PACD: Gov. Rendell Delivers Keynote

pacd rendell

Former Governor Ed Rendell delivered the Keynote address at the Pennsylvania Democrats’ Annual Convention at Temple University.

He rallied the young party loyalists with a strong pitch to vote this year.

“Things look pretty good for us in Pennsylvania. More than 55-60% of people say Corbett shouldn’t be reelected. It looks like we can’t lose,” Rendell said. “I have news for you, its an election we can lose. No incumbent governor has ever lost reelection.”

Rendell shared anecdotes from his time in the Governor’s Mansion, including his big win over Lynn Swann and the time he gave Rep. Bud George $10,000 in what he thought was a competitive re-election battle (George took 91% of the vote in that election).

He advocated for an increase of the minimum wage and enact an extraction tax in Pennsylvania, extension of unemployment compensation benefits in Congress and accept the federal Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“The bad news is that the governor chose not to cover [the 600,000 people eligible for the Medicaid expansion],” Rendell said. “The good news: any governor can come in and notify the federal government that they’ll accept the Medicaid expansion.”

Last night at the PACD gubernatorial debate, each of the four remaining candidates pledged to accept the Medicaid expansion. Rendell mentioned the forum from last night, acknowledging that while the Democrats in the room may now have their different picks for the nomination, on May 21st they need to come together.

He also talked about his book, “Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great.”

“People always ask why I wrote my book, and I wanted to codify all the things I had done over the years,” he explained. “But I had other reasons. I wanted to motivate young people about what a wonderful way to live your life in public service is.”

He continued to belabor the issue of turnout in the general election, and encouraged the College Democrats to bring their friends to the polls.

“Your job, and I know its a job you’re willing to accept, is to galvanize the base,” Rendell said.

Following Rendell’s address, the luncheon featured a variety act of 2 minute speeches from candidates for various offices. Congressional candidates Manan Trivedi (PA-6), Kerith Strano Taylor (PA-5), Kevin Strouse (PA-8), Dr. Val Arkoosh (PA-13) and former Rep. Joe Hoeffel on behalf of Daylin Leach (PA-13) gave their mini-stump speeches, as well as State Senate candidate John Kane, Lt. Gov candidates State Senator Mike Stack and Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski.

Rep. (and Philadelphia City Council candidate) Ed Neilson did introductions for each of the speakers.

The rest of the day will feature panels on a myriad of topics, including one with this reporter (Social Media, Social Change at 3:20pm).

Leach Proposes Bill to Tackle Employment Discrimination

Sen. Leach

Sen. Leach

State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) proposed a bill that would make it illegal in Pennsylvania for employers to discriminate against applicants on the basis of their marital and familial status.

Similar laws have been passed in 17 states around the country, and those laws effectively make asking whether an applicant is married or if they have children illegal.

“Profiling based on marital or parental status occurs when potential employers ask job applicants if they have children, plan to have children, or are married,” Leach said. “All too often, a qualified applicant makes it to the final stages of the hiring process only to be asked if they have children. If the answer is yes, the job suddenly goes to somebody else.

“Some employers are concerned that a person with children will be distracted from their work, while others object to the marital status of a woman. Neither of these concerns is relevant to a person’s qualifications or potential ability to do the job. This disparate treatment is a relic of a more discriminatory past. It may have been acceptable during the era of ‘Mad Men,’ but it is not acceptable now.”

The proposed legislation is already backed by 10 co-sponsors, and advocacy groups have already taken notice.

“It’s outrageous that in this day and age, Pennsylvania employers can ask invasive questions about a woman’s maternal or marital status in a job interview,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and Executive Director of MomsRising. “These questions open the door to increased discrimination against moms.”

Most news surrounding Leach has been about his campaign in Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district, but the state legislator is still highly active Harrisburg.

As this new bill showcases, Leach is a staunch of advocate of progressive policies and was even profiled by ABC News as an “Elizabeth Warren Democrat” — named for the popular progressive Senator from Massachusetts.

