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Monday, January 22, 2018

Pennsylvania Supreme Court throws out state's partisan gerrymandered Congressional districts

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 6:24 PM

Pennsylvania's current U.S. Congressional Districts
  • Pennsylvania's current U.S. Congressional Districts
No more packing all the Democratic votes into a small number of urban Pennsylvania U.S. Congressional districts. No more Goofy kicking Donald Duck, a common descriptor for Pennsylvania's 7th U.S. Congressional District.

On Jan. 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state's current U.S. Congressional District map, which was drawn by Republicans in 2011, was unconstitutional according to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The 5-2 decision affirmed the plaintiffs' claims that Republicans sought partisan advantage when drawing the maps. The decision was cast along partisan lines, with Democrats calling for the current map to be struck down and the court's two Republicans dissenting.

According to the order issued by the state Supreme Court, the new maps will be redrawn by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, currently in Republican control, by Feb. 9. Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) will then have until Feb. 15 to OK the map and submit it to to the state Supreme Court. The new maps will be available by Feb. 19 and will apply to the May 15 primary election and subsequent elections. However, they will not apply to Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District special election on March 15 between Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon) and Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth).

The order also says "congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population."

In the current map, county splitting is very common. The 12th Congressional District, which stretches from Beaver County in the west all the way to Cambria County in the east, splits five different counties. Berks County in the eastern part of Pennsylvania doesn't have enough population to support its own congressional district, but is split up into four different districts regardless.

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel L. Groen issued the following statement on the decision: “The order issued by the Supreme Court today found that the congressional map violates Pennsylvania’s constitution and has provided the methodology for new maps to be submitted and acted upon before the end of February. I want to thank and compliment the attorneys and parties who brought this before the Supreme Court and helped right this obvious wrong.”

The Pennsylvania Republican Party has yet to put out a statement. But Mark Davin Harris, of Pittsburgh-based conservative political firm Cold Spark Media, tweeted after the decision that "PA Supreme Court ruling is an insane and unconscionable power grab. It’s a legal joke and a thinly veiled partisan hack job. They should be ashamed."

However, it's unclear if anything can be done to change it. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) tweeted it's "not clear" if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case if it is appealed, since the issue pertains to the state constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.


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Thursday, January 18, 2018

In North Fayette, President Donald Trump touts tax cuts in speech on the economy

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 5:04 PM

CP PHOTOS BY CHARLIE DEITCH
  • CP photos by Charlie Deitch
On Jan. 18, President Donald Trump spoke to a crowd of about 200 invited guests at H&K Equipment in North Fayette Township, extolling the benefits of the recently passed tax-cut bill. The president claimed that many of the recent announcements by corporations about employee bonuses and expansions were due to the tax-cut bill.

“Because of tax cuts, Apple just announced a $350 billion expansion,” said Trump of the California-based tech giant. “Apple is gonna build plants, they are going to build a big campus. … The center of America’s resurgence is the tax cuts. ”

Trump also said that his tax-cut bill was having positive effects on H&K Equipment, an equipment-supply company to area manufacturers. "The signs of America's comeback can be seen at H&K,” said Trump. “They will be making a $2.7 million capital investment."

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

These Pennsylvania Congressmen disregarded their own national-debt concerns with tax-bill vote

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 1:07 PM

Keith Rothfus (left), Tom Marino (center) and Mike Kelly (right)
  • Keith Rothfus (left), Tom Marino (center) and Mike Kelly (right)
Twenty-one trillion dollars and counting. That is what the national-debt clock reads on the homepage of U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler). A similar clock also appears on the pages of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) and U.S. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport).

The increase in the national debt has always been a big issue for these Pennsylvania Republicans, as they have consistently campaigned on shrinking the debt and have warned of the dangers if the U.S. can not pay it back. In 2014, Kelly voted against raising the debt limit and said in a statement after his vote: “My constituents in Western Pennsylvania sent me to Washington because government spending has reached a crisis level, and I gave them my word that I would to do everything in my power to reverse course.”

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Monday, December 18, 2017

U.S. Rep. candidate Beth Tarasi says Congressman Keith Rothfus should reveal how the tax bill would benefit him

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 5:57 PM

Beth Tarasi - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CAMPAIGN
  • Photo courtesy of the campaign
  • Beth Tarasi
U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) has been a strong supporter of Congressional Republicans’ efforts to pass their tax-cut bill. He voted in favor of the U.S. House version of the bill and has offered full-throated support for the House-Senate version introduced on Dec. 15.

“This tax reform legislation puts more money in the pockets of hardworking Pennsylvanians, creates more jobs in our state, and lessens the power of Washington,” said Rothfus in a November statement.

But non-partisan analysis of the bill shows most of tax-cut bill benefits will go to the wealthy, and any benefits for working-class Americans will be limited. While income tax cuts will be doled out to all Americans initially, those cuts will expire in 2025. The corporate tax rate, however, will be cut from 35 percent to 21 percent and will be permanent.

