The Journey Begins

Welcome to the blog of the League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area (LWVLA).  We hope you enjoy the discussions and articles from our contributing members.  Please note that blog posts are independent editorials and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the LWVLA (see Disclaimer in ABOUT).  Thanks for taking this journey into civic education with us!

To the wrongs that need resistance, To the right that needs assistance, To the future in the distance, Give yourselves.Carrie Chapman Catt, Founder of the League of Women Voters

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19 thoughts on “The Journey Begins

  1. Blue Jacket April 19, 2018 / 9:42 am

    A further Update about legislative activity.

    House Bill 638, mentioned in yesterday’s posting, is today reported as having been given its Third Consideration and was passed by the State’s House of Representatives, 114-77.

    In other activity, a series of new bills (HB2101 though HB2105) has been introduced in the House under the primary sponsorship of Representative Bloom (R-Cumberland County). This forward thinking and far-reaching plan would realign, consolidate and eliminate some of the State’s governing entities. Under the title “Reinventing State Government for the 21st Century,” the effort includes HB2104 by Representative Matt Dowling (R-Somerset and Fayette Counties), which proposes a Department of Local Government and Community Affairs (DLGCA). He indicates that the Commonwealth’s focus on economic and community development has become “watered down” since former Governor Ridge’s consolidation of those topics into the current DECD.

    Dowling’s introductory Memorandum recites, in part:

    “Pennsylvania has the second most local governmental entities of any state with almost 5,000 local governments. This proposal would merge different state agencies to create a new state department to address local community needs and concerns…. This department would be comprised of powers and authorities from the Department of State and the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

    “The department would be overseen by a cabinet secretary who would act as Secretary of the Commonwealth, which is a constitutional position. The department would oversee and assist counties across the state with managing elections. The department would also handle local government grant and tax credit programs transferred from DCED. Similar to the newly created Department of Business, Tourism and Workforce Development, the DLGCA would have an office of Local Government Consultant. The role of this office would be as a liaison between the department and local governments assisting with grant applications and other issues facing local government. DLGCA will be divided into: Center for Local Government, Bureau of Elections, State Athletic Commission, Office of Local Government Consultants”

    The five bills have now been referred to the House’s Committee on State Government and would appear to be well worth following.

  2. Blue Jacket April 18, 2018 / 11:20 am

    A brief note of information derived from a reading of the State Legislature’s daily Update.

    In the State House of Representatives, a Resolution was presented yesterday to discharge the Committee on State Government from giving further consideration to House Bill 563. As introduced, the bill proposed that the State Constitution be amended to consolidate the responsibility for legislative reapportionment and Congressional redistricting in a single independent commission of eleven members. (Perhaps, this is some sign that the Legislature is homing in on which proposals for reform of the redistricting process will and will not be given further consideration).

    Also , the House has given a Second Consideration to House Bill 638, which would clarify statutes which currently allow candidates for school boards to “cross-file” and have their names appear on the ballot as candidates for both political parties in uncontested races. The bill now goes to the Appropriations Committee for review of what fiscal impact, if any, the bill might have.

    In the State Senate, SB 299 has been returned from the Committee on State Government (which voted in favor of the bill 12-0) and has been given its First Consideration. As noted in a previous posting, the bill would eliminate the need for incumbent Magisterial District Judges to gather signatures and file a petition for re-nomination as a candidate for re-election.

    The Committee on State Government also voted 12-0 to approve Senate Bill 1038, which would allow candidates to disburse residual campaign funds to 501(c)(3) organizations. The Senate then gave the bill its First Consideration.

  3. Blue Jacket April 17, 2018 / 11:52 am

    This morning, the State Legislature’s Update of pending bills reports a busy day at the Capitol yesterday. We note two bills that might be of interest to LWVLA members.

    House Bill 638, described in a previous posting on this blog on March 14, 2018, after receiving a first consideration in the House of Representative, was removed from the table yesterday. In its latest rendition, we note only that use of the phrase “Justice of the Peace” has been changed to “Magisterial District Judge,” wherever it appears.

    Perhaps of more interest, Senate Bill 1078 yesterday received its second consideration and is on the Senate’s calendar for a third consideration today. The bill proposes to allow municipalities and school district boards to meet in executive session for discussions of the topics emergency preparedness, public safety and security. Our Senator for the 23rd District, Gene Yaw, is one of 12 co-sponsors of the bill. The Senate is scheduled to convene at 1:00 pm. If you would like to see the action without traveling to Harrisburg, you can see the session via live streaming on your computer at: http://www.pasen.gov/Video/SenateVideo.cfm

    As mentioned in a posting yesterday, the Senate Committee on State Government will be meeting today at noon, and the Committee’s agenda includes two bills related to election laws,

    However, LWVLA has scheduled a luncheon Forum meeting with the County Commissioners at 11:30 a.m. Perhaps, we can learn a bit about what plans are in store, if any, for changing the county’s voting machines.

