PA Race for Governor: Tom Wolf Ducks Equal Time on Hometown Radio Show

Ducks

leaves locals lacking – The wolf’s not quacking

With the 2014 election now less than one week away, Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, has been curiously ducking repeated invitations, both on air and off, to join NewsRadio 910 local talk show host Gary Sutton for an interview.  The station, WSBA, is based in candidate Wolf’s hometown, York, PA, and airs Sutton’s show Monday thru Friday from 9am to noon.

While born in York, PA, Wolf grew up in Mt. Wolf, a small community also in York County.  Sutton is native to Manchester, PA, a small community adjacent to Mt. Wolf, separated only by the names and a railroad track.  To anyone not knowing better, the two small towns appear as one.  With only a few years difference in age, Wolf and Sutton would have attended the same school district and were acquainted in their youth.

Both went on to distinguish themselves.  Wolf eventually became owner and head of his family’s building supply business, and acquired political aspirations, serving in Governor Casey’s administration and then as Governor Rendell’s Secretary of Revenue in 2007-2008, after selling the business in 2006.  His 2010 reacquisition of the business precluded his desire to run for Governor in that year.

Sutton, according to what he often references on his show, taught history in high school as well as coaching basketball.  At some point he transitioned to talk radio, distinguishing himself as a local host with the ability to regularly attract big name figures for interviews on national topics, while maintaining a distinctively local flavor.  While he personally leans conservative, Sutton strives to keep his show focused on ideas rather than ideology, welcoming all points of view in lively discussion and search for the truth.

According to Sutton, he invited Tom Wolf to appear on his show even before Wolf won the Democratic primary nomination.  Invitations were also extended to the Corbett campaign, causing frustration for Sutton, as neither campaign was very responsive to his invitations. Finally the Corbett campaign responded with a request for time on air and the Governor was interviewed Thursday, October 23 on the Gary Sutton Show.  Mr. Sutton duly noted his station’s obligation to provide equal time to candidate Wolf, in accordance with FCC regulation.

According to Mr Sutton, it was during that October 23 show when he finally heard back from Jeff Sheridan, with the Wolf campaign.  Sutton said Sheridan told him “it was my fault for not getting back to you”, but that they would still confirm nothing as far as an interview.  On his show the next day, Sutton again extended the invitation, even telling the Wolf campaign they could name their time and he would shuffle his schedule to accommodate them.  As of midday Wednesday October 29, less than one week before the election, Sutton had not received a response.

While it’s understandable the business of any campaign is to win elections, and media appearances should be in those markets most likely to have a positive effect, it’s also curious why any candidate would not make exception for a prominent media outlet in his hometown, especially with the common history of Mr. Wolf and Mr. Sutton, even if simply for courtesy.

It makes folks wonder if something more is afoot in Tom Wolf’s avoidance of Gary Sutton’s show.  Sutton has made on air suggestions that he would like to hear more specifics of Wolf’s positions on the issues.  He has also, while emphatically denying endorsement, stated, for the first time ever in his radio career, that his personal vote will be for Governor Tom Corbett, a decision contributed by candidate Wolf’s perceived lack of clarity as opposed to Corbett’s.

In the event Tom Wolf decides to emerge from the shadows to address his hometown community directly before the election, his time is quickly running out.  WSBA has gotten a request from the Corbett campaign to be on Sutton’s show on election day.  If an arrangement is concluded, this will require equal time for Tom Wolf, if requested, presumably in addition to that for Corbett’s appearance on October 23.

Both campaigns were shown copy of this article and invited to add short comments in response prior to its publication. Republican candidate Governor Tom Corbett’s campaign responded:

It seems the last thing Tom Wolf wants to talk about and share details on is his 188% income tax hike on Pennsylvania’s middle class families and small businesses. We always appreciate Gary’s flexibility and hospitality in hosting Governor Corbett as time allows.

Democratic candidate Tom Wolf’s campaign provided no response.  In the event they do prior to Friday October 31, it will be added to this space.

This article was shared to WatchdogWire-PA

Stolen Health Data Threatens Pennsylvanians/Others With Identity Theft

CyberOuch

Chinese Hackers implicated

Monday August 18 CNN Money reported Community Health Systems, headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, announced it’s 206 hospital system, spanning 29 states, had been hacked, exposing critical personal information of 4.5 million patients of its affiliated physicians.  Anyone who used the services of a linked doctor in the past five years, even if never seen at a hospital, is potentially at risk.

