Categories Op/Ed

Letter to the Editor: Hickernell Is Nice, But He Hasn’t Accomplished Much

letter, LTE

It’s about time. Specifically, too much time.

First, Rep. David S. Hickernell is a nice person. He graciously accepted my son as a high school senior intern a few years ago, and I do appreciate that. As a voter, however, I need to support candidates who appear to bring the most value to our community. I read with interest his recent flurry of mailers describing his efforts in Harrisburg. It seems we only hear from him when he wants another term. Specifically, he touted his school support record.

Rep. Hickernell has been in office, largely unopposed, since 2003. He currently serves as the Chair of the House Education committee. What education-related legislation has he sponsored that reflects an understanding of the practical realities within his own district? His name appears on 167 bills in the 2017 session. He was the primary sponsor of only 11. Of those, only 3 pertained to education.

HB1002 was to allow social studies teachers to claim credit for taking theology courses because they are required to “teach about world religions” (theology courses specific to one religion are by definition not “comparative” in an academic sense). HB648 was intended to allow for schools to borrow money to fund operations in the event of another budget impasse (seems reasonable). HB1744 was intended to defund Educational Access Programs for “libraries, museums, community centers, historical societies, and musical theatre” — because they were in other school districts (which seems petty). However, none of these even went to a roll call vote.

When his mailer states he “delivered record funding” and “provided $60 million in school safety grants” (Act 44 — SB 1142), it means he along with many others simply voted for a bill that he had no direct involvement in crafting. Yet school funding would have been even higher if he had not voted with former Gov. Corbett to cut school funding a few years ago. And perhaps he would like to explain why there is currently a lawsuit against the state Department of Education from six other districts “on whether state officials are violating the state’s constitution by failing to adequately and equitably fund public education.” Where has he been on developing a fair and sustainable funding formula?

What he means by “supports local control” and “promotes technical education” is that there is no actual legislation on those concerns. Just a couple sound bites for his mailer.

He also states he opposed an increase in the state sales tax and also wants to eliminate property taxes. Exactly how does he propose funding the schools he represents in his committee?

His “5 Point Integrity Pledge” is 15 years overdue.

What he did vote for was to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients — an expensive-to-administer effort to weed out the so-called “able-bodied” who do not cost the state much precisely because

the truly “able-bodied” don’t need much healthcare. Instead, those disenrolled “able-bodied” would be denied acute and preventive care – increasing the chances that their inexpensive or undiagnosed issues today become very expensive issues tomorrow. Worse, given the complexity of verifying twice a year whether 500,000 Medicaid recipients are “working or exempt” ensures that many deserving recipients would inappropriately lose coverage. Those are precisely the concerns that led the courts to block Kentucky’s very similar Medicaid work requirements law over the summer.

State Sen. Ryan Aument also voted for this misguided legislation when it reached the Senate Health committee on which he serves. Plain common sense tells us that healthy people can work to their potential — work by itself does not make people healthy. Unemployed people get sick just like the rest of us. Are their lives worth less?

Thankfully and sensibly, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed that bill.

We need thoughtful, compassionate leadership in Harrisburg, not conservative ideologues deciding whose lives are not worthy of access to healthcare. Healthcare is complicated, costly and inevitable. Let’s work toward solutions that provide healthcare security at sustainable costs rather than exclude coverage for some in the false hope of preserving coverage for ourselves. We can do better than that.

If you are looking for engaged, enthusiastic proponents of education and healthcare issues that affect you every day, vote for Mary Auker-Endres and Bill Troutman. Mary, challenging Dave Hickernell for 98th District House of Representatives, is an Elizabethtown mother and childbirth educator who believes public policy should actually be for the good of the public. Bill, challenging Ryan Aument for 36th District Senate, is an electrician, Scout leader and Elizabethtown borough councilman who continued his campaign from his hospital room after a serious car accident last winter when others would have called it quits.

They’ll have your back!

DAVID EICHELBERGER

West Donegal Township

About the author