Remember to Vote in the Primary Election

Pennsylvania’s primary election day is Tuesday, May 20, and the polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

You understand the importance of turnout if you have seen the “ground game” that candidates run in elections these days.  

The vote that is assured, including people tied to the government and other reliable votes, are “pulled” by a team working for a particular candidate. Independents, and centrists in general, are not urged to come out. And so when turnout drops too low, a lazy electorate can result in an unwanted result.

According to statistics assembled in the election project at the George Mason University, only about 40% of Pennsylvanians eligible to vote came out for the gubernatorial general election in 2010. The turnout in primaries is usually even lower; in 2012, only 20% of the electorate bothered to vote in the primary.

For a representative government to be truly representative, we all need to vote and to get others to vote.

Information on absentee ballots and the most important races after the jump.

Absentee Ballots

If you cannot be at the polls on election day, you may vote absentee ballot.

The completed application form must be received by your county’s election board by 5 p.m. on May 13; having it postmarked by May 13 does not count. In addition, only an original of your completed application can be submitted; do not submit a copy of your form.

For example, people in Montgomery County can mail their applications to: Election Board, Montgomery County Court House, P.O. Box 311, Norristown, PA 19404-0311.

To file in person or through UPS or FedEx, the address would be: Election Board, One Montgomery Plaza, Suite 602, 425 Swede Street, Norristown, PA 19401.

Completed absentee ballots must be returned to the same office by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 16. If the ballot is to be delivered by hand, then it may only be returned by the actual voter. And again, having a completed ballot postmarked by May 16 does not count.

People serving in the military can also vote through absentee ballot. However, different deadlines apply.

Also, certain people may qualify for emergency absentee ballots before or even after May 13.

Among the many contests, four important races to be decided have created real excitement.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is seeking a second term. Seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose him in the Fall general election are four candidates:

  • State Treasurer Rob McCord;
  • Kathleen McGinty, previously state environmental protection secretary;
  • Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz; and
  • Tom Wolfe, previously state revenue secretary.  

Also running are Paul Glover for the Green Party, and Ken Krawchuk for the Libertarian Party.

In the race to be the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 13th District, former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies is battling State Sen. Daylin Leach, State Rep. Brendan Boyle and medical professor Valerie Arkoosh.

Lining up to oppose incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick in the 8th District are two Democrats: publisher Shaughnessy Naughton, and Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran Kevin Strouse.

Long-time Democratic State Senator LeAnna Washington represents the 4th District, spanning portions of Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County. Challengers in this race are nonprofit social services officer Brian Gralnick, and Cheltenham Township Commissioner Art Haywood. The race is considered competitive because the incumbent is under indictment for misuse of public funds and staff.

Other congressional races will be decided, along with local races for state legislature that add to the interest and importance of this primary.  

Medicaid Expansion: Red States Choose Politics Over Saving Lives


The Affordable Care Act mandated that people earnings over 133% of the poverty level ($23,550 for a family of four) must sign up for health insurance and provided financial subsidies in order to make that insurance more affordable. To require families earning below that level to purchase insurance would probably have required the cost of insurance to be completely subsidized. In order to provide free health insurance to those too poor to afford private insurance, the Affordable Care Act proposed increasing Medicaid’s income cut to from the Federal poverty line to 138% thereof.

However, in June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Government could not require states to expand Medicaid eligibility. The Affordable Care Act requires the Federal Government to cover all of the cost of Medicaid expansion through 2017. Starting then the Federal Government covers 95% of the cost and the states cover 5% until 2020, when the states are asked to cover 10% of the cost. In the meantime, there is no cost to the states, yet many states with Republican governors and/or legislatures have refused to expand medicaid.

This leaves eight million Americans in Health insurance limbo. They are “too poor” to qualify for health insurance market place subsidies, and they are “too rich” to qualify for Medicaid. This leaves them without any affordable options for health insurance.

Even worse, a new study found that in states with no expanded medicaid, those who earn 138% of the poverty line or less suffer more often with high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer, stroke and emphysema.

