Columns

Taxes

February 28, 2017

The 2017–2018 budget process began with the Governor’s budget address and has continued with hearings of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee.

2017 Goals

January 19, 2017

I have a number of goals for the next two years of the 2017 – 2018 Legislative Session, beginning with implementation of Act 16 of 2016 – my medical marijuana initiative.

Eliminating School Property Taxes

January 3, 2017

As Senator Argall and I continue to push for elimination of school property taxes with passage of Senate Bill 76, I often think about the impact property has had throughout history.

The Electoral College

December 13, 2016

Several years ago, Dr. James Broussard, an esteemed Lebanon Valley College professor, testified at a time when the Senate was considering legislation to change how our Electoral College votes are determined.

Persistence Pays Off

November 9, 2016

President Calvin Coolidge once said: “nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.”

The Wizard of Oz

October 25, 2016

Toward the end of the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wizard ostensibly grants Dorothy’s companions their wishes: the Scarecrow is given a diploma to prove knowledge, the Lion a medal to demonstrate courage, and the Tin Man receives a ticking heart-shaped watch.

The Impact of Small Reforms

October 17, 2016

One of the key principles of my “Promise to Pennsylvania” is improving state government openness, transparency, and accountability.

Protecting Property Rights

September 29, 2016

While I’m not an attorney, I have new respect for them as I worked to bring changes to Pennsylvania’s asset forfeiture law.
Listen

A History of Protecting Religious Rights and Freedom of Conscience

September 6, 2016

Religious rights and protections for freedom of conscience were key principles in the founding of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Funding Education

August 29, 2016

In 2006, a “Costing-Out Study” called for a 50% increase in Pennsylvania’s basic education spending: at least $3.17 Billion more (to $6.02 Billion).

Midstate Jobs

August 10, 2016

Jobs and the economy are often the top issues of concern among citizens and many elected officials run for office promising to create jobs.

“Tax the Guy Behind the Tree”

July 27, 2016

Russell Long, US Senator from 1948 to 1987, once described tax reform as: “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax the guy behind the tree.”

A Productive Session

July 15, 2016

While there are still a few remaining days in the 2015–2016 Legislative Session, I’m pleased with the progress on a number of my legislative initiatives.

Reforms Through the Courts

July 6, 2016

One of the first reforms I introduced to advance my “Promise to Pennsylvania” was my “Voters’ Choice Act” to eliminate unfair hurdles to ballot access for minor party and independent candidates.

The Difficulties of Eliminating School Property Taxes

June 24, 2016

Several advocates for the elimination of school property taxes have asked us where efforts to rid taxpayers of this hated tax currently stand.

Standing with Taxpayers

June 14, 2016

Consider the many federal, state, county, and municipal taxes and fees we pay, which include: taxes on amusements, capital gains, cigarettes, corporations, earned income, services, estates, gas, liquor, sales, per capita, personal income, personal property, property, realty transfers, Social Security, telephone calls, utilities, and unemployment.

When Government Goes Beyond its Boundaries

June 2, 2016

The preamble to the United States Constitution lists five basic functions of government: (1) to form a more perfect union, (2) insure domestic tranquility, (3) provide for the common defense, (4) promote the general welfare, and (5) secure the blessings of liberty.

A Week to Remember

May 17, 2016

In his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln said: “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.”

Another Step Toward Reform

May 3, 2016

In the year since being named chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, I’ve worked hard to advance reforms that are consistent with my “Promise to Pennsylvania”: legislative and political reforms, tax and spending reforms, and labor law and legal reforms.

Passing Medical Cannabis into Law

April 20, 2016

When I was running for the Senate – and again after I was elected – people would ask me: “Mike, how are you going to deal with issues where what you’re voting conflicts with your values?”

We Have a (Spending) Problem

February 19, 2016

Leaving the Governor’s budget address, I thought about a line from “Apollo 13”: “Houston, we have a problem”.

Starting an Important Debate

January 27, 2016

Article I, Section 2 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution affirms: “All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness.

Can We REALLY Afford It?

January 8, 2016

Ronald Reagan once said: “The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program."

