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FLURIE: It’s Unconstitutional to Cut Funding to Public Cyber Charter School Students

As board president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS) and a former president and CEO of a public cyber charter school, I am stunned by the overwhelming contempt projected by school district leaders and anti-charter school interest groups toward families who choose to enroll their children in a cyber charter school.

Public cyber charter schools do not hand-pick their students. They are public schools that are available to any child who resides in Pennsylvania.

Public cyber charter schools are as diverse as Pennsylvania: they have students and families from a variety of cultures, ethnicities, beliefs, and socioeconomic statuses; they often have a higher-than-average number of students who have disabilities, are struggling with mental health, are teen parents, are working full-time, are homeless, identify as LGBTQ+, or are low-income.

While unique in their own way, all public cyber charter school students have one objective in common: working toward securing their high school diploma to become responsible, productive citizens of society.

It has become fashionable to criticize those schools that give students an alternate pathway to achieving a successful future; however, it’s immature, irresponsible, and unbecoming of the same adults who are to set an example for our younger generations. Children and families are watching and witnessing the constant gnashing of teeth about the school that best meets their needs or provides them with the safety and security they desire.

Many of those who target public cyber charter schools were fortunate to have attended high-performing schools (maybe even private schools), lived in safe communities, and not experienced extreme poverty or the bullying and harassment that creates a barrier to learning.

Many families enroll their children in public cyber charter schools because they are the only alternative to their local school district. Many families cannot afford private school tuition, don’t have the means to relocate, or manage homeschooling because of employment.

There is no reason for these families to be criticized, patronized, or questioned for doing what they feel is in their children’s best interest. Pennsylvania’s public cyber charter schools provide students and families with a safe learning environment that ensures they will grow socially and academically.

I cannot fathom how cyber charter school families feel being at the center of this argument. The visceral attacks are only about money and never mention students.

Although public cyber charter school students already receive, on average, 30 percent less funding than their peers in school districts, anti-cyber charter advocates want even more.

On one side, opponents want to cut funding to cyber charter school students; on the other side, some are standing up for and defending the rights of parents to choose the school that best serves their children. I will always stand with students and families and defend their right to attend the school that best meets their needs.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, on February 6, proposed cutting funding to cyber charter school students by $262 million while at the same time proposing to increase funding to school districts by nearly $2 billion.

During his budget address, Shapiro stated, “We’ve got to invest more in our children, not less.”

He further said, “No school gets less than they did last year.” Public cyber schools will get less under his budget.

Last year, during an appearance on the Fox News Channel, he said, “The best way to ensure every child of God has a fair chance … is to ensure they have a proper education.”

Actions speak louder than words.

It is difficult to ascertain what our governor truly believes. His actions and words do not align with being pro-educational choice. That’s unfortunate because, when the governor took office, many were hopeful that he would expand and protect school choice options across the state, as has been done in numerous states nationwide. It’s no surprise that school choice is spreading rampantly: national polling studies show that nearly 75 percent of Americans of all parties overwhelmingly support school choice.

We’re only a few months away from learning who is on the side of students and families and who is on the side of special interest groups. If last year’s voucher fight is any indication, school choice opponents will fight hard to shut down public cyber charter schools.

Lawmakers and the governor need to review the mandate in the William Penn School District case handed down by the Commonwealth Court in February 2023: “The only requirement, [] imposed by the Constitution, is that every student receives a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically, which requires that all students have access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education.”

Cutting funding to public cyber charter school students is morally wrong, ethically repugnant, and unconstitutional.

Let’s avoid another potential legal battle by leaving funding for cyber charter school students untouched. That’s the least we can do for our leaders and workers of tomorrow.

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YAW: Maryland Puts the Grid to the Test While Pennsylvania Pays the Bill

Last year, the Maryland General Assembly announced plans to reduce its output of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 60 percent by 2031. The Climate Pollution Reduction Plan was sold as a roadmap to achieve near-term climate goals and a path to reach net zero emissions by 2045, setting the tone for environmental and energy decision-making throughout the state.

