Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Statements on Iran Sanctions (HR 2194)

A few statements from last Thursday; apologies for the delay:

Joe Sestak, Democratic candidate for Senate:

Today, in seeking to prevent Iran, a state-sponsor of terrorism, from attaining nuclear-weapons capability, U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak voted in favor of, and helped the House pass, the Conference Report to H.R. 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which mandates new penalties for companies or banks dealing with Iran's oil industry or the Revolutionary Guard.

"Iran cannot be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons," said Joe Sestak. "This would pose a direct threat to our forces in the region and our ally Israel, while potentially triggering a regional arms race. While the military option can never be taken off the table in preventing Iranian proliferation of a nuclear weapons capability, today's measure demonstrates the commitment of Congress to defend Israel and to hold Iran accountable to its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This will help ensure the U.S., Israel, and the region's security, and I fully support it."

This Conference Report requires the President to impose sanctions on companies that are either supplying or investing in Iran's refined petroleum sector. It places sanctions on banks doing business with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was responsible for the violent crackdowns during last year's election protests, and authorizes state divestment from companies investing in the Iranian energy sector.

Three new sanctions would essentially cut off foreign entities that engage in sanctionable activity from the American financial system by prohibiting access to the U.S. banking system, foreign exchange in the U.S., and American property transactions.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz:
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz issued the following statement in support of the Iran Sanctions Act, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today.

“I rise in strong support of the Iran Sanctions Act. This legislation makes clear to the Government of Iran that we will not tolerate their continued illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons or their support for terrorism.

“Supported by the ongoing multilateral efforts of the United Nations Security Council and the European Union, these tough sanctions are intended to put greater pressure on Iran to change their behavior.

“President Obama will now have a range of new options to deal with the threats posed by Iran. Expanding upon previous sanctions, this legislation imposes a wide array of tough new economic, energy and financial sanctions. These sanctions target businesses involved in refined petroleum sales and those that support Iran’s domestic refining efforts, as well as international banking institutions involved with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, nuclear program or support terrorism.

“Preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is one of our paramount national security priorities. Nor can we allow their flagrant support of international terrorism continue unabated. Strong sanctions and enforcement of those sanctions make it clear that Iran must change its conduct now.”

Note on Budget from BPC

from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center:

Governor Ed Rendell and legislative leaders announced today they had reached agreement on a 2010-11 budget of $28.05 billion. The budget is a 0.6% overall increase from the current year, including a $250 million increase for basic education; however, it makes cuts to several other areas, including other education programs, libraries, state parks and environmental protection.

The agreement also requires the Legislature to enact a severance tax on natural gas production by the fall, which will go into effect in January 2011. The plan does not place an excise tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco, close corporate tax loopholes or end the sales tax vendor discount, as earlier proposed.

Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, issued the following statement on the budget agreement:

"This budget agreement does not adequately address the fiscal challenges facing Pennsylvania. We are disappointed by the Legislature's refusal to enact an excise tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco and to close other tax loopholes. These measures have public support and would have prevented some of the cuts to libraries, educational programs, state parks and environmental protection.

"An excise tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco is long overdue in Pennsylvania. Nearly every state taxes these harmful products, including major tobacco-producing states like North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Why doesn't Pennsylvania?

"This budget leaves recurring revenue sources - like the tobacco taxes - on the table and relies too heavily on one-time funds. These include $850 million in extended FMAP funds that are far from certain. By relying on FMAP and skipping other recurring revenue, this budget puts critical services like health care and education in jeopardy.

"Despite our concerns about many aspects of this budget, we are pleased to see it set the stage for a severance tax on natural gas production by the start of 2011. There are still many details to work out, including the actual structure of the tax, the rate and the distribution of funds. We are very concerned about efforts by industry lobbyists to add exemptions to the severance tax. As we noted last week, two-thirds of the gas extracted from a typical Marcellus Shale well would be exempted from the tax with exemptions supported by the industry. Lawmakers should not give in to industry demands for tax breaks. The rich gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale and its proximity to lucrative gas markets in the Northeast are already attracting oil and gas producers like ExxonMobil, Shell and Range Resources, which recognize the shale's profit potential."

Sort Through the Spare Change

This evening marks the end of a campaign finance reporting quarter. All your favorite candidates will be sending out emails, letters, phone calls, etc., asking for donations. If you don't want to go to individual campaign sites to donate, you can always go to and find all your favorite Democratic candidates. Want to venture out of state? Consider Dina Titus, congresswoman from Nevada. I met her when she was in town last spring. She made a good impression.

If you have any left over, consider making a donation at to keep support the excellent reporting there. Dan's dog looks hungry. A few dollars would help.

Support for Health Insurance Reform Increases

From Chris Cillizza in today's WaPo:

A new Kaiser Family Foundation national poll shows support for President Barack Obama's health care bill bumping up in a significant way over the past month, data that seems to affirm the idea pushed by Administration officials that the legislation will ultimately be a net political positive for their party.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Anthony Williams on Fashion

He's championed charter schools, now he's taking on the Hanes fruit guys. State Senator Anthony Williams who ran in the primary for both his state senate seat and the governors office, and then turned in his campaign finance reports about a week late, is being discussed on the MTV website but not in a good way.

MTV style includes a blog post "Pennsylvania Senator Wants To Ban White Tees Because He Thinks They Promote Crime," by Charlotte Cowles (6/29). The post links to a Philadelphia Weekly note from 6/28 "Don't Worry, the fashion police will make the city safer." According to PW:

This morning, during Mayor Nutter’s announcement of combating witness intimidation with an additional $200,000, Williams also announced that the extra funds would help the city with “the proper ammunition to effectively prosecute ‘white-tee culture’ in Philadelphia,” he said today, basically suggesting that by eliminating kids on the corner, who often don big, blank white T-shirts, he is also eliminating crime.

The baggy pants annoy me, but the white t-shirts, if clean, seem okay, but maybe I hang out on the wrong (right?) corners.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

A few news items for your perusal.

"Pennsylvania begins high-risk health-insurance program," by Jane M. Von Bergen, Inquirer, 6/29. First paragraph:

Uninsured people with preexisting conditions soon may be able to buy health insurance for as little as $283 a month under Pennsylvania's new high-risk insurance program.

If the thought of affordable health care alarms you, take a look at:

Obama’s good for GOP, Boehner says, Pittsburgh Tribune, 6/29

In the article, Boehner, who was the leading contender to be Speaker of the House if Republicans had had the majority back in 2008, says he would repeal the health care legislation. Other ideas? means testing for social security, and changing retirement age to 70; things he's against? financial regulation. Worth a read.

Onorato at University City

from the inbox:

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato toured the University City Science Center today and addressed its employees and start-up business owners on his plan to boost jobs in the Commonwealth. As part of the tour, Onorato visited Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, a “graduate” of the Science Center’s business incubator that now rents space in its research park.

“Business incubators like the Science Center play a critical role in growing the Knowledge Economy and creating new companies and new jobs,” Onorato said. “As Governor, I will establish the environment that the private sector needs in order to thrive and to make Pennsylvania an attractive destination for companies to start and grow.”

As Allegheny County Executive, Onorato has helped the Pittsburgh region maximize its economic potential and retain college graduates. In April, The Huffington Post ranked Pittsburgh among the best cities for the recently graduated, citing its “bustling education and health care sectors.” Forbes magazine has rated the area among the top 10 spots for college graduates and the number one most livable region in America.

The University City Science Center operates primarily as a business incubator for small life science-based businesses and technology firms. One of the largest urban research parks in the United States, the Science Center is part of the University City Keystone Improvement Zone and Keystone Opportunity Zone. During its 47 years in West Philadelphia, it has helped more than 350 small companies with the space and resources needed to innovate and commercialize new technologies. Those firms have created more than 15,000 permanent jobs in the Philadelphia region.