A Small Step Toward Reform

December 22, 2015

Soon after being elected, I started working to implement my “Promise to Pennsylvania:” legislative and political reforms, tax and spending reforms, and labor law and legal reforms.

The Failures of Local Tax Reform

December 2, 2015

People throughout the 48th Senatorial District have repeatedly told me school property taxes are their biggest headache and they want their elimination to be a top priority of the General Assembly.

Half the Story

November 16, 2015

During the ongoing budget impasse, most of the attention has been devoted to talk about increasing taxes. To me, this is just half the story as we need to find better ways to force government to live within its means.

Numbers Tell A Story

October 22, 2015

There have been some interesting arguments against my Senate Bill 869 and its goal of protecting people from losing their properties when they haven’t been charged or convicted of a crime.

Education or Indoctrination?

September 22, 2015

One of my Senate colleagues recently received the following email from a school superintendent using the school’s email system:

Constitution Day

September 10, 2015

September 17 marks the 228th Anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Tax Increases and Tax Decreases

August 25, 2015

American author and humorist Peg Bracken (who also worked with Homer Groening, father of “The Simpson’s” creator Matt Groening) once asked: “Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200 and a substantial tax cut save you 30 cents?”

Following Truman's Example

August 3, 2015

The budget impasse between Governor Wolf and the Legislature is about $3.6 Billion.

“It’s for the Kids”

July 22, 2015

One of the key differences in the ongoing budget impasse between the Governor and the General Assembly is the issue of education funding.

Fighting for Openness, Transparency & Accountability

July 8, 2015

One of the first questions anyone asks whenever making a large purchase or entering into a long-term contract is: “how much is it going to cost?”

Cannabis Contradictions

July 1, 2015

There have been a number of roadblocks in my ongoing journey to help Pennsylvania’s sick and suffering – especially children with seizures and veterans with PTSD – by bringing medical cannabis to the Commonwealth.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

June 19, 2015

Originally designed as a tool to divest drug kingpins of their ill-gotten fortunes, civil asset forfeiture is increasingly used to take homes, cars, and petty cash from ordinary Pennsylvanians.

Update: Medical Cannabis

June 2, 2015

My efforts to help sick children, veterans, and others by bringing medical cannabis to Pennsylvania began with a meeting with two mothers of children with seizures. While the journey has been long, I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past year.

Openness, Transparency, & Accountability

May 7, 2015

Openness, transparency, and accountability are key elements of my “Promise to Pennsylvania” and words that sometimes echo through the halls of the Capitol. However, these words apparently have no meaning when it comes to public sector unions.

Update: Medical Cannabis

April 21, 2015

Last Session, I was pleased to lead efforts to bring medical cannabis to our Commonwealth. Twenty three other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.

“Mom Said!”

April 7, 2015

Why does the phrase “mom said” have such magic growing up?

Reform is in the Eye of the Beholder

March 26, 2015

I recently read a newspaper story about Governor Wolf’s proposed budget.

Doctors vs. Doctors

March 10, 2015

I’m not a doctor but I’ve always admired their Hippocratic Oath: “Primum non nocere,” Latin for, "first, do no harm."

Putting Children First?

March 2, 2015

I constantly hear about the challenges of educating today’s students: there’s not enough time in a day and there’s not enough money. These are often cited reasons why schools struggle.

It's Our Money!

February 19, 2015

Government spending is at an all-time high, and families are hurting as a result. We simply can’t keep demanding more and more from taxpayers.

What I learned as Senate Education Committee Chair

February 3, 2015

I was honored to serve as the Senate Education Committee chair during the 2013 – 2014 Session of the General Assembly.

Times They Are A-Changin’

January 15, 2015

In his song "The Times They Are A-Changin'," Bob Dylan calls upon Senators and Congressmen to “Please heed the call, Don't stand in the doorway, Don't block up the hall.

Stop the Wars!

December 11, 2014

I believe government should focus on respect for the Constitution, respect for life, personal responsibility, and less government. However, government continues to grow and to expand at all levels– federal, state, and local.

Separating Myths from Reality

November 21, 2014

Poll after poll has shown well over 80% of Pennsylvanians favor empowering doctors to recommend medical cannabis as a treatment option.

Coincidence?

September 8, 2014

When I became chair of the Senate Education Committee, I decided to focus on students and their parents.