    Which meeting might offer the bill of fare that is easier to digest?

    In other news, the local newspaper reports that an overflow crowd appeared at the Capitol yesterday to express support for Fair Districts, Inc., and the proposal to require that the State Constitution be amended to require that legislative redistricting be conducted by an independent citizens rather than by the Legislature. As previously reported, a second public hearing on the issue is scheduled for April 24.

  4. Blue Jacket April 14, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    This morning’s Update from the State Legislature tells us that the Senate Committee on State Government has scheduled a meeting for noon on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. The Committee’s agenda includes consideration of two bills related to the State’s Election Code.

    Senate Bill 299 proposes that, in order to have their names placed on the ballot for election, incumbent Magisterial District Judges need only file a “Certificate of Nomination,” in lieu of filing a petition signed by 100 voters, as is currently required. According to the introductory Memorandum of its sponsoring Senator, “Any non-incumbent candidate is still permitted to collect the signatures and run in a contested election.” Query: Fair? Does it promote greater participation in government by the electorate?

    Senate Bill 1038 proposes that candidates for political office be allowed to dispose of residual campaign funds not only (a) by using them for permissible expenses or (b) by returning them to the contributors pro rata, as is currently allowed, but also (c) by distributing the funds to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Query: So, if the candidate chooses to distribute the unused campaign funds to, say, only the NRA, would that be consistent with the wishes of everyone who contributed the funds?

    In passing, we should mention that the Senate’s Committee is also holding a public hearing on April 24, 2018, to give further consideration to redistricting reform. We note that Fair Districts, Inc., and LWVPA have expressed deep disappointment about the House Committee on State Government’s submission of an amendment to House Bill 722 on April 11 so as to allow the legislative leaders to control reapportionment and redistricting. The Legislature’s Bill Information web page does not yet show the text of the House Committee’s action.

    As initially submitted, HB722 was intended as a companion to Senate Bill 22, which proposed that redistricting functions be handled by an independent commission of citizens, not by the legislators. However, in a prior public hearing, on March 27, some testimony by former political party leaders argued that the function is properly that of a Legislature; and, on that same day, the sponsor of SB 22 testified that she was “not wed” to any specific provision of the initial bill. She also submitted SB1060, in which she suggests that perhaps the responsibility for redistricting could be initially left with the Legislature.

    Otto Von Bismarck has been credited with having restated, “Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.”

  5. Blue Jacket April 10, 2018 / 10:58 am

    With regard to laws affecting voting and elections, it seems to have been rather quiet in the Legislature lately. But, this morning, the legislative Update reports that Senators Alloway (R-Adams County) and Reschenthaler (R-Alleghany County) have introduced Senate Bill 299. They stated in their preliminary Memorandum to fellow legislators that the proposed legislation would:
    “change the way in which an incumbent magisterial district judge gets on the ballot for re-election. As former MDJs, we realize the difficulties placed upon these members of the judiciary, which are prohibited from engaging in politics, except during the period of time in which they are seeking re-election. Therefore, our legislation will change the election code and permit incumbent MDJs to file a certificate of nomination for re-election, as opposed to collecting the 100 signatures, as is currently required. Non-incumbent individuals seeking the office will still be required to collect the requisite number of signatures.
    “To be clear, this is not retention, which is constitutionally prohibited for district judges. Our legislation merely changes the way in which an incumbent gets on the ballot, in recognition of the fact that members of the judiciary are statutorily prohibited from engaging in politics, except during their re-election cycle. Any non-incumbent candidate is still permitted to collect the signatures and run in a contested election.”

    Forgive me my inability to understand. Is the intent to make it easier for incumbents to be re-elected ?
    The bill as been referred to the Committee on State Government for consideration.

  6. Blue Jacket March 28, 2018 / 10:37 am

    In updating news of legislative activity, we note that two bills mentioned in our posting yesterday (SB 263 and SB 762) have been reported as passed by a vote of 48-0 in the State Senate.

    Yesterday was a special day at the State Capitol; for, the Legislature’s Committee on State Government held a public hearing on the issue of redistricting of the State’s Congressional and State legislative districts. The issue has long awaited action in the Legislature

    Before a crowd of approximately 250 people gathered by presence in the main hearing room or by televised viewing in adjoining hearing rooms, 11 of the Committee’s 14 members entertained testimony and asked questions about several proposals to reform the way Pennsylvania sets the boundaries of its voting districts.

    The individuals presenting testimony knew their subject and seemed to be in agreement that changes are needed. Senator Mike Folmer (R-Dauphin), Chair of the Committee, and Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia), Democratic Chair of the Committee, welcomed them and invited the other members of the Committee to ask questions and express their own perspectives.

    Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh), the catalyst behind Senate Bill 22, shared her own frustration in running for office under the current redistricting procedures. She explained why she put together a bipartisan group of her colleagues to study and set forth a proposal for formation of an independent commission of citizens to have the responsibility for preparing district boundaries, instead of continuing to entrust the work to the State’s legislators.
    Pointing out that her bill is in part a reintroduction of a proposal she had made in a previous session of the Legislature, she said she had studied a similar arrangement in California that effectively performs the function in that State, and which has significantly improved the electorate’s confidence in their legislators.
    When asked by Senator Folmer why she favored California’s approach, as opposed to Arizona’s procedure, she indicated that she was impressed by the fact that California voters, through an initiative and referendum, had demanded that there be an independent commission of citizens, not one of party leaders or legislators with vested interests in retaining power. (In passing she allowed that she wouldn’t mind seeing an initiative and referendum procedure in Pennsylvania; but, she acknowledged that that is an issue for another day).
    Another concern expressed by Senator Folmer centered on the proposed reform’s reliance upon a Special Master, a single individual, to develop an acceptable map in the event that the citizens’ commission could not reach agreement. Boscola pointed out that, by analogy, under Pennsylvania’s current system, if the Legislature cannot reach agreement, the State Supreme Court steps in and engages a single individual or firm to prepare a new map. Nonetheless, Folmer’s concern seems to have persisted. Several times during the hearing he mentioned that, whatever approach the Legislature takes, he wishes to “do it right.”
    Senator Alloway asked Boscola what her objective or goal was in seeking reform. She indicated that she wishes to see Pennsylvania’s districts established by a procedure that is fair and transparent to voters and which respects the Constitutional criteria of compactness, contiguity of geographical boundaries and preservation of community interests. Senator Alloway seemed to challenge that view, asserting that what is fair in the eyes of some may not be fair in the eyes of others. Senator Boscola urged her colleagues to support the bill, but said that she was “not wed” to any of its provisions if better suggestions could be offered.

    Later in the hearing, Carolyn Kuniholm of FairDistricts PA, echoed Senator Boscola’s call for an independent citizens’ commission, and urged the Committee to support SB22. She provided the Committee with a further in-depth review of the problems of the State’s current redistricting process. Partisanship has become entrenched in gerrymandering and is causing political gridlock, economic stagnation, and the electorate’s lack of confidence in its representatives. Gerrymandering is, she said, the worst in the nation when one considers the efficiency gap shown in voting results, and is repugnant to the Constitution. Again Senator Alloway asked what the goal of the movement for reform is, and again the answer came – fairness, competitive districts, and improvement of voter participation and confidence in their government. And, again, Alloway suggested that what is fair to one may not be fair in the eyes of another. When asked if there might not be another way to improve voter participation, Kuniholm mentioned that the League of Women Voters has recently conducted a study which might lead to a conclusion that a hybrid of an open primary system might help.

    Senators John Blake (D-Lackawanna) and Jay Costa (D-Alleghany) offered two other approaches to revise the redistricting process. Blake’s bill (SB464) would engage a commission of9 members to be responsible for both Congressional and statewide redistricting. Costa’ bill (SB767) suggests that the reforms could be implemented by legislation, until a longer term remedy could be developed by Senator Boscola’s proposal to amend to the State Constitution or by another approach.

    Two former state political party chairmen, Alan Novak (Republican) and T.J. Rooney (Democrat), testified and presented their case for retaining the Legislature’s authority for redistricting. They insisted that the process should be the responsibility of the representatives of the people, the body that was elected and is accountable to the electorate. Senator Anthony Williams gave an impassioned rebuttal, pointing out that the legislators are clearly “untrusted” to handle the process, whether or not they are responsible. His remarks drew applause from those in attendance at several points during the hearing.

    In review, the most searching and profound questions to those testifying seemed to have come from by Senator Andrew Dinnniman (D-Chester). It was truly enjoyable to hear his perspectives. Among his observations, he suggested that citizens are asking for more than reform of the redistricting process. He pointed out that, perhaps, the question we should be asking is what process will result in greater participation and confidence of the electorate.

    In sum, it was a day long in coming. Perhaps, the Legislature has begun to sense the public’s frustration and desire for an end to gerrymandering and partisan gridlock.

