Category Archives: PA House

New House Rules are a Step in the Wrong Direction

by PA Rep. Greg Vitali (D-166), January 17, 2017

On the first day of the new legislative session the Pennsylvania House changed its rules to make it easier for House leadership to obscure the contents of important legislation from rank and file House members and the general public.

Under the new rules the House will no longer have to wait 24 hours to vote on bills amended by the Senate. Now bills can be considered by the House six hours after they come into the public domain.

This rule will be most damaging around budget time. Frequently, in the back rooms of the state capitol, House and Senate leaders surreptitiously insert provisions in large budget related bills that many rank and file House members and the public would find highly objectionable.

For example, last term provisions were inserted in the fiscal code to cancel regulations to make gas drilling safer, delay measures to address climate change and transfer millions of dollars from a fund for high energy efficiency buildings for natural gas development.

Six hours is simply not enough time for even the most diligent rank and file House member to find and bring to the attention of the public objectionable provisions Continue reading

One more reason big change is needed in the PA legislature

“Pennsylvania State Rep. Compares School Boards to Hitler” by Diane Ravitch, 11/3/16

Peter Greene, who teaches in Pennsylvania tells us about the educationally-challenged state representative who compared democratically elected school boards to Hitler. Hitler’s blamed everything on the Jews, and local school boards blame everything on charter schoools. Got that?

Greene writes:

“Brad Roae’s district is just up the road from me and just down the road from Erie, where the schools have made some headlines with their economic issues, to the point that their board was seriously considering closing all of its high schools. Erie is one of several school districts that highlight the economic troubles of school districts in Pennsylvania. It’s a complex mess, but the basic problems boil down to this.

“First, Pennsylvania ranks 45th in the country for level of state support for local districts. That means the bulk of school district funding comes from local taxpayers, and that means that as cities like Erie with a previously-industrial tax base have lost those big employers, local revenue has gone into freefall, opening up some of the largest gaps between rich and poor districts in the country.

Restoring education cuts: the House bill vs. the Senate bill

The PA state budget saga (or is it now a farce?) continues, with the Republican-majority Senate and the Republican-majority House at odds with each other. A very good reason, in 2016, to give Gov. Wolf more legislators who will put the public interest above placating anti-education forces.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has posted a downloadable list for all PA school districts so we can all draw our own conclusions. The chart below is extracted to show the 12 school districts primarily in Chester County plus to two partly in Chester County:

Chesco school districts in budget

Cuts in 2011-12
shows the amounts taken from classroom education under Gov. Corbett. Roughly speaking, the more the district needs help, the more funding the state took away; and the wealthier the district, the less it lost. No comment needed.

SB 1073 is the “framework bill” resulting from long budget negotiations (almost a year now, starting well before the budget was due on June 30), which passed by the Senate 43-7 on Dec. 12, and which the House was expected to approve and Gov. Wolf to sign. Though the per-student figures show that the increase would not make up for the Corbett cuts, at least it would make a good contribution and show legislators’ good will. But Republican leadership did not allow a vote.

HB 1460 is the retrograde version, similar to one vetoed by Gov. Wolf in June, and that the Republican-majority Senate just passed, after it failed to pass SB 1073, just before it went home for Christmas break. As the per-student column shows, the amounts are piddly compared to the need and don’t even seem to measure up to inflation.

Furthermore, the General Assembly’s failure to balance the state budget means it cannot fund bonds for construction loans needed by school districts, resulting in further losses to education.

Gov. Wolf has just partially vetoed the appropriations bill, but letting through emergency funding to help schools in the second half of 2015.