The problem with this roadmap is that it leads to nowhere but disruption to the reliability of our electric supply and a higher cost to all ratepayers, including Pennsylvanians. Yes, Pennsylvania ratepayers will pay part of the costs generated by the closure of thermal generation like coal, natural gas, oil, or nuclear facilities in Maryland.

The City of Baltimore is served primarily by a coal-fired thermal electric generation facility known as Brandon Shores. Brandon Shores and the nearby Wagner facility supply approximately 2200 megawatts of thermal electricity to PJM, the organization designated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to manage the mid-Atlantic power grid and the safe and reliable flow of electricity for 65 million people from Chicago to Philadelphia and many places in between.

Talen Energy, the owner of Brandon Shores, had been discussing the conversion of the facility from coal to oil. In mid-2023, unbeknownst to PJM, Talen entered into an agreement with the Sierra Club to close Brandon Shores in June 2025, taking enough electricity to power about 2 million homes from the supply available to the grid.

PJM analyses show that without proper upgrades, the deactivation of Brandon Shores would cause a severe voltage drop across seven PJM zones, leading to a widespread reliability risk not only in Maryland but in the surrounding zones including Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. This is a scenario that FERC Commissioner Mark Christie called “potentially catastrophic.”

But why should Pennsylvanians care? Because Maryland and the City of Baltimore don’t exist in a vacuum, and they will still need electricity. To replace the production at Brandon Shores with solar, it would require a minimum of 15,400 acres of solar panels or about 1400 windmills. There are no such projects underway. The only answer for Maryland, short of shuttering the City of Baltimore, is to import the electric power needed to replace the capacity of Brandon Shores from generation states like Pennsylvania.

To import more electricity into Maryland from other generation facilities requires approximately $800 million worth of upgrades and new construction to high-voltage power lines throughout Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. The cost of the upgrades will be passed onto ratepayers in the areas where the upgrades are made. While the majority of the costs will be borne by Marylanders, about 20 percent or $160 million will fall on ratepayers in Pennsylvania. The crux of the problem, however, is that the upgrades will not be completed until sometime in 2028.

The real question is, what happens to Maryland and the City of Baltimore for those three years between the announced closure date of June 2025 and the necessary transmission line upgrades which are projected to be completed in 2028?  PJM has requested a voluntary agreement to delay the proposed shutdown to allow time to bring replacement power online. So far, that effort has been rejected. Frankly, it is unclear whether Maryland or the City of Baltimore understand the dilemma they are in and just how rapidly disaster is approaching.

Unfortunately, this scenario is being repeated throughout the PJM grid and the United States. The knee-jerk reaction to move to so-called “green energy” is occurring without considering the ramifications of what powers our daily lives.

For many years, we have become accustomed to flipping a switch and our lights come on. That reliability rests solely on thermal generation that can be brought online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year without regard to weather, time of day, or duration. The inevitable fact is that as we introduce more of the so-called renewable electric generation, which is intermittent and of limited duration, into the grid, the more the grid will become intermittent and of limited duration. States like Maryland will soon face the consequences of short-sighted energy decisions. Sadly, Pennsylvanians will pay for it.

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Pennsylvania GOP Still Struggling with Mail-in Ballots

This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty

Just days before Pennsylvania’s 2023 municipal election this month, Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Tabas struck a confident tone on mail-in ballots.

“We looked at all the different methods that were being used for voting by mail and how to promote it. And then we unveiled our campaign and I met with the counties and we’ve met with each one individually and we’ve been working very closely with them. And it’s been, as I said, it’s gone far better than I had expected,” Tabas told Battleground Politics reporter Lauren Mayk.

“Our numbers are much better than they were in ‘21 in a municipal year, and our numbers are probably going to maybe exceed ‘22 as well, which is a general election year with a higher turnout,” Tabas also said.

Whatever Tabas’s expectations were, the 2023 election results plainly showed that Republicans in the Commonwealth are still so far behind Democrats in using mail-in ballots that catching up may take years.


A spreadsheet from the Department of State shows that by election day 2022, Democrats returned 718,744 mail-in ballots, compared to 178,609 for Republicans, exactly four times as many.

