Gov. Tom Wolf signs a new voting reform law, courts issue rulings on Marsy’s Law and gun control measures, plus support for impeachment is split down the middle in the state’s Congressional delegation. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
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Voting Reform. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a voting reform bill into law that he is touting as the “most significant to Pennsylvania’s elections in more than 80 years.” The bipartisan legislation signed into law includes no excuse mail-in voting, a 50-day mail-in voting period, permanent mail-in and absentee ballot list, 15 more days to register to vote, and extended mail-in and absentee submission deadlines, while also eliminating straight party voting. In a release about signing SB 421, Wolf said the bill makes voting “more convenient and more secure for millions of Pennsylvanians,” and credit lawmakers who came together to work with the administration “in their spirit of compromise.”
Marsy’s Law. Voters will still head to the ballot box on Tuesday and have the chance to register a vote on the proposed “victim’s rights amendment” to the state constitution, but a ruling in the state’s Commonwealth Court ruled that the votes will not be tallied. Judge Ellen Ceisler issued a preliminary injunction, which was requested by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, on behalf of the League of Women Voters. Those who oppose the amendment believe it is unconstitutional because it combines multiple charges to the state Constitution in a single ballot measure, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. The legal challenge process could last “for years” while supporters of Marsy’s Law shared their disapproval with the ruling, but expressed confidence that the legal challenge would not succeed.
Pittsburgh Gun Control Advocates. Three gun control laws in Pittsburgh that were passed after the Tree of Life Synagogue were stuck down by an Allegheny County judge on Tuesday. The ordinances would have restricted “military-style weapons, like the AR-15 rifle used in the synagogue shooting,” and limited ammunition in the city, according to KDKA. Mayor Bill Peduto vowed to appeal the ruling striking down the gun control laws and said he is willing to take the case all the way up to the state Supreme Court.
Philly Dem Unity. While the Mayoral race in Philadelphia has garnered little to zero buzz, the race for City Council at-large is worth watching in the city of brotherly love. Democrats are essentially guaranteed five of the seven at-large seats, but the two spots designed for minority parties is causing a rift within the Philadelphia Democratic Party, according to Philly Clout. Several progressive Democrats including City Councilwoman Helen Gym, 2nd Ward Leader Nikil Saval, and state Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) have endorsed progressive candidates not running under the party banner. Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke are both progressives running as “Working Party Family” candidates seeking one of the two minority seats held by Republicans in the city for decades. Philly Democratic Chairman Bob Brady criticized fellow Democrats endorsing other candidates, which violates party bylaws and could be kicked out of their posts for doing so. While the blame has been pointed at progressives endorsing WPF candidates, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who is also vice chair of the Philly Democratic Party, urged committee members to vote for Republican Councilman David Oh. Blackwell walked back this by saying she told the Democratic committee members to tell Republican voters to support Oh. Brady said that Blackwell made “a mistake, and she’s backing up on it.”
Impeachment Support. Pennsylvania is one of the ultimate battleground states heading into 2020. While the nation remains rather divided over whether President Donald Trump should be impeached, Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation was also divided on the issue during Thursday’s impeachment inquiry resolution vote. While the vote passed 232-196, almost entirely upon party lines, Pennsylvania’s elected officials stayed loyal to their party’s as well with all 9 Democrats voting for the impeachment inquiry resolution, while all 9 Republicans voted against it.
Charlie Spano. The election in the crowded field for the new mayor of Scranton is just days away and the Republican nominee was able to distance himself from the rest of the pack over new campaign finance laws. According to the Times-Tribune, Spano said he was the only candidate in the race to file his campaign finance report in the city clerk’s office by the deadline, which the new city law requires.
Bill Peduto’s Labor Union Relationship. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced at the Climate Action Summit that he opposes any additional petrochemical cracker plants in the area, while the first one is currently being constructed in Beaver County. While Democrats in Allegheny County have long been allies with organized labor, which was also on display at their annual fall dinner this week, the statements from Peduto resulted in pushback from the Darrin Kelly, the president of the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council. Kelly said in a statement that he “wholeheartedly disagrees,” with Peduto’s statement calling for no new cracker plants in the region, and urged companies to work with organized labor and elected officials to create “good middle-class jobs,” City Paper reports.
Terrence Nealon. The Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Judge Terrence Nealon, who was first appointed in 1998, was elected to be the president of state trial judges, according to the Times-Tribune.
WHYY Union Effort. Their work paid off. WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate, overwhelmingly voted to join a union by a 70-1 vote. WHYY reports that the reporters, editors, producers, program hosts and other content creators will be represented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).
Joe Biden. Former Vice President Joe Biden has held a steady lead in various Pennsylvania Democratic primary polls and the most recent Franklin and Marshall College poll released this week shows the Scranton native holding a double digit lead over the next closest Democrat, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Biden polled at 30%, while Warren registered 18%, Sen. Bernie Sanders at 12%, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8%. All other Democratic presidential hopefuls polled at 2% or less in the state.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
In the spirit of Halloween, Pennsylvania’s Twitter chimed in on the conversation about what candy the state *apparently* likes the most.
Quick q: What is a Mars bar https://t.co/lzOFbYWJra
— Pennsylvania (@PennsylvaniaGov) October 31, 2019
Plus two bonus sports related tweets!
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) October 31, 2019
My mentions are blowing up this week and while at first I thought people must have also caught the fever for articles on documentary photography, I now know better. Still enjoying all the misplaced positive encouragement! pic.twitter.com/RGXuHKkJNR
— Stephanie Strasburg (@StephStrasburg) October 31, 2019