After 15 years in the Pennsylvania State House Don Walko will be sworn in as a judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas today. Walko says he felt it was time to move on from making policy to making sure those policies are implemented properly. He says it is a good next step, “Knowing as a policy maker where we failed or succeeded, and then seeing where the rubber meets the road down at the court house.” Among the work Walko is most proud of in his time in the house is his work to expand the state’s prescription drug programs, Pace and Pacenet. He is also proud of his work on the Intermediate Punishment Task Force, which dealt with alternative courts such as the drug and mental health courts and setting rules on alternative forms of incarceration.
Since being sworn into office in 1995 Walko says he has seen a lot of changes in Harrisburg. He says there is a growing lack of civility and a growing bitterness among the legislators. However, he says he will always remember the high level of debate on the house floor. He will also miss his friends and, “dealing with the 5,000 issues a year that you face as a legislator.”
Walko will serve in the Family Division Of The Court Of Common Pleas. He calls it, “the ultimate problem solving court.” He says he has been getting ready for the job by attending several family court related seminars and he has been meeting with his law clerk to go over some courtroom procedures such as evidentiary rules.
On issues still facing the state Walko hopes someone will take up his charge to better regulate bounty hunters and private detectives, expand gaming opportunities for small non profits and place tighter controls on prescription program managers. Walko notes that it will be tough to stay focused with all of the “bonusgate” controversies in Harrisburg. The Democrat from Lawrenceville says he is still opposed to downsizing the state legislature. He says the representation lost is not worth the money saved. He says there are other ways to save money.