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Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Associated Press Published: November 8, 2012
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MORE OF THE SAME GRIDLOCK?

Those who may have hoped that President Obama's re-election on Tuesday would signal an end to Washington gridlock are likely to be in for a letdown.

Obama's win does not ensure an end to the divisive politics that has prevented action on important issues — tax reform, federal-deficit reduction, immigration and the like.

If anything, there will be more of the same gridlock, since the balance of power did not change after Tuesday's results were tallied.

In his first term, Obama expended a lot of effort on health care reform that Americans didn't necessarily want and a costly economic stimulus that had dubious results while driving up the deficit.

The second Obama term looks to be no different. The president will try to spend more taxpayer dollars with the help of a compliant, Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, and much to the chagrin of a Republican-controlled House.

The first test of the newly re-elected president comes even before he gets to deliver his second inaugural address in January.

That's when the so-called "fiscal cliff" — a combination of automatic tax increases and drastic across-the-board spending cuts — threatens to take effect, unless Obama and the divided Congress agree on a budget deal.

While many of the issues are the same, circumstances have changed markedly for Obama since he first won the right to succeed George W. Bush in 2008.

Going forward — "Forward," ironically, being Obama's campaign slogan — the president can no longer blame Bush for the nation's economic problems. Now, Obama's problems are his own.

Four years ago, Obama promised to reach across the aisle in a spirit of compromise — "The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states ..." Obama famously observed in 2004. "But I've got news for them: There's the UNITED States of America."

How did that work out for the president? Not very well.

Now he's promising to try harder. He even reached out to his vanquished opponent, Mitt Romney, saying he wanted to discuss how the two men can work together for the good of the nation.

But does anyone really think that true compromise is really going to happen?

The track record of the Obama administration suggests the answer to that question is no.

— Lancaster New Era

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SPANIER CHARGES JUSTIFIED

Despite former Penn State President Graham Spanier's protestations, a state grand jury presentment offers compelling evidence to justify the criminal charges filed against him.

Spanier, who was fired nearly a year ago after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested for sexually abusing boys, is facing charges of perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy.

State Attorney General Linda Kelly announced the charges against Spanier and additional charges against Tim Curley, former Penn State athletics director, and Gary Schultz, the former university vice president who oversaw the university's police department.

Curley and Schultz previously were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse. They now face additional charges of endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and obstruction.

Kelly said she expects all three cases will be tried together.

Spanier's attorneys issued a statement declaring his innocence and trying to blame Gov. Tom Corbett for the charges.

"These charges are the work of a vindictive and politically motivated governor working through an un-elected attorney general, Linda Kelly, whom he appointed to do his bidding and who will be a lame duck five days from now," read part of the statement, issued before the election.

The grand jury presentment paints a markedly different — and damning — picture. The grand jury document details communications between Curley, Schultz and Spanier about reports of inappropriate contact between Sandusky and boys in 1998 and 2001 and actions or inactions of the three university administrators.

The report also highlights the difficulty investigators had in obtaining information from Penn State until after Spanier was fired. The report said almost immediately after Spanier's firing and the trustees' order to employees to cooperate with law enforcement, evidence and emails that had been subpoenaed more than a year earlier were received.

A search of athletic facilities also uncovered about 22 boxes of Sandusky documents, photos and notes. Those facilities had not been searched when Spanier was in charge.

Based on the grand jury presentment, copies of email between the administrators and information in the Louis Freeh report on the Sandusky case, the charges appear to be far from the "farce" and retaliation that Spanier's lawyers claim.

Instead, it seems like Spanier's defense is the one trying to divert attention and blame, rather than accept responsibility.

Like Curley and Schultz, Spanier is innocent until proven guilty. But if convicted on the charges, like Sandusky, they deserve time in prison and the loss of their state pensions.

— Altoona Mirror

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GET TOUGH WITH 'STRAW' GUN BUYERS

Pennsylvania judges now can enforce tough minimum penalties on people found guilty of buying more than one gun for criminals who can't legally buy a firearm themselves.

It's too late to help Officer Bradley Fox from Plymouth Township outside Philadelphia. Barely seven weeks ago, a convicted felon shot Fox to death. Police say a "straw" purchaser obtained the murder weapon and eight other guns and turned them over to the killer.

Monroe County is no stranger to guns bought illicitly, then used on police. The late state Trooper Joshua Miller died in May 2009 in a shootout with a kidnapper named Daniel Autenrieth along Route 611 in Tobyhanna. Autenrieth's girlfriend, Emily Gross, bought Autenrieth the gun that he used to terrorize his estranged wife and kidnap his son, leading troopers on a high-speed chase into Monroe County. Autenrieth, too, was killed. His son survived. Gross pleaded guilty to lying on the gun purchase application and was sentenced to seven months in jail for her role.

Such straw purchasers don't load, aim or fire the weapon. But they buy them, then turn them over and enable convicted criminals to get their hands on these deadly weapons — and use them. They deserve tough treatment.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed H.B. 898 last month. The law gives prosecutors across the state an effective new tool to arrest and prosecute these sham gun buyers, toughening current law by calling for a mandatory five-year prison term for repeat straw purchase offenders to apply to multiple concurrent offenses.

H.B. 898 is a welcome addition to the laws that help police address violent criminals and the people who help them. But more is needed. Pennsylvania still lacks a law that would require gun owners to report any lost or stolen guns to law enforcement officials or risk being penalized. Such a requirement seems like the least law-abiding gun owners would accept as part of their responsibility. It doesn't infringe on their right to keep and bear arms, only to report it when a weapon is lost or stolen.

Speaking of responsible gun ownership, it's hard to understand why the Republican candidate for state attorney general, David Freed, took the time to fill out a National Rifle Association questionnaire but declined to talk to CeaseFirePA, which has been lobbying for the tough new straw-purchase law. Democratic nominee Kathleen Kane, who won the post Tuesday, answered CeaseFire's questions about gun violence prevention early in the campaign. Any candidate for the state's top law-enforcement job ought to answer willingly all queries about the responsibilities that go with gun ownership.

It's sad that it takes the murder of a police officer — or the murders of more than one police officer — to prompt the legislature and the governor to raise the penalties for aiding and abetting. At least H.B. 898 is now law. Lawmakers should immediately begin working toward a lost-and-stolen report statute that will help track weapons when they could be in the wrong hands.

— Pocono Record