Keep it on ice…The Big Talk covers Transource, transparency, the Supreme Court and the US Capitol this morning

CHAMBERSBURG – Every weekday morning on First News, the local – live morning radio information show with Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen features the big talk topics and opinion from local Attorney Clint Barkdoll.

On July 2, topics covered by the Big Talk on First News were Transource appeals, transparency legislation, the final decisions of the Supreme Court and the US Capitol still being closed.

Listen to the full audio here:

Transource appeals

Transource Energy, a partnership between two huge electric power companies, had plans to build a $372 million project that would cut across sections of Franklin, Adams and York counties with miles of high voltage transmission lines.

A few months ago that project was shut down by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Well, Transource has filed appeals in both the Commonwealth Court and Middle District Federal Court recently.

Barkdoll said, “I don’t think this appeal is going to be successful, but they’re nonetheless allowed to do this. “

It will be many months until any decision is made on the appeal.

Transparency is coming to a municipality near YOU

Governor Wolf signed into law yesterday legislation that will require all municipalities in Pennsylvania, including school boards, councils, commissioners and townships, to post meeting agendas online at least 24 hours before the meeting.

Additionally if there’s something discussed in the meeting that’s not on the agenda, they cannot take action on it.

The law will become effective in 60 days.

These “skeletal agendas,” where it’s just a word or two and no description of the topic being discussed will no longer be allowed.

Barkdoll said, “I think this is a good development for transparency, the public, the media and I think it’s going to hold local government more accountable.”

Jansen agreed, “That’s excellent. For all the things we’ve been talking about lately. I noticed there’s a lot of variability between our different school districts. It’s nice to see there will probably be some more consistency then. We need more transparency for sure. We need for people to be aware of things that are being put into place and so many of these things do slip under the radar.”

Barkdoll said, “Many places were complying with this but many were not. My hope would be going forward that maybe there just becomes this clearing house website that there’s a place you can go and see all of these agendas as they’re posted because…many times we learn that something got passed after the fact that was not an agenda item, the public knew nothing about it. I think this new law will go a long way to preventing those kind of things from happening in the future.”

Some agendas have been so generic it’s difficult to figure out what will even be discussed.

Barkdoll said, “They’re going to have to have more specificity on those agendas so that the public or the media looking at those agendas the day before can better ascertain what it really is that they’re going to be voting on or discussing.”

Supreme Court is out until October

With its final decision in the books, the United States Supreme Court will be in recess until October.

There’s been no word about the possible retirement of Justice Breyer and the final two decisions dealt with voting regulations and non-profit donors.

Arizona laws were in place that restricted ballot harvesting and there were questions about people showing up at the wrong district to vote.

The Supreme Court said in a 6-3 decisions those laws are perfectly legitimate.

Barkdoll said, “States do have the right to put reasonable restrictions around voting and that includes things like security, preventing fraud. And I think the decision on preventing ballot harvesting is very positive and that’s something other states need to look at.”

The Supreme Court also said that non-profits do not need to disclose the identities of their major donors.

Barkdoll said, “I think that was a good decision. Charities were very concerned about that case because had it gone the other way there was some argument that large donors would be less willing to make big donations to a charity.”

Barkdoll continued, “One takeaway from this term is I think you are seeing a Supreme Court that is not as partisan as a lot of people feared it might be whether you’re on the left or the right. You wonder is that undermining this commission, this study group that’s looking at reforms of the Supreme Court. You saw a lot of unanimous decisions. You also see at least two or three of the justices that are very much in the middle. You see them voting both ways, liberal and conservative. I think in an odd way whether people agree or disagree with the decision they’ve made this term, they’ve maybe bolstered their own case that they don’t need reforms, they don’t need new justices and all these other things that the Biden administration are looking at.”

Jansen added, “It’s the argument I’ve always made with my liberal cousin. I always tell her don’t worry so much about the ones that are quote unquote conservative because if they’re actually following the constitution and staying within those bounds, they’re going to have these votes that go both ways. That’s to me the test of whether a judge is actually doing what they’re supposed to do is to see that going both ways.”

Why is the US Capitol still closed?

With the rest of the nation preparing for celebrations of our country’s independence on the 4th of July, why is our Nation’s Capitol still shut down?

Barkdoll said, “There’s no good explanation for it. It’s crazy. It has been closed for a long time now.”

There are some upgrades to the facility and upgrades to security underway.

Barkdoll said, “There is no reason that this capitol should not be open to the public. This is the people’s House. This is what everyone pays for and takes pride in. Unfortunately I’ve seen nothing from the General Services Administration. They’re not indicating when it’s going to reopen. They keep saying the goal is to reopen, but they’ve not given a date on when this is going to happen.”