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July 13th Ups & Downs

Dr. Phil makes a cameo, a prosecutor acquits himself, and some elected officials break the internet. See who’s lucky and unlucky this Friday the 13th.

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Opioids. They don’t stand a chance with Dr. Phil on the case. This week, the TV personality joined Reps. Mike Kelly and Tom Marino for a telephone town hall about addiction. The Daily Item has a recap of the call. Both Marino and McGraw are rehabbing their own images after damning news reports. Dr. Phil’s show was accused of enabling its guests’ substance abuse – allegations it denied. The Washington Post and 60 Minutes reported that Marino introduced a lobbyist-written bill to defang the DEA’s opioid enforcement practices. Marino withdrew from consideration as President Trump’s ‘Drug Czar’ after the report aired. He later called it a “hatchet job.”



Stephen Zappala. A week ago, things looked like serious trouble for the Allegheny County DA. Protesters were calling for his resignation in the wake of Antwon Rose’s killing and the city’s powerful progressive community seemed to immediately coalesce around challenger Turahn Jenkins. Then, it all came apart. During a meeting with some leading LGBTQ advocates, Jenkins affirmed his belief that homosexuality is a sin. The backlash was instantaneous, including calls for Jenkins to withdraw. Later in the week, Zappala capitalized on the Supreme Court news by saying he would refuse to prosecute subsequent crimes should Roe v. Wade be overturned.


Tartaglione dynasty. The 6+ year jail sentence for Renee Tartaglione for defrauding a mental health clinic is a sad, familiar entry in the annals of Philly political corruption. The Inquirer eloquently summarized how the case reflected on the powerful family: Tartaglione’s attorneys, “painted the Tartaglione clan, which once held an iron grip on its corner of the city’s Democratic machine, as a family now tottering toward death’s door.”




Bob Casey. The incumbent maintained his healthy fundraising clip, bringing in $2.2 million last quarter. And the latest public poll showed him leading Rep. Barletta by double digits, 55 to 41.








Facebook idiocy. Karen Peconi is Mayor of Arnold, Westmoreland County. She said that people protesting the Antwon Rose killing should be blasted with water cannons. Her city council and hundreds of residents called on her to resign and, when she refused, for the Governor to remove her. He can’t do that, but he did criticize her. Ned Evans is on the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board. This week he cracked a joke about a teacher who had sex with a student. The Superintendent, his board colleagues, the Times Leader editorial board and many residents have all called on him to resign. He’s refusing and threatening to sue for some reason. Attention elected officials: stuff you put on the internet can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion.


Harrisburg. The city is in a tough spot. Its Act 47 plan is scheduled to wrap up next year. When that happens, the city is set to lose its legislature-granted authority to tax residents an extra percent in earned income tax and assess a $2 per week fee on nonresidents who work in the city. Those two sources account for 20% of the city’s annual budget. A plan this week highlighted the fiscal pain in store should the legislature fail to act – or decide not to act – on a relief package. Mayor Eric Papenfuse has repeatedly exchanged barbs over the proposal with House Speaker Mike Turzai, who is famous for never holding a grudge.


Everything about this. To the Senate’s Secretary-Parliamentarian Megan Martin, who adds a pithy quote or piece of advice to the Senate’s daily session agenda for the past 6 years, extending a 30 year tradition. To reporter Gillian McGoldrick for catching it and bring it to light. And to the PLCA for having such a phenomenal internship program. As Angela Couloumbis said, “Good journalism in the #PACapitol always benefits from a fresh pair of eyes.”




SERS. Is there an easier caricature for politicians to target than Wall Street fat cats? Keeping excess tax dollars out of their hands should be a cause to unite liberal populists and conservative budget hawks. Yet SERS, the State Employees Retirement System, voted to keep 40% its funds in high-risk alternative ventures that cost more and deliver less than passively managed portfolios. State Treasurer Joe Torsella reported that SERS and PSERS have wasted $5.5 billion on needless management fees over the past 10 years.



Tweet of the week:

2 Responses

  1. I was close enough to the negotiations to know that AFSCME colluded with the Administration. The other Unions were forced to go along.

  2. I am a retired State Employee. I worked hard for my pension. When Governor Ridge decided to eliminate the Commonwealth paying their share, State Employees had no say in the matter. State Employees continued to pay their share. Now we have people trying to cut back our pensions – namely two – one has at least three pensions and the other has two pensions. Now we see that SERS has wasted at least 5.5 billion dollars – Money State Employee paid into SERS.

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