Pennsylvania is one of seven states identified as having the most significant presence in the Community Health Systems network, operating 20 hospitals in the Commonwealth.  As a rough estimate, 20 of 206 hospitals is 9.7% of the hospitals in the network.  9.7% of the reported 4.5 million patients suggests about 436,500 Pennsylvanians could be at risk.

It’s reported that the hackers, identified as Chinese, did not get any information related to medical history or credit cards, but information critical to obtaining credit cards and stealing the identities of those at risk, including names, social security numbers, addresses, birthdays, and telephone numbers.  Community Health Systems has said it will be offering identity theft prevention services when it notifies individual patients.

Spokesperson Jason McSherry, representing affiliated and affected Memorial Hospital in York, PA, provided the following statement, shared here in its entirety:

Limited personal identification data belonging to some patients who were seen at physician practices and clinics affiliated with Memorial Hospital over the past five years was transferred out of our organization in a criminal cyber attack by a foreign-based intruder. The transferred information did not include any medical information or credit card information, but it did include names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers and social security numbers.

We take very seriously the security and confidentiality of private patient information and we sincerely regret any concern or inconvenience to patients. Though we have no reason to believe that this data would ever be used, all affected patients are being notified by letter and offered free identity theft protection.

Our organization believes the intruder was a foreign-based group out of China that was likely looking for intellectual property. The intruder used highly sophisticated methods to bypass security systems. The intruder has been eradicated and applications have been deployed to protect against future attacks. We are working with federal law enforcement authorities in their investigation and will support prosecution of those responsible for this attack.

Many American companies and organizations have been victimized by foreign-based cyber intrusions. It is up to the Federal Government to create a national cyber defense that can prevent this type of criminal invasion from happening in the future.

In discussion with McSherry, he emphasized that stolen information resided in connected doctors offices rather than the hospitals.  For this reason, he does not think anyone using a hospital directly for emergency or any other reason would be at risk.  The Memorial Hospital website currently lists 267 affiliated physicians.

McSherry also said that not all network hospitals are affected by the breach.  For instance, the affiliated nearby Carlisle Regional Medical Center, although part of the Community Health Centers network, uses a different information system.  He did not know how many different information systems are used by Community Health Centers.

Back to the provided statement, it’s interesting that Community Health Centers looks to the Federal Government to “create a national cyber defense that can prevent this type of criminal invasion from happening in the future”.  There may be some justification to their position, as it’s the Federal Government that’s been dictating so much of what has been happening in medicine.

HIPAA, the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; ASCA, the 2001 Administrative Simplification Compliance Act; HITECH, the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act; PPACA, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordability Act all, along with regulations promulgated under them, address, in various ways, requirements concerning electronic medical records, their use, protection and transmission.  While purported to be money saving measures or patient protections, this maze of imposed regulations, with cost of compliance and threat of substantial penalties, has been driving doctors out of independent practice to hospital employment or out of the profession entirely, while exposing patients to hacking risks, as we’ve seen here.

In addition, can the same Federal Government that runs the Post Office or Veterans Administration really ever do more than stay one step ahead of hackers in protecting us, as the cost of the attempt must be born by all?

Note: This article shared to WatchdogWire-Pennsylvania

GOP Stuck in ACA Replacement “Plan Trap” as Magic Bullet Solution Hides in Plain Sight

MagicBullet

Best Plan is NO Plan

Whether by reaction to charges from Obamacare supporters on the Left, or by their own lack of faith in freedom over planning, Republicans, not one of whom voted for the Affordable Care Act, along with conservative allied groups, think tanks, or prominent individuals, are, by last count, now promoting close to a dozen different concepts of how to replace one version of federal government planning with another less abrasive one.  Despite many replacement proposals, Republicans in congress seem unable to coalesce around any one approach, still leaving the impression they have none.

Some of the proposals are introduced bills. Others are wish lists of items to be in bills.  All have myriad suggestions that either move money around by extending tax deductions or refundable credits, allow formation of small business associations, require price transparency, reform medical malpractice, enhance health savings accounts, shuffle money to states for high risk pools, or various changes to Medicare and Medicaid, among others.

