It’s About the Kids

“It’s about the kids.”  From the time I was first elected to the General Assembly, these are the words I’ve been hearing about education:  “it’s about the kids.”  The drumbeat became louder during my tenure as chair of the Senate Education Committee:  “it’s about the kids.”

A recent decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Education has me wondering about what’s most important to education:  is it really “about the kids?”  I’m especially concerned about the education of approximately 335 students within my District who live in Highspire.

In 2014, Highspire residents initiated action to move students from the Steelton-Highspire School District to the Middletown Area School District.  Their argument was such a transfer would be in the best educational interest of present and future school-age children living in Highspire.

Both the Steelton-Highspire and Middletown Area School Districts opposed this proposed transfer.  Steel-Hi was “opposed to this transfer based on the negative impact to educational quality this transfer will have on the remaining Steelton students and on the Highspire students, were they to transfer . . . .”  The School District added to its strong opposition citing the financial ramifications such a transfer would have on remaining students.

The Middletown Area School District also opposed the transfer of students from Highspire to their school district.  Middletown strongly believed the proposed transfer would adversely impact its student class size, special education service, and overall academic achievement, particularly at the elementary level.

While I don’t question the opinions of the parents or the positions of the two school districts, this proposed transfer of 335 students is precisely why I support educational choice.  I believe kids win when parents choose.  I simply don’t believe a child’s education should depend upon their zip code.

There are a number of plans for school choice.  Charter schools are publicly-funded schools that operate under a charter – often without some of the government regulations imposed on other public schools.

Cyber charter schools are also schools of choice but they teach students entirely or primarily online or through the internet.  Cyber schools and homeschooling are similar in that students’ education is usually dependent upon a parent or tutor.

Private schools rely upon finding their own funding:  tuition paid by parents, grants, donations, endowments, and sometimes vouchers.  Some private schools are affiliated with religious groups, like Catholic parochial schools.  Parents choosing this educational option need to cover the tuition costs that are in addition to the school taxes they pay to fund public schools.

Opponents of school choice are quick to criticize these options.  They don’t like charter and cyber charter schools.  They often have little or no respect for home schoolers.  School vouchers:  don’t ever go there – especially for private and parochial schools as vouchers would destroy education as we know it.

You can add to educational opponents’ list a recent legislative proposal to help students in persistently underperforming schools through the establishment of education savings accounts (ESAs).  This plan would allow approved families to withdraw their students from underperforming schools and receive the average state funding per pupil – deducted from the local district’s state education subsidy – as a grant from an account held in the Pennsylvania Treasury.

I believe ESAs would be a good way to help students like the 335 who live in Highspire.  Opponents disagree and they’ve been successful in keeping ESA legislation from advancing in the General Assembly.  They again say giving parents the resources and the ability to choose where their children go to school would hurt the overall education system.

And, I thought education was supposed to be all about the kids?

Respect the Constitution!

My love and respect for the Constitution is why I ran for office and it’s also why I recently joined in legal action to block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s newly mandated Congressional maps.  I carry – and read – both the US and Pennsylvania Constitutions.

We are in a constitutional crisis thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s actions to make the other two branches of government irrelevant.  Most alarming, they’re apparently doing this simply because they think they can.

Judges are essential elements of a constitutional republic.  Their role offers numerous protections of core government principles written into both our federal and Pennsylvania Constitutions.  These principles have worked for decades but are now in jeopardy due to a lack of respect for the Constitution.

Both our Constitutions first establish the Legislature, empowering it to make law – and, to ensure due deliberation, splitting it in two:  the Senate and the House of Representatives.  The executive branch was established to enforce laws; the judiciary to interpret laws.

Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution gives state legislatures responsibility for:  “The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof . . .”

Pennsylvania’s Constitution gives the Legislature responsibility to establish Congressional districts using the same process as all other legislation:  introduce a bill, consider it on three separate days in each chamber, vote it, and send to the Governor to be signed.

I opposed the 2011 bill that adopted congressional maps.  However, it became law using the required constitutional mandates of bill introduction, consideration by both chambers, and enactment into law.

