Daily Local News
August 31, 2020
Local lawmakers recognized as environmental champions
WEST CHESTER — Five Chester County lawmakers recently joined dozens of residents virtually to discuss the state of the environment.
The lawmakers discussed their critical actions to protect Pennsylvania’s air and water and combat climate change — and how they stood up against polluters who would put their profits over environmental protection.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Scorecard, compiled by four environmental organizations across the state, scores Pennsylvania Senators and Representatives on their votes on environmental legislation.
Chester County has one of the state’s highest number of environmentally friendly legislators in office — with eight out of our thirteen legislators scoring 100 percent.
“We’re proud to recognize the numerous state legislators in Chester County with perfect scores, and we hope their unyielding commitment toward protecting our water, air, and lands become a trend across the state,” said Jess Cadorette, Conservation Voters of PA field director.
The scorecard helps Pennsylvanians discover whether their legislators are prioritizing our environment when voting in Harrisburg.
“Protecting our neighborhoods and environment is critical to maintaining the beauty and habitability of our County and our Commonwealth,” said Rep. Dan Williams (HD-74).”I am greatly appreciative that my beliefs have earned myself such a high recommendation from these organizations.”
Said Sen. Katie Muth (SD-44): “Elected officials and those in positions of power who take money from fossil fuel companies should not be drafting or voting on environmental legislation. Too many members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly remain loyal to special interests, resulting in a direct attack on our democracy, our environment and our public health.”
The 2019-2020 Environmental Scorecard reflects a denial of science among legislative leaders that risks the health and safety of Pennsylvania’s residents for generations to come. This session, 116 legislators scored zero percent, marking a 500 percent increase in bad voting records on environmental issues since the last environmental scorecard in 2017-2018. However, Chester County was one of the few regions which saw an increase in legislators scoring 100 percent.
“We all know the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of preserving and protecting our environment for future generations,” said Rep. Carolyn Comitta (HD-156). “I am proud to stand with my colleagues to ensure that our communities have environmental champions that are dedicated to passing legislation that will safeguard our constitutional right to clean air and water.”
Enivironmental scores: State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (SD-19): 67 percent, State Sen. Tim Kearney (SD-26): 100 percent, State Sen. Thomas Killion (SD-9): 50 percent, and State Sen. Katie Muth (SD-44): 100 percent.
State Rep. Stephen Barrar (HD-160): 8 percent, State Rep. Carolyn Comitta (HD-156): 100 percent, State Rep. Tim Hennessey (HD-26): 8 percent, State Rep. Kristine Howard (HD-167): 100 percent, State Rep. John Lawrence (HD-13): 15 percent, State Rep. Danielle Otten (HD-155): 100 percent, State Rep. Christina Sappey (HD-158): 100 percent, State Rep. Melissa Shusterman (HD-157): 100 percent, and State Rep. Dan Williams (HD-74): 100 percent.
Said Sappey: “I remain committed to protecting our rights to clean air, pure water and to the preservation of our open space and environment. Thank you to Conservation Voters of PA for this opportunity to come together and discuss the environmental challenges still facing us.”
Cadorette said environmental issues are important.
“Pennsylvanians deserve to know where their lawmakers stand, and the 2019-2020 Environmental Scorecard is a critical tool to help people stay on top of what bills are passing through Harrisburg and when to hold their legislators accountable, ” said Cadorette. Source
October 2, 2019
Elected officials explain importance of local government
KENNETT SQUARE—Elected officials had an opportunity to tell about their journeys into politics, and how their offices impact the community at the League of Women Voters of Chester County (LWVCC) “Our Government in Action,” program held Saturday at Crosslands.
Speaking to about four dozen League and community members, District Attorney Tom Hogan kicked off the program by telling about a day in the life of a district attorney, which he explained, sometimes starts at 3 a.m. when his bedside phone notifies him of a crime that prompts him to go to the site.
Commissioners Michelle Kichline and Terence Farrell discussed the drug program COPE, environmental concerns, and the 30th anniversary of the open space program and county lands preservation. “One of our major challenges,” said Farrell, “is the need to upgrade our county systems, because we will experience tremendous growth in the future.”
Many of the officials, most of whom had other jobs before running for their elected offices, said they decided to run for office to improve services to county residents.
Terri Clark, Register of Wills, for example, said her office has improved services to residents by taking services offsite to people who cannot get to her office. Matt Holliday, prothonotary, said they have set up a program in his office to make it easier for victims of domestic violence to file PFA (protection from abuse) orders.
