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Adkisson: Education chair shuns learning

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I spent most of Tuesday at the State Capitol in Harrisburg where, along with other members of the Pennsylvania News Media Association, I met with state officials and our local representatives.

It was a pleasure to visit with state Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) and Rep. Will Tallman (R-Adams), who not only listened respectfully to our concerns, but who also asked good questions.

In order to consider a position that may be different than their own or to help them form a position on which they may be unsettled, they seemed to truly appreciate new information.

And then there is Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), whose Senate Bill 300 passed out of committee last week. The bill puts any provider who performs abortions that are not federally qualified for Medicaid dollars at the back of the line for funding, even if they provide other services that are Medicaid-qualified.

A potential target is Planned Parenthood, which is federally qualified for many medical services but also offers abortion services. While Planned Parenthood and organizations like it do not receive state or federal reimbursements for abortions, they do receive funding for services such as cancer screenings, STD treatment and others.

Medicaid dollars can only go toward abortions in three circumstances: rape, incest or protecting the life of the mother.

In other words, Planned Parenthood might be moved to the back of the line for funding for all of its services because it provides abortion services outside those three categories.

Reasonable people may disagree on abortion itself, or on federal or state dollars being used for that purpose. But why hinder the work of Planned Parenthood and the many good and necessary services it offers?

When questioned, Eichelberger stunned the crowd, and those who watched and read the reports, when he admitted he did not know what services Planned Parenthood offered.

But it is not the first time the senator has displayed a fundamental lack of knowledge over an issue or position he champions.

In his blog, the senator recently wrote that governments should no longer pay newspapers for legal notice publication, which is mandated by the state constitution. He prefers that legal notices simply be available on the internet.

And this is where the senator’s lack of knowledge and/or lack of desire to know comes into play.

One would think that a person who seriously desires to do what is best for the citizens of his district and the people of the state would seek to understand; but not Sen. Eichelberger.

Since 2001 the state’s newspapers have placed all public notices online at http://www.publicnoticepa.com/. Every public notice published may be read in full on the site. The site allows searches by county, topic, date etc.

PNMA member newspapers and their associated websites reach 82 percent of all Pa. households each week. It would take tens of millions of marketing dollars each year for the state to drive that many people to their sites. But perhaps that is the real goal, to operate in the dark, to put the notices where they know they will never be found or read.

It is simply unfathomable to me that an elected official would champion change, much less a constitutional change, when he lacks basic, critical subject matter for the topic.

In his snarky blogpost, the senator said that if it were up to newspapers “we would still have town criers,” yet it is newspapers that voluntarily initiated digital delivery of the notices 16 years ago.

Digital notices are not required by law and the expense of the endeavor is not reimbursed. It is a free service of the participating newspapers.

We understand the senator’s motivation when it comes to newspapers and public notices. He is still smarting from the shellacking he took over comments he made at a public meeting stating that inner city kids should not be encouraged or enabled to attend college when vocational training might better suit them.

We also understand his position on funding abortions and abortion providers. He shares a view held by millions of Americans, and I suspect a good many Pennsylvanians.

It’s not the position that is the problem, but rather his lack of knowledge and/or apparent lack of desire to gain the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions that is the problem.

Isn’t it ironic that it is the head of the Senate’s Education Committee who shows no interest in learning?

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