Avid Radiopharmaceuticals is a molecular imaging company that has recently developed a method for detecting Alzheimer’s disease in living patients. In an article about Avid last week, the New York Times wrote that the “tiny start-up company might have overcome one of the biggest obstacles in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.”

As Allegheny County Executive, Onorato worked to encourage business investment and create jobs. Under his leadership, Allegheny County has a lower unemployment rate than both the state and the nation and was recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as having the fastest rate of private sector job growth in the country in April 2010.

As Governor, Onorato will work to encourage economic growth across Pennsylvania. Onorato’s plan to grow the economy and strengthen communities will:

· Establish a climate where businesses can succeed;

· Launch a “Grow Your Own” success strategy to help firms start, expand and prosper;

· Encourage entrepreneurship and innovation;

· Boost export opportunities for Pennsylvania companies and attract foreign companies to the state; and

· Ensure that Pennsylvania’s workforce is prepared for and able to access high-skill, well-paying jobs.

“I am the only candidate running for Governor who has experience managing a government and turning around an economy,” continued Onorato. “I am ready to take on the many economic obstacles we face in Pennsylvania and put our state back on track.”

New SEPTA Fares 7/01

Fellow Commuters,

Remember that a new fare schedule takes effect on Thursday, July 1. A full list of fares can be found (or linked from)

SCOTUS, Guns, and Race

Someone somewhere put this blog on a list of right wing blogs. They must not have looked at any of the blog posts. It means, among other things, that I get a lot of strange email. There has been a steady stream of daily notes in opposition to Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination.

Today, though, brought something new. Pajamas Media is among the organizations that have added me to their mail list. Many of their messages are clearly meant to media booking agents. This is the headline in my email today: "Armed Black Panthers Claim Another Victim." Where did that happen? Here, in Philadelphia. Read more:

On Election Day 2008, armed men wearing the uniforms and jackboots of the New Black Panther Party were posted at the entrance to a Philadelphia, PA, polling site.

Another heading further down: Rocking the Vote: Did DOJ Try to Whitewash Black Panther Intimidation Case?

Ironic that this came out the day the Supreme Court ruled on McDonald v Chicago. Here is a brief note on it from Scotuswiki:
The new lawsuits likely to develop will come against the background of a new desire, among devotees of gun rights, to carry their firearms in public places. Gun owners held a large “piece rally” in Washington recently, and many guns were holstered for the occasion, to put new emphasis on the building resistance to gun-carry restrictions. A number of gun owners showed up last summer at “Tea Party” rallies, wearing their guns. Communities that interpret the McDonald decision as being limited to having guns in the home may conclude that they can ban guns anywhere outside the home. Any ordinances to that effect, though, are surely going to be tested. (And, as Justice John Paul Stevens noted in his dissent on Monday, there is a passing hint in the Heller decision of 2008 that maybe the personal right to a gun is not limited to having it at home. In that comment, the Heller opinion said the individual right it was declaring was “a right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” Lawsuits may be needed to clarify just what that right entails.)

An article. "History justifies supreme court overturning Chicago gun ban," by Howard Nemerov on the Pajamas Media website says this: "Gun control has always been a tool of bigotry and oppression; current data shows this is still the case."

So I guess that was why it was necessary to mention jackboots and Black in the press release on the Philadelphia case?

Bux Green Jobs Academy

from the inbox:

Today, Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) joined Gamesa USA and Bucks County Community College to launch a brand new training program at the Green Jobs Academy. With Bucks County continuing to emerge as a center for green job creation in Pennsylvania, the program will provide a cutting-edge addition to teach workers how to manufacture, install and operate the key components needed for wind energy production.

Shortly after taking office, Rep. Murphy met with leaders in the renewable energy industry and learned that workforce development was an obstacle to the growth of the green energy sector in the region. To address this need, Rep. Murphy partnered with Bucks County Community College to create the Green Jobs Academy. Its primary goal is ensuring that Bucks workers can participate and compete in the renewable energy industry, creating jobs, protecting the environment, and lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

“This new hands-on training program will get Bucks County workers ready to compete for the high-paying green jobs that can’t be shipped overseas,” said Rep. Murphy.

Murphy added that the partnership between Gamesa and the Community College demonstrates the deep commitment the company has to the region and our workers. Gamesa is a world leader in wind energy development and deployment. The company employs 6,300 workers worldwide, including 800 in North America, with 550 in Pennsylvania, where the company has invested more than $220 million since 2004. The U.S. jobs are as varied as wind turbine component manufacturing; wind farm construction and turbine installation; wind turbine operations and maintenance; logistics and engineering; legal and marketing services; and much more.

“Workers at every skill level are in high demand as the green economy flourishes,” said Luis Miguel Fernandez, Chief Corporate Officer of Gamesa North America. “This academy will help us with the skilled labor we need to keep building America’s clean energy future.”

Gamesa will support the Green Jobs Academy both as a primary user and through company-developed wind energy training and curriculum resources. Gamesa recently launched its own Corporate University, which includes in-person and online facilities outfitted with the latest equipment and materials to train workers across the globe in sustainable technologies. The Academy will serve as Gamesa’s U.S. base.

“The College is pleased to be partnering with Gamesa in its wind energy leadership role and in this model of training, which brings together the proven educational resources of both organizations. The Bridge Business Center and Green Jobs Academy site are quickly becoming the place to be for both training and development of sustainable science and technology. It is altogether fitting that Gamesa is a signature partner in this enterprise,” said Bucks County Community College President Dr. James Linksz.

Along with Gamesa, industry partners in the Green Jobs Academy include AEPolysilicon, Y-Carbon, Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, PECO, Rhodia and Drexel University.

Werewolves of Mt. Lebanon

One of my twitter friends mentioned this today and I've followed up.

True Blood fans might be interested to know that the actor who plays Alcide Herveaux, graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School and Carnegie Mellon University. See "CMU grad, Joe Manganiello's, 'True Blood' role may be a starmaker," by Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6/25

Monday, June 28, 2010

Budget Discussion Preliminary Report

On Saturday groups of people around the country met to set priorities for the federal budget. You can read more about the process at Philadelphia was one of the cities hosting a discussion. Preliminary results are available online, and top priorities were:

Reforms that were preferred by participants at the National Town Meeting included options that:

* Raise the limit on taxable earnings so it covers 90% of total earnings.
* Reduce spending on health care and non-defense discretionary spending by at least 5%.
* Raise tax rates on corporate income and those earning more than $1 million.
* Raise the age for receiving full Social Security benefits to 69.
* Reduce defense spending by 10% – 15%.
* Create a carbon and securities-transaction tax.

A full report is forthcoming.

On a more local level, you can register your suggestions (and vote on other suggestions) for the Pennsylvania budget at

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brady's Role in Disclosure Act

Politico ("House passes campaign finance bill," by Kenneth P. Vogel and John Bresnahan, 6/25) reports that Rep. Bob Brady added an amendment to the new Disclosure act requiring, in most cases, that the organization paying for an ad be identified. Here is an excerpt:

A Democratic amendment tucked into campaign finance legislation Wednesday night also drew fire from Republicans and their allies, who contend it gives special treatment to Democrat-allied labor unions. The language in question would exempt from disclosure requirements transfers of cash from dues-funded groups to their affiliates to pay for certain election ads. It was inserted into the bill by Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Administration Committee and a big union backer.

Though unions sought the change because they thought an earlier version of the bill would have forced them to disclose granular information about nonpolitical functions, Brady spokesman Kyle Anderson said the change “applies to all membership, dues-based organizations.” And he blasted efforts to cast it as a union sweetheart deal, as “just another attempt by Republicans to grasp at technical straws because they can’t find a valid argument against the legislation that the American people will support.”

