PA Dems Meet This Weekend

Pennsylvania Democrats are meeting tomorrow and Saturday at the Hershey Lodge.  The winter meeting is always interesting because it is their endorsement event.  Judicial races on the ballot this year means Friday night receptions as the candidates attempt to wine and dine the State Committee members.  The ones with the best (and freest) booze and food usually win.  I’ve actually overheard Committee people say they vote based on who has the best spread.

A lot of potential 2014 candidates should be found roaming the halls, chatting people in the bar and in the restaurant.  Tom Wolf is about ready to launch his gubernatorial effort and this week Brad Koplinski commenced his campaign for Lt. Governor.  Brad is a good guy but if Dems want to oust Gov. gasbag another unbalanced (east/west) ticket might doom them.  Not having anyone from SE Pennsylvania helped put Corbett in the Governors Mansion.

There will be interesting resolutions coming up for a vote.  I expect a lot of talk about fracking this weekend.  Snow is also expected though not enough to cause the problems they had a few years ago in Lancaster.  

I’m wondering if the Democrats are ready to apologize to me for kicking me out of the Southwestern Caucus meeting last summer.  As a result of this breach of Party rules I stopped covering their candidates.  It was the third time it happened in violation of the DNC Charter and, well you know, three strikes and you’re out.

I plan on asking various officials how they feel about the Party being so closely tied to predator priest protector Rep. Thomas Caltagirone.  Here’s a nifty quiz for them:  explain how Graham Spanier is to Jerry Sandusky as Tom Caltagirone is to child molesting priests?  How much do they want to be compared with The Second Mile?  How close do they want to be to the guy who blocked reform legislation that would have gone after those predatory priests?

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.

The Rozzi Party

I made it from Upper Merion to Temple just in time to catch Mark Rozzi entering his party after receiving the concession call from rival Frank Denbowski.  The pizza place was filled with family and friends and all were celebrating the win.  Rozzi came from nowhere, a political novice with a young campaign manager with no experience and they soundly defeated a seasoned pro with serious backing and a well known consulting group.  Rozzi won because he was better on the issues, had the backing of Dante Santoni Jr. and ran a positive campaign.

At Planned Parenthood we saw an opportunity to switch a seat which had been anti-choice and a remarkable young talent in Rozzi.  Now women in Pennsylvania will have a strong new ally in Harrisburg as this heavily Democratic seat in and around Reading will be an automatic pick-up come November.  This was one of those races where the primary was the real election.

I’ve known Frank Denbowski for years and he’s a good man.  Unfortunately he surrounded himself with negative people who ran a negative race.  Yesterday they sent a bizarre mail piece to voters accusing Rozzi of midnight pay raises and saying he’d destroy the middle class.  No class.

Mark Rozzi entering Margherita’s:

With Dante Santoni Jr:

With his beautiful wife Jackie:

Two excited men, Mark Rozzi and his campaign manager Chad Schlanger:

State House District 126 Endorsement: Mark Rozzi

I met with Mark Rozzi this afternoon for an interview.  The small business owner is running for Dante Santoni Jr.’s open seat in House District 126.  This includes much of Reading along with Muhlenberg, Temple and Mt. Penn.  This is my House District and I was very interested in who was considering making a run and was hoping a pro choice candidate would emerge whom I could support.  Mark Rozzi is that candidate.

Two other Democrats are running, Jerry Delcollo and Frank Denbowski.  Delcollo isn’t a factor.  Frank is someone I’ve known for eight years and I’ve always thought he was a good man.  He served in several capacities with the City of Reading most recently as Chief of Staff to former Mayor Tom McMahon.  There was a lot wrong with that City Hall, scandals about mismanagement and inefficiencies.  Checks sent in to City Hall couldn’t even get cashed before they expired.  Entire shoe boxes full of checks would intermittently be found sitting in someone’s office while the City bled money and laid off workers.  Through that all I could support Denbowski if he were truly pro choice and pro marriage equality.  He is not.

