Cox’s Property Tax Bill Dies In Committee

Rep. Jim Cox’s property tax bill was killed when it was tabled yesterday.  HB 1776 would have replaced school taxes with increased PIT (personal income tax) and sales taxes.  It would, essentially, waive taxes on business and industry and shift that burden to working people and the poor.  The very regressive nature of sales taxes means poor folks pay a higher percentage of their income for this tax than middle and upper class folks.

1776 was embraced by a number of Democrats including Sen. Judy Schwank and Rep. Thomas Caltagirone.  It originated by Rep. Sam Rohrer as the Commonwealth Caucus Plan a number of years ago.  It has limited support due to its regressive nature.  There’s no plausible reason a Democrat should ever support this scheme.  If business and industry want an educated workforce they need to pay their fair share.  The only sane method under 1776 is to close corporate tax loopholes and raise corporate taxes to offset the loss of property taxes paid by these entities.  All this bill did was help business while hurting people.

Why Does Rep. Jim Cox Hate Puppies?

Rep. Jim Cox was one of only 17 State Representatives who voted against the regulation of Pennsylvania’s infamous puppy mills.  Then he voted against allowing a $300 tax credit for people adopting shelter animals.  Why does Cox hate puppies?  This is one of the questions I put to Erik Saar who running for Cox’s House seat in Berks County.  I sat down with the 129th House District candidate this morning in Reading’s Goggle Works for a conversation about his qualifications (he’s a national security consultant for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon), his family, the issues and puppies.  Much of the conversation centered around HB 1776, Cox’s latest version of Sam Rohrer’s regressive Commonwealth Caucus tax plan.  

Jim Cox graduated from an unaccredited college then attended Pat Robertson’s Regent University law school.  From there he worked for The Rutherford Institute which represents the far right religious agenda.  He was Rep. Rohrer’s Chief of Staff where he penned the infamous driver’s license letter to a Chester County Judge wherein he argued the Commonwealth cannot insist on people having drivers licenses.  He does, however, insist you have one to vote.

Here is Erik Saar:

Thanks to the Berks County Humane Society for the use of its office for this interview.

Sam Rohrer: Driver’s Licenses Are Like Slavery

Then State Representative Sam Rohrer penned a letter dated April 18, 2006 to Chester County Judge Phyllis Streitel claiming, on behalf of constituent William Taylor Reil, that state mandated driver’s licenses are the same as slavery.  Rohrer, a graduate of Bob Jones University and noted libertarian and Tea Party candidate, argued to the judge that the citation against Mr. Reil wasn’t legal because no state has the authority to require such licensure.  He argues:

individualls right to liberty is the inherent right to travel. If one’s movement can be restrained, such restraint is intrinsically a restraint of his liberty.  Mr. Reil’s use of an automobile is simply an extension of his personal liberty to move about as he wishes.

Of course the logic behind this is faulty.  As Mr. Rohrer knows well living as he does in Amish country, that automobiles are not a requirement for travel.  Many of his neighbors travel quite well without them.  People living in urban environments all across the country also manage to travel with cars or trucks.  There is no absolute right to own a car or to use one to travel.  That makes his underlying argument a travesty.

He goes on (over the bend) to argue:

I am well aware that a ruling of this nature would “undo” years of enforcement of our existing laws. I am also well aware of the enormous economic impact such a ruling would have on the Department of Transportation.

However, no one today would dare argue that we should not have eliminated slavery because it

was too costly to the American economy. When rights are being violated, no cost is too high to

return those rights tothe individuals who hold them. Slavery  ultimate restriction of Ãne.’s I

liberty. It limits òne’s rights in every conceivable way, including one’s right to move about freely. Likewise, refusing to acknowledge an individual’s right  is sin unconstitutional

restriction of one’s liberty and should not be permitted to continue in Pennsylvania.