In 2023, Democrats returned 550,456 mail-in ballots, compared to 142,921 for Republicans — 3.8 times as many.

Whether Tabas and the state party’s “task force” were up to the challenge of radically altering Republicans’ adoption of mail-in voting is debatable, but what is certain is that Tabas knows that utilizing the new voting method is not a theoretical exercise, it’s existential.

“There are a lot of people who can’t get to the polls either because of maybe health or weather or job or family duties. This is a great way in order to be able to vote and participate in the process. We have a lot of people who have not been voting for a while who find this to be very convenient and supportive of this effort that we’re making here,” he told Mayk.

A request for comment to the state GOP seeking details on its “Bank the Vote” task force was not returned.

Voting by mail wasn’t an option for Pennsylvanians until the General Assembly passed Act 77 in 2019, ushering in some of the largest changes to voting the commonwealth has seen in generations.

When the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, the expanded use of “no excuse absentee voting” quickly became a de facto full fledged vote-by-mail system, as both parties sought to win a turnout war while hundreds of thousands of voters still had concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in public places — like local voting locations.

Grassroots Republicans have largely lashed out at their own party’s elected officials who passed Act 77.

But rarely discussed is that the Trump White House and the Republican National Committee were urging passage of the bill for strategic reasons of their own.

“In the communications that were taking place between our leadership and the White House and the RNC, the brass ring for them, in their opinion, was getting straight-party voting eliminated,” state Representative Jim Gregory (Blair County) said in 2021.

“In states that had, had [straight-ticket voting] previously and got rid of it, you saw an opportunity for President Trump to be re-elected by a range of four to eight percent. They did not concern themselves with mail-in balloting, and they were fine with that, in the communications that I’ve been told,” Gregory added.

In the run-up to the 2020 election, President Trump pilloried voting by mail.

“Mail ballots, they cheat,” Trump said at the White House in September 2020. “Mail ballots are very dangerous for this country because of cheaters. They go collect them. They are fraudulent in many cases. They have to vote. They should have voter ID, by the way.”

Most political strategists and observers still credit Republicans’ reluctance to use mail voting to Trump’s continual disparagement in 2020, although he has since shown a change of heart — somewhat.

“In December [of 2022], Mr. Trump told Breitbart News that the GOP has no choice but to ‘live with the system that stinks,’ while maintaining ‘a mail-in ballot will always be corrupt’ and that Republicans should seek to change laws,” a Wall Street Journal report from March noted.

And Pennsylvania’s Republican leadership seems to be of a similar mind.

At a statewide February meeting in Hershey, Republicans adopted two measures related to Act 77, and mail-in voting.

“The first says the party will encourage more of its members to avail themselves of the mail-in voting Act 77 created in order to be more competitive,” Broad + Liberty previously reported. “The second measure affirms the party will try to undo the law when it has the necessary levers of power in state government — circumstances that couldn’t even possibly materialize for another four years.”

Could ‘Scranton Joe’ Really Lose Swing State Pennsylvania?

When pollsters like Siena College and Emerson College want to take the temperature of voters in swing states, they inevitably stick a political thermometer in Pennsylvania. And as of late, those polls show “Scranton Joe” Biden trailing Donald Trump in the incumbent president’s home state.

Biden won Pennsylvania in 2020, and Democrats had strong showings here in 2022 and 2023. So, are Democrats really in danger of losing Pennsylvania in the 2024 White House race? Political pros say current polling is interesting — but not predictive.

“It can be somewhat dangerous to compare different polls that have different methodologies that were in the field at different times.” Republican political consultant Christopher Nicholas of Eagle Consulting Group told DVJournal. “That can get a little dicey…the usual disclaimers apply about polls being a year away, and Trump is looking like the presumptive nominee, but he’s not. No one has cast a vote yet.”

Fellow Republican political consultant Charlie Gerow of Quantum Communications agrees. He compared the early Biden-Trump polls to watching the stock market because “you never know what you’re going to get.” Gerow saw the polls as a “snapshot in time” and one that can’t be taken seriously until “you begin to see consistent patterns — which we’re not.”

