Matt Brouillette, president of the right-leaning Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, tears down a sign calling for a legislative gift ban (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
A couple of minutes after a group of protesters from the grassroots group March on Harrisburg interrupted a speech by a senior Pennsylvania House leader on Monday afternoon, calling for him to move a bill imposing a legislative gift ban, I heard a guy behind me mutter, “I hope kids aren’t watching this.”
And all I could ask myself was: Why?
Love it or hate it, it was a civics class broadcast and streamed live across the ether, an exercise in the kind of brisk political engagement and civil disobedience that we hold up as the ideal of American democracy.
Reid Stever, of March on Harrisburg, came at House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, repeatedly, peppering him with some variation of the same question: “You’ve broken two promises to us so far. When are you going to call up the gift ban?”
Benninghoff, who was barely into his opening remarks, commendably kept his cool, telling him, “We’ll address that a little later.”
The latter was a reference to the Q&A that’s a fixture of the monthly Pennsylvania Press Club luncheons that are sponsored by an array of lobbying firms, trade groups, and other business and media interests.
Certainly Benninghoff took the gate-crashers a lot better than his audience, who’d ponied up to hear him talk about the issues of the day.
One audience member rushed to the front of the banquet room, tearing a banner from the protesters’ hands, briskly spiriting it out the door. The audience jeered and chastised Stever, sometimes in the most explict of terms, and his colleagues for not waiting their turn to ask questions.
Still, I’ll pause for a moment here to note that Stever and his compatriots didn’t come storming into the room, both guns (figuratively) blazing. Asked by a security guard whether he’d been invited, Stever, dressed in a blue blazer, said he’d bought a ticket just like everyone else had.
After going a couple more rounds with Benninghoff, amid more boos and jeers from the crowd, Stever and his crew, who were briefly threatened with arrest by the hotel security guard, filed out of the room, chanting in good lefty style.
The world continued to spin on its axis. And Benninghoff, deterred only briefly, carried on with his remarks, making a wry aside about the protesters as he did.
Again, I have to ask: Why wouldn’t we want the kids to see that?
Stever never raised his voice. He never got abusive or profane. He never threatened to harm Benninghoff, or, indeed, made any move toward him (despite some alarmist Twittering to the contrary). He respectfully asked him a bunch of pointed questions about a matter of public concern and then, when he was asked to leave, he left.
Heavens. It’s anarchy.
Now, you can justifiably make the case that interrupting Benninghoff mid-speech was a rude, attention-seeking gesture. And, to many of those in attendance, it was.
But it was far less so than the folks who have turned school board meeting rooms into battlegrounds and threatened their neighbors with death over decisions to teach things with which they do not agree.
And it was far more chill than the angry multitudes who gathered at the state Capitol in the early days of the pandemic to demand that Gov. Tom Wolf reopen the state even as people started to die by the thousands at the hands of an utterly remorseless and implacable foe.
And I’ll stipulate — before anyone asks — that while I vehemently disagree with those folks above (and condemn any act of violence), they still have the right to seek redress from their government and ask for accountability.
But being scared our kids might see it?
I’ve lost count of the number of times that someone my age or, more often, a little older, has bemoaned the fact that THESE KIDS TODAY can’t name their member of Congress; can’t find Ukraine (or some other country in the news) on a map, or simply aren’t interested in participating in the political process.
Civics, they say, we need to teach the kids civics.
But I’ll argue that Monday’s act of civil disobedience was in line with the best of our political traditions. History — or news, for that matter — is rarely made by people who sit quietly in the face of the established order.
It was a civics class, unfolding in real time.
So maybe it was uncomfortable for a couple of minutes in that swank hotel banquet room in downtown Harrisburg on a Monday afternoon on the last day of February. And maybe the powerful were briefly inconvenienced.
But for a couple of minutes there, the folks at March on Harrisburg got everyone to focus on them and their issue. And they got to talk to someone at the highest levels of state government about it.
