Robert Swift: Capitol Matters: Lawmakers who have the power
HARRISBURG - During the 2013-14 legislative session, five senators representing Northeast Pennsylvania can form a potential bloc to advocate regional interests on that chamber's powerful Appropriations Committee.
Sens. David Argall, R-29, Tamaqua; Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp.; John Blake, D-22, Archbald; John Gordner, R-27, Berwick and John Yudichak, D-14, Nanticoke; sit on this panel which is a clearinghouse for legislation that has a fiscal impact. The state budget bills go through this committee before reaching the Senate floor as well as key measures like last year's natural gas drilling impact fee law.
Reps. Karen Boback, R-117, Harveys Lake; Mike Peifer, R-139, Honesdale; and Mike Carroll, D-118, Hughestown; sit on the House Appropriations Committee and can play a similar role.
Beyond that, there are several House and Senate committees with clusters of Northeast lawmakers and some committees where the regional presence is light.
The committees get first crack at reviewing, voting or amending legislation and holding hearings on issues that come under their jurisdiction.
Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121, Wilkes-Barre; Marty Flynn, D-113, Scranton; Rosemary Brown, R-189, Middle Smithfield Twp.; and Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, Rockefeller Twp., sit on the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.
The committee will hold meetings next week on Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to privatize management of the Pennsylvania Lottery.
"The need to grow lottery proceeds is understandable - older Pennsylvanians rely on lottery programs - but the governor is playing with fire by rushing to privatize without all the cards being on the table and without input from the public and the state legislature," said Mr. Flynn.
Sen. Gene Yaw, R-23, Williamsport; is the chairman and Mr. Yudichak is minority chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee which handles legislation involving development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves.
Mr. Carroll and Reps. Frank Farina, D-115, Jessup; and Mike Tobash, R-125, Pottsville; are on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
Any bills to rewrite Act 47 for fiscally distressed cities such as Scranton could come before the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee. Sens. Blake, Argall and Gordner sit on the panel.
Mr. Pashinski and Reps. Kevin Haggerty, D-112, Dunmore, and Doyle Heffley, R-122, Lower Towamensing Twp., are on the House Human Services Committee. This panel held hearings last session on the impact of state budget cuts and a pilot program for running county-run human services programs.
Tax bills and public pension issues can come before the Senate and House Finance Committees. Mr. Blake and Sen. Pat Browne, R-16, Allentown; are on the Senate panel. Reps. Phyllis Mundy, D-120, Kingston; and Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-114, Taylor; and Mr. Peifer are on the House panel.
Mr. Gordner, Mr. Carroll, Heffley and Jerry Knowles, R-124, Tamaqua, are on the respective Senate and House Transportation Committees that will act on Mr. Corbett's anticipated transportation funding proposal.
Mr. Browne and Mr. Carroll are the only regional lawmakers on the respective Senate and House Education Committees, the jumping off point for any bills to expand school choice options and overhaul charter schools.
Mr. Carroll's seats on the House appropriations, education, environmental resources and energy and transportation panels can dovetail with his position as chairman of the House Northeast regional caucus. Mr. Carroll said he can make sure that regional concerns are heard on those panels.
"I will do my best to be a voice for all of them (regional colleagues)," he added.
ROBERT SWIFT is Harrisburg bureau chief for Times-Shamrock Communications newspapers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org