for our regular timetables on a mobile device. In the meantime, mobile users may opt to take advantage of the current applications designed for cellular devices that feature SEPTA schedule information.

The Maps application on an iPhone or iPod Touch connected to wifi allows customers to get transit directions and schedules through our partnership with Google Transit. Simply input your beginning and ending destination, and choose the transit icon at the top of the screen.

Palm, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and other users may opt to download the Google Maps application direct from Google (download link) and again choose the transit option to get upcoming schedules between two points of travel.

For mobile Regional Rail customers, Next To Arrive mobile ( will provide the next four trains at the requested time between two stations on our Regional Rail system.

We thank everyone for their patience while further development of our schedule information continues.

Bookmark and be on your way with SEPTA in your pocket.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Congressional Reading Material

Just before Thanksgiving I was in DC for a few days and someone gave me the July - September Statement of Disbursements of the House, which is a 3 volume list of what various congressional representatives spent and on what during that quarter.

One item of particular interest to me is the category for publications -- what the congressional offices bought as far as reading material goes. As you can imagine a lot of local newspapers are listed. Patrick Murphy gets the Bucks County papers, Allyson Schwartz buys the Philadelphia papers, as well as things like the Times Chronicle, Montgomery Life, and so on. Bill Shuster lists 9 titles as well as reimbursements to staff for publications -- presumably they pick up copies in the way to work or pay out of pocket. A number of other representatives reimburse staff for publications in what seem like reasonable amounts. You also see subscription services listed so it is hard to tell what exact titles are being purchased.

Some interesting tidbits:

Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak get the Economist.
Chaka Fattah paid nearly $6000 to the PR Newswire in this quarter. That seems like a lot but there is probably a good reason for it.
Paul Kanjorski spent over $700 at something called the Anthracite Newstand.
While a number of PA congressional representatives get the Washington Post, Bill Shuster gets the Washington Times. He may get the Post also -- there are staff reimbursements, too.

There were some other interesting points in the document and I'll try to revisit it before the information is obsolete.

Philly Cultural Alliance Strikes Back

From the inbox:

2009 has been quite a year for arts and culture in Pennsylvania. From ticket tax proposals to legislation that would have defunded the state's arts agency completely, it seems like we've seen it all.....until this week.

This past Wednesday, Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn released a "Stimulus Checkup" report on 100 different "silly or shortsighted" projects throughout the country. Philadelphia's acclaimed Pig Iron Theatre Company found itself at number 26 in the report for stimulus funding they received through the National Endowment for the Arts that helped to retain one staff position and seven actors' salaries for their wildly popular Fringe production Welcome to Yuba City. Another Philadelphia-based group, the Spiral Q Puppet Theater, found itself listed in the report.

Instead of focusing on the economic and social impact of Pig Iron and Spiral Q, Coburn and McCain took to attacking the content of these organizations' work, pointing to Pig Iron's description as a "dance-clown theatre ensemble" and their previous production Isabella, "starring a nude man contemplating his mortality in a morgue". Sprial Q fell under the header of being an "Anti-Capitalist, Socially-Conscious Puppet Show."

Cultural Alliance Chief Operating Officer Tom Kaiden argued for the Pig Iron and cultural funding Friday on Fox and Friends, bringing the economic impact argument to the television show. "The arts and culture sector generates about 5 million jobs in this country....we can't say that those jobs are any less important than other jobs in our country....The ability for the arts and culture sector to generate jobs in hospitality, in dining, in retail - it's a stimulus to other activity in the economy that matters."

In a recent alert to their members, the Pig Iron pointed out the impact of Welcome to Yuba City: "For three weeks in September in Philadelphia, around 200 people per night traveled up to our converted warehouse space at 5th and Fairmount to see Welcome to Yuba City. They ate at local restaurants, had a drink at the Festival Bar, shopped in Northern Liberties. Some folks came from out of town for the Festival and stayed in Philly hotels." They also asked members to contact Senators Coburn and McCain on the report - so if you support arts and culture, and support the impact of organizations like Spiral Q and the Pig Iron on Philadelphia, contact Senator McCain and Senator Coburn. Tell them that these organizations are anything but "silly or shortsighted."

To see what all the fuss is about, check out the Pig Iron's latest production, Chekhov Lizardbrain; and upcoming events at the Spiral Q Puppet Theater on Phillyfunguide.

List of PA Political Influencers

This is an interesting list:

PoliticsPA and Politics Magazine: Pennsylvania's 100 Most Influential Politicos Politics magazine's list of the 100 most influential Republicans and Democrats in Pennsylvania will be published in the January 2010 issue-which happens to have Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) as a guest editor.

View the full list here

Congressional Statements on Wall Street Reform

A number of our congressional representatives have sent out statements on recently passed legislation aimed at reforming Wall Street. Here are select press releases:

Patrick Murphy:

Today, Congressman Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA, 8th District) legislation to create the Office of Financial Protection for Older Adults, an agency that would protect seniors from the financial exploitation and abuse, passed the House as an amendment to H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009.

