Governing The States and Localities
Infrastructure & Environment
The Only Oil-and-Gas State Not Taxing Drilling
Strapped for cash, Pennsylvania may finally grant the governor a victory and enact a severance tax. But it’s an uphill battle.
If your state is the only oil and gas producer in the nation that doesn’t have a severance tax, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on you to enact one. But given the amount of money involved, it’s easier to talk about creating such a tax than actually imposing it. In Pennsylvania, that talk has blossomed into a fight over more than just money; it now involves lobbying, environmental protection and the next campaign for governor.
Pennsylvania became the first place in the world to successfully drill for oil back in the 1850s. Over the past decade, however, natural gas has overtaken oil as the big game in the state. Pennsylvania is now the nation’s second-leading producer of natural gas, after Texas. Naturally, lawmakers are wary of tampering with the golden goose. “Right now, you have an industry that’s growing and not asking for state dollars, like others,” says Steve Miskin, a spokesman for state House Speaker Mike Turzai. “It has brought back great-paying jobs.”
The industry has spent more than $60 million on lobbying and campaign donations in the state over the past decade to ward off a severance tax on its profits. Industry officials like to point out that, even in the absence of a severance tax, Pennsylvania’s general business tax rates are often higher than those in other production states — notably Texas, which doesn’t tax corporate income. What’s more, Pennsylvania five years ago imposed an impact fee on drillers, which generated $173 million last year. “The comparison with other states shouldn’t stop and start just with the severance tax,” says Kevin Sunday, chief lobbyist with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “We have to look at the whole structure.”
But no one disputes that fiscally challenged Pennsylvania could use the money a severance tax would bring in — easily as much as $100 million a year. So quite a few legislators are determined to pass one. The state Senate actually approved a severance tax earlier this year.
It’s been a tough sell in the House, though, and not only because Turzai and other Republicans are largely opposed. State Rep. Greg Vitali, a Democrat who became the first legislator to propose a severance tax nearly a decade ago, came out against the Senate package, arguing it would also loosen state control of drilling permits and weaken environmental protection. “I find myself in the odd position during these budget negotiations to suddenly be opposing it,” he says. “The passage of a severance tax now is linked to some very bad provisions that in my view would cripple the Department of Environmental Protection’s ability to do its job.”
Meanwhile, the severance tax has become a sensitive campaign issue. A leaked tape captured Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner, a likely gubernatorial candidate next year, predicting that passage of the tax would guarantee a second term for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a leading severance tax advocate, because he’d have a big victory to tout.
The specter of handing Wolf a win has become the final and perhaps the biggest hurdle for the severance tax to overcome. “Both the Democrats and the Republicans,” Vitali says, “are viewing the severance tax through the lens of the gubernatorial election.” Source
Nov 23, 2017
Contact these three and tell them TO VOTE TO KEEP NET NEUTRALITY!
The FCC VOTE IS DECEMBER 14, 2017
Congress and the Senate have nothing to do with the vote to keep Net Neutrality. Only five people at the FCC get to vote.
Their names are Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr, and Jessica Rosenworcel. Both Mignon and Jessica plan to vote keep net neutrality, to defeat the net neutrality repeal one of these three men need to change their vote.
Any change to be made has to be by directly contacting them. To do so here are the numbers easiest to contact them with:
PLAN TO VOTE TO STOP NET NEUTRALITY
Ajit Pai, Chairman
Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner
Brendan Carr, Commissioner
PLAN TO VOTE TO KEEP NET NEUTRALITY
Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner
Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner
Please, please, PLEASE contact these people! Net neutrality is an immensely important part of what all of us here on Facebook and across the entire internet enjoy on a daily basis. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!!
LEARN WHAT NET NEUTRALITY MEANS TO US HERE:
Nov 22, 2017
HERE’S HOW THE END OF NET NEUTRALITY WILL CHANGE THE INTERNET
The FCC ruled earlier this yearthat these data exemptions, known as “zero rating,” are permissible under the current net-neutrality rules. Once those rules go away, the companies will be free to experiment with more drastic measures, like slowing connections to data-hungry apps.