Six years and three elections later, the PA Supreme Court is usurping legislative and executive authority by establishing new districts on its own without legislative or executive involvement.  First, they declared the 2011 maps unconstitutional – using standards found nowhere in the Pennsylvania Constitution.  Then, they dictated a timeline to draw new maps outside the constitutional requirements for how a bill becomes law.

Unfortunately, the outcry for changing how Pennsylvania Congressional districts are determined has been entangled with court actions.  Those proceedings have nothing to do with permanently changing the way redistricting is done.  In the process, citizens who have visited my office in the hopes of permanent change have been deceived by those seeking to change the political makeup of Congress.

As chair of the Senate State Government Committee, I remain committed to carefully examining the process by which Pennsylvania Congressional Districts are drawn.  It’s why I’ve scheduled a public hearing on bills to change the process.

For now, we have four PA Supreme Court justices relying on a California law professor to draw new maps – one person.  No public explanation has been offered for how the maps were redrawn.  No public hearings were held.  No recourse was provided to the public to challenge the new maps.  The maps were presented via Court order as if written on stone tablets from on high.

Judges are not deities.  Their actions must be grounded in the Constitution – they too are elected in Pennsylvania.  When they don their robes, they are to leave political affiliation behind.  Otherwise, the judiciary becomes a political weapon.

When courts exceed their authority as the PA Supreme Court has done, our system of government no longer works.  Our Constitutional Republic has issues but nonetheless allows all parties – including minority opinions – to be heard and to work out differences.  It’s what’s given our nation both stability and liberty.  People of good faith can disagree.

Judges have to respect the Constitution.  If they don’t, we have a right – an obligation – to say something.  And so I have.  I have too much respect for the Constitution to do otherwise.

Like judges, I swore an oath to support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth.  To act differently, fails to respect the Constitution we’re all sworn to uphold.

THIS is “Reform?”

The outcry to change how Pennsylvania draws Congressional and General Assembly District maps began soon after the 2016 Presidential Election.

Redistricting reform has long been a goal of mine.  As chair of the Senate State Government Committee, I was looking forward to scheduling public hearings across the Commonwealth on all the proposed bills to change the redistricting process.

Some of those interested in redistricting reform decided they didn’t want to wait for the legislative process.  When lawsuits were filed to challenge the constitutionality of the 2011 maps, I was forced to put the planned hearings on hold.  It’s next to impossible to have a good public discussion while an issue is being litigated.

During the ongoing court proceedings, my staff and I met with many citizens and advocacy groups to discuss their support for various redistricting changes.  I am perplexed by comments from some advocates.  Most surprising were two board members from the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters who told me they had not read the bill they support.  They could not explain how it would work.  They couldn’t express why it’s better than other bills under consideration.

Other advocates surprised me when they declared voters could not be trusted to select delegates to a proposed citizens’ redistricting commission.  They argued “party bosses” would take over.  They seem to have forgotten I was opposed by the party establishment.

I have yet to meet someone who will address my biggest concern with proposed plans to change redistricting:  if a revamped commission would be unable to draw new maps, lines would be drawn by a “special master.”  How does having one – unelected – person drawing maps constitute “reform?”

Thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, we may all soon get an answer to this question.  If the General Assembly isn’t able to get new maps to the Governor by February 9 and if the Governor doesn’t approve a plan by February 15, the Court will draw the lines.  They already have a “special advisor” – again, just one person.  This is “reform?”

Beyond the fear of one person redrawing maps, I’m shocked by the Court’s lack of respect for our Constitution.  Article III, Section 4 mandates:  “every bill shall be considered on three different days in each House.”

To meet this constitutional requirement, the Senate was forced to consider a bill with no details – just a shell to meet the Court’s unreasonable timelines.  How unfortunate.

The Court has also stepped on Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which gives the Governor 10 days to sign or veto a bill.  Should the General Assembly get him legislation to meet the Court’s timelines, he’ll now have less than 10 days to act.

So, here we are in the quest for fair congressional districts – faced with an unreasonable timeline that doesn’t allow for openness and transparency, no details on how to draw the new lines so as to meet the Court’s expectations, little rationale of how the Court imagines the Constitution was violated or how it will evaluate if any new maps meet its currently secret definition of what’s constitutional and what is not, and the distinct possibility one person will be redrawing District maps.

