First LGBT Couple Weds in PA

Loreen Bloodgood and Alicia Terrizzi of Pottstown were married yesterday after Montgomery County announced it would begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.  Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes with approval of Commissioners Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, decided that recent Supreme Court decisions rendered Pennsylvania’s state level DOMA law unconstitutional and decided not to await court orders outlawing the ban.

The Pennsylvania ACLU has sued the Commonwealth of the law representing a dozen carefully chosen plaintiffs.  They hope to take this case all the way to SCOTUS and overturn all of the state laws banning marriage equality.  Montgomery County chose not to wait and yesterday the lesbian couple from Pottstown got a waiver of the three day waiting period and wed immediately.

Shapiro Challenges New Reapportionment Plan

Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro is leading a group challenging the latest reapportionment plan.  The first one was overturned by the PA Supreme Court because it split too many municipalities.  The statement:

“Earlier today, along with seven other Montgomery County residents, I filed an appeal (“Shapiro et al v. 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Commission”) before the state Supreme Court opposing the 2011 Legislative Reapportionment plan that resulted in an unconstitutional map that will undermine the interests of the citizens of Montgomery County and other Pennsylvanians.

Each decade, the Legislature is required to redraw the legislative boundaries for the state House and state Senate based on changes in the Commonwealth’s population.  Last year, that process played out in an overtly political manner that hurt our County and many others.

The process is obviously political as it is run by political leaders.  However, what occurred this time went beyond traditional politicking.  In fact, as a result of the partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court last year invalidated the first map passed by this Commission.  This second attempt, which our suit is based on, is no better.  In fact, it is worse in some ways for Montgomery County.

The Pennsylvania Constitution reads, “Unless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a senatorial or representative district.”  This Plan does not meet the clear constitutional standard.

Based on our population, Montgomery County should be apportioned three whole Senate seats, and a portion of a fourth.  Instead, the Plan splits our county into six State Senate districts-none of which is wholly contained within Montgomery County.

With regards to the House of Representatives, only three of the nineteen proposed House districts within Montgomery County followed the Constitutional instruction to avoid splitting municipalities or counties.

These splits were clearly designed to give the Republicans an advantage at the polls–not to comply with the constitutional directive.

The state House map is particularly egregious in three of our communities. Lower Merion, large enough for one intact State House seat, was split into four separate districts. Upper Dublin, which could constitute half of a House district on its own, instead constitutes a fraction of three separate districts. Pottstown, has its Borough portion divided into two seats, with voters in certain wards divided into different House districts.

This overt gerrymandering should again be struck down by the high court.

Our appeal seeks to overturn this new map and force the Commission to redraw the lines in a fair, non-partisan way that keeps communities intact within district lines and places a premium on representation and not partisan political gain.”

PA Dems Endorse Marriage Equality, Women’s Rights

I got a tingling sensation all over as Pennsylvania Democrats overwhelmingly approved a resolution endorsing marriage equality today.  In an emotionally charged meeting with impassioned speeches for women’s rights and gay rights the State Committee, meeting in Valley Forge in a hotel infamously built by non union labor, voted to enter the 21st century.  Marybeth Kuznick wrote and introduced the resolution for women, condemning the conservative war on women.  She noted in one of the caucus sessions that there is only one Democratic woman west of Harrisburg serving there in the legislature.  I met Sharon Brown who is running for Jane Orie’s vacant Senate seat to double that number.  Kuznick got a standing ovation from the women as embarrassed me then stood up to join them.

The marriage equality resolution is something I heard about several weeks ago on an “off the record” basis so I couldn’t write about until now.  Inspired by the President’s position Adams County Chair Roger Lund, married to his partner in DC, introduced a motion to waive the rules and pass the resolution.  There was much discussion in every caucus about support for the measure.  As Party Chair Jim Burn said they didn’t want it to fall short of the 2/3 vote needed to suspend the rules.  Because State Committee people weren’t provided a copy of it in their 30 day packets the rules had to be suspended for a vote on the actual resolution.  Afraid of headlines saying they refused to support the President they wanted to be the votes were there.

