McGinnis: GOP missed its big chance in 2014

Lou Schmitt, the presumptive next representative for the state House 79th District, may be starting his duties earlier than he realizes, according to incumbent John McGinnis.

McGinnis’ time in office will end Nov. 30, and the next day, his successor takes office. Schmitt won the Republican nomination in a primary with no Democratic challenger. If elected in November, Schmitt will become responsible for maintenance of the local district office, said McGinnis on Tuesday, after congratulating Schmitt on his victory over Sharon Bream, whose campaign McGinnis managed.

The next 79th representative, however, won’t be sworn in until the first Tuesday of 2019, McGinnis said.

McGinnis plans to assist his successor in the transition. “No one will be working harder to help,” he said.

The new representative will get to decide whether to keep the district office at its current location on 12th Avenue in the Gable’s building, McGinnis said.

One disadvantage of that location is plowed snow, which can make it difficult for residents to access the office in winter, McGinnis said.

Conversely, there are reasons to stay, including a wait time of four to six weeks to prepare the electronics connections for another office, he said.

The Constitution actually allows the swearing-in of the state’s new House as early as Dec. 1, McGinnis said.

He wishes the Republicans had taken advantage of that potential for an early start in late 2014, after that year’s general election gave the party big majorities in the House and Senate.

If it had, they could have passed pro-life, Second Amendment and “paycheck” protection laws and a move toward privatizing liquor sales, because incumbent Republican Tom Corbett was still governor until mid-January, when Democrat Tom Wolf took over.

“Weak knees” on the part of the House leadership led to that “loss of opportunity,” McGinnis said.

A few years ago, Michigan lawmakers took advantage of their “interregnum” to pass a “right-to-work” law that still holds, he said.

McGinnis, 64, doesn’t know yet what he’ll do after his term ends.

“It’s up to God,” he said.

It’s not unpleasant to contemplate having nothing to do and plenty of time to do it in, he said.

And he can probably afford retirement — although it wouldn’t be a “lush” one, he said.

It’s also not unpleasant to contemplate the end of his term in the House, he said.

“I never liked the job,” he stated. “I did it out of a sense of duty.”

He hates “government tyranny,” he said.

He also dislikes the pervasiveness of requests for money for selfish causes, he said.

“All but the NRA,” he said. “They just want to be left alone.”

The whole setup renders lawmakers “brokers of stolen property,” he said, paraphrasing H.L. Mencken, who wrote, “Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods.”

Asked whether he hopes to return to a professorship at Penn State, McGinnis said, “Penn State gripes me the most,” because of its pursuit of state taxpayer funds despite “billions in assets.”

Nevertheless, he might enjoy another teaching gig, he said.

Christopher Forshey, who helped McGinnis run Bream’s campaign, met McGinnis when McGinnis was an associate professor of finance at Penn State Altoona in 2006.

“I was mesmerized by how smart he was,” Forshey said.

McGinnis also spoke with honesty and directness, Forshey said.

Forshey was therefore pleased when McGinnis announced he planned to challenge longtime incumbent state Rep. Rick Geist as a reformer, Forshey said.

He took a pay cut to serve, Forshey said.

Along with then-new state Sen. John Eichelberger, McGinnis helped turn popular opinion against generous lawmaker pensions and per diems, and when in office, he homed in on the state’s overall pension crisis, bringing needed attention to a financially explosive issue, Forshey said.

He was no favorite among some of his constituents, Forshey said.

“(But) he is unique in the way he approaches things,” Forshey said. “It may be a long time until Pennsylvania sees another guy like him.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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