Rep. Murphy’s amendment would fight back against what many experts call the “crime of the 21st century”: financial exploitation and abuse of vulnerable senior citizens. This year alone, millions of seniors will become victims of abuse and exploitation; for every incident brought to light, 5 cases go unreported. Rep. Murphy offered this legislation because more needs to be done to fight back against this serious form of abuse, which robs millions of older Americans and their families of a staggering $2.6 billion each year. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation at the hands of those looking to take advantage of their declining physical or mental health, dependency, or isolation. With the increasing complexity of financial products and with more seniors using email and the Internet, financial exploitation is a distinct and complicated issue that must be addressed by experts well-equipped to handle the problem.

“We owe it to our parents and grandparents to do a better job of protecting them from financial exploitation,” said Rep. Murphy. “The Office of Financial Protection for Older Adults is an important step in ensuring that we protect our loved ones from losing their savings, pensions, or even their homes because of these abusive predators.”

“We commend Congressman Murphy for addressing one of the fastest growing and most debilitating forms of elder abuse, financial exploitation and abuse. We know that last year, financial abuse costs its elderly victims more than $2.6 billion a year, depriving millions of the life savings and retirement security they worked hard and saved for their entire lives,” said Robert Blancato, National Coordinator for the Elder Justice Coalition. “Seniors deserve the crucial protections provided in this bill, which renews our commitment to safeguard our parents and grandparents from predators looking to scam them out of their hard-earned money or property.”

The Office of Financial Protection for Older Adults would be dedicated solely to tackling this growing threat. It would:

§ Facilitate the education of seniors on the warning signs of fraud and how to prevent becoming a victim;

§ Establish best practices for programs that provide financial counseling and address the problem of misleading or fake certifications of senior financial advisors;

§ Address the problem of misleading or fake certifications of senior financial advisors by providing for strengthened oversight; and

§ Improve coordination between current elder protection agencies to better serve seniors.

The Elder Justice Coalition is comprised of 239 member organizations dedicated to increasing public awareness regarding elder abuse, neglect and exploitation and to promoting legislation that pertains to the prevention of elder abuse. Member organizations include the AARP and the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Allyson Schwartz:
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz praised passage today of legislation to provide stronger consumer protections for American families and prevent the type of abuses that led to the current economic crisis. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 includes common sense reforms to protect consumers from predatory lending abuses and misleading tactics, and ensures strong supervision and regulation of the business practices of our financial institutions.

“Over the past year, this Congress and President Obama made tough choices and enacted vital measures to bring our economy back from the brink of disaster,” Schwartz said. “Now it is time to take action to ensure such a financial crisis doesn’t happen again. Wall Street reform is the next critical step to creating jobs and growing our economy. American families have paid too high a price already for some financial institutions’ risky behavior. This action will provide transparency, oversight and accountability essential to protecting consumers.”

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will put an end to taxpayer-funded bailouts; protect families’ retirement funds, college savings, homes and business’s financial futures; and bring transparency and accountability to our financial system.

The legislation:

* Creates a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to ensure that bank loans, mortgages and credit cards are fair, affordable, understandable and transparent. The CFPA will prevent the financial industry from offering predatory mortgage loans to people who can’t afford them and put in place common sense regulations to stop abuses by the financial industry, such as payday lending and exorbitant overdraft fees.
* Ends too big to fail financial firms by providing the government with the tools—funded by the banks and financial firms, not taxpayers—it needs to manage financial crises so we are not forced to choose between bailouts and financial collapse.
* Ensures American taxpayers are never again on the hook for bailing companies out by requiring big banks and other financial institutions to foot the bill for any future bailouts.
* Requires that all financial firms that pose risk to the system are subject to strong supervision and regulation.
* Stops predatory lending and irresponsible mortgage loan practices, helping ensure the mortgage industry follows basic rules of sound lending and consumer protection.
* Requires more transparency and tougher regulations of hedge funds, private equity firms and credit rating agencies.

Schwartz supported the inclusion of two particular provisions in the legislation that will help Southeastern Pennsylvania’s life science and biotech industries. These industries are directly responsible for more than 77,000 jobs throughout Pennsylvania. Specifically, Schwartz worked with the House Financial Services Committee to ensure that venture capital firms, which are major sources of funding for life sciences and biotech firms, will comply with reporting requirements that are appropriate to the nature of their business and level of risk.

She also voted against an amendment that would have eliminated a provision to provide small innovative companies with less burdensome audit requirements, while maintaining those requirements for companies with more than $75 million in market capitalization.

Joe Sestak:
Just months after passing an economic stimulus bill to rescue America from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Joe Sestak plans to vote for H.R. 4173, which provides new market safeguards that will help restore trust in America's economic future. If enacted, this legislation will restore oversight to the financial markets, create mechanisms for limiting executive pay, and help prevent the predatory lending practices that caused the Wall Street meltdown last year.

"Pennsylvania's next generation of prosperity will be built on the foundation of financial security outlined in this bill," Joe said. "Still, there are some who seem more concerned with re-writing history for the sake of political survival than coming clean about their mistakes in backing the Bush Administration's failed economic policies over the past decade. If my primary opponent, long-time Republican Arlen Specter, and his Republican colleagues had the courage to take responsibility for their part in dismantling the safeguards that brought our country to the brink of financial collapse, it would go a long way in restoring the peoples' trust in their elected officials."