Why Miller Backed Out of SD28, in One Map

SD28 results

State Rep. Ron Miller decided not to pursue a rematch against businessman Scott Wagner. Based on the results of the special election contest between the two of them, it’s no surprise.

Wagner’s special election win last Tuesday was historic. As a write-in candidate he defeated Miller, the GOP nominee, as well as Democrat Linda Small. It marked the first time in Pennsylvania history that a state legislative candidate waged a successful write-in campaign.

It didn’t hurt that the conservative businessman was largely able to bankroll his effort, which was opposed by Republicans dollars in Harrisburg.

Wagner will fill the remainder of former state Sen. Mike Waugh’s term and will run for a new term this year.

On Wednesday, Miller withdrew his candidacy in the May primary election.

“I don’t see the tone of the race changing a whole lot,” Miller told the York Dispatch, commenting on the bitter, personal tone of the special election. “It’s not good for York County, and I don’t want to see us go through it.”

The map above shows where each candidate won on March 18.

The lightest shade indicates a simple plurality. A solid shade indicates a candidate reached or exceeded 50% of the vote. A dark shade indicates a candidate hit or exceeded 60%. Red = Scott Wagner. Green = Ron Miller. Blue = Linda Small.

Miller earned a plurality in 9 precincts of the 111 in the district, including just 2 where he reached or exceeded 50% of the total vote.

Outside of the heavily Democratic City of York, which Small won handily, Wagner’s performance was strong district-wide. Wagner won with 48% of the vote, Miller took 26.48%, and Small received 24.52%.

Troublingly for Ron Miller he lost even his own legislative district, shown in the map below. Wagner took 45.7% of the vote there, while Miller took 32.4% and Small received 21.9%.

Wagner faces first-time candidate Zachary Hearn in the GOP primary in May. Small is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Wagner, the owner of Penn Waste, advertises on PoliticsPA.

SD28 results in HD93

Stack Introduces Marijuana Reform With Hanger Support

Senator Stack

Senator Stack

State Senator Mike Stack proposed two reforms to Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws: one to decriminalize small amounts of the drug and another to help expunge criminal possession records.

He was joined at his press conference by outspoken marijuana legalization advocate and former gubernatorial candidate John Hanger.

“The old hard-line stance on marijuana has been ineffective at eradicating its use and the cost to taxpayers is outsized for the job,” Stack said. “These bills are not intended to be a commentary on the wisdom or health of marijuana use. They are targeted at the wisdom of continuing an approach that is expensive, ineffective and misguided. These bills are a challenge for those who talk about identifying programs that don’t work and either fixing or eliminating them.”

The first bill he’s proposing, the decriminalization legislation, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana would be a summary offense, which can be handled through paperwork rather than a misdemeanor arrest. After two of these offenses, a defendant could be charged with a misdemeanor.

The second would allow people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana can apply to have their record expunged after five years.

Stack appears to be picking up the marijuana reform mantle left by Hanger’s exit from the governor’s race, particularly given Hanger’s public support of the bills. Hanger’s People’s Campaign included a detailed policy platform for the legalization and taxation of marijuana to fund his other initiatives. While Stack’s policies are not quite so progressive, they do put him to the left of his competitors in the primary race.

Hanger has not yet made an endorsement in the Lieutenant Governor or Governor’s race, and appeared at today’s press conference solely in support of Stack’s latest legislation.

In order to win the Lt. Gov. nomination, Stack will have to defeat Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski, Jay Paterno, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, State Rep. Brandon Neuman and former Congressman Mark Critz.

SD-28: Miller Drops Out of Republican Primary

Rep. Miller

Rep. Miller

Rep. Ron Miller (R-York) dropped out of the Republican primary for Senate District 28.

Miller lost by 20 points to conservative challenger Scott Wagner in the special election for the seat last week, despite being the official pick of the York County GOP. Wagner took 47.68%; 26.64% for Miller; and 25.67% for Linda Small (D).

“I don’t see the tone of the race changing a whole lot,” Miller told the York Dispatch. “It’s not good for York County, and I don’t want to see us go through it.”