Lentz and Onorato on Florida Loophole

from the inbox:

Gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato and State Rep. Bryan Lentz today refuted Corbett campaign claims that a loophole in Pennsylvania’s gun laws is not connected with serious crime. Onorato and Lentz cited several examples of violent crimes committed by residents of Pennsylvania holding Florida gun permits as a result of Corbett’s policies.

“I support gun owners’ rights, and closing the ‘Corbett Loophole’ is a common-sense safeguard to protect our communities,” Onorato said.

As Attorney General, Tom Corbett has allowed Pennsylvania residents to ignore state law and receive a permit to carry concealed weapons by applying to the Florida Department of Agriculture. Under the “Corbett Loophole,” even when Pennsylvania law enforcement officials deny or revoke a permit because of a history of arrests, domestic violence or substance abuse, the person can carry a concealed weapon by asking Florida for permission.

Corbett, who took office as Attorney General in 2005, could have closed the loophole at any time and protected Pennsylvanians with 30 days notice simply by cancelling the agreement with Florida.

The Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Western Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement leaders have called for the loophole to be closed, joining at least 175 Republican and Democratic mayors who wrote to the Attorney General earlier this year requesting action and had their letter ignored.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported that, "Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said Onorato and his allies can't point to a single incident of serious crime linked to a permit from Florida." (6/19/10)

“Tom is wrong on the facts, and his policy is wrong for Pennsylvania,” Onorato said.

According to the independent organization CeaseFire PA, Pennsylvanians with Florida permits include:

· A man whose Pennsylvania permit was revoked in 2005 when he was arrested for domestic assault after punching a woman in the face and kicking her in the head;

· A man with a history of prior arrests for violent crime who was stopped by police when his car fit the description of a vehicle used in a shooting – the man had been rejected for a Pennsylvania permit and was carrying a Florida permit; and

· A man who police tried to serve with a warrant for homicide, who had a history of drug and murder arrests and had been rejected for a Pennsylvania permit.

“As a former prosecutor, I am disgusted that Tom Corbett would allow dangerous criminals to skirt Pennsylvania law and carry concealed weapons in our Commonwealth,” Rep. Lentz said. “Since the Attorney General has failed to act, I introduced legislation to close this dangerous loophole and I am pleased to stand with Dan Onorato and call on the Legislature to pass this important public safety legislation.”

Pennsylvania law requires residents to apply to their County Sheriff – or, in Philadelphia, the Police Department – for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Law enforcement officials are allowed to consider the applicant’s character – such as whether the person has prior violent arrests or was the subject of Protection From Abuse restraining orders – before granting the permit.

Bowing to the fringe of his party, Republican gubernatorial nominee Corbett has interpreted Pennsylvania’s reciprocity agreement with Florida to allow Pennsylvania residents to instead carry a concealed firearm here after receiving a permit from Florida – which does not give law enforcement a role or even consider whether a Pennsylvania application has previously been rejected or revoked.

Even Florida does not allow its own residents to exploit the same loophole, stating on its website that “non-resident permits cannot be honored under Florida’s reciprocity provision.”

“The ‘Corbett Loophole’ is nothing but an end-run around the law,” Onorato said. “Tom is closing his eyes and allowing dangerous criminals to carry hidden guns, and that does an injustice to every law-abiding gun owner in the Commonwealth.”

Pittsburgh on Lost or Stolen

from the inbox:

... the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court today issued an opinion allowing Pittsburgh’s lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinance to stand, rejecting a challenge by the gun lobby. This follows a decision issued earlier this month by the PA Supreme Court allowing Philadelphia's lost or stolen ordinance to stand.

The court ruled that the NRA lacked legal standing to challenge the lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinance, that it was “. . . unconvinced that the ordinance burdens [the gun owners’ 2nd Amendment right to bear arms],” and lastly, rejected the NRA’s argument that the ordinance creates a burden on gun owners’ behavior because it requires them to inventory their firearms.

For more information see

Friday, June 25, 2010

Anthony Williams to Run for Auditor General?

According to Dan Hirschhorn of pa2010 and Dave Davies of whyy State Senator Anthony Williams has announced his intention to run for auditor general in 2010.

Davies notes this:

Though Williams is running for an office that checks whether government records are in order, when he scheduled his announcement he was already six days late in filing his own campaign finance report.

Disclose Act Passes House

The Sunlight Foundation mobilized its online network today to contact their representatives to help pass the DISCLOSE Act (HR 5175) in the House. It did pass, by a slim margin. It now has to pass in the Senate. This act was written in response to the Citizens United case in the Supreme Court which allows companies and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Two of our congressional representatives, both of whom voted for the bill, sponsored amendments or related legislation.
From Joe Sestak:

To increase transparency and accountability in our democratic process after the Citizens United ruling, Joe Sestak introduced the Fairness in Corporate Campaign Spending Act of 2010 (H.R. 4644), which would prohibit a corporation from spending company money on elections without obtaining the prior approval of a majority of its shareholders, the true owners of the companies, rather than allowing corporate CEOs to decide how to direct millions of dollars to their preferred candidates. This legislation, along with the DISCLOSE Act, must represent interim steps on a path to a system of public financing. Joe is also a co-sponsor of The Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826), which would create a voluntary public campaign finance system to provide a 4-to-1 public-funding match on donations of $100 or less.

In addition to having no special exemption for the most powerful organizations, Joe Sestak has called for a stronger DISCLOSE Act that would require reporting all donors to organizations making campaign expenditures, not just those who contribute more than $600.

From Congressman Patrick Murphy:
Today, Congressman Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA) bipartisan amendment to increase transparency in political advertisements sponsored by corporations passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175). His amendment requires that the corporate backers of political ads disclose the location of their company, so that residents of Bucks County would know if outsiders are attempting to influence their elections. If the sponsor of the ad is an individual, they would have to disclose the city in which they reside. The amendment was endorsed by Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy organization.

Murphy’s amendment was included in a broader bill that seeks to undo the damage caused by the radical Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed corporations and foreign interests to flood the political process with an unlimited amount of money. The DISCLOSE Act mitigates the harmful effects of the decision by increasing transparency in campaign spending through ad disclaimers. By requiring corporations to “stand by their ads,” the bill allows for a more transparent political process and gives viewers important information about who is paying to influence elections. What’s at stake with this bill is the constitutional right of voters to know the identity of the organizations spending money to influence their federal elections.

“The choice before us today is clear: you either stand for increased transparency in the political process or you want to allow unidentified corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns,” said Murphy.

Murphy added that his amendment adds further transparency to the political process by ensuring that people can know if an individual or corporation outside the district is trying to influence a campaign.

“If Halliburton pays for an ad endorsing a politician, shouldn’t Bucks County voters at least know that the ad is being run by a special interest operating out of Houston, Texas?” he asked.

The DISCLOSE Act also reflects the will of the American people. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 8 in 10 Americans opposed the high court's ruling (including 7 out of 10 Republicans) and 72% favored congressional action to curb the ruling.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Something to Do on Saturday

Looking for something to do this Saturday (June 26)?

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is hosting a Family Financial Resource Expo from 10-1. See her events page for details.

State Legislative Update: HB 704

from the inbox on HB 704:

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives took a major step today towards fixing the state systems for special education funding and accountability. The House passed House Bill 704, providing Pennsylvania with a comprehensive funding formula for special education for the first time in years. The bill also strengthens the accountability system so that school districts will effectively invest state resources in special education programs and improve academic outcomes for students with disabilities.

HB 704 has 66 bi-partisan cosponsors, led by Representative Michael Sturla from Lancaster . The House approved the bill by a vote of 173 to 25.

“Children with disabilities and all children throughout the Commonwealth will benefit from the passage of House Bill 704,” said Baruch Kintisch, Director of Policy Advocacy for the Education Law Center . “We encourage the Senate to act quickly to join the House in approving the bill in order to meet the pressing needs of children, teachers, and schools.”