Sewickley lawyer and Democratic U.S. Rep. candidate Beth Tarasi is running for Rothfus’ seat and is calling for Rothfus to tell his constituents how he would personally benefit from the GOP tax bill, considering his large net worth. Rothfus, with a net worth of more than $6 million, has the second highest net worth of any representative in Pennsylvania.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pittsburgh-area U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle really wants to keep net neutrality alive

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 12:01 PM

Mike Doyle - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Mike Doyle
Pittsburghers that follow their congressman closely know that U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) is pretty furious that the Federal Communications Commission wants to strip net-neutrality rules that govern the internet.

The FCC is proposing axing the rules, and FCC chair Ajit Pai announced a vote will take place today, Dec. 14. Republicans like Pai claim that current net-neutrality rules, which bar internet service providers from slowing down or favoring certain web content, are an overly burdensome regulation on the internet that has hurt investment.

But Democrats, like Doyle, believe that repealing the rules will hurt consumers.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango doesn’t seem to understand the economics of immigration

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Paul Mango - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CAMPAIGN
  • Photo courtesy of the campaign
  • Paul Mango
Gubernatorial candidate and former business consultant Paul Mango (R-Richland) released a video on Dec. 1 decrying so-called “sanctuary cities” (municipalities that limit communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers). “As your next governor I will guarantee you this: We are not going to tolerate sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Mango in the video. He was referencing a recent court ruling in San Francisco, where an undocumented immigrant was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in the accidental shooting death of Kate Steinle.

Critics claim that San Francisco’s sanctuary policy allowed the immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, to avoid deportation even though he had been convicted of some drug charges prior to the shooting. After the shooting, Zarate was still convicted of illegal firearm possession, and will likely be deported. However, immigration experts, like Pittsburgh immigration lawyer Abbie Rosario, say that sanctuary policies encourage immigrants to report crimes and keep neighborhoods safer. Rosario says that politicians like Mango who criticize sanctuary cities aren’t necessarily focused on policy, but are more interested in espousing “racist undertones.”

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Protesters block entrance to Sen. Pat Toomey’s Pittsburgh office, hope to inspire more action against proposed tax bill

Posted By on Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 4:26 PM

Chelsey Engel outside of Pat Toomey's office in Downtown Pittsburgh - PHOTO COURTESY OF IKE GITTLEN
  • Photo courtesy of Ike Gittlen
  • Chelsey Engel outside of Pat Toomey's office in Downtown Pittsburgh
In 2017, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) has had a consistent record of ignoring the requests of thousands of protesters. The senator has met with a few members of Tuesdays with Toomey, a left-leaning group organized in late 2016, and Toomey has held some highly-restrictive tele town hall meetings, but constituents upset with Toomey’s choices told City Paper in September that they have grown tired of trying to persuade him of altering his votes and stances.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pittsburgh's North Hills constituents worry GOP tax plan could hurt 12th District senior citizens

Posted By on Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Protesters outside of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross on Nov. 29. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Protesters outside of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross on Nov. 29.
Protesters in Pittsburgh’s North Hills are begging for their fellow residents to pay attention to the details of what is in store if the Republicans’ tax-reform bill passes and is signed into law.

“With the demographics that live in [Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District], almost no one will benefit from this plan,” said Stacey Vernallis, of left-leaning grassroots group PA 12 for Progress, at a Nov. 29 protest in Ross. About 20 other protesters joined Vernallis outside of the office of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) to protest the the proposed tax bill.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lt. Gov. candidate Aryanna Berringer says she’s lived the life of the forgotten constituents she wants to help

Posted By on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 12:17 PM

Aryanna Berringer - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMPAIGN
  • Photo courtesy of campaign
  • Aryanna Berringer
When Murrysville resident Aryanna Berringer was a kid, her father was arrested and jailed for marijuana possession. She is the youngest of 10 children, and her mother had to work three waitress jobs to make ends meet, since her father, a truck driver, could no longer support the family.

Berringer, a longtime Democratic Party activist and Iraq War veteran, entered the race to challenge incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) back in May. She says her life experience is what motivated her to run for lieutenant governor; she hopes to counter any other candidates who may lack authenticity.

“Politicians that have been bred for these roles,” says Berringer. “We don’t often elect people who have lived through the life of the people they want to serve.”

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Check out all the Democrats running for endorsement for the open 18th Congressional District seat

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 3:13 PM

A map of Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District - IMAGE COURTESDY WIKIPEDIA
  • Image courtesdy Wikipedia
  • A map of Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District
When Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) won the Republican endorsement the state's 18th Congressional District, on Nov. 11, most people following the race were shocked. That day, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, “many observers assumed [state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Jefferson Hills)] was the frontrunner,” but Saccone overtook Reschenthaler in the second round of voting to win 123-91.

Saccone canceled his bid to take on U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Scranton) after former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) resigned amidst scandal in October, and instead campaigned for the open congressional seat. Saccone is arguably one of the most conservative legislators in the state house, noted for consistently attempting to bring Christianity into government and public schools, as well as for his fervent pro-gun stances.

As for Saccone's opponent, Democratic committee members in the 18th District will decide who represents the party come the March 2018 special election. With the Democrats picking their nominee this Sunday, Pittsburgh City Paper wanted to provide a brief rundown of all seven candidates for the vacated seat. (The 18th district encompasses southern Allegheny County, Washington County, Greene County, and the southern half of Westmoreland County.)

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