Since this costs the states nothing to provide this coverage over the next 3 years, the only possible reason to refuse this grant is political. The Red States are worried that people will appreciate the benefits of this coverage, reward the Democrats that provided it, and demand that the coverage be continued past 2017 when the states will be asked to make a small contribution to the cost.

This is a very cynical view of politics. Politicians should be looking out for the interest of the country, not of themselves nor their party. Instead these “leaders” who rejected medicaid expansion are putting the lives of their citizens at risk to score political points.

A group of researchers from the Harvard Medical School published a peer-reviewed study in Health Affairs concluding:

Nationwide, 47,950,687 people were uninsured in 2012; the number of uninsured is expected to decrease by about 16 million after implementation of the ACA, leaving 32,202,633 uninsured. Nearly 8 million of these remaining uninsured would have gotten coverage had their state opted in. States opting in to Medicaid expansion will experience a decrease of 48.9 percent in their uninsured population versus an 18.1 percent decrease in opt-out states…
We estimate the number of deaths attributable to the lack of Medicaid expansion in opt-out states at between 7,115 and 17,104. Medicaid expansion in opt-out states would have resulted in 712,037 fewer persons screening positive for depression and 240,700 fewer individuals suffering catastrophic medical expenditures. Medicaid expansion in these states would have resulted in 422,553 more diabetics receiving medication for their illness, 195,492 more mammograms among women age 50-64 years and 443,677 more pap smears among women age 21-64. Expansion would have resulted in an additional 658,888 women in need of mammograms gaining insurance, as well as 3.1 million women who should receive regular pap smears.

Do not despair though, not all Republicans value obstructionism over life. Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) explained why he expanded Medicaid to include 300,000 Ohioans:

When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he’s going to ask you what you did for the poor. You’d better have a good answer.

Cartoon courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Defending Voters’ Rights in Pennsylvania: The Battle Is Not Over


A visit to a PennDOT office to secure a photo ID may be very difficult for the elderly and the poor, and as a result they may drop from the voters’ rolls.

— By Kenneth R. Myers, Esq.

Striking down the voter ID law was an important step in securing voters’ rights in Pennsylvania.

The well reasoned opinion of Judge Herman McGinley overturning the voter identification law takes effect subject to the high likelihood of an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That Court’s 2012 ruling withheld decision on the merits of the law, instead questioning the practical impact on voters. So there is no foretelling the result in the coming appeal.

Meanwhile, the next battle to defeat the wishes of the voting public is Governor Corbett’s proposal to award Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in presidential elections on the basis of the tally by Congressional district.  

More after the jump.
As a result of the very successful gerrymander of those districts, Republicans cast less than half the votes statewide yet elected 13 out of 18 of our state Congressional delegation in 2012. According to analysts, despite the fact that President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points in 2012, he probably would have won only 7 of the state’s 20 electoral votes if this vote rigging plan had been in effect.

The problem with the voter ID law is that many people, particularly the poor and the elderly, have no driver’s license. A visit to a PennDOT office to secure a photo ID may be very difficult for them, and as a result they may drop from the voters’ rolls.

The very detailed and careful opinion of Judge McGinley of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court permanently enjoined the voter identification law that has been challenged in court for almost two years.  

The primary thrust of this law is to require picture identification, such as a driver’s license, for any registered voter to be able to cast a ballot. This voter ID law is one of many adopted across the country, primarily by state legislatures with Republican majorities.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court received the case on motion to enjoin operation of the law temporarily, before any final trial on the merits. Acting just before the 2012 presidential election, the Court enjoined the law and sent the case back to Commonwealth Court to determine whether it places an illegal burden on the right to vote, particularly as regards people who cannot readily visit a PennDOT office to secure a photo ID.

At trial the plaintiffs presented calculations that as many as 400,000 Pennsylvania voters might find it difficult or practically impossible to qualify for the necessary photo ID. The Administration argued, in support of the law, that it is justified to address potential voter fraud. But no significant evidence of voter fraud was presented.  

