Private property rights are a bedrock of the American Dream. The threshold for taking those rights by eminent domain must, therefore, be set extremely high. The benefits to the larger community from such seizure must be so clear that it leaves little debate among the citizens. By this standard, the proposed Transource power line project fails to justify such a violation of rights. Let’s be honest, owners cannot be truly compensated for their loss. Publicly protected land will be severed and the natural beauty of southern York County despoiled. Ongoing maintenance of such a line will mean ongoing violations of privacy.
The justification for this project has been totally inadequate. All this to save a few pennies for consumers in Washington and northern Virginia? A huge sacrifice by landowners is being proposed for so little impact on utility bills. It is entirely possible that conservation methods and alternative energy sources will even erase the few cents predicted by the line’s efficiency proponents.
We should be grateful to the York County Commissioners and the Planning Commission for their formal opposition. Although Representative Kristin Phillips Hill has not publicly opposed the project, she has, at least, spoken out forcefully against the coercive and illegal methods used by the agents of Transource Energy. Since the proposed line also goes through part of the 94th House District, it is discouraging that Representative Stan Saylor has not stood up for his constituents by opposing the project and the tactics used by the company. Silence speaks volumes. Perhaps it is the tens of thousands of dollars that the power industry has contributed to his campaigns that has left him mute. Whose interests does he serve?
This letter was originally published in The Delta Star in February, 2018.
Sharing gifts during the holiday season gives us an opportunity to show love and affection for family and friends. Yes, it can sometimes include stress, excessive shopping and lingering credit card bills, but it is a meaningful part of the holiday nonetheless.
The year-round gift-giving in state government, however, is not such a good tradition. Lobbyists use this tactic to exercise influence over legislators, even if the exchange is only subtle and implied. Surprisingly, this act is not illegal, unless a gift is an explicit agreement to support a given bill.
I propose to redraw the line for honesty and fairness in the House.
Some government groups in Harrisburg are pushing for legislation to ban such gifting. House Bill 39 was introduced about a year ago and it will make it illegal for public officials and/or state employees to “solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any transportation, lodging or hospitality or anything of economic value as a gift from any person” who seeks a contractual or business relationship, or any person who is compensated to influence the passage or defeat of legislation, i.e. lobbyists.
As 11 months passed without any sensible discussion of the bill, York delegates in the House continue to ignore it. A concerned representative would not dismiss this major issue of potential fraud and corruption.
As his opponent in the election of November 2018, I request that Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, who represents our 94th House district, co-sponsor the bill and use his influence as a committee chair to move it to a vote.
Legislators earn enough. Augmenting their salaries through gifts is inappropriate and can lead to corruption. Let’s work to end this tradition of exchanging gifts for favors in the House and focus instead on sharing gifts with our loved ones this upcoming holiday season.
This letter was originally printed in The York Dispatch.
The Pennsylvania budget passed by the General Assembly once more fails the integrity test. Again, they’ve proposed excessive borrowing and the extremely unwise expansion of gambling in our communities. It is very disappointing.
A few independent Republican voices in the State Senate were willing to consider a severance tax on natural gas to help balance the budget. That did not include Senator Scott Wagner or, among others in the York County delegation, Stan Saylor. While the latter has not explained his opposition, we might assume that it parallels that of Wagner who encouraged Saylor to oppose a severance tax in order to advance his own campaign for governor. What a discouraging look at the self-serving “politics as usual” in Harrisburg!
In his editorial which appeared in the York Sunday News on October 29th (“Why a Fracking Tax Would Hurt PA”), Wagner asserted that imposing a severance tax on gas drilling would drive away the industry. That is a ridiculous assumption. Under “Penn’s Woods” (now ours?), sits one of the largest gas fields in the world and they want it. It should provide greater benefit to the citizens of our state, not simply add to the excessive profits of huge energy companies.
The state Constitution’s Sec. 27, the Environmental Rights clause, reads:
“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. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
For emphasis, “for the benefit of all the people.” That means, at minimum, a fair tax on this natural resource.
This letter was originally printed in The York Daily Record on November 15, 2017.
Steve Snell was invited by the York County Young Democrats, an organization that works to energize the Democratic youth in York County, to their regular #CoffeeWithCandidates interview series. Shane Coolbaugh, president, and Samantha Fullam, vice-president of the organization and the Councilwoman-elect for Hallam Borough, asked questions that ranged from the definition of being a Democrat to complex policy issues and Steve’s vision for the 94th Legislative District.
