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GOP Rep. Chris Quinn Seeks Re-Election In More Dem-Friendly District

Incumbent state Rep. Chris Quinn (R) faces a tougher race this year after redistricting cut out a swath of the 168th District and made it bluer, a win for Democrats in the legislature.

Thornbury, Upper Providence, Marple, Media, and Chester Heights were eliminated from the lawmaker’s district, which now includes Radnor, Newtown, Edgmont, and parts of Middletown Township. Quinn, a former Middletown councilman, is seeking his fourth term.

Quinn told DVJ in a recent interview that former constituents were outraged when they learned he will no longer be their representative.

“How can we fight this?” they asked Quinn said. “What can we do? It made me feel good. It’s a tougher district for me, but I believe the voters if they’re paying attention, they know I’ve done a lot.”

The Republican lawmaker’s opponents in this year’s race are Radnor Township’s 4th Ward Commissioner Lisa Borowski (D) and little-known Libertarian candidate Jimmy Mitchell.

Borowski declined to respond to DVJ’s multiple requests for an interview. Her campaign website is here.

Regardless of the new lines, inflation remains a huge issue among Quinn’s constituents.

“I think, truthfully, when your gas prices have gone up significantly and you’re looking at empty shelves, those are big issues,” Quinn said.

Quinn, who worked in global electronics manufacturing before starting his own insurance agency in 2002, touts himself as an “old-style compassionate conservative” who has authored legislation since first being elected in 2016.

He supports a recent proposal to eliminate Pennsylvania’s closed primary elections that would open up voting for 1.3 million voters who are not registered with either of the main two parties.

The Keystone State is one of nine states with completely closed primaries, which Quinn called “fundamentally undemocratic.”

Quinn also touted the signing of Deana’s Law, which cracks down on the state’s worst drunken-driving offenders.

It was named in honor of Deana Eckman, who was killed in a head-on crash with a repeat DUI offender in February 2019. The law requires consecutive sentences for those convicted of third and subsequent DUIs.

“[The driver] should have been in jail, but because of a broken system, he was out on the road,” Quinn said.

Quinn believes those bills are just a start for him. If re-elected, he said he would be in a prime position, on all the right committees – appropriations, commerce, consumer affairs and insurance – to get even more bills through the legislature.

“I have always tried to rise above partisan politics,” he said. “It’s our job to figure out how to work in the middle. If you look at me as an individual, I’ve been a problem-solver. It’s really been about, ‘How do I get legislation done?’ I’ve figured out how to work across the aisle, how to work with the right and with the left and move bills.”

On issues important to Republicans, like an assault-weapon ban, Quinn is more moderate and supports universal background checks for all firearm purchases.

The father of three daughters said the constant threat of deadly school shootings has exacerbated mental health issues for students who were already traumatized by losing out on time with peers during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

“I don’t understand why someone needs to have an assault rifle,” Quinn said about the preferred weapon of choice for many school shooters while also cautioning that Democrats “want to say that any gun that’s black is bad and evil.”

When it comes to crime, Quinn is on the fence about the attempted impeachment of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who was elected to a second term in 2021.

The lawmaker did not initially support the impeachment effort but was struck by Krasner’s refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by a state legislative committee seeking his ouster.

He claimed the district attorney’s policies have found support among jailbirds who allegedly tattooed Krasner’s name on their arms.

“When I look at Larry Krasner, I think he’s doing a horrific job. I think he’s doing a huge disservice to the residents of Philadelphia,” Quinn said. “The fact that he wants to disobey the law of the land, I went from, ‘Guys, do we really want to do this?’ to ‘Is there something there?’ Larry Krasner has a revolving door. I’m not a Larry Krasner fan.”


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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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Frustrations Flare During Hearing on PA Fireworks Law

For many Pennsylvania lawmakers, more access to fireworks is nothing to celebrate.

