Hennessey in the News

October 24, 2018
The Mercury
Democrat Hacker challenges Rep. Hennessey in 26th House District race

About the only thing separating the two candidates for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives 26th District seat is the size of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.

And counter-intuitively, it’s the Democratic challenger who wants to keep the elected Legislature at the size it is and the 25-year Republican veteran of that Legislature who wants to make it smaller.

Republican Tim Hennessey, 71, is seeking his 13th term in the House representing the 26th District and he is being challenged by Democrat Pam Hacker, 58, a construction electrician from East Vincent.

In their responses to questionnaires from Digital First Media, both candidates agreed, with some caveats, on many of the issues facing the region and the Commonwealth.

But one area of disagreement is the size of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, one of the largest (and most expensive) in the nation.

 

Pam Hacker
Pam Hacker

“Reducing representation is not going to make it easier for Pennsylvanians to be heard by their representatives,” Hacker wrote in her questionnaire response.

“While on the surface, decreasing the money spent on the salaries of elected officials seems fiscally smart smart, the actual impact will be minimal if not non-existent,” Hacker wrote. “With an increase in the size of each district, each office will have to hire more staffers to properly serve the people, increasing the budget.”

 

Rep. Hennessey to seek re-election in Pennsylvania’s 26th House District
Rep. Tim Hennessey

By contrast, Hennessey wrote in his response, “I’ve voted on several occasions to downsize the size of the House of Representatives from 203 members to 151. I’ve consistently voted to downsize whether the state Senate is reduced or no,” most recently in October.

“I believe that a smaller number of members can be effective, with smaller discussion groups better able to focus on the issues without distractions,” Hennessey wrote, adding that “each Representative can properly represent a larger number of constituents, given today’s improved technologies.”

Hacker and Hennessey both wrote that they support not only the enactment of the fair education funding formula, as well as efforts to have it apply to larger portions of education funding to better balance the disparities between rich and poor districts in Pennsylvania, one of the worst in the nation.

Both also said they support the abolition of property taxes, while Hennessey additionally identified “the school tax effort rebate,” which provides tax rebates to those with the lowest family income, as another option.

Both candidates also support removing the statewide Keystone tests as a requirement for high school graduation, a change recently approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Wolf.

Hacker and Hennessey also both indicated support for the legislature creating a window for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to be able to sue the church in the wake of the Grand Jury findings of the investigation of abuse by priests and the church’s efforts to cover it up.

Hacked added that the statute of limitations on child sex crimes should be abolished and Hennessey added that the standard should be expanded to include “teachers and coaches in public and private schools and anywhere that children find themselves in vulnerable situations.”

The only other area of divergence on the questionnaire answers had to do with imposing a severance tax on natural gas drilling.

“Unfortunately, we are the only major gas-producing state that does not tax gas companies on the value of the gas extracted,” Hacker wrote. “Drillers now pay a 1.6 percent impact fee which is not tied to production or the value of the gas extracted. The current impact fee provides a short-term benefit for local communities where drilling takes place.”

She supports an extraction tax of 3.8 percent to 5 percent.

Hacker wrote that “passing legislation for a severance tax, while keeping in place the impact fee, would bring millions of dollars into the state, which can be used to increase funding for education, service programs, infrastructure projects and investment in renewable energy.”

Hennessey wrote that the impact fee has already generated $1.4 billion to the state and local governments, pointing out that Chester County will receive $460,000 this year and Montgomery County $720,000.

Adding a severance tax to the impact fee would create a “tax rate so high that Pennsylvania would impose the highest tax in the nation,” Hennessey wrote. “I could support a smaller increase with the impact fee which, when combined with the existing tax, would be reasonable.”

Hacker and Hennessey both agreed that municipalities that rely solely on state police for police services, although Hennessey pointed out at those relying on state police have much longer wait times “so there are trade-offs.”

He does not support the per capita fees that have been proposed to pay for state police.

In addition to a small portion of the borough of Pottstown, the 26th House District includes the following Chester County communities: North Coventry, South Coventry, East Coventry, East Vincent, East Nantmeal, West Nantmeal, Warwick, Elverson, Honey Brook Borough, Honey Brook Township, Wallace, West Caln and West Sadsbury.   Source

April 25, 2006
ncneslonline.com
Perks of Power: Sainato uses per diems to collect more than $49,000 over past two years

Per diem means “by the day” in Latin.