I went to the Southwestern Caucus thinking it would have the most vocal opposition (the Northwest Caucus actually voted against it) and I wanted to gauge the level of opposition.  Caucus Chair Jack Hanna escorted me out of the meeting and said I couldn’t attend and report on its discussions.  This is the second time in a year I’ve been tossed out of a Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting.  The first is why I refused to attend and cover its January meeting when Berks Chair Tom Herman said I couldn’t cover his County Committee meeting.  It is against the DNC Charter to bar the public from Party meetings.  It appears I’ll have to call DNC headquarters in DC again and file yet another complaint.

A committeeman from Cambria County got very vocal at that caucus meeting invoking Biblical passages.  Of course this is a legal matter not a religious one.  The Bible also allows slavery, condemns people who eat pork and shellfish and says you shouldn’t cut your hair.  So much for ancient abominations.  The caucus voted 11-7 in support of the bill.  So, so much for throwing me out of your meeting Mr. Hanna…

Other points of contention today centered around procedures for dismissing elected committee people, a subject near and dear to my heart.  The progressive caucus wants set rules and procedures for such actions.  Also, a slate of people to represent the state on the DNC was issued and voted upon by the Chair.  This top down procedure was objected to by progressives who want and open election where anyone can run for the seats.  Burn promised reform and proposed a resolution which passed to set up a committee to devise such a system for the future.  Vice Chair Penny Gerber, off the reservation on the issue, then bemoaned the fact it would lead to floor fights.  Well, elections aren’t always pretty but that’s called democracy.  A Party which calls itself Democratic should be.

Josh Shapiro and Ed Rendell spoke to the gathering.  Montgomery County was hosting the event at the Valley Forge Radisson Hotel and Casino and Josh is now Chair of the MontCo Commissioners.  Democrats control that county for the first time in 130 years.  The former Governor spoke strongly for President Obama but refrained from any mention of his successor.  I’d love to hear his opinions on Tom Corbett.

I touched base with candidates Rob McCord, Eugene DePasquale, Missa Eaton and Rick Daugherty.  I hope to do interviews with all of them soon.

News & Notes December 17, 2011

Lowes is in trouble after caving to a fringe religious group and pulling its ads from “All American Muslim.”  Here’s the ad they pulled:

The Philadelphia Inquirer published this editorial about SB 732 and it’s attack on women’s reproductive rights.

In the “this is getting old” category yet another GOP elected official who was all for “family values” turns out to be gay.

Any gay man will tell you the most virulent anti-gay people tend to be self loathing closet cases.  Is Rick Perry another one?  This new ebook says yes.

While Congress is spending $662 billion for war this year it’s cutting heating assistance for the poor.  These are immoral decisions.

Tea Party Patriot Mark Meckler, arrested in New York for trying to take a Glock pistol on a flight to LA, fled from reporters like a deer a searchlight.

Congress caved to the hostage takers once again passing a two month extension of payroll tax cuts in exchange for the Keystone XL pipeline.  Another extremely bad decision for only a 2 month extension?  I hope they aren’t wondering why the public gives them only a 13% approval rating.

State Rep. Josh Shapiro was elected as Montgomery County Commissioner and is leaving the State House.  We’ll miss him greatly there but he was frustrated at the toxic atmosphere there and the inability to achieve real reform.  Here is his farewell address to that body:

With Christmas just a week away why not give the gift of life and love to a shelter pet?

In the age of the internet and the world’s information at your fingertips it’s inexcusable not to research things.  Andrew Breitbart, he of the doctored video attacks on progressive institutions, used an old Nazi image this week.  It isn’t like he didn’t know where it came from since he doctored it too.

Just in case you thought I was kidding about the return of debtor’s prisons the other day here’s more about the issue.