Judge McGinley sifted through the many problems that would-be voters, are likely to have in trying to secure the necessary photo ID. Various efforts at curative patches put up by the Corbett Administration were rejected either as unsatisfactory to solve the problem, or as unauthorized under the law. The court ruled that the difficulties imposed on many citizens amounted to a deprivation of their right to vote.

Unfortunately, the battle against suppressing voters’ rights in Pennsylvania is not over.

Community Leaders Speak at “Standing United With Israel” Event

— by Janet Lynn

Temple Sinai hosted an ecumenical event this week, celebrating Philadelphia’s relationship with Israel.

Speakers included Governor Tom Corbett, as well as local religious and political leaders:

  • Bishop Shawn Bartley of True United Church,
  • Rabbi Saul Grife of Beth Tikvah-Bnei Jeshrun,
  • Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro,
  • Dr. Jim Showers and Reverend William Sutter from Friends of Israel,
  • Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region Yaron Sideman,
  • Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams and
  • Rabbi Adam Wohlberg of Temple Sinai.

More after the jump.
The featured leaders encouraged further collaboration in keeping the relationship growing and strong, and recognized the appreciation those outside of the Jewish community have for Israel.  

In addition to the speakers, the program featured a short video from Jerusalem Online University, and a musical program by the Temple Sinai Junior Choir, along with an interfaith choir comprised of members of the adult choirs of Temple Sinai, Jarrettown United Methodist Church, and St. Alphonsus Church, led by Cantor Stephen Freedman.

Rabbi Adam Wohlberg of Temple Sinai said, “We are blessed to live in a community in which men and women of all faiths recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist and in which so many people actively support Israel and feel a deep connection to her people.”

Fear of a Word: Marijuana Forbidden for Sick 3-Year-Old

— by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach

Garrett Brann, who is about to turn 3 years old, has a form of epilepsy, known as “Dravet’s Syndrome,” which is robbing him of his childhood, a normal life, and much more.

The disease manifests itself primarily in almost constant seizures. Garrett routinely has more than 100 seizures, of varying degrees of intensity, every day.

Garrett’s story is obviously sad, but what makes it truly tragic is that there is a treatment which could very possibly end Garrett’s seizures and allow him to live a normal life. However, because that treatment is a derivative of marijuana, he is not allowed to have it.

More after the jump.
As a result of the frightening and damaging seizures, Garrett’s brain does not rest long enough to develop normally. He, like all children with the Syndrome, suffers from severe cognitive underdevelopment, which only gets worse with time.

He used to be able to feed himself and speak, but has lost those abilities. He can no longer walk consistently and frequently falls. As a result, Garrett’s parents have had to rush him to the emergency room repeatedly for stitches and other medical treatment.

Garrett cannot run, climb steps or jump like a normal 3-year old. He receives occupational, physical and speech therapy, but makes no real progress in any of these areas, as the Syndrome continues to run its often-fatal course.

In an effort to ameliorate the seizures as much as possible, Garrett is currently on a highly toxic and addictive three-drug regimen. These drugs are known to cause liver damage. One of them is not covered by insurance, and costs the Brann family thousands of dollars per year.

The treatment that could help Garrett is known as “Charlotte’s Web,” named after the first girl with the Syndrome to whom it helped.

Charlotte, like Garrett, suffered with near constant seizures. Also like Garrett, nothing seemed to help her until she was given the marijuana-based oil.

The results were miraculous. Her seizure rate went down from hundreds per week to less than one. She is now developing normally and has regained much of what she had lost when she was constantly seizing. Similar results have now been seen in dozens of children with the Syndrome.

The miracle treatment is a tincture or oil that comes from a certain, specific strain of marijuana.

It is important to know that marijuana contains two active compounds:

  • The first is tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC.” This is the part of the marijuana plant that is an intoxicant, and makes people “high.”
  • The other active compound is known as cannabidiol, or “CBD,” which cannot make people “high” at all.