This leaves Wagner to face first-time candidate Zachary Hearn in the Republican primary, and likely to face Democrat Linda Small in the general election.

This special election was triggered by the resignation of Senator Mike Waugh. Waugh announced his resignation to take a job with the Farm Show, and a special election was called to fill his seat. He had initially planned to retire and conservative activist Scott Wagner was one of the first to jump into the race.

Wagner believes the special election was rigged to disadvantage him, in favor of party pick Rep. Ron Miller (R-York). The two Republicans exchanged shots in the lead-up to the special election, with SRCC buying up television ad time to attack Wagner, who had been airing biographical ads.

“From this side it would be different,” Miller said, discussing his withdrawal. “But I believe (the Wagner-supporting group Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania PAC) would continue with it, and I’m just done with it. I have no intent of going through it again.”

Think Tanks Spar Over Minimum Wage

workforceThe National Federation of Independent Businesses released a study showing that raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania will lead to the elimination of jobs – but the Keystone Research Center protests their findings.

The National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation report projects the effect that three Pennsylvania minimum wage bills will have on jobs and economic activity in our state. The findings forecast the loss of as many as 28,000 to 119,000 jobs over a ten year period when the wage is increased to $8.75 or $9.00, as those increases are tied to cost-of-living adjustments. According to NFIB, the report uses a widely accepted regional economic model that is also used by the federal government, local governments and universities created by REMI, Inc.

Earlier this year a Congressional Budget Office report on raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 projected 500,000 job losses in the U.S.

“The NFIB study shows that more than half of the jobs would disappear from the small-business sector in Pennsylvania,” said Kevin Shivers executive state director of NFIB Pa., “While minimum wage hikes are intended to help those below the poverty level, they will do just the opposite. Small-business owners will ultimately hire a more skilled employee rather than pay someone with no skills and no experience higher wages.”

“The actual costs of a minimum wage increase will be higher for small businesses because employees who make over the minimum won’t want to be paid the same as a co-worker with less experience, so the full pay scale is likely to be adjusted” said Shivers.

But the left-leaning Keystone Research Center doth protest.

“Twenty years of rigorous economic research shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker pay without causing job losses – even in regions where the economy is weak or unemployment is high,” Mark Price, Labor Economist with the Keystone Research Center, said.

“The NFIB’s recent minimum wage analysis has two significant flaws that render its findings unusable. First, it employs a model that assumes job losses, thereby guaranteeing its conclusion that there will be job losses. Second, this model ignores research indicating that increased productivity and lower staff turnover will offset higher labor costs from a minimum wage increase. By assuming its own conclusion, the NFIB report adds no information to the debate in Pennsylvania about the actual impact of a minimum wage increase.”

But apparently, the model is not as flawed as KRC suggests.

“This rebuttal comes as a big swing and a miss,” Shivers told PoliticsPA. “[This] is one of the premier economics research models.”

The model used, from Remi, Inc., is one that is employed by federal government, the Maryland Legislature, the Pennsylvania State University and Ernst and Young, among a myriad of other public and private organizations.

Study aside, KRC also pointed to an opinion survey from March 2014 that found 57 percent of small business owners support raising the minimum wage to $10.10, along with a cost of living adjustment. That poll was conducted by the Small Business Majority.

Several of the Democratic candidates have called for an increase in the minimum wage and there’s at least one bill in the General Assembly proposing an increase.

 

Reader Poll: Kane Should Have Brought Charges

kane presserLast week, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a blockbuster report that revealed that the Attorney General had dropped an investigation that found at least four city Democrats taking bribes.

Kane fought back against these charges, insisting that the case was poorly managed, the informant used was not reliable and that there was evidence of racial targeting in the case. She also noted that the case was closed before she even took office.

So, we decided to ask our readers what you thought Kane should have done. By a narrow margin, about 51%, or 337 voters, felt Kane should have brought charges.

Meanwhile 320 readers responded that Kane made the right decision to drop the case.

