Friday, July 31, 2009

Reciprocity Bill Defeated With Help of Local Mayors

A story appeared in both the Citizen’s Voice and Hazleton Standard Speaker dealing with the recent firearms proposal suggested by Republican Senators Thune and Vitter. The proposal would have required states to recognize another state’s concealed carry permit as they do for marriage and driver’s licenses. Under current laws, a state must reach a reciprocity agreement with another state in order for this to occur. Pennsylvania currently has reciprocity with over half of the states in the country. This does however create a patchwork of laws for the traveling gun owner that could land them in serious trouble if they confuse who allows and who doesn’t allow acknowledgement of their permit.

When the bill was advanced in the Senate, it was defeated with the help of Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Arlen Specter.

One of the groups leading the charge against the amendment was a coalition of Mayors. Locally, Carbondale Mayor Justin Taylor, Cherry Valley Mayor Ronald Lockwood, Old Forge Mayor Michelle Patrini Avvisato, Stroudsburg Mayor Charles Baugham, and Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton joined this coalition. This coalition also ran advertising in a few Pennsylvania newspapers to apply pressure on the issue.

Despite the sensationalism attached to the bill, all it did was require states honor another state’s license. Local laws would apply to the permit holder when in the new jurisdiction. It merely meant that your rights did not cease when you crossed a state line. Beyond the 2nd Amendment, Article IV section 1 of the Constitution should cover this. It reads “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.” Additionally, these Mayors are sworn to uphold our State Constitution. Article 1 Section 21 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution reads “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”

The right to protect yourself and your family should have no boundaries. And when it does, criminals certainly don’t respect them. This bill would have actually enhanced public safety. It has been proven time and again that criminals are deterred from committing a crime when they believe or suspect that the intended victim may be armed. It is counterintuitive to suggest otherwise. Does anyone really believe a criminal will seek to engage an armed soon to be victim over an unarmed one?

An often neglected result of this bill relates to Law Enforcement Officers. This bill would have allowed law enforcement to carry their firearm when they travel. Currently, this is not the case. They must first seek approval to carry their firearm despite their voluminous training and proficiency in the use of firearms.

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta was not included in the coalition. He defended firearm rights in the above mentioned story. Mayors like Leighton in particular are blaming inanimate objects for the crimes in their cities instead of the actors perpetuating the crimes. Leighton should support his police force, increase their numbers if need be, and work against allowing anyone caught perpetuating a crime with a firearm from plea bargaining in the case. Prosecutors too frequently prefer the path of least resistance and allow gun offenders a lighter sentence. If he wanted to use the bully pulpit of his office for something, taking any prosecutor to task that doesn’t prosecute a gun offender to the fullest extent of the law would be a better use of his time than throwing in with a group of Mayors that seek to increase restrictions on the good guys.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sheriff Fires Former Rival, Union Employee

The Scranton Times is reporting that Democrat Lackawanna County Sheriff John Szymanski has fired his Primary Election rival, Democrat Chester Cipilewski from the Sheriff’s Department. Cipilewski came within 7,000 votes of unseating the Democratic Sheriff.

The article appears to suggest that Sheriff Szymanski himself fired Deputy Cipilewski, a 25-year veteran of the department. While the Democrat Sheriff would not discuss with the Times reporter what the specifics were of the firing, he seemed to suggest that there was a file on Deputy Cipilewski that extended into the 90’s or possibly the 80’s…whatever that means.

It is smart for the Sheriff not to discuss personnel matters with the public or a reporter. Should Ciplilewski file a lawsuit over wrongful termination or something of the sort, these matters would likely become part of the record at that time. Undoubtedly, a major question will be if Cipilewski has worked in the department for 25 years, what would merit his firing today versus a month ago, a year ago, or a decade ago?

For the sake fairness to a unionized employee and for the sake of Lackawanna County’s taxpayers, we hope that the Sheriff has a really good answer to that question.