The specific strain of marijuana used to create Charlotte’s Web is packed with CBD and contains almost no THC. So the oil that could help Garrett cannot and will not get Garrett stoned or intoxicated in any way.

If Charlotte’s Web came from a yucca plant or bacteria grown in a laboratory, it would be easily available in every CVS or Rite-Aid in America.

But because it comes from marijuana, the plant that dare not speak its name, no child in Pennsylvania can obtain, possess or use it. Garrett’s parents can fly to Colorado, establish residency, buy the oil and bring it back to Pennsylvania, but if they do they risk arrest and felony prosecution.

This policy is insane. A few drops of a simple oil can potentially save a young boy’s life. The oil is not addictive, not intoxicating, and has no side effects.

There is no rational reason to deny this child the medicine he needs. The only thing that stands between Garrett and a normal life is the fear of the word “marijuana.”

This word has the same effect on many policymakers in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. as Kryptonite has on Superman: it causes them to lose their ability to think clearly, and forces them to flee in terror.

We must overcome this superstitious way of thinking. It is causing people to suffer needlessly, both with symptoms that could have been eased, and with the side effects of drugs much more toxic and dangerous than Charlotte’s Web could ever be.

Would our policy on medical marijuana make sense to you if Garrett was your son?

Gubernatorial Candidates Face-Off


Forum starts at 18:00. Please skip first 18 minutes of video.

On November 21, 2013 Philly Speaks Out held a forum at Temple University for gubernatorial candidates.  Candidates attending:

Pennsylvania Governor Jon Corbett was invited to join the forum but did not respond to the invitation. The forum was a non-partisan event, not a debate.

The moderator was Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church — a founding member of POWER, one of the sponsoring organizations.

More after the jump.
In addition to POWER the event was sponsored by:  1199C/AFSCME, 32BJ SEIU, AFSCME DC 47, Action United, Fight for Philly, PA Working Families, PASNAP, PCAPS, and SEIU Healthcare PA

I did not attend in person but watched the webcast of the event. These are my rough notes from the forum. They not intended as a transcript. As always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions. Interested readers are encouraged to click on the candidates’ names above and visit their websites for further information on the candidates’ views and policies. A few personal observations are given at the end.

Rev. Mark Tyler introduced the candidates and instructed them to get right to the issues without taking time to thank the organizers. They had 3 minutes each to answer questions. (2 minutes for the final question.)

The forum covered four issues:

  1. Education.
  2. Retirement Security.
  3. Jobs.
  4. Health Care.

Each segment of the forum began with testimony from an audience member which was then framed with questions posed by the moderator Rev. Tyler. (See video.) The questions and candidate responses are outlined below.

First issue:  Education

Question:

  1. Reversing problems requires bold leadership and policy changes, “equitable” funding formula,
  2. increase revenue for public education and social services, cut corporate tax loopholes, drilling,
  3. charter school accountability,
  4. invest in schools not prisons, and
  5. abolish the School Reform Commission.

Will you support these items and what will your agenda be?

Schwartz: Pleased to be here, not pleased that Corbett is absent. Not a surprise; he has been absent on our values. Pennsylvania has great resources yet Corbett has led us to 49th place in job creation.  We cannot be a great state without leadership, vision, and a commitment to the state.  I have high goals, high expectations, and have always found a way to move forward.  We have to start with public education.  My mother was an immigrant.  She arrived here alone at age 16, and was sent to Philadelphia because the city had great public schools.  She graduated from Girls High and went to Temple but could not afford to finish.  My sons went to Central High School, a public school in Philadelphia.  As governor I would make public education a priority.  I would support your agenda, abolish the School Reform Commission, rein in charters, fair funding, pre-school and full-day kindergarten.  Invest in public education; invest in the future.