State Rep. Chris Sainato of Lawrence County speaks it fluently, according to a special report by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Over the last two years, Sainato, a Democrat, has collected more than $49,000 in per diems — flat payments given to lawmakers for meals and lodging while on official duty.

That’s second among the state’s 253 legislators, and about double what the average House and Senate member collects, an Inquirer review of expense records shows.

The payments — which are now $141 per day, among the most generous of all states — are in addition to the $72,187 base salary that lawmakers receive, fourth highest in the country.

Tim Potts, the founder of Democracy Rising PA, a Harrisburg watchdog group, called per diems “income generators.”

“It’s one of the first things legislators learn in freshman orientation: Maximize income, minimize expenses, leave rich,” said Potts, formerly an aide to House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese (D., Greene) for seven years.

According to the Inquirer report, rules for per diems in Pennsylvania are few.

Legislators can get them when voting at the Capitol, when attending committee meetings, and even just for showing up to work in Harrisburg when the legislature isn’t in town.

To claim a per diem — which requires no receipts — legislators have to show they stayed in a hotel. Or in the case of those who rent apartments or own homes in Harrisburg, they provide a memo attesting they stayed overnight.

Legislators have other options, according to the report.

They can file to be reimbursed for on-the-job expenses actually incurred, such as hotel bills and meals. But few do, complaining that keeping track of receipts takes too much time.

At $141 a day — $96 to cover lodging, $45 for meals — the per diems add up quickly to become one of the most costly legislative perks.

Each year, taxpayers cover about $2.7 million in per diems. That’s on top of large car allowances, hefty pensions, and premium health insurance.

Only New York, New Mexico and Alaska pay lawmakers a higher per diem rate. New Mexico lawmakers, however, don’t get salaries.

Some states allow per diems only for days lawmakers are voting. And six, including neighboring Ohio, Delaware and New Jersey, don’t allow them at all, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Critics in Harrisburg question the need to give legislators a meal allowance, as taxpayers, on many voting days, already pay for lunch and dinner spreads for House and Senate members and their staff.

That’s not to mention lobbyists who are all too happy to pick up dinner tabs.

Sainato told the Inquirer that he was only following the rules when taking per diems.

“I take what we are entitled to,” said Sainato, who lives in New Castle, which is roughly a 41⁄2-hour drive to the Capitol.

He said his per diems were high (he’s taken 369, collecting $49,140 in the last two years) in part because he often has to travel to the Capitol a day early to make it on time for votes. While in Harrisburg, he stays in hotels, which he said charge about $60 to $80 per night.

TOP RECIPIENTS OF PER DIEMS IN 2004 AND 2005 …

Recipients and total amount

Rep. Gaynor Cawley (D., Lackawanna) $53,030

Rep. Christopher Sainato (D., Lawrence) $49,140

Rep. Mark Cohen (D., Phila.) $46,379

Rep. Raymond Bunt Jr. (R., Montgomery) $45,815

Rep. Michael Veon (D., Beaver) $45,595

ep. Joseph Petrarca (D., Westmoreland) $44,377

Rep. Tim Hennessey (R., Chester) $44,210

Rep. Rick Geist (R., Blair) $42,719

Rep. James Casorio (D., Westmoreland) $42,335

Rep. Bill DeWeese (D., Greene) $41,717

SOURCE: Chief clerk’s offices of the House and Senate

LEGISLATIVE BENEFITS …

Per diems

•$141 per day ($96 for lodging; $45 for meals). No receipts required. Lawmakers can claim them for voting sessions, committee meetings, and even if they show up in Harrisburg when the legislature isn’t in session.

Car allowance

•House members get up to $650 a month for a private lease; $600 in the Senate. The state picks up the insurance and either gas or mileage, too.

Health coverage

•Major medical, prescription drugs, vision, dental and long-term care. It costs taxpayers about $15,000 a year per legislator. Lawmakers get to keep the coverage for themselves and their spouses upon retirement if they serve at least 10 years in the House or eight in the Senate.