I’ve held off writing about the downed super secret drone captured by Iran until more information was available.  One of two scenarios seemed possible:  we violated Iranian sovereignty with a spy mission and got caught or Iran hacked into the software and took the drone.  Now it seems the second scenario is what happened.  It’s very bad either way.

Tom Corbett’s involvement in the Penn State scandal isn’t going away.  Interestingly he and former President Graham Spanier battled earlier this year over the Governor’s massive budget cuts to higher education.   Corbett was gleeful when Spanier went down but he may be following closely behind.  The bad press for Corbett is growing.  Buzz Bissinger, a common sports pundit appearing frequently on TV since the Sandusky scandal erupted, has this new analysis.

Rick Perry is copying the corrupt Philly pols and their DROP pension giveaway.  He’s now collecting his pension ($90,000/year) while still serving as Governor.  It’s called double dipping at the public trough.  So much for his fiscal credentials.

The NYPD storm troopers rioting against peaceful OWS protesters were really stupid too.  One posted his feelings on facebook.

Here’s a discussion by Chris Hedges and Michael Moore for your perusal:

MontCo GOP Fails to File Campaign Finance Report

The Montgomery County Republican Committee has failed to file the required campaign finance report for cycle 5 as required by state law.  This is especially interesting because the Commissioners team of Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown has given them $305,000 in the last month.  Where was that money spent, on what and to whom?  This is a major County Commissioner’s race and a substantial amount of campaign spending is being hidden from voters in MontCo.  It doesn’t bode well for the sort of ethics and management the people of Montgomery County could expect from a Castor/Brown majority.

From MontCo Dems:

“They are hiding something, and the voters of Montgomery County deserve to know what that is,” (Marcel) Groen said.  “Campaign finance laws are there to make sure the public knows from whom the candidates and the parties raise their money, and how they spend it.  To thumb your nose at the law and the voters like that is just plain wrong.”

              Groen said that the campaign of Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown made three contributions to the Montgomery County Republican Committee totaling $305,000 over the past month.  The first transfer of $75,000 took place on October 6.  Another $100,000 was transferred on October 11, and a final $130,000 was transferred on October 17.

              “With the Brown Castor campaign transferring that money to MCRC and then MCRC not filing their report, it amounts to a massive shell game on the voters of Montgomery County,” Groen said.  “I call on (Montgomery County Republican) Chairman (Robert) Kerns to file his report immediately and stop breaking the law.”

Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards have a new ad out:

News & Notes October 13, 2011

The City of Harrisburg has filed for bankruptcy.  Mired in disagreements about implementing Act 47 requirements which gut negotiated union contracts the Mayor and City Council have been at an impasse.

Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, running for MontCo Commissioners, released a non discrimination policy and were endorsed bby Equality Pennsylvania.

In Berks County Christian Leinbach, darling of the local Tea baggers, has erected billboards saying “promises made, promises kept” for his four years as County Commissioner.  The problem is he didn’t keep his central promise from four years ago.  Leinbach ran then criticizing the $80 million rainy day fund established and nourished by Judy Schwank and Tom Gajewski.  He promised to return those funds to the taxpayers via a tax decrease.  Not only did he not do that he never even introduced a resolution to do so.  Leinbach’s current campaign message is as hollow as his promises were four years ago.

As our state legislature is debating Marcellus shale impact fees several provisions being discussed are very disturbing.  One would allow forced pooling which seizes your rights as a property owner and transfers them to the gas companies.  The other would prohibit local governments from any restrictive ordinances targeting drilling.  This means your municipality has no say about what happens there.  Both of these efforts would severely reduce your rights in a “democracy.”  Wake up, democracy died in America.

Tim Burns and Steve Welch both are expected to officially enter the 2012 Senate race for Bob Casey’s seat.

Sen. Pat Toomey, after running for Senate promising to create jobs, voted against the American Jobs Act.  He’s more interested in keeping the rich rich than in getting you a job.

