locally owned since 1854

First-year reflections — Government gridlock isn’t always bad: Tom Mehaffie

Posted 1/3/18

I have been serving the residents of the 106th District for a year now, and so often I hear, “Why can’t you just get things done in Harrisburg.” While it may seem like historically …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

First-year reflections — Government gridlock isn’t always bad: Tom Mehaffie

Posted

I have been serving the residents of the 106th District for a year now, and so often I hear, “Why can’t you just get things done in Harrisburg.” While it may seem like historically large Republican majorities in the state House and Senate would mean quick movement on legislation, I have learned that even when the Democratic governor seems to be “on board,” bicameral partisan control does not always make it easy to get legislation passed.

Let’s use the state budget this past year as an example. House and Senate leaders and the governor disagreed for months before a final revenue plan was in place. Many were frustrated by the lack of progress and wondering why.

The underlying reason for disagreement has everything to do with politics, but not in the way some may think. We are elected to represent the people. So while there are 254 members (governor included) declaring opinions on legislation in Harrisburg, their opinions are based on the voices of more than 12 million citizens. Those 12 million voices initially get condensed into broad support or dissent when House and Senate leaders negotiate statewide issues.

Once a general agreement is discussed, the leaders must go back to each of the 253 (minus the governor) members of the House and Senate to verify or “whip” the votes. The goal is to get to enough support to move forward, but not all Pennsylvanians share the same views on statewide issues.

For example, in one House or Senate district, a member may hear from citizens who believe a slight increase in their taxes is an acceptable trade-off for a balanced budget, while citizens in another area could overwhelmingly express an inability to fit more taxes into family budgets.

Both of these districts elected a Republican, but have very different views about how that representative should vote on the state budget.

In Pennsylvania, 102 votes are needed to get any legislation through the House and 26 votes are needed to pass it through the Senate. The reality is getting to those numbers is not an easy task, and our government was designed that way for a reason. Our Founding Fathers did not want lawmakers to be rubber stamping bills, especially when those bills have a huge impact on Pennsylvania citizens.

No matter what my personal opinion is of a bill, I will always listen to my constituency and vote how they want me to vote. Compromise is important, but that means meeting in the middle — not giving in to someone else’s demands. I will continue to advocate for the views which the majority of my constituents hold on the budget and other state issues, while not turning a blind eye to a reasonable solution for the greater good of all Pennsylvanians.

State Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, represents the 106th Pennsylvania House District. Reach him at 717-534-1323 or tmehaffie@pahousegop.com.