If Republicans are urging caution, how do others feel?

“We have to be careful to not say that one poll is ‘the one,’” said Jeff Jubelirer of Bellevue Communications Group. He prefers looking at all data before deciding which candidate leads the race.

Recent polls in Pennsylvania show Trump leading by an average of a point and a half, according to RealClearPolitics. It is a significant swing from earlier this year when RCP found Biden leading by about four points.

There is still a feeling that voters appear desperate for candidates not named Biden or Trump. Both are deeply underwater with the electorate, though for different reasons. A Franklin & Marshall College poll found that 84 percent of Pennsylvania voters thought that Biden was too old for a second term.

Trump, on the other hand, is viewed as a “threat to democracy” by many independent voters who would like an alternative to the elderly Biden.

“People are dreading that being the choice again,” commented Nicholas, who compared the 2024 election to the 2016 election between Trump and Hillary Clinton. “It’s almost to the point of parody now: ‘Trump is the only Republican that Biden could beat’ and ‘Biden is the only Democrat that Trump could beat.’”

Why won’t both parties jettison Biden and Trump off the ballots? Fear, according to political strategists.

“[I]f all of sudden one of them went away, that party would become a surefire loser,” said Nicholas. “That’s how people view it now. Maybe it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Gerow is full steam ahead on the Trump train. “The people that don’t want Trump dislike him for other reasons other than his age and mental acuity,” Gerow said. “Let the chips fall where they will.”

Jubelirer said he believes Biden could be vulnerable if he had to run against a Republican not named “Trump.” He called the other candidates “very formidable,” with the exception of Chris Christie.

He’s not sure who the best Biden replacement might be. “Kamala Harris isn’t much more popular – if at all – than Joe Biden,” he told DVJournal. “I do think…[California Gov.] Gavin Newsom…could engender more support than Joe Biden.”

The only Democrats officially challenging Biden are Minnesota U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. dropped out of the Democratic primary to launch an independent presidential campaign.

As for Newsom, accusations of running a shadow campaign against Biden have dogged the governor for most of 2023. He has made multiple foreign trips and visits to other U.S. states. However, Newsom hasn’t formally declared a presidential run.

A potential wild card is Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro. The extremely popular Democrat gave essentially a stump speech to New Hampshire Democrats in September, portraying his administration as a “get sh-t done” one.

That doesn’t mean that he should run for president in 2024. Nicholas quipped that “in [Shapiro’s] mind, it’s an inevitability.”

Jubelirer thinks it is too early for Shapiro to seek national office. “His name’s been out there a little, but the country doesn’t know him yet, except those of us who are in the know.” He thinks 2028 is a better time for Shapiro.

As for next year’s presidential election, voters may enjoy gobbling up poll numbers instead of doing research into more important areas.

“The public remains interested in the ‘horse race’ aspect of the election,” said Jubelirer. “Who’s winning? Who’s losing? It draws more interest than a candidate’s positions on issues and other angles.”

FLOWERS: NJ Better Than PA? No Way!

First, let’s get this out of the way: I am not a New Jersey hater.

Keep your “what exit” and “which mob boss” jokes to yourself. Some of my happiest childhood memories are centered at the shore. (“Downashore,” as we say in Philly.)

I loved Chris Christie before he became the CNN Avenger against Trump, and forgave him that unfortunate affection for the Dallas Cowboys because he was a true maverick — long before John McCain ever coined the term.

Jersey tomatoes are the best in the world. Bruce Springsteen rocks (literally). And Miss New Jersey, Suzette Charles, deserved to be named Miss America even before she took the crown from a disqualified Vanessa Williams forty-some years ago.

But how on God’s earth did WalletHub rank New Jersey the second best state to live in, after Massachusetts, but Pennsylvania ranks only number 14?

I say this, not as a lifelong Philadelphian who is fully aware of our blemishes (over 500 homicides a year, huge potholes, Mayor Jim Kenney), but as someone who has traveled throughout our beautiful commonwealth and knows that anything Jersey can do, Pennsylvania can do better.

