The General Assistance program will end on Aug. 1. No GA cash assistance will be dispersed after July 31. Call 2-1-1 to connect to local services that may be able to help.
• More info: Call the DHS Helpline @ 1-800-692-7462 (1-800-451-5886 TDD)
• Online: http://bit.ly/32OOmNZ
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
September 18, 2019
Folmer resigns post; both Delco senators called on him to do so
State Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, resigned his position Wednesday morning, hours after news broke that he had been charged with possession of child pornography.
Both Delaware County’s state senators joined the chorus of those calling on Folmer, R-48, of Lebanon, to step down following charges of possession of child pornography.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Folmer had been charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and criminal use of a communication facility.
Shapiro’s office did an investigation after electronic service provider Tumblr notified them through CyberTip that a user had uploaded an image of child pornography through its application.
Then, Shapiro said, a search warrant was executed and images of child pornography were found on Folmer’s phone.
According to the police documents, the image in question involved a young female girl performing oral sex on an adult male. Folmer told investigators that the Tumblr account with this image was his, that he had received child pornography through this account and that he had been “dealing with some personal problems/issues.”
At the time, the attorney general said, “This defendant serves as a state senator and was entrusted to honor and represent his community in the Pennsylvania Capitol … I will continue to say it – no one is above the law, no matter what position of power they hold.
“I will continue to work to protect children and hold those who abuse them accountable,” Shapiro said.
Today, both state Sens. Tom Killion, R-9, of Middletown and Tim Kearney, D-26, of Swarthmore, called on Folmer to resign.
“The charges against Sen. Mike Folmer are extremely disturbing,” Killion said. “The allegations, related to the sexual exploitation of children, are of a nature that precludes his continued service as a member of the Pennsylvania Senate. I call on him to resign immediately.”
Kearney’s words were similar.
“The charges against Sen. Folmer are deeply troubling and beyond reprehensible,” he said. “As elected officials, we are called to uphold the public’s trust and protect the most vulnerable among us, especially children. Therefore, I call for Sen. Folmer’s immediate resignation.”
Sen. Katy Muth, D-Chester-Montgomery, left little doubt where she stood on Folmer’s situation.
“I want to make it very clear that the charges brought against Sen. Folmer for the possession of child pornography are the actions of a sexual predator,,” Muth said. “Child pornography is child rape. The news is disgusting, but sadly not surprising since there is a rape culture epidemic in our government and beyond. I commend Attorney General Shapiro for taking action to charge this criminal for his crimes and seek justice.
“The Republican leaders in the Senate need to step up, remove this predator from his position as senator, put politics aside, and finally put victims first. A real leader would act now to pass truly victim-centered legislation to strengthen our laws to prevent future harm, as well as allow all victims to have a pathway to justice and healing. This predatory behavior is plaguing every level of government and it is time for Pennsylvania to lead the way in changing the culture, instead of settling for cowardly compromises and protecting elected officials who continue to abuse their power and harm others. Senate leadership has the power to enact change immediately and their failure to act with urgency directly enables rape culture. I call on Sen. Scarnati to do the right thing and make truly victim-centered legislation the priority next week when we return to Harrisburg, showing that the public servants of the Senate stand with survivors, not predators”
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman told CNN that Folmer was immediately removed as Chair of the Senate State Government Committee.
They announced in a statement Wednesday morning that they had met with Folmer and demanded he resign.
At that point Folmer offered his resignation, effective immediately.
Scarnati, R-25, and Corman, R-34, issued the following statement announcing the resignation of Senator Folmer.
“We are sickened and disturbed by the charges brought against Mike Folmer yesterday. We have reviewed the criminal complaint and spoke with Mike Folmer early this morning to insist on his resignation from the Senate. We are in receipt of his letter of resignation and the 48th Senatorial District seat is now vacant.” Source
September 11, 2019
‘People can’t afford to bathe themselves’: What life is like for Pennsylvanians who lost cash assistance
Dalia is working toward some big goals, including securing a place to live.
That got harder on Aug. 1, when General Assistance ended for a second time.
