Pa. Legislative Black Caucus takes new steps on gun violence reduction | Monday Morning Coffee

Sen. Art Haywood speaks alongside gun control advocates on National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Sen. Art Haywood speaks alongside gun control advocates on National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Today, February 17, 2020, is Presidents’ Day, a day that we celebrate not only the legacies of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but also those things they fought for: A nation that extended opportunity and freedom to all. And, as we’re so often reminded, the United States doesn’t always live up to that promise.

As our partners at The Philadelphia Tribune have so often reported, 2020 is off to a bloody start in Pennsylvania’s largest city.

As of last Tuesday, Philadelphia had logged 44 homicides, an increase of 26 percent compared to the same time last year, the Tribune’s Michael D’Onofrio reported. African-American men, meanwhile, accounted for 73 percent of all homicide victims in Philadelphia in 2019, the Tribune’s John Mitchell wrote in our pages last week.

Last week, the members of Pennsylvania’s Legislative Black Caucus announced their plan to push back against this bloody tide. Taking a symbolic, but not less important, step out of the gate, Reps. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, and Brian Kirkland, D-Delaware, were named co-chairs of the caucus’ anti-gun violence subcommittee.

For Gainey, who lost his sister to gun violence after she rejected a man’s advances, it’s a matter that hits close to home.

“My sister’s life was tragically cut short for simply standing her ground and telling a man no. Her memory guides me in ensuring no other woman or person is innocently gunned down for their right to live,” Gainey said in a statement.

“As legislators, it is our duty to protect and serve our constituents through the creation of comprehensive laws and initiatives. It’s imperative that we take the lead on lowering the shockingly high rates of gun violence that is ending countless lives across the state. Lives depend on it and it’s on us. I’m excited to continue spearheading these efforts, but in a larger role,” he said.

Gov. Wolf signs an executive order on gun violence. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Kirkland, a member of the Wolf administration’s special council on gun violence, credited Gov. Tom Wolf for the anti-gun violence measures he included in his Feb. 4 budget address to the General Assembly.

“From advocating for funding for the city of Chester to collaborating with grassroots community activists and law enforcement in communities most affected by gun violence in my district, I’ve been working relentlessly to make sure no resident has to live in fear in his or her neighborhood. I’m excited to continue funneling these efforts statewide,” the two-term suburban Philadelphia lawmaker said in a statement.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly has so far proven indifferent to anti-gun violence measures.

A red flag measure, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens R-Montgomery, went nowhere in the House Judiciary Committee last fall. GOP lawmakers have not advanced a single anti-gun violence measure in the 2019-2020 legislative session, despite polling data that shows widespread public support for expanded background checks and other bills.

In his Feb. 4 budget addressGov. Tom Wolf called on the General Assembly to come together to fight gun violence and proposed new spending on gun violence reduction programs. The ball is now in the majority-GOP Legislature’s court. And this year is an election year. Let’s see if that moves the needle at all.

Our Stuff.
Our partners at Stateline.org lead our coverage this morning with an in-depth look at state-level efforts to approve paid family leave programs. A bill is now pending in the Pennsylvania Legislature, as the Capital-Star’s Elizabeth Hardison earlier reported.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, with a West Philadelphia hospital set to end services, City Council is searching for solutions.

Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso looks at what’s next for House Speaker Mike Turzai, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, now that that the powerful Republicans have announced they’re retiring at year’s end.

On our Commentary Page, University of Pittsburgh historian Rob Ruck flashes back to when Pittsburgh was the epicenter of Black baseball in the United States. And Opinion regular Dick Polman connects the dots between the wisdom of baseball great Yogi Berra and the 2020 Democratic primary field.

En la Estrella-Capital: ¿No puede llegar a las urnas el día de las elecciones? Aquí le mostramos cómo solicitar una nueva papeleta que llegue por correo, por Stephen Caruso.Y los legisladores dicen que ‘Estamos progresando,’ pero queda trabajo por hacer para educar a los residentes de los Afroamericanos de Pensilvania sobre el VIH/SIDA.

(Patrick Feller/Flickr)

Elsewhere.
In Bucks County, first-time drug offenders are now being sent to treatment instead of the judicial system, the Inquirer reports.
In an op-Ed for Pittsburgh City Paper, state Rep. Sara Innamorato says the Trump administration ‘sold out’ western Pennsylvania with its new trade agreement.
Ahead of the 2020 election, state officials are worried about voting machines and Pennsylvania’s new election law, PennLive reports (paywall).
An Easton-based group that has made river rescues for 40 years may have to shut down unless it finds a new home, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

On Presidents’ Day weekend, WHYY-FM visited a new ‘Trump Store’ in Bucks County. 
Pennsylvania is spending $4M to make sure hard-to-reach groups are counted in the Census, the PA Post reports (Read the Capital-Star’s Jan. 13 story on that same subject here).
PoliticsPA has last week’s winners and losers in state politics.
Will the Nevada Caucus be an Iowa repeat? Volunteers are complaining to Politico about poor training and a vote-reporting system ‘adopted on the fly.’

What Goes On.
State offices are closed for the Presidents’ Day holiday today.

You Say it’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to a pair of talented Harrisburg PR pros, Nell McCormack Abom, and Abby Foster, both of whom celebrated on Sunday. And congratulations go out this morning to Sari Stevens at the Pennsylvania Department of State and Megan Dapp at Triad Strategies. Best wishes all around, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a classic that Counting Crows reinterpreted for the ‘Live Across a Wire’ LP in 1999. It’s a lovely and reworked version of ‘Mr. Jones,’ that will change the way you think about this 1990s alt.radio staple.

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Carolina 
dropped a toughie, losing to Edmonton 4-3 in overtime on Sunday afternoon.

And now you’re up to date.

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