Interestingly, those backing Kane initially held a small yet steady lead in the voting.  On Saturday, though, Thomas Fitzgerald revealed that Kane appeared at a meeting with the Inquirer’s Editorial Board alongside noted defamation attorney Richard Sprague, who spoke on her behalf.

The press reacted negatively toward the Attorney General’s action and the fact that she had hired a lawyer, as well as the blistering coverage it received, may have been the factor that swayed the vote.

The full results of the poll are included below:

Did Kane's office make the right choice dropping the public corruption case?


  • No, the AG's office should have brought charges. (52%)
  • Yes, the AG's office was right to drop the case. (48%)

Total Voters: 664

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In Wake of Philly Scandal, Senators Introduce Gift Bans

cash banJust over a week ago, the news broke that the Attorney General’s office shut down a flawed sting operation that taped at least four state legislators accepting cash gifts from a lobbyist; now, three state senators have introduced legislation to ban such gifts.

One such plan comes cooperatively from Senators Baker and Smucker, which would ban all monetary gifts to legislators, and they intend to introduce additional legislation that would prohibit such gifts to Senate staff.

“As revelations and allegations about the conduct of public officials in Pennsylvania continue to weaken public confidence in the General Assembly, it is imperative that we make significant, immediate changes,” Senator Baker said. “A ban on cash gifts to legislators will be a strong step forward.”

“Banning cash gifts to legislators is long overdue,” Senator Smucker said. “As recent events have unfortunately demonstrated, Pennsylvania continues to be behind the curve nationally in regard to strong ethics rules and laws. We must, and we can, do better.”

The Leach legislation is similar, but also includes a ban on campaign contributions given in cash over $50.

“We’ve all read recently about allegations of legislators accepting large cash gifts from a lobbyist. I obviously do not know the truth of any of those allegations, however in reading the press accounts of the investigation and the allegations that emerged, I was troubled to learn that there was no legal prohibition against accepting such gifts if they had been offered,” he said.

Leach added, “I understand that if a gift exceeds the limit, it must be disclosed. However, the nature of cash makes it much more difficult to detect a failure to disclose such as was alleged in the recent investigation. It is critical that there be the maximum possible transparency so that the public may know who is attempting to influence their lawmakers. Cash in envelopes is antithetical to this transparency.”

The renewed fervor for a ban on cash gifts is clearly the result of the Philadelphia sting investigation. According to the investigation, State Rep. Ronald G. Waters (D-Philadelphia) reportedly accepted $7,650 in bribes, while State Rep. Vanessa Brown (D-Philadelphia) accepted $4,000, State Rep. Michelle Brownlee accepted $3,500 (D-Philadelphia), and State Rep. Louise Bishop (D-Philadelphia) accepted $1,500. Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes was also implicated for accepting a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet. All those allegedly accused are African American and members of the Democratic Party.

The reasons for not pursuing charges in the three year investigation were fourfold, according to Kane’s office: traditional law enforcement techniques and reporting were not used; the case was poorly managed, the credibility of the confidential informant was gravely damaged; and there was evidence of racial targeting.

At this point, it doesn’t appear that anything will be done with the tapes from this investigation, but these new bills in the Senate may serve to deter similar incidents in the future.

ProgressNOW: Corbett, Metcalfe In Running For Most Radical Right-Wingers

Corbett-CBS21-gay-marriage-300x217In a play on the ever-popular March Madness, left-wing group ProgressNow released their March Badness list of the most “radical conservatives” who have proven themselves so in the past year.

This year, two PA politicians have made the Not-So-Sweet 16: Governor Tom Corbett and State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler).

Corbett, whom the site dubs, “Last year’s March Badness champion,” is called a favorite for a repeat ‘victory’. In his entry on the site, ProgressNow uses one specific example as to why the PA gov should remain reigning champ.

“Corbett’s attorneys, in a filing to stop Montgomery County from issuing marriage licenses, compared gay marriage to allowing 12-year-olds to get married,” the group says.

