Editorial Roundup: Pennsylvania

Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice. December 3, 2022.

Editorial: State politicians’ New York state of mind

Billy Joel wasn’t talking about Pennsylvania politicians and their assorted supplicants and benefactors when he crooned that “some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood....”

But this weekend those Pennsylvania folk very much are in Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Much of the state government’s power structure has left the neighborhood and decamped to Manhattan for the annual Pennsylvania Society weekend of back-slapping, campaign fundraising and deal-making at invitation-only events that further the cause of special-interest governance.

The annual event began in the late 1800s as a meeting of native Pennsylvanians living in New York City. But it morphed into an annual exercise in political skulduggery, in which the New York corporate masters of Pennsylvania’s rail, coal and steel industries summoned the state’s politicians to give them their annual instructions, and selected candidates for assorted Pennsylvania offices.

Things aren’t quite that direct these days. But many of the state’s political leaders still pinball from corporate reception to corporate reception at high-end Manhattan venues, offering direct personal access that is unavailable to most of their own constituents.

As unsavory as the spectacle is, it’s even worse for taking place in New York. Although the Pennsylvania Society itself has only about 2,000 members, the annual event draws thousands more Pennsylvanians — politicians, hangers-on, would-be candidates seeking affirmation and even Pennsylvania corporate interests forced to play on away territory. All of those Pennsylvanians spend millions of dollars every year on hotels, local transportation, restaurants, entertainment, and so on.

Even though the event might draw more scrutiny if it were not conducted two states to the east, the society should recognize the economic benefit of conducting the event in Pennsylvania, the state that it otherwise affects.

The society should move the event to Pennsylvania, perhaps alternating each year between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, so that Pennsylvania businesses, workers and taxpayers get something out of it besides the poor governance that it fosters.

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Uniontown Herald-Standard. December 1, 2022.

Editorial: Deer season’s challenges, opportunities

Pennsylvania’s rifle deer-hunting season, an annual rite of late fall, is underway.

It is an exercise that tests perseverance and patience, observation and tracking skills and physical endurance in dealing with less-than-ideal temperatures as well as an array of possibly adverse, quickly changing weather conditions.

Like other sports, hunting does not guarantees success. However, it can produce wonderful results, even if actual hunting success is not achieved.

What we are alluding to is when it helps revive or bolster positive relationships within families and with friends and others.

Hunting also is a learning experience regarding the interesting “secrets” that wooded areas shelter. What that means is that, while in the pursuit of game, hunters have the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and understanding about environmental issues and concerns affecting forestlands and the various animal populations.

Veteran hunters, even most hunters with much less experience, understand that hunting is not without issues of concern. Perhaps sometime in the future, the young hunters of today will provide the vision and foresight for substantial improvements to the hunting experience – improvements that their fathers and grandfathers would have savored.

One of the obvious problems that needs to be addressed is visible every year on or along numerous roadways in this region during the weeks leading up to rifle deer hunting’s opening day.

It is the deer killed in collisions with vehicles.

An insurance industry report indicates that Pennsylvania led the nation last year in animal-collision claims – that the odds of a Pennsylvania driver hitting a deer or other large animal has been determined to be about 1 in 58.

November is the top month for deer-vehicle collisions for a number of reasons, including cooler autumn weather that provokes increased deer activity, as well as the peak of the rut, the breeding season for deer.

It is a shame so much meat is lost as a result of collisions with vehicles. It is meat that would be a godsend for hundreds, if not thousands, of needy families, if it were available to them by way of traditional hunting.

No doubt many people – especially drivers who have been involved in collisions or near-collisions with deer – wonder why science has not developed a non-expensive, non-toxic, environmentally friendly repellent capable of widespread application to keep deer from highway rights-of-way where they are a danger to humans’ lives and well-being as well as their own.

Then there are the residential neighborhoods that serve as year-round sanctuaries for sizable populations of deer, because the deer cannot be hunted in those settings.

Residents who have experienced property damage as a result of that circumstance no doubt agree that those deer should not be accorded such protection – that there ought to be a vigorous initiative implemented to make those deer available to hunters in a traditional hunting environment.