Patrick Murphy has raised a million bucks in his AG race.  The Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (no connection with us) will host an Attorney General debate in February.

The Obama Administration still has yet to prosecute a single crooked banker for the massive fraud which cost you your home.

Another of those pesky government regulations hampering business says restaurants must maintain refrigerated food at a certain temperature so it doesn’t spoil and kill you.

News & Notes June 22, 2011

I had to drive to Exton this morning and was near Rt 322 where Ryan Dunn crashed and burned taking a Navy SEAL to die with him.  Police say he was going 130 mph at 3 am after visiting a West Chester tavern.  He had a history of wild, reckless driving.  The lesson here is when you drive like a jackass you die like a jackass.  I never watched Jackass, I can see enough of them driving Pennsylvania’s roads every day.  Why glorify stupidity?

President Obama will address the nation tonight about a gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Someone remind me, now that OBL is dead what IS the mission?  I’ll be on a 3:30 PM White House conference call previewing the speech.

Clarence Thomas is corrupt and must resign.  The New York Times expose which hit Sunday shows exactly how unethical this Justice is and his time has come and gone.  Go get your dirty Coke can Justice Thomas and try and learn a few ethics before you go down as the next Abe Fortas.  Combine this with his repeated failures to reveal his wife’s $800,000 in fees from The Heritage Foundation and other sources and the bottom line is simple:  we have a thoroughly corrupt Supreme Court Justice.

Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards might just gain control of Montgomery County for Democrats.  They have $378,000 cash on hand in their joint committee compared with $37,000 for Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown.  PhillyBurbs.com called them “money magnets.”  While money doesn’t insure victories in an expensive TV market it is absolutely necessary for a good result on election day.

The National Labor Relations Board reviewed organizing rules for unions and yesterday released revisions shortening the time for workers to vote on union membership.  This will help level a very unbalanced playing field for Labor.  The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO sent a press release yesterday from national President Richard Trumka:

Although we are still reviewing the proposed new changes from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), they appear to represent a common sense approach to clean up an outdated system and help ensure that working women and men can make their own choice about whether to form a union.

When workers want to vote on a union, they should get a fair chance to vote.  That’s a basic right.  But our current system has become a broken, bureaucratic maze that stalls and stymies workers’ choices.  And that diminishes the voice of working people, creates imbalance in our economy and shrinks the middle class.    

With the proposal of these new standards, the Board is taking a modest step to remove roadblocks and reduce unnecessary and costly litigation-and that’s good news for employers as well as employees. The proposed rule does not address many of the fundamental problems with our labor laws, but it will help bring critically needed fairness and balance to this part of the process.

Unfortunately, in today’s poisonous political environment, any action by the Board may unleash a torrent of attacks from politicians and ideologues opposed to any protection of workers’ rights. We call on leaders from both sides of the aisle to defend the independence of the NLRB. Political interference with any independent agency sets a dangerous precedent that should not be tolerated.

Bethlehem is the latest Pennsylvania municipality to approve a comprehensive civil rights ordinance.  It now goes to Mayor John Callahan who introduced the bill.  From The Pennsylvania Diversity Network:

June 21, 2011, Bethlehem, PA — Following a three hour public meeting, the City Council of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania voted unanimously to send the proposed non discrimination ordinance back to Mayor John Callahan for his signature. The ordinance was introduced by Mayor Callahan in September 2010 and previously passed unanimously through the Human Resources and Environment Committee and the First Reading of City Council. Mayor Callahan is expected to sign the bill into law.

Adrian Shanker led the coalition effort to pass this ordinance. Shanker, who is Vice President of Pennsylvania Diversity Network, built a coalition of more than 100 business, faith, labor, arts, education, and civil rights organizations in support of the ordinance. “We won tonight, but there were no real losers,” stated Shanker. “The Bethlehem community was loud and clear that they want Civil Rights protections, and the City Council tonight listened and voted accordingly.” Shanker continued, “This law helps working people, it helps small business, it protects religious freedom, and most importantly, it makes discrimination illegal in the City of Bethlehem.”