Leaving aside our politicians, who at this moment are about as mediocre as Jersey luminaries like Love Guv Jim McGreavey and several indicted South Jersey mayors, Pennsylvania has given the country a lot to appreciate, including: Mario Lanza, Mr. Rogers, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Chuck Bednarik, several Super Bowls, Shirley Jones, Jimmy Stewart, Sharon Stone, Ed Bradley, Tammi Terrell, Patty LaBelle, and Bill Cosby (he still rates major props for this writer).

And the most important thing other than Scrapple: Independence.

Were it not for this commonwealth, there would essentially be no United States. Our spirit was set ablaze at Independence Hall, our character was strengthened and molded at Valley Forge, and a century later, the ultimate sacrifice was made to preserve our union at Gettysburg. No other single state has given as much to this country as my beloved Pennsylvania.

While this may not make us “livable” enough for the jaded folks at WalletHub, it should at least give us some consideration in the Top 10.

Not everyone agrees with me, of course, and some are showing it with their feet. According to the U.S. Census, New Jersey’s population grew by 5.2 percent from 2010 to 2020, while Pennsylvania grew by just 2.4 percent. While both are well below the national 7.4 percent average, our growth was so anemic it cost us a congressional seat. That’s a problem.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, the debate rages.

Frank Clayton, a Hamilton, N.J. resident, said there, “Pennsylvania’s roads and signage should place Pennsylvania in last place.” On the other hand, Clayton said, “I can’t wait to get out of N.J.” He eventually hopes to relocate to Sarasota, Fla.

Also, on Facebook, Jenkintown resident Allison Durkin said, “I can’t imagine living in New Jersey. The roads, etc. But I hear it’s the greatest state to hike the Appalachian Trail in.”

Bryn Mawr resident Jim Yannopoulos also responded on Facebook.

“New Jersey is flat and ugly. And taxes are ridiculously high. I guess Pennsylvania, but since Massachusetts is ranked No. 1, can I choose that? Actually, I think No. 3, New Hampshire is nicer.

“All these rankings are dependent on the factors chosen and how they are weighted. I’ve seen other rankings with Utah and Montana as the best,” he added.

Cherry Hill resident Mike Mathis took issue with Yannopoulos.

“Guess you’ve never been to the northwestern part of New Jersey or the Pinelands,” Mathis said.

And Cheltenham denizen Alan Fels added, “Pennsylvania rules! Jersey is just Jersey!”

Amen, Brother Fels.

Besides the history and this debt that can never be repaid, Pennsylvania is the entire American experience in one state. We have the blue-collar heart of Baltimore, the street savvy of Brooklyn, the institutional knowledge of Washington, the horrific accent “one diphthong removed” of Boston, the natural beauty of any western state (just travel the Pennsylvania Turnpike in October and look up), and are still one of the key industrial hubs of this nation.

It’s true that we have lost some population to warmer climates, but what we lose in retirees, we gain in the young people who come to our amazing colleges and then stay, making this an even more amazing place to live.

So, to the people at WalletHub, I wish you luck on that cataract surgery you’ll need in the future. Clearly, you can’t see a thing.

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SOLOMON: Why Did New Jersey Invoke Sovereign Immunity?

New Jersey Transit, a state-owned transportation system, has been ruled to be shielded from a negligence lawsuit in Pennsylvania due to sovereign immunity.

Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government entities from being sued without their consent.

The concept of sovereign immunity was derived from British common law doctrine based on the idea that the king could do no wrong. In the United States, sovereign immunity typically applies to the federal government and state government, but not to municipalities.

Federal and state governments, however, have the ability to waive their sovereign immunity. The federal government did this when it passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, which waived federal immunity for numerous types of torts claims.

However, this rule was later superseded by the 11th Amendment, which states that “the Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”

As such, a citizen of State A can no longer sue State B. Sovereign immunity is used as a means of protecting the government from having to alter its policies any time a person takes issue with them

Last Friday, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that New Jersey Transit’s sovereign immunity extends across the Delaware River and prevents the agency from being sued in Pennsylvania. This decision sparked controversy and raised several concerns.

