ISSUE | PA. BUDGET

Hunkering down

in Harrisburg

Among the calls that my office has been receiving from those affected by Pennsylvania's budget stalemate, some of the saddest have been from foster parents who have not been getting state aid to care for the children they have taken into their homes. With the holiday season approaching, this legislature's inability to enact an adequate, responsible budget seems starkly cruel ("House lacks leadership," Friday).

The House's failure to approve a fair and passable budget is a failure on us as legislators. We have been elected to serve our constituents and the common good, and what Pennsylvanians desperately need is a budget. The legislature has an obligation to stay here in Harrisburg until that is completed - no days off, no weekends, no vacations.

The Senate has done its work and given us the tools we need to end this stalemate. All we need is the opportunity to consider them.

We've been 169 days without a budget, yet the House has been called into session for only 38 days. The ability to call for a vote rests with Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny).

|State Rep. Madeleine Dean,

(D., Montgomery), Jenkintown, repdean@pahouse.net

Yo, Inquirer cartoonist (Dec. 8) - we are out here in Harrisburg, and we are working.

|State Rep. Kate Harper,

(R., Montgomery), Blue Bell, kharper@pahousegop.com

ISSUE | FRACKING

Following the rules

A letter failed to acknowledge the strong natural-gas development regulations that protect our environment ("Industry needs rules," Thursday). We have some of the nation's most rigorous regulations. As former Gov. Ed Rendell and his then-Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger stated, "Pennsylvania has the strongest enforcement program of any state with gas drilling."

There are more than 70 shale-related regulations in the commonwealth, and the industry supported a 2012 bipartisan law that further strengthened our regulatory framework. And even though the state Supreme Court struck down some of the law's key provisions, the industry remains committed to following the more rigorous regulations because it's the right thing to do.

Air quality is improving. Federal data show the country's carbon dioxide emissions are at more-than-20-year lows, driven by the expanded use of natural gas.

False claims undermine this important discussion, which should be driven by facts and unbiased science. Let's stick to the facts, not fearmongering.

|Erica Clayton Wright, Marcellus Shale Coalition, Pittsburgh

ISSUE | CULTURAL TOLERANCE

Speak up against hateful acts and rhetoric

On behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Clergy of Greater Philadelphia, we condemn the proliferation of hateful speech and actions directed at members of the Muslim community. We find the recent desecration of the Al Aqsa Islamic Society's mosque in North Philadelphia particularly abhorrent ("Pig's head left at N. Phila. mosque," Dec. 8).

Our faith proclaims the inherent worth and dignity of each person and the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We value the wide diversity of religious beliefs held by others and oppose any attempt to limit or undermine the religious practices of any faith tradition.

The rhetoric in our public square has become increasingly divisive and virulent. We urge all Pennsylvanians to actively oppose efforts to demean or degrade the members of any religious or ethnic group. It is our duty as Americans, regardless of faith or creed, to speak up and speak out against those who seek to demonize an entire people.

During this season of hope and light, may we all extend ourselves in kindness, generosity, and hospitality. May we open our hearts and our minds to all those we encounter, whether or not they share our beliefs. Let us seek within our diversity a unity that binds us together as an open, inclusive, and civil society.

|Rev. Kent Matthies, Unitarian Society of Germantown, Mount Airy;

Rev. Peter Friedrichs, Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County, Media; and Rev. Ken Beldon, Wellsprings Congregation, Exton

Immigration ban would dishonor heroes

If there were only one Muslim American service member buried in Arlington National Cemetery, that would be more than enough to make support of a ban on Muslims entering the country a disgrace. But you can find crescents among the crosses and Stars of David in military cemeteries across this country.

To suggest that all people of a certain religion should be banned from the United States because they belong to that religion dishonors the ultimate sacrifice of the hero. For any politician who has never put his or her life on the line for this country to suggest such an act is an obscenity.

The service member's oath states: "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. . . . " The First Amendment forbids Congress from promoting one religion over others or restricting an individual's religious practices. Using religious affiliation as a litmus test for entry into the counry and banning people based on their religious beliefs violates that amendment. It qualifies the promoter as a domestic enemy of the Constitution that the deceased military member vowed, even to death, to defend.

|Steve Nolan, Newtown

ISSUE | MILITARY

Soldiers are real people, not 'boots'

Stop referring to soldiers as "boots on the ground."

As a soldier's mom, I want to point out that these "boots" are living, breathing human beings. Soldiers are daughters, sons, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, in-laws, fiancées, and friends who will be sent into a war zone. No matter what your position on military involvement in the world, we should not dehumanize any person by referring to him or her as a "boot."

It will never be OK to send a person as a "boot" but mourn that same person as a "soldier." Sending soldiers into war feels thought out; sending "boots" feels way too easy.

|Janice Winston, Philadelphia, jcwinston4@gmail.com

Clarification

A commentary by former Gov. Ed Rendell published Monday, "Time is right to develop Phila. energy, container hub," failed to mention his work as a consultant for energy and container companies.