Attempting to quiet the marriage-equality advocates from across PA who spoke out against him, Corbett eschewed the 12-year-olds comparison as an “inappropriate analogy,” and said, “I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”

ProgressNow believes Corbett has continued to fight the legalization of gay marriage in Pennsylvania, pointing out that his actions match up well enough with what he said.

“He has consistently opposed marriage equality, supporting court cases and legislation that keep Pennsylvania as the only state in the northeast that does not have same sex marriage or civil unions.”

“Governor Corbett has demonstrated from the beginning that he will make the right decisions for Pennsylvanians, advancing an agenda that keeps taxes low and creates family-sustaining jobs in the private sector. Governor Corbett is a commonsense leader who has worked across the aisle to build consensus on major initiatives such as comprehensive transportation funding and reversing federal food stamp cuts to Pennsylvania families,” Corbett campaign spokesman Billy Pitman told PoliticsPA.

“What’s maddening to Pennsylvanians is our opponents and special interest groups promoting false narratives all in a veiled attempt to export the failed Obama agenda to Harrisburg, embracing ObamaCare’s burdens on families and small businesses, spending more than we have and imposing job-killing taxes.”

Metcalfe made the list for stirring up trouble in the same social rights vein as Pennsylvania’s governor. When the Supreme Court overturned much of the Defense of Marriage Act in a landmark ruling last June, Pennsylvania’s first openly gay representative, State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) came to celebrate this ruling in a speech on the House floor. However, as soon as he began speaking, Metcalfe shut off his mic.

Metcalfe’s reasoning?

“His talking about that [marriage equality] on the House floor would have been an open rebellion against Almighty God and God’s word, against God’s law. And as a Christian, if I would have sat there and been silent, it would have violated my conscience because of my beliefs as a Christian.”

Voters will decide who the winners are for each March Badness round via social media. Votes are tallied whenever someone shares or retweets the quotes from contestants on any social media site.

Here is this year’s bracket so far.

HD-164: National Organization for Women Endorses Billy Smith

Smith

Smith

Democratic challenger Billy Smith got a serious boost today when a national women’s-rights organization backed him over incumbent Rep. Margo Davidson (D-Delaware).

The National Organization for Women announced their endorsement for Smith, declaring him a champion of pro-women causes.

“Pennsylvania NOW endorses the candidates we know will fight for the women of the Commonwealth every time.  In this race, that’s Billy Smith,” said a statement included with the endorsement announcement.

Pennsylvania NOW does not actually have a local chapter within the district (there is one nearby in Montgomery County). As far as women’s organizations in the district go, Delaware County Women’s Democratic Club endorsed Davidson earlier in the primary season.

In any case, it’s particularly unusual for NOW to endorse a man over a woman, particularly in a Democratic primary. So rare, in fact, that NOW was unable to produce another example besides Pennsylvania House District 164.

“Margo Davidson must begin to answer the question: Why are women abandoning her campaign?,” a press release from the Smith campaign reads. “ The next two months  will continue to show a complete erosion of women support for Margo Davidson’s campaign; her hostile votes to close abortion clinics and drain money from public schools have alienated progressive women in the 164th and has resulted in a surge of support for Billy Smith from progressive women’s organizations who recognize his unequivocal commitment to women’s rights.”

The “hostile vote” mentioned is from 2011, when Davidson supported a bill that increased restrictions on clinics that provided abortions. She was given much kudos from anti-abortion groups, but alienated some of her more progressive colleagues.

“Women are overwhelmingly supporting my campaign. According to our latest polling among women voters I am leading more than 5 to 1. (54% for Davidson, 11% for Smith with 35% undecided),” Davidson responded to the NOW endorsement.  “As the first woman elected to my district ever and recently endorsed by the Delaware County Democratic Party and the Women’s Democratic Club of Delaware County, I know where the women in my district stand and that is with me. My record fighting to end gender pay gaps, to promote job creation and economic justice for women while promoting women and diversity for leadership roles will not change and there is no endorsement that will change these facts.”

In the poll executed by Municipoll and mentioned by Davidson, 31% were still undecided on their choice in the Democratic primary, as of mid-February.

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