I want to meet the person who calls this “reform.”

Amending the Constitution

An ongoing debate in our nation is the question of whether our rule of law is a “living Constitution” or one that should be taken literally.  The former says the Constitution was intentionally written in broad and flexible terms so as to change with the times.  The latter focuses on the original words, meaning, and intent of the Constitution.

This debate has been raging since 39 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document.  Three delegates refused to sign because they considered it a flawed document:  George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.

In the state ratification debates that followed, these three were joined by a host of other “Anti-Federalists” who also opposed ratification, including:  Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, Richard Henry Lee and George Clinton.

The “Federalists” were rallied by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, who authored a series of 85 articles in support of the Constitution:  “The Federalist Papers.”

In Federalist No. 50, Hamilton and/or Madison focused on changes to the Constitution:  “Periodical Appeals to the People Considered,” which notes:  “IT MAY be contended, perhaps, that instead of occasional appeals to the people, which are liable to the objections urged against them, periodical appeals are the proper and adequate means of preventing and correcting infractions of the constitution.”

Interestingly, Federalist 50 cites Pennsylvania’s now forgotten Council of Censors, which met in 1783 and 1784 to determine “’whether the constitution had been violated, and whether the legislative and executive departments had encroached upon each other.’  This important and novel experiment in politics merits, in several points of view, very particular attention . . . .”

Among the benefits cited of such a Council of Censors are reasons why the amendment process is so important, including serving as a check to the “passion” of the moment that results in decisions based upon “not reason” and decisions that “misconstrue the limits prescribed for the legislative and executive departments, instead of reducing and limiting them within their constitutional places.”

In his Farewell Address of 1796, President George Washington said:  “If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates.  But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.  The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.”

I agree:  if we fail to follow the Constitution, it becomes mere words on paper.  When we adhere to the Constitution and amend rather than interpret it, it remains our rule of law.


Fred Sembach
Fallon Binner


Informed Consent

The ability to make decisions about what goes into our bodies is a basic human right.  This personal autonomy is challenged whenever government requires mandatory vaccinations.  Indeed, sticking needles into a human body is the very definition of intrusive.

For this reason, I am introducing “Informed Consent” legislation to require patients and parents be given information before they consent to vaccinations.  Consistent with my successful medical cannabis initiative, I believe all medical decisions should be between a patient and their physician – including the right to informed consent or informed refusal in the use of vaccines.

I am also introducing a Resolution calling upon Congress to repeal the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.  This federal law prevents those harmed by a vaccine from suing pharmaceutical companies making these products.  I believe this Act violates patient’s rights by limiting options to refuse vaccinations or seek due process of law as guaranteed by the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution.

My goal is to ensure people are first given an explanation of the potential benefits and the potential risks whenever a vaccine is administered.  Only then are people able to exercise their basic human right to decide whether or not to allow intrusion into their bodies.

Informed Consent is already required for a number of medical treatments and procedures:  surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and blood transfusions.  My legislation would extend patients’ rights to Informed Consent to vaccinations by requiring them to be informed of the potential risks and benefits of the vaccinations they are being given.  More importantly, my legislation will require patients be given this information prior to their consenting to receive a vaccination.

I believe Informed Consent should, at a minimum, mean the person from whom consent is being sought be given the opportunity to understand what they are being given, what the risks and benefits are, and other potential consequences of the procedure they are facing.

Physicians and researchers are divided on the impacts of vaccines on children – especially the relationship of vaccines to autism – plus a number of other conditions and medical circumstances where vaccination may not be considered safe.

From the 1940’s when the first autism cases were diagnosed to the 1980’s when the vaccine schedule was expanded, the rate of autism remained relatively stable.  In the early 1990’s, parents and physicians witnessed an alarming rise, which some call an epidemic, in autism rates.  In one decade, the rate of autism increased 500%:  from one in 2,500 to one in 500.

A reanalysis of a 2004 CDC study showed a higher connection between incidences of autism for children receiving the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine prior to 36 months of age.  In 2008, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program awarded a family roughly $1.5 Million for a vaccine’s role in an autism-related diagnosis.

