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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pittsburgh Dreamers urge Sen. Bob Casey to fight for a clean Dream Act

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Liz Fishback (left), of Sen. Bob Casey's office, with Dreamers Lesly Moran (center-left), Hortencia Ortiz (center-right) and Ana Alberto (right) - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Liz Fishback (left), of Sen. Bob Casey's office, with Dreamers Lesly Moran (center-left), Hortencia Ortiz (center-right) and Ana Alberto (right)
The immigration debate in the U.S. Senate has begun, and it already looks like a standalone bill to grant recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) a path to citizenship is off the table. DACA recipients, also called Dreamers, are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, and have since been given temporary-protected status and are allowed to legally work in the country.

This week, starting on Mon., Feb 12, the U.S. Senate opened up the floor to allow debate on a number of immigration issues. By and large, Democrats are looking to provide protections and a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and Republicans are looking to bolster border security and reduce the number of immigrants entering the U.S. through family reunification (in which immigrants can sponsor family members to join them in the U.S.).

But instead of starting with that debate, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) proposed an amendment to defund so-called “sanctuary cities,” municipalities that limit communication and cooperation with U.S. immigration officers. The Atlantic Monthly reported on Feb. 13 that Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) struck down Toomey’s amendment and complained it “does absolutely nothing to address DACA, does absolutely nothing to address border security.”

(It also should be noted that in 2016 when asked if he supported a path to citizenship in concert with ending sanctuary cities, Toomey told City Paper that those were “separate” issues.)

Although the Senate’s immigration debate is off to a rocky start, Pittsburgh-area Dreamers are still hopeful their needs will be met. On Feb. 14, three local Dreamers delivered letters to the Pittsburgh office of Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton). Ana Alberto, Lesly Moran and Hortencia Ortiz are DACA recipients and are asking Casey to protect DACA and to pass a clean Dream Act, meaning a path to citizenship for Dreamers without any attachments like increased border security.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Democratic state House candidate Emily Skopov gears up for race against House Speaker Mike Turzai

Posted By on Mon, Feb 12, 2018 at 2:54 PM

Emily Skopov (left) and Mike Tuzai
  • Emily Skopov (left) and Mike Tuzai
After failing to secure the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Republican Party this past weekend, Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Marshall) announced his withdrawal from the 2018 gubernatorial election. Turzai’s campaign strategist, Jeff Coleman of Churchill Strategies, told TribLive on Feb. 10 that Turzai will now focus his energy on preserving the state House's Republican-held majority.

“The House Republicans have a majority to defend and a number of competitive races. And at the highest level, there is really only one person with statewide ability to fundraise and preserve that majority, which is critical as a backstop to the Wolf agenda,” said Coleman in the TribLive article, referring to Turzai.

But Turzai’s Democratic challenger for Pennsylvania’s state House District 28 seat, Emily Skopov, of Marshall, says Turzai’s failure to pick up the GOP endorsement indicates he shouldn’t be the leader of the state House moving forward.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Betsy Monroe, inspired by the Women’s March, is challenging state Rep. Hal English in Pittsburgh’s North Hills

Posted By on Fri, Feb 2, 2018 at 1:32 PM

  • Photo courtesy of campaign
  • Betsy Monroe
Like many left-leaning women in Western Pennsylvania, Betsy Monroe of Fox Chapel felt the need to do something in response to the election of President Donald Trump. Monroe attended the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and the presence of about 500,000 marchers inspired her to get more involved in her local politics.

“I went to the march on Washington and it was absolutely eye-opening. It was absolutely amazing,” says Monroe. “I came away from it knowing I was going to have to continue to take action.”

Monroe started by writing letters to her local elected representatives. She said she got mostly “lip service” from local Republicans, and “I’m here for you” messages from local Democrats. She wanted something more substantial.

Monroe started growing more frustrated with Pennsylvania state Rep. Hal English (R-Hampton) and his votes on women’s health and his stances on environmental protections. Then, when she realized that English had run unopposed in the last two elections, she decided to run against him herself. “When [elected officials] have no opponents, they get cozy, and they stop listening to the people,” says Monroe.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bethel Park fundraiser with VP Mike Pence and U.S. Rep. candidate Rick Saccone will displace a lunch for seniors

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 5:20 PM

Mike Pence (left) and Rick Saccone (right)
  • Mike Pence (left) and Rick Saccone (right)
Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) is running in the March 13 special election for the open seat in Pennsylvania’s U.S. 18th Congressional District. And campaign fundraising reports show that he is being out-fundraised by his opponent, Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon), by a 2-1 margin. Lamb’s $557,000 easily outpaces Saccone's $214,000 in campaign contributions.

In an attempt to even the balance, Vice President Mike Pence is visiting on Feb. 2 and is giving a boost to Saccone at an invitation-only fundraiser at the Bethel Park Community Center. It’s unclear whether fundraiser invitees must pay to attend, but a flier for the event posted on Facebook says that people who contribute $5,400 will get a photo op with Pence, and that those who give $10,000 get a meet-and-greet and a photo op.