Far away the most popular inclusion is selling health insurance across state lines, itself a dangerous (and here) invitation to Federal micromanagement under the twisted  modern interpretation of the Commerce clause.

Such is the pressure and propensity for government to “do something” that bears on both sides of the political spectrum.  This is the plan trap.

Rarely is there a peep from anyone suggesting that no plan is the proper path, that simple policies to promote, restore, and support the proper functioning of the free market, usually by removing government intrusion rather than supplanting it, should be the goal.  One lone voice, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons past-president Dr Alieta Eck, GOP candidate for the 12th Congressional district from New Jersey, wrote an article defending freedom over planning in January 2014.  She opens:

We constantly are told that “while ObamaCare might not be perfect, the right has not come up with a better plan.” Is it possible that we do not need a “plan” at all?

Think about it. Has the federal government set up a food plan for all? A housing plan? Is the Secretary of Whatever empowered to decide what and when we eat? What kind of house each of us lives in? Of course not. We work, we plan and we buy what we need, saving up for the big-ticket items. Government does not control us, nor should it.

Yet one element contained in a few of the plans and wish lists can be the basis for a market revolution.  Unfortunately, no one seems to have grasped the power of its singular focus.  Had Dr Ben Carson simply stopped at Step 1 of his still in progress 5 step plan he would be almost completely there.

Relatively simple modification, enhancement, and expansion of tax policy surrounding HSAs, done right, has the power to be a true game changer by its potential to encourage employers to drop their long standing provision of health insurance in favor of a defined contribution approach.  It is the magic bullet.  It hides in plain sight, and here is how to get there:

Please follow these simple policy modifications:

1) Decouple HSAs from the requirement to be attached to any insurance policy.  While HSAs could still be attached to insurance (suitable for many), anyone should be allowed (and perhaps even required) to have an HSA.  Monies in HSAs receive rare triple tax advantage and protect others from the owner’s potential inability to pay for needed medical services.

2) Allow the purchase of health insurance or medical services through an HSA.  This establishes favored equal tax treatment without the need for separate legislation.

3) Greatly expand contribution limits to allow #2 to happen.  The HSA can be the tax advantaged conduit for all medically related purchases allowed under it.

4) Allow employers to contribute pre tax to an employee’s private HSA.  This is the crucial trigger for a spontaneous move of employers away from policy provision to defined contribution.  Resulting individual ownership solves portability and suitability issues for those who choose to buy health insurance in the open market through their HSA.  Employers could offer direct contributions or matches to employee HSAs.  Contributions from several employers could be combined, as well as HSA assets among family members’ accounts to purchase one insurance contract if desired.

5) Establish a permanent mechanism whereby Americans can look to each other rather than government for assistance by allowing gifting from one HSA to another both within and beyond family connections.  This is similar to the medical sharing ministry concept without the structure of membership or formal organization.  Any groups could pledge to come to the assistance of each other as needed. Such transfers could keep some people away from Medicaid, where access problems are well known or safely allow lower cost policies with higher deductible amounts.

6) For those in need fund a portion of all government assistance transfer payments into personal HSAs to be used ahead of Medicaid.  The power and influence of ownership is stronger than artificially concocted restrictions on use.  Funds from HSA extend dignity of choice and equal access until exhausted

Nothing more at the federal level may be necessary.  States would have to do their part by discovering their proper constrained regulatory role, requiring sufficient reserves to pay claims and enforcing rather than defining terms of health insurance contracts buyers and sellers find right for them.  All this, of course, requires and follows total Obamacare repeal.

While the benefits of defined contribution in a free market (not to escape or game Obamacare) have been recognized (tops list in American Doctors for Truth Plan) and discussed, no one has suggested a good way to transition. Less attention has been paid to the damage done by employer provision of health insurance, which itself was propelled by government tinkering with wage controls in World War II.

Frank Chodorov, in his 1959 book The Rise and Fall of Society, provides clues to understand why employer provision has been the enabling force of most of our problems.  He argues that a natural law of human behavior leads men to seek the highest degree of satisfactions with the least expense of labor to thereby pursue limitless desires, in order to obtain even greater gratifications.  This leads to efficiencies of effort and specialization of tasks via cooperation with others in forming societies.