Until these issues are further researched and/or a Vaccine Safety Commission is established, I believe no patient or parent should be required to submit to a vaccination without Informed Consent.

I hope my colleagues in the Senate and House will agree:  Informed Consent is a basic human right of consenting or refusing a medical treatment or procedure – including vaccinations.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun, “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”  The reply was, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Fast forward 120 years:  the Santa Claus of 1897 is now the government of 2017.  From the time we are born until the day we die, government is with us every step…from birth certificates to death certificates.

Official time is determined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Government, not parents, decides where children go to school – all based on zip codes.  Today’s playgrounds are vastly different from those of Baby Boomers – sliding boards and swings are smaller and merry-go-rounds and jungle gyms aren’t the same.

Government requires a multitude of licenses and certifications.  When you marry, want to drive, fish, hunt, or get a dog, you need to get a license.  Cars must be registered and inspected; building codes and permits are required for new construction and renovation; and commodes just don’t flush as well since Congress limited the amount of water in them.

When I meet with business professionals I’m amazed at government’s reach into every aspect of doing business.  It’s why many ask if “free trade” really exists – either internationally or domestically.

Inspectors are everywhere, monitoring child care facilities, hiring, elevators, minimum wage, prevailing wages, and other government mandates.  Health care is the most recent government requirement that will impact both employers and individual employees.

Contractors and other professionals need permits and licenses to do business.  Food packages are filled with information that few read, and farmers even need a permit to sell raw milk.

Some government policies contradict one another.  For example, we spend taxpayer moneys to attract new businesses.  If and when employers come, we tax them – often times more than other states.  When they say they are leaving, we often spend more tax money to entice them to stay.

The Federal Communications Commission regulates programming and the signals used.  Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve attempts to manage or otherwise control the economy.

Taxes and government red tape have been cited for costing jobs and job opportunities.  But, government keeps adding them.  Tax policies benefit some and penalize others.  Depending upon how you’re impacted, you’ll either call them a “tax shelter” or a “tax loophole.”

The New York Sun wondered “how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus . . . A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

I wonder what our government will look like in the future – especially since its role was to secure people’s rights and freedoms; it was never intended to be Santa.

Timing is Everything

One of my goals as chair of the Senate State Government Committee has been – and continues to be:  improving Pennsylvania’s electoral processes.  The right to vote is one of the most emphasized guarantees of our US Constitution.  Four separate amendments specifically state the right of citizens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged.”

The Committee held a number of hearings in 2017 and more are planned for 2018.  We’ve also reported several election-related bills to the full Senate for consideration.

Not surprisingly, interest in elections has greatly increased since the 2016 Presidential Election when 58% of registered voters actually voted (68% in Pennsylvania).  At the same time, perspectives on elections has shifted.  I guess timing is everything.

In 2013, I cosponsored legislation to change how Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes are awarded.  The Electoral College was established by Article II of the US Constitution and was revised by the 12th, 14th, and 23rd Amendments.  Its original purpose was to protect minority interests – smaller states feared their voices would be drowned out by bigger states.

Prior to the Election of 1800, electors were chosen within each state by Congressional District.  In 1800, Vice President Thomas Jefferson received eight of Pennsylvania’s 15 Electoral College votes and President John Adams received the remaining seven.

While Jefferson received more electoral votes nationally than Adams, he and his Vice Presidential candidate, Aaron Burr, tied in the Electoral College; it took the US House of Representatives 36 tries to make Jefferson President and Burr Vice President.  Afterwards, the 12th Amendment was adopted to require separate Electoral College votes for President and Vice President.  At the same time, states began to change how their delegates were chosen.

The Constitution leaves to the states how electors are selected:  “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.”  Unlike amendments to the US Constitution, which require two-thirds approval in both houses of Congress plus approval by 38 states, states decide and can change how they award Electoral College votes whenever they want.

After the Election of 1800, states began to move away from proportional voting to “winner take all.”  By 1836, all states were using winner take all (although Maine and Nebraska returned to proportional voting in 1969 and 1991).