Even Verizon’s “unlimited” plans impose limits. The company’s cheapest unlimited mobile plan limits video streaming quality to 480p resolution, which is DVD quality, on phones and 720p resolution, the lower tier of HD quality, on tablets. Customers can upgrade to a more expensive plan that enables 720p resolution on phones and 1080p on tablets, but the higher quality 4K video standard is effectively forbidden.
Meanwhile, Comcast customers in 28 states face 1 terabyte data caps. Going over that limit costs subscribers as much as an additional $50 a month. As 4K televisions become more common, more households may hit the limit. That could prompt some to stick with a traditional pay-TV package from Comcast.
It’s not hard to see how companies could push these ideas further. Comcast could take a page from Verizon and stop customers from accessing any 4K content unless they pay for an unlimited account. And it could charge companies to sponsor data for their customers.
For now, Comcast says that’s off the table. “Comcast does not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content,” Comcast Cable president and CEO Dave Watson wrote in a blog post Tuesday. AT&T and Verizon did not answer questions about future plans, but spokespeople pointed to blog posts saying the companies support the open internet.
But even without a dramatic departure from current practices, the future internet, then, could look a more extreme version of today’s mobile plans, with different pricing tiers for different levels of video quality for different apps. That means more customer choice, but perhaps not in the way anyone actually wants.
Republican FCC Chair Ajit Pai argues that Federal Trade Commission will be able to protect consumers and small business from abuses by internet providers once the agency’s current rules are off the books. But that’s not clear.
Democratic FTC commissioner Terrell McSweeny tells WIRED that the FTC is only an enforcement agency. It doesn’t have the authority to issue industry-wide rules, such as a ban on blocking lawful content. In many cases, she says, the agency might not be able to use antitrust law against broadband providers that give preferential treatment to their own content or to that of partners.
“The FTC stands ready to protect broadband subscribers from anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive acts and practices,” acting FTC Chair Maureen K. Ohlhausen said in a statement Tuesday.
The good news is the internet won’t change overnight, if it all. Blake Reid, a clinical professor at Colorado Law, says the big broadband providers will wait to see how the inevitable legal challenges to the new FCC order shakeout. They’ll probably keep an eye on 2018 and even 2020 elections as well. The courts could shoot down the FCC’s order, or, given enough public pressure, Congress even could pass new net neutrality laws.
UPDATED, 1:10 PM: This article was updated after the FCC published its proposal to eliminate net-neutrality rules.
Nov 1, 2017
Hillary Clinton Gave 20 Percent of United States’ Uranium to Russia in Exchange for Clinton Foundation Donations?
Allegations of a “quid pro quo” deal giving Russia ownership of one-fifth of U.S. uranium deposits in exchange for $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation are unsubstantiated.
Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s approval of a deal to transfer control of 20% of U.S. uranium deposits to a Russian company was a quid pro quo exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation. See Example( s )
In the months leading up to the 2016 United States presidential election, stories abounded about the relationships between the Clinton Foundation and various foreign entities.
May 2015 saw the publication of a book called Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, an exposé of alleged Clinton Foundation corruption written by Peter Schweizer, a former Hoover Institution fellow and editor-at-large at the right-wing media company Breitbart.
A chapter in the book suggests that the Clinton family and Russia each may have benefited from a “pay-for-play” scheme while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, involving the transfer of U.S. uranium reserves to the new Russian owners of an international mining operation in exchange for $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation.
The mining company, Uranium One, was originally based in South Africa, but merged in 2007 with Canada-based UrAsia Energy. Shareholders there retained a controlling interest until 2010, when Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, completed purchase of a 51% stake. Hillary Clinton played a part in the transaction insofar as it involved the transfer of ownership of a material deemed important to national security — uranium, amounting to one-fifth of U.S. reserves (a fraction re-estimated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at closer to one-tenth of the United States’ uranium production capacity in 2017) — thus requiring the approval of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), on which the U.S. Secretary of State sits.
During the same time frame that the acquisition took place, the Clinton Foundation accepted contributions from nine individuals associated with Uranium One totaling more than $100 million, Schweizer claimed in Clinton Cash. Among those who followed Schweizer in citing the transaction as an instance of alleged Clinton corruption was GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who said during a June 2016 speech in New York City:
Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20% of America’s uranium holdings to Russia, while nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.
