From The Times-Tribune.
Three freshmen Lackawanna County lawmakers took the oath of office Tuesday to officially start their two-year terms amid talk of closer coordination on regional legislative and fiscal issues.
With family and friends in attendance, Reps. Frank Farina, D-115, Jessup; Marty Flynn, D-113, Scranton; and Kevin Haggerty, D-112, Dunmore, were sworn in at a noon ceremony on the floor of the state House of Representatives as the 2013-14 legislative session got under way.
Republicans control both chambers with a sizeable 111-91 margin in the House with one vacancy and 27-23 margin in the Senate.
Mr. Haggerty, Mr. Flynn and Mr. Farina greeted well-wishers in their Capitol offices on a New Year’s Day morning and then joined colleagues for the convening session. The event fell on New Year’s Day because of a state constitutional requirement that the session convene the first Tuesday of January following a legislative election.
The House ceremony included references to William Penn, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln and followed a set script that started with the reading of the names of lawmakers elected for the first time in the Nov. 6 election. The Senate convened to swear in new members too. U.S. Rep.-elect Matt Cartwright, D-17, Scranton, attended the session.
Mr. Haggerty, Mr. Flynn and Mr. Farina said they felt the importance of the hour and expressed a desire to tackle issues affecting Northeast Pennsylvania.
“I feel a deep sense of responsibility,” said Mr. Flynn.
Read the rest here.
Yeah, we need you to feel a deep sense of responsibility, because there are no lack of problems around here in NEPA!
From PA Independent.
With unsustainable debt, an underfunded pension system and massive costs from collective bargaining contracts, the city of Scranton is running out of options.
The city is struggling under a $300 million pile of debt, which includes about $15 million in arbitration awards the city must pay to its firefighters’ union as the result of a state Supreme Court decision last year.
Even municipalities in financial distress are not free from a state law mandating the payment of arbitration awards to police and firefighters unions, according to the court.
Though Scranton is unable to pay its bills or meet its payroll – last week Mayor Chris Doherty cut all city workers’ pay to minimum wage of $7.25 per hour because the city is out of money – it must still pay the $15 million arbitration settlement.
Scranton’s financial problems, though complex, are not unique.
Richard Vilella is mayor of Lock Haven and president of the Pennsylvania League of Cities. A major problem facing cities is Act 111 of 1968, the state law governing the way municipalities negotiate with unions through the collective bargaining process, he said.
“If we’re going to be able to maintain our police departments and fire departments for the next 20 years, we have to reform the process to control the costs,” Vilello said. “The whole process is tilted towards the unions right now.”
Act 111 prevents police and firefighters from going on strike, but in return provides for compulsory interest arbitration during a labor impasse. Municipalities are also required to cover all costs of the arbitration process, including the cost for the arbitrator.
Read the rest here.
It seems only time well tell just how responsible our new legislators feel for the issues before us.