Specter on Card Check ran a story on Sunday detailing US Senator Arlen Specter’s flips and flops dealing with the issue of the Employee Free Choice Act also known as Card Check. The aim of the legislation is to make it easier to form a union by allowing for the elimination of secret ballot voting and placing a mandatory biding arbitration provision into play that will require a contract within a few months from the original vote.

The bill is a favorite of Big Labor for obvious reasons. By allowing the card check system to be in place instead of a true secret ballot, workers votes essentially become public. Not many will likely try to oppose a union if union organizers and co-workers will all be aware of how they voted. This does create the potential for some serious intimidation at the workplace from both the pro and anti-union folks.

Additionally, the bill includes a provision to allow binding arbitration once the above mentioned voted has been cast. What this means is that if, after a short period of time, a contract cannot be agreed to between the employer and employees a labor department representative will enter the workplace and set the contract for them. Typically, a union contract includes wages, benefits, sick time provisions, working conditions and the like. The government bureaucrat would set all of these when they set the contract and they would do so without the input of either the employees or the employers.

You can see why this bill is a little tough to swallow by anyone seeking election or re-election shortly after this vote. Big Labor is trying to push this legislation to build their ranks and thus, their coffers. Employers fear this legislation because they don’t want government bureaucrats entering their private workplace and setting up contracts. Ultimately, they will have to foot the bill for the bureaucrat’s decisions.

Big Labor argues that without the arbitration provision, contracts languish and duly elected unions aren’t covered by contractual language. Some have gone as long as two years trying to work out a contract.

Both labor and job creators are forces to be reckoned with in politics and they have power they can regularly bring to bear on elected officials that don’t vote the way they want them to. This tug of war has caught Arlen Specter in the middle.

Essentially, Arlen Specter was for the bill before he was against it but now he might be for it. In 2007, Specter voted to allow the debate on the bill to move forward. In March, he left the impression that he was against it. Afterwards, he switched parties to become a Democrat. If he didn’t need labor before, he sure does now. In that vein, he is working to craft some kind of compromise bill. Specter also tried to clarify his position (and refute the Philly article) in a letter to the editor. You can find it here.

The bill is still moving, albeit slowly.

A recent poll found that the majority (55%-29%) of Pennsylvanians are against Card Check becoming law.

President Obama on Rushing Bills

An interview with Barack Obama regarding rushing foot-thick bills through Congress. Incidentally, he was against it...not that you would know that from recent proposals.

Specter Discussing Wise Latina Remarks & Women's Insides?!?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Perspective on Healthcare Bill

Cap and Trade Video

Latino Celebration Not Welcome in Scranton's South Side

The Scranton Times is reporting that Scranton’s Fourth Annual Latino Heritage Parade is no longer welcome in the city’s South Side.

Both Democrat Councilwoman Judy Gatelli and Democrat Mayor Chris Doherty stated that they would not allow the parade in South Scranton again. Instead, the celebration is being directed to Scranton’s downtown.

Bad Math

Friday, July 3, 2009

Who Exactly Wants to Raise Your Taxes?

The Commonwealth Foundation circulated a pledge to all of the House and Senate members in the Pennsylvania legislature asking them to pledge to “balance the budget, protect public safety and human services, and educate our children WITHOUT raising taxes.”

The link to the signers can be found here.

All of the signers were Republicans. Unfortunately, many NEPA legislators failed to sign the pledge.

Another Luzerne County Investigation

According to the Citizen’s Voice, the Feds are launching an investigation into Democrat Luzerne County Sheriff Michael A. Savokinas’s department. At issue, two incidents where drugs were found in vehicles used by deputies and the lack of formal reports filed with the Luzerne County District Attorney’s office.

The Feds got involved at the request of Democrat Luzerne County District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll, citing a potential conflict of interest.

