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Wolf Calls For Special Session to Extend Childhood Sex Assault Victims’ Time to Sue

In the waning days of his administration, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called for a special legislative session to add a constitutional amendment for sexual abuse survivors to the May ballot.

That amendment would retroactively extend the timeline for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits. Currently, victims of child sexual assault have until they are 30 years old to sue.

While Wolf has the backing of fellow Democrats, including House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), Republicans deem it unnecessary.

“For far too many Pennsylvanians, justice and healing for the pain they’ve experienced is out of reach,” said Wolf. “This special session is a critical step to allow the General Assembly to focus their work on this important, and potentially life-saving, task. No survivor should be denied the chance to hold their abuser accountable, regardless of how much time has passed.”

However, in 2021, Wolf’s Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar resigned after her department failed to advertise the same constitutional amendment so it could be on the ballot that May.

Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) issued the following statement to say a special session is not needed.

“In August, the Senate reaffirmed with Gov. Wolf our commitment to take the next step in the constitutional amendment process for victims of childhood sexual abuse in this legislative session, just as we have in previous legislative sessions, and consistent with the multiple legislative actions already taken to protect children and families.

“Gov. Wolf’s call of a special session a week before his term ends is an attempt by him to prioritize one issue while there are equally important issues that deserve the same consideration among the voters.

“The Senate has fully organized our chamber for the 2023-2024 legislative session and has put in place a robust session schedule, during which we plan to consider several constitutional amendments in the normal course of the legislative session. It is imperative that we work together to ensure constitutional amendments for voter identification, legislative review of regulations, election audits, and statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors can all be presented to voters. A special session is unnecessary to address constitutional amendments,” they said.

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler agreed.

“It is understandable that Gov. Wolf would want to call for this special session as soon as possible given the election of Pennsylvania’s first Independent speaker of the House and the governor’s desire to make up the Department of State’s failures that led to justice being delayed to many survivors of child sexual abuse.

“However, it is not in the best interest of the Commonwealth to do this work in special session, where we are required to only work on a single issue,” Cutler said.

Wolf’s proclamation was welcomed by Rozzi, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

“For the last 10 years, I have fought this battle as a rank-and-file member. Promises have been made. Hope has been raised. But time after time, at the end of the day, for whatever reason, justice has been denied,” said Rozzi. “We are on a tight timeline. Pursuant to our constitution, this amendment must pass both the House and the Senate by the first week of February to be placed on the May primary ballot. If we are late, we risk this life-saving amendment not being placed on the ballot until the November general election.”

The House will not consider any other legislation first, he said.

Nicole Reigelman, a spokesperson for House Democrats, said they support Wolf.

“The House Democratic Caucus applauds Gov. Wolf and Speaker Rozzi for ensuring that this overdue measure receives swift action so that it can be put before the voters in May,” she said.

“Now is the time to stand together and send a clear message: childhood sexual abuse will not be tolerated in our c, commonwealth, and survivors will have the support they need to find justice,” added Wolf.

Wolf and legislative leaders agreed last August that the constitutional amendment process is the best path forward, he said.

“My friends, it is now 2023.  We’ve talked the talk – now it’s time to walk the walk, together, one last time, for the victims of childhood sexual abuse,” said Rozzi.

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TOMB: Latest RGGI Lawsuit Highlights Increases in Electricity Prices

Already struggling to cope with higher energy bills, Pennsylvanians are now experiencing double-digit rate hikes this fall. In September, some suppliers increased electricity prices another 19 percent, citing inflation and energy costs. Pennsylvanians need relief, but Gov. Tom Wolf’s unilateral action will drive energy bills even higher. Worse yet, a new lawsuit highlights how Wolf’s plan—while claiming to help the environment—will, in reality, increase emissions.

Despite a majority opposition from the state legislature, Wolf is forcing Pennsylvania to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)—a compact in which member states impose a carbon tax on energy production. By discouraging energy production in Pennsylvania, the carbon tax would shut down some of the most efficient coal and natural gas operations in the world, and a new lawsuit argues that the governor’s plan will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions.

The petitioners, all of whom operate gas-fired power plants in Bucks, York, and Westmoreland Counties, are among the dozens of businesses, labor unions, trade organizations, and politicians asking the court to stop Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI.

Pennsylvania natural gas producers are among the cleanest in the world, as measured by methane emissions from their operations. Of the top nine hydrocarbon-producing basins in the United States, the Appalachian Basin, which includes Pennsylvania, emits the least methane per unit of energy produced.

And while U.S. coal-fired plants are among the least polluting worldwide, Pennsylvania operators have invested billions of dollars in equipment to further reduce water and air pollution. The Homer City power plant, for example, spent $750 million over the past decade on reducing pollutants.

But RGGI would undo our progress toward cleaner energy by imposing prohibitive costs on Pennsylvania energy producers.