First, the decision limits the ability of Pennsylvania residents to seek justice for injuries caused by New Jersey Transit’s negligence. This is particularly concerning given that New Jersey Transit operates trains and buses that travel across state lines, and therefore, accidents and injuries can occur in Pennsylvania. The ruling effectively means that Pennsylvania residents cannot hold New Jersey Transit accountable for any harm caused by their actions.

Second, and perhaps more important, the decision sets a precedent that could be used to shield other out-of-state government entities from lawsuits in Pennsylvania. This could have far-reaching implications for Pennsylvania residents who may be injured by government entities from other states.

This decision can be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has the authority to review and make final judgments in cases heard by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

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Restaurant Leader: PA Minimum Wage Hike Could Wreak Havoc on Workers

Pennsylvania’s proposed minimum wage hike could have significant negative consequences on many of the services labor pool, a prominent industry leader is warning. 

Democrats in the state House of Representatives passed a bill in June to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. The wage would be slowly raised in measured increments over those years until it reached the target amount, after which it would be indexed to inflation. 

Notably, the wage for tipped workers—restaurant servers and others who rely on customer tips for most of their wages—would also significantly increase, set at 60 percent of the hourly minimum wage. 

Joe Massaro, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, told DVJournal the hospitality industry is “most concerned” with preserving the current tipped wage of $2.83 per hour. 

“There have been examples in other municipalities or states where the base wage was increased so significantly that restaurants were forced to do things like add service charges to consumers’ bills,” Massaro said. 

“The result of that is servers making less tips, if not no tips,” he said. “So what was thought to be helping the server by increasing the base wage actually reduced their total take-home because people were tipping less.”

Massaro noted the tipped wage of $2.83 is already bolstered by a state rule that ensures tipped workers make at least the minimum wage; if their total wages do not equal that of the federal minimum of $7.25, then employers must pay them an additional hourly rate to make up the difference. 

Democrats in the state legislature have cheered the minimum wage measure, which has a lower chance of passing in the Republican-controlled state Senate. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro has publicly called for the $15 wage.

This month’s speaker of the House Joanna McClinton, called the effort a part of the Democratic party’s “people-first agenda.”

“We advanced a long overdue boost in the state minimum wage,” McClinton said, “which lags every surrounding state and has kept too many Pennsylvanians in poverty.”

The legislation stipulates that every January 1 from 2027 onward, “the minimum wage shall be increased by an annual cost-of-living adjustment calculated by the secretary using the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index.”

Massaro noted that, in most cases, tipped workers receive net wages significantly above a $15 per hour rate.

“The median national tipped worker wage is $27,” he said. “In some higher-end restaurants, there are reports of $40 per hour or more. That was from a national poll of close to 3,000 employees.”

Though wage statistics for Pennsylvania are not readily available, Massaro said the state tends to mirror other national industry statistics.

“Tipped employees bring knowledge, experience, and hospitality,” Massaro said. “They’re often working off-hours, evenings, holidays. Doing anything to jeopardize the reward to them—the tips they earn—would drive many of them out of the profession.” 

“They work those tough hours because it’s a great income,” he said.

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Casey Increasingly Breaking With Dems as Biden’s Approval Fades

Many Democrats in Washington are trying to present a unified front ahead of what is expected to be a bitter 2024 election season. 

Bob Casey apparently disagrees. 

The Pennsylvania senator is increasingly breaking with President Joe Biden, voting against legislation championed by the Democratic president in what analysts say is a bid to protect the vulnerable Senate seat next year. 

Casey has reason to be nervous. At present, the usually reliable swing state of Pennsylvania barely went for Biden in 2020, with the Democrat claiming victory there by less than 1.20 percentage points. Recent polling shows Biden and Trump virtually tied in the state, suggesting a possible shift in Trump’s favor for the state’s critical 20 electoral votes. 

Casey has historically enjoyed far more comfortable margins in his Senate races. He has won two of his three contests by double-digit margins and the other by nearly that much. Still, data show him breaking from mainline Democratic party-line votes increasingly as the year has gone on. 

