As we count down the days to 2017 and get ready to celebrate the holidays, I am reminded of a quote from Harvey Mackay, a renowned inspiration speaker, who has characterized the passage of time and how important this irreplaceable resource is.
Mr. Mackay said that, “Time is free, but it is priceless. You cannot own it, but you can use it. You cannot keep it, but you can spend it. Once you have lost it you can never get it back.”
As the 2015-16 legislative session officially ends, this quote really rings true.
Over the past two years, I have worked hard not to waste time in Harrisburg but instead advance policies and legislation that promote opportunity for all to experience earned success – regardless of their current station in life.
Fortunately for us, we know that strong families, vibrant communities, an economy that works and high-performing schools drive economic opportunity and upward mobility.
Together, these components will make a meaningful difference; without them, I fear we labor in vain. This is why I have championed a legislative agenda focused on helping families, fostering communities, enhancing our local economy and improving our schools so our students can succeed.
Given the challenges we face, we certainly do not have any time to waste, which is why in the 2015-16 legislative session, I sponsored 25 bills, 8 of which became law and 2 that were vetoed by Governor Wolf.
To help build stronger families, I offered ideas to make sure that only qualified individuals engage in marriage and family counseling, to give family farmers additional income opportunities through agritainment activities and to grow their operations through a tax credit, and to make sure that families have help in making good choices regarding higher education.
To promote more vibrant communities, I authored legislation to allow nonprofit organizations and faith-based institutions to continue to meet their missions without fear of losing tax exempt status.
I also sponsored a bill to ensure that taxpayers are given an opportunity to understand and influence what is driving the cost of services being delivered by public sector unionized employees by shining light on, and enhancing the transparency of, public sector collective bargaining negotiations, as well as legislation to honor all our servicemen and women by allowing Korean War Veterans to serve on the State Veterans Commission.
Vibrant communities must also be safe, so I introduced bills to create a mandatory minimum sentence for home burglaries, which have too often resulted in more serious crimes. And, following a court ruling that eliminated the mandatory minimum sentence for child molesters, I introduced Senate Bill 944 that would reinstate these sentences for criminals who sexually harm children.
On behalf of two constituents, I also championed changes to our liquor laws to require additional training for those who serve alcohol to help prevent alcohol-related tragedies, as well as a bill to allow special emergency responders (such as hostage negotiators) to use flashing lights on their vehicles so they can more quickly respond to emergencies.
To help our economy, I offered legislation that would reform Pennsylvania’s current budget process, which created many problems in 2015 due to an impasse. I also promoted our local industries by sponsoring tax credits for agriculture and other growing economic sectors in Lancaster County.
I worked with Representative Mindy Fee to create an independent office of Inspector General, which unfortunately Governor Wolf vetoed. This bill would have helped our economy by further eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in state government programs and spending.
In order to improve our schools, I worked with two local school districts to pilot a new program designed to save money and help share administrative costs while promoting academic opportunities for students.
I also offered bills to ensure that all schools and the educational improvement tax credit (which is used by private schools) continue to be funded in the event of a budget impasse, legislation to leverage technology to improve student performance, and a bill that would end the expensive requirement that schools must use a project labor agreement to do construction.
Unfortunately, Governor Wolf vetoed another school bill I worked on that would have finally ended the existing seniority-only furlough system in public schools and instead make certain that our most highly effective educators are always retained and remain in the classroom.
While I am proud of these efforts, I know that there is much more work left to be done.
I take seriously the need to achieve results. For example, despite passing many bills, our Commonwealth’s pension mess remains a real crisis and while we took several votes on reforming property taxes, no substantive changes have been signed into law.
In the end, I am hopeful that as we work through these challenging issues that we never lose sight of the goal – to give all our citizens a genuine chance to succeed.
To me, that is something worth spending time, and effort, to accomplish.