Radar for municipalities, the state budget, holding kids back a grade and more in today’s Big Talk topics

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 June 28, topics covered by the Big Talk on First News were lighting up the phones to get radar to our local municipalities, a $41 billion state budget, the former Shamrock Inn burns and a bill to let parents hold their children back a year could be passed in the state Congress.

Listen to the full audio here: https://soundcloud.com/newstalk1037fm/28-june-atty-barkdoll#t=0:00

Let’s call State Rep Tim Hennessey… Tim Hennessey seems to be the guy in terms of getting radar guns in the hands of local borough and township police.

He chairs the House Transportation committee in Harrisburg and historically, Hennessey has been the one to shut the bill down in the past.

We’re talking House Bill 606 and Senate Bill 419. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow local law enforcement to use radar guns.

So let’s get on the phone and tell Hennessey – thoughtfully and respectfully – that we think it’s time to provide our local men and women in blue with radar guns to keep speeding in check in towns.

Call 717-787-3431 and let your voice be heard.

Downtown Chambersburg is at times, quite literally, a speed way in terms of how fast some people drive down pedestrian-populated streets. It’s a real danger and if Chief Camacho and his men and women had radar detectors, we might be able to slow people down.

But the window is really tight to get this done because the General Assembly is set to go on recess after June 30 and won’t return until the fall.

So if we want to get radar in the hands of our municipal police for the summer, this bill needs to pass.

Let’s call Hennessey to pass this bill before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

What does a $41 billion budget mean for PA?

With the Pennsylvania state budget being passed over the weekend – and the price tag is $41 billion (with a B) – is anybody actually looking down the road?

Governor Wolf has said he will sign it and it’s an all-time record for the state of Pennsylvania that passed with bipartisan support.

It reflects an almost 8% increase over spending from last year.

Barkdoll said, “I’ve never seen a budget increase at any level – local, state, federal, school districts, you name it – I’ve never seen an 8% year over year budget increase.”

Yes, revenues are up. Yes, the state received a ton of money from the federal government.

And yes, they did set aside some of it for a rainy day fund.

But what is the stage being set for next year if the starting line is a $41 billion budget?

Jansen pointed out, “Once we see this increase in spending, do you ever see it come down again? Even if you take away the federal money and that extra money, it’s still over a 2% increase.”

Barkdoll added, “The other thing that bothers me with this budget timing and I’ve complained about this for years is you have school districts that pass their budgets in mid-June and the budgets are passed based on a projection of what the state will do. So now the state has passed this budget that’s actually going to give a big injection of new money to school districts. Well school districts have already passed their budgets. Now they’ve learned they’re going to get more money from the state than they anticipated. That new money is just more or less off the books. That almost becomes extra gravy that’s going to go into these school districts because they’ve already passed their budgets.”

The old Shamrock Inn burned over the weekend

A lot of folks remember the building between St. Thomas and McConnellsburg that was known as the Shamrock Coffee Shoppe, Shamrock Inn and Eagles Eyrie at various times over the years.

Franklin County lost a piece of history this weekend when the structure burned to the ground.

Built in 1899, the name changed three times over the years and holds a lot of memories for a lot of people in the area.

Barkdoll recalled, “I always knew it locally as the Eagles Club. That’s a very historic building. They had a lot of community events there over the years as well. That was kind of a go-to place for different things.”

PA parents have until July 15 to decide whether or not to hold their children back a grade

COVID 19 hit the world hard. Some would say children who were taught in virtual classrooms may have been hit the hardest.

A bill that was unanimously passed by both the Pennsylvania House and the Senate will allow parents to make the call whether to have their child repeat last year’s virtual learning scenario in a full-time, face-to-face school year.

Barkdoll said, “I think it’s going to become law. It is on the governor’s desk. Wolf hasn’t indicated whether or not he will sign it, but…a unanimous margin in both chambers, they can easily override the veto.”

July 15 is the deadline to notify school districts if you would like to have your child repeat last year.

School districts need to be getting ahead of this curve now to figure out numbers. There won’t be a lot of time before the fall school year begins.

Barkdoll pointed out, “If enough parents exercise this option, you may have scenarios where local school districts are going to need to add another classroom at certain grade levels, maybe additional resources at certain grade levels but if you’re a parent, you’re going to have roughly two weeks to make up your mind on whether you do this or not.”

Jansen said, “We’ve gotten into this mindset that somehow it’s horrible to ever hold a child back. It used to be that there was this idea that if you don’t do well you’re going to get held back and I think that was good motivation for students and teachers alike. Now we just keep passing everybody through all the time. Then you add on top of this this horrible year of COVID I think that former mindset I’m talking about is so there that to even get parents to think along these lines might be a struggle and who’s really talking about this? I really haven’t seen this trumpeted in the news very much and I don’t think the school districts will be that anxious for the reasons you just stated. I can’t see them really trying to educate parents about this either and I think it’s a shame because I think this is the one year that you really should consider this if your child is struggling.”

Barkdoll added, “I feel like when I was in grade school it as routine that kids would be held back. They even had a grade called Transition where people would be deliberately diverted into this holding year where they would repeat a grade. If I’m a local school board member administrator, I would be sending a survey out today because you’re hearing nothing about this from the school districts. If this becomes law by the end of this week, even if 5% or 10% of parents in a school district exercise this option, you’re having a school district that might be caught very flat footed when they’re only going to have about four to five weeks then to prepare for this.”

Ryan said, “We’re too busy arguing on social media with the school board president to worry about asking parents. Why would we want to do something as sensible as that?”