Philly lawmaker aims to clamp down on school book bans | Five for the Weekend

State Rep. Chris Rabb’s, D-Philadelphia, bill would establish uniform procedures for school boards to follow before yanking books from the shelves

By: - October 15, 2022 7:20 am

A display of banned books at the San Jose Public Library (Photo courtesy of San Jose Public Library via Flickr | CC-BY-SA 2.0/The Daily Montanan).

Happy Weekend, all.

It’s Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek, in for Associate Editor Cassie Miller, who’s taking some well-earned time off.

There might be just a handful of days left on this year’s legislative calendar, but state lawmakers are still introducing new bills at a healthy clip — as this recent story by Staff Reporter Marley Parish makes clear.

You can also count among them state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, who’s among the General Assembly’s most vocal progressives.

This week, amid ongoing culture wars in Pennsylvania’s school districtsRabb sent around a fresh reminder that he’s still seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would add at least some degree of predictability to the visceral and politically charged fights over school book bans.

“Book bans are an attempt to censor educators and restrict the information and educational materials that students can have access to in school,” Rabb said in a statement. “In addition, these effectively unilateral decisions made by school boards are extremely harmful to LGBTQ+ youth and students of color given that the subjects discussed in these so-called ‘inappropriate’ and ‘explicit’ books often discuss many serious and real issues impacting these communities.”

Rabb’s proposal would require the state Department of Education and local school boards to hold at least two public hearings over a book targeted for banning. The hearings would be moderated by professionals who know the book from cover to cover.

The legislation “will ensure the voices of a district’s teachers, students, and community members are adequately heard when making these important decisions,” Rabb wrote in his Oct. 7 co-sponsorship memo.

As always, your top 5 most-read stories of the week start below. 

Philadelphia's Gayborhood. Photo via the Philadelphia Gay News
(Photo via The Philadelphia Gay News).

1. OutFest street festival canceled, but other Philly gayborhood events remain

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia will not have an OutFest street festival October 9, despite organizers’ hopes that the event would happen.

A community member with knowledge of the situation told the Philadelphia Gay News that planning and outreach on the event had been ongoing, but the turnaround was ultimately too quick for organizers to produce a festival on the level of this year’s Pride celebration.

The gayborhood event last took place in person in October 2019. Since then, both Philadelphia Pride and OutFest have gone through a series of changes, including the organization which produces the two events.

Despite the lack of a Sunday street festival, several LGBTQ businesses are having events throughout the weekend of October 7 to 9.

The Tavern Group, which owns Tavern on Camac and U BAR, will host outdoor events on Saturday, October 8 and Sunday, October 9, including a Celebration on Camac at 11:00 a.m. Saturday followed by an outdoor DJ set at 3:00 p.m. Sunday’s festivities include a Rugby Pageant by the Philadelphia Gryphons as well as a vendor marketplace on Camac at 1:00 p.m., followed by a DJ set at 3:00 p.m.

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman (L) and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz (R) Campaign file photos
Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman (L) and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz (R)
Campaign file photos

2. Oz clarifies abortion views, Fetterman capitalizes on conflicting views in Senate race

Pennsylvania’s position as an abortion battleground state is taking shape in the U.S. Senate race, with John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee, capitalizing on conflicting statements from Mehmet Oz, his Republican opponent, in the high-profile contest.

Fetterman, who said he would support codifying Roe v. Wade if elected, has recently focused on Oz, who clarified his stance on abortion this month, and his views on reproductive health.

Oz told reporters at a press conference in Philadelphia this month that he would not support criminal penalties for people who sought or doctors who performed abortions. Describing himself as “strongly pro-life,” he added that he supports exceptions for rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at risk.

The clarification comes after audio from a tele-town hall, held one week before the May primary election, resurfaced and fueled questions about where Oz, who defended Roe v. Wade in 2019, stands on abortion access. In the recording, first reported by The Daily Beast, Oz said: “Life starts at conception.”

Lt; Gov. John Fetterman in his Capitol office (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

3. No, John Fetterman isn’t wearing a tie. And you need to stop talking about that | John L. Micek

So, this isn’t a “John Fetterman” column. And you know what we’re talking about here.

After more than two years on the statewide political stage, there’s already a well-established journalistic shorthand for Pennsylvania’s new lieutenant governor.

It’s the lather, rinse, repeat formula of “black clothes, bald head, tattoos, gosh he’s tall but skinnier, cheerleader for the struggling steel town of Braddock, Pa.” that’s launched a thousand profiles — including a recent one by NYMag.com.

And while all that’s true about Fetterman, it often feels like the media branding of Gov. Tom Wolf’s second-in-command overshadows the actual human behind it.

That’s a guy who’s deeply intelligent and thoughtful, who walks the talk on public service, is clearly committed to a very specific vision of progressive public policy — but also boasts a fluency with the “Cannonball Run” movies that verges on the forensic.

So, in short, one can’t help but wonder, doesn’t he ever get tired of being “John Fetterman?”

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman campaigns in Bristol, Pa.., on Sunday, 10/9/22 (Capital-Star photo by Nick Field)
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman campaigns in Bristol, Pa.., on Sunday, 10/9/22 (Capital-Star photo by Nick Field)

4. In must-win suburban Philly, Fetterman criticizes Oz on residency, rallies the faithful

BRISTOL, Pa. — Along the banks of the Delaware River, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman rallied an estimated 1,230 supporters a little less than a month out from Election Day.

The setting worked for Fetterman, who began his 12-minute address with a shot at Republican opponent Mehmet Oz.

“I just realized when we pulled in, that over there, that’s New Jersey. The land of Oz.” Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s current lieutenant governor, declared, pointing to the Jersey coastline. “Dr. Oz, he thinks King of Prussia is European royalty.”

The candidate received a predictably warm reception from the crowd that packed Bristol Lions Park, home to the city’s wharf and adjacent to the 17th Century King George II Inn.

Fetterman slammed his opponent’s record of supporting questionable medicines on his TV show.

“He sold miracle cures I can’t pronounce,” he proclaimed. “I couldn’t have pronounced them [even] before the stroke. That’s who Dr. Oz is, he has no core. He’ll say anything for a dollar, he’ll say anything for a vote.”

(Getty Images).

5. Trump isn’t going to jail. And that’s good news for Democrats | Bruce Ledewitz

Democrats are aware that the search of former President Donald Trump’s home by the FBI hurt the Party politically. This Aug. 17 headline from The New York Times, referencing the Inflation Reduction Act, says it all: President Takes a Bow, but Spotlight Stays on His Predecessor.

Yet, even with this knowledge, 88 percent of Democrats want Trump charged for fomenting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Slightly over half of Democrats think he will be.

Undoubtedly, Democrats are also hoping that state criminal investigations into financial improprieties and election interference will lead to prosecutions.

And now there is concrete evidence from the search of his home that Trump broke the law by possessing “top secret” documents. Since no one is above the law, surely now there must be a criminal case.

Well, the politically good news for Democrats is that no criminal prosecution is likely in any of these areas. There is no indication that the Justice Department is preparing a treason case against Trump, the evidence of election interference in Georgia is ambiguous—he was complaining about “illegal” voting, after all—financial cases are notoriously difficult to bring and the classified documents charge is actually legally dubious.

Donald Trump is not going to jail, which improves the chances that Democrats will retain majority control of Congress and the presidency.

And that’s the week. Have a great weekend. See you all back here on Monday.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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