Controller Margaret Reif passed out an Annual Report Summary for Chester County which contains a condensed overview of the county’s audited 2018 Comprehensive Annual Finance Report, and select information about county revenues, spending and demographics in an easy to understand format. Audience members learned about the staffing of all criminal juvenile and dependency hearings held in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. Of particular interest to League members was the new program to expunge the records of teens, handled by Clerk of Courts officer, Yolanda Van de Krol. Patricia Maisano, County treasurer, told about finding “hidden” taxes by hotels and some businesses, and how many thousands of dollars her office has recovered for the county.
West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin spoke about her efforts to make a difference, and Dist.160 State Representative Stephen Barrrar talked about the drop in volunteer firefighters, and ambulance companies’ challenge to be reimbursed for their services. Dist. 158 State Representative Chris Sappey, Dist. 167 State Representative Kristine Howard, and State Senator Andy Dinniman focused their remarks on children and education.
Howard told of some bipartisan work being done in the state legislature dealing with foster children, but admitted it is slow going.
Dinniman said “we should not look at schools separate from poverty. Some children suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) because of the violence they have seen. We need to give our kids hope.” Source
July 5, 2019
Barrar kills bid to pack CWA board
State Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160 of Upper Chichester, recently confirmed the latest rumors surrounding the potential sale of the Chester Water Authority. In a June 27 Facebook post opposing a sale of the authority, Barrar stated he was prompted to take the public stance due to many inquiries about possible legislation to expand the number of CWA board members from the city of Chester.
The CWA Board of Directors is currently made up of three from the city, appointed by Chester City Council; three from Delaware County municipalities outside of the city, appointed by Delaware County Council; and three from Chester County, appointed by Chester County Commissioners.
“I heard there was a rumor that language was going to be put in the administrative code bill that would put six additional seats on the board for Chester,” Barrar told the Times by phone Monday.
The additional six members from Chester would ostensibly tip a CWA board vote in favor of a potential sale of authority assets.
Barrar then reiterated the narrative from his June 27 Facebook post, which stated: “Immediately, I had a conversation with the House Majority Leader to see if this was true. He confirmed there was attempt to add this language… After I explained my position on the bill, he agreed with me that this was a bad provision, and he would make sure it was not adopted into the code legislation.”
Barrar referred to the CWA as a “well-run utility” and said “their rates have always been reasonable.”
Staff members at both the Harrisburg office and Brookhaven district office of state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, told the Times the week of June 27 that they had received calls regarding the rumors.
“We have not seen any language; Sen. Killion hasn’t been involved in this in any way,” Killion Chief of Staff Shannon Royer told the Times Wednesday during a follow-up call. “We did hear rumors last week when the code bills were being discussed – there was language that Republican and Democratic legislators talked about with the governor’s office.”
“We’re curious as to where it came from, who was it, and who drafted it,” CWA Solicitor Francis J. Catania said by phone Thursday. “(Barrar) stopped the legislation from advancing; he came through in a big way for his constituents,” he said.
Catania said that Barrar has so far been the only legislator representing Delaware County CWA ratepayers to publicly support the authority and oppose a sale. He said that CWA has received public support from Rep. Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, Rep. John Lawrence, R-Chester/Lancaster, and Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester.
Meanwhile, CWA is awaiting the July 15 deadline of its request for qualifications for investigative services into the volume of documents it has received under the Right to Know Law. Catania said the RFQ has now been issued to universities, environmental groups, and lawyers specializing in the Right to Know Law.
“It should almost be labelled a connect-the-dots project – we just need help connecting all the dots because there’s so much information and interconnections,” Catania said. CWA has received a “library of documents,” according to Catania, in Right to Know filings over two years. The requests have primarily dealt with communication between the City of Chester’s Act 47 coordinators, the state Department of Community and Economic Development and for-profit utility companies regarding the proposed sale of the authority.
— COLIN AINSWORTH
March 12, 2019
Chesco, Delco lawmakers urge Wolf to halt Mariner pipeline operations
WEST CHESTER — Pennsylvania lawmakers representing 11 House and three Senatorial districts across Chester and Delaware counties have signed a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf asking him to impose a moratorium on the transmission of natural gas liquids products through the Mariner East pipeline system until the mandated protocols are in place for local responders to properly manage a pipeline emergency.