Wolf: I am from York County.  How can we allow this (references tweet from parent about no school librarian) to happen.  Tom Corbett has taken education off the front burner, off the stove.  I love learning, and have a PhD from MIT.  Daughters got a great education in York County.  We are all in this together.  Public education is a shared enterprise.  As governor if we are going to have a bright future we must have great schools.  We need fair and equitable funding, tax shale, universal Pre-K, charter accountability, good education equals good jobs, connect higher education with worlds of work.  As an employer I understand we must have an educated workforce.

McCord:   The most important thing for me to highlight is education, not just as policy but it is personal.  Think of a single parent who has a job but a bad job, mistreated by her employer but wants a good future for her kids — that is my mom’s story.  She went through a bad divorce when I was four.  I went from being a slow reader to a scholarship at Harvard.  Some have a poverty of purpose.  This is the #1 reason I am running.  Tom Corbett took $1 billion from the schools.  We need to review the funding system, fully fund higher education, repair the 529 plan, fund community colleges, allow unions to provide associates degrees, fully fund early childhood education.  Yield for decades.

Hanger:  Nothing wrong with public education but the governor is trying to privatize it.  I will stop this cold.  I arrived in the US at age 12 from Ireland.  Public schools prepared me.  We must attack poverty to prepare people for education.  As a law graduate I worked with low income families.  Start with charters, not preparing poor kids, stealing money from public education.  We need to shut down poorly performing charters, including almost all cyber charters.  It is an attack on unions to attack public schools.  I will abolish the School Reform Commission.  We need fair funding.  The real problem is the governor trying to privatize public schools.

McGinty:  One morning in September I was having coffee, reading the paper and saw the beautiful face of 12 year old LaPortia.  She died from asthma attack on a day when the school nurse wasn’t there.  She was the same age as one of my kids. This is not the best for our kids. Problem to solve.  Our kids deserve better. Put the spotlight on what is working. Pennsylvania is 4th in reading, 8th in math. Taking a wrecking ball to public education is not right. Put a tax in place to restore money to public education, fair formula, English language learning, property tax, reform charters so no double dipping. Start early Head Start, pre-day, full day kindergarten, small classes. Let teachers teach and students learn.

Second issue:  Retirement security.

Question: Pennsylvania has the fourth oldest population in the US.  There are fewer employer retirement plans.

  1. protecting pensions for public employees,
  2. retirement benefits available to all workers. California is offering plans all works can join. [blogger’s note, this is the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program] Working Families plan.

Will you support these items and what will your agenda be?

McGinty: Yes I will support this. I am the 9th of 10 kids, dad was a Philadelphia police officer for 35 years. He died last year at 94, and never asked any of us for a penny. He had a pension.  No one gave him anything; he earned that pension. We must insist on these kinds of benefits, make retirement affordable, make health care affordable, can’t have property taxes go through the roof. The Commonwealth is not paying for public education, leaving it to be supported by property taxes.

Hanger: Anyone who has a pension has a legal guarantee that it will be paid. I will not let pension funds be raided. Many in the private sector are not organized or part of a union, and have no pension or retirement. As a legal services attorney I saw retired people living on social security. We need better jobs with higher income while working. Jobs don’t pay for bills today let alone retirement. Rich are getting a bigger piece; you are getting a smaller piece. Raise minimum wage, stand with unions, help people join unions, so we don’t have to choose between heat, food and medicine.

Schwartz: We need a Pennsylvania committed to hard work and achievement, that’s what built the great state we are. I hope to live to retire and reflect on a fulfilling job.  Retirement is under threat.  Pennsylvania does have one of the largest senior populations.  Social security and Medicare are under threat. In DC I have led the fight against privatizing social security.  Imagine if we invested in Wall Street in the recession. We have work to do and I will keep working towards that.  Need to meet our obligations to retirees.

