Anti-abortion demonstrators gather at Pa. Capitol Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 (Capital-Star photo).
(*This story was updated at 10:02 a.m. on Tuesday, 9/28/21 to remove a fundraising breakfast for Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York)
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Thaddeus Shaw doesn’t think of himself as the political sort. Even so, the father of four, at his children’s behest, found himself pulled into a fight over his local school district’s decision to ban a list of books that elevated the voices of Black Americans and other people of color.
Last week, amid a national uproar and student-organized protests, officials in the Central York School District, about 40 minutes south of Harrisburg, reversed their decision. It should have felt like a win. But for Shaw and two students who spoke at a Capitol news conference on Monday, it was a reminder that there’s still plenty of work to do.
District officials who imposed the ban, he said, were only protecting the interests of a very specific part of a very diverse community. It’s a community, he added, that’s stitched together like a bold and beautiful quilt. And every action like the one that led to the ban, even if it’s reversed, could shred it.
Monday’s news conference was equal parts a gesture toward understanding and inclusion and a protest against policy that threatens to erase students of color, for whom representation is so critical.
It also fell at the same hour that more than a thousand anti-abortion activists massed on the Capitol’s west front in support of a cause that, if successful, would strip 50 percent of the Commonwealth’s population of control over their own bodies, especially the poor and people of color.
It also came a couple hours after a state House panel advanced election reform legislation that some advocates fear could disenfranchise Black and brown voters.
It was a day that, in a lot of ways that mattered, felt like the future of the commonwealth was on the line. And it boldly underlined the importance of the actions that the 253-member General Assembly will take as its fall session really gets underway this week.
And Pennsylvanians who look exactly like Thaddeus Shaw and his family could end up bearing the brunt of all of it.
“You talk about what’s happening here,” Shaw told me after the news conference, mourning what he said was the death of decency in politics. “You try to be reasonable. But there’s no place for that in politics.”
At Monday’s anti-abortion rally, conservative lawmakers offered familiar bromides about the sanctity of life and the importance of protecting the vulnerable.
On the Capitol steps, Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, led rally attendees in chants of “We are pro-life. We are pro-life.” But the southwestern lawmaker is not sponsoring bills that would help help pregnant people after their babies are born. The southwestern lawmaker was, however, one of 47 senators to cast a unanimous vote for a bipartisan bill that expedited treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
In the House, where one Republican lawmaker has offered a bill to ban abortion at as early as six weeks, which is before most people know that they are pregnant, GOP legislators have not signed onto a suite of bills sponsored by Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Philadelphia, aimed at improving maternal health and reducing maternal mortality rates. Black Pennsylvanians are most directly impacted by this public health crisis.
Abortion rights advocates, who are looking at developments in states such as Texas, which has the most restrictive abortion law in the country, are sounding the alarm ahead of Pennsylvania’s highly consequential 2022 mid-term elections.
“Our message has never been clearer: Abortion is health care,” Signe Espinoza, the acting executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates said, in a statement released to the Capital-Star. ” … We believe that all Pennsylvanians should be able to make their own personal medical decisions without shame, judgment, or stigma.”
If it excels at nothing else, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is expert at squandering opportunities and at allowing short-term political gain to kneecap opportunities to do the most good for the most people.
How else to account for the House and Senate GOP’s mind-boggling decision to bank, instead of spend, $5 billion out of $7 billion in federal stimulus money that was supposed to help vulnerable Pennsylvanians and facilitate a safe return to work and school for hundreds of thousands more of the commonwealth’s residents?
But that brings me back to that Monday morning news conference in the Capitol Media Center, where hope for a kinder, smarter and better future, in the form of two Central York High School students who led the charge against the book ban, was on vivid display.
Edha Gupta, a senior, said the win on the book ban “empowers me to keep fighting for what is right.”
And then with a mix of both wisdom and practicality, she added, “Our work is not done.”
That’s fine advice any day. But on a day when it felt like the future of the commonwealth was on the line, it’s advice that bears repeating and heeding.
We’re so close. Help us get over the goal line.