Unfortunately this natural inclination also presents a weakness to seek something for nothing.  Such is the case when the employer provision of health insurance disconnects the employee from its cost.  As soon as the employee disassociates health insurance with being a part of his employer’s total cost of his employment, rather than realizing he is really giving his employer permission to spend his money in ways that may be against his best interest, he’s in trouble.  He will request or even demand more, without consideration of alternatives that would be likely choices if he was paying directly.

This then is the source of a gradual movement away from direct payment, even for that normally within the ability to easily afford otherwise, to prepayment schemes that defy the normal purpose and function of insurance to protect assets from expenses that are beyond the ability to pay.

This excess third party payment itself bolsters the illusion of getting “covered” services for free or almost free, even as the premium includes the incentivized overuse of others when not getting one’s own.  It is through these false satisfactions that we accept in healthcare what we don’t see anywhere else in our economy, a situation where almost every transaction involves, at least in part, someone else’s money, driving overuse from both the consumer and provider side along with the associated administrative costs to accomplish it.

It’s not hard to imagine how employer provision of car insurance over time would look just as ridiculous.  Oil changes would require a small copay and many other services would be “covered”.  The brake lobby would have used safety as an excuse to convince legislators to require brake “coverage” in every policy issued, all as employees, under the illusion of something for nothing, would keep asking and demanding more “generous coverage” from employers.

On the other hand, employees reconnected to cost through defined contribution, sparked by simple modification of tax policy related to HSAs, in states that likewise get government out of the way to allow multiple market choices, will make wise decisions that fit their specific financial needs.  The abuses of excess third party payment will naturally end and the free market magic bullet solution some say cannot exist will be a reality.  No one thing can accomplish so much by doing so little.

Note: This article shared to Watchdogwire-Pennsylvania

When Mayday Brought Capitalism to the Masses

Capitalism

may 1, 1975

Today is May Day (May 1) 2014.  A search of this holiday that has taken on many meanings will most likely lead to two stories other than the most recent one that brought capitalism to the masses 39 years ago on May 1, 1975.

Story one is May Day’s ancient origin as a pagan festival also known as Beltane, held to celebrate the return of spring in the northern hemisphere, complete with the familiar May Pole, celebrated in many cultures to this day.

More recently, in 19th century America, union and anarchist protests for the 8 hour workday, culminated in violence at a May 1886 union rally outside the McCormack plant at Haymarket Square in Chicago, followed by the trial and executions of several accused. This event led to May Day’s celebration, mostly outside America, as International Workers Day.  In many industrialized countries May 1st is their Labor Day.  Socialists, anarchists and unions especially identify with this version of May Day.

Less familiar but celebrated in financial and investment circles, is the event of May 1, 1975.  This Mayday (most common spelling) was an SEC order  that deregulated fixed commissions on stock purchases that had endured for almost 183 years.  Rather than being driven by small investors, pressure to deregulate had been building through the 1950s and 1960s as large institutions and pension funds began realizing equities held over long periods of time produced superior results to other investments.  They were getting no breaks on larger volume purchases through traditional channels, but were discovering loopholes, and were big enough to bring political pressure for change.  An excellent May 1, 2010 article at ThinkAdvisor.com tells the story.

Following Mayday 1975, large traders could negotiate hefty discounts.  Discount retail brokerages sprung up to serve ordinary investors, but changes came slowly at first.  I can remember into the early 1980s, selling 135 shares of a low cost stock through a discount firm.  The transaction was handled as two separate trades, one for the 100 share “round lot” trade and another for the 35 share “odd lot” trade, along with separate $35 commissions for each.  Clearly liberation for the small investor had not yet fully arrived, except by sticking to a growing number of no load mutual funds that allowed direct purchase from the fund company without a commission, but Mayday 1975 had set the stage for what was to come.

A year later in 1976 Vanguard introduced the first low cost passively traded index mutual fund based on the S&P 500 index of large capitalized American stocks, intended for the individual investor.  This allowed “buying the market” and avoiding the expenses of trading in usually unsuccessful (because of the cost) attempts to outperform it.  Anyone could now guarantee capturing the generous returns equities have been shown to make available when held over long periods of time, less very low management expenses.  Success led to more index funds covering other segments of the market being made available.