Here is a photo of the letter as sent to me recently by someone calling themselves Anon Ymous:

An interesting subtext in this is the mention by Mr. Rohrer that an aide of his who is a lawyer analyzed the legal illogic.  At the time his Chief of Staff was attorney Jim Cox, now State Rep Jim Cox.  Does Rep. Cox also prescribe to this fringe, lunatic philosophy?

Also of interest is Mr. Reil.  Here’s where Mr. Rohrer reveals his real fringe credentials.  He mentions in the letter he had known William Taylor Reil for (at the time) fourteen years.  In fact they travel (pun intended) in the same circles in southern Berks and northeastern Lancaster counties.  They share many of the same extremist views from which the argument about drivers licenses spews:

Is Sam Rohrer the kind of man you want as our U.S. Senator?

Corbett, GOP Endorse Welch

The Pennsylvania Republican Party met this weekend to do annual endorsements and Gov. Corbett is firmly in control of his GOP.  Traditionally a sitting Governor, as with a sitting President, controls his Party as Ed Rendell did for eight years with Dems.  Tom Corbett is exercising his influence quickly as he felled Sen. Rafferty from the AG primary and now backs Steve Welch for the U.S. Senate nomination.

Interestingly the Guv ticked off major donor Bob Asher, a convicted felon, by erasing Rafferty from that field.  Now he’s angered Tea Party activists by supporting Welch.  The Chester County businessman supported both Barack Obama and Joe Sestak which makes his Republican bona fides suspicious among many in the Party’s right wing.  OK, so the extreme right wing is all that’s left of the GOP, I get that.  All of which makes Corbett’s tactics interesting.  The tea baggers supported Sam Rohrer in the gubernatorial primary and are behind him again to challenge Bob Casey in the fall.  The fact Rohrer is wholly unelectable statewide (we’ll have more on him closer to April) doesn’t sit well with the Governor who wants to show his influence remains (or exists).

All in all 2012 is shaping up to be a fascinating year to follow politics in Pennsylvania.  There won’t be many dull moments.

News & Notes November 21, 2011

Today is my TBI anniversary.  I’d forgotten until I got a reminder from our TBI-Survivor group.  It’s been 27 years.  Either it’s a good sign that I don’t focus on it any more or it just shows my short term memory issues remain…

The PSU Board of Trustees announced today that former FBI flunky Louis Freeh will head its investigation.  Who opened that hole and allowed this snake to escape again?

In October and November 690,000 people have moved their money from big banks to local ones.  Estimates are that $185 billion in assets will leave the “too big to fail” banks which swindled and defrauded Americans into a global financial collapse.  This is called voting with your dollars.

Why is it that park rules can be enforced but not banking laws?

Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) has a chellnger from the Tea Party.  Interestingly Jackson Eaton switched parties to the Democrats to do so.  Think he’ll fool many Dems?  I bet he does, some of them are as stupid as the Tea baggers.  There won’t be enough to win a primary however.  

The AG candidates are lining up to use the Sandusky case as a campaign issue.  Until someone gets a rational person in the House Judiciary Committee who isn’t beholden to protecting the Catholic Church there won’t be any chance of legislative reforms however.  Patrick Murphy has a concrete set of reforms to implement:

Here are four things we can do to help make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

   Tighten the mandatory reporting requirements. Rep. Kevin Boyle introduced a bill that would do just that. If you are aware that a child is being abused, you should be legally obligated to report that immediately to law enforcement, not just your supervisor.

   Establish a secure, statewide criminal intelligence database for sex crimes against children. If law enforcement officials in one jurisdiction have intelligence about a suspected child sex offender then officers across the state should have immediate access to that information. A criminal intelligence database would give law enforcement that ability.

   Eliminate the statute of limitations on the sexual assault of children. It might be difficult to put cases together as time goes by, but things like shock, depression or repressed memories make it difficult for victims to come forward. That shouldn’t be a license for criminals to go free.