Read more:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Anthony Williams to Announce Future Plans

State Senator Anthony Williams is holding a press conference tomorrow to announce his future plans. In the primary last spring Williams simultaneously ran for re-election to the state senate and in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

According to today's Inky, "Pa.'s record campaign donors: Trio give $5 million plus to Sen. Williams," by Tom Infield, three men donated over $5 million to the gubernatorial campaign. It also notes that Williams has not filed the campaign finance reports there were due last Thursday. Since Pennsylvania has lax campaign finance rules there are no limits on what people can donate so the three guys pitching in millions is perfectly legal, and the fines for not turning in reports on time is mild.

For those keeping track, the following elected officials endorsed Williams for governor (this may be not a complete list):

Michael Nutter
Dwight Evans
Seth Williams
Anna Verna
Angel Cruz
Bob Brady
Marian Quinones-Sanchez
Michael O'Pake
Connie Williams (retired from office)

We'll have to wait and see what he comes up with tomorrow.

Lentz Comments on Green Energy

from the inbox:

Representative Bryan Lentz today released comments in support of legislation encouraging the expanded use of clean energy in the state, a move he said would have multiple benefits including bringing more jobs to the state and reducing a funding source for terrorist activities.

The comments were made Friday in Chester County at a press conference held to support the passage of HB 2405, a bill that expands the types of renewable energy projects that receive incentives from the state.

The event featured the dedication of a solar hot water heating system located on top of a Laundromat that uses energy from the sun to generate up to 2,700 gallons of hot water a day. The project is part of an innovative business model, made possible through the use of state and federal incentives, that allows small businesses to enjoy the benefits of clean energy systems without having to make large up-front investments.

Representative Lentz’s local leadership on domestic energy policy has been recognized by our country’s national leaders. In the summer of 2009, Lentz met with key players shaping our nation’s energy policy in Washington, DC, to discuss the development of a comprehensive energy plan, including President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. On a second visit to Washington last summer, Lentz also addressed a group of veterans with former U.S. Senator John Warner, about the links between climate change, energy and national security.

The following are a collection of Lentz’s comments from the press conference:

On expanded green energy use and job growth:

“We all know that the number one thing on our minds these days is the economy, and one of the number one pressures on businesses is energy cost. We have here a business that is going to dramatically reduce its energy costs so it will have that money available for other things—for hiring employees or for investing in other parts of their business. “

“We also have here a project (with) the potential of (an) industry to bring back manufacturing jobs to Pennsylvania. The only real opportunity for substantial creation of manufacturing jobs in our state is in renewable energy. We want to make solar panels. We want to make the component parts of projects like this here in Pennsylvania. We have the educated work force to do so, and we have the interest in it.”

On the use of green energy and how it will reduce funding for terrorist activities:

“As we speak, there are soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who are concerned about being hit by a road side bomb. Guess what? Those explosives used in those road side bombs are purchased. And nine times out of ten they are purchased with money from oil-rich countries. This project does not send any money to people trying to kill American soldiers overseas. “

On the impact of a green-energy economy on the environment:

“If you think about what it represents you realize just how much opportunity there is and how important a project like this is. You all heard the references earlier to the environment. As we stand here and speak, tragically enough, oil is gushing into the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico. A dirty fossil fuel which is the predominant source of our energy here in America. This (project) doesn’t harm the environment. This protects the environment.”

On keeping Pennsylvania at the forefront of the green energy economy:

“We’ve decided as a state that we do want to be in the business of encouraging the consumption of renewable energy. All we are talking about now is how much and if we want to be competitive with other states. If you are going to get in (the renewable energy business) then you don’t want to be behind New Jersey in the level of renewable energy that has to be produced. You don’t want to be behind California or Ohio or other states.”

On the role of legislators in aiding in the development of a green-energy economy:

“It’s not enough to just praise it. People in my position, we have to take the steps necessary to give actual incentives for people to install this kind of system in their business.”

Lentz Works to Close Florida Loophole

from the inbox:

The Philadelphia Daily News today joined a growing chorus of newspaper editors and law enforcement officials across the state in voicing strong support for the effort by Representative Bryan Lentz, the Democratic nominee for Congress in the state’s 7th Congressional District, to close the loophole in the law that allows people suspected of committing violent crimes to legally carry concealed weapons.

“This is a no-brainer: fix it,” the editors at the Daily News wrote, referencing Lentz’s proposal to keep residents from using permits granted by other states to legally carry concealed weapons in the Commonwealth if they would otherwise be determined unfit for a permit by local law enforcement officials. Considering Florida alone, there are at least 3,100 cases in which the decision to grant a permit for Pennsylvania residents was made by the Florida Department of Agriculture, not local Pennsylvania law enforcement officials.

Today’s strong voice of support from the Daily News comes on the heels of similar calls from editors around the state since Lentz first introduced his legislation, H.B 2536, at the end of May. Support for the legislation in the editorial pages of newspapers has included nods from papers in Pittsburgh, Scranton, and Delaware County.

“These are sensible ideas to improve public safety without jeopardizing gun ownership rights. They should become law,” wrote the Scranton Times-Tribune on June 5, referencing Lentz’s bill, and on June 14, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette implored local legislators to support Lentz’s measure, writing, “We hope the Western Pennsylvanians on [the committee considering the legislation] will not be deterred from standing up for this measure in the name of sensible, responsible gun ownership.”

The Delaware County Daily Times also called out opponents of the bill earlier this month for their efforts to paint supporters of Lentz’s legislation as ‘extreme’. “Some of the supporters of Lentz’s bill would probably be surprised to learn that they are either ‘extreme’ or ‘part of the liberal left’,” the Daily Times editorial page wrote. “They are, in fact, law-enforcement officers who almost daily have to deal with the consequences of gun violence.”

Lentz’s legislation has also won the backing of police chiefs across the state. Earlier this month 10 police officers around the state, including Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner, and Nathan Harper, Pittsburgh’s Chief of Police, sent in a signed letter of support to the House Judiciary Committee, which is considering the legislation.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Delco Daily Times

Philadelphia Daily News

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Note on Scouting

With mixed feelings I have been following newspaper reports of the court case between the City of Philadelphia and the Boy Scouts. I deplore the discrimination that the national organization lists in the membership requirements. Like the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I think it will eventually be changed, probably sooner rather than later.

On the other hand I am an adult volunteer with both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. As a child I was a scout very briefly, as was my husband. While it could be said that my involvement would benefit my household that was not the impetus for it. A few years ago an incident at my children's school alarmed me. I brought this up at a public meeting and was told that this was "a matter for churches and schools." This was not the response I wanted to hear but I thought about it a lot. If this was true, what role could I play?

Thus I became a Boy Scout merit badge counselor. A scout cannot earn a merit badge until a certified badge counselor has signed off on it. I have worked with scouts individually and in groups. One summer another adult and I led a badge class for 12 weeks. Each of us took a badge, got certified, and we alternated weeks leading a group of scouts. There are badges across a wide spectrum of interests. (Trivia -- Eagle Scout Steven Spielburg helped the scouts develop the criteria for the cinematography badge. More trivia -- Michael Moore is also an Eagle Scout. See a full list of notable Eagles here.)

In addition I've sat in on the boards of review for boys at various levels of scouting. Scouts are on a "trail to Eagle," though only about 5% of those who join scouts reach that rank, and have to fulfill set requirements for advancement. The final step of each rank advancement is a board of review where a scout faces a panel of adults and answers questions about their work so far. Being able to articulate their accomplishments, plans, and thoughts is a skills that will transfer to many other aspects of life. Boys often drop out around age 14, when other interests become distracting. But some of the better aspects of scouting -- self-sufficiency, outdoor skills, teamwork, leadership opportunities, and badge work can stay with them. Each badge requires the scout to interact with someone associated with the topic and, again, the ability to interact with people from various walks of life, not to mention the ability to explore topics of interest, is also valuable.

