Open Seat 48th E-Newsletter

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Week of March 5, 2018

Department of General Services Budget Hearing

The PA Senate Appropriations Committee held a budget hearing with the PA Department of General Services (DGS), and as Chairman of the PA Senate State Government Committee, the committee that oversees DGS, I had the opportunity to ask Secretary Topper several questions.

My first question had to do with the repeal or replacement of the outdated Separations Act.  Secretary Topper agrees there are better procurement methods for state funded (taxpayer funded) projects.

I also asked Secretary Topper if we can please continue the conversation on Procurement Code updates to streamline and make the process more efficient to better ensure the Commonwealth is squeezing every penny from each tax dollar.

My third and final question was if DGS played any role in the scoring of Medical Cannabis permit applications?  The answer was yes, specifically the diversity and inclusion section.  I noted the arbitrary subjective nature of the scoring matrix caused confusion among applicants in Round 1, which had unintended consequences.  I’m hoping for a much smoother – and quick – Round 2.  Watch my questions and Secretary Topper’s answers below.

2/26/18 - Budget Hearing Q&A: General Services

Column: 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.

Bill Signed into Law by the Governor

Act No. 10:  House Bill 631 – updates to Megan’s Law. 

Constituent Highlight: Rachel Siegel Honored as 2018 National Wool Ambassador

Congratulations to Rachel Siegel, who is a certified public accountant from Lebanon and has been making wool outfits since she was 13 years-old.  In February, Rachel took top honors at the Make It With Wool competition in San Antonio, being named as the 2018 National Wool Ambassador with her dress and sweater outfit.  Read more and see Rachel’s creation in Sue Bowman’s Lancaster Farming article here.

PA DCNR Internship Opportunities

The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) offers internships to provide students with experience in its Forestry, State Parks, Recreation and Conservation, and Topographic and Geologic Survey bureaus.  DCNR provides both paid and unpaid internships, which are available to full-time college students.  To apply, click here.

PA Game Commission Seedlings for Schools Program

The PA Game Commission Seedlings for Schools Program helps students learn about the vital role trees play in the environment by providing tree seedlings to classrooms so students can plant them as part of projects to improve wildlife habitat.  Orders are being accepted through March 30th at this website.  There is no charge to schools and seedlings are provided by the Game Commission’s Howard Nursery with shipping costs offset by the Wildlife for Everyone Endowment Foundation.

Seedlings for Your Class provides enough seedlings so each student can take one home to plant.  This program is open to pre-K, elementary, middle and high school students.  White spruce, silky dogwood, grey-stemmed dogwood, American sweet crabapple, American highbush cranberry and eastern hemlock species are available.  A teachers’ guide and planting instructions come with the seedlings, which come in bundles of 25 and will be shipped directly to schools in April.

PA Consumers, Agencies Receive Cephalon Settlement

A settlement of $3,013,533 with the drug maker Cephalon will be distributed among 1,996 PA consumers who will be notified by a claims administrator.  The company is also paying $3,937,987 to PA agencies, including the Department of Human ServicesMedicaid Program and the Department of Aging’s PACE Program.  The Office of Attorney General is receiving $1 million for its litigation costs.  The settlement resolves claims that the company violated anti-trust and consumer protection laws by delaying the entry of lower-cost generic versions of Provigil into the marketplace and also made misrepresentations to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

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