RGGI requires power plants to purchase carbon allowances, and those have more than quadrupled in recent months. For just a portion of 2022, estimated allowance costs have risen to $847 million from the Wolf administration’s original forecast of $198 million.

“The (administration’s) modeling of the price of CO2 allowances…was wildly off base,” wrote the petitioners. “Among other failures, the (administration) did not adequately consider the impact of speculative traders, like hedge funds, purchasing CO2 allowances as an investment.”

Costs imposed by RGGI will force Pennsylvania plants to decrease energy production, opening the door for less efficient plants in non-RGGI states to replace them. Overall emissions will increase because less efficient plants must burn more fuel to produce the same amount of electricity—generating higher emissions of carbon dioxide and pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

The petitioners note that “most of the benefits…arising from Pennsylvania joining RGGI will be lost or shifted to other areas due to increased emissions in other states.”

Prior studies have confirmed that transfer of emissions from RGGI states to non-RGGI states.

Quadrupling carbon allowance prices also means that RGGI will further inflate electricity costs. Energy producers will have to pass the increase in costs to consumers.

Moderate estimates see RGGI increasing consumer electricity prices by roughly $2 billion over nine years. This is a “best-case” scenario that Pennsylvanian families cannot afford.

RGGI is currently on hold thanks to a preliminary injunction, and the petitioners are integrating their lawsuit with other cases aimed at stopping the state’s participation. Due to pending court action, it is unlikely that companies will need to purchase carbon allowances until the next governor’s term.

But Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI—with its far-reaching consequences—shouldn’t rely on lone-wolf tactics. The state legislature has taken the first step toward introducing a constitutional amendment that would prevent any governor from unilaterally imposing regulations, like RGGI, despite legislative disapproval.

If approved by the legislature and a majority of Pennsylvania voters, this constitutional amendment could safeguard families from ineffective and expensive regulations like RGGI.

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MASTRIANO: Pennsylvanians Losing Hope Over Inflation Woes

Empty pantries. Unfilled medications. Depleted savings. I recently poured over hundreds of comments like these from my constituents regarding the issue concerning them most: the growing toll inflation takes on their survival.

Of the roughly 650 people who responded to my poll, 92 percent said they are worse off today than they were last year. Another 95 percent said they feel the pain of inflation at the gas pump and the grocery store. Many told me the cost to fill their tank has tripled, while electric bills and food purchases have risen by hundreds of dollars each month.

Others say they’ve dipped into savings and delayed retirement just to handle the worsening economic situation. Parents forgo new clothing and school supplies as their children embark on another academic year, elderly and disabled residents on fixed incomes fret over property tax hikes, small business owners watch sales plummet and income halved, while others consider fleeing Pennsylvania altogether.

This widespread suffering weighs on my mind every day and the responsibility I bear to fix it grows heavier by the minute. I wish I could say the same for my colleagues across the aisle, spurred on by a feckless gubernatorial administration only interested in throwing money at our problems in hopes they’ll just disappear.

Ordinary Pennsylvanians know this tactic only makes things worse. There’s no such thing as free money, especially when it’s our hard-earned dollars the state is using to appease Gov. Tom Wolf’s progressive allies. It’s the same pattern we see at the congressional level, where President Joe Biden just signed the Inflation Reduction Act – a misnomer, at best, to distract from the billions in handouts it awards to green energy.

Even the nonpartisan Congressional Office of the Budget admits the legislation will increase taxes on the middle class – those making under $400,000 annually – by $20 billion over the next decade. This, on top of the $410 million carbon tax the Wolf administration is fighting tooth and nail to impose on electricity ratepayers through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

A bipartisan mix of lawmakers opposes RGGI because it could nearly quadruple energy costs by 2030 with virtually zero reduction in carbon emissions. It threatens tens of thousands of jobs and punishes millions of residents unable to afford greener options, like electric heat pumps and solar panels.

My constituents tell me their electricity bills have already inflated by hundreds of dollars each month, leaving them with difficult choices to make about which bills get paid. If the Senate Republicans’ legal challenge to stop RGGI once and for all fails, these costs will skyrocket even more.

But Wolf’s policies don’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, the Biden administration’s ruinous strategies amplify the struggle we all face just to drive to work and keep our lights on. From restrictive gas drilling regulations to the billions in aid we funnel to Ukraine to defeat a war against Russia, we swear we aren’t fighting, both Democratic leaders believe the middle class should fund their self-serving ambitions.

That’s why I sponsored Senate Bill 813 to temporarily institute a gas tax holiday that would shave 15 cents off the price per gallon for six months. The legislation also implements registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles to offset the lost revenue from the tax cut to maintain funding for roads and bridges.

We know, however, that energy is just one facet of this spiraling economic crisis. Local governments often lean on property taxes to fill widening budget gaps, a strategy that hits residents surviving on fixed incomes the hardest. With more than 2.2 million seniors living in Pennsylvania, this hardship isn’t limited to my district alone.