Dalia is a former beneficiary of the state-run program, which provided a $205-a-month stipend to more than 12,000 people with disabilities, in treatment for addiction, and fleeing domestic violence. This summer, the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to eliminate it as part of a budget bill signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Currently, Dalia’s waiting for a Social Security disability determination. But without any income, she can’t get a lease or enroll in most rental assistance programs.
Right now, she’s a resident of Project HOME, a homeless services and anti-poverty organization in Philadelphia. The Capital-Star is withholding her last name to protect her privacy.
August wasn’t the first time Pennsylvania ended General Assistance. It was first eliminated in 2012 by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and the GOP-controlled Legislature, then restored in 2018 after the state Supreme Court ruled the original bill was improperly passed.
During the 2019 debate, Republicans asked why Democrats hadn’t introduced a bill to bring back the program, if it was so crucial. People who lost General Assistance told the Capital-Star they squeaked by with the help of friends and churches, while advocates said many more disappeared further into the margins.
The question now: Will that dynamic play out again?
In the lead-up to General Assistance’s elimination in August, the state Department of Human Services promoted via social media the state’s 211 helpline. The number, which connects people to health and human services assistance, was also included on letters recipients received about the end of the program.
“Since the General Assembly passed a budget eliminating General Assistance in June, the Department of Human Services has worked closely with our partners throughout the commonwealth to ensure that accurate and helpful information is reaching recipients of General Assistance,” department spokesperson Erin James said via email. “One key resource in this effort is 211. To the best of our ability, we are connecting people with available resources and making the nonprofit community aware of the potential for increased need.
The General Assistance program will end on Aug. 1. No GA cash assistance will be dispersed after July 31. Call 2-1-1 to connect to local services that may be able to help.
Between mid-July and early September, the state hotline fielded 145 calls, texts, and other contacts from people who self-identified as former recipients, Kristen Rotz, president of the United Way of Pennsylvania, told the Capital-Star. Last year, the United Way-run helpline received about 200,000 contacts per month.
“We’re not asking everyone who calls,” Rotz said.
The top requests from former recipients were for utility assistance, rent payment assistance, and personal grooming and supplies.
“We had expected going into this that those would be common needs,” Rotz said, citing anecdotal evidence from recipients and advocates. “We worked with DHS to be very clear in the communication strategy that there are not community-based organizations that provide cash.”
Dalia said she used her General Assistance payments to pay for transportation, soap, laundry detergent, and pads. She’s now relying on Project HOME to fill in some of those gaps.
But as Rotz noted, resources are limited and some assistance, like help with rental payments, isn’t available in all 67 counties.
A lawsuit and legislation
That need for cash was stressed by proponents of General Assistance during the elimination debate. But it was also used by Republican opponents as a reason to get rid of the program.
“If you’re essentially handing out $200 a month that can be spent on anything, we don’t know what it’s being spent on,” Rep. George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland, said in June.
A vote on Dunbar’s bill in the state Senate erupted into all-out chaos after Lt. Gov. John Fetterman violated chamber rules by allowing Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, to read a story from a General Assistance recipient.
The bill ultimately passed the House 106-95 and the Senate 26-24, with six Republicans in both chambers voting no and one Democrat in the House voting yes.
Wolf said he favored keeping General Assistance, but signed the bill after it was amended to reauthorize and expand a key Philadelphia hospital assessment that delivers millions of dollars in revenue.
In July, the Philadelphia-based firm Community Legal Services and Disability Rights Pennsylvania sued the state to restore the program. Their request for a preliminary injunction was rejected by Commonwealth Court.
In the first go-round, it took five years for Community Legal Services’ original lawsuit to be resolved by the state Supreme Court. A group of activists don’t want to wait that long again.
On Aug. 21, members of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, many wearing “Poor People’s Army” T-shirts, staged a sit-in at a public library in downtown Philadelphia.
“People can’t afford to bathe themselves, buy trash bags, take public transportation, do any of these basic things,” Cheri Honkala, a North Philly activist who founded the campaign, told the Capital-Star.
Honkala and the group have been holding meetings to discuss the end of General Assistance since August. Inspired by “The Public,” a film about a group of homeless people who occupy a library during a brutally cold night, a few dozen people gathered in the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia and said they would not leave until the program was brought back.
