In this email update:
Lieutenant governor reform legislation receives widespread support
Since my introduction of Senate Bill 761, legislation which would change the way lieutenant governors are selected in Pennsylvania, the proposal has received strong bipartisan support in the Senate and in the media.
Here are some of the recent highlights from various newspapers that have covered this proposal:
The Altoona Mirror: “It’s in the best interests of Pennsylvania that its governor and lieutenant governor are capable of working together harmoniously, which hasn’t been a problem most of the time. However, current Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack have what’s perceived as a deteriorated governmental relationship that can be judged as not being in the commonwealth’s best interests.”
The Reading Eagle: “Given the limited duties of the office, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor should be politically allied with the governor such that he or she can do the most important part of the job – take the reins of state government – should it be necessary.”
Lancaster Online: “As bad gubernatorial marriages go, Pennsylvania’s current iteration is right up there. Don’t look for a photo of Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack splitting the wishbone at Thanksgiving dinner.”
“A bill from state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill County, would change the way Pennsylvania selects a lieutenant governor, LNP reported Wednesday. Currently, the governor and lieutenant governor are chosen separately in primaries by their party’s voters before becoming a team in the general election. Argall’s bill would allow gubernatorial candidates to choose their running mates, much like presidential candidates choose their vice presidential running mates.
Pottsville Republican Herald: “Under the proposed constitutional amendment, the winning gubernatorial nominee would select a running mate. That would improve governance and make the position more valuable because a governor who chooses a running mate likely would endow that person with greater responsibility and trust. Lawmakers should approve the amendment to improve the government.”
The governor and lieutenant governor have both admitted that they rarely communicate with one another. Let’s be honest, this is embarrassing. This is not how the top two members of the executive branch should operate to get things done for the people of Pennsylvania. Can you imagine any other organization in the private sector or the public sector where the top two leaders don’t even talk to each other? I can’t.
A leadership team can’t be separated into two warring factions that ignore each other. My church doesn’t function that way. My son’s old Scout Troop didn’t operate like that. My daughter’s soccer team couldn’t have won any games with that kind of leadership. My wife’s family farm would never have survived for four generations under that kind of an ineffective, inefficient, wasteful arrangement. The state of Pennsylvania shouldn’t continue to be stuck with the current dysfunctional system that we now see on the second floor of the capitol.
In order to address this issue, Senate Bill 761 seeks to amend the state’s Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate, which is a process similar to how presidential candidates select theirs.
During a recent public hearing that was held with the Senate State Government Committee, the committee reviewed this proposal and heard from several of Pennsylvania’s former lieutenant governors regarding their experiences in office. All of those who attended, Republicans and Democrats, support this legislation.
Pictured: Former Lieutenant Governors Jim Cawley, Robert Jubelirer and Mark Singel provide testimony at the Senate State Government Committee hearing held on November 14, along with Alan Novak, the former Chairman of the PA Republican State Committee and T.J. Rooney, the former Chairman of the PA Democratic State Committee.
As the Senate Majority Policy Chairman, my primary task is to investigate new ideas statewide, and although this concept is not a new one – 13 states already utilize this type of process – it is something that has not been fully explored here in Pennsylvania, before the introduction of my legislation.
Legislation introduced to halt political bonuses
Reports this past May indicated that the Host Committee had a $4 million surplus of funds leftover after the Democratic National Convention was held in Philadelphia last summer. At least $1 million was used to pay for bonuses and special interests – taxpayers contributed $10 million for this event.
Given the fact that the host committee had $4 million in surplus funding and none of these dollars were given back to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers, many people, including the governor and members of the legislature, formally requested that Auditor General Eugene DePasquale conduct a review on how the money that was received from taxpayers was utilized during the convention.
Senators Scarnati, Corman and Browne – the Senate leaders – recently issued the following statement regarding the Auditor General’s findings on how the money was spent for the convention:
The concerns we voiced in May about the legitimacy of spending by the DNC have merit as evidenced by the audit report released today by the Auditor General.
It remains troubling that the DNC did not return excess dollars to the state at the conclusion of the convention. It is clear from the report that former Governor Ed Rendell made decisions regarding disbursement of bonuses that he did not have the authority to make on his own. Those decisions made by Governor Rendell to distribute bonuses remain, at best, problematic.
The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED’s) lack of a claw-back provision in contracts is something we call on the Wolf Administration to immediately correct. Had the DCED included such a provision, the $2.1 million that went to DNC bonuses would have been required to be returned to the Commonwealth.
As we pointed out in May, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should also be looking into this matter, given the Host Committee’s tax exempt status and limits placed on tax exempt organizations regarding ‘cash awards.’ It is imperative that the issue be further examined. As the Auditor General has passed all information regarding the DNC audit on to the IRS, we now await their findings.
As a way to combat this issue in the future, Senator Scott Wagner (R-York) will be introducing legislation, which I have co-sponsored, that will require all state contracts to include a claw-back provision for any grants that are issued by the state in the future.
The legislation would require the following:
More information about the bill can be read here.
