Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



As the Jerry Sandusky case developed and its fallout rocked Penn State University, the university's board of trustees asked the university community and the public for their trust regarding everything from the firing of football coach Joe Paterno to the future stewardship of the institution.

Over the last two years Penn State alumni have expressed their dissatisfaction with the board by dismissing all four board members who have stood for re-election. Two others chose not to run.

Now, as remaining trustees from the original board express dismay over the reluctance by many alumni and other interested parties to "move on," the university has attempted to stop the release of information that likely would provide insight into the board's decision-making.

Penn State is one of four state-affiliated universities, all of which are exempt from the state's Open Records Law.

State government officials who are members of those institutions' boards, by virtue of their public positions, are not exempt from the law.

A Penn State alumnus, Ryan Bagwell, has attempted to obtain communications between the PSU board and one of its members - Ronald Tomalis, the state secretary of education at the time of the crisis.

Records sought by Mr. Bagwell deal with the board's establishment of its special investigative task force, the roles of the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference in the inquiry, the hiring of Louis J. Freeh and leaks to the media prior to the release of Mr. Freeh's controversial report.

The state Open Records Office originally ruled that Mr. Bagwell was not entitled to the records because PSU is exempt from the Open Records Law. But Mr. Bagwell didn't seek the records from PSU; he sought them from the Department of Education. In July, the full Commonwealth Court ruled, 6-1, that the relevant records are public records because they are in possession of the DOE and deal with the work of the education secretary in his official capacity.

The court sent the matter back to the Office of Open Records for a review of 155 records still being withheld by the DOE despite the court's finding. Now, the OOR has approved Penn State's participation in that review.

The education secretary represents the public, no one else. His communications with Mr. Freeh and then-Trustees Ken Frazier, John Sturma and Steve Garban and others, inherently are public business. They should be released.

— The (Scranton) Times-Tribune



The rumors of Gov. Tom Corbett's political difficulties having an effect on his chances of re-election next year have been swirling among Republican pols for some time.

They were first reported this summer, when the governor, still reeling from his failed attempt to privatize administration of the state lottery, couldn't seem to do anything right.

His legislative agenda died a slow death in the Republican Legislature. He couldn't get needed pension reform passed. He couldn't get a transportation bill passed, despite bipartisan support for the idea. He couldn't get privatization of the state's liquor stores passed - something that the Republican-controlled Legislature generally favors.

His approval rating took a nosedive, reaching levels only seen in similar polls regarding Congress. A poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall College in September found that only 17 percent approved of the job he was doing. Just 11 percent of the voters in Allegheny County, his home county, approved of his job performance. The same poll found that 69 percent of Pennsylvanians believe it's time for a new governor.

He has become political poison.

And then, he had to open his mouth and say something dumb about same-sex marriage, comparing it with incest. His comment made national headlines and he felt compelled to issue an apology.

In the wake of that, the website PoliticsPA posted a story about GOP unrest, noting that some unnamed Republicans were exploring the possibility of fielding a primary challenge to Gov. Corbett.

"The dam is breaking," one unnamed GOP official told PoliticsPa. "It's just a matter of getting the right group of people in front of the governor to say, 'The party's over.'"

The story quoted another unnamed GOP operative as saying, "There's a level of embarrassment and shame now that wasn't there on Thursday. What he said yesterday will be shown on TV wall to wall in southeast Pa. next November."

So far, though, these are just rumors and grumbling under the surface. No GOP officials have gone on the record supporting a primary challenge to the governor. No serious candidates have come forward. And perhaps none will.

But among Republicans, there is definite concern that Gov. Corbett's unpopularity will harm the party brand in the commonwealth and that his political problems will affect other GOP candidates, putting the Republican majorities in the Legislature at risk.

All of this could be dismissed as political inside baseball, the kind of game that is taken very seriously by people who take this kind of stuff very seriously. None of this matters to small business owners trying to figure out how to afford health insurance for employees, or families trying to afford tuition at a state college, or senior citizens trying to hold onto their homes as property taxes rise.

What matters is effective governing. It appears that a lot of Pennsylvanians have lost faith in Gov. Corbett's ability to govern. A lot of those Pennsylvanians identify themselves as Republicans, and given the choice between Gov. Corbett and a Democrat-to-be-named-later, they might feel that they have no choice and decide to sit this election out.

They should have a choice.

Choices are always good. It's good for democracy and good for our commonweal. It leads to healthy debate over ideas - not the seeming endless tastes-great-less-filling type of empty political debates that we often get.