Last week, the Capital-Star launched its fall fund-raising drive, where we asked you, our amazing readers and subscribers, to help us raise $5,000.
Well, thanks to your incredible kindness and generosity, we’re halfway there. Now we just need you to help us get over the goal line.
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From voting rights and education spending to debates over abortion rights and gun violence reduction, Pennsylvania lawmakers will be talking about, and voting on, issues that will impact voters across the commonwealth this fall. Help us bring you the news you need so that you can make informed decisions on the issues that affect your lives.
We’re almost there. Please help however you can.
Looking to avoid another state-level mishap that leaves voters waiting, the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate has approved legislation to bolster the constitutional amendment process, Marley Parish reports.
County governments are once again caught in between as Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative Republicans try to negotiate election reform, Stephen Caruso reports.
Anti-abortion advocates flooded Harrisburg on Monday for the first Pennsylvania March for Life in recent memory, Marley Parish also reports.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 12,223 new cases of COVID-19 between 12 a.m. Saturday and 12 a.m. on Monday, bringing the statewide total to 1.41 million since the start of the pandemic, I report.
Gov. Tom Wolf called for a Democratic state lawmaker from Philadelphia to resign from office on Monday as he undergoes mental health treatment stemming from a criminal arrest, Stephen Caruso also reports.
In a fight that garnered national headlines, two central Pennsylvania high school seniors joined state lawmakers at the Capitol on Monday to talk about their successful effort to protest a book ban, I also report.
On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz poses the questions that he believes this year’s candidates for state Supreme Court need to answer for the voters. And veteran political operative, and lifelong baseball fan, Marty Marks says a wealth tax is a home run.
Philadelphia schools superintendent William Hite says he’ll leave his job at year’s end, the Inquirer reports.
Students at one western Pennsylvania middle school have drafted legislation calling for mandatory recess for students statewide, the Tribune-Review reports.
State lawmakers touted legislation Monday that would help small diverse, veteran-owned businesses win government contracts, PennLive reports.
The Allentown and Bethlehem Health Bureau will start administering COVID-19 booster shots, the Morning Call reports.
The civil damages hearing for disgraced ‘Cash for Kids’ judges Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael Conahan started in Luzerne County on Monday, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner briefed reporters on a rough week of gun violence in the city, WHYY-FM reports.
Craig Snyder, an anti-Trump Republican, and a veteran political operative, has dropped his GOP bid for U.S. Senate, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).
Erie County reported its highest one-day total of COVID-19 cases on Monday since March, GoErie reports.
With high-profile guns and abortion cases before it, the U.S. Supreme Court is at a ‘crossroads,’ Roll Call reports.
Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:
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The House comes in at 11 a.m. The Senate convenes at 1 p.m.
10 a.m., Capitol Steps: Pa. Budget & Policy Center calls for spending COVID stimulus money
11 a.m., Capitol Fountain: Suicide prevention event
12 pm., Capitol Media Center: Reps. Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, again make the case for legalizing recreational cannabis
1 p.m., Capitol Steps: Nurses rally for safe staffing levels
2:30 p.m., Capitol Steps: Sickle Cell Awareness Month event
5:30 p.m., FNB Field, Harrisburg: Annual legislative softball game returns
What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 am.: Breakfast for Rep. Christina Sappey.
8 a.m.:Breakfast for Rep. Natalie Mihalek
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Tony DeLuca
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Dave Argall
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Judge Drew Crompton
8 a.m.: Breakfast for the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Pa. House candidate Thom Welby
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Tim Hennessey
Ride the circuit, and give at. the max, and you’re out an absolutely preposterous $20,500 today.
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.
You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to longtime Friend O’the Blog, Bucks County elections attorney, Larry Otter, who celebrates today. May you see it in with a Chicago dog and an Old Style, sir.
Here’s a killer new track from veteran Welsh rockers Stereophonics, it’s ‘Hanging on Your Hinges.’
Tuesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Writer, actor, dub poet, and anti-racism activist Benjamin Zephaniah talks to the Guardian about the state of modern English football, and says he wishes more players would tackle injustice.
And now you’re up to date.
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