Our hol­i­day wish list for Pa. leg­is­la­tors

The Review - - OPINION -

It’s time to Ho, Ho, Ho! Ac­tu­ally, vot­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia did their own ver­sion of Santa’s greet­ing, show­ing a num­ber of in­cum­bent leg­is­la­tors the door back in Novem­ber. Democrats gave the heave ho, ho, ho to a num­ber of in­cum­bent Repub­li­cans.

Repub­li­cans said it was the ex­pected back­lash against a very un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dent.

Democrats said it was dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the sta­tus quo and in­ac­tion in Har­ris­burg.

With that in mind, we’ve put to­gether a wish list of our own for when leg­is­la­tors re­turn to the state capi­tol in a few weeks.

First and fore­most, we’d like to see more bi­par­ti­san di­a­logue and less stri­dent, par­ti­san stand­off.

Don’t say it can’t be done. Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, man­aged to spear­head leg­is­la­tion that changed state laws when it comes to guns and those con­victed of do­mes­tic abuse. There are those who said the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, which holds se­ri­ous sway in that wide gulf be­tween Lan­caster and Pitts­burgh in the Key­stone State, would never al­low such a crack­down to be­come law. They were wrong.

Gov. Tom Wolf, not sur­pris­ingly since he was run­ning for re-elec­tion, dropped much of his tax-hike talk and got a bud­get in place on time, some­thing that too often eludes the folks in Har­ris­burg. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what kind of spend­ing plan the gover­nor comes up with now that he is free from the thought of run­ning for re-elec­tion.

We’re not go­ing to hold our breath wait­ing for leg­is­la­tors to sup­port in­creases in ei­ther the sales or in­come tax, but a new de­bate on a sev­er­ance tax on the state’s nat­u­ral gas in­dus­try could get very in­ter­est­ing.

The big­gest dis­ap­point­ment in Har­ris­burg this past year is fairly easy. De­spite wide sup­port and over­whelm­ing pas­sage in the House, a move to open a win­dow to al­low vic­tims of decades-old sex­ual abuse have their day in court never even got to the floor for a vote in the Se­nate. Not only did the Leg­is­la­ture not open that win­dow for vic­tims, it also failed to make needed changes in the law for fu­ture cases.

McGar­rigle had in­di­cated he would re­visit the push to help vic­tims as his first ac­tion of the new ses­sion. We hope some­one steps up and takes up the fight for jus­tice.

There are other key is­sues that will fall into the lap of the new Leg­is­la­ture, most of them are rooted in the old Leg­is­la­ture.

Did you hap­pen to no­tice that Penn­syl­va­nia – specif­i­cally our south­east­ern cor­ner of the state – sent four Demo­cratic women to Wash­ing­ton? That is four more than rep­re­sented Penn­syl­va­nia be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion.

The way Con­gres­sional dis­tricts were drawn up was done so specif­i­cally to fa­vor in­cum­bent male Repub­li­cans. That is un­til the state Supreme Court tossed the old bound­aries as be­ing a clas­sic case of a po­lit­i­cal ger­ry­man­der. Not only that, but the high court drew up new maps of their own. But while they treated the ill­ness, the court’s ac­tion did not cure the dis­ease.

The power of re­draw­ing Con­gres­sional bound­aries, which will hap­pen again after the 2020 cen­sus, re­mains in the hands of politi­cians. And that’s not a good thing, re­gard­less of which party is in power.

Fix­ing that, and giv­ing this job to a non-par­ti­san com­mit­tee, is at the top of our Christ­mas wish list for our friends in Har­ris­burg.

Then they can set their sights on fix­ing the way Penn­syl­va­nia funds its pub­lic schools, a sys­tem that con­tin­ues to pe­nal­ize too many kids in less af­flu­ent ar­eas for no rea­son other than their zip code. A law­suit against the state and the way it doles out ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing is due in court later next year.

While they’re at it, maybe our leg­is­la­tors can take an­other whack at the bane of ev­ery home­owner in Penn­syl­va­nia, the prop­erty tax. That will be an es­pe­cially tick­lish sit­u­a­tion in Delaware County as of­fi­cials get ready to re­assess ev­ery prop­erty in the county.

Then there is the tick­ing time bomb in ev­ery state bud­get in re­cent years – the grow­ing gulf of red ink in the state’s two mas­sive pub­lic em­ployee pen­sion plans.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to our in­com­ing leg­is­la­tors.

Don’t be Grinches. Roll up your sleeves and ar­rive ready to work. Or we’ll put coal in your stock­ings.

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