Eliminating property taxes for residents 65 and older could benefit as many as 176,000 seniors currently living below the poverty line. Legislation I introduced last year would extend this relief to elderly residents who’ve lived in Pennsylvania for ten years or longer and make less than $40,000 annually.

Our seniors have spent decades working and contributing taxes to our state. They shouldn’t fear losing their homes because of the inflationary spiral that’s wreaking havoc on our lives.

I’m not the only one taking action to quell this disaster. My Republican colleagues and I have likewise championed legislation to lower taxes on businesses, which will translate into wage growth and economic prosperity.

We’ve dismissed the governor’s proposals to increase personal income taxes, collect higher fees from oil and gas operators and drain our state’s savings account. We’ve sued to block his onerous regulations meant to punish industry and raise prices for all. We’ve asked voters to step in and tell us where they stand on our most fundamental issues, rather than letting the administration dictate to us what they think is best.

In that vein, I’ll conclude with just a handful of the hundreds of comments I’ve received from my constituents about the hardships they face. Don’t just take my word for it:

“I have to watch every penny and try to budget even further in the event that inflation gets worse so my family will still be able to afford to pay bills, buy food, and gasoline so I can get to work. It’s scary and frustrating. ”

“HARD decisions have to be made. Pay health insurance or the utility bills? HAVE to go to work, HAVE to use gas, how is anyone coming out ahead? We were barely making even BEFORE inflation hit.”

“I don’t fill my tank up all the way. I put enough in to get me 2 to 3 days. I can’t afford my co-pays to go to [the] doctor. Even when I work 30 hours OT in 2 weeks.”

“We are on SS and it is almost impossible to make our money take us till the next month. With all the bills going higher, but our checks do not get any higher. We have to make choices if we should pay rent, or go to the doctor and pay the copays, or pay the bills, or get medication, or eat, or use the gas to do any of the above.”

“We have several kids [and] it’s very hard to even have all the essentials now. It is very hard to have food for all my kids all the time. And gas is so expensive to even go to work. Basically working to pay for gas and food. No money for anything else.”

“Inflation has caused me to put my business up for sale due to a drastic drop in sales. Only form of income so barely getting buy and hoping for the best.”

“All of our utilities are behind or in shut off status. We have been late on our house payment the last few months. We basically go to work and back home because we are trying to conserve what gas we have. Everything has gone up, but our wages.”

“Barely keeping our head above water. Depending on the outcome of the midterms, we may have to leave the country. Things are completely out of control.”

“We can’t save for a new house due to everything else increasing. My husband drives a truck and his fuel prices have almost tripled! We need your help!”

“The prices of everything are so high we have to sacrifice a lot of things just to eat and provide electric in my household. Whoever reads this please help!”

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Push for Radical Gender Policies in K-12 Education a Top-Down Effort, Mastriano Says

Parents in several Delaware Valley school districts have complained about their children being exposed to a “woke” gender agenda and explicitly sexual books and materials in their classrooms.

Now critics are pointing to materials from the state Department of Education under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that appear to make it look like a top-down effort.

For example, the DOE website lists genders as “ne, ve, ze/zie and xe,” as well as “he/him, she/her” that they label “traditional.”

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor, called out the Wolf administration and is touting bills he’s introduced to empower parents and end these programs.

“Once again, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration skirts the legislative process to implement a far-left agenda behind the backs of the 13 million Pennsylvanians,” Mastriano said in a statement. “These guidelines encourage school districts to proselytize radical ideas about gender identity to children in all grades, all under the guise of school safety.

“The department touts the left’s twisted vernacular as objective fact, while the governor’s Democratic allies demonize parents as too bigoted to teach their own children about these sensitive topics,” Mastriano said. “We can teach kids to be tolerant, accepting, and kind to others – no matter what – without indoctrinating an entire generation.”

Mastriano said he stands behind several Senate-led bills to prioritize and empower parental involvement in our public education system, alert families about explicit material available in school libraries and limit formal conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation to middle and high school curriculum only.

He also introduced legislation earlier this year to establish a Parental Bill of Rights. It would give families statutory rights to “direct the upbringing of their children free from bureaucratic overreach,” the release said.

“Our schools need to focus on closing the learning gaps that worsened as a result of the governor’s ill-advised pandemic school closures, not forcing elementary-age children to engage in inappropriate conversations about gender identity,” Mastriano said. “It is up to parents, not the state, to engage with their children on these complex social issues and I will never stop fighting for their right to do so.”

Casey Smith, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, defended the gender policy. “The children who attend our schools represent the diverse backgrounds and cultures of our commonwealth, and that includes Pennsylvanians with various gender identities and expression. It is incumbent upon us to support all learners and make them all feel welcome in their schools and communities.

“The Wolf administration supports equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts in every school, and one way we can better serve our learners is by providing resources so that schools can support students who come from all walks of life.”

