CORBETT'S HIGHWAY FUNDING PACKAGE DESERVES STRONG LOOK
Brad Mallory, PennDOT deputy secretary, told the state Forest Products Association regional meeting recently that more funding is needed to improve the transportation infrastructure in the state.
We couldn't agree more. Travel north, south, east or west of Pennsylvania and you will notice the difference between roads in our state and those elsewhere. Frankly, it's embarrassing.
It's also an economic handicap for the state. Industry and commerce rely on state roadways more than ever.
That's why Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed transportation funding package deserves strong consideration from the state Legislature. It's time to get Pennsylvania out of the highway laughingstock mode.
— Williamsport Sun-Gazette
MORE WORK TO DO: IMPROVED STATE OF BRIDGES CAN'T LULL LAWMAKERS
Here's hoping lawmakers don't misinterpret the latest information on the condition of Pennsylvania's bridges.
The number of state-maintained, structurally deficient spans has fallen from 5,600 three years ago to fewer than 4,500 now. That's good news, but it's only half the story. There still is a lot of work to do, and Pennsylvania continues to lead the nation in the number of deteriorating bridges.
In Western Pennsylvania, that means nearly a quarter of the state and local bridges remain structurally deficient, a designation which means at least one element — the superstructure, substructure or deck — is in poor condition or worse. Drivers in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties regularly cross 1,054 such bridges.
Lawmakers would be smart to focus on what needs to be done, not on the improvement that's been made. Better conditions over the past three years were the result of more money going toward bridge repairs -- from federal stimulus dollars and a state bond issue devoted solely to fixing the spans -- but that money is gone.
Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a $1.8 billion plan based largely on removing the artificial cap on the gasoline tax paid by wholesalers and by making driver's licenses and vehicle registrations valid for longer time periods, which would front-load payments. If lawmakers approve it, Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation estimates it will be able to further reduce the number of deficient bridges to about 3,700 by 2020. Without the additional resources, the number likely would increase to 4,800.
Legislators can go one better by passing Senate Bill 1, which would provide an additional $700 million by increasing license and registration fees to match inflationary increases since 1997, when current rates were set.
There are a lot of good reasons to pass that transportation funding plan. Making more Pennsylvania bridges safe for the long haul is a very important one.
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PENNSYLVANIA'S REDISTRICTING DEBACLE SHOWS NEED FOR INDEPENDENT COMMISSION
Pennsylvania finally has new legislative maps.
The process took two years and was marked by comically blatant gerrymandering and an almost unheard of court defeat that threw an election into disarray.
But, mercifully, it's done.
the state Supreme Court ... approved the Legislative Reapportionment Commission's second attempt at redistricting Pennsylvania's 203 House districts and 50 Senate districts — maps that will be used starting next year.
Last year, the court threw out the Republican-controlled commission's first version, calling it "contrary to law."
Redistricting is done every 10 years, based on the results of the latest U.S. Census. The state constitution says each legislative district "shall be composed of compact and contiguous territory as nearly equal in population as practicable. ... Unless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a senatorial or representative district."
It was the first time in 40 years the court had struck down proposed legislative maps, but the GOP's obvious incumbent-protection scheme couldn't be ignored.
The January 2012 ruling caused headaches for candidates who had already started campaigning under the proposed new maps, and some were no longer even in the districts they intended to represent when the decision was finally made to use the existing maps for that year's election.
Republicans criticized the use of the 2001 maps, saying population shifts meant voters were no longer fairly represented in 2012, a presidential election.
Yes, but it was better than using maps that were obviously drawn to strengthen GOP-held districts and weaken Democratic ones. That's politicians choosing their voters, and it makes a mockery of the election process.
This power grab is not unique to Republicans or to Pennsylvania. It's done whenever one party holds firm control of a state's Legislature.
And it's a disservice to voters everywhere.
It leads to non-competitive districts, where elections are decided in primaries, and where voters' choices are limited to varying extremes of one particular political philosophy. Representatives are less beholden to their constituents in these safe districts than to their party leaders.
Now that this debacle is over, it's time for Pennsylvania residents to take back the power and demand an independent redistricting commission such as those in California and Arizona.
In those states, no elected official and no one who recently held public office can serve on the redistricting commission. No party officials have a say, either.
It makes perfect sense.
Clearly, politicians — of any stripe — can't be trusted to put the interests of the people over their own.
— York Dispatch
AN EDITORIAL APPLE FOR OUR TEACHERS
FORGET THE debate over teacher pay and contract rancor, drop, for a moment, any envy of the (largely misguided) notion that all teachers get three months off each summer. Remember instead, the teacher who influenced you most, the educator who exposed you to your favorite avocation, the one who worked as mentor, coach or confidante
This is National Teacher day, and while there can be little doubt some would prefer to bash teachers, it is an excellent opportunity to remember the many things they do meriting praise.
As evidence, consider these results from a survey conducted by Kars4kids, a national charity that uses car donations to raise money for education:
€ƒ 80 percent of adults recognize that their work ethic, volunteer time, and even career choice was a direct result of teachers who inspired them.
â€ƒ 78 percent had an out-of-classroom experience with their teacher enhancing learning.
â€ƒ 61 percent believe that a teacher taught them skills outside of the standard curriculum.
â€ƒ Nearly three quarters of adults said they would want their children to have the same teachers they did.
Or if you prefer celebrity roll models, there are these testimonies:
Oprah Winfrey has said she "wouldn't be where I am today without my fourth grade teacher." Hilary Swank cites a teacher for giving her "my first acting job in my school production of The Jungle Book"
Maybe you would consider a cue from politicians.
Paul Ryan credits a high school teacher who "taught me more about the world in six months than I had learned in 18 years." John Kerry cites his school's first black teacher for getting him "interested in the growing civil rights movement.'"
There is no end to the ways teachers helped, and help, shape lives. There is no shortage of testimonies to the value of a good teacher. And if you still need evidence, recall the sacrifice of the teachers trying to protect students during the Sandy Hook tragedy.
So go ahead, take a moment, remember the teacher you liked best. Thank the teacher your child raves about. Many of them work hard, care a great deal, and merit a moment of appreciation
— (Wilkes-Barre) Times Leader