Girl Scouts works a little differently, with different organizations at various ages. There are daisies, brownies, junior girl scouts, cadettes, and senior girl scouts. In lieu of an Eagle rank, girls can earn the bronze, silver, and gold awards at different levels of scouting. I've worked with girls on badges, in groups or individually, organized field trips, and so on. Working on goals in a girls-only setting, as well as working on badges alone, lets girls achieve a sense of accomplishment and worth that has nothing to do with the approval of boys or men. Our culture and media push girls into sexualized roles at a young age these days and providing them with alternate pathways to success is imperative.

I am not vain enough to think that my involvement has had a dramatic impact on any one of the kids I have worked with, but I know that some of them would not have met one or more of their personal goals if I and other adults had not volunteered our time and attention. If a community activist or small group of parents or other concerned adults want to change the culture of a neighborhood they could do worse than starting a scout troop. Providing a safe place to learn and explore a variety of interests, especially when there may not be a lot of alternative venues for this, can be a real boon.

So while there are problems with scouting, and the discriminating policy of boys scouts in particular, I will continue to work within those organizations and with the young men and women who belong to them.

SEPTA Food Drive

SEPTA is having a canned goods drive at many of their stations. You can donate through June 28th. Baseball fans can also donate at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, June 22nd, 5:30-8:00 p.m. and Wednesday, June 23rd, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

The Philabundance Non-Perishable Donations - Down 20% From This Time Last Year. This year’s food drive is needed more than ever to keep up with the increasing demand for food assistance as the industry food donations are dropping.
• The summer is a time of leisure and vacation and people and the slow season for food drives. Summer is a crucial time for children (207,000 kids are at risk… 23% of the 900,000) who are particularly vulnerable to hunger in the summer because they aren’t receiving meals through the school meal programs.
• Due to a fresh produce shortage attributed to a harsh winter in the south,
Philabundance has been forced to substitute more dry goods, which has drained the inventory of donated non-perishable.

Monday, June 21, 2010

County Party Leadership

The 3 counties I cover, Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery, all had reorganization meetings recently. Bucks and Montco kept their party chairs, John Cordisco and Marcel Groen respectively. Delco had an open seat and went with David Landau.

Update: It should be mentioned that these are Democratic county organizations.

The 5 C's

Mike Allen's Politico Playbook had a quote from Rahm Emanuel on Jack Tapper's This Week:

RAHM'S FIVE Cs -- Emanuel gave Tapper the most precise presentation yet of the administration's mission in the Gulf: 'What's important is, are we capping the well? Are we capturing the oil? Are we containing the clean-up? Are we filing the claims? Are we also cleaning up the mess? That's what's important.'

Welcome Rick Taylor to Twitter

Hey, one of my favorite PA state reps, Rick Taylor (D-151) is now on twitter. You can follow him at:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pennsylvania: Center of Klingon Culture

Surprise find in today's Inky. From "Speaking Klingon and other 'crazy idesas'," by John Timpane, we find:

The Klingon Language Institute is located in blue Bell, along wiht its founder, psychologist and sci-fantasy writer Lawrence M. Schoen.

who knew? Maybe in the spirit of things the new Philadelphia Orchestra director will have an afternoon concert of music from Klingon opera. (My favorite is Aktuh and Maylota.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

DOE Announces $4M for PA

from the inbox:

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced $4,176,920 for three Department of Energy-funded projects in Pennsylvania. This is part of more than $76 million in funding announced nationwide from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support advanced energy-efficient building technology projects and the development of training programs for commercial building equipment technicians, building operators, and energy auditors.

The projects selected today will help make the nation’s buildings more energy efficient and cost-effective. They will also support training programs for specialists to service and operate new and existing buildings, to develop and deploy best practices resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and to establish a green workforce with technical expertise to reduce energy costs for consumers.

“These projects will help the United States lead the world in advancing energy-efficient technologies,” Secretary Chu said. “Energy-efficient commercial buildings will help our country cut its carbon emissions and energy costs while the training programs will upgrade the skills of the current workforce and attract the next generation to careers in the emerging clean-energy economy.”

The Department of Energy also released today a new video that showcases the story of Greensburg, Kan., a town devastated by a tornado in 2007, which came back to be one of the Nation’s most energy-efficient, sustainable communities. Many of the town’s government buildings use cutting-edge energy-saving technologies, such as high-efficiency windows, lighting, and heating and ventilation systems, saving local taxpayer money. Greensburg has shown that any city can reach its energy efficiency and renewable energy goals today using widely available technologies. View the video HERE to see how Greensburg was able to “build green.”

The nation’s 114 million households and more than 74 million square feet of commercial floor space account for approximately 40 percent of U.S. primary energy consumption, as well as 39 percent of carbon dioxide, 18 percent of nitrogen oxides, and 55 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions. These projects will help lower the energy demands and emissions of commercial buildings and promote a specialized, energy-efficient buildings workforce.

The projects selected today for Energy-Efficient Building Technology Projects include:

· Industrial Science & Technology Network, Inc. (York, Pennsylvania) – $2,005,139

This project proposes to develop a new generation of thermal insulation with substantially higher insulating power (higher R/inch) at an affordable cost. The technology development of this project will lead to manufacturing a 3rd generation of insulation with insulating power 50% - 100% higher than current products (R-7~10/inch versus current R-3.2 ~5/inch), yet with cost comparable to present market demands.

· Traco Delaware, Inc. (Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania) – $1,317,819

This project proposes to engineer the production of commercial grade R5 windows, in a cost effective manner. The project has identified improvements in labor time for the manufacture and assembly of glazing, sashes/vents and frames since it represents a major portion of the overall cost to manufacture the window.

· Quanta Technologies, Inc. (Malvern, Pennsylvania) – $853,962

Quanta Technologies will demonstrate the applicability of low‐emissivity storm windows and retrofit glazing systems to significantly improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial building stock. The team will track installation of low‐e storm windows on homes weatherized in one state weatherization assistance program and conduct a residential case study on the use of low‐e storm windows in a warm / mixed southern climate to expand upon a previous case study for cold climates. The team will also conduct a case study to determine year‐round heating and cooling energy savings.

For detailed project descriptions of award winners, visit HERE.

To learn more about advanced energy-efficient building technologies efforts at DOE, please visit the Building Technologies Program website.

Justice Dept Responds to State AG Suit

Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor Tom Corbett is among the state attorneys general who have filed a lawsuit against the federal government, opposing the new health care legislation.

The Dept of Justice has responded. From today's WSJ "U.S. fights challenge to health law," by Janet Adamy and Evan Perez:

The government's filing said courts needn't even judge the merits of the states' case about the coverage requirement, because it won't take effect until 2014 "and it is entirely speculative whether the individual plaintiffs will be injured."

The filing nodded to Democrats' argument that the suits are politically motivated and have little chance of peeling back the law. "Plaintiffs call upon this court to relieve them of a difficult political choice, and in doing so, to break new legal ground," it said.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Onorato's Arts and Culture Policy Statement

A recent addition to Dan Onorato’s library of issue statements is his plan for arts and culture. Onorato is the Democratic candidate for governor; he has a number of details policy statements on his website, most running several pages.. His Republican opponent, Tom Corbett, has several paragraph-long statements on his site (the economy statement is more than one paragraph), but none on the arts and culture.