Fenicia Redman, a parent with a son in the Great Valley School District, told DVJournal she believes there is an intentional effort to influence children with an extreme ideology. “There are wolves among our children masquerading as Granny. I’ll see them soon in federal court.” Redman said she plans to sue the district over sexually explicit books found in school libraries.

Jim Jacobs, who took his son out of the West Chester Area School District because of a gay pride celebration at Stetson Middle School that encouraged boys to wear dresses, agrees this is not education.

“I know teachers who tell me personally – in private – they hate this garbage and agenda. But they want to retain their jobs,” Jacobs said. “Everyone I have spoken to, regardless of political party, has a huge issue with this being taught, but they’re afraid of standing up because of repercussions and being canceled. These are our youth coaches, shop owners, and just everyday working Americans who want to live their lives and educate their kids. Its indoctrination on top of indoctrination- how does this get passed to be taught to our children without parents being involved?

“Yes, it’s important to be tolerant and accepting of different religious beliefs and sexual preferences- but introducing this in school for kindergarten, middle school, and high school? Insanity,” said Jacobs.

The  Central Bucks School Board voted last week to keep graphic books out of elementary and middle school libraries.

A campaign spokesman for Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democrat running for governor, did not respond when asked whether Shapiro would keep the Wolf administration policies in place.

 

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Rep. Grove Says Federal Court Ruling May Invalidate Mail-In Ballot Law

A Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the signature requirement of Act 77 –the 2019 law that gave Pennsylvania no excuse, mail-in ballots– may have triggered a “non-severability clause” in that law invalidating it.

The result, say Act 77 opponents say, could be, “Bye-bye ballot boxes.”

That is state Rep. Seth Grove’s premise in a July 12 letter he wrote to Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman. Grove (R-York), chair of the House Governmental Affairs Committee overseeing elections, noted that if any section of Act 77 is ruled invalid, the remainder of the law is also invalid.

“Non-severability clauses are an important tool of the General Assembly in ensuring the legislation it enacts will be applied in a way consistent with the legislature’s intent when considering and approving the legislation,” Grove wrote. The section shows “it does not intend for the individual provisions of the law to stand on their own.”

Chapman did not respond to Grove’s letter, nor did her spokesperson respond to the Delaware Valley Journal’s request for comment.

During a Tuesday press conference, Grove noted problems with how Pennsylvania’s elections have been conducted in the past two years. Grove has released reports on the general elections of 2020 and 2021 and most recently the 2022 primary entitled “Missed Opportunities and Continued Chaos.”

“Today is July 19, 2022, over two months from the May 17 primary election. We still do not have a certified 2022 primary election,” Grove said.

“On June 30, 2021, Gov. Wolf vetoed HB 1300 without reading it or understanding the provisions contained in it. Further, his administration had refused to even discuss election changes,” Grove said, noting that a bipartisan bill would have gone a long way toward improving Pennsylvania’s elections. A new version of that law remains pending in the legislature.

“Regardless, House and Senate Republicans sent the governor sweeping election changes addressing three major areas of elections: increasing voter access; providing integrity and security in every process; and modernization.

“To date, our elections have been anything but smooth,” Grove said. “This report highlights repeated election failures, which have been categorized as ‘smooth elections’ by Wolf administration secretaries of state.”

He added, “Ask thousands of Montgomery County voters if receiving wrong ballots in the mail is ‘smooth.’ Ask candidates in Montgomery County who went to bed thinking they won and waking up losing because they, the press, and residents didn’t know…thousands of sequestered mail-in ballots existed and were sequestered because of errors.

“Ask Bucks County voters if elections are ‘smooth’ after the Board of Election had to sequester ballots because of illegal voting at drop boxes, which delayed returns. Ask Lehigh County voters if there are smooth elections after DA Jim Martin verified hundreds of illegal votes were cast in their local elections using drop boxes.

“Ask Election directors if our undated ballot soap opera created ‘smooth elections’ or the reality the last court ruling by the Third Circuit Court invoked the non-severability clause of Act 7,7 making those provisions void. Ask voters if they have ‘smooth elections’ when we had to threaten two different county Boards of Election with impeachment because they voted to violate the election laws,” Grove said.

Grove added, “We can’t continue with what has occurred in the commonwealth. Our voters are demanding change. Our election administrators are demanding change.”

 

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In Wake of Dobbs Decision, Abortion Politics Heats Up in Harrisburg

Activists on both sides of the abortion issue are fighting in Harrisburg over the legal future of the controversial procedure, and they’re both  leveling accusations of “extremism” to make their case.

Supporters of legal abortion point to a proposed amendment to the state constitution from abortion opponents, “providing that there is no right to abortion or funding for an abortion.” The resolution, condemned as “extreme” by its opponents, passed the GOP-controlled legislature last week.