Instead of standing up to Republicans, Senator Specter stood by their side - supporting Bush tax breaks for multimillionaires, deregulating Wall Street, eliminating "PAYGO" requirements, and turning his back on families facing foreclosure. For example, he:

* Deregulated Wall Street: forbidding any requirement for reporting derivative transactions, tearing down the walls between investment companies and consumer banks; and removing requirements that banks keep sufficient cash reserves on hand. When the financial crises occurred, institutions were therefore unable to avoid collapse -- or protect working Americans; (S. 900, Vote #105, 5/6/99) (H.R. 4577, 12/15/2000)
* Eliminated "pay-as-you-go" (PAYGO) rules, which had created 3 budget surpluses under President Clinton by requiring Congress to offset the cost of any new spending programs; and
(H.R. 5708, Vote #482, 11/14/2002)
* Voted time and again for Bush's tax breaks for multi-millionaires -- more than 50% went to the wealthiest one percent. In fact, between 2001 through 2008, under Arlen Specter's and President Bush's economic and tax policies -- without a "pay-as-you-go" requirement -- the national debt more than doubled from $4.5 trillion to over $9 trillion.
* Voted to strip a key provision from the Helping Families Save Their Home Act that would have saved homes by empowering bankruptcy judges to reduce principal and interest rates for homeowners in bankruptcy [S AMDT 1014, 4/30/09]

Pennsylvanians are still feeling the effects of the Bush-Specter policies that let the reckless trading and predatory lending practices go unchecked. At its worst point, 7,000 Americans lost their jobs every month, most of whom are still looking for work. Families have lost their homes to foreclosure, bringing down property values across the state. And many seniors who have worked their entire lives have seen their retirement savings and pensions wiped out.

"Challenging times like these require leaders who will challenge Wall Street on behalf of working families," Joe continued. "Failure to act by Bush and Specter gravely harmed our economy and risked an even deeper and more protracted recession. The economic recovery efforts currently underway -- including TARP and the Economic Stabilization Act -- were necessary to bring our economy back from the brink of collapse."

Joe Sestak has long championed the efforts undertaken by H.R. 4173, which accomplishes the following five goals to prevent another market meltdown:

* Creates a more stable, safer financial system less prone to crisis;
* Provides substantial new protections for consumers and investors;
* Safeguards American taxpayers from having to bear the costs of future crisis;
* Recognizes global approach (avoid cross-border arbitrage/loss of competitiveness); and
* Fosters innovation, growth and prosperity.

This legislation builds on the economic recovery bill, which Joe Sestak voted to pass earlier in the year. The recovery bill helped save three million additional jobs from being lost in the first half of 2009, stopped the unemployment rate from climbing over 12%, and prevented GDP from remaining stuck beneath its pre-2007 peak until 2014. Joe is now continuing his call for a comprehensive jobs creation bill to provide new incentives for small businesses, increase aid to state and local governments, and extend health benefits for workers who lost their jobs in the recession.

Paul Kanjorski:
Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (D-PA), Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises, voted for H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, which passed in the House by a vote of 223-202. As a result of Chairman Kanjorski’s leadership on this landmark legislation to work to prevent future financial crises and better protect every American, it includes four of Chairman Kanjorski’s reform bills, which comprise about half of the larger legislation. It also includes the Kanjorski amendment which would empower federal regulators to rein in and dismantle financial firms that are so large, inter-connected, or risky that their collapse would put at risk the entire American economic system, even if those firms currently appear to be well-capitalized and healthy. Therefore, American taxpayers should no longer be on the hook for bailouts, as financial companies would not be able to become “too big to fail.”

“Today marks a momentous step as we work to reform Wall Street and better protect the American people from potential future financial crises,” said Chairman Kanjorski. “Last year, our economy faced its most dire circumstances since the Great Depression. We took extraordinary, but necessary action to pull the economy back from the brink, and we are now beginning to see signs of recovery. Today, the House passed legislation, with my strong support, that provides the most sweeping financial regulatory reforms in the past 75 years and holds banks accountable for their actions. While no bill is perfect, this legislation takes strong steps to help prevent the near collapse that we faced last year. It also will help us take preventative action to protect every American and our economy so that there will no longer be companies that are “too big to fail” or anymore taxpayer funded bailouts.”

Chairman Kanjorski added, “A healthy financial system is necessary for a healthy economy, and I am confident that once enacted into law, this legislation will serve as a foundation for decades of economic growth. However, more needs to be done immediately to stimulate the creation of jobs, and I look forward to continuing to work with the President and my colleagues in Congress to address the needs of the American people as we struggle through these difficult economic times.”

Click here for more information on the Kanjorski amendment to address financial institutions deemed “too big to fail,” as well as Chairman Kanjorski’s four bills which, for the first time, would better protect investors, enhance credit agency regulation, force the registration of the advisors to hedge funds and private equity pools, and create a federal insurance office. They are all included in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.