On Oct. 12, I announced my candidacy for the 94th District of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. That election isn’t until November of next year, so there will be plenty of time to address important issues that face our state. For that reason, a former elected official advised me to use this first column since the announcement to introduce myself. Good advice and I’ll do so after I get something off my chest.
The annual state budget impasse has become a ridiculous partisan ritual that must stop. It indicates that the process for developing it is broken and must be changed. We have, year after year, played this budget game, keeping our public schools, college students, agencies and millions of citizens on edge, wondering if the budget standoff will affect them.
It is indeed disappointing that we have not learned how to revise the process by instituting earlier deadlines and holding the legislators themselves more accountable. The incumbent who I’m challenging, Appropriations Committee Chairperson Stan Saylor, was instrumental in preparing the spending plan that passed the House several months ago. However, they have failed to identify the revenues necessary to fund it. To most citizens, it makes no sense to pass expenditures and only later look for the money to support that spending. None of us would think that was a wise way to balance our household budget. That is just as true for the state.
Even though one party controls both chambers of the General Assembly, they have yet to agree among themselves about revenue sources. Proposals that rely on borrowing, which “kicks the can down the road” and leaves the problem for our children, are absolutely unacceptable. Meanwhile, revenue from Marcellus shale drilling, imposed by every other state, is ignored. Neither Saylor nor others in House leadership have provided an adequate explanation for that multi-million-dollar gift to the gas industry. Something needs to change.
Now, let me get back to introducing myself. I was born in Pennsylvania and have lived here for 65 years. My wife and I are residents of Windsor Township, having moved there from Red Lion borough 23 years ago.
I attended Susquehanna University for three years and then earned a BA from the University of Kentucky. In 1979, while teaching high school, I earned a master’s degree from Millersville University.
After teaching for eight years, I served as the executive officer of the local Realtors association for 30 years, retiring in 2015. In that position, I oversaw the merger of the York County Association of REALTORS with its Hanover-Adams County counterpart which resulted in the creation of the current REALTORS Association of York & Adams Counties Inc. (RAYAC). That association is not a nonprofit but has paid federal corporate income taxes and local property taxes. Ten years ago, I led the association’s construction of its current office building behind the HACC campus in the city’s business park. That position also required the management of a seven-figure budget and a staff of 10.
I am married to the former Glenda Marshall of New Freedom. We have five children, 11 grandchildren and a great-grandson. Our four daughters graduated from Red Lion Area High School, and they have each earned college degrees. Family is very important to me, and their future is a motivating factor in my decision to run.
Throughout my life, I have been deeply involved in serving the community, believing that one person can, indeed, make a difference. I feel it is my civic responsibility to give time and talent toward making our area a great place to live.
Among the community groups I’m currently serving are York Fresh Food Farms (board of directors), South Central Assembly (board of directors and former president), the York Housing Coalition (formerly the York Housing Advisory Commission) and the Red Lion-Dallastown Rotary Club.
Previously, I was actively involved in supporting York County Crimestoppers (20-year board member & former president), Red Lion Area School Board (elected director), York County Economic Development Corp (board of directors), Windsor Township Traffic Impact Fee Committee (chairperson), Red Lion Communities that Care, Downtown York Rotary Club, and my church (board of directors/deacons and former president).
As my background shows, I’m not looking for a career. I’ve had one. Career politicians have been unwilling or unable to address some of our state’s real challenges. Intense partisanship, the inability to compromise and the desire to get re-elected and re-elected, have all hindered our progress. With the support of the voters, I’d like the opportunity to help make some needed changes.
This letter was originally printed in The York Daily Record on October 17, 2017.
The longtime leader of the York County Association of Realtors will try to unseat York County’s longest-serving state representative in 2018.
Steve Snell, of Windsor Township, announced Thursday, Oct. 12, that he will run as a Democrat in the 94th District, where Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, is currently serving his 13th term.
Snell served as executive director of the local Realtors association for 30 years before retiring in 2015. He previously held elected office as a Red Lion Area School Board member about 25 years ago, he said.
In a phone interview with The York Dispatch, Snell said his decision to run isn’t based on any one issue, though in his speech announcing his candidacy — which he posted on his campaign website — he spoke primarily about the House Republicans’ refusal to pass a Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction tax.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has been pushing for the tax as the Legislature still hasn’t passed a revenue plan to complete this year’s budget, which was due July 1.
