- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:

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WITH TRUMP, GOP REAPS WHAT IT SOWED, Jan. 31

One of the many criticisms Republicans offered about Barack Obama when he first ran for president was his relative inexperience in government. How things have changed in the era of Donald Trump.

Even the supremely under-qualified 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin weighed in about the youthful Illinois senator’s limited government background. Palin, who bailed out as Alaska governor to pursue a lucrative career as a political celebrity, nonetheless still has more relevant experience to offer than does Trump, the casino magnate/reality TV star the once sober, responsible GOP may anoint as its presidential candidate.

In today’s Republican Party, government experience is not only unnecessary; it is a detriment. This is a product of the anti-government cynicism of tea partiers that the Republican establishment gleefully encouraged when it was directed at President Obama and Democrats. Having failed to anticipate the inevitable - that the anti-establishment rancor would turn against ineffectual Republican officials - GOP leaders are now left to rationalize an eventual accommodation with The Donald.

The Republican Party, once the honorable party of limited government, is now the confused party of no government, uncertain of its mission or rationale for even pursuing offices. The anti-government types, of course, are Big Government enthusiasts when it suits them, such as in their fruitless pursuit of government bans of gay marriage or abortion rights, and this transparent hypocrisy further hurts the Republican brand.

This overwrought, anti-government antipathy has in this election year also sabotaged the GOP’s traditional argument that its experienced governors are best prepared to serve as national leaders. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker flamed out almost immediately. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal went nowhere. Ohio’s John Kasich has worked hard but has little to show for it in terms of poll numbers. Florida’s Jeb Bush proved to be a stunningly inept campaigner.

Then there is hapless New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who blew a chance to look like an effective leader when he belatedly left New Hampshire for home after last Saturday’s snowstorm. The bullying governor instead made light of severe coastal flooding in his state and called a mayor who supports him “crazy” for expressing his concerns.

The Republican chief executive of course blamed the media for the controversy. The governor hasn’t looked this bad since, well, earlier this month, when he blustered during a debate about kicking his old Hurricane Sandy pal President Obama out of the White House, apparently unaware that after serving the maximum two terms, the president will be departing voluntarily.

Democrats still value old-fashioned government experience. Hillary Clinton has served as a senator and secretary of state, and Sen. Bernie Sanders has long been a hard-working elected official, as opposed to vote-skipping dilettantes like senators and GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Unfairly overlooked Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley offers considerable experience as a Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor.

Republican voters, however, would, by making Mr. Trump their presidential choice, not only abandon long-held principles; they would go against basic reason and logic. We expect our teachers to be educated in teaching, our firefighters to know how to put out fires, our brain surgeons to be well-versed in medicine (including Dr. Ben Carson, who showed alarming ignorance of government before his presidential campaign unraveled). Yet, the incredibly complex job of president of the United States, with the economy, world peace and so much else at stake, should be handed to a neophyte who is blissfully proud of his ignorance?

It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous path for American to embark upon in these hazardous times.

- Delaware County Daily Times

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VOTER LIST ACCURACY WITHOUT BIAS, Feb. 3

Years after Republican state lawmakers lost their ham-handed attempt to restrict access to voting under the guise of fraud prevention, the state government has joined a program that will ensure accuracy without bias.

Republican state Rep. Mike Turzai, now the speaker of the House, infamously acknowledged in 2012 that the true purpose of a voter identification law was to help carry Pennsylvania for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The idea was to impose draconian identification requirements at the polls to diminish the Democratic vote. State courts delayed implementation of the law and ultimately killed it as being unconstitutional.

The law failed largely because its advocates, when challenged in court, could not produce a single case of the in-person voter fraud that the law supposedly would prevent.

Now, the state quietly has joined a multistate enterprise, the Electronic Registration Information Center, that uses technology to ensure the accuracy of voter registration lists.

ERIC also reduces governments’ costs to conduct elections. Because its lists are accurate and up-to-date, state and county governments spend less on postage and staff time. And, on Election Day, accurate registration lists produce fewer challenges and provisional ballots.

Every 60 days, state governments participating in ERIC submit their voter registration data and related information from motor vehicle records. The information is rendered anonymous and ERIC compares each registration against all state databases, ensuring that no one is registered to vote in more than one state. It also compares the state data against postal and Social Security records, thus eliminating multiple registrations even in states that are not part of the ERIC system. The system also compares multiple databases to detect transposed numbers, typos and name variations.

Pennsylvania has its own system to compare in-state registration records.

None of the 14 states that used the system through November 2015 have reported any data errors.

The system ensures not only that Pennsylvania’s voter registration lists will be as accurate as possible, but as a bulwark against those who would misuse the issue as a means to restrict the franchise rather than to ensure accuracy.

- The (Scranton) Times-Tribune

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THE CBO REPORT: A GRIM WAKE-UP CALL, Feb. 1

With Iowa now in their rearview mirrors, presidential aspirants quick to espouse their respective visions for America had better focus their attention on the latest Congressional Budget Office report and consider the grim realities that will face the next U.S. president.