An image circulating via social media during the final months of the presidential campaign asked the question, “So Hillary, if Russia is such a threat, why did you sell them 20% of our uranium? Are you a liar, or a traitor, or both?”
The Uranium One deal was not Clinton’s to veto or approve
Among the ways these accusations stray from the facts is in attributing a power of veto or approval to Secretary Clinton that she simply did not have. Clinton was one of nine cabinet members and department heads that sit on the CFIUS, and the secretary of the treasury is its chairperson. CFIUS members are collectively charged with evaluating proposed foreign acquisitions for potential national security issues, then turning their findings over to the president. By law, the committee can’t veto a transaction; only the president can.
All nine federal agencies and the Utah Division of Radiation Control were required to approve the Uranium One transaction before it could go forward. According to The New York Times, Clinton may not have even directly participated in the decision. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez, whose job it was to represent the State Dept. on CFIUS, said Clinton “never intervened” in committee matters. Clinton herself has said she wasn’t personally involved.
Despite transfer of ownership, the uranium remained in the U.S.
A key fact ignored in criticisms of Clinton’s supposed involvement in the deal is that the uranium was not — nor could it be — exported, and remained under the control of U.S.-based subsidiaries of Uranium One, according to a statementby the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
NRC’s review of the transfer of control request determined that the U.S. subsidiaries will
remain the licensees, will remain qualified to conduct the uranium recovery operations, and will continue to have the equipment, facilities, and procedures necessary to protect public health and safety and to minimize danger to life or property. The review also determined that the licensees will maintain adequate financial surety for eventual decommissioning of the sites. Neither Uranium One nor ARMZ holds an NRC export license, so no uranium produced at either facility may be exported.
The timing of most of the donations does not match
Of the $145 million allegedly contributed to the Clinton Foundation by Uranium One investors, the lion’s share — $131.3 million — came from a single donor, Frank Giustra, the company’s Canadian founder. But Giustra sold off his entire stake in the company in 2007, three years before the Russia deal and at least 18 months before Clinton became secretary of state.
Of the remaining individuals connected with Uranium One who donated to the Clinton Foundation, only one was found to have contributed during the same time frame that the deal was taking place, according to The New York Times — Ian Telfer (also a Canadian), the company’s chairman:
His donations through the Fernwood Foundation included $1 million reported in 2009, the year his company appealed to the American Embassy to help it keep its mines in Kazakhstan; $250,000 in 2010, the year the Russians sought majority control; as well as $600,000 in 2011 and $500,000 in 2012. Mr. Telfer said that his donations had nothing to do with his business dealings, and that he had never discussed Uranium One with Mr. or Mrs. Clinton. He said he had given the money because he wanted to support Mr. Giustra’s charitable endeavors with Mr. Clinton. “Frank and I have been friends and business partners for almost 20 years,” he said.
In addition to the Clinton Foundation donations, the New York Times also cited a $500,000 speaking fee paid to former president Bill Clinton by a Russian investment bank in June 2010, before the Uranium One deal was approved:
The $500,000 fee — among Mr. Clinton’s highest — was paid by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin that has invited world leaders, including Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, to speak at its investor conferences.
Renaissance Capital analysts talked up Uranium One’s stock, assigning it a “buy” rating and saying in a July 2010 research report that it was “the best play” in the uranium markets.
The timing of Telfer’s Clinton Foundation donations and Bill Clinton’s Renaissance Capital speaking fee might be questionable if there was reason to believe that Hillary Clinton was instrumental in the approval of the deal with Russia, but all the evidence points to the contrary — that Clinton did not play a pivotal role, and, in fact, may not have played any role at all. Moreover, neither Clinton nor her department possessed sole power of approval over said transaction.
Foundation has admittted disclosure mistakes
One fault investigations into the Clinton Foundation’s practices did find was that not all of the donations were properly disclosed — specifically, those of Uranium One Chairman Ian Telfer between 2009 and 2012. The foundation admitted this shortcoming and pledged to correct it, but as the Guardian pointed out in its May 2015 discussion of Clinton Cash, the fact that it happened is reason enough to sound alarm bells:
It is also true that large donations to the foundation from the chairman of Uranium One, Ian Telfer, at around the time of the Russian purchase of the company and while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, were never disclosed to the public. The multimillion sums were channeled through a subsidiary of the Clinton Foundation, CGSCI, which did not reveal its individual donors.