Public Policy Contradictions

September 4, 2014

Why are public policies often contradictory?

Pennsylvania’s Pension Crises

August 21, 2014

President Kennedy said: “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

Government is Everywhere

August 6, 2014

The National Institute of Standards and Technology determines official time. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates radio, cable and satellite television, cell phones, and other elements of our vast telecommunications system. Weather forecasts are largely dependent upon the National Weather Service, a government agency.

Tax and Spend and Spend and Spend

July 29, 2014

Now that the 2014 – 2015 state budget is final, it’s interesting to note this year’s push for higher taxes.

Truth in Advertising

July 17, 2014

Freedom to petition government for “a redress of grievances” is a fundamental liberty guaranteed by our Bill of Rights: the 1st Amendment.

Equal Importance

June 23, 2014

There’s an old proverb: “fire, water, and government know nothing of mercy.”

799 Years of Rights

June 16, 2014

Does this sound familiar: excessive taxes, government officials not following laws, and lack of due process? How to address these issues?

Listening to Learn

June 4, 2014

My focus as Senate Education Committee chair is students and parents. While I believe education choice would best meet their needs, I realize there’s not enough support to pass choice.

Sacrificing Principle on the Altar of Self-Interest

April 7, 2014

The United States is a Constitutional Republic: leaders represent the people in accordance with the Constitution, which limits governments’ authority through the separation of powers. “We the People” are in charge. As Thomas Jefferson noted: “When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”

Putting Students and Parents First

March 25, 2014

I recently read an article that issued a “loud call for work on taxes; school funding.” I hope this effort includes listening carefully to students and parents.

Picking and Choosing Rights

March 5, 2014

Sometimes when I cite the Constitution, people often say: “times have changed; we need to change with them.” This is the theory of a ‘living Constitution,’ it does not need to be amended, just interpreted to fit modern-day.

Medical Cannabis

February 10, 2014

Ronald Reagan said: “We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”

King Canute Lives

January 21, 2014

Legendary 11th Century English King Canute is said to have had his courtiers carry him on his throne to the seashore to command the tide to stop so that the waves would not touch his kingdom or wet his feet and robes.

Enforcing the Rules

December 16, 2013

In January 2014, when NFL playoffs begin, and college football’s Bowl Championship Series culminates in the national championship game, referees will enforce only those rules they decide they like.

Life, Liberty, and Property

December 4, 2013

While drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson echoed the sentiments of English philosopher John Locke, who said all individuals are born with certain “inalienable” natural rights. Among these fundamental natural rights, Locke said, are “life, liberty, and property.”

Voters’ Choice Act

November 7, 2013

The votes have been cast and winners and losers have been declared.

Liberty Amendments

October 23, 2013

In his farewell address to the People of the United States, George Washington wrote: “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.

Pennsylvania’s Public Pension Crisis

September 25, 2013

Pennsylvania’s public pension system is drowning in sea of red ink.

A Bill of Temporary Privileges

September 9, 2013

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the “Bill of Rights,” guarantee freedom of speech, religion, association, assembly and due process of law.

Running Government Like a Business

August 22, 2013

How many times have you heard the statement government should run like a business?

Banning Swaps and Bail-Ins

August 5, 2013

The recent City of Detroit bankruptcy filing highlights my call to ban “swaps,” contracts where a municipality and a financial institution agree to exchange – swap – cash flow payments.

Putting Costs into Perspective

July 22, 2013

Former U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen is credited with saying: “a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” With today’s billion dollar state budgets and trillion dollar federal budgets (and deficits), tax dollars are often treated like play money.

Rhetoric

July 10, 2013

The right to petition government is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the . . . right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

From the Mouths of Babes

June 11, 2013

The Senate Education Committee, which I chair, recently held a public hearing on cyber charter school funding.

Protecting Our Liberties

May 1, 2013

Etched on the steps leading up to the State Capitol Building is a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Pennsylvania’s “Thorough and Efficient” Education System

April 11, 2013

Article III, Section 14 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution, “Public School System” requires that: “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”

The Contradictions Keep Coming

March 14, 2013

From time to time constituents, staff members, and colleagues share ideas for my list of contradictions, which I first wrote about a year ago. Initial contradictions made included quarterback Tim Tebow’s expression of faith being questioned by those who called for tolerance of alternative life styles, and pro-choice advocates who oppose parents’ right to choose where their children go to school.