What’s been tabulated by the nation’s number crunchers amounts to no “legacy” on which to build but a sinkhole that will grow exponentially if the nation’s fiscal course is not corrected. As detailed by Investor’s Business Daily, what the CBO projects is a painful trifecta: a growing deficit, rising debt and massive health care costs.

With regard to the deficit, it’s heading back up again and is projected to top $1 trillion in six years. But more worrisome, “for the first time since 2009, it’s rising as a share of the economy, to about 2.9 percent of GDP,” reports Reason.com.

Additionally, the CBO projects debt held by the public will increase precipitously over the next decade, rising from about $14 trillion this year to more than $23 trillion in 2026, amounting to 86 percent of the economy.

And ObamaCare’s presumptuous “downward” pressure on health care costs is bad joke that only gets worse. Government’s health care costs climbed 13 percent last year and are expected to rise another 11 percent this year. At this rate, health care spending will account for nearly a third of all federal spending by 2026.

It took years to pile up this mess. It’s going to take more than the political platitudes and sound bites of late to clean it up.

- The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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HELP FOR ADDICTION, Feb. 2

When a person becomes addicted to heroin, it’s a problem that impacts everyone around them.

A person dealing with addiction needs the help and support of family members and friends. Sometimes the addict will do things they wouldn’t do if they were sober. It takes an understanding support system to deal with the ongoing challenges.

To help make that happen, the federal government is looking to increase funding for heroin addiction programs.

The Obama administration will propose a significant boost in federal spending to battle the nation’s heroin addiction epidemic when the president unveils his budget recommendations next week.

The administration will seek a $1 billion increase in spending over two years to expand access to treatment. It will spend about $127 million on such treatment programs this year.

It will also seek about $90 million more for programs that help states and local governments execute drug prevention strategies and improve access to naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug.

There is bipartisan interest in Congress for the federal government to address the heroin epidemic. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said she hears from Republicans and Democrats about the problem.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is the lead author of a bill that focuses on making sure that patients get the best, evidence-based treatments. Senate leaders from both parties have expressed interest in passing the legislation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that opioids, a class of drugs that include prescription pain medications and heroin, were involved in 28,648 deaths in 2014. In particular, CDC found a continued sharp increase in heroin-involved deaths.

It’s clear that more help and treatment services need to be made available. This proposal is a good step in that direction.

-The (Somerset) Daily American

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PASS THE FAIRNESS ACT, Feb. 1

Business leaders and residents continue to voice their support for legislation that would ensure employment and housing protections to gay and transgender individuals.

It’s time our lawmakers do so, too.

The York County Economic Alliance is on board with the Pennsylvania Fairness Act and there continues to be growing support across York County and the state for such protection. It’s hard to believe that in 2016, as law currently stands, it is legal to fire someone or deny them housing or other services because they are gay or transgender. But in Pennsylvania, it is.

So we would like to stand with the York Economic Alliance, Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, and the LGBT Equality Caucus to urge lawmakers to pass The Pennsylvania Fairness Act (HB 1510/SB 974). This legislation would update the state’s Human Relations Act, originally written in 1955, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, disability, and - with passage of the Fairness Act - sexual orientation and gender identity, can participate in the state’s economy.

Nearly 400 small businesses have signed a letter supporting the Fairness Act and 18 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Pennsylvania have nondiscrimination policies in place to protect gay and transgender workers.

Still, state law is necessary because employment “diversity policies” often actually safeguard a company that engages in unfair practices.

A new Harvard Business Review (HBR) study found that even when there is clear evidence of discrimination at a company, the presence of a diversity policy leads people to discount claims of unfair treatment.

In March 2013 research, HBR found that this is especially true for members of dominant groups and those who tend to believe the system is generally fair. According to HBR:

All this has a real effect in court. In a 2011 Supreme Court class action case, Walmart successfully used the mere presence of its anti-discrimination policy to defend itself against allegations of gender discrimination. And Walmart isn’t alone: the “diversity defense” often succeeds, making organizations less accountable for discriminatory practices.

Furthermore, white men, still the majority in power in the work place, tend to believe they are being treated unfairly simply due to the presence of a diversity policy - or conversation around such policies in the workplace.

In a recent experiment, HBR “found evidence that (a diversity policy) not only makes white men believe that women and minorities are being treated fairly - whether that’s true or not - it also makes them more likely to believe that they themselves are being treated unfairly.”

Last year, advocate groups launched “Pennsylvania Competes,” a bipartisan group of businesses and academic institutions to advocate for the passage of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act to ensure equal practices by law in workplace, housing and business practices.

According to Pennsylvania Competes, 78 percent of Pennsylvania voters support updating the state’s nondiscrimination laws to include protections for gay and transgender people.

Founding members include: Equality Pennsylvania; American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania; American Unity Fund; Human Rights Campaign and Freedom for All Americans.

You can visit www.pacompetes.org to learn about the Pennsylvania Fairness Act and the bipartisan coalition of business and academic leaders supporting the law.

We encourage everyone to support the law that champions community, equal rights and human rights - and makes good business and economic sense, too.

- The York Dispatch

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