Mark Rozzi is and brings a breath of fresh air to Berks County politics.  While many of those around Denbowski are spreading vague rumors and lies about Rozzi he has maintained a positive, focused campaign.  I think it says something about a candidate when his campaign runs a gutter effort.  The candidate is always ultimately responsible for the campaign run of his/her behalf and this has reflected badly on Frank Denbowski.  If someone can’t run an honest campaign how can we expect them to be an honest legislator?

Here is my interview with Mark Rozzi:

Legislative Caucuses Present Dueling Tax Plans

Rep. Jim Cox unveiled the newest iteration of the failed Commonwealth Plan for property tax reform joined by several conservative, anti-worker Democrats.  Meanwhile Senate Democrats introduced their own plan yesterday.  The Cox plan, a derivative of Sam Rohrer’s notoriously regressive “reform” which died when its numbers didn’t add up replaces school property taxes with a higher personal income tax and expanded sales tax.

Sales taxes are very regressive because they drain more, as a percentage, of a working or poor person’s income than a rich one.  Property taxes, by their nature are progressive because they more valuable your property the more you remit.  Businesses and industry also pay property taxes and are the biggest beneficiaries of “reform.”  Isn’t it interesting that legislators like Cox and Tom Caltagirone (D-Allentown Diocese) support a system which provides a huge tax exemption to businesses while shifting that burden to working people?  Since they’d now tax coffins this would, in reality, enact a “death tax.”  Democratic House candidate Frank Denbowski, who would be another Caltagirone lapdog, came out in support of the Republican plan this week.

By comparison the Senate Democratic plan, touted by Vince Hughes and Judy Schwank, among others, would pump another $1 billion into spending for job creation, education, the disabled and health care for kids which Gov. Corbett has slashed.  A gas extraction tax which is commensurate with the value of the resource plus an end to the Delaware Loophole would raise about that amount of money.  Senate Democrats have advocated changing the personal income tax to a progressive system which would result in greatly reducing or eliminating school property taxes.  This shifts the burden back onto those best able to afford it rather than those who cannot.  Eliminating a major tax on businesses and corporations and shifting that to working people is immoral.

CeasefirePA Opposes HB 1523

Last week I mentioned a bill up for a vote in the state House any day which would nullify local laws requiring that lost or stolen guns be reported to police.  This is a serious issue and leads to high crime, murders along with anguish and grief for the families affected.

Gun traffickers do business by purchasing large quantities of guns, especially handguns whose sole purpose is the killing of humans, and reselling them on the street or to other dealers.  Pennsylvania has no restrictions on the number of guns which can be bought at one time and does not require that lost or stolen guns be reported.  After selling these handguns on the street if they are used in a crime the purchaser simply says they were lost or stolen.  If mandated reporting were the law police would be able to track these gun dealers and convict them.  Not having mandatory reporting only feeds the violent crime in cities throughout the Commonwealth.

This is simple, common sense gun safety.  No sportsman should have any complaint about having to report to police if a gun is lost or stolen.  In fact it protects them is that gun is actually lost or stolen and then used in a crime.  I had a Colt 38 stolen years ago when I lived in Delaware and it never occurred to me NOT to report it to police.  Every year I get a letter  from the Delaware State Police asking if I regained possession of the firearm.

Since the state legislature hasn’t acted on this important issue various cities have enacted their own ordinances requiring the policy.  The NRA then sued Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in court seeking to have their laws struck down.  They lost, partly because they lacked “legal standing” to even bring suit.

HB 1523 would provide that legal standing and render local laws null and void.  While Philly gets nicknamed “Killadelphia” for the widespread murder rate, fueled by racism, lack of education and jobs, the proliferation of cheap guns on the streets results in people losing their loves.  This is senseless and the fact our legislature is adding to the problem and hiking the murder rate is outrageous.  No one whose life has been touched by homicide, as mine has, can sleep at night knowing how irresponsible some of our legislators are when it comes to public safety.   These include some urban State Representatives such as Thomas Caltagirone (D-Allentown Archdiocese).