McCord: If retirement and pensions are the issue I’m your guy.  No one in Pennsylvania has spent more time studying this than I have. Proud defender of defined benefit plans.  Unions defend defined benefits, not just for members but for all. Proud of how often I have fought back against Tom Corbett.  Defined benefits are more efficient that 401k’s. Defined contribution associations say otherwise.  We need to embrace the plan in California. It is a “pay me now or pay me later” world.  We can imitate the 529 plan. Retirement is a woman’s issue — women are three times more likely to drop into poverty in retirement. [He mentioned a woman in relation to the California plan but I can’t get the spelling right to find the correct person]

Wolf: I’m an FDR Democrat. We do not have a pension problem. This is something we share. In my company I work to make sure employees [missed this]. Lottery is part of the Department of Revenue, $1 million goes to help the elderly. I worked to improve the lottery.  It went to property tax rebates, prescription drugs.  We need to protect public pensions. Overall compensation issue. If we want good public employees we must compete with the private sector. Health care. I have a 90 year old mom and 91 year old dad. We need to ensure all is done to see that all Pennsylvanians have retirement.

Third issue:  Jobs

Question: Good jobs, raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, like slaves asking Pharaoh for straw to make bricks. End payday lending. Guaranteed sick days. All people receiving tax money must pay workers (including subcontractors) a living wage.  Shift from corporate benefits to public education

McCord:  Everything in the governor’s race relates to jobs.  If we end defined benefits we lose as 90% of that money is spent in Pennsylvania.  Of course we need to increase the minimum wage, increases the wealth of the middle class, need sick days, that an efficient thing to do, protect prevailing wage.  We can trust safety and quality of well-trained Pennsylvania workers paid prevailing wage.  End payday loans.  Everything is about true economic security.  Reasonable wage.  Good benefits.  Protected workplace.

Schwartz:  If we want to build a prosperous economy in Pennsylvania, steel, railroads, hard work and innovations, new cures the envy of the world.  Unions spread wages to workers, building industry, prosperity, innovation.  Rebuild Pennsylvania economy, rebuild and re-grow middle class, cannot succeed without a middle class.  Increase minimum wage, fair pay for women, prevailing wages, sick leave, use carrot and stick.  If public money is given to corporations we must push them to pay fair wages and benefits.  Use all natural resource to benefit all, use money for education, grow economic opportunities across the state.

McGinty:  Jobs.  I’m here to apply for a job.  As Secretary of Environmental Protection I wanted to create new good jobs.  We need clean energy and environment.  Let’s bring these jobs.  We were #1 in bringing solar and wind jobs, good jobs, pay, benefits.   Choosing between the environment and jobs is a false choice, as is saying wanting a good job risks your current job.  To grow the economy we have to put money in people’s pockets.  Living wage.  Increase minimum wage, index it to inflation.  Right to organize.  Invest in the US.  Job training and skills development programs.  These were cut and we need to restore them.  Families need to be able to afford education.  Colleges need to keep costs under control.  Public projects – jobs going to Pennsylvanians.

Wolf:  I’ve created good jobs.  Only PhD forklift operator in York County.  Bought my company, build it into one of the biggest in its field in the country.  Distributed 20 – 30% annually in profits to employees.  Sick days, living wages.  First thing we have to do is invest in education.  We need an educated workforce.  Recognize we can compete, even in manufacturing.  We can compete on price and quality.

Hanger:  More jobs and better jobs need community organization.  If we want paid sick days we need to mobilize.  It begins with education, 20,000 educators lost their jobs.  Expand Medicaid.  We could have four billion going to our hospitals, good paying jobs.  Green energy.  Create solar and wind jobs.  I know how to create these jobs.  People have trouble getting a job because of unfair convictions.  We are arresting too many people for having a joint in their pocket.  We should legalize marijuana.  Stop arresting African American men at  five times the rate we arrest whites.  That’s how we get schools to jails.

Fourth Issue:  Health care

Question:

  1. Expansion of Medicaid,
  2. Invest in family health care and maternity care,
  3. Stop corporatization of health care,
  4. Ensure quality care, and
  5. Ensure long term care.

Will you support these items and what will your agenda be?

Wolf:  This has become about politics and it shouldn’t be.  The governor is trying to destroy the president’s health care plan.  We absolutely need to expand Medicaid.  It is bad for the economy not to have universal health care.

