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Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2015 at 3:51 pm •  Published: January 14, 2015
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State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos said allowing Sunday firearm hunting "will provide some of our hard-working residents with a better quality of life and greater opportunity, while also generating additional revenue and tourism dollars for the state and local businesses." State Sen. Steven Oroho, who represents part of Warren County, sponsored three of the bills approved by the committee.

With all due respect to this time-honored sport, the Sunday ban still serves a purpose and should be preserved. The push to end it seems to be coming from outfitters and gun retailers as much as any groundswell from hunters.

There's a lot to be said for the economic activity generated by hunting, and there's no question northwest New Jersey could become a destination for out-of-state Sunday hunters, as long as adjoining states maintain their bans. But is that really what local residents want?

Keeping Sundays free of firearms hunting is important to other outdoor enthusiasts — hikers, birders, mountain bikers, dog-walkers, joggers, campers, off-roaders — who want weekend access to the woods and fields in fall and early winter. Many will reconsider if they have to share the space with hunters. The increasing miles of pedestrian trails financed by tax dollars — such as recently preserved acreage on Scotts Mountain on the border of Harmony and White townships in Warren County — cut around and through hunting areas.

Many farmers appreciate the absence of shooting on Sundays. Some who now permit hunting on their lands may post their farms altogether, rather than enforce their own Sunday bans. Losing that access is a concern for hunters, too.

The push for Sunday hunting threatens to drive a wedge between like-minded groups. Hunters share common interests with farmers, tourism entrepreneurs, environmentalists, anglers, outfitters, and the state regulators who oversee public lands and enforce the laws. Keeping these groups on the same page in terms of preserving open space is important; part of that bargain is giving everyone reasonable access to the unspoiled areas we still have. Legislators in Trenton and Harrisburg should consider all these factors before joining the Sunday hunting movement.

The (Easton) Express-Times.

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PENNSYLVANIA SPENDS FAR TOO MUCH ON ITS LEGISLATURE

About $263 million. That's what has been budgeted for the Pennsylvania General Assembly this fiscal year.

That's a lot of money — especially when you consider the state is looking at some serious structural deficits in the coming years.

Think about it: More than a quarter of a billion dollars just to make laws.

That's money we could use for schools, roads, police, firefighters — the kinds of government services citizens actually use daily. Instead, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on politicking in one of the nation's largest, most expensive and highest-paid legislatures.

We have 50 senators, 203 House members and scores of staffers in district and Harrisburg offices.

What do we get for all that money? One of the most corrupt and inefficient legislatures in the nation. It's embarrassing and wasteful — and it needs to change.

This year, Digital First Media editorial boards in Pennsylvania will produce a series of editorials on state government reforms — focusing particularly on reducing legislative costs and waste.

We'll take a look at the idea of reducing the size of our General Assembly.

Do we need so many lawmakers? Would the House be more efficient with fewer members? How about the Senate? Would it be less costly?

There are arguments on both sides of that debate — as we heard when a bill that would reduce the House by 50 seats passed the House but died in the Senate a couple of years ago.

Many of those arguments are self-serving on the part of lawmakers who simply don't want to lose their well-paid and perked positions (naturally).But we'll take a look at whether representative democracy would suffer with a smaller legislature, comparing Pennsylvania to states with different legislative systems — part-time, volunteer, unicameral, etc.

Admittedly, cutting the number of legislators would be a heavy political lift and a long process, requiring a Constitutional amendment. Shrinking the Legislature is also opposed by Governor-elect Tom Wolf.

But one thing that the governor and legislators ought to be able to agree on (if they're being honest) is that legislative costs are too high and must be brought under control.

It's absurd and hypocritical for a legislative body controlled by conservative Republicans to complain about wasteful government and then do very little to reduce legislative costs.

Yes, there were some cuts last year, thanks to Gov. Corbett's veto of some legislative funding. But not nearly enough — not when we're facing steep deficits and cuts in services that citizens actually need.

Lawmakers need to reduce staff, reduce overhead — do more with less, as they've demanded of other state agencies. If constituents need help navigating, say, PennDOT's bureaucracy, fix PennDOT rather than task legislative staffers with licensing and tagging efforts.

With the efficiency-enhancing technologies available nowadays, there must be better ways to run a state legislature. One suggestion on that front is to knock off partisan shenanigans between the Legislature and governor and to cooperate, but that's a topic for another day.

So, stay tuned for a series of editorials on fixing and shrinking the old Harrisburg sausage factory. If you have ideas and suggestions, please share them with us.

— York Daily Record

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REPORT 'FACT-FINDING' TRIPS BY LAWMAKERS

Washington brims with expertise on any subject you can think of. If policy analysts in an executive agency don't have an answer sought by a member of Congress, it's a safe bet that a lobbyist representing that interest has it.

Congress wisely has endowed itself with a nonpartisan and highly capable Congressional Research Service, a division of the esteemed Library of Congress that has 450 policy analysts and lawyers dedicated to providing detailed answers on any policy question.

Yet facts can be elusive and members of the Congress often feel compelled to travel the world in search of them, on "fact-finding" missions.

Some of those are legitimate.

It sometimes makes sense for members of Congress to see in-the-field conditions about which they will have to make decisions.

But some fact-finding missions are excuses to visit exotic locales at public expense.

Unfortunately, there is no way for taxpayers to know the difference. Congress does not report to the public about such trips.

Rep. Walter Jones, a veteran North Carolina Republican, filed a bill as Congress convened this week that would require regular reporting of such travel. Jones slipped the same requirement into a must-pass defense authorization bill two years ago, but his colleagues stripped it out prior to passage.

"It's kind of ironic to me that members, not calling out any names, who take these frequent trips don't want the taxpayer to know the cost of the trips," Jones told The Washington Post.

Yes, it is. If the trip is worth taking for a congressman's education on an important subject, lawmakers should not have any problem reporting its cost to the public.

The public also is entitled to some fact-finding. Members of Congress should take seriously the point raised by Jones.

They should establish a reporting system for the destinations, purposes and cost of all of their travel. Doing so likely will ensure that very little future travel is for other than legitimate purposes.

— The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens' Voice.