CeasefirePA is strongly opposing this bill and we all urge you to contact your lawmakers in Harrisburg and urge them to vote NO.

From CeasefirePA:

H.B. 1523 would set a dangerous precedent for the legislature to rewrite legal principles to favor special interests in a way that creates two unequal justice systems in Pennsylvania, and that would drain scarce taxpayer funds and harm local governments and residents. Regardless of how one feels about firearms regulation, anyone concerned with local governments and their need to do more with less during tough economic times should oppose this legislation, as should anyone in support of equal justice under the law.

As background, the National Rifle Association has already drained resources from the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia by litigating a losing lawsuit to try to strike down an ordinance that did not restrict how guns are lawfully possessed, purchased, or used, but simply required gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement.  The NRA’s lawsuit to strike down that ordinance was rejected by every court that heard it, up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Under established Pennsylvania law, the NRA did not have standing to sue.

H.R. 1523 attempts to make it easier for the NRA and gun owners to sue by changing the legal rules for them. It declares that gun owners and membership organizations such as the NRA are “adversely affected,” which could support standing – even if a court would not find that they were, in fact, adversely affected. For anyone else in Pennsylvania, litigating any other type of case, a court would decide, not the legislature. Essentially, the bill moves the goal line up for the NRA and other gun groups, so that if the NRA moves the ball past the twenty it will count as a touchdown. For everyone else in the Commonwealth, however, the established rules of standing still apply – so for them, the football field remains 100 yards.  This sets a dangerous precedent that the legislature can simply change the legal rules to allow favored entities to sue at will. Another legislative body, with different favored interests, could similarly alter the rules to force courts to hear claims by their favored parties. It also may enable gun owners and gun groups to clutter the courts with lawsuits that would not be allowed for any other Pennsylvanian, and would drain scarce government and court resources.

The bill also changes the rules of damages, allowing gun owners and gun groups who sue local governments to recover escalating amounts of legal fees, costs, and damages from governments who then rescind their ordinances. This radically changes damages rules in favor of gun owners and groups who sue local governments – changes that no other Pennsylvanians would enjoy.  Indeed, Pittsburgh did not recover attorneys’ fees against the NRA when the NRA unsuccessfully sued the City, yet under this bill, the NRA and other gun owners and groups could recover up to triple attorneys’ fees, costs, and damages – essentially funneling taxpayer dollars to pay for special interest trial lawyers. Additionally, courts can impose penalties up to $5,000, on top of these costs.

Not only is this unfair, it is bad policy. It transfers scarce government revenues from much-needed services, like keeping police on the street, to lawyers and gun groups. The financial effect of this bill could be devastating to local governments. There is nothing stopping every gun owner in a city from suing the city – each with his or her own attorneys, all running up the legal meter — and cities could have to pay all of these costs, or double, or triple those costs, depending when an ordinance was rescinded.  It is not inconceivable that cities could have to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, if not more, out of limited governmental coffers, simply for defending their authority to enact a simple ordinance that most of its residents favor, and that does not even restrict the ownership or possession of firearms.

The bill’s penalty system also skews the system of justice. The potential penalties are so onerous that even local governments who likely have winning legal arguments may well simply rescind their ordinances because legal decisions are rarely a certainty, and the costs of a defeat may be too great to risk pursuing valid legal arguments. As a result, gun owners and gun groups could often effectively “blackmail” local governments to rescind popular, common sense laws simply by threatening a lawsuit. Facing the specter of potentially vast payments and penalties if they lose, the wheels of justice will not have a chance to work their course.

H.B. 1523 is special interest legislation at its worst. It runs roughshod over the principles of an independent judiciary and equality under the law. It tramples on the authority of local governments, and rewards litigiousness at the expense of essential services that governments are trying to provide in difficult economic times. The legislature should reject this dangerous bill.