McGinty:  Some issues are hard but when the federal government offers you $4 billion to give citizens health care the only answer is yes.   Increase availability and affordability yes.  All issues on human dignity.

Schwartz:  Hard to talk about health care in 2 minutes.     Personal to all of us.  The governor turned down opportunities, not federal money but our money.  Unacceptable.  Take the money and use it to benefit Pennsylvania.  We have great hospitals, medical schools and nurses.  If you doubt I can do this remember my work on CHIP which became a national mode.  Let’s get it done.

Hanger:  Wrong for people in our state not to have health care.  It is a human right.  Yes to Medicaid expansion but not enough.  We need single payer health care.  My wife is a physician, trained in Philadelphia, and opened a community practice.  We need to include mental health treatment and addiction treatment.  My son committed suicide at age 23 from depression.

McCord:  Human rights, social justice, human dignity, also about efficiency.  Ridiculous not to take Medicaid expansion.  Your movement is fighting a company town program.  [missed something here].  Use new technology, associates degrees, cut costs, seniors able to stay in their homes.  Repair middle class.

Personal observations:  The candidates were very gracious.  In my opinion far too much time was taken up with announcements from the sponsoring organizations and individual comments [“testimonies”] from the audience.  There were a few hecklers in the crowd and at one point two people got onstage with a banner offering their views on a political issue.  The forum stopped for a few minutes while they were escorted off stage.  Of the candidates Rob McCord was the only one to step away from the podium.  Each time he got up to answer the questions he would take the microphone and stand next to it instead of behind it.  He is clearly an experienced and enthusiastic speaker.

Court Cases in Pennsylvania: Good vs. Evil

— Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

There were two interesting happenings in the courts of Pennsylvania this week. Both of them relate directly to Governor Tom Corbett, and show him to be the kind of person dedicated to personal gain over human rights.

Certainly you remember the case of Jerry Sandusky, the coach who was abusing young boys for years and is now in prison for life. When pedophiles are brought to light, it is the obligation of those in charge to do something to prevent further abuse. Tom Corbett, as attorney general, chose not to, and instead to take $640,000 from Sandusky for his gubernatorial campaign coffers. He is not being charged, yet, but the three men who oversaw Jerry Sandusky are now going to trial. Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, Former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz, and Former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, are charged with knowing about Sandusky's abuse, not reporting it to the police, and then lying about it to the Grand Jury. Specifically: perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy.

More after the jump.

My guess is that Corbett's complicity will come up at some point. And probably someone will end up mentioning that he is up there with Bob McDonnell for turning the governor's mansion into a pay-to-play site. Read this

So, we have a bunch of powerful men putting their own institutions (Penn State and the Pennsylvania Legal System) ahead of the protection of young boys.

In another court case, the Pennsylvania Board of Health is suing the Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes. Hanes is the man in charge of issuing  marriage licenses. In light of the recent Supreme Court decision, he started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples: 34 of them so far. 

I know, you don't understand what the Register of Wills and the Health Department have to do with marriage licenses. This is Pennsylvania, and we are weird. For example, my mailing address has a zip code that includes part of 3 counties, and is different from my actual township. If I had a landline, it would be in yet another town. In addition, Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the country that does not have a gay marriage or civil union law, and also not a constitutional ban on marriage equality. Marriage licenses come from the Register of Wills, which is a county position, and the State Health  Department oversees, among other things, marriage and death certificates. 

The Attorney General's office, headed by Kathleen Kane, is refusing to defend the state against the ACLU suit related to the ban on  gay marriage. She won't touch this, either. Under Pa. law,  the Health Department is allowed to sue in Commonwealth Court, because marriage licenses are a civil, not a criminal, matter. That's why it is a suit in lieu of a criminal action. 

Further, the Health Department is an arm of the Executive Branch, and Corbett wants to defend against both the ACLU suit, and anything that would allow gay people to marry. Again, he is against civil rights and human rights, and basic moral decency. 