The economy is a primary driver in this race, which may account for the emphasis on money in Onorato’s statement. Here is an excerpt from the plan’s introduction:

Pennsylvania’s art and cultural institutions are also major drivers of tourism – one of the Commonwealth’s most important industries. In 2007, visitors to Pennsylvania generated a total of $2.8 billion in state and municipal tax revenue – equivalent to more than 10% of the state budget. Tourism advertising and promotions from the state is important and spurs economic activity across the Commonwealth. But as a result of the economic downturn, Pennsylvania has dropped from 5th highest promotional spending to 25th over the last two years – making it harder for small businesses and cultural institutions to attract visitors and succeed.

Onorato spells out his involvement in the arts and culture in Allegheny County, where he is the county executive; one example is the creation of the Cultural District in downtown Pittsburgh. His four primary policy points are:
1. Establish a climate where arts and cultural enterprise can succeed;
2. Encourage heritage and cultural tourism;
3. Ensure that Pennsylvania’s creative industries and artists can thrive; and
4. Make art and arts education experiences accessible to as many people as possible.

The bullet points under the first category are all economic, state funding, public-private partnerships, attract investment and tourism, increase access to federal funding, and the importance of statewide outreach and activities.

As for encouraging heritage and cultural tourism, he touches again on economics, such as tourism as economic development, regional marketing initiatives, coordinating resources for historical venues (such as offering web-based tools)

His third point, ensuring creative industries and arts can thrive, also starts out with incentives for private enterprise. Onorato supports the sometimes controversial film tax credit. He would also establish a historic preservation tax credit, funded by Growing Greener 3 and the proposed Marcellus Shale severance tax. he would encourage “creative enterprises” to use small business development programs. Lastly he would support workforce development, which he defines as access to job training programs and working with community colleges and universities that specialize in the arts.

His last part has a broader base and looks at the arts and culture as educational and not solely economic resources. He would ensure that children have access to arts and music education, including academic standards and a model curriculum. Encouraging relationships between schools and non-profits in the arts would benefit both the artistic organizations and the schools. His final point is making the arts more accessible to all Pennsylvanians.

Like all of Onorato’s policy statements this one is detailed if dry, and focused on economic aspects. The intrinsic value of the arts is touched upon but not the primary point. There is also very little on the artists themselves, other than as corporate entities – non profit organizations or business owners, but there is a limit to what government can do. Other topics not mentioned are aspects of public art, and encouraging personal and community art, though those may be considered part of arts education or small businesses. Mr. Onorato has an accounting background and that does come across. He is tackling the issue as primarily a funding problem and artists will tell you that is always a concern; he is also sensitive to the constant need for revenue sources at almost all cultural businesses and nonprofit groups.

This is an interesting policy statement and everyone affiliated with or interested in cultural life in the state would do well to read it over.

Personal note: I had wondered if Onorato’s policy statement would mirror the arts and culture policy statement from Joe Hoeffel, one of Onorato’s primary opponents. Both encourage arts education and public / private partnerships. However, the tone an delivery of the two statements are different.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

House Passes Small Business Bill

The House has passed of the Small Business Lending Fund and Small Business Credit Initiative. This must be significant legislation as a number of press releases have come in about it. Let's hear from:

Pres. Obama:

I thank the House of Representatives for passing legislation that includes two of our key initiatives to help America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs create jobs and promote recovery. Our nation's small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and the main drivers of private job creation, and today’s approval of our Small Business Lending Fund and State Small Business Credit Initiative marks a new and significant step toward getting small businesses the financing they need to start up, expand, and hire more workers.

The Small Business Lending Fund would provide our nation’s community banks with capital and incentives to ensure that small businesses on Main Street can get the loans they have too often struggled to access since the onset of the financial crisis. The State Small Business Credit Initiative would help ensure that innovative state partnerships – today constrained by budget cuts – can better meet the credit needs of small businesses and manufacturers. I am also pleased that this legislation is moving forward as part of a larger package of small business jobs proposals that will include the elimination of capital gains taxes on key small business investments.

I want to recognize Chairman Barney Frank for his management of this bill as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Chairman Sandy Levin, and Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez for their efforts on behalf of America’s small businesses. And I want to urge the Senate to act quickly to pass these initiatives into law.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz voted for legislation this week that will boost lending for small businesses and provide targeted tax relief so they can expand their businesses and hire new workers. The Small Business Lending Fund, Jobs Creation and Tax Relief Package passed by the House this week is comprised of two bills designed to help small businesses continue to weather the current economic climate.

“Providing American innovators and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to expand their businesses will help rebuild our local economies,” Schwartz said. “Small businesses are the largest job creators in the country and fostering a growth environment for these employers is vital to our economic recovery. This package of bills will boost lending, provide needed tax relief and incentives to grow small businesses and help build a stronger foundation for the American economy.”

The Small Business Lending Fund Act will create three separate programs designed to increase lending to small businesses and create jobs:

· Create a small business loan fund designed to boost lending to small businesses looking to hire and expand their operation by providing additional capital to community banks;

· Provide $2 billion in funding for new or existing state lending programs that will quickly increase small business lending and create jobs;

· Establish at the Small Business Administration a program to provide equity financing support to early-stage and high growth small businesses.

The Small Business Jobs Tax Relief Act will provide important tax relief targeted to small businesses to provide incentives to expand their businesses and create jobs.

On June 22nd, Schwartz will host a Small Business Resource Seminar with representatives from the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Commercial Service, the IRS and several other local Pennsylvania agencies. The seminar, which will be held in Lansdale, PA, will provide local small businesses with the tools and resources they need to expand and hire more workers as we continue to spur economic growth across the country.

Congressman Patrick Murphy:
Today, Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) voted to spur job creation on Main Street by expanding much needed lending to small businesses to help them grow, hire new workers, and fuel our economy. The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act (H.R. 5297) will help small businesses access the capital they need to create jobs by encouraging new lending by financial institutions.

“I’ll continue doing everything I can to support our small businesses through increased lending and tax cuts, both of which help create jobs and get our economy back on track,” said Murphy.

“Patrick Murphy understands that small businesses are the engine of our economy and of job growth, and he’s fighting to make sure we’ve got access to capital so we can all keep our doors open and hire more workers,” said Carol Mignoni Ferguson, who, along with her family, owns Mignoni Jewelry in Bristol.

The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act (H.R. 5297) establishes the Small Business Lending Fund to expand lending to small businesses looking to create jobs and make new investments. The bill also forms the State Small Business Credit Initiative that provides funding for new or existing state lending programs and the Small Business Early State Investment program designed to help promising small business start-ups through public-private partnerships.

The bill was endorsed by a range of business groups including: National Small Business Association, Small Business Majority, National Association of Realtors, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, Independent Community Bankers of America, American Bankers Association, Biotechnology Industry Organization and National Bankers Association.

On Tuesday, Rep. Murphy voted to pass the Small Business Jobs Tax Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 5486), which cuts taxes for small business owners and assists entrepreneurs in managing start-up costs associated with creating new small businesses. Rep. Murphy has championed small business tax cuts for the approximately 60,000 small businesses in Bucks, recognizing that small businesses in the 8th District and across the country are the drivers of economic growth and job creation as our economy continues to recover. Two of the most important provisions in the legislation increase the deduction for start-up expenditures and eliminate the tax on small business capital gains, which will encourage investment.

Rep. Murphy has championed a number of additional pro-small business efforts to help companies survive the financial downturn, expand and hire new workers. He voted to eliminate fees on Small Business Administration loans and to establish new loan programs to help struggling entrepreneurs. He also voted to pass tax credits to help local green energy companies like AE Polysilicon and Gamesa make crucial investments in clean technology to create high-paying, green jobs here at home.

Congressman Joe Sestak (excerpt):
U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Joe Sestak, Vice Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, praised today's passage of legislation to increase small business lending and promote job creation, including provisions he originally submitted in separate legislation and has advocated for in his Plan for Pennsylvania Families.