Instead, Honkala said they received citations from police for refusing to leave.
“We’re all pleading not guilty … and planning to shake things up,” she said.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be like the ambulance drivers and go through the red light in an emergency,” Honkala added, paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr. “Well, that’s what’s happening now.”
In the House, Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, and Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester, are advancing a bill to create a new cash assistance program to serve the same populations. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Muth.
“We did a lot of work of educating people about the fact that this program could be cut,” Kenyatta said, noting that his office held a town hall with Project HOME. “At least in my district, I feel like people were educated. So it wasn’t a shock, even if it is still a problem.”
Kenyatta said the No. 1 need he’s heard in his office is for transportation assistance. Having grown up poor himself, the freshman lawmaker said he doesn’t understand where the constituency is “for cutting veterans and domestic abuse survivors off from getting $150 to $200 a month.”
“But what is the constituency saying? Yes, please take away this minuscule amount of money,” he said.
Kenyatta said he’s had conversations with Republicans who are open to a replacement program. His goal is to bring their support — and the needed votes — to the bargaining table with House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster.
“I know that that’s a heavy lift. I know that, frankly, that’s going to be difficult to achieve,” he said. “[But] people have to go home to their voters in a couple of months and answer the question, what did you do for the least of these?”
Dalia said she appreciates the lawmakers who are “still fighting for us.”
“The $200 a month, it works. It helps a lot,” she said. “It does change people’s lives.” Source
August 7, 2019
Chesco state legislators call for gun session
WEST CHESTER — Members of the General Assembly whose districts include portions of Chester County are urging Gov. Tom Wolf to call a special joint session of the legislature to address gun violence and extremism in the wake of two mass shootings within 13 hours of each other last weekend.
“We cannot afford another preventable tragedy in our own backyard,” said state Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-157th, of Schuylkill about the need for legislative action Tuesday in a press release. “What happened in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, can be avoided here in Pennsylvania, so instead of wallowing in this seemingly never-ending cycle of tragedy, let’s end it.
“We can go into session right now and pass legislation that would make it more difficult to put guns in these people’s hands,” she said.
Shusterman joins other Democratic state legislators including state Reps. Carolyn Comitta, D-156th, of West Chester, Danielle Friel-Otten, D-155, of West Whiteland, Christina Sappey, D-158th, of Malvern, and state Sen. Katie Muth, D-44th, of Royersford in calling to Wolf to bring the topic to a special session. Comitta and Friel-Otten are members of the PA Safe Caucus, which encourages legislation to halt gun violence.
PA Safe Caucus wants the special session to consider legislation in the House and Senate that would address access to guns for people at risk of violence to themselves or others, close the loophole for gun background checks, and to ban assault weapons.
In a press release issued by the House Democratic Communications Office, Shusterman noted that most public opinion polls reveal that most Americans support mandatory background checks on gun purchases, as well as other safety legislation.
“When two of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history happen within the same news cycle you know our nation is in a dark place. It is clear that we as a society have become numb to such events,” Shusterman said.
“I’ve heard the cliché ‘tragedies show us the best humanity has to offer’ regarding these shootings, and it’s starting to unnerve me. It seems to be part of the script following every mass shooting. It seems to be a way to minimize the terror of the actual shooting and instead put the focus on the recovery that should never have been necessary.
“My colleagues and I have over 25 pieces of legislation that have not been passed out of committee that could put Pennsylvanians’ safety before an industry’s profits. The time is now to put an end to these hateful acts of violence. I urge our leaders to call the legislature to Harrisburg and not stand idly by.”
J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Wolf, said the governor is not necessarily opposed to a special session. However, Abbott said without “commitments to allow votes on critical reforms that will save lives, there is no guarantee of action.”
“What is desperately needed is broader recognition that change is necessary to protect all Pennsylvanians,” Abbott said. “Gun violence is a crisis that shows itself not just in mass shootings like Tree of Life, El Paso or Dayton, but in community gun crimes, suicides by gun and domestic violence.”
Meanwhile, one Republican who has sponsored gun control legislation in the past and who represents residents of eastern Chester County, urged caution concerning bringing together legislators attempting too wide a focus. State Sen. Tom Killion, R-9th, of Middletown, is one of a few moderate Republicans sponsoring that measure-colloquially known as a “red flag” bill.
