Pa. leads on these acts of hate. Will lawmakers act before time runs out? | Tuesday Morning Coffee

‘Fighting hate in Pennsylvania has never been more important,’ Andrew Goretsky, the regional director of the ADL Philadelphia, said

March 29, 2022 7:21 am

Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, speaks at a joint session to honor the Tree of Life victims. (Courtesy Pa. House Democrats)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Will a new report showing a rise in hate speech in Pennsylvania finally be the spark that leads to passage of a long-sought package of bills toughening the penalties for such offenses?

State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, a Pittsburgh Democrat who’s been leading the charge for the legislation, seems as clear-eyed and as realistic as ever as he continues to confront a Republican-controlled General Assembly that’s stymied him at every turn.

“Our laws reflect our values as Pennsylvanians, and we have a lot of work to do,” Frankel observed in a recent tweet. “For this and many other reasons, I crafted a package of legislation intended to address hate crimes and ethnic intimidation in Pennsylvania.”

At 473 occurrences, Pennsylvania led the nation in displays of white supremacist propaganda last year, according to data compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.

Virginia followed at 375 incidents, with Texas (327), Massachusetts (272), Washington State (228), Maryland (217), and New York (212) rounding the pack of top offenders, according to the new data.

“Fighting hate in Pennsylvania has never been more important,” Andrew Goretsky, the ADL’s Philadelphia-based regional director, said in a statement. ” … The community must come together to fight hate for good. Communities can protect themselves against hate group activity by learning the symbols used by white supremacist hate groups and reporting activity to law enforcement and ADL.

All of that is true. And all of it is important. But the words fall flat if they’re not matched by action. In that, the Legislature has so far failed spectacularly. And time is running out to correct it.

The Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Frankel, who is Jewish, has spent the three years since the Tree of Life shootings, which claimed the lives of 11 people, pressing for legislative authorization of his proposals. Despite initially positive noises by the General Assembly’s Republican majority, the bills have vanished without a trace in every legislative session since.

The western Pennsylvania Democrat started over again in January 2021, seeking fresh support, hoping the bills would gain new life in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where hate slogans were prominently displayed.

“For myself and for so many other people, particularly in my community, they were taken aback by the images that they saw, the images of symbols of hate and bigotry that were prominently being paraded around the Capitol, whether it was the Confederate flag or sweatshirts with things like ‘Camp Auschwitz’ on them,” Frankel told the Tribune-Review at the time.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, is pushing a companion package, that would, among other things, provide hate crimes training for police officers, and create an anonymous reporting system for hate crimes on the state’s college and university campuses.

The bills are respectively before the Senate’s Law & Justice and Education committees, where they have yet to receive a vote.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

It’s not as if the facts and data aren’t on the two lawmakers’ sides here. They absolutely are.

According to the ADL, last year marked the second-highest level of reported hate incidents since the civil rights organization started tracking the data, with an average of 13 incidents per-day in 2021.

That’s nearly double the tally of 2,724 cases reported in 2019, the ADL noted in its report. In 2020, the use of propaganda distributions peaked as a tactic, with 5,125 incidents nationwide.

“White supremacists more frequently are resorting to hate propaganda as a tactic to spread their noxious ideas and recruit new membership,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

“It’s particularly disturbing that at a time … when violent antisemitic assaults are on the rise, these groups are dialing-up their hateful rhetoric against Jews and canvassing entire communities with hate literature. This is an alarming trend that needs to be checked, now,” Greenblatt observed.

Last year, when Frankel and Costa once again fed their proposals into the General Assembly’s legislative thresher, I expressed the cautious hope that, after all the platitudes offered on the backs of the dead, 2021 might finally be the year they became law.

With this year being an election year, you’d think that passing these bills would be a political no-brainer, a political lay-up that Republicans could bring home to their districts as proof that they hadn’t spent a two-year legislative session wasting the taxpayers’ time.

But as I wrote last week, that Republican Party is long gone. The proof is in its actions.

Despite widespread public support for anti-discrimination protections for the nation’s LGBTQ citizens, GOP lawmakers in the Keystone State instead have poured their energy into legislation seeking to ban transgender women from participating in women’s sports.

The anti-transgender bill could be voted out of the House Education Committee as soon as this morning, just two days before this year’s observance of the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Given the clear opportunity to confront hate or to spread it, the House’s Republican majority, the one that loves to claim the mantle of Abraham Lincoln when it suits them, could well embed discrimination against vulnerable children in state law.