News & Notes January 24, 2012

I live in the 126th House District where Dante Santoni Jr. recently announced he won’t run for re-election.  I’ve been involved in discussions with some folks considering runs but no one is yet ready to announce.  As soon as I do have news I will Tweet it.

Today begins the official period for gathering signatures on nominating petitions.  It is the first opportunity for candidates to canvass and listen to voters and their concerns.

I watched the long Supreme Court session yesterday where appeals of reapportionment were heard.  Spending five hours listening to lawyers should be grounds for cruel and unusual punishment.

President Obama makes his State of the Union address tonight at 9 PM.  It is the unofficial kickoff of his campaign.  Parkside, PA teacher Sara Ferguson will be in the First Lady’s box this evening.

The President spoke with Sue and Jay Paterno yesterday offering his condolences on the loss of Joseph Vincent Paterno Sunday.  Writing the article about Joe was one of the most difficult I’ve ever done.  This man touched everyone who ever attended Penn State, whether we met him or not.  Because he insisted the university be as great as its football team we all benefited from his high standards.  There will be a memorial service at the Bryce Jordan Center Thursday.

The Republican presidential field is down to Romney and Gingrich (for all practical purposes).  Either one will be dead meat coming out of their convention.  They have so much baggage they’ll need additional planes to carry it around the campaign trail.  Both believe corporations have more rights than real people.  They have supported the erosion of our rights while expanding those of business entities.  Think Progress released this video of Mitt yesterday:

Bill Bispels of Kutztown announced his candidacy for the 187th House District.  There is at least one other Democrat circulating petitions for this seat.

Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer has tripped badly coming out of the gate.  He released a policy over the weekend insisting that all city employees refrain from speaking to the press.  He is saying that all press contacts go through his Communications Director.  One problem is that City Council hasn’t authorized such a position and, after this, likely won’t.  It is still possible for city employees to communicate with me via personal cell phones, iPads or computers (their own) while at lunch or after regular hours.

I just listened to Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D-Allentown Diocese) lament the fate of children suffering at the hands of adults.  It’s a shame he doesn’t feel the same way about children abused by Catholic priests.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona announced her resignation from Congress so she can focus on her rehabilitation.  This is a wise decision as she needs to concentrate on her own recovery and her constituents deserve full time representation.

PA GOP: Jobs, Not Banning Abortion

As the country’s economic numbers begin slipping once again because Republicans aren’t focused on jobs and the economy except to cut thousands of them, what is their top priority?  In Pennsylvania it is abortion.  HB 574 and the Mensch Amendment in the Senate, approved this week, will effectively drive abortions underground once again.  The horrors of the Gosnell clinic will be repeated under the guise of preventing them, a truly Orwellian initiative.

Twenty four lay persons serving on a grand jury, with no experience or expertise in the matters, recommended the state put abortion clinics under the same regulations as ambulatory surgical clinics.  This would mean much larger surgical areas and the need to hire full time registered nurses even if abortion procedures are only done one day a week, the normal schedule.  24 people too stupid to get out of jury duty are wagging the tail of the state legislature.

The intent of the bill isn’t to make abortions safer and prevent more Dr. Gosnells it is to put all Pennsylvania abortion clinics out of business, a violation of women’s rights.  It will result in more Gosnell clinics and no place where a woman get a safe, legal abortion.

Any House or Senate member who voted for this is going to have me sifting through their campaign finance reports.  State election law states that no campaign funds can be used for any purpose other than effecting the outcome of an election, something routinely violated in the cesspool which is Harrisburg.  Official complaints will be filed with the state and fines are $250 apiece, not to be paid from campaign funds.  Its time we held these people accountable.


News & Notes May 18, 2011

Rick Santorum thinks John McCain doesn’t understand the value of torture.  It’s too bad McCain isn’t running this year because I’d love to watch the 2008 nominee turn to Santorum and say “I know torture, I’ve been tortured, you know nothing about torture or what it does.”  It would be a classic put down moment.  How stupid is Rick that he’d say something like that?  Did he forget McCain was tortured in North Vietnam?