“I would be hard-pressed to find a vote that I support more than the one I’m voting on tonight” said Councilperson J. William Reynolds as he cast his vote in favor of this ordinance. Reynolds is not alone his sentiments. Mike Fegley of the popular Bethlehem Restaurant, the Bethlehem Brew Works stated, “this is the ethical thing to do in Bethlehem.” Before passing the ordinance, Council voted to clarify the religious exemption and retain expanded powers, such as subpoena power, for the Human Relations Commission., following requests from many supporters of the ordinance

Broad support for the law did not end in Bethlehem. Testimony was provided by the AARP of Pennsylvania, Equality Pennsylvania, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, Communities in Schools, and the Indian American Association of the Lehigh Valley, among others. Ted Martin, Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania attended three of the four public meetings on the issue. Following tonight’s vote, Martin said, “I can only hope that the Pennsylvania legislature will follow Bethlehem’s lead and pass a fully inclusive statewide non discrimination law.” Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) has introduced this legislation in the Senate, and Representative Frankel introduced companion legislation in the House. The lack of a fully inclusive state law has caused 21 municipalities, including Bethlehem, to pass their own versions on the local level.

Bethlehem follows neighboring Allentown, Easton, and Reading in passing this law. Liz Bradbury led a similar effort in Allentown more than ten years ago and attended tonight’s meeting. “I am so pleased that I can now recommend Bethlehem as a safe place to live or work for members of the LGBT community” said Bradbury.

The President’s visit to CMU Friday coincides with a visit from family coming from North Carolina so I won’t be able to travel to the Iron City for this event.  He’ll be speaking about manufacturing jobs at the same time he pursues more “free trade” (the only thing free about them is the ease with which OUR jobs are lost) deals killing manufacturing here at home.

Elsewhere on the jobs front a Pennsylvania company in Exton is featured on the website for the National Export Initiative.  Analytical Graphics hosted an event last year highlighting its success which I covered for the Department of Commerce.

I was on a White House conference call Monday morning about foreign investment in the States expecting some significant announcement but none came.  While it’s nice to see companies coming here and hiring our masses of unemployed why aren’t we doing more to create our own jobs?

The Pennsylvania legislature is so busy creating jobs they haven’t had time for voter suppression, making it easier to kill people, easier to get drunk, harder to get a safe, legal abortion, and tougher to get an education while tossing 100,000 seniors, children and poor people off Medicaid.  Isn’t it nice to see all these newly furloughed teachers, state employees, fireman and cops being disenfranchised to solve a non-existent problem?  By the way the budget is due a week from Thursday and doesn’t appear to be ready.  What have they been doing all this time???

I’m having some Achilles Heel issues and haven’t been able to sit for extended periods at the computer.  I apologize for not being able to blog much this past week.  I’m wearing a brace at night and icing it constantly and some progress is being made towards recovery.  Its tough getting old…

News & Notes January 31, 2011

Joe Hoeffel announced this morning that he will not run for re-election as Montgomery County Commissioner.  He astutely allied with fellow Commish Jim Matthews to be in the majority following Bruce Castor’s implosion four years ago.  That began when he ran Matthews under the bus for accepting campaign contributions from convicted felon Bob Asher.  That story broke here on The Pennsylvania Progressive.  Hoeffel had gotten into some hot water when it was revealed that he and Matthews routinely met for breakfasts.  That was an apparent violation of the sunshine law because they formed a quorum of the County Commissioners by meeting.

Josh Shapiro, Hoeffel’s former Chief of Staff when he served as a Congressman, announced he will run to succeed Hoeffel.  Josh is a State Representative and a leading reformer in Harrisburg.  He is a brilliant young man who impresses everyone.  He has a great future and will make a fantastic Commissioner.