“You start trying to do too much, then you end up with nothing,” he said. “If I can get this done, I’ll be quite happy.”
Killion noted that one of the key reasons last session’s domestic violence bill received enough bipartisan support to pass was that its sponsors compromised with the National Rifle Association so that the group would remain neutral, instead of opposing it.
Shusterman encouraged her constituents to call the Republican majority chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Rob Kauffman, at 717-705-2004 and ask him to schedule hearings on gun violence prevention legislation, and to call House Speaker Mike Turzai at 717-772-9943. Source
June 26, 2019
Today, HB 33 came before the Senate. This legislation would end General Assistance for people with disabilities, people fleeing domestic violence, those recovering from addiction, and caretakers, permanently disabled, temporarily disabled, and other people who need support to get through tough times.
I stood up to read the story of Mr. Boyd, a brave man I met yesterday who relies on the General Assistance program. See below for the moral war that unfolded today on the Senate floor.
I won’t back down to bullies or those who try and harm others. Shame on those elected officials who voted to strip away these vital resources!
June 25, 2019
Senate moves to give independent voters a voice in Pa. primary elections
The days of independent voters sitting on the sideline during Pennsylvania’s primary elections could be coming to an end.
The Senate voted 42-8 to open primaries to allow the 785,000 unaffiliated voters to cast votes on either the Republican or Democratic ballots, starting with next year’s primary.
This is the first time this landmark bill that would move away from closed primaries ever got this far in the legislative process.
The measure, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, now goes to the House for consideration. But it could get folded into a broader election reform bill that includes a number of voting-related measures that are still being negotiated between the House, Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf as part of the overall budget package.
Wolf has signaled his interest in supporting open primaries.
“We’re thrilled to see the tremendous progress made on primary reform” said David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan better government advocate. “Our closed primaries were never fair to the voters who were shut out of these important elections, and the consequences of partisan bases gaining a disproportionate impact on who enters public office and their agendas has also been harmful to the effectiveness of government as a whole.”
Pennsylvania would join 16 other states that open their primaries to unaffiliated voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester County, noted that the number of independent voters is the fastest growing segment of Pennsylvania’s voters.
“We need to respect those voters,” he said. “This is the great middle in both parties including the independents feel they’ve been left out of the political process and that the extremes have taken over. This bill gives a voice to that great middle.”
Right now, independent voters can only vote on ballot questions in primaries and so many don’t turn out to the polls.
Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh County, said she has been calling for this change for over 20 years.
“Frankly, our democracy doesn’t work if our citizens can’t participate,” she said. “We need to do all we can to encourage voting. Our election law often does the opposite.”
Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery County, failed in her attempt to allow third-party voters to cast votes in primaries as well. Scarnati said those voters have made a choice as to which party they want to be affiliated with and have a voice in picking their party’s nominee.
Among those voting against the move to open primaries were five Republicans and three Democrats. Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York County, said she opposed it because her constituents told her it made them uncomfortable. Sens. Pat Stefano, R-Westmoreland County, said it would make primary elections more costly for candidates because they would have to reach out to a broader audience to ask for their vote.
In a separate measure, the Senate voted 30-20 on a bill Boscola sponsored to eliminate straight party voting. She said over the last decades, nine states have removed this option from their ballot and now Pennsylvania is one of only eight states to still allow straight-ticket voting.
“Straight ticket voting promotes the election of a party not the election of a candidate,” Boscola said. “Straight ticket voting makes it more difficult for independent and minor party candidates to complete against the two major parties and I think that’s bad for our democracy.”
Several of her Democratic colleagues, however, opposed the bill, including some that supported it when the Senate State Government Committee considered the legislation. Senate Democratic spokeswoman Brittany Crampsie said her caucus is committed to modernizing elections but “election reform is a broad umbrella; open primaries and ending straight party voting are just two issues where our members aren’t all in the same place philosophically.”
Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said the governor is still evaluating the elimination of a straight-party voting option.