Republicans succeeded in blocking passage yesterday of those oil industry welfare programs being halted.  President Obama targeted the $4 billion in taxpayer breaks given to giant energy corporations making billions while paying no taxes.  The GOP filibuster succeeded.  The tax breaks remain.

Today’s video is about protesters crashing the JP Morgan Chase shareholders meeting:

DEP actually fined Chesapeake Energy over $1 million for the Bradford County well explosion.  These “accidents” are the reason the Susquehanna River replaced the Delaware as the nation’s most endangered waterway.  In yet more Marcellus news DEP is citing Cabot for continuing problems in Dimock and Sen. Joe Scarnati is proposing that each well drilled be assessed a $10,000 impact fee.  Don’t confuse that with an extraction tax.

In litigation news an Appeals Court will not step in and void the settlement in the famous facebook case.  The Harvard twins who claim Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea settled for $20 million but aren’t happy.  I think I could be happy with $20 million.

In some election news yesterday Tom Caltagirone’s hand picked candidate for Mayor of Reading came in third in the Democratic primary.  This from the man going around telling people that he is the only Dem in the area who knows how to win elections?  His DJ candidate Judge Deb Lachina also lost.

Judge Michael Leonardziak never called me after I found two of his poll workers acting illegally at different polls yesterday.

Voters in Philadelphia actually cast ballots for a convicted criminal for Mayor.  In that crooked city it seems like poetic justice.  Michael Nutter still beat Milton Street however with 76% of the vote.   Not everyone there is insane.

In Northampton County a referendum on privatization of Gracedale, the county nursing home, was 3-1 in favor of keeping the facility public.

In Allegheny County Rich Fitzgrald beat Mark Flaherty for County Executive in the Dem primary and State Rep. Chelsa Wagner, the Auditor General’s niece, won the race for the County Controller slot on November’s ballot.

The Democratic race for Judge of Commonwealth Court is very close.  With most precincts now reporting Kathy Bookvar is slightly ahead 306,819 to 304,766 for Barbara Behrend Ernsberger.  This will likely go to a recount.

A gay activist threw glitter all over Newt yesterday.  Is he trying to make the man look good or something?  Sorry but that’s impossible.  I had Gingrich had his pants zipped this time.

How Did BonusGate Miss Caltagirone?

My battle with Rep. Thomas Caltagirone a few years ago was well covered by me on this blog when we were still hosted at Typepad.  The powerful Chair of the House Judiciary Committee didn’t like it when a progressive friend ran against him in the Democratic primary after he bolted the Party and voted for Republican John Perzel for Speaker.  I supported his opponent until he was forced to drop out of the race under employment pressure from Caltagirone.  Two years later a Reading City Councilman (Steve Fuhs) decided to challenge Caltagirone as a Republican until he mysteriously switched over and ran for the State Senate instead.  Its funny how no one ever runs against this guy.

Perhaps it is because he is so powerful he seemingly can do anything he pleases without fear of repercussions.  Even during the height of BonusGate Tom Caltagirone was using his state legislative office in Reading for political purposes.  I know because I was there.  One morning after I had disclosed he’d given then AG candidate Tom Corbett a $500 campaign contribution he came after me at a Berks County Democratic Committee meeting.  He had them pass a resolution pledging to sue me.  By the way I’m still waiting either get sued or see that repealed.

This launched an epic battle between us until 2008 when I got from him early one morning.  Gov. Rendell had just appointed him to Chair the Berks County campaign for Hillary Clinton and the guy needed advice on FEC rules and regulations.  He hired me to advise him and I did.  All of our discussions occurred in his state office on Penn Street.  I observed Hillary for President signs there and we had regular meetings there about finding and securing office space.  These went on for several weeks.  When we finally signed a lease (in his office) I had to remind him we needed to go downstairs to discuss all campaign business.

How did Attorney General Tom Corbett, in his exhaustive investigation of other Democrats for using state resources for political purposes, miss Caltagirone?  Was he afraid to go after someone who’d contributed to his own campaign?