On the up side, Jerry Sandusky is in jail, where he can't hurt any more boys, and he will never get out. Spanier, Schultz and Curley will likely join him there in a year or two. It is not out of the realm that Corbett will end up as an indicted co-conspirator one of these days. In the end, the Pa. DOMA law will be struck down, and the Montco marriage licenses will stand, and will end up issued in all the other counties, too. 

Same Sex Marriage in Montgomery County

Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Last week, Montgomery County’s Register of Wills Bruce Hanes announced that he would start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In today’s Philadelphia Daily News, State Senate Daylin Leach defends Hanes’ action:

These licenses would seem to be issued in contradiction to the Pennsylvania statute that limits marriage to one man and one woman. Mr. Hanes says that he believes that law is unconstitutional and therefore not enforceable.

Some have attacked Mr. Hanes for essentially going rogue. They say that he does not have the authority to pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce and which ones he does not. They also point out that if a law is unconstitutional, it should be a judge who makes that determination, not a county row officer. While these are reasonable points to make, they miss the true issues at stake. A more comprehensive review of relevant legal issues reveals that the actions taken by Mr. Hanes were, in fact, correct.

In fact, Leach officiated over a Montgomery County same-sex marriage on Monday and PoliticsPA wrote a  piece about it entitled Leach Loves Gays So Much He Marries Them:

“I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to officiate the marriage of a wonderful, loving couple this afternoon in Montgomery County,” Leach said. “Today’s ceremony proves that little by little, we are making strides toward full equality here in Pennsylvania. Each court ruling and each supportive decision made by elected officials puts another crack in the armor of discrimination. Today’s ceremony shows that love can indeed conquer all.”

Leach has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. He introduced the first bill in the state Senate to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010.

Governor Corbett Can’t Find a Single Latino to Work for Him?

— by Igor Volsky, Think Progress

Last week, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett brushed away a question about Latinos working in his administration during a round-table discussion at The Union League in Philadelphia, telling the moderator, “If you can find us one let me know.”

At the same event, Corbett said:

I represent every one of you. I’ve been elected by the people of Pennsylvania to make it better than I found it. We need to be able to develop a stronger relationship with all communities…. we’re in the process now of getting much more connected with everybody, that we did not have before.

More after the jump.

Open Letter to Governor Tom Corbett from Pedro Rodriguez, Lorenzo Canizares and Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress

When you told Al Día that you didn’t have any Latinos on your staff, you added, “If you can find us one, please let me know.”

There are more than than 750,000 Latinos in PA.  That’s more than 6% of the population.  Here are some ideas on how you can find some of your Latino neighbors:

  • Buy a map of Pennsylvania.  Our Latino neighbors live in every community.
  • Have a meal someplace outside of the Governor’s Mansion
  • Google “Latino organizations in PA.”  There are dozens.  Then visit a few of them.
  • Talk to someone in your neighborhood.  About one in eight of your neighbors in Harrisburg is Hispanic.

If you need more ideas, please contact me.

Last year, Corbett proclaimed September 15 to October 15 as “Hispanic Heritage month,” noting, “I commend the many social and economic contributions of Latino-Hispanics in our state and celebrate the rich and diverse culture of Pennsylvania’s fasting growing minority group.”

Corbett said and noted that Pennsylvania’s 800,000 Latino residents represent approximately 6.8% of the overall population. A 2008 survey found that the Harrisburg-Carlisle metropolitan region “is home to more than 18,000 people of Hispanic or Latino origin,” one third of whom live in the city of Harrisburg. The city is also home to the Latino Hispanic American Community Center.

Corbett has established a commission of Latino affairs, which his website describes as “the Commonwealth’s advocate agency for its Latino community:”

The GACLA makes recommendations to the Governor on policies, procedures and legislation that would affect the Latino community in Pennsylvania and serves as the Governor’s liaison to Latinos in order to ensure that state government is accessible and accountable to the Latino community.