POLS ON THE STREET: Pa. Lawmakers Are Gunning for Approval

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MAYOR JIM KENNEY’S Rebuild program came to Disston Recreation Center in Tacony, where it broke ground for a remake of its playground. Councilman Bobby Henon and a crew of volunteers wielded the shovels as Kenney looked on. Photo by Harry Leech

To call it “bipartisan” may be a bit of a stretch. But there are unusual signs that both parties in Harrisburg want to do something about gun violence before year’s end. Just not the same things, perhaps.

In the State House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, for example, 12 bills were introduced for discussion that dealt with gun ownership and violent crime – nine of them by Republicans. They are a grab-bag of measures, some of them clearly favoring the gun lobby: State Rep. Mark Keller’s (R-Perry) HB 1066 would put a squeeze on municipalities that pass “unlawful” restrictions on guns. Take that, Philadelphia!

For the most part, though, the proposed measures would tighten controls on certain persons’ access to weaponry or toughen punishment for those who commit violent crimes. Although no one bill makes a broad reach, these are indications that Republican legislators at least want to have some gun-violence achievements to point to before their re-election campaigns begin in January.

DEMOCRATIC Ward Leader Pete Lyde filled his backyard for the 61st Ward barbecue, drawing friends from across the city. L-R were Judge Dan Anders, Inspector Tony Washington, Juanita Savage, Judge Roxanne Covington, Lyde and Reggie Macon. Photo by Wendell Douglas

The Democrats sit at the same table and are in play as well. State Rep. Maria Donatucci’s (D-S. Phila.) HB 165 would create a voluntary self-exclusion program by which an individual can agree to be prohibited from purchasing or receiving a firearm.

Now begins the horse-trading. Republicans in the General Assembly can pass anything they want but none can survive a veto by Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf. So any measures to loosen gun controls, while they may reassure NRA backers, will not see the light of legal day.

A GOP lawmaker who wants to say, on the other hand, “I did something to counter gun violence” will have to offer something the governor will sign. And Wolf is likely to insist that some Democrat-introduced bills be green-lighted by the General Assembly’s Republican leaders.

Wolf Stands Firm on Fall Agenda

Across the poker table, Gov. Wolf has made clear that he will push for action on gun violence as well as tightening charter-school regulations and funding new voting machines. These were themes of his maneuvering in the first half of 2019; expect none of them to go away. Expect him to threaten executive action if Republicans on Capitol Hill do not meet him halfway on any of them.

STATE REP. Maria Donatucci thanked Navy Sea Cadets for their stirring flag ceremony which opened the Chapel of Four Chaplains Picnic at the Navy Yard. Cadets are aged 14-17 and train with the Navy and Coast Guard. They also joined in laying of memorial bricks in memory of Sons of Ireland and AOH, veterans groups and family members. More pics P. 2. Photo by Joe Stivala

The voting-machine update is a head-scratch because there are genuine questions about whether Wolf’s executive decision to fund new voting machines by issuing bonds through the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority is valid. This is the move Wolf resorted to after the General Assembly Republicans refused to appropriate funds unless straight-ticket voting (perceived to favor Democrats) was eliminated – a concession no Democrat will make.

Opponents point out that it’s hard to see how new voting machines foster economic development, except, perhaps, for voting-machine vendors. Defenders of the governor say the PEDFA statute gives “broad authority” to that agency to float bonds as it will. This tango could keep Commonwealth Court busy for a year.

But no lawmaker up for re-election in 2020 wants to be against new voting machines. Observers predict the GOP will fish around now for an ask that Democrats are prepared to concede.

McCaffery Endorsed by State FOP

Judge Dan McCaffery, Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania Superior Court, has received the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police. The PA FOP represents approximately 40,000 law-enforcement officers across the Commonwealth. That’s a big coup for a Democrat.

Although little understood by the voting public, Superior Court races are the most-consequential statewide races on the November 2019 ballot.

POSING at the D.S.C. gala dinner in Harrisburg were, L-R, Sharon Vaughn, Kathy Huggins, Lisa Rhodes, Latrice Bryant and Tonya Woods.

