Advocates for Pa.’s poor call for a ‘just budget’: What would that look like? | Tuesday Morning Coffee

June 8, 2021 7:16 am

(Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
In a perfect universe, Rabbi Michael Pollack wouldn’t be standing on the Capitol steps on a soupy hot Monday afternoon calling on state lawmakers to prioritize poor and low-income Pennsylvanians over the powerful.

But this isn’t a perfect universe. And this isn’t Pollack’s first rodeo. Pollack is the executive director of the progressive advocacy group March on Harrisburg, which is as famed for its dedication to its government reform agenda as it is for its members’ unique talents for getting arrested in the pursuit of their goals.

“I feel like I don’t have to pray for the people out here,” Pollack said, taking in the two-dozen or so marchers from The Poor People’s Campaign who gathered Monday to call on the General Assembly to pass a budget that puts the needs of struggling Pennsylvanians first. “We’re going to be all right. So I want to say a prayer for the people in that building behind us. I pray that they put people over property. I pray that they see our suffering and respond to it. My hope is that those people will turn away from the golden calf and fight for what is righteous.”

It’s tough to imagine a more vivid contrast between the goals of the Poor People’s Campaign and those of the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate who are fully occupied with restricting access to the polls, limiting the rights of people who can get pregnant, trampling on the rights of transgender Pennsylvanians, and standing steadfastly in the way of proposals that would deliver on the American promise by paying a livable wage.

(Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

And lest you think that’s hyperbole, consider two events that took place on the Capitol steps over the past few days.

On Monday morning, gun rights advocates rallied in the same spot against bills that would make it harder for cities to fight the scourge of gun violence within their borders and authorize permitlless concealed carry.

Though the crowd, which faces zero threat of a gun ban, was smaller than in past years, its passions were no less enflamed, PennLive reported. They were joined by such conservative lawmakers as U.S. Rep. Scott, R-Perry, R-10th District, who was among the cadre of GOP lawmakers who tried to topple the will of the majority of voters in his home state.

On Saturday, critics of Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic management policies, joined by Pennsylvania lawmakers who also opposed the certification of election results, took to the Capitol steps for a victory lap over recently approved constitutional amendments limiting the emergency powers of Wolf and all his eventual successors.

Common to both events were evocations of personal liberty and freedom. Take, for instance, the words of state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklinwho’s pushing a so-called ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban, even as he insisted Saturday that Pennsylvanians need to “walk as free people,” and are “sovereign over” their own bodies.

But the kind of freedom embraced by gun enthusiasts and reopen movement adherents alike is both selfish and exclusionary, as it puts imagined threats ahead of the very real, and collective, responsibility for to ensure public safety and safeguard public health, even as it denies bodily sovereignty to half the population.

Imagine, for a moment, if Harrisburg’s GOP majorities put the kind of muscle behind the goals of the Poor People’s Campaign — a $15/hr. minimum wage, paid family and sick leave, expanded voting rights, and an economy and educational system that leaves no one behind — as they did propagating the myth of the stolen election or to any of the other solutions in search of a problem destined for a guaranteed gubernatorial veto.

(Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

The irony here is that, once, conservatives, seeing both an economic and imperative for action, were legislative allies on such key issues as criminal justice reform.

In the current legislative session, there is bipartisan cooperation on both recreational marijuana legalization and paid family leave — issues that are overwhelmingly popular with the general public, but remain, as of this writing, mired in committee with little chance of a vote.

Instead, the stop-the-stealers, insurrectionists, and gun hard-liners have become the public face of a party in thrall to a failed presidential candidate and would-be authoritarian whose interest in the good of the nation extends no further than the gates of his country club. The “compassionate conservatism” once espoused by George W. Bush seems like a very distant memory, and the province of a party that no longer exists.

So, unless, or until, Republicans return to their senses and rediscover a desire to be governing partners, instead of a party that can’t bear to lose, activists such as PollackMadelyn Arias and Yvonne Newkirk will return to the Capitol to keep up a lonely, but indispensable, vigil.

