Senator Baker Offers Farewell Remarks to Retiring Senators – Senator Jane Earll and Senator Mary Jo White

Senator Baker Offers Farewell Remarks to Retiring Senators

That Jane Earll called her constituent television program Straight Talk was both appropriate and redundant. Forthrightness is her trademark; her lack of concern about political consequences for doing what is right has been refreshing. Though slight in physical stature, she is substantial in her presence, given her sizable intellect, heart, and determination.

No one seemed better at asking the right questions when haste was threatening to override judgment. “Why are we doing this now?” and “Why does this have to be rushed through?” were signature phrases that contributed to the quality of our work and held us accountable.

An important part of Jane’s legislative legacy is the integral role she played in the comeback of Erie, a place once derided by a commentator as somewhere no one heard of. Sure, it helps to have a hometown governor for part of the time, but she was still there relentlessly pitching projects and progress long after Tom Ridge was called to Washington. She was invested in the full range of developments – business parks and incubators, cultural facilities, the port, education and job training, transportation and other supporting infrastructure. To accomplish so much for an area in these competitive times requires a special combination of skill and persistence.

All of Pennsylvania benefitted from her advocacy of pumping economic development funds derived from casino gambling into sewer, water, stormwater, flood control and dam repair projects, through the highly effective and community friendly H2O program.

She and Mary Jo White partnered in challenging the sense of building criminal justice policy around constantly escalating mandatory sentences, a policy yielding runaway incarceration rates and costs without doing much for public protection or prisoner rehabilitation.

The manner in which Jane Earll served, and her many and varied contributions to our deliberations, made for an exemplary record of service that we are pleased to commend and celebrate.

I am grateful for her friendship and wise counsel, and hope that Jane will continue to offer her straight talk, even if only by phone.

Senator Baker Offers Farewell Remarks to Retiring Senators

By the time of my election to the state Senate, I had been in or around state government for over twenty years. But it did not take long to figure out that you could learn a great deal about legislating and leading and life in general by listening to and watching Mary Jo White.

Given the diversity of her professional experience and how well-read she is, Mary Jo is a remarkable source of insight and perspective on a wide range of issues. Her advice was extremely helpful as we developed and moved the badly-needed package of juvenile justice reform bills.

Her integrity, intelligence, and initiative made her a logical choice to be the first woman to hold a Senate Republican leadership position. That distinction should not be lost to history.

Certainly, she is foremost recognized for her extensive efforts to find that crucial balance between economic vitality and environmental protection. But she exhibits similar leadership on fiscal responsibility, energy development, criminal justice, and other consequential matters. Her attention to community needs has been demonstrated on matters ranging from access to health care in rural areas to highway and bridge repairs.

In making judgments on issues, she depends on sound science and common sense. She speaks in measured and deliberate tones, but there is no mistaking the passion behind her words. When she has something to say, it is thoughtful, persuasive, and worth heeding. When she would assert: “I have taken a hard look at this, thought about it, and I cannot in good conscience vote for it,” you would see others quickly reassessing their votes. That reflects respect earned.

At a time when many people are thinking about post-career plans, Mary Jo launched a political career. She was effective and influential from start to finish, across sixteen productive years. It is fitting that Veterans Day observances this year included recognition of a new law Mary Jo pushed through to update the Code of Military Justice.

In tackling tough problems and exercising oversight responsibilities, her no-nonsense demeanor comes through clearly. But she is also a witty and captivating conversationalist.

So Mary Jo, on this, your last session day, I want to say thank you, for being a mentor, role model, and good friend for me, and most of all, for your substantial contributions toward a better, stronger, more dynamic Pennsylvania.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931