Chester County Emergency Services and local school districts along the pipeline, including Downingtown Area School District, Rose Tree Media School District and West Chester Area School District have requested Energy Transfer Partners’ subsidiary SPLP to provide its Emergency Response Plan for the Mariner East project, which the responders and school districts need to complete their comprehensive All Hazards Emergency Response Plans and fulfill their statutory requirements under Title 35 of state law.
The letter urges Wolf to preserve the health, welfare and safety of constituents who live, work and raise their families in the high-consequence areas of Chester and Delaware counties within the impact radius of Mariner East. The pipeline also runs through Berks County.
“We have pipelines currently transporting highly volatile products through our communities, and our local first responders are not able to adequately plan their emergency response or mitigate our risk because the operator has failed to cooperate with repeated requests for their Emergency Response Plan,” said state Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester County. “Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco are risking a catastrophe, which is a criminal offense.
“I am grateful to my colleagues for their collaboration on this request. The bipartisan support for this moratorium underscores how important it is to take every possible step to ensure the safety of our communities and our first responders.”
The letter was signed by the following state representatives Rep. Steve Barrar, R-60 of Concord; Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156 of West Chester; Friel Otten, D-155 of West Whiteland; Rep. Kristine Howard, D-167; Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26; Rep. John Lawrence, R-13; Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown; Christina Sappey, D-158; Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-157; Rep. Dan Williams, D-74; and Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, as well as state Sens. Andy Dinniman, D-19; Katie Muth, D-44; and Tim Kearney, D-26 of Swarthmore.
Mariner East spokesmen did not return a call for comment as yet.
The company is building and operating the controversial Mariner East project, transporting volatile liquid gases across the full width of Pennsylvania, from the Marcellus Shale region to a facility in Marcus Hook.
Residents have opposed the project for years, saying the pipeline never should have been routed through densely populated neighborhoods, in close proximity to schools and senior centers.
Mariner East 1, which is a decades old smaller pipe that has been retrofitted to carry the new materials, has been shut down for weeks since a sinkhole formed in a Chester County neighborhood for the second time.
Mariner East 2 came online the last week of December, albeit not in the form Energy Transfer originally proposed. Mariner East 2 was proposed as a 20-inch pipe, but because of constant delays and other problems, Energy Transfer plugged in a hybrid version of several smaller pipes to fill in the gaps. Completion of the full Mariner East 2 pipeline now likely will not take place until 2020.
Mariner East 2x remains under construction.
In February the state Department of Environmental Protection halted all permits for the Mariner East 2 project, saying Energy Transfer had failed to take proper actions after an accident that caused an explosion in western Pennsylvania.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan last month announced he was launching a criminal investigation into the construction of Mariner East 2, noting his belief that state officials had not adequately protected citizens rights and safety. He now is impaneling an investigative grand jury to hear testimony from witnesses and review documents.
October 8, 2018
The Times of Chester County
The battle for the 160th: meet the candidates
PA HOUSE DISTRICT 160 – With less than a month until Election Day, the race in the 160th district is shaping up to be a battle for the ages: The Son of Darby vs. The Kid from Kennett. The veteran vs. the rookie. Goliath vs. David.
Incumbent Stephen Barrar (R), who became the representative for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ 160th District in 1996, is facing off against newcomer Anton Andrew (D), an attorney and non-profit founder who resides in Kennett Square.
Each of the candidates were asked their opinions about state and national issues, as well as each other:
What motivated you to run in this race?
Barrar: “There’s a couple of reasons. Part of it is, I chair the committee on veterans affairs. There’s a crisis in Pennsylvania that deals with first responders and there’s pending legislation that I’d like to get through before I retire. Also, I have the best office staff in the state of Pennsylvania. They do a good job, and we do constituent work that benefits the residents of the 160th.”
Andrew: “When I became aware of how gerrymandered our district was, which our incumbent and his cronies are responsible for, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Voters, many of them who looked like me, were pushed out of the district.”
How would you describe your opponent?
Barrar: “I don’t know him. I think I’ve met him once since he got involved in the race. I’ve never really talked with him other than a family day event in Chichester. Everything else about him I’ve read on his website. I think his ideology certainly leads to the left.”
Barrar added, “I always say, there’s not a darn thing I can give you for free, somebody’s gotta pay for it. I believe my opponent would vote to raise taxes, and I’ve spent my career fighting against it.”