“Our fight is for a moral budget,” Arias, of  the Movement of Immigrant Leaders, said in remarks prepared for delivery on Monday. “There is money to meet everyone’s needs, but the system that allows millionaires not to pay taxes is the same system that prevents aid from reaching the poor and the dispossessed.”

Awash in robust tax collections and federal stimulus money, the Republican General Assembly, working with the Democratic Wolf administration, has a once-in-a-generation chance to build a commonwealth worthy of the name.

They should not miss it.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
The legislative Republicans who flew to Arizona last week to inspect the Grand Canyon State’s audit of 2020 election results still aren’t saying who bankrolled their trip, raising questions about how transparent a proposed audit of Pennsylvania’s results might be, Marley Parish reports.

Be careful if you donate to GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill McSwain’s political action committee. If you’re not, you could end up donating to him for months to comeStephen Caruso explains how and why that’s happening.

A much-ballyhooed (and imminent) federal report on UFOs is drawing the attention of UFO-watchers and scientists in the Keystone State, Cassie Miller reports.

States across the country are poised to allow college athletes to profit off their name, image, and likenessCapital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson writes.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan wonders if the Keystone State will allow for petition-and-referenda votes like other states — and what that might look like. And Col. Charles D. Allen, of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., pays tribute to the school’s Class of 2021.

George W Nebinger Public School (Philadelphia Tribune photo)

The Inquirer
 explains how one Philadelphia school kept its students engaged and involved during a year of distance learning.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, a Democrat, has rescinded his punitive actions against a Black attorney who criticized his office, the Tribune-Review reports.
A bill before the Pennsylvania Senate would allow public school students two mental health days each year, PennLive reports.
LancasterOnline goes deep on a charter school reform proposal sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster (paywall).
State lawmakers are poised to end key provisions of Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster declaration, the Morning Call reports.
Luzerne County’s election board has certified some — but not all — of the May 18 primary results, the Citizens’ Voice reports (paywall).

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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A post shared by Yoni Mayeri (@yonimayeri)

A key state Senate committee has advanced a bill expanding private school tax creditsWHYY-FM reports.
An audit has found significant operational issues with Washington County’s Register of Wills office, the Observer-Reporter reports. explains why the pandemic has prompted some schools to pass struggling third-graders.
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., worries that climate change is getting sidelined in infrastructure talks, Talking Points Memo reports.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11 a.m. today. The Senate reconvenes at 1 p.m.
As ever, here’s a look at the day’s committee and event schedule.
9 a.m., Capitol Steps: Moms Demand Action rally for gun safety
9:30 a.m, B31 Main Capitol: House Professional Licensure Committee
9:30 a.m., 205 Ryan: House Urban Affairs Committee
10 a.m, G50 Irvis: House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
10 a.m., Senate Chamber: Senate Transportation Committee
10 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee
10 a.m, 523 Irvis South: House Transportation Committee
11 a.m., 8EA East Wing: Senate Local Government Committee
11:30 a.m, Senate Chamber: Senate Aging & Youth Committee
12 p.m., 8EA East Wing: Senate Finance Committee
12:15 p.m., Senate Chamber: Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee
Off the Floor, Senate Chamber: Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee
Call of the Chair, 140 MC: House Appropriations Committee
Call of the Chair, G50 Irvis: House Tourism & Recreational Development Committee

Gov. Tom Wolf
 holds a 10 a.m. newser on the Capitol steps with House & Senate Democratic leaders on using robust tax collections to underwrite equitable and increased education funding.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Aaron Bernstine
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Manny Guzman
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Kristine Howard
5 p.m.: 
Reception for Sen. Lisa Boscola
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for state Treasurer Timothy DeFoor
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. Jeanne McNeil
7:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a gut-wrenching $38,500, thanks to a $25K maximum ask at the DeFoor event.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a bit of seriously old-school techno-pop from Belgium’s Telex. It’s ‘Twist A San Tropez.’ Pretend your a glamorous French robot as you dance around your office to this one. 

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Montreal completed its sweep of Winnipeg on Monday night, winning, 3-2 in overtime to advance to the Stanley Cup semi-finals.

And now you’re up to date. 

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.