   Expand Child Advocacy Centers in Pennsylvania. Right now, we have 13 – we need more. These centers bring law enforcement and other stakeholders together so that victims only need to be interviewed once. That way they don’t have to relive the horror of what happened over and over again.

The awe and shock of the media brainwashing campaign stirring up war fever against Iran is the same used to invade Iraq.  Are Americans so stupid as to fall for the same trick twice?  You betcha.

The man in charge of coordinating the attacks on Occupy encampments is named Chuck Wexler at the Police Executive Research Forum.  Anonymous brought their website down and published all of his personal information.  You can email him at cwexler@policeforum.org.

I think I’m going to do an article about all the extreme nonsense the GOP presidential candidates are spouting but isn’t it nice to see they aren’t pretending to be “compassionate conservatives” any more?  No more nonsense about not wanting poor children condemned to being school janitors instead of students, an end to child labor laws, the minimum wage, overtime, environmental protections, the whole extent of government meant to protect us from predatory business practices and all that other nonsense?

And isn’t Rick Perry’s promise to do away with civilian control of the military just a wonderful idea?  Just what I always dreamt of:  generals in charge!

Rick Santorum says this:  “Now, unlike Islam where the higher law and civil law are the same, in our case, we have civil laws but our civil laws have to comport with the higher law.”  Of course the two are identical which means he supports Sharia law and wants to impose it here.

Sam Rohrer jumped into the field to challenge Bob Casey today.  This is the guy who proposed replacing school property taxes with an expanded sales tax on most everything.  Besides being extremely regressive his numbers didn’t add up.  Why elect someone to the Senate who can’t count?  After all we already have Pat Toomey who keeps saying his Super Committee was tasked with cutting $1.5 trillion (it was actually $1.2T).

UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walked to her car through a large group of silent protesters.  It was a powerful moment.  The cop who needlessly pepper sprayed all those students must be arrested on assault charges.  One count for every time he sprayed someone.

The NYPD, those unique American terrorists, announced the arrest of one yesterday.  Funny but the FBI didn’t take this guy seriously enough to get involved.  Of course I think the Fibbies don’t get involved unless they can entrap people into doing what they otherwise wouldn’t.  Still, I kept waiting for Bloomberg to announce the guy was targeting Zuccotti Park which is why he emptied it.  Lost opportunity there Mike, now you have no defense for all the upcoming civil rights lawsuits.

Here’s a reason to oppose the internet censorship bill in Congress:  it means any website owner can be held legally liable for anything someone else posts to their site.  That means blogs will no longer be able to have comments for example.  You wouldn’t be bale to upload anything to any website which isn’t yours.  No one can afford the legal liability otherwise.

DeSean Jackson’s new nickname should be Bonehead.

News & Notes July 29, 2011

Congress still hasn’t addressed the debt ceiling issue.  The House is set to vote on Speaker Boehner’s plan at 7 pm after which it will be DOA in the Senate.  Why are they wasting time chasing windmills?  Why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi come up with a clean debt ceiling bill which would be supported by Democrats and enough sane Republicans and send it to the Senate?

Daryl Metcalfe, ALEC’s chief agent in Pennsylvania, was caught collecting per diems while attending an ALEC conference.  Per diems are supposed to cover legislator’s expenses while working in Harrisburg…for us not organizations like ALEC.  Sam Rohrer suddenly forgot all of his principles and agreed with Metcalfe’s theft of public funds.

Congressman Darrell Issa who began investigating Democrats as soon as Republicans got control back of the House should be investigating himself for corruption.  He has obtained earmarks which directly benefit his own business interests.  That’s as corrupt as it gets.

Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois has been everywhere lately decrying the government for not being able to pay its debts and demanding default.  He knows all about default having failed to pay $117,000 in child support.  Deadbeat is as deadbeat does?