The chamber also voted to approve a bill to reduce the number of ballots that have to be printed to at least 10 percent of the highest number of ballots cast in any of the three previous like election. Source
May 1, 2019
Sen. Muth: End Pa. death penalty
A state senator whose district includes portions of Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties joined two Philadelphia legislators Tuesday in calling for the end of the death penalty in Pennsylvania.
State Sen Katie Muth, D-44th, of Royersford, announced the introduction of a bill that would repeal the use of capital punishment in the state, alongside state Sen. Sharif Street, D-3rd, and state Rep. Christopher Rabb, D-200th, both of Philadelphia.
At a press event at the Capitol in Harrisburg, the trio contended that the use of the death penalty is too costly, is ineffective, and is arbitrarily and unfairly applied across the state and nation. It has been proven to be unsuccessful as a crime deterrent and remains a flawed system of punishment, they said.
“The risk of continuing the death penalty in Pennsylvania is a high and irreparable one,” said Muth, whose district covers the northern part of Chester County, the western portion of Montgomery County and several communities in eastern Berks County. She is in her first term, having won election in November, ousting longtime Republican state Sen. John Rafferty Jr.
“The longer we allow our justice system to hand down a death penalty sentence, the longer we continue the risk of putting an innocent person to death,” Muth said.
Added Street, “The overwhelming cost, disparate application of the death penalty compounded by human error and its historically arbitrary and racist implementation in our country make it unfit for any use in an efficient and truly just system.”
No one on Death Row has been executed in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Since 2010, states that allow the death penalty have experienced an 18-percent or higher increase in homicide rates compared to states that have abolished the punishment, according to a release. The increase shows that the threat of a death penalty sentence is no more of a deterrent than not having the penalty.
The lawmakers said they believe that allowing the courts to issue the death penalty is ineffective and unnecessary. Most convicted individuals sentenced to death typically die of old age rather than lethal injection. This is caused by the appeals process that starts after sentencing and can last decades, rendering the death penalty futile in many cases.
The legislators and advocates also shared concerns that there is the continued risk of an innocent person being wrongly and unjustly executed. “One innocent life taken at the hands of the state is one too many,” said Rabb.
Since 1978, 408 people have been sentenced to death in Pennsylvania. Of those 408, 169 were re-sentenced to life, 16 received reduced sentences to a term of years, and six have been exonerated.
In Pennsylvania, death penalty cases are brought against defendants accused of a first-degree murder — or an intentional killing committed with malice — by local district attorneys, who must certify that it fits in with one of a listed set of 18 aggravating circumstances, such as an illegal killing while committing another crime such as rape or burglary; the killing of a police officer or judge; or a killing that took place while the victim was being tortured.
In Chester County in recent years, few cases involving a local murder have been certified as capital cases. In two instances — the murder and torture of 3-year-old “Scotty” McMillan by his mother and her new boyfriend and the stabbing death of a woman by her abusive estranged husband — the death penalty option was withdrawn by District Attorney Tom Hogan in exchange for a guilty plea to first-degree murder and a guaranteed life sentence.
Since 1974, when the death penalty was reinstated in the state, only two people convicted of first-degree murder in the county remain on Death Row in state prison. They are Robert Hughes IV, who was sentenced to death by former Judge Thomas Gavin for the 1989 slaying of two employees at a McDonald’s restaurant in West Goshen, and Dennis Miller, who was sentenced by former Judge Howard F. Riley Jr. for the 1995 stabbing death and rape of his wife.
Two others who were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by county Common Pleas Court juries — Darrick Hall of Coatesville, for the 1993 slaying of a Coatesville coin laundry manager, and LaQuanta Chapman of Coatesville, for the 2008 murder of a city teenager. Those sentences, however, were overturned on appeal, and now the two men are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.
There are six men on Death Row for murders committed in Montgomery County.
Hogan, in office since 2012 and seeking re-election to a third term, did not respond to a request for comment on Muth’s bill. Neither did his expected Democratic opponent, attorney Deborah Ryan.
In 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he would declare a moratorium on the death penalty in the state, meaning that he would not sign any warrants to have prisoners on Death Row executed.