Snell pointed to recent reports of state Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, claiming he told Saylor not to let the severance tax pass because it would help Wolf get re-elected.
Wagner is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018, and Saylor holds a leadership position as House Appropriations Chairman.
Saylor has denied Wagner’s influence and pointed out that he’s been strongly opposed to the severance tax his entire career.
“We have all wondered why, despite wide public support for fair taxation of (the natural gas) industry, the House refuses to consider it,” Snell said in his speech. “Every other state taxes that industry, so why would we ignore that source of revenue?”
Snell said other issues that resonated with him are getting rid of school property taxes — he said he would vote in favor of Senate Bill 76 to completely eliminate school property taxes — and eliminating gerrymandering.
York County has only one Democratic representative — Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, of York City — currently serving in the General Assembly, and many Republican incumbents, including Saylor, ran unopposed in 2016.
“The power of voters in this area has been diluted in part by gerrymandering, and also without good candidates to challenge incumbents,” Snell said, pointing out that his sentiment also applies to Republicans challenging Democrats in York City.
Saylor has faced a Democratic challenger during four of his past six elections, but he never received less than 70 percent of the vote, according to York County election records.
This article was written by David Weissman and originally appeared in The York Dispatch on October 13, 2017.
Full Transcript: Steve Snell Announcement Speech
Thursday, October 12th 2017
Red Lion, PA
Good morning. My name is Steve Snell. With mixed emotions I stand here today to declare my candidacy for the 94th District of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The first emotion is enthusiasm because I am anxious to directly serve all the citizens of southeastern York County and indirectly the citizens of the entire Commonwealth. I believe I have demonstrated a lifetime of service to the community and I know I have more to give. And I strongly believe that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives needs help.
The other emotions are disappointment and frustration. We have, year after year, played the budget game, keeping our public schools, college students, agencies and millions of citizens on edge, wondering if the budget impasse will affect them. It is indeed disappointing that we have not learned how to resolve it. It is absurd to pass a spending bill and only later try to find the money to support that spending. Even though one side of the aisle controls both chambers of the General Assembly, they have yet to agree among themselves and no proposal for revenue has been formally presented to the governor. This shows that there is something structurally and procedurally dysfunctional in the way we adopt budgets in Pennsylvania. Something needs to change.
Meanwhile the press has captured an interesting conversation between Senator Wagner and my district’s incumbent. It appears to suggest that the revenue that could be derived from Marsellus shale drilling has been not only a gift to that private industry but also a partisan political tool. We have all wondered why, despite wide public support for fair taxation of that industry, the House refuses to consider it. Every other state taxes that industry so why would we ignore that source of revenue. Polls suggest that 70% of the public believes this to be a fair tax. Senator Wagner’s reported request of Representative Saylor, however, suggests that he believes it to be a fair tool to help his own election chances. Saylor, of course, claims that the request had no impact on his decision to oppose it. So what did?
Of the over 1,600 registered lobbyists in Harrisburg, over two hundred represent the extraction industries. How have they persuaded House leadership to give them a pass year after year and what do they expect in return? I think it demands that we investigate the campaign contributions made directly or indirectly to Republican leaders like Stan Saylor. Ignoring this revenue is at the expense of the public. Yes, at our expense. They would rather consider raiding other funds, jeopardizing programs that benefit us, increasing gambling or leaving debts for our children to repay.
And let’s remember that natural gas from Marcellus shale is a natural resource that once expended will be gone for all time. It is the gift of God and mother nature to the people of Pennsylvania. If these mineral rights are permitted, they should be taxed appropriately to benefit we the people of Pennsylvania. Instead, huge energy companies plan to dig pipelines through our backyards in order to sell that gas overseas. The resulting profits to those companies must be taxed to help our citizens.
What that revenue could be used for is to close the gap between the spending that has already been authorized by the Republican House and the revenue needed to make that possible. That seems like such a just and sensible solution that maybe my stated emotion of disappointment is too mild. Outrage might be more accurate.
My decision to run for the state House of Representatives is motivated by other issues as well, such as property tax reform, term limits and other changes needed to strengthen the citizens voice in Harrisburg. They will be addressed as the campaign unfolds in the coming year.