A FiveThirtyEight analysis shows Casey voting nearly 20 percent less in favor of Biden-backed bills in the 118th Congress as compared to the 117th, having voted 98.5 percent with Biden in the latter and just 78.6 percent in the former. 

“While most Democratic senators still agree with Biden over 80 percent of the time, these declines are significant,” FiveThirtyEight’s Cooper Burton wrote. “As a whole, Democratic senators are voting Biden’s way 11 points less than in the last Congress.”

Jim McLaughlin, president of the strategy and consulting firm McLaughlin & Associates, pointed to a recent Quinnipiac poll in which Biden’s numbers, he said, were “horrible.”

“He had a 58 percent unfavorable rating and a 57 percent  disapproval rating, and among the all-important independents, 68 percent disapproved of President Biden,” McLaughlin said, “not to mention, Donald Trump was beating Biden in the presidential race.”   

“The failures and corruption of the Biden administration have turned Scranton Joe into Swampy Joe,” McLaughlin continued. 

“Casey is scared to death,” he said.

Casey’s seat is one Democrats cannot easily afford to lose. Republicans are just a few seats away from a majority in the Senate. Losses in Pennsylvania and other Democratic-vulnerable states, including Montana, Arizona, and West Virginia, could easily push control of that chamber to the GOP, dealing a serious blow to Biden’s legislative ambitions should he win again in 2024. 

The national GOP has taken note.

“From the southern border to crime to inflation, Bob Casey is out of step with Pennsylvania voters on every issue,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Philip Letsou. “Throwing inconsequential votes won’t be enough to cover up Bob Casey’s career of rubber-stamping Democrats’ agenda.”

Casey may very well cruise to re-election, nonetheless. A Franklin & Marshall poll in April showed him enjoying a healthy lead over potential GOP challenger Dave McCormick, 42 percent to 35 percent. 

Still, the weight of slumping Democratic numbers could take its toll on Casey’s prospects. In addition to Biden’s slumping approval rates, Casey’s fellow Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. John Fetterman is also seeing cratering opinions among voters. 

The Quinnipiac poll showed 50 percent of voters holding an unfavorable opinion of Fetterman, who, after being sworn in, spent a protracted in-patient stay in a hospital for treatment of depression and who has constantly struggled with basic speech and communication stemming from a stroke he suffered in 2022.

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After Two Months, Delco Natural Gas Facility Still On Hold

An appeals court ruling has left the construction of a new Delaware County natural gas facility in limbo for months, with no clear sign as to when the project is expected to resume.

PECO Energy Company originally set out to build a natural gas “reliability station” in Marple Township several years ago. The company describes the facility as one that will “enable PECO to distribute more natural gas into Delaware County through 11.5 miles of new natural gas main.”

Company officials argued the station will play a key role in ensuring ample gas supply to Delaware County as demand grows for the key fossil fuel energy source.

Township officials in November 2020 rejected PECO’s application to build the plant, after which PECO filed a petition with the state Public Utility Commission asking for the PUC to exempt the company from township zoning rules.

The PUC subsequently ruled in PECO’s favor. Town officials then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which halted station construction in March, claiming the commission overlooked several key regulatory considerations when ruling for the energy company.

The court said the commission must “incorporate the results of a constitutionally sound environmental impact review” into a new project analysis.

PECO spokesman Greg Smore confirmed to DVJournal that the case is still waiting to be resolved, having been sent back to the PUC for re-evaluation.

“We are disappointed with the decision,” Smore said. “However, we are evaluating our next steps to complete this project, which is critical to meeting the growing need and demand for safe, reliable, and affordable natural gas for our customers in Marple Township and across Delaware County.”

David Hixson, a spokesman for the PUC, said the case “has been reopened and assigned to the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge for further consideration.”

“If further hearings are scheduled by OALJ, notices will be posted to the public docket,” he added, “but to date, no hearings have been scheduled.”

Officials with Marple Township did not respond to queries asking about the case and the township’s opposition to it. In March, after the appeals court decision, the town said in a statement that it was “pleased and encouraged” by the ruling.