Today any number of shares can be bought or sold for one low commission under $10 through a variety of online trading companies, without ever talking to a human.  This was made possible as online trading took off in the late 1990s and intense competition and efficiencies and availability of the internet came to benefit the consumer as never before.

Diversification across any number of asset classes is today easily achieved through very low expense ratio exchange traded index funds, avoiding the risk associated with individual stocks or expenses of trading.  Participation in the fruits of capitalism has never been cheaper or more accessible for virtually anyone.

Those who complain of big profits of large corporations only need to step up, themselves becoming owners, at very low expense, to join in the process of voluntary shared ownership that is capitalism, making the fruits of its success finally available to both them and the masses.  That truly is something to celebrate.  Happy Mayday (1975 version) to all!

Note: This article shared to WatchdogWire-Pennsylvania

 

 

 

On Being an Independent Citizen Lobbyist – Lessons and Advice

 

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Before retirement I was politically interested but not so much politically involved with the exception of the healthcare issue, for which I had a fascination going back to Hillarycare days of 1993-94, when I pounded out letters to members of congress and various organizations on a manual typewriter and sent them snail mail, arguing for medical savings accounts and less third party payment.

Of course, that issue died down for a long time.  By coincidence, I retired at the end of 2008, between President Obama’s election and his inauguration.  My old interest was quickly rekindled as I followed the events leading up to what we today call Obamacare in March 2010.  I began writing on the subject again, offering innovative solutions that since have evolved, so that even I don’t support many of those early ideas.

The push to citizen lobbyist came in early 2011 when I showed state Senator Folmer a piece I had written at a class on the Constitution he was teaching.  Despite trying unsuccessfully to get the ear of anyone, for which I thought were some good ideas, Senator Folmer demanded that I come to his office to meet with him!  Wow!

I made the appointment.  Then I felt the pressure.  I dug and dug more and printed what I found.  I showed up at his office with the two pages that had sparked his interest plus 50 pages of “supporting documentation”.  We met for almost two hours.  He and his staff were impressed with my preparation and I was on my way.  When I expressed that I wanted to just get some things done so I could go back to being retired, they suggested that my involvement would linger and move to other issues.  They were right.

Without any formal training I threw myself into the game.  Now three years later, I know almost every nook and cranny of the Pennsylvania state capitol.  Many legislators and even more staff know me and generally they respect that I bring issues of substance, with well reasoned arguments, for or against topics on which they may agree or not.  I shop ideas, and that’s important.

When I disagree I always try to have alternate suggestions.  Learning to disagree amicably is part of the way it works.  Getting personal, playing gotcha, or attempting to embarrass to their face or behing their back, is picked up quickly and results in less access and opportunity to persuade.  From my experience I can now offer a few tips.

First and foremost do your homework.  Know as much about all sides of an issue as possible.  This is how to establish credibility.  Know which representatives are involved with which issues, to which committees bills have been assigned, and who sits on and chairs those committees.

Consider building email lists to feed ideas on legislation simultaneously to all members of a committee  so they may talk amongst themselves.  I’ve done this locally with my school board.

Ask for personal meetings with legislators and staff, and when offered, be respectful of their time and thank them profusely.  Play to their egos.

Understand politics attracts certain types of individuals.  One occasion I’ll never forget is when visiting with a staff person I had gotten to like, the phone rang.  Since this was a mostly personal visit, I told the staffer to take the call, that I could wait.  While waiting he said twice to the person on the other end of the conversation, “No. You don’t understand.  Most of the people in here have a pathological need to be loved.”  That sunk in deep.  I realized how important it is to exploit that fundamental truth!  Always keep that one in mind.

Having self written printed material is good.  I like to hand deliver copies of articles I’ve published to my blog or Watchdog Wire.  It’s important for them to know what you’re giving them is also public and that you may write about them…that need to be loved.  Engage them on Twitter and Facebook.  Here again you are not behind closed doors.

Make phone calls to their offices.  Send them emails.  Stay in touch.  Offer links to stories that may help them better understand issues.  Just be aware that no matter the form of communication, it always carries most weight coming from a constituent.  Knowing this, it sometimes may be most beneficial motivating a legislator’s constituents to work for you.  Business groups or grassroots organizations in their district can be good targets.  Explain the importance of their effort and how they can uniquely make a difference, especially when their representative holds the keys to moving a bill along.