Such awkward collisions between Bill’s fundraising activities and Hillary’s public service have raised concerns not just among those who might be dismissed as part of a vast right-wing conspiracy.
An enormous volume of interest and speculation surrounds the workings of the Clinton Foundation, which is to be expected. Given the enormous sums of money it controls and the fact that it is run by a former U.S. president who is married to a former U.S. secretary of state and presidential candidate, the foundation deserves all the scrutiny it gets, and more.
At the same time, for the sake of accuracy it’s crucial to differentiate between partisan accusations and what we actually know about it — however little that may be.
On 17 October 2017, The Hill reported obtaining evidence that Vadim Mikerin, a Russian official who oversaw the American operations of the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, was being investigated for corruption by multiple U.S. agencies while the Uranium One deal was up for approval — information that apparently was not shared with U.S. officials involved in approving the transaction. The Hill also reported receiving documents and eyewitness testimony “indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow,” although no specifics about who those Russian nuclear officials were or how the money was allegedly routed to the Clinton Foundation were given. In any case, none of these revelations prove that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated in a quid pro quo agreement to accept payment for approval of the Uranium One deal.
On 24 October 2017, the U.S. House intelligence and oversight committees announced the launch of a joint investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Russian purchase of Uranium One.
Updated [17 October 2017]: Added synopsis of new reportage by The Hill.
Updated [1 November 2017]: Added clarifications, sources, and the announcement of a congressional investigation.
May 11, 2017 (Still relevant)
Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?
Since Evangelical Christianity began infiltrating politics, officially in the late 1970s, there has been a disturbing trend to limit or remove rights from those who don’t meet the conservative idea of an American. Many of these initiatives come in the form of “religious freedom” laws, which empower discrimination, while other legislation targets immigrants who believe differently. The result has been a sharp division in American culture, and the redefinition of Christian theology.
Evangelical speaker, author, and university professor, Tony Campolo, said Christianity was redefined in the mid-70s by positions of “pro-life” and opposing gay marriage. “Suddenly theology fell to the background,” he said. And somewhere in the middle of all the change, Evangelical Christianity crossed the line of faith and belief to hatred and abuse. Those who cruelly implement the actions of their faith are oblivious to the destruction they cause to their religion, or the people their beliefs impact. Is it fair to call it sociopathic?
Psychology Today listed sixteen characteristics of sociopathic behaviors, which include: Untruthfulness and insincerity, superficial charm and good intelligence, lack of remorse or shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, specific loss of insight, and general poverty in major affective reactions (in other words, appropriate emotional responses).
We see examples of these kinds of behaviors in church leaders and followers. Franklin Graham, for example, stated that immigration was “not a Bible issue.” His stand fits well with his conservative politics and vocal support of Donald Trump, but his callousness toward immigrants and those seeking asylum in the United States goes against everything he says he believes (Lev. 19:33-34, Mark 12:30-31). Yet, Graham doesn’t see one bit of irony between his political stance and his religious belief. Nor does he seem to notice the horrific casualties in war-torn countries these immigrants are desperately trying to flee.
Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento said after the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack on a gay nightclub, “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!” This “minister of God” showed no compassion for the families of the men and women who died. He appeared incapable of laying aside his religious beliefs for even a moment of shared human connection to a tragic event.
And recently, Kim Higginbotham, a minister’s wife and teacher with a master’s degree in special education, according to her website, wrote a public blog called “Giving Your Child to the Devil.” She claimed, “Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children.” She listed Matthew 10:37 as justification, which says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
In a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, martyr’s rant, she claims her son turned his back on God, and she was left with no other option but to abandon him. It turns out her son is gay and – it turns out – the day the diatribe was posted was his wedding day. Sharon Hambrick, a Christian writer, posted a wonderful response to this mom.
But mostly, rather than calling these people out for sociopathic behavior fellow Christians agree. Many of the comments on Higginbotham’s website say, “So sorry for your loss,” or, “Praying for you and your son.”