Don’t we extoll that behavior to our kids? Don’t we tell them to stand up make their voices heard? Don’t we tell them to take the future by the scruff of the neck and make it theirs?
Afraid the kids will see it? They need to see more of it.
From Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jennifer Shutt, here’s what to look for in President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address tonight.
A group of Pennsylvania voters, including two Republican congressional candidates, are asking for the U.S. Supreme Court to override the state Supreme Court’s choice for the commonwealth’s new congressional map, Stephen Caruso reports.
After wrestling with whether legalizing adult-use cannabis could curb demand on the black market earlier this month, a Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate committee on Monday heard from experts on how — if the state moves ahead with legalization — to regulate the product and ensure economic growth. Staff Reporter Marley Parish has the details.
A transgender rights group was set to attend a borough council meeting in Franklin County on Monday, following a local council’s repeal of a short-lived LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance, Cassie Miller reports.
From me, here’s the full story on House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff’s Monday speech – and the other stuff he talked about.
Congress is working quickly to determine how much military and humanitarian aid it should send to Ukraine as the war in that country continues to claim lives and send hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing as refugees, Jennifer Shutt also reports.
And from liquor to pensions, top Pennsylvania policymakers in both parties are looking at cutting off the commonwealth from doing business with Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, Stephen Caruso also reports.
With a primary election days away, Texans are headed to the polls under sweeping new voting restrictions, Capital-Star Democracy Reporter Kira Lerner reports.
In Pittsburgh, a new app is helping commuters avoid dodgy infrastructure, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.
On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Michael Coard puts the spotlight on shameful anniversary for the U.S. Supreme Court — and Pennsylvania.
The GOP candidates for governor spend a lot of time talking about crime in Philadelphia — but the Inquirer wonders to whom they’re speaking.
Former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, will not seek a rematch with U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, this year, PennLive reports (via the Tribune-Review).
Officials in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have announced an emergency rental assistance program, the Post-Gazette reports.
The Lancaster County courthouse has lifted its masking requirement, LancasterOnline reports.
The York Daily Record has eight places to pick up fastnachts today.
An Allentown city official who recently threatened to quit has announced he’s retiring after 30 years on the job, the Morning Call reports.
A former exchange student talks to the Citizens’ Voice about fleeing her home country of Ukraine last week.
The Philadelphia school district will drop its testing requirement for vaccinated staff, but will keep its mask mandate, WHYY-FM reports.
WITF-FM profiles the Pennsylvanians coming together to show their support for Ukraine.
Despite slim congressional margins, the Biden administration had a decent success rates on votes, Roll Call reports.
Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:
View this post on Instagram
Department of Endorsements:
Republican lieutenant governor candidate Jeff Coleman, of Cumberland County, picked up a big endorsement as he tries to lock up the GOP endorsement for the No. 2 spot on the fall ballot: U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
In a statement, Toomey said Coleman’s “message is right for this moment. He’s arguing that civil debate rooted in conservative principles is the best way for Republicans to win elections and ultimately govern.” Coleman “also knows that the lieutenant governor’s primary role is a limited one – maintaining decorum and delivering
the policy agenda,” said Toomey, who’s retiring at year’s end.
What Goes On
Budget hearings roll on in the House and Senate today.
10 a.m., Hearing Room 1 North Office Building: Senate Appropriations Committee (Office of Attorney General budget hearing)
10 a.m., House Floor: House Appropriations Committee (State Police)
1 p.m., House Floor: House Appropriations Committee (Dept. of State)
2:30 p.m., Hearing Room 1 North Office Building: Senate Appopriations Committee (Dept. of Community & Economic Development)
What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick. Admission runs $500 to $2,500.
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.
Here’s the first new music in ages from 80s techno-pop duo Soft Cell. It’s ‘Happiness Not Included.
Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 on Monday night. Toronto’s Rasmus Sandin scored the go-ahead goal in the third, with the Leafs’ Pierre Engvall sealing the win.
And now you’re up to date.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.