During a legislative hearing Wednesday on the possibility of repealing or amending Act 43, the 2017 measure that allowed Pennsylvania residents to purchase consumer-grade fireworks, state Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) had a dire warning.

When people in his North Philadelphia district hear fireworks explode they might mistake it for gunfire and begin shooting back, and the situation “turns into gunplay,” he said.

Before the new law passed, only ground-based fireworks, like sparklers, were permitted to be sold to residents, although people from neighboring states could buy aerial fireworks from shops in Pennsylvania.

State Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver, Butler, Lawrence), chair of the Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee and Rep. Dan Moul (R-Gettysburg), who chairs the same committee in the House, held the joint hearing. However, Vogel said no legislative action will be taken on the fireworks law until next year.

Legislators are considering whether to increase the fines to $1,000 for a first offense, $2,500 for a second offense, and $5,000 for a third offense for disregarding the law and also making violations a misdemeanor.

Because the law requires fireworks not to be set off within 150 feet of an occupied building there is nowhere that is legal for them to be used in densely populated Philadelphia, except for a park, Street said.

Calls about fireworks often come in as gunfire reports, said Scott Bohn, executive director of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. It is also hard to track how many complaints about fireworks occur since those can be categorized as other things, such as noise ordinance violations. When calls come in, law enforcement officials are not necessarily going to prioritize fireworks when more serious crimes are happening at the same time, Bohn said.

Also, once police respond to the scene the person who set off the fireworks is usually gone.

State Police Sgt. Jerry Harper, supervisor of the fire marshal unit, said fireworks have been used as weapons against police during some protests, so they are also a danger to first responders.

Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jerry Delaney, president of the Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association, said the widespread use of fireworks poses a “significant public safety risk.”

“Some communities are like a war zone on July 4,” he said. And when fireworks are launched into the air, no one knows where they might land, including on rooftops and into leaf-filled gutters, he said.

This past July 4, an 8-year-old boy in West York died from injuries from discarded fireworks, and they are believed to be the cause of a Lower Merion house fire that claimed the life of volunteer firefighter Sean DeMuynck. Also, in Wilkes-Barre a family was left homeless when fireworks set their house on fire, Delaney said.

Representatives of the associations representing townships and boroughs said that dealing with fireworks is “an unfunded mandate.” However, there seemed to be general agreement that local municipal officials would like to be able to set their own rules instead of adhering to overly broad state law.

State Sen. Judith Schwank (D-Berks), minority chair, said the fireworks law costs Reading $28,000 in overtime. When fireworks are confiscated there is also a cost to dispose of them.

Daniel Peart, director of government affairs for Phantom Fireworks, said his company makes sure retailers tell customers the rules and directions for fireworks use. There are signs on every aisle and pamphlets are given out with purchases.

He suggested local municipalities should also have a role in educating their residents about what is legal.

Asked about limiting fireworks to 500 feet of an occupied structure, rather than the current 150 feet, Peart said, “You’re essentially banning fireworks.”

“We want to continue to expand and operate legally,” Peart said. Questioned about how much sales have increased since the law was changed, Peart would not give a direct answer but did admit there was “a notable increase in business.”

Asked to comment, Berwyn Fire Company Chief Eamon Brazunas agreed education is the key to preventing fireworks tragedies and added he would like to see warnings on television. For example, people do not realize how hot fireworks can get and that they cannot be immediately discarded in the regular trash. They don’t realize they should not be setting fireworks off on dry and windy days, when the risk of brushfires is high.

“We’ve had a couple of fire calls (from fireworks) locally,” Brazunas said. People don’t realize there is a rule to stay 150 feet from structures, which can be any building, even a shed, he said.

Also, there is the noise factor, which is a problem in the denser areas like Radnor and Easttown Township, compared to more rural parts of Chester County.

People complain that the police aren’t doing enough but “what do you want them to do, crawl under fences?” he asked. And now, neighbors complain on social media instead of just talking to each other about the fireworks noise issue, he said.

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