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Tucson gun sales there continue unabated.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent undercover agents to a recent gun show in Phoenix where they were able to purchase firearms in spite of telling dealers they wouldn’t pass a background check.  New York, like many other cities, is wrought with gun violence perpetrated by criminals able to buy guns and extended magazines at gun shows and from unscrupulous dealers.  Yes, guns kill people.  Countries which severely restrict gun sales and ownership have a fraction of the gun deaths we do.  That’s proof that it isn’t the people but the guns.  Let’s begin taxing ammunition heavily and we’ll cut the number of senseless deaths substantially.  I like Chris Rock’s idea:  if bullets cost $5,000 apiece these fools will think twice before pulling the trigger.  Nothing in the constitution says anyone has a right to ammunition.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided to decide on the role judges play in determining whether minor girls can obtain permission for abortions from the courts.  The state’s Abortion Control Act, one of the most restrictive in the nation, requires such permission if a young woman cannot obtain parental permission.  The issue of parental consent is a hot button issue.  Responsible parents understandably want to be involved but in too many cases they are the problem.  Until we live in a perfect world where incest doesn’t occur this is a serious issue.  Young women should not be forced to obtain permission from an abusive and incestuous parent for an abortion.

A federal judge in Florida ruled the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.  So far some judges have agreed and others disagreed.  Until this is ruled upon by the Supreme Court nothing will be settled.  While I feel the Interstate Commerce Clause provides sufficient legal basis for the law I’ve never felt comfortable with the Act forcing Americans to buy insurance from private corporations with no public option alternative.  This amounts to a giant governmental underwriting of private business at taxpayer’s expense.  That is a purely Republican position and it mystifies me why they’d oppose such legislation.  The mandate is the part of the health insurance bill I dislike so this thrills me.

Demonstrations continue throughout Egypt today while the government successfully shut down Al Jazeera.  The Arab network had been broadcasting video of the revolution sweeping the country against President Hosni Mubarack.  Here is a picture Tweeted from Cairo today:

a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/20915586@N00/5405178073/” title=”Cairo Demonstration by morgan_2408, on Flickr”>Cairo Demonstration

I wonder where Fox News sent their correspondents?  Back in 2009 they broadcast this map of the Middle East:

Fox's Egypt

President Obama will speak at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State Wednesday at noon.  I have White House press credentials but a major winter storm set to hit us tomorrow night may make that impossible.  Didn’t anyone in Washington check the forecast first?

The Koch brothers, major financiers of the Tea Party and the Heritage Foundation held their annual Billionaire’s Caucus in Rancho Mirage, California to be met by hundreds of protesters.  They were met by police in riot gear.  Isn’t it nice to know the Koch brothers billions are going for a good cause???

House Republicans in Harrisburg backed off a vote today stripping Democrats of a member on each committee.  Protests over the weekend and a press conference by good government groups in the Rotunda this morning may have given them pause.  They got tons of bad publicity over the weekend.  Democrats robo called for support yesterday.

Joe Hoeffel Launches Bid for Governor’s Mansion

Joe Hoeffel launched his campaign for Governor yesterday by visiting Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia.  I attended the event in the Capitol Rotunda where he was joined by an array of State Representatives and introduced by Kate Michelman.  It’s actually easier for me to travel to Harrisburg (and much cheaper to park) than Philadelphia.  My journey to City Hall reminded me why I rarely go to Philly to cover events.  Between the Schuylkill Expressway and sky high parking rates I’ll opt for the ride to Harrisburg any time.  I did miss the Lincoln University Marching Drumline however.

I’ve covered Joe Hoeffel for several years.  He is a real, actual progressive instead of one who may be pretending to be so for political calculation.  Joe has been there for us for years and has a strong, clear record on our issues.  The fact he chose Kate Michelman, former President of NARAL Pro Choice America, to introduce him goes to his solid credentials as a strong advocate for women.

The remainder of the event is below the fold…