In a letter announcing the endorsement, Les Neri, president of the PA FOP State Lodge said, “You have proven your commitment to the citizens of Philadelphia as well as our country with your service in the U.S. Army. You have demonstrated a strong allegiance to, and support for, the law-enforcement community, police officers and their families in both your personal life and legal career. During your career in the District Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, and your service as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, you have performed your duties with fairness, integrity and compassion for the community you serve. The law enforcement community holds you in high regard.”

Judge McCaffery is currently a judge on the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, and a former prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office. He has presided over thousands of cases and prosecuted more than 50 jury trials and over 1,000 bench trials.

Prior to beginning his legal career, Judge McCaffery served in the U.S. Army on active duty as a member of the First Cavalry Division. Judge McCaffery is the only military veteran in the race, and if elected, he will be the only veteran to currently serve on any of Pennsylvania’s statewide appellate courts.

In a statement issued by his campaign, Judge McCaffery said, “I am pleased and proud to receive the endorsement of the PA FOP. As a former prosecutor, and now as a judge, I know how committed the men and women of law enforcement are to our communities and to every resident of the Commonwealth, because I see that commitment in the cases that come before my court every day. As an Army veteran, I have the utmost respect for those who serve by putting themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis. I am grateful for the support of the law enforcement community and I humbly accept their endorsement.”

Farnese Calls for Leach to Quit

State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-S. Phila.) has joined his colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus to turn up the pressure on his colleague Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) to resign following allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with staffers.

PA. GOP CHAIR Larry Tabas was given a reception by the 5th & 8th Ward Republican Committees art the Vesper Club. L-R were Sen. Pat Toomey’s aide Phil Innamorato and Tabas with Ward Leaders Matt Wolfe and Mike Cibik. Photos by Wendell Douglas

“The updated and expanded report we received regarding Sen. Leach’s conduct has done nothing to change my opinion that he needs to resign. Workers should never have to accept a hostile workplace, harassment, intimidation, or bullying from anyone, much less an elected official, and it is a standard I am not willing to accept as a member of the Pennsylvania Senate,” said Farnese.

“I believe that victims deserve to be heard, believed and their claims should be investigated thoroughly. They should not be subject to lawsuits, intimidation, or bullying.

“While members of the General Assembly have the right to defend themselves against accusations that they believe to be false, we should never allow the exercise of that right to impact and prohibit other members from doing the job they were elected to do. When that occurs, as it has here for far too long, it is time to leave.

“Sen. Leach should resign immediately.”

Smith Targets Henon in 6th District Race

Despite a lack of Democratic opposition in the primary, Councilman Bobby Henon (6th District) will face November challenge in his Northeast River Wards from Republican Pete Smith, a well-known civic leader.

AT THE 19TH ANNUAL Points of Transformation awards, hosted by Philadelphia Intellectual disAbility Services (IDS), Councilman Derek Green spoke to the hundreds of direct support professionals and family members about the important work that the DSPs do all year round. Green is an advocate as well as the parent of a young man who receives support. L-R, Loraine Ballard Morrill, iheart media, who served as M.C.; Green; Denise T. Patterson, director of IDS; Wendy Williams, IDS staffer; and Roland Lamb, deputy commissioner of DBHIDS. Photo by Richard Martin

While Smith admits he is an underdog, he hopes to tap voters “disgusted by the corruption, the ever-higher taxes, the lack of accountability from our corrupt elected officials, the disrespect for working families and our brave men and women in blue.”

Smith is a lifelong Philadelphian, block captain and former president of the Tacony Civic Association.

He sees this race as “very winnable and the Philly GOP’s best bet for a pickup in 2019.” His platform rests on hardcore support for public-safety workers and opposition to the soda tax.

Indie Challenger Survives Court Test

Karla Cruel, who was bumped off the Democratic primary ballot to challenge incumbent Curtis Jones, Jr. in the 4th Councilmanic District, has survived her second round, in which she sought to appear on the November ballot as an independent.

Jones fought her tooth and nail, as is expected, and won a ruling in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. But an appellate court has just overturned that ruling, leaving Cruel with a free path to the voting machine in November.

“On Sept. 9, democracy prevailed and the appeals court found in Karla’s favor! The voters of District 4 will have a real choice in November with Karla on the ballot!” her team gloated.

They are entitled to gloat. Independents seldom win appeals like these.

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