Democrat Commissioner Maryann Petrilla said in the story that Savokinas’s statement that he filed a report with the District Attorney’s office was untrue. Musto Carroll claims that Savokinas never turned over a written report or any evidence to the District Attorney’s office. Savokinas stated that instead, he kept both the evidence and the report filed in the Sheriff’s office. Savokinas said that there were no suspects in the case and that the vehicles involved were used to transport prisoners.

It certainly is possible that one of the prisoners ditched the drugs fearing that they could be found on them. It was not clear in the story if there is an official policy, written or otherwise, as to how to handle an incident such as this. If there isn’t one, Sheriff Savokinas should make sure that there is one in the near future to avoid potential problems like this.

The County is not alleging that anything was done correctly or incorrectly, just that an investigation needs to be completed. With all of the trouble under the dome, it is not surprising that they don’t want to take any chances.

Obama Administration Called Out on Media Control

Helen Thomas and CBS’s Chip Reid hammered White House spokesman Robert Gibbs for attempts by the White House to control the message and the media. Canned questions and phony town hall meetings were the subject of the day. Gibbs was in full spin mode and refused to answer criticism directly.

Must see video below:

Also see the ABC-sponsored infomercial on healthcare.

Barack's Backflip on Warrantless Wiretaps

In yet another reversal on a campaign promise, President Obama has changed direction on private communication networks. In May, the Obama Administration had promised to not allow the National Security Agency to screen private-sector networks, as the Bush Administration had allowed.

According to the Washington Post, the Obama Administration has reversed its direction on this issue, continuing the Bush-era “warrantless wiretapping.” AT&T will be the first system to be used.

AT&T was sued over its role in assisting the Bush Administration for this program during their tenure.

Personally, we believe this program would likely protect civil liberties, as the Bush Administration plan did. In truth, the Bush Administration plan actually required probable cause to monitor private networks, the test phase of the program under the Obama Administration does not appear to have any such restrictions. This is worth noting only in as far as it demonstrates a serious difference in campaign rhetoric versus actual policy.

There is however the risk of abuse in any program such as this. While the government is watching to protect our cyber infrastructure, citizens should monitor the program to protect their civil liberties.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Attempting to deflect blame for mismanaging his home state of California, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is pointing to Pennsylvania and other states that failed to meet their constitutional budget deadlines as proof that this isn’t his failed budget isn’t his fault.

In his defense, the holdout in the budget is very similar to Pennsylvania in that it revolves around taxes. In California, the Republican Governor is refusing to raise taxes more than he already has proposed. The legislature is demanding hiring taxes (how do these people ever get re-elected?) This is causing a budget impasse with those who wish to raise taxes. In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Governor and the Democrat-controlled State House is attempting to raise taxes as much as 16% to at least partially offset Rendell’s spending-heavy budget.

This is one of those dubious distinctions that Pennsylvania really doesn’t need. As usual under Rendell, the budget is always late in clear violation of the law. Worse, these very same legislators will all take a vacation in celebration of Independence Day. Worse yet, these clowns will still be paid their taxpayer-funded salaries while the budget impasse is going on and state employees are fretting over being furloughed while the budget gets worked out.

You can read more of the yahoo story here.

Crap Sandwich Tour Hits Erie

Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden appeared today in the Erie area to sell portions of the Stimulus a.k.a. Crap Sandwich bill today to rural families in PA. Specifically, Biden was to discuss increased internet access for rural communities as one of the uses for stimulus cash.

Seneca High School’s auditorium off of Route 8 in Wattsburg was to be the venue for the speech. According to Trib-Live, the Vice President of the United States failed to attract even 100 people. Apparently, the room was so devoid of attendees that volunteers started pulling chairs to try and make the room look more full…it didn’t work.

Accompanying the Vice President on the Crap Sandwich Carnival were Democrat Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

You can read Trib-Live’s coverage here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hypocrisy Anyone?

The Scranton Times is reporting that the Lackawanna County Board of Commissioners has voted along party lines to hire a private firm to work towards the sale of the county-run nursing home. The full story appears here.