“The township continues to believe that the subject property is not an appropriate site for these facilities,” the town said, “and that this will be borne out by a constitutionally sound environmental impact review by the Commission as required by the Commonwealth Court’s decision.”

For years, a citizen-created initiative, the Marple Safety Coalition, has worked against the plant’s construction. The initiative’s website was last updated shortly after the court decision in early March.

“Probably, [the ruling] means that PECO will not begin building anything soon,” one message reads. “However, they can continue to work at the site; over the winter, there was a lot of activity due to their testing of the pipeline, and that testing will probably continue.” The Marple Safety Coalition did not respond to a query from DVJournal.

Only Texas produces more natural gas than Pennsylvania, which is sitting on billions upon billions of cubic feet of the critical energy source. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says Pennsylvania has 48 underground gas storage sites, “the most for any state.”

PECO says Delaware County’s natural gas consumption is projected to surge in the coming years, necessitating more infrastructure like the reliability plant to ensure demand is met.

“PECO anticipates a 20 percent increase in natural gas usage in Delaware County and a 10 percent increase in Marple Township over the next decade,” the company says on its website.

“Without this project,” the company says, “the natural gas system in this area will be constrained, resulting in inadequate natural gas supply and pressure to help customers run their appliances, like heaters, during the coldest days of the year.”

Mayor Candidate Worrell Hopes to Lead Chester to the Future

Patricia Worrell says nobody wants to see the city of Chester lose its charter and dissolved over its fiscal woes. But, she argues, the best way to ensure it doesn’t happen is to elect a mayor with the skills to stop it.

Worrell, 63, is one of three Democrats vying in the May 16 primary for the chance to serve as mayor of the troubled city. Worrell, a longtime member of the city zoning board, and Chester Councilman Stefan Roots, 62, are challenging incumbent Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, who is 68.

Worrell spoke to DVJournal about her assessment of the city’s current state and where she hopes to take it if she’s sworn in next January.

“On every level, we have major, major issues, the most major issue being our finances,” she tells DVJournal.

Worrell’s background in human resources, business management, and real estate brokerage fields makes her uniquely qualified to head up the government of Chester after years of the city’s decline into potential dissolution.

City receiver Michael Doweary said last month that “everything is on the table” regarding the city’s dire straits. “If a comprehensive solution is not found by the end of the year, there may be no alternative for Chester but disincorporation,” Receiver Chief of Staff Vijay Kapoor said.

Worrell expressed confidence that the situation would not come to that.

“I don’t believe the city will be dissolved,” she said. “I believe that [Doweary] put that out there because that’s the natural next step after bankruptcy if it doesn’t work. But I don’t think the state, county, or even local officials want that to happen.”

“Nobody wants that to happen,” she continued. “I believe that even through their disagreements they will work to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Worrell said her plans for steering Chester out of its dire financial straits and into more prosperous waters include hiring “qualified staff” to oversee the city’s management. She also said she will use her experience as a real estate broker to help drive a homeownership renaissance.

“I’d like to see homeownership reversed to 60 percent or more homeownership instead of renters,” she said. “That would be one of my first areas of focus.”

She said the city “needs to be a part of the entire community and get involved,” she said. “We need street cleaners and other workers helping to make our community inviting for others to come in and live.”

The candidate said she hopes for a “historic turnout” during the primary this month.

“These local elections are just as important, if not more important, than presidential and state elections,” she said. “I would be happy to see more people get involved in the process.”

Worrell offered qualified praise of Kirkland, though she argued that he is not the person to lead Chester into a more successful chapter of its history.

“He’s been a good asset to the city at the state level,” she said. “But when it comes to the politics, local government means hands-on. You have to have in-depth experience. It’s like running a business. And he does not have the experience of running a business.”

“I just don’t think he realized the particular experiences that it takes to run a local government,” she continued. “At the local level, it’s really hands-on. He just did not have those qualifications.”

Roots did not respond to queries about his own campaign. Kirkland’s press secretary Amanda Johnson told DVJournal the mayor is not currently giving interviews.

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