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House GOP Leader Sends Letter to Penn About Antisemitism, Veterinary School Funding

Some Pennsylvania House Republicans want to throw the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine a lifeline.

The state legislature voted against sending the veterinary school $33 million in state funding in the wake of antisemitic incidents at the University of Pennsylvania. The vote was also a response to congressional testimony from then-President Liz Magill in which she was unable to say that “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated the university’s policies, calling it “a context-dependent decision.”

Penn remains under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. That office on Wednesday added neighboring Drexel University to the list of schools it is investigating for antisemitism and Islamophobia.

In a letter to Penn Interim President Dr. J. Larry Jameson and Andrew Hoffman, D.V.M., dean of the veterinary school, House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said the legislators recognize “Penn Vet’s extraordinary contributions to veterinary medicine and our state’s agricultural foundation.”

Cutler wrote that while Magill’s resignation and the creation of a university task force to address antisemitism are “good first steps toward change, these actions have yet to help students and visitors feel safe and welcomed.”

He said a group of legislators will work with university officials to achieve the goals of rooting out antisemitism.

The members include Reps. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Fulton), the GOP chair of the education committee; Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne); Bob Mercuri (R-Allegheny); Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks); and Tom Jones (R-Lancaster/Lebanon).

For funding to resume, Republicans are demanding an unequivocal statement from the Penn president or interim president that “calls for genocide against the Jewish people are not consistent with the cultural values of the university and an affirmation that this type of conduct is actionable under Penn’s code of student conduct as bullying, harassment, and intimidation.”

Also, Penn should support a package of bills to address antisemitism in the state’s “basic and higher education systems.”

Penn must also support a discussion of other free speech legislation pending in the legislature. The letter recommended a review of the university’s student organizations to ensure there is no financial support for or promotion of antisemitism.

The letter noted Pennsylvania was founded in the spirit of “religious liberty and acceptance,” and Philadelphia “was created in the image of brotherly love and toleration.”

Marcell told DVJournal, “I will always work to stand against antisemitism in Pennsylvania and our education system. I look forward to engaging with the University and working in a bipartisan manner to what should be a shared goal of eliminating this insidious form of hate.”

While they remain “supportive of Penn Vet’s contribution to Pennsylvania,” they cannot spend taxpayer money on “hate-based activities that have become so disconcerting.”

A university spokesman issued this statement in response to the legislators’ letter:

“We have received Leader Cutler’s letter and will respond shortly—interim President J. Larry Jameson and Dean Andy Hoffman appreciate that members of the legislature want to find a path forward on funding the School of Veterinary Medicine. As part of Penn’s Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism, we pledged to engage broadly and deeply and welcome input from all who share our commitment to combatting hate in all its forms.”

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Bucks County Rep. Galloway Resigns, Leaving PA House Tied

Bucks County Democrat Rep. John Galloway resigned his seat in the 140th District Thursday, just hours after House Democrats used their slim 102-101 majority to push through their fiscal plan. His departure leaves the House evenly split between the parties until a special election can be held on February 13, 2024.

By complete coincidence, House Democrats said, repairs to a leaky roof will prevent any voting sessions until March. In fact, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro will even be forced to deliver his annual budget address in the rotunda rather than to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House of Representatives Chamber.

Galloway was elected to a district justice seat for Falls Township on Nov. 7, so his departure was no surprise. And given the partisan makeup of this district, his replacement will likely be another Democrat, returning the House to a one-vote Democratic majority.

Republicans are crying foul, with sources telling DVJournal the leak was discovered a year ago.

“You see the chaos on the floor. An alleged water leak. I have not seen water drop from the ceiling yet in a year,” said Rep. Seth Grove (R-York).

“I am very tired of them managing to the next election and maintaining power instead of actually governing the commonwealth,” said Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster).

Cutler alluded to a resolution the Democrats passed declaring the state as being in the “Taylor Swift Era” in the midst of work on the budget and various other bills. The popular singer is a Berks County native and was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Governing “is the job of the majority. They are failing,” said Cutler.

Three Democrats are running for Galloway’s former seat: his chief-of-staff Melanie Bidlingmaier, former Eagles cheerleader Donna Petrecco, and Pennsbury School Board Member Jim Pokopiak.