Follow the Money

February 25, 2013

When Bob Woodward was investigating Watergate, his “Deep Throat” source told him to “follow the money.”

How Far Have We Come

February 5, 2013

When President Thomas Jefferson delivered his second Inaugural Address, he asked, “What farmer, what mechanic, what laborer, ever sees a tax-gatherer of the United States?”

Presuppositional Philosophical Worldviews

January 8, 2013

A key part of a person’s faith is their “presuppositional philosophical worldview:” the belief systems which determines how they view the world in which they live and how they live their life.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

December 24, 2012

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginian 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."

Pennsylvania's Public Pension Crises

December 17, 2012

As we are in the season of giving, consider the largest giver of all, government. The government offers many services and programs - some core functions, some not.

Legislative Sausage Making

November 21, 2012

German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is credited with saying "Laws are like sausages; better not to see them being made."

Alphabet Soup

November 5, 2012

These are abbreviations used to identify and track federal funds.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

October 9, 2012

The "Law of Unintended Consequences" wasn't passed by any Congress or legislature - it's a fact of life: unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes sometimes happen.

Eliminating School Property Taxes

September 20, 2012

Eliminating school property taxes is an elusive – but attainable – goal.

Where Does the Money Go

September 11, 2012

The 2012 – 2013 state budget is a $27.6 billion spending plan and for the next year, $75 million tax dollars will be spent per day, $3 million spent per hour, $52,619 per minute, and $877 each second.

Mandates

August 28, 2012

In 1815, Thomas Jefferson and fellow Founding Father Dr. Benjamin Rush lamented about the condition of the America they helped to establish.

Contradictions Part Three

August 2, 2012

In columns written earlier this year I raised various contradictions, including how some criticize quarterback Tim Tebow's expressions of faith yet call for tolerance of alternative life styles, and how some pro-choice/abortion-rights advocates oppose parents' right to choose where their children go to school.

1776 Accounting for Tax Dollars

July 17, 2012

In the days of billion and trillion dollar state and federal budgets, the value of each hard-earned tax dollar is often lost.

The One-Percenters of 1776

July 3, 2012

As we celebrate the nation's 236th birthday, I cannot help but wonder if the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be criticized today for being part of the so called "1 percent."

Sound Familiar?

June 26, 2012

In 1773, Benjamin Franklin wrote a satire, "Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One," listing twenty ways the British Empire could ruin itself.

Are There Two Americas?

June 4, 2012

I recently received an e-mail from a constituent who demanded that I oppose House Bill 1307, legislation to address the problems of distressed schools.

A Republic, if you can keep it

May 15, 2012

May 25 marks the 225th anniversary of the convening of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, a gathering which ultimately produced the U.S. Constitution.

Should We?

May 2, 2012

If Cain slew Abel today, there would be demands for government to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

More Contradictions

April 16, 2012

I recently wrote a column on contradictions and raised the point how some criticize NFL quarterback Tim Tebow's expression of faith, yet call for tolerance of alternative life styles.

Who pays the bills

March 26, 2012

There has been a lot of talk and media generated about "Occupy Wall Street" and similar protest groups, as well as the "99%" and the "1%."

Facing a New Challenge

February 23, 2012

I recently learned I have lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that occurs when white blood cells that normally help to protect the body from infection and disease begin behaving abnormally.

Contradictions

February 15, 2012

An issue during the NFL season was how Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow showed his faith before, during and after games.

Hooked on Government

January 26, 2012

We're a long way from President Kennedy's challenge in his 1961 Inaugural Address: "…ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country."

Freedom of Expression

January 11, 2012

During a recent awards show, an entertainer attempted humor by deriding those who call for less government, saying they complain about taxes, call the president names, and are anti-immigrant. Such rhetoric doesn’t add to the debate over the proper role of government.

Just Do It

December 15, 2011

"Just do it" is not just a Nike advertising slogan; in government it is a common demand from voters frustrated by the lack of legislative action on issues.