May he/she without any personal debt be the first to throw stones about the national debt.  Everyone has some debt even if it is short term.  Families no more live within their incomes than government.  Some things have to be mortgaged like homes and capital projects.  Republicans chose to defund government, fight wars on the dole and collapse revenues through financial deregulation.  It’s time to pay their piper and they’re turning into deadbeats.  It turns out Tea baggers actually do believe in debt.

A domestic terror attack got almost no mention in national news week but someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a Planned Parenthood clinic in McKinney, Texas.

Truthout reports on news about how the 2004 presidential election was hacked and rigged in Ohio.  A firm called Gov Tech was hired by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and provided access tot he state’s election computer system.  On election night tabulations were manipulated straight from the White House through Gov Tech and Ohio turned for Bush.

Wrapping Up

I was wrapped up in the U.S. Senate election last night since that was the top of the ticket but there were other important races.  For Governor my friend Joe Hoeffel faired poorly with little money to get his message to voters.  We saw what money can do in a state where wholesale (as opposed to retail) politicking is essential:  Dan Onorato used his warchest to sweep to victory in the four man field.  Jack Wagner ran a strong second and Tony Williams rode millions of dollars sunk into his campaign for school vouchers to become the poster guy for campaign finance reform.

Scott Conklin won the Democratic race for Lt. Governor in a tight race against Jonathon Saidel and Doris Smith-Ribner.  The former Judge ran very strongly considering her campaign had no presence outside Philadelphia.  Conklin and Saidel campaigned extensively and I didn’t see Smith-Ribner once, anywhere.  At one point there were rumors she had dropped out.  This fall it is Onorato/Conklin versus Corbett/Cawley.  

Tom Corbett cruised to victory over Tea Party favorite Sam Rohrer who refused to concede the election.  One reporter Tweeted (sorry I forget who it was in a sea of Tweets last night) that the Dark Side had taken over Sam’s campaign with its total and complete lack of class.  I saw that at the polling place yesterday when the rude and obnoxious Tea bagger refused to turn off his Rush show.  I related that story with a reporter last night who was shocked that anyone working the polls would so disrespect the voters in that way.  Getting in people’s faces by playing Rush Limbaugh may be the worst polling place behavior I’ve ever seen.  Sam Rohrer deserves such ignominy.

Mark Critz, a crooked Democrat whom we exposed earlier this year as a tax cheat and liar won the special election for Jack Murtha’s Congressional seat.  The people of the 12th CD believe Critz will continue the gravy train Murtha built but doing so with no seniority and no clout will be impossible.  One by one those defense contractors and consultants dotting southwestern Pennsylvania will pull up roots and disappear.    Jack Murtha and his extraordinary influence in Washington brought those jobs and they’ll die along with the Congressman.

Tim Holden held off Sheila Dow-Ford’s challenge but came out fatally wounded.  His despicable conduct will boomerang as the die hard Republicans who supported him before in Schuylkill County now have their own, actual Republican for whom to vote in Dave Argall and progressive Democrats burned by Holden’s votes and his treatment of Dow-Ford will never support him again.  Without Dauphin County especially this seat will go red 9officially) this fall.  Tim Holden deserves what is about to happen to him.

The fierce primary for the 6th Congressional District was so tight last night, oops, this morning, when I hit the sack it hadn’t been called.  Manan Trivedi was leading by about 800 votes when I got home.  looking at the final returns Berks County carried native son Dr. Trivedi to victory.

Former House Speaker Bill DeWeese squeaked out a primary win against primary opponent Pam Snyder and faces a stiff re-election fight while under indictment.  I keep thinking he can’t win after all the corruption but voters return him to Harrisburg.  Democracy is funny, sometimes you get what you deserve.

Harrisburg Democrat Ron Buxton won a fight for his State House seat against Karl Singleton.  In a high profile race in the 182nd Babette Josephs won rather handily with 60.6% of the vote over Gregg Kravitz.