If there’s any consolation, it’s that the bill faces a guaranteed gubernatorial veto.

Still, nearly three years ago, when the House and Senate met in joint session to memorialize the dead at Tree of Life, then-House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster had this to say about our collective responsibility to confront hate in our midst:

“Please keep in mind that those who choose to commit horrendous acts like this of terror or violence can never achieve their ultimate goal, which is a triumph of hate, because our love and the compassion of our communities always comes out stronger than before,” Cutler, now the state House speaker, said.

Your move, Mr. Speaker. Bury the anti-transgender bill. And move the hate crimes bills when they reach your chamber. Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, can do her part by pushing for votes on Costa’s legislation on her side of the Capitol.

The current legislative session ends in November. Don’t miss this chance to make your words mean something.

Love only triumphs when good people step up.

The U.S. Capitol. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/The Virginia Mercury).

Our Stuff.
President Joe Biden sent a new $5.8 trillion budget request to Congress on Monday that calls on lawmakers to institute a minimum tax on billionaires and boost spending on national security. Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jennifer Shutt has the story.

The Biden administration is requesting billions in its fiscal 2023 budget from Congress to fund police departments, despite progressive Democrats’ calls for some of that spending to be reallocated to social services, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes.

A Philadelphia photographer hopes the view through the camera’s eye will offer kids an alternative to street life, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

The state’s 2022 midterm elections could represent a landmark moment for female representation in elected office, our partners at City & State Pa. report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Ketanji Brown Jackson is proof all judges should be Black women, opinion regular Michael Coard writes. And democracy is all of us — we need to work together to affirm our commitment to elections, Susan Gobreski, of the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center, writes.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney speaks Wednesday, 3/17/21 during a biweekly update on the city’s gun violence response (Philadelphia Tribune)

Philadelphia has launched a violence-prevention hotline to connect residents with the help they need, the Inquirer reports.

Allegheny County Democrats will be playing defense in the 2022 legislative races, the Post-Gazette reports.

As many as five people are dead after a massive pile-up on Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County, PennLive reports. The highway remains closed after the snowy crash.

The Citizens’ Voice talked to one survivor of the fatal pile-up on Interstate 81.

Women in Lancaster County are paid 76 cents for every dollar a man is paidLancasterOnline reports.

In a new column, for the York Daily Record, State prison workers are warning of a staffing shortage.

Republican state lawmakers are advancing energy bills amid concerns over gas prices and the war in Ukraine, the Morning Call reports.

WHYY-FM looks at the affordable housing crisis facing older people in Bucks County.

Legislative Republicans are looking for greater control over redistricting in response to recently approved legislative maps, Spotlight Pa reports (via WITF-FM).

GoErie runs down PennDOT’s road construction projects across its region, and where you can expect to spend time sitting in traffic.

With the weather warming, looks at state and federal efforts to preserve Monarch butterfly populations, which are in danger of collapse.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The House comes in at 11 a.m. today. It’s also lobbying day for a bunch of interest groups. The rotunda is going to be cozy.
10 a.m., Media Center: Rep. Leanne Krueger, D-Delaware, and others on expanding access to contraceptive care.
10:30 a.m., Main Rotunda: Brain Injury Awareness Day rally.
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: Rally to make candidates support child care
12:45 p.m., Capitol Steps: After-school education and STEM education advocacy rally
1 p.m., Main Rotunda: PA Youth Congress on LGBTQ+ inclusion at schools

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Valerie Gaydos
8 a.m.: Breakfast For Sen. John Yudichak
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Mary Jo Daley
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Brandon Markosek
8 a.m: Breakfast for Rep. Jason Ortitay
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Stephen Kinsey
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald
11 a.m.: Luncheon for Rep. Dan Frankel
11:30 a.m.: Luncheon for Sen. Lisa Baker
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Marty Flynn
6 p.m.: Reception for candidate Sam Oropeza
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out an absolutely wallet-busting $29,000 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf heads to Carlisle, Pa., this morning for a 10:30 a.m. event celebrating a new apprenticeship program.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Kyle Kopko, of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, and attorney Adam Klein, of Dauphin County, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
This one goes out in memory of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who left us entirely too early last weekend at the age of 50. Here’s ‘My Hero.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Carolina Hurricanes solidified their lead atop the Metropolitan Division on Monday night, beating the Washington Capitals 6-1 on the road at Capital One Arena. The ‘Canes’ Martin Necas scored twice on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

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