It should be pointed out that eight Democrats are currently running to replace Gov. Corbett. That primary race should certainly feature a wide-ranging debate over public policy.

And that's good.

It should also happen on the other side of the ballot.

— York Daily Record/Sunday News



You have to give state Rep. Tim Mahoney credit for standing up and speaking his mind. Unlike so many public officials who tell the people what they want to hear, Mahoney tells it the way it is in plain English that everyone can understand.

Mahoney, D-South Union Township, was at it again this past week, in talking about the recent measure passed by the state House of Representatives to allow local school boards to reduce or eliminate school property taxes by raising taxes on businesses and residents.

While everyone in Harrisburg was busy congratulating themselves for supposedly solving the thorny problem of soaring property taxes, Mahoney was calling the measure what it really is, "a fluff game to make it look like something's being done."

Since he was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2006, Mahoney has talked about the need to eliminate property taxes as the main funding source for public education. We couldn't agree with him more. Not only does increasing property taxes unfairly target senior citizens, it's also a millstone around the necks of school district officials who can't raise enough money through the property tax to properly fund the education of their students. Meanwhile, it's great for officials in more affluent school districts who have tons of money at their disposal through their property taxes.

The property tax simply doesn't provide a level playing field for students and taxpayers across the commonwealth. A lot of people have pushed for changes over the years and state Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks, had come up with what many people thought was a good idea. He proposed eliminating the school property tax by raising the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent and taking the state's sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. Most importantly, the money would to into a statewide fund and be distributed equitably across the state.

The measure seemed to be gaining support among lawmakers with approximately 90 signing on as co-sponsors. Keep in mind that there are 203 lawmakers in the House, so it only takes 102 votes to get a bill passed.

But leaders in the state House of Representatives had different ideas. They trotted out their own bill to allow school boards to reduce property taxes on their own in favor of unspecified higher taxes on residents and businesses.

Cox took a chance proposing an amendment to the measure, basically asking legislators to vote on his bill, Act 76. It was soundly defeated by a margin of 138-59.

The next day, the lawmakers passed the Republican bill by a margin of 149-46, shifting the onus of dealing with the problem to local school boards, who in all probability won't do anything to change the way taxes are currently levied. Imagine the outcry from businesses if they're forced to pony up more in mercantile taxes or from local residents if they have to pay more in income taxes?

"It's a political bombshell for school boards," said Mahoney.

The other problem is that it still doesn't deal with the inequities in school funding. Each district would be on their own as they are now, sinking or swimming with the resources available to them.

So, we're back to where we started and unfortunately it's hard to tell when this problem will ever really be solved. While it wasn't perfect, Act 76 at least provided the opportunity to start dealing with this issue.

The only consolation is that we have a politician like Mahoney who has the guts and fortitude to call a spade a spade. But nothing in Harrisburg or anywhere else for that matter will change until more politicians follow his lead and start speaking the truth about the difficult issues and problems facing us.

— (Uniontown) Herald-Standard



Actions usually speak louder than words. In the case of Gov. Tom Corbett, the words keep getting in the way over and over. It makes us wonder if he has lost his ability to be a leader.

Friday, Corbett compared gay marriage to brother-sister incest during a local TV show in an attempt to provide an example of a relationship barred from marriage in Pennsylvania. It was an attempt to distance himself from his legal team's comparison of gay marriage to marriage of 12-year-olds.

This follows a pattern from a man who can't stop bashing large groups of people "indirectly" with his words.

— Women: He told women to "close your eyes" when discussing a bill that would force women to watch an ultrasound exam prior to an abortion.

— Unemployed people: Corbett said drug abuse explains why so many Pennsylvanians are unemployed: "Many employers that say we're looking for people but can't find anyone who has passed a drug test."

— Latinos: Asked about the lack of Latinos with jobs in his administration, he told a Latino forum, "If you can find us one, please let me know."

Corbett gives the appearance of a man who has stopped trying to be political. He knows what he is saying. The filter is clearly gone, the lack of sensitivity obvious. Corbett did offer an half-hearted apology for the gay marriage comment goof later in the day Friday, saying, "My words were not intended to offend anyone. If they did, I apologize."

There isn't an "if" here. The words were offensive, and you have to know that as a man who runs an entire state. Heck, the man even smirked when offering the remark on TV.

The governor, who is up for re-election next year, has some of the lowest job-approval ratings in the country and is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the 2014 elections.

It appears he no longer cares anymore who he offends, even if it's the people he serves. You can have your beliefs, but as a political leader it's not just about you, it's about the people you represent.

— The (Carlisle) Sentinel