It’s common for us to avoid cognitive dissonance, when our beliefs dictate one thing, but our experiences show us something else is true. We call this living in denial, and we all do it on one level or another. But when we choose our “truth” while coldly watching a fellow human being suffer, we’ve crossed a line of mental health.
The 2016 election demonstrated an especially high level of insincerity, shamelessness, poor judgment and pathological egocentricity among Christian evangelicals. James Dobson, who once said of Bill Clinton, “Character does matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world,” and then said of Donald Trump, “I’m not under any illusions that he is an outstanding moral example. It’s a cliché but true: We are electing a commander-in-chief, not a theologian-in-chief.”
The evangelical Christian message is loud and clear. They care for no one but themselves. Their devotion is to the version of Christianity they have created, which calls for ruthless abandonment of immigrants, women, children – even their own – and anyone else who doesn’t fall inline with their message. Social justice, which is mentioned in Bible verses over two thousand times, has been replaced with hardline political ideology. Principle over people. Indifference over involvement. Judgment over generosity.
Every generation redefines what it means to be, or belong to a religious group. Religious ideologies, interpretations, and doctrines are fluid. But whatever it is, or whatever it becomes, is made by the people who belong to the religion and what they collectively decide to make it.
Watch videos here
Committeepeople and Friends of the Chester County GOP,
Thank you for your hard work and unwavering support for our Republican Party this year. We have the finest county party organization in Pennsylvania, and this is due entirely to your steadfast commitment to the Chester County GOP.
The results of Tuesday’s elections in Chester County were disappointing. We experienced an unprecedented Democratic off-year election wave in all four of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s suburban counties. Republican candidates lost on Tuesday for reasons that had nothing to do with local politics. Our hearts go out to longtime friends who had such a positive impact on their communities as elected officials but did not win on Tuesday.
In the course of this campaign, we made tens of thousands of voter contacts. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard and took our Republican message to every corner of the county, and our thanks to Robin Marcello, Norman MacQueen, Gordon Eck and Jack London for their hard work and dedication.
Looking ahead, I can tell you that we will regroup as a party and begin preparing immediately for next year’s elections. The Chester County Republican Party has won the vast majority of our county’s elections over the years. We will continue to do so, and I am extremely optimistic about our chances in 2018 and believe our best days are ahead of us.
Like so many of you who have reached out to us at headquarters, I am undeterred in my commitment to this party and this county. Too much is at stake to allow Democrats to bring their progressive agenda to the best-run county in the nation.
Winston Churchill once said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
We will win again, and with your continued support we will be unstoppable in 2018!
All my best,
P.S. As we approach the holiday season, please mark your calendars for our annual RCCC Christmas Party on Thursday, December 7th. We will be sending invitations shortly.
Oct 7, 2017
Honolulu Star Advertiser
Pennsylvania GOP crosses Trump divide from 2016 to 2018
ARRISBURG, Pa. >> Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania campaigned for months without saying whether he’d vote for Donald Trump, and waited until barely an hour before polls closed last Nov. 8 to reveal that he had, indeed, voted for his party’s presidential nominee.
That was then, this is now: the candidates widely seen as favorites to become the Pennsylvania GOP’s 2018 nominees for U.S. senator and governor are unabashed supporters of Trump.
Scott Wagner, the York County state senator who wants to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, the Hazleton resident who is vying to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, were early supporters of Trump.
They were prominent Trump backers well before he trounced the competition in Pennsylvania’s primary on his way to the nomination, when Toomey and many party officials were still worrying about Trump’s candidacy.
Now, with polls showing weakening support for Trump’s performance as president, campaign consultants and political analysts see a risk in being closely identified with Trump in next year’s midterm election that, if it follows historical patterns, will be unkind to the party of the president.
Barletta and Wagner counter that they see support for Trump as strong and strengthening, making the president a safe bet with voters rather than a risky campaign companion.
“I might argue that it’s stronger today because they feel betrayed by people in Washington who are not supporting the president,” Barletta said. “They voted for him and, you know, Bob Casey would be one of those people. I think a state like Pennsylvania, a blue-collar state, President Trump’s support is still very strong.” Read more
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