And thanks to this event, Bethel Park officials have decided to close down the community center for six hours on Feb. 2, resulting in the cancelation of a daily lunch for senior citizens and other community events, like bingo.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Pittsburghers call on Sen. Bob Casey to oppose 20-week abortion-ban bill

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 4:05 PM

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner at today's press conference - CP PHOTO BY SABRINA BODON
  • CP photo by Sabrina Bodon
  • Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner at today's press conference
On Jan. 26, news broke that Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton) planned to vote in favor of a federal bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Earlier today, several groups organized at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh to call on Casey to change his mind.

In an effort between organizers of activism groups Tuesdays With Toomey, New Voices Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the press conference called for Sen. Casey to “trust women and their doctors” by voting no on the federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Diane Ryan Katz, vice president for programs and public education with the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the ACLU, said that while the United States is a nation governed by laws, bills pertaining to women’s rights to abortion have no place.

“Anybody should be able to access abortion care whether at two weeks or 22 weeks, because the human body and the human experience does not follow these arbitrary legal timelines,” Katz said. “Congress, including Sen. Casey and the White House, have no place meddling in the confidential relationship we have with our trusted medical professionals.”

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Pennsylvania legislators call on state to recommit to Paris Climate Agreement goals

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Sen. Wayne Fontana at today's press conference - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP Photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Sen. Wayne Fontana at today's press conference
When President Donald Trump evoked Pittsburgh's name last year, as part of his rationale for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change, many Pittsburghers weren't having it. In a tweet that has since gone viral, Mayor Bill Peduto reaffirmed Pittsburgh's commitment to the agreement, and environmental activists and organizations redoubled their efforts.

Months later, that fervor hasn't died down. At a press conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse earlier today, Pennsylvania legislators voiced their support for the ideals laid out in the Paris Agreement. To back it up, they've proposed legislation directing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to reduce statewide greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025.

"President Trump stepped backward with the Paris Accord on climate change, and now it's time for Pennsylvania to step to the forefront and become a leader," said Pa. Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), one of the bill's sponsors. "We have a responsibility to act. Today, Pennsylvania is fifth among U.S. states in terms of population, but we're third in carbon pollution."

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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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Special election for 35th State House District planned for Tuesday

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 4:41 PM

Fawn Walker-Montgomery (left) and Austin Davis
  • Fawn Walker-Montgomery (left) and Austin Davis
Yesterday’s Women’s March was all about getting out the vote, and this week, some Allegheny County residents will have the chance to do just that in the first election of the year. Tuesday, Jan. 23, marks the special election for the 35th State House District.

The election for the state House seat vacated by former state Rep. Marc Gergely is set between McKeesport natives Democrat Austin Davis and Republican Fawn Walker-Montgomery.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Daniel Smith Jr., an openly gay candidate, is running against homophobic Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 5:00 PM

  • Photo courtesy of the candidate
  • Daniel Smith Jr.
Daniel Smith Jr. is a Butler County native and longtime resident, who grew up in Zelienople and now lives in Adams Township with his husband, Don. He has been paying close attention to his state representative, Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry), for years. Smith has grown frustrated as Metcalfe has continually focused on bombastic and divisive issues, such as opposing same-sex marriage and attacking immigrants’ rights. Over the years, Smith felt that with every controversial Metcalfe issue that made headlines, Pennsylvania’s 12th House District suffered from being cast in a negative light.

Then a video was released in December 2017 of Metcalfe freaking out when his colleague, state Rep.Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery), touched him on the elbow during a committee meeting on land use. Metcalfe exclaimed, “I am heterosexual. I love my wife, I don’t like men, as you might. Stop touching me all the time.” The video went viral and was mocked on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Stephen Colbert.

“The moment he had at the committee meeting, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Smith. “Yes, what [Metcalfe] said pissed me off. But I saw the rest of the representatives in the meeting shake their heads. And I was thinking, ‘How does a district keep voting for this person?’ Then I thought, I needed to do something.”

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Braddock Mayor John Fetterman finds himself in the hot seat in campaign for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 3:35 PM

John Fetterman - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • John Fetterman
Mayor John Fetterman found himself in the hot seat Tuesday night during an hour-long Q&A with the University of Pittsburgh’s College Democrats.

Fetterman is running for lieutenant governor in the upcoming election, and Pitt’s Young Democratic Socialists on hand took the opportunity to challenge him on some of his progressive stances. The local branch of the Democratic Socialists of America met with Fetterman in December and declined to endorse him in the upcoming election.

Prior to the event this week, the Young Democratic Socialists, lead by co-chair Sean Bailey, researched Fetterman’s positions on a wide range of issues. At the event, they quizzed him on topics ranging from fracking and abortion laws to minimum wage and nonprofit laws.

“We wanted to differentiate between a strong progressive platform and the Fetterman campaign, and I think we did,” Bailey said.

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