"More than 70 percent of all Pennsylvania jobs are created by small businesses and it has taken too long for many in Washington, DC to focus on them as the key to our economic recovery. We must remain focused on the fact that working families -- especially those that own or work in a small business -- will drive our recovery, more than big business and Wall Street," said Joe "This legislation takes an important step in the right direction by freeing up credit and providing tax breaks to generate job growth across all sectors of the economy without adding to the debt."

The Small Business Lending Fund Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297) that passed today directs existing funds from the Treasury Department exclusively to community banks for the purpose of lending to small business and, coupled with passage of the Small Business Jobs Tax Relief Act earlier this week (H.R. 5486), provides tax credits to small businesses to create jobs and spur economic growth. Importantly, these two bills will be sent to the Senate as one, deficit-neutral package for consideration and eventual enactment.

"Still, more needs to be done," said Joe. "Small businesses have had an exceptionally difficult time obtaining credit since the economic crisis began, resulting in lower than normal job creation and decreased entrepreneurship. I will continue to advocate for a tax credit for every new small business hire as well as an expansion of Small Business Administration lending. This will create millions of new jobs and help boost our GDP, resulting in increased revenues that we can put toward paying down the national debt.

"These efforts must be combined with an end to giveaways to large corporations that hurt working families, such as tax breaks for sending jobs overseas, special benefits that let hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, and huge tax cuts for big oil."

House Passes Murphy Legislation to Cut Govt Spending

from the inbox:

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) that takes unprecedented action to reduce government spending by examining the effectiveness of federal programs. H.R. 2142, The Government Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Performance Improvement Act of 2010, increases oversight, identifies and eliminates duplicative initiatives, and improves the performance of federal programs.

“Washington needs to take a hard look at which programs are inefficient, duplicative, or performing poorly and root them out,” said Congressman Patrick Murphy. “This is a fiscally responsible bill that cuts wasteful spending and improves government performance.”

The legislation requires the federal government to adopt the same type of performance-based budgeting standards that are being used successfully in many state governments to rein in spending and reduce government waste, fraud and abuse.

Under the bill, the heads of federal agencies, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), must identify short-term and long-term spending goals for their agencies. Each agency must assess performance on a quarterly basis and determine whether they are meeting the goals they have identified to ensure federal taxpayer dollars are being spent in an effective manner. These assessment reports will be available to the American public, giving people information on federal agencies’ strengths and weaknesses.

PennBPC: Close the Delaware Loophole

from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center:

Time to Close the Delaware Loophole

Suite 400Suite 400 is located on the fourth floor of a modern building in an attractive office park next to a golf course on the outskirts of Wilmington, Delaware. It's a nice enough office, but you'd never know that it is the legal home of thousands and thousands of corporations - including many that do business in Pennsylvania.

These companies don't have factories on Centreville Road in Wilmington, and they aren't there for the golf. They are there to take advantage of tax laws that make it easy to hide profits on income they earn in Pennsylvania. There's even a name for it: The Delaware loophole.

Here's how it works: A large multi-state corporation creates a shell company in a tax-haven state like Delaware. The subsidiary has no employees and is often nothing more than a post office box. The corporation then uses accounting gimmicks to funnel profits through the shell company, leaving no apparent income on the books in Pennsylvania. It may be legal, but it isn't fair.

In Pennsylvania, 71 percent of companies subject to the corporate net income tax pay no tax. Tens of thousands of companies are avoiding Pennsylvania state taxes because their home office is a file drawer in an office building somewhere in Delaware. And those companies that are paying are paying less. In 1994, 75 percent of corporations paid $1,000 or less in corporate income taxes. By 2003, 84 percent of all corporations were paying that much - less than a Pennsylvania family earning $36,000 a year pays in annual income taxes.

Twenty-three states - but not Pennsylvania - have enacted legislation to close the loopholes. The law, known as combined reporting, requires corporations and their affiliated shell companies to file together and pay taxes according to the amount of business activity done within the Commonwealth.

Closing the Delaware Loophole would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate net income taxes back to Pennsylvania for profits earned here by multi-state corporations. Keeping that tax revenue where it belongs - in Pennsylvania - would allow the Commonwealth to take a more balanced approach to the state budget, preventing painful cuts to education, health care and services for families hard hit by the recession. Combined reporting could also allow the Commonwealth to reduce the corporate net income tax rate by as much as 10 percent.

It's time to close the door on the Delaware Loophole.

Featherman To Run for Mayor

John Featherman, friend of the blog, has announced he will run as a Republican for Philadelphia Mayor in 2011. Read more at "Republican real estate agent John Featherman files for 2011 Philly mayoral election," by Miriam Hill in yesterday's Inky. I interviewed Featherman in 2006 when he ran for Senate.

Meehan: Ask Tom Corbett About That

One interesting note from the press conference called by Pat Meehan, Republican candidate for 7th congressional district. Meehan tried to tie Democratic opponent Bryan Lentz to bonusgate. PA2010 reports and has video that shows a reporter asking Meehan a question:

Asked why Lentz was never accused of wrongdoing by Attorney General Tom Corbett, Meehan said: “I don’t know about that. That’s a good question to ask [Corbett].”

Now, is he suggesting that Corbett missed something in his investigation or that Corbett purposefully overlooked something? Corbett is the Republican candidate for governor and one of his campaign points is his work on bonusgate. If other Republican candidates are questioning the thoroughness or accuracy of his investigation, what does that say about his work? Either Meehan was not prepared for this question, and it would seem a logical question to ask given what Meehan was saying, or he questions the credibility of Corbett's investigation. It doesn't speak well of Meehan's view of Corbett.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

7th District Smack Down

Pat Meehan (R) and Bryan Lentz (D), the candidates for the 7th congressional district got into a smackdown today. According to press reports Meehan called a press conference in Harrisburg (is that in the 7th district? No, but Lentz currently serves in the state house) to announce what he was billing as reasons why Lentz should not be elected. As it turns out he was trying to tie Lentz to the BonusGate scandal. Lentz was present, took the podium and rebutted the accusations. You can read about it on pa2010 (with video), Capitol Ideas, and the Inquirer.

For those interested in reading some background on Lentz's state house campaign finance information, this past April I researched and wrote up an overview of all of his campaign finance reports for his state house races. The PA House Democratic Campaign Committee did provide in-kind donations of staff but the Lentz campaign donated almost as much (or more) back to the PA HDCC. Almost all of the other state campaign finance reports, from candidates of both major parties, show similar patterns.

I don't think this was anything to call a press conference over.

(Personal note: I don't drink alcohol or coffee so that research was done stone cold sober and without chemical stimulation)

It's Your PA Budget, So Speak Up!

I've noted the upcoming public meeting on the federal budget but there is also a way to comment on the Pennsylvania budget. Five state representatives, Jesse White (D-46), Matt Smith (D-42), Josh Shapiro (D-153), Steve Santarsiero (D-31) and Eugene DePasquale (D-95) are sponsoring a website called that lets people list an idea for raising revenue or cutting spending. Other visitors to the site can click "agree" or "disagree."

Instead of complaining, give it some thought and leave an idea, or go read other people's ideas and vote on them:

Moms Against Guns Joins CeaseFirePA

from the inbox:

CeaseFirePA today announced the handgun law reform campaign ―Moms Against Guns,‖ founded by philanthropist and children’s issues activist Lynne Honickman, will officially join forces with their organization to decrease illegal guns in PA. Honickman has also agreed to join the CeaseFirePA board of directors along with one of Moms Against Guns’ most influential partners – Sister Mary Scullion, Project H.O.M.E. co-founder and the City’s most respected nonprofit leader.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Thicket Gives a Shout Out to PA Dems

The Thicket gives a shout out to legislatures using social media. They also mentioned this:

Of course, some legislatures have videos on YouTube or YouTube channels (listed here) that can be viewed on mobile devices, and some states are optimizing other kinds of legislative content for handhelds. Kentucky provides an iPhone friendly site, and other legislative sites are optimized for the BlackBerry or other devices, including the Pennsylvania House Democrats website, and websites for the Texas Legislature, the South Carolina Legislature and the Washington Legislature.