Hopefully, area hunters will have a productive hunt this year, but they should be thinking about hunting’s issues as well, and offer their thoughts to the state Game Commission anytime the opportunity arises.

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Scranton Times-Tribune. December 6, 2022.

Editorial: Explain use of private law firms

Republican majorities in both legislative houses and Gov. Tom Wolf have not agreed on much during the Democratic governor’s eight years in office. But they are of one mind in refusing to tell the public why they spend large sums of the public’s money on private law firms.

Commonwealth Court is scheduled to hear arguments Monday in a suit brought by the news organizations Spotlight PA and the Caucus, over the House and Senate majorities’ refusal to disclose their reasons for spending more than $3.5 million of public money on private lawyers.

The chambers responded to right-to-know requests by providing the names of the law firms and their total bills, but blacking out the rest of their entire contracts.

It’s possible that at least some of the money was paid to lawyers to fight right-to-know requests on other matters.

Now the same news organizations have reported that the Wolf administration also has declined to say why it has spent $367,500 on six private law firms over the past three years. And that doesn’t include an array of administrative agencies, which typically spend up to $40 million a year on private counsel.

According to the governor’s Office of General Counsel, revealing the matters for which private counsel was hired could reveal and jeopardize legal strategy, thus making the contracts exempt from the Open Records Law.

That is a stretch, at best. To begin with, the news organizations have not sought to ascertain any legal strategy on any matter. And simply revealing the subject for which a private law firm has been retained betrays nothing about how it has counseled the executive branch or approaches the work.

The news organizations sought a ruling from the state Office of Open Records, which recommended mediation with the general counsel’s office. That produced only descriptions of the work such as “complex litigation services” and “litigation and other potentially emergent legal services on an ad hoc basis.”

Ideally, the courts will force self-serving legislators to tell the public why they spend millions of public dollars on private law firms. The Wolf administration shouldn’t let it go that far before providing the relevant information.

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. December 3, 2022.

Editorial: Legacy of CHIP is more than medical

Pennsylvania’s Child Health Insurance Program is now 30 years old.

Since 1992, it has been a pathway to healthy lives for children in the Keystone State and a guardrail protecting families. It was a model for the national CHIP program that did the same for kids and parents in other states.

It isn’t a surprise that it did things like make sure babies had well-child visits, rescued toddlers with ear infections and made it possible for school kids to get glasses so they could see the chalkboard. That was the design. The intersection of health and low-income finances was the point.

But it is worth looking at the larger impact, too.

One is economic. Anyone who has gotten a medical bill — whether for an office visit, a run to the emergency room or an actual hospital stay — knows that even the little things cost more than you would think. Health care is big business in Pennsylvania and nationwide.

Has CHIP changed that? That’s a complicated question. Correlation is not always causation. But maybe we can make a few leaps.

There has been a huge increase in the number of pediatricians. A 2020 Journal of the American Medical Association study found that from 2003 to 2019, the number of subspecialists — like pediatric cardiologists or endocrinologists — increased by 76.8%. However, the number of children remained at a fairly consistent 73 million or so in the same period.

This isn’t just CHIP, of course. It’s just one piece of an insurance puzzle that encompassed more Americans, but CHIP is an important part.

The numbers suggest that more people were able to go into pediatric medicine because more people were able to access it. That means more people were getting paychecks, more offices were opened paying more rent or building more facilities in a spreading spiderweb of economic impact created by letting low-income families see doctors.

But there is another relief with that coverage — a more personal one.

Having the safety net of medical insurance can relieve tension for parents. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed CHIP programs didn’t just improve children’s health. They also had an impact on moms, who had less stress and were less likely to smoke and drink. That can snowball because stable parents mean a more stable home life, which can have an impact on children’s health.

Do we need more work on these programs? Absolutely. They aren’t cure-alls. But they are a great start — a good place to look at what has worked and build from there.

And it’s kind of nice to realize that 30 years ago, Pennsylvania leaders were able to do something worth expanding to help kids across the country.

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