The Bucks County Republican Committee Thursday endorsed Candace Cabanas, who will be on the ballot for the 140th District, which includes Falls Township, part of Middletown Township, Morrisville and Tullytown.

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Shapiro Orders Automatic Voter Registration; GOP Cries Foul

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that people will automatically be registered to vote when they get their driver’s license or state government ID. Twenty-three other states also have automatic voter registration.

“Pennsylvania is the birthplace of our democracy, and as governor, I’m committed to ensuring free and fair elections that allow every eligible voter to make their voice heard,” Shapiro said. “Automatic voter registration is a commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars.”

Under the new system, people getting their driver’s license will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out and choose not to. Under the current system, people can “opt-in” to register if they choose.

“Residents of our commonwealth already provide proof of identity, residency, age, and citizenship at the DMV – all the information required to register to vote — so it makes good sense to streamline that process with voter registration. My administration will keep taking innovative actions like this one to make government work better and more efficiently for all Pennsylvanians,” Shapiro said.

Not so fast, Republican legislators responded.

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said a new voter registration system should be created through the legislature, not by executive fiat.

“The problem here is not necessarily the end, but the means,” said Cutler. “The governor is following the sad and misguided precedent set by his predecessor that recognizes our election laws need updating and modernized but then disenfranchises the General Assembly from exercising its constitutional prerogative to make laws. This unilateral action on the eve of what is likely to be a hotly contested and close election will cause many Pennsylvania voters to continue to question the security and results of our system.”

Critics of Shapiro’s actions note Pennsylvania has had problems in the past with how it handles voter registration lists.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has admitted to registering foreign nationals to vote for nearly two decades,” said J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. “They continue to fight to conceal the full extent of how many foreigners registered to vote through the DMV process. This new automatic voter registration program will crank in more errors to the voter rolls.”

In April 2022, the PILF won a court case against Pennsylvania over registering illegal immigrants to vote. State officials admitted a PennDOT programming “glitch” caused illegal aliens to be able to register. Although the court ordered the state to allow PILF to examine voters’ history, the state has appealed.

Senate state government committee Chairman Sen. Chris Dush (R-Clinton/Elk/McKean/Potter) declared Shapiro’s executive action was unconstitutional.

“Honest, transparent, and secure elections remain the cornerstone of our constitutional republic. Sadly, by unilaterally implementing automatic voter registration, Gov. Shapiro has once again demonstrated his ignorance of the entire electoral process and his inability to work with the legislature as required by the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Shapiro’s move “bypasses the checks and balances that are in place to safeguard the interests of all citizens,” Dush said.

“The Pennsylvania Constitution makes it crystal clear that any time government is forcibly compelling the people to do something – in this case, registering online to vote through PennDOT – the rule of law must be followed to the letter.

“The governor’s automatic voter registration scheme amounts to the rigging of the process to favor thoughtless and even accidental registration in the name of ‘democracy.’ Any laws made unilaterally through executive orders – without the full scrutiny and debate that this committee and the legislature are obligated to provide – are the work of tyrants,” said Dush.

Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for Shapiro, said the governor does have the power to make this “procedural change” through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Department of State and that it is constitutional.

Joy Schwartz, a Republican running for Delaware County Council, is angry at Shapiro’s move.

“It’s an effort to swell the voting rolls that are already dirty in Pennsylvania ahead of the little election this year and the big election next year,” said Schwartz. Illegal immigrants are “pouring in” and often need driver’s licenses for their jobs. “This will create a big loophole.”

National Chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued the following statement: “Automatic registration is not ‘key to strengthening democracy’ as Gov. Shapiro dishonestly contends—it’s the antithesis of election integrity and threatens the trust of voters in fair, secure, and transparent elections they deserve. Like other schemes, including same-day registration, permanent absentee voter lists, and the automatic mass mailing of absentee ballots and/or absentee ballot request forms, automatic registration leaves virtually no time to verify the accuracy of voter information.

“If you want to increase the likelihood of fraud, multiple or duplicate registrations, and participation of ineligible voters—such as non-citizens and illegal aliens, temporary residents, and convicted felons—look no further than the process of dumping government data onto the voter rolls,” Cuccinelli said.