You can find their mobile site here.

A Few Notes from Allyson Schwartz

Allyson Schwartz has a few announcements.

She is hosting a small business resource seminar on June 22nd. Register with her office.

She participated in a hearing on tax simplication, as part of the Ways & Means Committee. Here's a description:

Schwartz was an original co-sponsor of the Regulated Investment Company Modernization Act of 2009, which was introduced in December 2009 by then Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee Chairman Richard Neal.

“The tax code’s tax provisions concerning regulated investment companies are antiquated and must be modernized in order to minimize difficulties for funds and investors,” Schwartz said. “By updating these provisions we will ultimately help consumers invest and save. Today’s hearing showed that the RIC Modernization Act will greatly help accomplish these important goals.”

Finally, you might want to sit down for this one, Schwartz and Rep. Michael E. McMahon (D-NY) were praised for introducing The Support Working Parents Act and their consistent commitment to working families. Who was throwing the party? Third Way, First Focus, and the American Enterprise Institute. If that last one seems a bit odd to be singling out Democratic congressional representatives for their work on a social issue, it is because AEI defines itself as:
The Institute's community of scholars is committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise.

Wikipedia describes it as a conservative think tank. I was surprised by this one.

Sibelius on Health Care Reform Legislation

from the White House blog:

Keeping the Plan You Like
Posted by Kathleen Sebelius on June 14, 2010 at 01:57 PM EDT

Throughout the health reform debate, the President has been clear that we should build on the insurance system we have, keeping the parts that work and gradually fixing the parts that don’t.

The Affordable Care Act is designed to let Americans keep their health insurance if they like it while adding important consumer benefits to give businesses, families and individuals higher quality care at lower prices and more control over their own care.

Later today, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and I will announce the latest step we’re taking to implement the Affordable Care Act with the announcement of a new regulation that is a key part of this approach.

The new regulation will expand new consumer protections to all Americans with health insurance, moving us toward the competitive, patient-centered market of the future. This rule reflects the President’s policy that Americans should be able to keep their health plan and doctor if they want.

Here’s how the new rule will work:

* Starting with health plan or policy years beginning on or after September 23, Americans with private health insurance plans will get some new consumer protections. For example, insurance companies will be prohibited from putting lifetime limits on your coverage. And they’ll no longer be able to cancel your insurance when you get sick just by finding an error in your paperwork.
* Health coverage that was in effect when the Affordable Care Act was enacted will be exempt from some provisions in the Act if they remain “grandfathered” under a provision in the law. Under the rule issued today, employers or issuers offering such coverage will have the flexibility of making reasonable changes without losing their “grandfathered” status. For example, employers will be able to make some changes to the benefits their plans offer, raise premiums or change employee cost-sharing to keep pace with health costs within some limits, and continue to enroll new employees and their families.
* However, if health plans significantly raise co-payments or deductibles, or if they significantly reduce benefits – for example, if they stop covering treatment for a disease like HIV/AIDS or cystic fibrosis – they’ll lose their grandfathered status and their customers will get the same full set of consumer protections as new plans.

The bottom line is that under the Affordable Care Act, if you like your doctor and plan, you can keep them. But if you aren’t satisfied with your insurance options today, the Affordable Care Act provides for better, more affordable health care choices through new consumer protections. And beginning in 2014, it creates health insurance exchanges that will offer individuals and small businesses better, more affordable choices.

For more information about this rule, read the fact sheet and the Q&A.

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, visit

Kanjorski Now on Twitter

The latest Pennsylvania congressional representative to set up shop on twitter is Paul Kanjorski. You can view his tweets are:

Local Officials React to Obama's Remarks

The inbox has been filling up with reaction statements from various local and national officials. Here are a selection.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz:

“The President’s address tonight demonstrates that responding to the BP oil spill is a top priority for him and his administration. However, I won’t be satisfied with the response until oil stops flowing into the Gulf and BP’s executives are held fully accountable for their actions, which are desecrating the environment and devastating the Gulf Coast economy. Moving forward, it is imperative that we put in place adequate regulations and oversight to ensure safe and responsible drilling and that we move ahead on an energy policy that increases alternative sources of energy.”

Congressman Joe Sestak:
U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Joe Sestak today released the following statement on the night of President Obama's address to the Nation:

"I support President Obama's call to hold corporations accountable and put our nation on a path to energy independence. I believe we should take appropriate measures to ensure that resources are available to repair the environment, bring back jobs and restore the way of life to the victims of the Gulf Coast disaster. Accountability is central to a thriving Democracy and the Gulf oil spill is a reminder that reckless corporate decision-making jeopardizes not only our environment but also our economy.

"Further, it is time to come together as a nation to agree on a comprehensive, pragmatic plan that moves us towards energy independence. For too long we have put the oil companies ahead of our nation's long-term economic and national security interests while turning a blind eye to the costs of unsupervised risk-taking. It is time to take the reasonable steps that hold corporations accountable and put our nation back on a path to prosperity."

Jack Markell:
Gov. Jack Markell, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, issued the following statement tonight after President Obama’s Oval Office speech on the BP oil spill:

“The President tonight showed he is determined to ensure that the Gulf Coast recovers, that families who make their living there are restored and that BP will be held accountable,” Gov. Markell said. “I am enthusiastic about his commitment to support clean energy jobs that can get people back to work quickly and improve our nation’s energy security for the future.”

Obama Remarks on BP Oil Spill

from the inbox:

Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists. And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.

On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.

Because there has never been a leak this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That’s why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge -- a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

As a result of these efforts, we’ve directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. And in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that’s expected to stop the leak completely.

Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.

But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.

First, the cleanup. From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history -- an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost 40 years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and clean up the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf. And I’ve authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, they’re ready to help clean the beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims -- and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.

Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming and other collection methods. Over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. We’ve approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try to stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we’re working with Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.

As the cleanup continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need. Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn’t working, we want to hear about it. If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them.

But we have to recognize that despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife. And sadly, no matter how effective our response is, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done. That’s why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast.

You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water. That living is now in jeopardy. I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year. I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers -– even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected. I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists might start coming back. The sadness and the anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.

I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.

Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that’s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats. And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.

I make that commitment tonight. Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, who is also a former governor of Mississippi and a son of the Gulf Coast, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.

The third part of our response plan is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again. A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe –- that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.

That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why. The American people deserve to know why. The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion -- these families deserve to know why. And so I’ve established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place. Already, I’ve issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue. And while I urge the Commission to complete its work as quickly as possible, I expect them to do that work thoroughly and impartially.

One place we’ve already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service. Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility -- a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves. At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.

When Ken Salazar became my Secretary of the Interior, one of his very first acts was to clean up the worst of the corruption at this agency. But it’s now clear that the problem there ran much deeper, and the pace of reform was just too slow. And so Secretary Salazar and I are bringing in new leadership at the agency -- Michael Bromwich, who was a tough federal prosecutor and Inspector General. And his charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog -- not its partner.

So one of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean -- because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked -- not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time, but over the last year and a half, we’ve already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry. As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels. Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that someday will lead to entire new industries.

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs -– but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment. And only if we rally together and act as one nation –- workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill –- a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And there are some who believe that we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy -– because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

So I’m happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party -– as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development -– and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet. You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny -– our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there. We know we’ll get there.

It’s a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.

Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region’s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It’s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it’s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea -– some for weeks at a time.

The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago –- at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.

And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that’s granted “even in the midst of the storm.”

The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through -– what has always seen us through –- is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.

Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.