State Sen. Andy Dinniman gave a fascinating yet discouraging insider's view of how Harrisburg operates (or doesn't) during his talk at West Grove Friends Meeting on March 15.
Andy's topic (no disrespect; everyone calls him "Andy") was the Pennsylvania Constitution, and he spoke about a wide range of issues that have constitutional implications: the election of judges, the funding of education, the growth of national school curricula and testing like Common Core and No Child Left Behind, the no-receipts-required per diem payments for members of Congress, gerrymandering and the pervasive, toxic role of money in politics. With refreshingly bipartisan candor, he didn't hesitate to point out the faults of both parties.
He spoke at length and with evident frustration about how the state is not doing nearly enough to monitor the Mariner pipeline project, which he said is having negative effects on nearby properties, like creating sinkholes and drying up wells. Its safety risks -- what if there is an explosion? -- have not been assessed adequately; he described an elaborate system of roadblocks he encountered by agencies debating who should do the safety report and then refusing to make it public.
Again, the overarching role of money came into play: he explained that unions are backing the pipeline project because it creates jobs, and unions are big campaign contributors. That, he concluded, seems to outrank Section 27 of the Constitution's Article 1: "The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment."
Andy noted that although legislators take an oath to uphold the Constitution, he wonders whether some of them have actually read it.