Schwartz is less worried that illegals will vote than that these names will be used for voter fraud.

“It creates an opportunity for nefarious actors, nongovernmental organizations, to use those voters’ registrations to vote,” she said.

“It’s a naked power grab, as far as I’m concerned,” said Schwartz. “It’s just outrageous, the violations of the legislature’s power by this governor. It’s just shocking.”

The move will increase the problems with Pennsylvania’s elections caused by ballot drop boxes and machines, “making elections less secure.”

“It’s a further consolidating of Democrats’ power,” Schwartz said.

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CUTLER: Delivering a People-Driven, Future-Focused Platform for PA

Dating back to our first state constitution in 1776, couched as the most democratic and radical of all state constitutions at the dawn of the United States, Pennsylvania has always been on the cutting edge of national transformation.

As we once again face an era of divided government and fluctuating razor-thin majorities in the state House, Pennsylvania will be in no less of a position to lead by example and forge a path ahead.

But getting there takes vision and bold action. And right now, we recognize many feel like the Commonwealth is stuck and have an uneasy feeling about our future.

That is why we unveiled The Keystone Commitment.

The Keystone Commitment is a people-driven, future-focused platform that will be the foundation upon which we build on four cornerstones of a thriving economy, affordable living, safe communities, and a child-first, family-focused educational experience.

Fully realized, we believe these guiding principles will deliver a legislative agenda of hope through the opportunity for all Pennsylvanians to experience earned success.

A better Pennsylvania based in a thriving economy must permanently solve the problem of Pennsylvania’s lack of competitiveness in attracting business growth and development. It must also be recognized that government has erected too many barriers to business and job growth and fluidity.

House Republicans believe chasing the American Dream should not be a nightmare and coming to government should not be a barrier to innovation and economic growth. That is why our vision for a thriving economy is based on making it easier to come to Pennsylvania to do business, making it easier to get a job, and making government move at the speed of business.

Due to poor policy and fiscal initiatives at the federal level, Pennsylvanians and their families are struggling to make ends meet due to record inflation and continuing supply chain issues.

House Republicans believe Pennsylvanians should not be priced out of living in the Commonwealth. To fight inflation and bring down the skyrocketing cost of living in Pennsylvania, House Republicans will drive an agenda that reduces energy costs on Pennsylvania families and local businesses and helps preserve affordable and available housing.

Doubtless, the nation continues to be in the grips of a crime and violence epidemic. In our cities, which are exporting crime and violence to other communities, political prosecutors continue to thwart efforts of police and other public safety officials. Unfortunately, no Pennsylvania community has been spared from the ravages of crime and violence that is plaguing the entire nation.

House Republicans envision a better, safer Pennsylvania where police and prosecutors are given every resource they need and the state takes an active role in getting to the root causes of crime and violence.

We must also create a child-first and family-focused educational experience.

Everyone knows the current delivery model for K-12 education is broken and state involvement in higher education is not far from the breaking point itself. We must refocus our priorities away from systems and special interests and start putting Pennsylvania’s children and families first in our education policymaking.

The recent Commonwealth Court ruling that our education funding system is unconstitutionally inequitable provides an opportunity for that shift in focus and the transformational change in education that has been demanded by so many students and parents looking for a better future for themselves and their loved ones.

As quoted at the top of the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, William Penn said, “There may be room there for such a Holy Experiment, for the nations want a precedent, and my God will make it the seed of a nation. That an example may be set up to the nations. That we may do the thing that is truly wise and just.”

We cannot, and should not, rest by merely being one of the best. We must work to realize Penn’s prayer for Pennsylvania to be a precedent to the nations.

As we look forward, we know we can grow to again lead this country forward as a model of excellence by advancing policies that allow for real natural growth that creates opportunity for all.

We are asking everyone to join us in building a Commonwealth where freedom leads the way, not bloated and intrusive government mandates. The Keystone Commitment platform stands to grow opportunities for every Pennsylvanian today and long into the future.

State Rep. Bryan Cutler represents the 100th District comprising parts of Lancaster County. He currently serves as the Republican Leader in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

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