State Sen.John H. EichelbergerJr. also addressed a Chamber of Commerce crowd at the John Allison Public House.
Eichelberger, who said he was very impressed by Manitowoc’s operations and Norfolk Southern’s project, currently represents Bedford, Blair, Fulton, Huntingdon and part of Mifflin counties. When the legislature approved redistricting maps aligned with U.S. Census data, Eichelberger gained the Tuscarora and Greencastle-Antrim school districts in his 30th Senate District.
Court decisions and new attempts from the state reapportionment commission have left district maps in limbo.
Eichelberger said the chances of getting maps approved for the 2012 election cycle are nil.
“It looks like we’ll be in our current district for two more years,” he said.
Eichelberger expects to lose Bedford County and gain one-third of Franklin County under redistricting.
Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, is Franklin County’s current representative in the state Senate.
Eichelberger, who lives in Blair County, became a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2007 after 11 years as a county commissioner. He shared with the crowd what he sees as the biggest issues in the legislature.
Eichelberger shared information about increased contributions to pension funds for teachers and other public employees. He said that system needs a dramatic overhaul.
“Welfare is another area that continues to grow. It grows at a rate of about 8 percent a year, far beyond the rate of inflation,” Eichelberger said, commending state leaders on their efforts to limit fraud and abuse.
The inmate population in state prisons has risen 500 percent since 1980, Eichelberger said.
“In that time, we built 18 new prisons in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Prisons remain 13 percent above bed capacity and spend $35,000 per inmate a year, Eichelberger said.
Some inmates should be released sooner or not incarcerated at all if they are nonviolent offenders, since electronic monitoring now provides more options, Eichelberger said.
“You can do a lot of other things with people other than warehouse them,” he said.
Luncheon attendees — who included state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, and Alloway — asked Eichelberger about prevailing wage, pensions, taxes on natural gas drilling, transportation and work force development.