On the constituent issue, when contacting those who don’t directly represent you by your vote, be upfront.  Say you are not a constituent but remind them that in their capacity as chairperson or member of a committee where legislation resides they do represent you and all citizens of the state.

It can often be very difficult to get private sit-down meetings with representatives outside your own district, but there is one important trick that often works.  Attend committee meetings.  Usually in the time just before the meeting commences, and again after it adjourns, opportunity presents itself to go one on one.  Introduce yourself.  Share a handout.  At one meeting I attended the chair gave me permission to place a handout at each legislator’s seat prior to the start of the meeting.  It is sometimes these introductions that can lead to a willingness to meet more formally.  Never hesitate to ask.  The most they can say is no.

Another important step is attending town hall meetings.  If you have a good relationship with your elected representative and visit or contact often (and you should), don’t try to monopolize too much time.  Learn what’s on the mind of your neighbors, unless its something you want to make the representative address publically.  Don’t hesitate to attend town hall meetings outside your district, but admit your status and defer to constituents in the Q & A.  Showing this respect will bring you yours.

Don’t try to nail elected officials to the wall in embarrassing ways with trick or trap questions.  Rather than condemn them outright for taking tens of thousands from a union other special moneyed interest, ask them to tell you, and everyone, how they will avoid being influenced by the expectations attached to the donation, in keeping first the needs of those they represent.  That they know you’re aware who their donors are and that you’re watching is what counts.

One last thing is don’t despair.  Surprises are possible.  One idea I shopped, based on exciting legislation in the New Jersey Senate to reward physicians who volunteer time in free clinics, was introduced in the Pennsylvania House by a representative outside my district.  This truly proves the power of one.

While these tips have been centered on my experience at the state level and I have the advantage of living near the Pennsylvania Capitol, the same basics apply at the federal level on down to local counties, boroughs, townships and school districts.  Pick issues of interest, knowing no one can be on top of everything.  Throw yourself into it, and have fun too!

 

 

Final Thoughts on an Historic but Flawed PA Special Election

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Pennsylvania’s March 18th special election to fill the 28th district senate seat vacated by the resignation of Senator Mike Waugh only lacked normalcy.  Everything about it was wrapped in controversy, suspicion, confusion, arrogance, and incompetence, ultimately producing a profoundly surprising historic outcome, as Tea Party outsider and Republican unnominated, Scott Wagner, won an unprecedented write-in victory helped, in no small way, by public disgust over vicious attack ads directed at him by the GOP establishment.  Added to this was the possibility, due to improper selection of eligible precincts, the election could be contested as invalid, leaving uncertainty and chaos in its wake.

Avoiding possible chaos, hearing no challenges, Scott Wagner will be sworn in Wednesday April 2, as the first ever Pennsylvania legislator elected by write-in.  Not only that, his margin of victory was so huge that the York County GOP Committee-picked nominee, sitting House member Rep Ron Miller, subsequently dropped out of the May 20 primary, which will select candidates for a new full state Senate term beginning 2015, effectively ending his 16 year career in the legislature.

The issue of the election’s validity was raised due to its being held in a time of redistricting transition, and the revelation that another special election for a vacant state House seat had been held only seven weeks prior, on January 28th, set up using existing boundaries, whereas the March 18th Senate election was set up using the adopted, but yet to take effect, new district boundaries, each to fill vacant terms expiring November 30, 2014.

This suggested nearly 50,000 citizens were being disenfranchised, as another nearly 36.000 had been improperly enfranchised, becoming a daily topic of discussion by local talk show host Gary Sutton on WSBA radio.  Only the size of Wagner’s margin of victory, itself driven by public reaction against the vile attack ads from his own party, rendered validity moot, as his nearly doubling the vote totals of each of his two opponents left no room for argument that, even had the election been set up properly, the outcome could possibly have been different.

Questions remain as to suspicions of collusion raised by Senator Waugh’s resignation, his constitutionally questionable appointment as executive director of the Farm Show Expo, run by a Bureau of the Department of Agriculture, by Governor Corbett, and Lt Governor Cawley’s issuance of the writ for the special election, all within hours.