In order for it to take effect, it must pass again in the next legislative session, and then voters must approve it in a referendum, possibly in 2023.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has jumped into the fray, issuing an executive order that the state would refuse to honor any warrant from another state for a person charged with a criminal violation involving reproduction. The order also protects healthcare professionals. Wolf stated in a press release he has vetoed three abortion-related bills.

Pro-life organizations called Wolf’s actions “extreme.”

“With his vetoes on these pro-life bills, Gov. Wolf brags about his support of late-term abortion, as well as his support for ripping babies apart limb by limb, aborting babies that have Down syndrome, and putting women with ectopic pregnancies at more risk,” said Dan Bartkowiak, director of communications for Pennsylvania Family Institute. “This is an appalling display of extreme pro-abortion politics that are out of touch with Pennsylvania families. Sadly, this has come to be expected from a governor that is a former volunteer for Planned Parenthood and has received significant campaign contributions from the abortion industry.”

Marlene Downing, deputy director for Pennsylvania for the Susan B. Anthony List, said, “The majority of Pennsylvanians who are pro-abortion do not want the restrictions already in place to go away.” These include the 24-week limit and preventing minors from undergoing the procedure without parental consent.

“Hopefully, the constitutional amendment will be passed,” she said. The amendment would not ban abortion in Pennsylvania, but it would help prevent current limits on abortion from being removed by a future legislature, she said.

Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Executive Director Signe Espinoza took the opposite position. She said in a statement the legislature has “taken a significant step toward forcing their radical anti-abortion agenda into the Pennsylvania Constitution.” She complained the process was rushed and the vote taken “under the cover of darkness.”

“Anti-abortion legislators have advanced a bill that will take rights out of our constitution. The bill can pass again in January, be on the 2023 primary ballot, and lead to abortion bans by this time next summer.

“This is the most expedited timeline possible, and we know that these extremists have been planning for this since they stacked the United States Supreme Court with the sole goal of overturning Roe v Wade. This process was not transparent, and that was intentional by a far-right majority dead-set on advancing a fringe ideology,” Espinoza said.

The group plans to take “accountability actions” with legislative leaders and also unveil digital billboards, a spokeswoman said.

Downing said the Susan B. Anthony List has been going door-to-door throughout the state, passing out pro-life literature. Some 225,000 households had been reached by early July, she said. Their volunteers also speak with people about their pro-life message when someone is at home.

The literature attacks Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Josh Shapiro as “too extreme on abortion.”

“Fetterman opposes all limits on abortion and even defends late-term abortion and taxpayer-funded abortion and denying babies who survive abortion life-saving medical care,” the brochure said.

“Shapiro is a pro-abortion activist who opposes all limits on abortion,” it continued. “Shapiro supports abortion on demand up to the moment of birth, all at taxpayer expense.”

Ironically, both the Fetterman and Shapiro campaigns are running attack ads on television against Dr. Mehmet Oz and Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republicans running for senator and governor, that call them “extreme” for their pro-life positions.

“We are just educating people about candidates who are extreme on abortion,” said Downing, who is also on the board of the Pro-Life Union Pennsylvania. “Our goal is to talk to Pennsylvanians.” Most residents are “not against abortion or for abortion. They like restrictions on it, that middle ground…We’re talking to all the voters we can.”

 

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DelVal Lawmakers Weigh In on 2022-23 State Budget

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf introduced his final state budget plan in February.

He proposed $45.7 billion to increase general fund spending by $4.5 billion—a nearly 11 percent hike. Wolf made the argument that the state should increase spending on education by $1.55 billion, especially in poorer school districts.

His plan includes increasing the minimum wage, workforce development, veterans’ services and suicide prevention, and funding for environmental programs.

Wolf, a Democrat, recently asked the legislature to give Pennsylvanians $2,000 per household.

“The cost of everything from gas to groceries is a little higher right now than it was just a few weeks ago and for Pennsylvanians living paycheck to paycheck even a small increase in expenses can mean painful decisions like paying for food or rent,” said Wolf. “I see that pain in communities across Pennsylvania and I want to talk about solutions. I want to put $2,000 checks into the hands of Pennsylvanians and families that need it.”

However, Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), the nonpartisan financial watchdog, warned Pennsylvania could face as much as a $1.8 billion deficit by June 2024.  And now the U.S. economy may be on the brink of a recession.

The deadline to adopt the budget is midnight June 30. But the issue of whether or how much of the $6 billion surplus and $1.7 billion pandemic relief funds to spend is a sticking point. Negotiations between Wolf and the Republican-led legislature are continuing.

“During the last three weeks of June we hope to finalize the 2022-2023 budget,” said Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Berks/Bucks/Montgomery). “While the governor seems intent to spend the state into debt, I and my Senate Republican caucus are determined to be fiscally responsible and we will fund our next budget without creating future debt, and thus avoid the future tax increases the governor’s proposal definitely create.

“In a time of hyperinflation and a pending recession, it would be irresponsible to create future economic chaos with a spendthrift budget.”