Previous governors signed death warrants, but no one has been executed since July 6, 1999, when Gary M. Heidnik was put to death via lethal injection after he was convicted of kidnapping, raping and torturing six women in his Philadelphia basement, and of murdering two of the women.
Joining Muth, Street and Rabb at their announcement were anti-death penalty advocates, including Kathleen Lucas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; Kirk Bloodsworth, executive director of Philadelphia-based Witness to Innocence and the first person incarcerated on death row to be exonerated by DNA evidence; and Jimmy Dennis, a Philadelphia native and constituent of Rabb’s district who was incarcerated on death row for 25 years for a crime he did not commit.
Commenting on his experience, Bloodworth stated “if it can happen to an honorably discharged United States Marine with no criminal record, it could happen to anyone.”
“There are innocent women and men in prison in this state,” said Dennis. “We must understand that criminal justice reform is a must. Abolishing the death penalty is a must.”
“I am grateful to the legislators for advocating for repeal of this failed government policy,” said Lucas. “We all want a justice system that is fair, and the death penalty is anything but. It costs millions in taxpayers’ money to prop up a system that hasn’t resulted in an execution in 20 years.”
Neither of the two state senators whose districts cover other portions of Chester County — state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th, of West Whiteland, and state Sen. Thomas Killion, R-9th, of Middletown, Delaware County — nor any of the members of the county’s delegation in the state House of Representatives is currently co-sponsoring the legislation. Source
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.
January 31, 2019
Democratic Senate colleague calls for State Sen. Daylin Leach’s expulsion
HARRISBURG — Democratic State Sen. Daylin Leach, who has faced calls to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct, now has a colleague from his own county pushing to expel him from office.
Newly elected Sen. Katie Muth (D., Montgomery) on Wednesday circulated a letter to members of the Senate Ethics Committee asking for Leach’s expulsion, contending that he has used his office to intimidate women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault.
“His behavior is disturbing and unacceptable from a sitting elected official,” wrote Muth, who has spoken about her experience as a rape survivor and has in the past called on Leach to resign. “We must demand better of those we trust to act on behalf of this body as a voice for the people of Pennsylvania. That voice is loud and clear: This culture of rape … intimidation, and reprehensible behavior must end.”
Senate officials called her request rare, if not unprecedented. They said they could not recall another Pennsylvania lawmaker taking steps to expel a colleague, which would require approval of two-thirds of the 50 senators.
Leach declined to comment. His spokesperson, Frank Keel, dismissed Muth’s effort as “nothing more than a self-serving publicity stunt.”
Leach has faced controversy since the Inquirer reported in late 2017 that he had engaged in questionable behavior with young female staffers and volunteers — ranging from highly sexualized jokes and comments to what they considered inappropriate touching.
This month, Senate Democrats hired an outside law firm to investigate allegations by Cara Taylor, an Allentown-area woman, who has accused Leach of luring her into performing oral sex in 1991, when she was a teenager and he was a lawyer defending her mother in a criminal case.
Leach has repeatedly denied Taylor’s allegation. On Monday, he sued Taylor, along with two Philadelphia-area #MeToo activists, claiming they defamed him by peddling what he called the “fictional 1991 encounter.”
The lawsuit drew fresh calls for his resignation from some fellow Democrats, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who presides over the Senate, and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
Leach responded in a statement saying, “I suppose the easy, knee-jerk reaction for the lieutenant governor and others is to pander to the #MeToo movement…. But I won’t be quiet while three women falsely accuse me in an attempt to destroy my career and my family.”
Reached Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, a Democrat from Allegheny County, declined to comment on Muth’s request for expulsion.
“It may end up before us, so therefore I’ve got no comment on it,” he said. He added: “The Senate’s members will serve as jury and judge and, as a result, it’s not appropriate” to discuss the matter.
The Ethics Committee, with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, operates in near-complete secrecy. Its meetings are closed and it does not publicly discuss complaints. Only in rare cases are some details released.
After it has reviewed and investigated a complaint, such as the one lodged by Muth, the committee can make public recommendations to the full Senate, officials said.
Last summer, Leach became upset when Muth declined to appear at an event with him. At the time, Muth was running a long-shot campaign against John Rafferty, a Republican senator for 15 years.