Pine Grove receives grant for flood remediation project
Pine Grove recently received a $2 million grant that will be used for a flood remediation project along Swatara Creek. The project will consist of restoring wetlands and relocating roads.
After the 2011 flood, local business and government representatives, state and county officials, and residents came together to develop a comprehensive plan to address the terrible, and all too frequent, flood damages. These funds are a direct result of that plan, in the hope that one day the communities along the Swatara Creek will not suffer from repeated flooding. This flood remediation project is a major step forward in revitalizing western Schuylkill County.
Representative Mike Tobash stated, “The commitment of our state government to make the western part of Schuylkill County in the Swatara watershed a more stable place to live and do business is truly important to the entire region. Specifically, the project to reclaim and restore floodplains in the area of Guilford Mills will make the residents of Pine Grove less susceptible to flood and bode well for keeping this important employer in our area.”
Why did the Governor fire the Pennsylvania Secretary of State?
The Associated Press obtained a copy of an email from ex-Secretary of State Pedro Cortes to Governor Wolf stating, “I have done a great deal of soul searching in the last 24 hours [and] I remain at a loss to understand why you would dispense with my services without sharing with me concerns you had about my professional performance or personal life. Wished I had that opportunity.”
The abrupt departure of the Secretary Cortes is raising many questions
According to various news sources, Secretary Cortes was forced to leave his position as Secretary of State – a course of action that has apparently left him perplexed, with little information and explanation from the Wolf Administration.
One of the main duties of the Secretary of State, and the department as a whole, is to oversee elections and ensure the integrity of our democratic election process.
Two weeks following Secretary Cortes’ resignation on October 11, the Department of State was informed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that there was an unsuccessful attempt made by Russian hackers to gain access to the state’s election systems prior to the 2016 presidential election.
This is very troublesome news as we’ve all heard about the dangers and threats that these hackers pose to not only our state but the entire nation’s confidential and private information and documents.
In addition, prior to the 2016 presidential election, the House State Government Committee held a hearing where J. Christian Adams, a member of the U.S. Department of Justice who worked in the voting rights division, stated that there were a number of foreign nationals who were registered to vote and cast ballots, despite not yet becoming U.S. citizens.
As the Senate Appropriations Committee begins its next round of budget hearings, the Department of State will need to address these issues:
Read more about Secretary Cortes’ resignation from the Pittsburgh Tribune here.
Read more about the Department of State’s issues with the election process from the York Daily Record here.
Local firefighters recognized for courageous efforts that saved a man’s life
On Wednesday afternoon, I recognized several local firefighters for their quick, selfless actions that saved 63-year old Paul Correll Jr.’s life when his home became engulfed in flames in Tilden Township.
The following individuals were honored: Fire Chief Rusty Wagner (Shoemakersville); Fire Chief Troy Hatt (Hamburg); Dylan Hatt (Hamburg); Fire Captain Dusty Wagner (Shoemakersville); Fire Deputy Chief Matthew Tobias (Shoemakersville); and Police Sergeant Peter Witman (Tilden Township).
These brave citizens deserve to be commended for their courageous efforts that saved Mr. Correll’s life and for all of the hard work they do each and every day to protect our communities.
It is stories like this that remind us of all the good that can be done when we come together to help our fellow citizens in times of need and crisis.
Read more about their heroic efforts from The Reading Eagle here.
If you would like to nominate your friends and neighbors who serve their communities, you can provide the following information for submission to be featured in my e-newsletter:
Your full contact information – phone, address, email address.
Your nominee’s contact information – phone, address, email address. Nominee must reside in the 29th Senate district in Berks and Schuylkill Counties.
A detailed explanation of what your nominee has done for their community.
Grants awarded for community projects in Berks and Schuylkill counties
Earlier this month, Representatives Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill), Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill) and Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin) and I announced a total of five grants aimed at supporting community improvement projects in Delano Township, Frackville Borough, Pine Grove Township, North Manheim Township in Schuylkill County and Shoemakersville Borough in Berks County.
Delano Township will receive $56,000 to assist in the rehabilitation of the 2.8 acre Trenton Park playground and basketball courts. Frackville Borough will receive $200,000 for the rehabilitation of the Frackville Community Pool at Memorial Park. Schuylkill River Greenway Association will use the $40,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study for the continuation of the Schuylkill River Trail recently opened in North Manheim Township. The grants were awarded as part of the Commonwealth Finance Authority’s Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program.
Pictured: Frackville Borough Pool
As part of the Commonwealth Finance Authority’s Multimodal Transportation Program, Pine Grove Township will receive a grant award of $364,983 to replace a deteriorating Swopes Valley Road Bridge and make improvements to the intersection just west of State Route 645.
Shoemakersville Borough will receive $229,018 to assist in the restoration of the Main Street Bridge, located between Miller and 2nd Streets over Pigeon Creek. It is great to see the hard work of municipal leaders come to fruition with the upgrade to this bridge that has become structurally compromised due to years of service.
Pictured: Shoemakersville Borough Bridge
All of these projects were subject to competition from communities all across the state. We are very satisfied to see the hard work of many individuals be recognized by the state.