My Sam Rohrer Canvasser

I was getting ready to head off to do some shopping this morning and encountered a man canvassing for Gubernatorial candidate Sam Rohrer.  My initial response was “oh, The Crazy Fundie” my nickname for Sam the whackjob.  I told the man I believe government can be a powerful, positive force in people’s lives and Sam doesn’t believe in government except for defense.  He told me I was wrong so I told him I had Sam on video saying exactly that.  I also told him I’d published it here on the blog, gave him my card and told him to leave.  He sure took his time leaving.

Why do people waste their time canvassing for candidates when they don’t even know their base, core beliefs?  This man was stupid, standing in my driveway looking like a fool because he hadn’t done his homework.  Worse he was wasting his time talking to someone who can’t even vote for Sam.  How stupid are these people that they don’t do their homework, don’t know who to speak to and who not to, who can vote in their primary and who can’t?  Fools, but then he’s a Sam Rohrer supporter.

Candidates For Governor “Get” Reform, Don’t They?

Six candidates for Governor shared a stage in Harrisburg last evening to answer questions which largely focused on reform issues.  Next month this blog will be four years old and I feel as if I’ve spent that entire four years preaching about reforming state government.  Though it was refreshing listening to these men publicly support most of the proposals I’m not about to hold my breath anticipating enactment of anything.  The Governor can only do so much and until the legislature gets serious about reforming itself nothing will be done.  The chances of that are similar to a the chances of a snowball surviving in hell.

More has to happen than just convicting Mike Veon of public corruption or indicting former Speakers John Perzel and Bill DeWeese before anyone there will be willing to enact public financing of campaigns, caps on lobbying expenditures and transparency in the state legislature’s budget and expenditures.  I heard talk about capping campaign contribution limits but nothing about actually eliminating pay to play by public financing.

Some responses struck me as simply stupid.  For example Sam Rohrer said campaign contributions need to be transparent and documentable.  They already are.  Reports are mandatory and are posted online for anyone to peruse.  The issue is strict penalties for non compliance which is non existent.  Those who don’t file, file late or willingly attempt to obfuscate where their money came from should be charged with a felony and thus disqualified from office.

Tony Williams admonished a student questioner on the topic of gerrymandering by saying there is no such word in the law.  The law doesn’t recognize “rude” or “condescending” either Senator but you’re obviously quite familiar with the terms.  Sen. Williams also embarrassed himself when the only credit he could award himself for reform was saying he voted for the Open Records Act.

Sam Rohrer, on the issue of making voting easier said he favored making it hard by requiring all voters produce photo ID.  This from the same man who rails against Real ID…  Voter ID’s is designed to keep poor and minority people (Democrats) from the polls and is, in actuality, a poll tax.  The Bob Jones University alumnus is against government in principle so why does he want to be Governor?  You cannot run government when you don’t believe in government.

Tom Corbett says young adults approaching age 18 should be allowed to register before their actual birthdays.  That’s already the law.  Most of the other candidates supported allowing 16 year olds to register so when 18 they could vote.  I’m not sure why that’s needed.  One candidate even said teens under 18 go to war.  I don’t believe anyone under 18 can enlist.

Jack Wagner, who was late for the event, addressed the redistricting issue by pandering to the debate sponsors.  Talk about transparency!  Dan Onorato said ethical standards and enforcement need to be stronger.  No, I believe the penalties need to be stronger.  We already have ethics rules and laws but people ignore them because there isn’t a high enough price to pay.  Once these are all made felonies Pennsylvania law dictates no felon can hold public office.  If you put their jobs on the line they’ll pay attention.

Tom Corbett advocated term limits as a possible reform but term limits have been a huge failure wherever they’ve been instituted.  The issue is one of experience.  It takes time to learn the art of governance, of being able to work with others, form coalitions and compromising.  Term limits has meant no one in government knows how to govern.  Term limits is one of the stupidest ideas of all time.