The 2013 bill I supported would have returned Pennsylvania to proportional Electoral College voting by Congressional District.  I believed this change would have increased voter turnout as political minorities would again believe their votes mattered (i.e., rural areas thinking urban areas make their votes meaningless).

However, opponents of proportional voting by Congressional District were strident.  They said it was just a backdoor effort to inject partisanship into Pennsylvania’s Presidential Elections.  They added proportional voting would make a complicated system even more complicated, further reducing voter interest and voter turnout.

The bill’s opponents prevailed as it never moved and it hasn’t been reintroduced.  But today, some of those who opposed that legislation are now calling for changes in the Electoral College – including moving away from winner take all.  I wonder why?

I guess timing is everything.

Local Tax Reform Update

So, what’s next in the ongoing efforts to eliminate school property taxes as I continue to believe no tax should have the power to leave you homeless?

Article VIII, Section 1 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution calls for uniformity of taxation:  “All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, and shall be levied and collected under general laws.”  This provision is why Pennsylvania’s Personal Income Tax is a flat tax rather than a graduated tax like federal income taxes.  Pennsylvania’s Constitution doesn’t allow for graduated income taxes.

However, Pennsylvania’s Constitution also provides some exclusions from the requirement for uniform taxation, including:  churches, cemeteries, government entities, charitable organizations, and “homesteads.”

A “homestead” is a person’s or family’s primary residence (i.e., no vacation properties) they own (i.e., no rental properties) – including farmhouses and outbuildings (i.e., no commercial, industrial, or retail properties).

On Election Day, voters approved (54% to 46%) an admittedly confusing amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution:  “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?”

The previous exemption for homestead properties allowed local taxing authorities to exclude up to one-half the median assessed values of properties located within their boundaries.  While some equate “median value” with “average value,” the former is calculated by putting all the numbers in numerical order and finding the one that’s in the middle – the 50th percentile.  It’s more difficult to calculate than an average where you simply add the numbers together and divide by how many numbers there are.

The approved constitutional change further simplifies the calculation by using 100% of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction.  Previously, taxing jurisdictions had to first figure the median assessed value and then calculate what one-half of that value would be in order to enact a homestead exemption.  It’s one of the many reasons why this exemption to Pennsylvania’s uniformity clause was almost never used.

With the change in the Constitution, the calculation for homestead exemptions becomes much easier.  More importantly, it provides more options for the total elimination of school property taxes.

While I continue to believe across-the-board elimination of school property taxes as proposed by Senator Argall’s Senate Bill 76 is the best option, we now have other options to consider and I look forward to exploring them in the weeks and months ahead.

In the interim, I remain committed to the goal of ensuing no tax should have the power to leave you homeless.

Medical Cannabis & Research

Quality research was an important goal of mine when I was advocating to bring medical cannabis to Pennsylvania.  That’s why I was especially pleased – and strongly supported – an amendment Representative Kathy Watson added during House deliberations to establish “Chapter 20”:  “Academic Clinical Research Centers.”

An Academic Clinical Research Center is an accredited Pennsylvania medical school that operates or partners with an acute care hospital within the Commonwealth.

To the best of my knowledge, there are nine medical schools in Pennsylvania:  the Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania), the Pittsburgh School of Medicine (University of Pittsburgh), Thomas Jefferson University, the Temple School of Medicine, The Geisinger Commonwealth Medical College, Drexel University College of Medicine, Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Under the provisions of Pennsylvania’s 2016 medical cannabis law, these institutions would be able to enter into a contractual relationship with a “clinical registrant” – an entity holding both a medical cannabis grower/processor permit and a medical cannabis dispensary permit – to compete for one of eight clinical research permits to conduct medial cannabis research.

For me, research has been – and continues to be – a key component in advocating for the use of medical cannabis.  Throughout the debates over my bill, I was told:  “Mike, you don’t have the research to prove the benefits of medical cannabis – all you have are anecdotes.”

To the contrary, I had done my research – and I continue to do my research, talking with experts from across the nation and some from other parts of the world.  More importantly, I have seen the benefits for countless patients – especially children and veterans.  Before using medical cannabis they were either non-functioning or “didn’t feel human.”  After medical cannabis, the impacts were remarkable and each had a profound and lasting impact on me personally.

