Pa.’s Shapiro, Dem AGs condemn GOP lawsuit trying to block ERA ratification | Wednesday Morning Coffee

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: Devon Hartsough (2nd R) and Keyanna Wigglesworth (R) of the Alice Paul Institute join members of Congress and representatives of women's groups for a rally to mark the 40th anniversary of congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) outside the U.S. Capitol March 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment last year and called for it to be passed again. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(*This story has been updated to include comment from Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The nationwide group representing Democratic state attorneys general has sharply criticized a lawsuit, filed by GOP attorneys general in three states, that seeks to block the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

As the Hill reports, the lawsuit filed by the top lawyers for Alabama, South Dakota and Louisiana was filed late last month, when it appeared that Virginia was poised to ratify the amendment, which writes prohibitions against sex-based discrimination into the U.S. Constitution. An approval by Virginia, would push the amendment over the three-fourths threshold of states needed for final approval.

The Hill further reported that there are “legal questions about … whether Virginia’s likely ratification would result in a constitutional amendment. When the amendment was passed by Congress in 1972, it was given a seven year ratification deadline that was later extended to 1982.”  Legislation now before Congress would eliminate the deadline.

The GOP attorneys general have argued that “the deadline is still enforceable. It also notes that following their ratification of the amendment, five states voted to rescind their ratification,” The Hill reported.

“If this constitutional bait-and-switch is successful, there will be dire consequences for the rule of law. The people had seven years to consider the ERA, and they rejected it,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement, according to The Hill.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announces a partnership with the Pennsylvania State Police to trace crime guns outside the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

In a statement released Tuesday, the executive committee of the Democratic Attorneys Association urged their GOP colleagues to “reconsider this wrongheaded waste of taxpayer dollars. It’s 2020, not 1920.”

The statement added that “these same Republican Attorneys General are trying to gut health care for millions of Americans, roll back environmental protections, and reverse years of progress in reproductive freedom. At least now they are making abundantly clear what we’ve known all along—they do not believe in equality for women. This preemptive lawsuit is a blatant effort to thwart our democracy and block women from gaining Constitutional equality, which is already long overdue.”

Shapiro, of Montgomery County, who’s up for re-election this year, is one of seven members of the Democratic AG association’s executive committee. Mark Shade, a spokesman for Shapiro, referred questions about the statement to Shapiro’s re-election campaign.

*In a statement to the Capital-Star, released through his campaign, Shapiro said he’s “always supported the ERA and believe it is long past time that equality for all be enshrined in our Constitution.

“Pennsylvania ratified this amendment nearly 50 years ago, and I’m pleased Virginia is poised to join us in moving our country forward,” he continued.

Our Stuff.
In a sure sign that campaign season is upon us, we’re chock-a-block with news about legislative retirements; special elections and political aspirations.

Much to the consternation of Democrats, state House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, has set a March 17 special election date for vacant seats in Bucks, Mercer and Westmoreland counties, meaning that elections officials will have to hold two elections within a month of each other. Pennsylvania’s primary falls on April 28 this year. Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso has the details.

Caruso also has what you need to know about the retirement of Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, who’s stepping down rather than face a primary from his left; and the pending exit of House State Government Committee Chairman Garth Everett, R-Lycoming.

Associate Editor Cassie Miller has the details on Rep. Scott Conklin’s, D-Centredecision to jump into the increasingly crowded primary field for state auditor general.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: new leader is looking to reform the Philly D.A.’s Victim Services Unit.

On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Simon F. Haeder explains what universal coverage, single-payer, ‘Medicare for All’ means to you. And regular contributor Mark O’Keefe has a few thoughts on county poverty data that could serve as a warning shot for Donald Trump’s Pennsylvania campaign.

Two hundred people gathered in Berks County Friday, July 12, 2019 to protest a immigration detention center outside Reading. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Elsewhere.
six-year-old girl has asked a judge to free her — and her father — from the ICE detention center in Berks County, the Inquirer reports.
Protesters forced a high-profile white supremacist out of an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh over the weekend, Pittsburgh City Paper reports.
Four more people have died, and thousands more are sick, as flu cases surge in south-central Pennsylvania, PennLive reports.
A former Kutztown University student tells the Morning Call that anti-semitism forced her to leave the Berks County state university.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

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State lawmakers in New Jersey have advanced legislation ending ‘prison gerrymandering,’ WHYY-FM reports.
Some Pa. farmers are having problems budgeting the money from a new state grant program, the PA Post reports.
Stateline.org profiles the states and counties that are making it easier for people to stay on Medicaid when they go to jail.
Facing sentencing in March, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has resigned from Congress, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
The House Agriculture Committee meets at 9 a.m. at the Pa. Farm Show to talk about the priorities of statewide agricultural organizations. The House Democratic Policy Committee legs it to Philly for a 2 p.m. hearing on the ‘social determinants of health.’

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf continues to have no public schedule.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a reimagined version of an old favorite from Keane: It’s ‘This is the Last Time.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Tampa 
won its eighth straight game Tuesday, crushing the visiting Canucks 9-2.

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