New Castle News

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July 12, 2014

John K. Manna: Lots happening even during summer months

NEW CASTLE — There is so much to say, but so little time to say it.

Politics is what I’m referring to, and despite the so-called lazy days of summer, there’s a lot going on. But I’ll just mention a few items.

For starters, Pennsylvania’s budget saga continues.

Gov. Tom Corbett finally signed the 2014-15 budget this week, but used a line-item veto to slash $72 million in spending, the majority of which is for Senate and House operations and expenses.

Corbett, a Republican, said he took the action because legislators have failed to address state pension reform.

His action sparked criticism from Republican leaders in the House and Senate. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said the reason Corbett’s pension plan “never got any traction” was because it would cost billions of dollars over the years. Turzai said the House came up with a plan that produces savings to the pension systems.

Is this any way to treat the chief executive officer of the state and the leader of your party? Well, yeah, if only one in four Pennsylvania voters believe he has performed sufficiently well to deserve re-election.

That’s not to suggest that Republican leaders aren’t basing their position on policy differences as well, but they can also read the poll numbers.

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, are essentially saying little or nothing, and, no doubt, are enjoying this even though taxpayers and residents in general are the eventual losers in this budget battle.

And then there’s the developing problem in Florida where a circuit judge ruled this week that the state’s legislature — dominated by Republicans — drew congressional districts in violation of state law.

In 2010, Florida voters approved changes saying legislators could no longer draw districts to favor incumbents or a political party. The judge found two districts are in violation of the new standards and, therefore, invalidated the entire congressional map. The map, he said, needs to be redrawn.

Florida’s problem is probably not much different from Pennsylvania’s. Take a look at the state’s map and you have to at least applaud the Legislature for imagination in redrawing the districts that coincidentally favored incumbents for the most part.

Except with the merger of two districts that ultimately ended up in the elimination of two Democratic congressmen, Jason Altmire and Mark Critz.

That district, which includes part of Lawrence County, is one of the more imaginative ones in terms of design.

What happens in Florida has no direct bearing on Pennsylvania. But if the judge’s ruling stands up on appeal, then maybe it could have some impact across the country.

Or perhaps someday groups will be inspired to challenge the way the Pennsylvania legislature redraws congressional maps.

Or maybe the legislature someday will adopt adopt reforms.

Or maybe nothing will change.

Take your pick.

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