Philly Rep. Chris Rabb is readying a slavery reparations bill | Thursday Morning Coffee

June 20, 2019 6:56 am

State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, speaks at a Capitol news conference on House and Senate proposals to abolish the death penalty in Pennsylvania (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It wasn’t particularly surprising to see state Rep. Chris Rabb standing down front during Wednesday’s Juneteenth observance in the Capitol rotunda.

Since his election to the House in 2017, the Philadelphia Democrat has become one of the chamber’s more outspoken progressive voices — and one of its most unpredictable. For instance, Rabb is teaming with Rep. Frank Ryan, a textbook conservative from Lebanon County, on a bill to finally abolishPennsylvania’s now pointless death penalty statute.

So given that, it also wasn’t particularly surprising to learn that Rabb was already thinking next steps now that Pennsylvania has become the second state in the union to make the annual observance of the freeing of the last American slaves in 1865 into a statewide holiday.

Rabb says he plans to introduce his slavery reparations legislation this August, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves arriving in the New World.

The way he sees it, “to talk about freedom [embodied by Juneteenth] without talking about justice is an incomplete conversation.”

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District (R), during his swearing-in ceremony (WikiMedia Commons)

Rabb’s embryonic push comes in the midst of a broader, national conversation about reparations.

A U.S. House panel was slated to hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill establishing a commission to consider reparations for the descendants of American slaves. Two Pennsylvania lawmakersU.S. Reps. Dwight Evansand Madeleine Dean, both Democrats, are co-sponsors of the legislation.The legislation, led by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, has the stated goal of addressing “the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865.”

The bill would “begin the long delayed process of atonement for slavery,” Jackson Lee said earlier this year when she introduced the bill. She warned that the continuing economic implications of slavery remain largely ignored by mainstream analyses.

In a statement to the Capital-StarEvans said he was backing the bill because “the country needs to have a comprehensive conversation about reparations for slavery and Jim Crow legal oppression.”

Reparations also have been a hot topic for candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke pledged his support for reparations for descendants of slaves last week during a campaign stop in South Carolina.

In the Senate, presidential candidate Cory Booker, D-N.J., is the lead sponsor of companion legislation to the House bill that would require a study of reparations. His Senate co-sponsors include his fellow White House contenders Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.).

Speaking to the Capital-Star on Wednesday, Rabb said the nation — and the state — is long overdue for a discussion on redressing what he described as the “intergenerational damage” inflicted by slavery.

“Holidays don’t repair intergenerational damage,” he said. “That requires genuine effort.”

WikiMedia Commons

Our Stuff.
Sarah Anne Hughes
 and Stephen Caruso have all you need to know about a state House vote eliminating cash assistance for the disabled and people with disabilities. To follow up, the House went outside and killed the last unicorn.

A proposed constitutional amendment enshrining rights for crime victims is headed to the November ballot after the Senate gave it final approval on Wednesday, Hughes and Caruso also report.

Caruso also has a look at Rep. Summer Lee’s efforts to change police deadly force rules.

The state Senate has given its approval to a pair of opioids-combating bills sponsored by a York County lawmaker.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is launching an audit of the Pa. State Police’s instant background check system for gun purchases.

And an affordable housing bill has cleared a key state Senate committee hurdle.

On our Commentary Page,  advocates for public schools say Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of that EITC expansion was right on the money.  And finding people to take care of with those living with intellectual disabilities is the state’s next big workforce crisis, an industry advocate says.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The Inquirer 
reinforces the fact that Pennsylvania is critical for President Donald Trump in 2020 – and looks at how he might win or lose it.
Gov. Tom Wolf is looking at a carbon emissions fee as a way to raise revenue for road and bridge repairsPennLive reports.
The FBI says an Islamic State sympathizer allegedly planned to plant a bomb in a Pittsburgh churchThe Post-Gazette reports.
Pennsylvania will expand limits on opioid prescriptions, the Associated Pressreports (via The Morning Call).

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day.

WITF-FM’s Katie Meyer explains how Republicans hope to force Gov. Tom Wolf to cut general assistance funding.
Two leaders in Philadelphia got a $300,000 Knight grant to turn public spaces into incubators, BillyPenn reports.
Residents near Latrobe, Pa. will have access to a medical marijuana dispensary starting today, The Tribune-Review reports. 
looks at the trouble some states are having with finding foster families for teenagers.
Joe Biden’s campaign won’t say whether the Democrat still believes in capital punishment, Politico reports.
A border spending bill is heading to the floor of the U.S. Senate. But the House may vote first on its own proposalRoll Call reports.

What Goes On.
First, the important thing: It’s Jubilee Day in Mechanicsburg. So God help anyone at PennLive who tries to tell Capitol Bureau Chief Jan Murphy, for whom this day is sacrosanct, to do anything today other than ‘Have Fun.’ You people know better You’ve been warned.
The House comes in at 11 a.m. The Senate is off.
And, meanwhile:
10 a.m., Giant Foods, Camp Hill: Officials at the Dept. of Agriculture challenge that bizzaro cleaning robot to a winner-take-all death match. Because, people, this is how we end up with the dang Cylons. Actually, they’re just there to shill Pa. Preferred Foods. So get ready for our cleaning obsessed robot overlords.
12 p.m., Media Center: The Pa. Legislative Black Caucus announce their scholarship winners.

Gov. Tom Wolf
 goes live on all four of Pennsylvania’s NPR outlets at 1 p.m. for an “Ask Gov. Wolf” segment.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Reading Eagle boss Garry Lenton, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a recent one from Steven Malkmus and the Jicks. It’s ‘Middle America.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
 dropped another one to Oaklandlosing 8-3 on Wednesday night.

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.