Bob Heisse, Centre Daily Times
Usually, the Pennsylvania General Assembly comes back into session after the November election for a final flurry of votes.
That won’t happen this year, because the Senate leaders signed off before the election and the House leaders decided afterward not to return.
That means that 253 full-time legislators, being paid handsomely with nice benefits, are essentially off for almost three months.
When they return to Harrisburg for swearing-ins, there will be a Republican majority not seen since 1994, when Gov. Tom Ridge took office. Gov.-elect Tom Corbett will have a GOP-led House and Senate to work with as they consider unfinished business and new ideas.
Will they finally pass some kind of pension reform, as huge pension payment increases loom for taxpayers, schools and municipalities? Will they approve a severance tax/fee on gas drilling operations, enabling Pennsylvania to join other states in taxing the growing industry? Will they ban texting while driving? Will they talk seriously about downsizing the legislature itself and a legislative staff that is one of the biggest in the country?
Legislation that stalled this year will have to be reintroduced in January, and that includes Sen. Jake Corman’s bills that would increase the fines from $300 to $1,000 for underage drinking and public drunkenness; make repeated underage drinking a misdemeanor; and allow university towns to charge an additional $100 fee for alcohol-related convictions.
The fines, of course, haven’t changed since 1972.
Corman’s measures are important for this community to continue making progress in addressing excessive drinking. High fines are not the answer on their own, but they’ll be effective in getting the attention of problem drinkers and their families. Legislators should move these quickly after they are introduced.
It’s all a waiting game until January and beyond, but we’re interested in what you think Corbett and the legislature should do. Send in your suggestions according to guidelines that will run on this page starting Sunday.
We’ll publish your ideas in a Focus on Harrisburg package or multiple pages leading to the first sessions.
• • •
The mid-term election came and went with little attention focused on Afghanistan, where American forces continue their work.
An investigative series starting Sunday in the Centre Daily Times will show some of what they face.
The series, by McClatchy reporters Warren P. Strobel, Marisa Taylor, Dion Nissenbaum and Jonathan Landay in
Afghanistan and in Washington, explores the effectiveness of U.S. spending to rebuild the country and to provide facilities for the growing Afghan army and police. The stories will run through Tuesday.
This is the latest top work by our Washington Bureau, which often wins praise from readers. You can now access all of the McClatchy Washington work on an iPhone app. Just search for “McClatchy” in the iTunes app store.
As always, please contact me with concerns you have about anything in the Centre Daily Times or online at CentreDaily.com.
Executive Editor Bob Heisse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 231-4640. His blog, “Back in Happy Valley,” is on the website.