And eight-and-a-half years later, it is finally Mission Accomplished for the over 1 million brave Americans who served our country in Iraq. We owe them a debt we can never repay. Instead of linking you with some article where people argue over the war itself, how about we just provide you with this link? It will take you to some photos taken by our own Roy Wells, who visited Arlington National Cemetery last week.
Back to the surreal world, Donald Trump fired himself from his own GOP Presidential debate this week. Trump’s hair, however, proved a worthy stand-in as debate moderator, asking the truly tough question that haven’t been asked in the previous 600 GOP Presidential debates.
Oh, and somehow, the U.S. Congress stopped smacking each other around long enough to come to agreement on a fiscal year budget of just over $1 trillion. That the House and Senate could agree on anything – let alone a trillion clams in spending – means that there is, in fact, a fat dude in a red suit who is going to attempt to jam himself down your chimney next week.
Back in good ol' Pennsylvania, the political cognoscenti gathered in the rotunda to watch our own House and Senate put the final touches on the 2011 Session. There would be vouchers, and maps, and a shale fee to go with the new Congressional maps, and all would rejoice. Except that only the Congressional maps made it out of the sausage machine. If you thought 2012 was gonna be a quiet election year, check that notion at the door, Jack Spratt.
Speaking of Congressional maps…yeah, wow. Quite the kerfuffle ensued over the unveiling of those babies this week. Democrats howled like banshees, while the GOP map-makers essentially said “Hey, it is what it is. Take it or, um, take it.” For those who have never been down this particular road before, hop onto the Google machine, dig up some news clips from 2001 and see if any of today’s arguments look familiar. You’ll think you stepped back in time.
Within those maps you will see that U.S. Reps Mark Critz and Jason Altmire now share the same 12thCongressional district, which runs from lower Lawrence County to Staten Island. The two Democratic members saw this coming a mile away, and so we shall bid adieu to one of them in 2012.
And while the House and Senate and Governor Corbett were unable to put the final touches on a new shale fee/regulatory plan, the House and Senate were able to agree on a bill that will give regulators the power to inspect natural gas gathering lines to make sure they are safely gathering up gas.
On the great liquor privatization battle of 2011, the original bill that would have accomplished that goal (HB 11) moved out of committee this week. The problem was, the final product looked about as much like the original bill as Jennifer Garner looks like Betty White. The plan, which never got a House floor vote, would have kept the state store system somewhat intact, offered wholesale wine licenses for $100 million, allowed beer distributors to sell wine and six packs, and, we believe, sold the State Museum to Donald Trump’s hair. Proponents of full privatization were vexed, to say the least.
The Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System has also prepared an early Christmas gift for school districts in the form of a 12% increase in payments into the fund next year. Some smarty-pants readers will recall that legislation was passed last year to smooth out the pension spikes caused by the market dropping faster than…a thing that drops real fast. So next year, districts are faced with ONLY a 12% increase. Awesome. Maybe next year we can hit them all in the shins with two-by-fours if they are really lucky.
The State Budget of Neverending Doom that was passed last June apparently did a little dance number right on top of the Pennsylvania State Police, which is now forecasting (albeit internally – shhhh!) as many as 500 layoffs in the near future and a delay in the new cadet class. We remember policy makers saying something about how everyone was gonna feel the pain of budget cuts. They were not kidding, obviously. We have a few rubles that say that particular problem will be rectified next budget cycle.
As some elected officials in the City of Harrisburg noodle around pretending they are going to prevail in bankruptcy court (LALALALA WE DON’T HEAR STATE-APPOINTED RECEIVER DAVID UNKOVIC LALALALALA), a funny thing happened on the way to Chapter 9 protection: council’s counsel apparently failed to file a timely appeal, and it was summarily tossed into the incinerator by the courts. Check and mate, good people.
Two things, however, seemed to go very much right for the embattled Capitol City, however. First, aforementioned Receiver Unkovic came out and declared that the city’s creditors would have to bear a little bit more of the burden in solving the city’s financial crisis. And perhaps most exciting, the Fox Network animated comedy “American Dad” used Harrisburg’s famed 2ndstreet Restaurant Row as a backdrop in a recent episode. Maybe the city can ask Fox for residuals.
If you think it would be unusual for a legal team to miss a huge filing deadline in court, we give you the Rasputin of casino licensees, Foxwoods Gaming. After being given the heave-ho by the Gaming Control Board and the courts, Foxwoods this week has (according to the Philadelphia Daily News) potentially missed the deadline by which it needed to file its appeal before the Supreme Court. For Christmas, we think we are going to start handing out calendars.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike announces this week that it has contracted with a company to provide electric car chargers along the highway. Good news, all you Chevy Volt drivers! The company is installing two levels of chargers; one can charge your car in 20 minutes, and the other in 4 hours which, we would assume, also means the Turnpike is going to need to build hotels to sleep in while your car charges.
The Obama Administration announced this week that home care workers will now be afforded the same wage protections (you know, the minimum wage kind and the paid overtime kind) that almost every other worker in the country already has. This strikes us as being eminently fair, but also pretty sad. Why, in this day and age, with so many people relying on home care services, would we even have to clarify this? Shouldn’t this have gone without saying? You know, that the person taking care of your grandmother should have the same wage protections as the 17-year-old working at Old Navy?
Out in Philadelphia, incoming city council President Darrell Clarke is already setting an ambitious agenda for next year. First up on Clarke’s agenda: finding new revenue generators without raising taxes. One of his plans is to allow advertising on city property. Triad Strategies is already looking into leasing a few park benches, and perhaps to recycling bin outside city hall, for placement of our logo.
Another year, another kick in the textbooks from the U.S. Department of Education, it seems. We learned early this morning that Pennsylvania will not be one of the nine states to share in $500 million worth of Race to the Top grants, and yeah, we are starting to feel just a little bit snubbed up in here. Free guest blog space to the first person or organization who can tell us why we keep getting dope-slapped around by Arne Duncan.
Finally this week, make sure you visit Lindsay Raker, Triad’s newest addition, on our Meet Team Triad video series. We won’t be telling you again.
And that is all from the almost-wrapped-up 2011 legislative session. The House returns next week to put the Congressional maps to sleep, and then everyone bolts town until January. That is, except the hardest working team in town (rhymes with Fry Add), who never sleeps. Make sure to follow us on the Twitter and Facebook machines for all your government and political news.
From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!