Rep. Chris Quinn (R-Media) agrees with the governor that more needs to be spent on public education.

“We must make another record-setting investment in public education, as we have in each of the last several years,” said Quinn. “There are learning deficits due to the COVID-related school closures that must be addressed if our kids are going to be prepared for success. With families challenged by runaway inflation, increased energy costs, and skyrocketing gas prices, we must craft a budget that does not further burden hardworking taxpayers.

“Finally, I’d like to see Growing Greener III be considered. Sponsored by Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-Northumberland/Snyder) and myself. The legislation would invest federal stimulus funds in projects to restore and protect our waterways, preserve open space, and upgrade drinking and wastewater facilities. That targeted investment promotes job growth and activity in tourism and agriculture, our top two industries which are vital to Pennsylvania’s economic well-being.”

Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomeryville) said, “I’m focused on helping restore communities devastated by last year’s tornado, continuing our record-setting investments in our schools and protecting families from the long-term impact of the out-of-control price increases we’re experiencing every day.”

“As always, my top priorities for this budget season are families, education, and economic development,” Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-Paoli). “Our state is currently sitting on an $8.5 billion dollar surplus. It’s time to start investing that money in hard-working Pennsylvanians, and Gov. Wolf has proposed a budget that will do just that. It includes a Child and Dependent Care tax credit, to reduce the financial burden of childcare on working families and would enable parents to rejoin the workforce without worrying about how to pay for expensive care.

“Additionally, the proposed budget includes increased investment in education, which will provide much-needed property tax relief for homeowners, as well as continuing to ensure our graduates are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. Both priorities will holistically improve our state’s economic climate which will spur more business investment and create better-paying jobs,” said Shusterman.

But Rep. Tracy Pennycuick  (R-Gilbertsville) urges caution on spending and recommends adding to the state’s savings account. Pennycuick is running for the Senate to replace Mensch, who is retiring.

“For the 2022-23 state budget, I would like to see priorities placed on additional funding for education and school security. I think we also need to dedicate more dollars to address our mental health crisis. Given the economic climate, it is vitally important we continue to put additional dollars in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help offset any future economic downturns, as well as support our business community to bring down the cost of doing business and address inflation,” said Pennycuick.

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PA Business Groups, GOP Still Pushing Back Against Wolf’s RGGI Move

Pennsylvania may now be in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but Republican politicians are not giving up their opposition to the cap-and-trade system.

“We stand by our position that entering an interstate compact and imposing a carbon tax on Pennsylvanians requires legislative approval–not unilateral action by the governor,” state  Sens. Jake Corman (R-Centre/Juniata/Mifflin), Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), and Gene Yaw (R-Bradford/Lycoming/Sullivan/Susquehanna/Union) told Delaware Valley Journal. “Although we are disappointed in this temporary setback, we will continue to press our argument to the court that the administration cannot legally take further steps to join RGGI.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a carbon cap-and-trade program among mostly-blue northeastern states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

The battle began in October 2019 when Gov. Tom Wolf (D) took executive action instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Protection (DEP) to join the RGGI. Wolf said that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat climate change, and generate economic growth.

“Climate change is the most critical environmental threat confronting the world, and power generation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Wolf. “Given the urgency of the climate crisis facing Pennsylvania and the entire planet, the commonwealth must continue to take concrete, economically sound, and immediate steps to reduce emissions, (so) joining RGGI will give us that opportunity to better protect the health and safety of our citizens.”

Wolf took to Twitter to celebrate Pennsylvania’s entrance into RGGI.

“It’s official,” said Wolf. “I’m proud Pennsylvania is on the path to becoming a leader in the fight against climate change through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.”

Penn Future President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo applauded the move.

“Finalizing this transformative climate policy is a victory for all of Pennsylvania and future generations,” Bonomo said in an article on NBCPhiladelphia.com. “Pennsylvania is responsible for 4 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 1 percent of global emissions. This cap-and-invest program will deeply cut into Pennsylvania’s pollution by limiting what comes from our dirtiest power plants.”

Gordon Tomb, senior fellow for the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation, said he believes RGGI will do more harm than good.

“Gov. Wolf has acted consistently against the interests of working Pennsylvanians, whether it is his attempt to impose a 30 percent tax on Pennsylvania’s electricity bills, his arbitrary closures of businesses during the pandemic, or his siding with special interests opposing education choice,” Tomb told Delaware Valley Journal. “RGGI will raise taxes on Pennsylvania consumers during runaway inflation and produce no environmental benefit.”

Pittsburgh Works Together, a cooperative venture of business and labor, also sees problems.