Pension benefits

•Pennsylvania is the only state that allows a lawmaker to retire at age 50 with only three years of service and still get a full pension. The pension formula was sweetened in 2001. It now requires legislators to contribute more of their checks — 7.5 percent, up from 5 percent — to the system, but it offers 50 percent larger pensions for most lawmakers. Rank-and-file legislators retiring now after 20 years’ service could collect roughly $41,600 annually.

Expense accounts

•House members get at least $20,000 annually for expenses, such as to attend conferences and to operate their district offices. Senators get $25,000, which doesn’t include office leases.

Sources: Chief clerk’s offices of the House and Senate; State Employees’ Retirement System

Source

 

Dec 12, 2017
WHYY
Pa. lawmakers send Wolf abortion restrictions he plans to veto

Gov. Tom Wolf vows to veto a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and criminalize the most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions.
Gov. Tom Wolf vows to veto a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and criminalize the most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Pennsylvania’s House on Tuesday voted after an impassioned debate to send a bill limiting abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy to Gov. Tom Wolf, who immediately repeated his threat to veto it.

The Republican-controlled House voted 121-70 for the legislation that would alter the existing 24-week limit.

The measure would keep in place exceptions under current law for when a mother’s life is at risk, or if she could suffer a serious, permanent injury without an abortion. It does not allow exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.

Supporters said medical advances mean premature fetuses are now able to survive at an earlier point in the pregnancy than previously possible.

The strong feelings and stark language that characterizes the abortion discussion on the national level were reflected in the House debate.

“As people try to frame this debate in terms of women’s rights, the question that begs to be asked is, what about the rights of those preborn women in the womb being exterminated?” said Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York.

Opponents argued that parents should be allowed to make their own abortion decisions with medical input and by consulting their sources of spiritual advice.

“We have to be careful in this body that we don’t put an ideology on everybody and say that everybody has to live like this,” said Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny.

Planned Parenthood said the bill would make Pennsylvania’s abortion law among the nation’s most restrictive.

Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, said a House that is “80 percent men and 0 percent physicians” should not be making decisions for women about terminating their pregnancies. She noted that a tiny fraction of abortions currently occur after 20 weeks.

The bill “does not protect women,” said Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery. “It attempts to control them by imposing the views of some legislators on women, and I think that’s wrong — that’s morally wrong.”

The legislation also would outlaw what the bill terms “dismemberment abortion,” a phrase not used by medical professionals. It would effectively ban dilation-and-evacuation, a procedure that is the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

“Dismemberment abortion is completely inhumane, it’s barbaric,” said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York.

Some opponents noted that the bill had not received public hearings, while supporters said the issues have been discussed in depth for years.

Wolf, a Democrat, called the bill an assault on the doctor-patient relationship and “cruel” because it lacks exceptions for rape or incest.

“These women deserve our support, not to be maligned by politicians in Harrisburg for making medical decisions about their bodies for their families with their doctors,” Wolf said in a written statement.

The bill passed the Senate in February by a 32-18 vote. The margins in both chambers raise doubts about whether supporters will be able to muster sufficient votes to override Wolf’s promised veto.  Source   House votes here

August 31, 2017
Southern Chester County News
Attorney General visits Kennett to wage war on opioid crisis

KENNETT SQUARE >> Determined to curb an opioid epidemic that is now the leading cause of death for all Americans under age 50, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro came to Kennett Square to discuss the crisis with state lawmakers, municipal officials and law enforcement officers.

“I need to know what’s happening on the ground and how my office can assist in the local efforts,” said Shapiro, who has visited eight counties in the past two days. “We need to have a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to deal with the number one public health threat in Pennsylvania – the heroin and opioid epidemic. And these forums provide a great opportunity.”

The discussion, which coincided with International Overdose Awareness Day, took place at Kennett Fire Company’s Red Clay Room, and included almost the entire Chester County legislative delegation, state Rep. Steve Barrar, state Rep. John Lawrence, state Rep. Harry Lewis, state Rep. Becky Corbin, state Rep. Warren Kampf, and state Rep. Carolyn Comitta. Also in attendance were local police chiefs from throughout Chester County and Chester County Commissioners Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell. Read more

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