Andrew: “When you’re out of touch with the consensus across party lines, it’s dangerous extremism. And I think that he (Barrar) has earned the title. 80% of voters in this district, regardless of party, oppose assault rifles. His stance is completely out of touch with reality. It’s an existential threat to democracy when you start casting out some voters and choosing other voters. You’ve basically silenced the voice of those voters.”
What is the most important issue to you in the race for this seat?
Barrar: “Property taxes are the one issue that comes up in every single election. We need to find a more fair way to fund education, which has been a goal since I was a young man. We haven’t been able to push through a property tax plan that is fair to everyone.”
Andrew: “Strengthening public education, investing in local infrastructure and the community, all of those are important issues. But the major structural problem is when you have leaders who aren’t accountable to the voters who put them in office.”
Andrew added, “Public education is the great equalizer in society. My parents came here when I was 10 so my sister and I could have the best possible education. Now people can’t move into the district because the state doesn’t pay its fair share. When someone sees their property tax and school tax bill, they can say ‘Thanks, Steve Barrar.’”
If you could change one thing about how the Pennsylvania state government is run, what would it be?
Barrar: “There’s a lot of things I would change. I believe that one of the things is to limit our leadership to 8-year term limits. When people tie those positions up for too long, they block out suggestions of others’ ideas, and they’re not as receptive to change.”
Barrar also noted that limiting terms to eight years could help avoid the type of corruption that has happened among both Republicans and Democrats. “I think if you’re doing a good job, people will vote to keep you in office,” he said, noting that voters are much more aware what their elected officials are doing because of social media.
Andrew: “I would change making it easier for people to access the record of their elected official. Making it more accessible so that you don’t have to search for it, that it’s there for you. Greater transparency and making people aware of the positions that their leaders take.” Andrew cited the recent fair district legislation and the last-minute changes made to it, which Barrar supported, as an example of non-transparency in the House of Representatives.
What is your position on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Pennsylvania?
Barrar: “I’m very torn on it right now. If there was a bill right now, I would vote against it.”
Andrew: “I believe in the decriminalization of small, personal use amounts of marijuana.”
Do you have any comment on the confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination, or the related FBI investigation?
Barrar: “I hadn’t thought much about it. As a state rep, I don’t have any say about it. I think for (U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein) to hold that information was disgraceful. I think that the Democrats are afraid that he’s going to overturn Roe v. Wade and other statutes that they depend on. It paints a sad picture of what’s going on in Washington, and I think it turns a lot people off about the political process.”
Andrew: “For the good of our nation, we need to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court by making sure that only those judges of the highest caliber, who have earned the respect of all the American people, are appointed to this lifetime position. I believe we need to challenge the idea that men, particularly men in power, can prey on women and get away with it. On a personal level, I will do whatever I can to help create the America that I want for my 10-year old daughter.” Source
Dec 12, 2017
Pa. lawmakers send Wolf abortion restrictions he plans to veto
Pennsylvania’s House on Tuesday voted after an impassioned debate to send a bill limiting abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy to Gov. Tom Wolf, who immediately repeated his threat to veto it.
The Republican-controlled House voted 121-70 for the legislation that would alter the existing 24-week limit.
The measure would keep in place exceptions under current law for when a mother’s life is at risk, or if she could suffer a serious, permanent injury without an abortion. It does not allow exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.
Supporters said medical advances mean premature fetuses are now able to survive at an earlier point in the pregnancy than previously possible.
The strong feelings and stark language that characterizes the abortion discussion on the national level were reflected in the House debate.
“As people try to frame this debate in terms of women’s rights, the question that begs to be asked is, what about the rights of those preborn women in the womb being exterminated?” said Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York.
Opponents argued that parents should be allowed to make their own abortion decisions with medical input and by consulting their sources of spiritual advice.
“We have to be careful in this body that we don’t put an ideology on everybody and say that everybody has to live like this,” said Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny.
Planned Parenthood said the bill would make Pennsylvania’s abortion law among the nation’s most restrictive.
Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, said a House that is “80 percent men and 0 percent physicians” should not be making decisions for women about terminating their pregnancies. She noted that a tiny fraction of abortions currently occur after 20 weeks.
The bill “does not protect women,” said Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery. “It attempts to control them by imposing the views of some legislators on women, and I think that’s wrong — that’s morally wrong.”
The legislation also would outlaw what the bill terms “dismemberment abortion,” a phrase not used by medical professionals. It would effectively ban dilation-and-evacuation, a procedure that is the most common method of second-trimester abortion.
