ANTES FORT – The first of four town hall-style meetings in the 84th Legislative District held by state Rep. Garth Everett, R- Muncy, drew about 50 citizens at the Antes Fort Volunteer Fire Co. Thursday night.
Residents questioned the four-term lawmaker about gun control, tolling Interstate 80, a state police helicopter and state spending.
Everett said he is holding the meetings to let his constituents know what’s happening in Harrisburg and to get feedback from the communities he represents.
Everett, who came into office in 2006, told the group he isn’t a career politician.
“I am a term-limit person,” he said, adding he does not intend to seek a higher office after his responsibilities as a state representative. “I’m term-limiting myself. I wish we could term-limit everybody.”
Everett said he wants government to be smaller but responsive to the public – something that’s not always easy in Harrisburg.
The lawmaker said even before he took comments from the audience that he is a supporter of the Second Amendment, a gun owner and member of the National Rifle Association.
He said new gun restrictions handed down by executive order from President Barack Obama on Wednesday won’t help to deter gun violence, but actually hurt legal, law-abiding gun owners. Enforcing laws already in place should be a priority, Everett insisted.
“I believe what the Second Amendment says is what the Second Amendment says: we have the right to bear arms,” he said.
Obadiah Moser, of Jersey Shore, told Everett he thought the President’s actions “infringe (on) the
Second Amendment and are unconstitutional.”
But Everett said Obama does have some room to maneuver.
“There’s nothing in the Bill of Rights that is absolute,” he said. “The federal government does have the right to regulate in that area. The question is, when are you overstepping?”
Everett said there are probably not enough votes in Congress to institute what he called “over-reaching gun restrictions.”
Gerrie Snook, of Antes Fort, asked Everett if tolling Interstate 80 was an option the state still is considering as a source of revenue.
“The federal government has no intention,” he said. “It’s a pretty much non-issue as far as ever happening.”
On the subject of transportation funding, Everett lashed out at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and subsidies for urban mass transit systems in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Everett called turnpike commission members “political hacks” in the wake of a state report from Auditor General Jack Wagner, who found that the commission squandered money on largely undocumented travel and entertainment perks.
“We don’t even need them. They don’t do anything,” Everett said.
Instead, the turnpike system should be in the hands of the state Department of Transportation, he said.
“We have a humungous problem with our transportation budget. We have underfunded transportation in Pennsylvania for the past 15 years, at least,” Everett said. “This governor – like him or not – he’s going to take it head on. The longer we put it off, the worse it gets.”
In order to do that, however, Everett warned that people most likely will incur increased fees.
“There’s nothing free,” he said.
Snook also asked about the state police aviation unit that was moved from the Williamsport Regional Airport to Hazleton last year.
Everett said he and other local legislators still are working to bring the unit back. “We’re not done,” he said.
With Everett’s recent appointment to the House Appropriations Committee, he said there may be a chance to put the state police helicopter’s return in next year’s budget.