I’m pleased with the outstanding collaboration I’ve seen from the Governor and his Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the four legislative caucuses (Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Republicans, and House Democrats) in developing the required regulations to implement this key component of Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law.

I believe there’s a shared goal to ensure the roll out of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania will serve the needs of patients throughout the Commonwealth in an efficient and timely manner.  I also believe Chapter 20 and its research goals will make Pennsylvania a leader not only in the nation but throughout the world in medical cannabis research.

When my bill to give patients the option of seeking the benefits of medical cannabis was being deliberated, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman probably said it best:  “this issue is too big, it’s too important, and too many people are depending on us to get it right.”  Senator Corman added:  “for all the times the Senate has been criticized for acting too quickly, this is one time we’re going to take our time to be sure we get it right.”

As work has proceeded to bring medical cannabis to Pennsylvania, many have acknowledged both the House and Senate “got it right” in enacting this law and much has been accomplished to date to allow for its timely and effective implementation.

Hopefully, implementation of Chapter 20 and the establishment of up to eight clinical registrants will be next.  To me, ensuring proper implementation of Chapter 20 requires everyone to remain focused on the goal, namely:  RESEARCH!

Reform is in the Eye of the Beholder

During the latter part of the debate on medical cannabis, Senate Majority Leader Corman took charge, saying:  “This issue is too big, it’s too important, and too many people are depending on us to ‘get it right.’  And, for all the times the Senate has been criticized for acting too quickly, this is one time we’re going to take our time and ‘get it right’.”

Senator Corman was spot-on then and his comments form a guiding principle I follow as chair of the Senate State Government Committee:  the need to “get it right.”

I waited eight years to chair the State Government Committee and it allows me to work to advance my “Promise to Pennsylvania”:  legislative and political reform, tax and spending reform, and legal and labor law reform.

The State Government Committee has regulatory oversight over:  the Governor’s Office, Pennsylvania Department of State, Department of General Services, Office of Administration, Office of General Counsel, the Executive Board, Board of Claims, Civil Service Commission, Council on the Arts, Historical & Museum Commission, Lobbying Disclosure Law Regulation Promulgation Committee, Office of Open Records, State Athletic Commission, and the State Ethics Commission.

This oversight has generated over 100 bills so far this Session, including:  elections, state procurement (including state leases and land sales), Right to Know, lobbying disclosure, conduct of public officials and employees, and various Constitutional amendments.

My goal as chair is to give each bill due consideration.  That’s why we hold public hearings:  to be sure bills receive proper deliberation.  Last Session, nearly 200 bills were referred to the Committee and about a third were reported to the full Senate.

A common question I’m asked is:  “why does it take so long to change government – even the simple things?”  The answer comes from the Founding Fathers who rebelled against a king making decisions and they vested authority in three separate but equal branches of government:  checks and balances.

To be sure our Constitutional Republic would be especially deliberative, the Founders divided the Legislative branch into two chambers, who must agree before sending bills to the executive to be signed into law.  This deliberative process helps protect everyone’s rights – including those with opinions contrary to those of the majority (50% plus one).

Our Constitution protects inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by government.  It’s why some of the Founders insisted on a Bill of Rights.  In a democracy, the majority is not restrained and can impose its will on the minority.

This leads to a big frustration of mine:  groups who decide what constitutes “reform” and demand action on a particular bill.  It’s “reform” because they say it is and don’t you dare disagree because then you’re anti-reform.

However, what’s “reform” to one may not be to another.  That’s why I ask questions about any “reform.”  Surprisingly, some have admitted they didn’t read the bill(s) they’re advocating.  Others don’t have the answers to questions about bills they insist are “reform.”  What was the process used to draft their legislation?  Who made decisions and how?  Why is their legislation “reform” while other bills aren’t?

Openness, transparency, and accountability are foundations of my work in the General Assembly.  Sometimes this takes time.  It’s always hard work and tedious details.

To quote an old advertisement, it’s important for the quality to go in before the name goes on.  This is especially true whenever anyone says they want “reform.”