Category Archives: PA govt & politics

House Bill 809 would further cut local control

By Nathaniel Smith, Columnist, The Times of Chester County, July 28, 2015

Bill would let state make housing, zoning choices instead of local communities

Along with about 50 other people, I attended a hearing at West Chester Borough Hall on July 20 about House Bill 809 proposed to the PA House of Representatives.

On the positive side, we have a democratic process that allows citizens to find out what our legislators are doing and to hear differing views in a public forum.

On the negative side, the bill is a total disaster, as was made clear by speakers from West Chester, Lower Merion, Millersville, and State College. (Four realtors and landlords spoke for the bill, however.)

The principle is very clear, in my view, just what Mike McGann enunciated in his July 20 opinion piece on public education:

“What I am advocating for is to allow folks in local districts like Unionville to make their own choices – through their elected school board – on what is right for their community and school district. We don’t have that now.”

Does the state know best how a local school district should educate its own students? No.

Does the state know best how a municipality should zone property use for the benefit of its own residents? No.

House Bill 809, currently before the Committee on Local Government, would radically cut into municipalities’ ability to regulate rental properties. …

read more at The Times of Chester County

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Pa. charter schools buy influence with $10M in donations to politicians

By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, For The Associated Press, Pottstown Mercury, 2/28/15

HARRISBURG >> It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.

But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.

In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.

“They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”

In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated — particularly those run by for-profit management companies — so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.

According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years….

continue reading at Pottstown Mercury

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Women candidates and the two parties

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 10/25/14

On 9/8/14 the Daily Local News published a letter from me under the title “More women would be good for state and country.”

Though I don’t doubt that that title is literally true, what I really said is that “a record number of women and supporters of women’s rights elected to office in Harrisburg and Washington this year would be good for Pennsylvania and the country.”

As it happens, it would be good for Democrats too, as they have more women running. I’m going to say more here.

On August 26, Women’s Equality Day, people across the country celebrated the 94th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote.

As president Obama’s August 25 proclamation began by saying:

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was certified, securing for women the fundamental right to vote. The product of decades spent organizing, protesting, and agitating, it was a turning point on the long march toward equality for all, and it inspired generations of courageous women who took up this unfinished struggle in their own time. On the anniversary of this civil rights milestone, we honor the character and perseverance of America’s women and all those who work to make the same rights and opportunities possible for our daughters and sons….

As the president goes on to say, women deserve equal rights, treatment, pay, and opportunities. Shouldn’t that be obvious to every one of us?…

keep reading at Politics: A View from West Chester

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Study: Why are Pennsylvania taxes so high? Corruption

By Brad Bumsted, TribLive, June 10, 2014

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvanians pay inflated taxes because the state’s public corruption rate is among the highest in the nation, says a scholarly study based on data from the Justice Department.

The report in Public Administration Review shows public corruption “implicitly causes taxpayers to pay more,” said John Mikesell, an economics professor at Indiana University and co-author of the study.

Corruption costs taxpayers about $1,308 per person more per year in states with the most corruption, compared to states with average corruption levels, the study says.

Justice Department data place Pennsylvania historically among the 10 most corrupt states. Statistics from 1976 through 2008 rank the state with Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Alaska.

The Justice Department defines public corruption as “crimes involving abuses of the public trust by government officials,” including crimes ranging from bribery, extortion and vote-buying to obstruction of justice, money laundering and fraud.” The data included 25,000 government officials convicted of crimes.

More recent federal figures, from 2001-2010, show Pennsylvania in the top 10 based on every 10,000 government employees, but ranked below that tier on a per-capita basis.

The research by Mikesell and Cheol Liu of City University of Hong Kong goes a step further, saying public corruption “distorts” the direction of state spending. “Compared to less corrupt states, more corrupt states are likely to spend more on corrections, construction and police,” on average, than on “education, welfare and health,” Liu said….

continue reading at TribLive

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