The smell and speculation of conspiracy was aided by Waugh’s August 9, 2013 announcement he would not seek reelection, Scott Wagner’s announcement of intent to run shortly after, and known differences between Wagner and GOP party insiders.  Was this a plot to keep Wagner out?

Setting the special election March 18th with a primary election only 9 weeks ahead added more fuel to the fire, as this would result in additional cost to the taxpayer estimated to exceed $200,000 as opposed to holding the special election in conjunction with the May 20 primary.  This brought speculation also that, because there is no primary for a special election, and the county party committees would select the nominees, outsider Scott Wagner would have to face an incumbent in the May primary, to lessen his chance of success there.

With some in the public from both parties upset over an unnecessary $200,000+ expense, the York County GOP committee unwittingly, by selecting any sitting house member at the time, did something that could have doubled the expense, had their chosen nominee won.  Had Rep Ron Miller won the election, yet another special election to fill his vacant seat would not have been an option, in spite of early indications from local GOP officials that it would.

The election code is clear in stating that, on the occurrence of a vacancy, the presiding officer shall within 10 days issue a writ for a special election at least 60 days forward, unless the vacancy occurs within 7 months before the expiration of a term, in which situation there is no special unless the presiding officer makes the case for one.  Waiting for the May 20 primary, therefore also, would have ended the ugly possibility of $400,000+ in two special elections.

It is worth noting here that some also complained about the special election candidate nomination process, being hand picked by the county committees.  Often they were the same people also upset by the $200,000 extra expense, by scheduling the election apart from a primary only 7 weeks hence.  Here, though, is where it cannot be both ways.  Either accept the committee selection process as prescribed in the code, or accept imposition of an added expense of holding a primary for the special.  Those are the choices.

As a final thought on the boundaries used for the 28th district senate special election being incorrect, as radio show host Sutton pressed the validity issue, he reported his repeated attempts to obtain answers of clarity from the Lt Governor’s office, the Department of State, and the local Board of Elections all resulted in unreturned calls, not what would be expected of those capable of and anxious to defend their actions.

Then also, there is one curious post election observation.  Sometime between the election and Saturday March 22, all the “Find My Legislator” information at the General Assembly website was changed to the new district boundaries for Senators but not members of the House. In my case, where Newberry Twp, York County will be moving from Senator Teplitz-15th to Senator Folmer-48th the website now tells me Senator Folmer is my Senator presently.  Questioning Senator Teplitz, who periodically has staff available in the Newberry Twp building, he confirmed that nothing has changed.  Until the end of November his staff will still be there the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of every month as always.  So it seems a mistake, luckily complimented by a decisive outcome aided by arrogance in political advertising, that saved a potential challenge of an election, is now being smoothed over with a lie.  Oh, my!

While the historic but flawed Senate 28th special election of 2014 suggests clarification of the code to guide in times of redistricting transition in the future, the next time it can happen is beyond current sight.  With no expectation of political gain by addressing it now, it is likely the same issues of confusion will arise again, when memory of this experience will long have been forgotten.

Note: This article shared to WatchdogWire-Pennsylvania 4/3/14

 

Further Evidence Brings Clarity – Shows PA Senate 28th Special Election Invalid

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Significant new discoveries and research should finally bring clarity to the confusion surrounding the scheduled March 18 special election in York County to fill the unexpired term of Senator Mike Waugh in the 28th district.  Allegations of significant disenfranchisement of some and improper enfranchisement of others become more certain by examination of new evidence, making any reasonable defense of this election’s validity impossible.

The story of probable disenfranchisement first broke with an article published both at the blog FreeMktMonkey.com and WatchdogWire-Pennsylvania on March 3.  While the first article got some notice and sparked some interest, it was a subsequent follow-up article published March 9, that provoked daily discussion and debate on the Gary Sutton Show, a local call-in talk radio format airing 9am-Noon Monday through Friday on York based WSBA 910.

At my suggestion, following a call to their newsroom, the York Dispatch published their own article on March 13.  Unfortunately the York Dispatch article only heightened the confusion, which further fueled talk show interest and prompted my search and discovery of additional evidence that will shortly make the issue more clear.