“It’s very unfortunate that we have reached this point as DEP’s own analysis shows that there will be virtually no change in carbon emissions in 2030 in the PJM service area as any reductions in Pennsylvania’s carbon emissions are offset by increases in neighboring non-RGGI states,” Jeff Nobers, executive director for Pittsburgh Works Together told Delaware Valley Journal. “This is by executive order, not the will of the people or consent of the legislature, and will lead to increased energy costs further hurting lower-income families, the loss of thousands of good-paying union jobs, and no meaningful reduction in emissions.”

Other groups that are opposed to Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI include National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA)

In March, Melissa Morgan of NFIB Pennsylvania told a Senate committee higher energy prices are the last thing small business owners need at this time.

“Small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19, and many are still struggling,” Melissa Morgan, assistant state director of NFIB Pennsylvania, told a Senate committee in late March. “Shutdown orders, a lack of workforce, supply chain disruptions, record-high inflation, and a recovering economy have devastated a sizable segment of Pennsylvania’s small businesses.”

Carl A. Marrara, PMA vice president of government affairs, warned that RGGI would cause industries to relocate.

Marrara said it is “not a stretch” to say supporting RGGI is supporting Russian and Middle Eastern global energy leadership and Chinese steel dumping. He called for a market-based approach.

RGGI could be an issue in this year’s gubernatorial election, and not just for Republicans seeking that office. Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro has also skeptical of RGGI.

“I refuse to accept the false choice between protecting jobs or protecting our planet — we must do both, and my priority will be ensuring Pennsylvania has a comprehensive climate and energy policy that will move all of us forward,” said Shapiro in an October 2021 statement.

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McSWAIN: I Will Cut Pennsylvania’s Gas Tax in Half

Over the past few years, the Pennsylvania economy has been ravaged like never before. Oppressive, irrational state mandates have shuttered businesses, closed schools, and forced hard-working families to struggle to make ends meet. Liberal career politicians like Tom Wolf and Josh Shapiro have prioritized their own radical agendas over serving Pennsylvanians, while the quality of life for working families has plummeted.

While Wolf and Shapiro were busy picking and choosing which businesses to destroy during the pandemic, they also failed to address the extremely high tax burden that Harrisburg has placed on the average Pennsylvanian. The most glaring example is our highest in the nation gas tax, whose hefty impact looms over us with every gas station we pass on the road. Wolf and Shapiro have allowed the radical left to dictate policy instead of spending the last eight years working to lower the gas tax in Pennsylvania and harnessing the resources under our feet to make energy costs cheaper for everyone.

This failure is exacerbated by Joe Biden’s disastrous energy policies at the national level, which have left our country reliant on ruthless dictators and enemy nations for oil. As a result, Pennsylvanians have been met with skyrocketing inflation, an unstable state economy, and a crippling gas tax, often forced to make the impossible choice between paying for gas and groceries.

This is entirely unacceptable. While Biden, Wolf, Shapiro, and other career politicians prioritize government programs that take taxpayer money with no return, I know that the real cure to our economic woes is to put the people back in charge.

That starts with a solution to our state gas tax. As governor, I will permanently reduce this tax by 50 percent, which will effectively repeal the gas tax raise enacted in 2013 and put paychecks back where they belong – in the wallets of hardworking Pennsylvanians.

Many of our elected officials, and several of my opponents, have suggested Band-Aid solutions like gas tax holidays or temporary cuts, but this is not enough. Families and small businesses suffer the most when gas taxes are through the roof. Pennsylvanians deserve a permanent reprieve.

Some tax-loving politicians argue the gas tax funds necessary programs and services. Really? The massive gas tax increase enacted in 2013 was billed as a solution to Pennsylvania’s rundown roads and bridges. And, yet, while we pay more at the pump, and our turnpike is the most expensive in the nation, our roads and bridges are still in disrepair.

So, where did the money go? Unsurprisingly, career politicians view their constituents as little more than ATMs and rarely bother to deliver what they promise. In fact, the gas tax increase was just a drop in the bucket of our ever-growing state budget. Pennsylvania’s operating budget has ballooned under the Wolf administration, and, unfortunately, Pennsylvanians have little to show for it. We are long overdue for transparency, accountability, and fiscal prudence regarding state programs and funds.

As governor, I will evaluate the entire state budget and cut areas of wasteful spending. I will stand up to career politicians in Harrisburg who want to tax citizens into oblivion to pay for bigger and bigger budgets. There will be no more gimmicks, no more harmful taxes, and I will end egregious corporate welfare. By reducing the size of government and prioritizing our spending, our commonwealth will retain funding for crucial infrastructures like roads and bridges, safeguard public safety initiatives, and restore a business and family-friendly culture so that our economy can thrive.

This is just the first step in restoring Pennsylvania to a place of national prominence. Pennsylvania has everything it needs to become an energy and economic powerhouse, but it will take a conservative outsider to get us there. As governor, I will be committed to fully harnessing the potential of Pennsylvania’s energy resources. I will fight to shrink the size of government, make sure the people of Pennsylvania have permanent relief at the pump, and work to implement policies that will strengthen our economy by reducing the burden on business owners, families, and hard-working taxpayers. Better days are ahead for Pennsylvania, and I am excited to lead us there.