Republican Commissioner AJ Munchak objected to the hiring, believing that the county employees could handle the task.

Democrat Commissioners O’Brien and Washo essentially said wanted to hire a firm to keep them at “arm’s length” in the process. Basically, they are pointing fingers at the previous Republican administration of Munchak & Cordaro because it was believed that the commissioners were too involved in the sale process of Montage Mountain and that they skipped over essential steps in selling the mountain.

Regardless of how you feel about selling the assets of the county, one detail about this process, relegated to the bottom of the story, is a small blurb about another hiring attached to the process…the County hiring the Scranton office of Stevens & Lee to handle legal aspects of the sale at $347 to $464 per hour.

Democrat Commissioner Corey O’Brien worked at Stevens & Lee prior to being elected County Commissioner. It is strange that an aspect like that, hiring someone with which you had a previous business relationship, would not have made the story. It is particularly relevant based on the whole “learning from the past” mantra being issued by the current Democratic majority.

Another June Passes Without Budget Under Democrat Ed Rendell

The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that the state pass it’s budget on or before June 30th of each year. As he has in every single year since elected, Democrat Rendell is not letting a little thing like the law stand in the way of his budget wrangling.

The largest obstruction to Democrat Rendell’s budget is his intention to include a 16% tax hike in the budget. Republicans are standing firm against raising taxes and Rendell simply cannot spend the money he wants to without it.

The other major issue is cutting expenses. Democrat Rendell is fine with cutting items like the Scranton State School for the Deaf, but not willing to move on over a billion dollars in wasteful spending as identified by the Commonwealth Foundation. You can read our past coverage on that here.

At some point, the Democrats in the House and our Governor should realize that you simply cannot spend money you do not have. The Republicans are offering smart, commons sense proposals that force the state to live within its means-as every responsible American does. The Democrats in this case are pushing for increased spending despite a huge deficit, the prospect of increasing taxes during a very turbulent economy coupled with rising unemployment numbers.

Pennsylvania’s taxes are income neutral. This means that the person making $1,000,000 a year pays the same rate as the person making $100,000 or $50,000. While some may argue that those making more have the ability to pay more, this tax increase will undoubtedly hit the poor the hardest.

It is incredibly important that the Republicans continue to stand up for those with low to moderate income and refuse to pass a budget that does not cut wasteful spending and does not include any tax increases.

In these troubling economic times, does anyone besides the Democratic leadership and the Democratic Governor believe it is a good idea to raise taxes?

Crap Sandwich Update

President Obama’s Stimulus Package promise of “creating or saving 3,000,000 jobs” has taken another hit. The ADP reports that the US Economy has lost 473,000 jobs in June alone. This is slightly down from May’s figure of hemorrhaging 485,000 jobs. Unemployment has also skyrocketed to 9.4%. We haven’t seen those kind of numbers since August of 1983. You can read the full story here.

For those who wish to compare our current situation to the Great Depression, here are the numbers. According to WikiAnswers, the unemployment rate from 1923-1929 was 3.3%. In 1931 it jumped up to 15.9%. In 1933 it was 24.9%. It then steadily decreased to 9.9% in 1941. With the onset of WWII, the unemployment rate fell to 4.7%.

The highest unemployment during the Bush 43 Administration was 6% in 2003. The highest under the Clinton Administration was 6.9% in 1993. The highest under Bush 41 Administration was 7.5% in 1992. You can view past annual unemployment rates here.

Democrats Too Liberal

From Gallup:

PRINCETON, NJ -- A Gallup Poll finds a statistically significant increase since last year in the percentage of Americans who describe the Democratic Party's views as being "too liberal," from 39% to 46%. This is the largest percentage saying so since November 1994, after the party's losses in that year's midterm elections.

You can read the full report here.

No word on whether Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic Party finally pushed the Democrats into the “too-liberal” category.