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Scahill: Associations aid causes

| Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007

County commissioners are lobbyists on behalf of their constituents, says Armstrong County Commissioner Jim Scahill. It is done through associations like the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and the National Association of Counties, and they are starting to have an impact on the issues important to counties, he said yesterday.

He has seen it first-hand: A month after attending a National Association of Counties (NACo) conference last year that lobbied to preserve the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, Scahill walked into a legislator's office still carrying a "Save CDBG" button pinned to his case.

"An aide saw it and said 'we took care of CDBG.' That means you did your job," Scahill said. "They're paying attention. It's working. We've come a long way at NACo and CCAP (County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania)."

NACo standing up to keep CDBGs made a difference, Scahill said.

"CDBG funding is the only thing we have for 41 of our 45 municipalities in Armstrong County," he said. "It's the only way we can help their economic development."

Scahill is on the board of directors for CCAP, its vice chairman of the Assessment and Taxation committee and one of two Pennsylvania representatives to NACo.

At NACo, Scahill is a member of the environmental, energy and land use committee and the membership committee.

Having returned last week from a CCAP meeting in Harrisburg, Scahill said he found further assurance of the impact being made by those groups.

CCAP set and ratified its priorities, again making tax fairness its number one issue.

County leaders in Harrisburg unveiled other priorities for this year including funding mandated human service programs, the place of confinement and reimbursement for state inmates in county jails; elections; bridges; mass transit and transportation; county recycling fee authorizations; conservation and land use; constable fees; district attorney and judicial salaries; and repair of the 911 funding system.

"We were asked to go away (on the tax fairness issue)," Scahill said. "But here we are seven years later and still pounding at it. We won't go away."

"We focus on three major issues and another four after that. We then have talking points for every county commissioner when they're in front of their federal and state legislators," Scahill said. "While talking to a legislator, as an example, about locks and dams, an issue in Armstrong County, don't forget to talk about tax fairness or another priority."

Networking is an important function of CCAP and NACo, Scahill said.

"You learn a heck of a lot out in the hall," Scahill said. "It absolutely helps."

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