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Ban On Private Election Funding Passes Legislature; Will Wolf Sign?

A bill to do away with private funds going to “administer” elections passed the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania legislature. But it is unclear whether Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf will sign it.

Todd Shepherd, former Delaware Valley Journal editor who is now an investigative reporter at Broad and Liberty, testified before a state Senate committee on April 5 about outside money that arguably impacted the 2020 election. The funds came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a nonprofit organization funded through a foundation of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscila Chan– hence the name “Zuckerbucks.”

The couple gave $419 million to two nonprofits that, in turn, gave funds to nearly 2,500 local election departments across the country in the 2020 election.

CTCL donated to mostly Democrat majority counties for get-out-the-vote efforts, with Pennsylvania receiving more than $20 million. And another group, the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, was also involved in the efforts, Shepherd said.

“The handful of blue counties contacted in July and August of that year were given special assistance by outside consultants — some of them paid political consultants with clear partisan interests,” said Shepherd.

“Those consultants worked to make sure the county would get the maximum grant award. I found no similar emails for grant maximization with any of Pennsylvania’s red counties.”

Shepherd continued, “For example, this is the first email I could find in which Delaware County Councilwoman Christine Reuther was originally introduced to someone about the CTCL grants.

“The email participants were as I mentioned Councilwoman Reuther, consultant Marc Solomon, Jennifer Walls-Lavelle who was a staffer for Gov. Wolf, Gwen Camp — the author of the email and a paid consultant for ‘The Voter Project’ — and finally, Kevin Mack, a DC-based consultant.”

And it is not just Pennsylvania. The Capitol Research Center, a center-right think tank, found a similar trend nationwide. CTCL “consistently gave bigger grants and more money per capita to counties that voted for Biden,” its investigation found. For example, the average per capita grant in Georgia for areas that leaned Republican was $1.41 per person. In pro-Biden districts, the donations reached an average of $5.33.

In his testimony regarding “Zuckerbucks” in Pennsylvania,  Shepard detailed how Democratic operatives were deeply involved in the election activities funded by these outside groups.

Another Reuther email exchange that Shepherd highlighted for the committee was between Reuther and Delaware County Solicitor William “Bill” Martin. Martin was sending her information on who comprised and funded the CTCL.

“Ms. Reuther responded, ‘Not at all surprising. I am seeking funds to fairly and safely administer the election so everyone legally registered to vote can do so and have their votes count. If a left-leaning public charity wants to further my objective, I am good with it. I will deal with the blowback.’”

However, Shepherd’s investigation found only targeted, Democratic majority counties were given early notice that the grants were available.

Shepherd also told the committee, “Last, in terms of exhibits, we have the mid-August email from then-Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to a county commissioner in Bucks County, establishing communication about the CTCL grants.

“Bucks is a very purple-ish county, as you all know, but still I feel this selective invitation to an election grant by the state’s top election official needs answers. Why is she making the introductions instead of the CTCL?

“And just to drive home the question: With just two and a half months to go before the election, why is the secretary of state inviting some counties to get this grant money but not others? How was she deciding who to reach out to? Was she told by the CTCL and CSME who the preferred counties were? Or did she decide herself? And if she did decide by herself, what information or concerns guided those decisions?”

Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Bucks/Berks/Montgomery) said, “We must eliminate the heavy hand of massive private funding into our commonwealth’s and our nation’s elections, with no exceptions.  The effect of Mark Zuckerberg’s, and others, spending to influence their desired outcome is uncalculatable.  No one person, or small group of extremely rich people should determine the outcome of an election—that is the responsibility of all our citizens.”

“It is very likely Governor Wolf will veto the bill,” Mensch added.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg recently announced he will no longer give money to outside groups for election administration.

When asked whether Wolf would sign or veto the bill, the governor’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Remeter did not give a direct answer, instead blaming the legislature for failing to give the counties adequate funding for elections.

“First, it’s important to point out that counties have asked for additional funding from the General Assembly, so it is hypocritical to both ignore the asks from counties while simultaneously proposing to end opportunities for counties to seek funding to ensure safe elections,” said Remeter.

“The governor has long called for improvements to our election process that safely expands access to the ballot. He also continues to push back on anyone who tries to spread misinformation and make baseless accusations that our elections are anything short of free, fair, and secure,” she said.

“Instead of continuing to pursue conspiracy theories and new ways to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters, Senate Republicans should refocus their efforts on bipartisan ways we can continue to fund elections.”

Remeter added, “Instead of indulging discredited conspiracy theories and making it more difficult for the counties to obtain resources they need to administer elections, we should have a real conversation about properly funding elections and finally make commonsense election improvements to our election code like allowing pre-canvassing of ballots, which is supported by the state county commissioners association and all 67 counties.”

 

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