Joe Hoeffel drew a line when he said he wouldn’t sign an interim budget and no one should get paid until a budget is passed.  Last year lawmakers and staffers all got paid while the budget dragged on for 101 days.  Sam Rohrer, who would simply cut all state services except for police, prisons and special grants for his fellow BJU alumni, said there’s no reason for budgets to be late.  I suppose so once you eliminate almost all of state government Sam.

On the issue of “walking around money” or WAM’s, an issue rife with corruption and hated by taxpayers, Sen. Williams said he was offended by the term “slush fund.”  Then end them Senator.  A slush fund is a slush fund is a slush fund.  Anything which is hidden, unaccountable, unreviewable and unauditable IS a slush fund.  Too much of this money goes directly back to campaign contributors.  If you want to help your local fire departments make a budget item in the budget which helps all of them.

The state pension system is a financial bomb waiting to explode.  Pennsylvania stopped making contributions to fund pensions due to the budget fiasco.  This was one way the legislature and Governor cut expenditures.  Unfortunately, by law, these must be funded.  State workers and teachers are contractually guaranteed these retirement funds and have sacrificed wages in return for the pensions.  Not funding them is totally egregious and Pennsylvania must address the issue.  

Judges also came up and a discussion of electing versus merit selection was a good query.  It isn’t an easy issue because electing appellate court judges means they must campaign and meet the voters, get feedback and hear what issues are important to everyday Pennsylvanians.  On the other hand money corrupts the process and women and minorities tend to get shut out.  The Luzerne County corruption case continues to fuel this debate but none of the Gubernatorial candidates touched on the real, underlying issue involved:  privatization.  Without the privatization of government services and obligations the profit motive to corrupt the Judges wouldn’t have existed.  Sen. Williams did use the scandal to lambaste Tom Corbett who, as Attorney General, should have discovered and prosecuted the cases instead of the FBI.

The primaries in both parties are May 18th.  Corbett and Rohrer are Republicans the other four Democrats.

Governor Candidates Take Questions

Last evening I watched the Q&A session sponsored by Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Networks.  Attending were Joe Hoeffel, Jack Wagner, Dan Onorato and Republican Sam Rohrer.  Tom Corbett and Anthony Williams didn’t attend.  Watching Rep. Rohrer take questions from a decidedly liberal audience was interesting.  He danced very carefully around questions with his omissions as meaningful as his responses.  When Audrey Ross of Planned Parenthood asked about access to family planning and birth control the virulently anti-choice evangelical dodged it nicely without revealing his true position.

Jack Wagner was bold enough to say he is pro life and anti-gay.  Dan Onorato also said he against same sex marriage.  Joe Hoeffel was the only pro-choice, pro-equality candidate on the stage.  I don’t understand how progressives can support Mr. Wagner.  His positions are directly out of the 19th century.  His response to a question about federal funding of AIDS programs was to pledge to audit it.  A late question about relegating juveniles to the adult corrections system completely went over his head.  He listened as the panelists patiently repeated it for him three times.  He still had no idea of the issue they were presenting.  Duh???  Wagner came off very badly.

Rohrer’s presence at this forum was puzzling.  He says often he doesn’t believe government should serve any purpose outside providing for the common defense.  He kept repeating his mantra of lower taxes except for sales taxes which he would raise.  Interestingly these fall disproportionatley on the poor and this audience reflected many concerns of the urban poor.  Many of the questions had to do with social services of which Rohrer opposes on a deep ideological level.

Joe Hoeffel had good answers and Dan Onorato looked good on several.  I just don’t trust Onorato.  If he and Corbett are the nominees I’ll be voting Green in November as I will if the top of the ticket is Specter/Toomey.  Democrats cannot keep expecting liberals and progressives in Pennsylvania to continue voting Democratic when they keep giving us reactionary candidates.  If the Pennsylvania Green Party were better organized and hid their tin foil hat members they might get competitive.  The opportunity is certainly here.