Further confusion injected by the York Dispatch article was not the fault of its writer, Christina Kauffman, in that she had no reason to distrust her sources.  They were the experts, assumed to know what they were talking about.  Yet digging deeper suggests her sources were presenting incorrect assumptions rather than facts.

Likewise, Nikki Suchanic, director of York County Department of Elections and Voter Registration, also cited in the York Dispatch article gets her information from the Pennsylvania Department of State, which would be the source of any confusion on her part.  This leaves  Ron Ruman, press secretary for the Department of State, also cited in the article, as the ultimate source of heightened disinformation and confusion.

It is Mr Ruman who was quoted as saying, “…technically the new maps take effect when they are approved.”  Also attributed to Mr Ruman was that “the old representatives and senators will continue to help their former constituents until November 30, when the session ends (required by the Constitution in even numbered years, as new terms begin Dec 1, even though the newly elected are not sworn in until the first Tuesday in January)”.  Ruman asserts that citizens who will move into new districts immediately became “former constituents” of their current elected representatives as of the May 8, 2013 Supreme Court approval of new redistricting boundaries, on which this election is being based.  Why should we doubt the “expert”?

Enter the evidence: First, in the just referenced article on the court approval, upholding the new redistricting plan, it was ordered “…to be used for the next round of legislative elections in 2014″.  There was no suggestion of immediate implementation as to representation.

Then this important clue: A search found there had been another special election subsequent to the May 2013 delayed redistricting approval.

On September 6, 2013, well after the court’s action, 78th House District Representative Dick Hess died in his 14th term.  Following the election code, presiding officer, Speaker of the House, Sam Smith, issued a writ for a special election within the required 10 days, on September 16, 2013.  A special election to fill the vacant house seat was scheduled and held on January 28, 2014.  Jesse Topper, the Republican candidate selected by committee members from the counties involved won the election, was sworn in Feb 10, and now represents the 78th district in the house until the end of Rep Hess’s unexpired term ending this year.

Significantly, Topper’s January 28 special election presented no enfranchisement issues, currently contributing so much confusion and consternation in the Senate 28th District, because it was conducted on the existing (old) district boundaries!  Articles at the time reported this fact, also confirmed by pulling up election results from Huntingdon County.  The six precincts reported in the vote will all be leaving the 78th to the 81st in the new session to be decided in the May primary and November general elections.

So we have two special elections.  One was set up one way, the other, a different way.  Both cannot be right.  Even in the absence of any specific direction in the election code, which may be the case, the basic concept of tying voting to voters actually represented and commonsense should prevail.

Another piece of guiding evidence exists.  Whether it’s the newly elected Jesse Topper in the 78th House District, or any other current member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, a visit to members’ pages on the General Assembly website still shows only the old district maps as the areas they represent.

Press Secretary Ron Ruman’s confusion appears to be in when the newly approved district boundaries apply.  It makes sense, and evidence supports, that upon official acceptance redistricting maps immediately define future district boundaries to be filled in the next round of primary and general elections, not special elections to fill existing terms, where the area of representation has not yet changed.

At this point, clarity should be restored with one exception, what voting precincts to include if the March 18 senate special election were for a senate term expiring 2016 rather than 2014 (half of them do), as discussed in an update to my March 10 article.  That is a situation unique solely to state senate elections and redistricting, since federal senators always represent the entire state and both the state and federal house are on the same two year cycle.  As such, it also should be addressed in needed clarification to our state election code.

A call Thursday to Nikki Suchanic, confirmed the writ issued by Lt Governor Jim Cawley, detailed the precincts to be included in Tuesday’s special election and that her job is to follow the writ.

A call to the Department of State directed me to media contact Matthew Keillor’s voice mail, who never returned my call.

A Friday afternoon call to Lt Governor Cawley’s office, relating my findings was acknowledged by contact Todd Kowalski as raising very good points worthy of legal review.  Mr Kowalski took my email address, but I’ve heard nothing back as of this time.

As a final note, with evidence so strongly suggesting an improperly configured special election March 18th, those feeling disenfranchised may want to cast a provisional ballot at the nearest open polling location.  For complete instructions follow this link and open the tab “Provisional Voting”.

Note: This article shared to WatchdogWire-Pennsylvania