“Dismemberment abortion is completely inhumane, it’s barbaric,” said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York.
Some opponents noted that the bill had not received public hearings, while supporters said the issues have been discussed in depth for years.
Wolf, a Democrat, called the bill an assault on the doctor-patient relationship and “cruel” because it lacks exceptions for rape or incest.
“These women deserve our support, not to be maligned by politicians in Harrisburg for making medical decisions about their bodies for their families with their doctors,” Wolf said in a written statement.
The bill passed the Senate in February by a 32-18 vote. The margins in both chambers raise doubts about whether supporters will be able to muster sufficient votes to override Wolf’s promised veto. Source House votes here
August 31, 2017
Southern Chester County News
Attorney General visits Kennett to wage war on opioid crisis
KENNETT SQUARE >> Determined to curb an opioid epidemic that is now the leading cause of death for all Americans under age 50, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro came to Kennett Square to discuss the crisis with state lawmakers, municipal officials and law enforcement officers.
“I need to know what’s happening on the ground and how my office can assist in the local efforts,” said Shapiro, who has visited eight counties in the past two days. “We need to have a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to deal with the number one public health threat in Pennsylvania – the heroin and opioid epidemic. And these forums provide a great opportunity.”
The discussion, which coincided with International Overdose Awareness Day, took place at Kennett Fire Company’s Red Clay Room, and included almost the entire Chester County legislative delegation, state Rep. Steve Barrar, state Rep. John Lawrence, state Rep. Harry Lewis, state Rep. Becky Corbin, state Rep. Warren Kampf, and state Rep. Carolyn Comitta. Also in attendance were local police chiefs from throughout Chester County and Chester County Commissioners Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell.
“I can’t think of a family that hasn’t been affected by this,” said Barrar.
New Garden Police Chief Gerald Simpson said more efforts must be put into educating the younger set.
“We had five (opioid-related) deaths last year,” Simpson said. “If had five fatal accidents in one year, my community would be outraged and would ask me what I plan to do about it.”
Simpson said 25 percent of the opioid-related cases his department worked on last year resulted in death.
“That’s a scary number,” he said.
Shapiro told the panel that the crisis is taxing law enforcement and first responders in a significant way. He said police sometimes return to administer Narcan to the same person multiple times. There were 4,642 drug-related deaths in Pennsylvania last year, and if nothing is done, that number will skyrocket, he said.
Dinniman said he was glad to see Shapiro make the opioid crisis a priority.
“It was a productive and comprehensive discussion,” Dinniman said. “At the end of the day, solving the opioid crisis is not going to be a one-agency issue. Rather, it’s is going to take multi-pronged and cooperative effort between law enforcement personnel, public health officials, educators and others. And one of this morning’s overriding themes was how can we take what is working in Chester County and replicate it throughout the state.”
Shapiro cited his office’s and other local and state law enforcement departments’ efforts to crack down on illegal drug dealers amid the continued use and abuse of prescription medicine.
“We’ve arrested 844 drug dealers since I took office eight months ago. We could do that every day on and on, but at the end of the day it’s not going to solve it,” he said. “Prescription drugs are the root cause of so many of these problems.”
He also discussed efforts to deactivate and dispose of unwanted or unused prescription drugs, holding opioid manufacturers accountable, and working to improve access to addiction treatment and recovery options.
Cozzone expressed concerns about young people and students being prescribed opioids for sports injuries.
Dinniman discussed Senate Bill 535, legislation that calls for opioid awareness and addiction prevention education in Pennsylvania schools. That bill was incorporated in the Pennsylvania School Code, which recently passed the Senate.
Comitta, who said she plans to talk to the local medical community about the problem, said the roundtable discussion is a great start to eradicating the problem.
“We all need to put our heads together to figure out how to combat this very complicated, very distressing opioid epidemic,” Comitta said. “It’s multi-faceted and it will take every level of government and every level of law enforcement. This is a public health crisis.”
Lawrence said here is bipartisan support among local lawmakers to attack the opioid problem.
“There are a lot of callenges, but we are talking about people’s lives,” Lawrence said. “I can tell you there is a united front on this and we will move forward. It’s an issue that all of us are searching for solutions.”
Thursday morning’s discussion was one of several events involving combating opioid abuse in Chester County that day. Later that afternoon, Dinniman joined Shapiro to announce a series of roundtable discussions at Pennsylvania colleges and institutes of higher education aimed at addressing drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and sexual assault on campus. Source
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