    POST POST —

    Timing is sometimes everything. As if to address a concern that was raised in yesterday’s public hearing about the provisions of Senate Bill SB22, Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh) has now introduced Senate Bill 1060, a Joint Resolution, proposing that the State Constitution be amended to reform the redistricting process in a different manner. The Chair of the Committee on State Government had expressed concern yesterday about the possibility that SB22 might rest in a Special Master, a single individual, the authority for resolving disagreement about proposed redistricting plans.
    Perhaps, she saw it coming. For, in a preliminary Memorandum to her fellow Senators, on February 8, Senator Boscola had said that an alternative approach “would effectively model a break-through, bipartisan compromise recently put forward in our neighboring state of Ohio.”
    In her new Senate Bill 1060, introduced yesterday, Boscola appears to indicate that the alternative might be to allow the Legislature to retain first authority for redistricting. Each legislative chamber would be required to approve by three-fifths vote proposed maps for state legislative and Congressional districts. But, in the event that the General Assembly does not muster the required three-fifths support, an eleven-member bipartisan Redistricting Commission would be asked to hold public hearings across the state and then to develop and approve new maps. Composition of the Commission would be solely independent citizens, appointed in a process that “includes a series of random selections by lot.” 4 members would be individuals registered with the largest political party in the state; 4 would be individuals registered with the second-largest political party; and 3 would be individuals with affiliations to neither of the two largest parties. In order for a redistricting plan to be approved, it would have to receive 7 votes in the Commission, with at least 1 vote coming from each of the Commission’s subgroups.

    It will be interesting to see how the Committee Chair and FairDistrictsPA react to this new bill.

  7. Blue Jacket March 27, 2018 / 9:27 am

    In this morning’s Update of State legislative activity, three bills related to the State’s election systems are reported to have made further progress in the Legislature yesterday.

    Senate Bill 761 (proposing that the State Constitution be amended to allow candidates for the positions of Governor and Lieutenant Governor be allowed to campaign as a team) has been referred by the House of Representatives to the Committee on State Government. As noted in a previous blog post, the bill has already passed the State Senate.

    Senate Bill 263 (proposing the elimination of the requirement that permanently disabled voters file a written confirmation of their continuing disability every four years in order to qualify for an absentee ballot) has now been returned from the Appropriations Committee for the Senate’s further consideration.

    Likewise, Senate Bill 762 (proposing that the State’s SURE system be made subject to external audit has been returned from the Appropriations Committee for the Senate’s further consideration.

    In the House of Representatives, Representative Frankel (D-Alleghany) has introduced a joint Resolution that proposes to urge Congress to pass the “Secure Elections Act.”
    The proposed federal law might provide some financial assistance. The bipartisan federal bill, introduced by Sen. Lankfor (R-OK) and Sen. Harris (D-CA), proposes that grants be made available to states wishing to replace voting machines, provided that the new machines include a voter-verified paper ballot. States might also be allowed to apply for money to improve election procedures, if the procedures conform with recommendations of an advisory committee regarding post-election audits. The bill also suggests that an insurance pool be started for states that must conduct recounts for close elections; and require voting-equipment manufacturers to provide prompt notification of possible cybersecurity incidents.
    Frankel points out that many counties in Pennsylvania lack needed funds to replace outdated voting machines and that it might cost as much as $26 million to purchase voting equipment in his county alone.

  8. Blue Jacket March 21, 2018 / 11:30 am

    An Update of State legislative activity related to election laws indicates the following actions in the State Senate yesterday.

    Senate Bill 761 (mentioned in my posting on 3/20/2018, referring to a proposal to allow candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor to campaign together as a team) is now reported to have been returned from the Appropriations Committee, has received a third consideration, and was passed unanimously by the Senate.
    The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for that chamber to consider. If passed by the House, it must be reconsidered and passed again by both chambers in the 2019-2020 session before it can be placed on a ballot for consideration as a Constitutional amendment by voters.

  9. Blue Jacket March 20, 2018 / 11:23 am

    An Update of State legislative activity yesterday related to election laws indicates the following actions in the State Senate.

    Senate Bill 263 (a reintroduction of a proposal that was made in the 2015-16 legislative session) would eliminate the requirement for disabled voters with permanent absentee voter status to submit a written statement every four years asserting that they remain disabled and continue to qualify for permanent absentee voter status. Now, having received a first consideration in November, 2017, it was given a second consideration yesterday and has been referred to the Appropriations Committee, to review what fiscal impact the bill might have.

    Senate Bill 761 proposes to amend the state’s Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate (similar to the process by which Presidential candidates select their running mates and campaign as a team). Having received a first consideration in December, 2017, the bill it has now been given a second consideration and has been referred to the Appropriations Committee.

    Senate Bill 762 proposes to require an external performance audit of the Pennsylvania Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE system) by the Auditor General and the process by which voter registrations records are entered and maintained. (SURE is the centralized voter registration and election management system designed to secure the accuracy and integrity voter registration records. The Department of State reviews county compliance with the requirements of the system, but no comprehensive external audit of the system has ever been done. Having received a first consideration in December 2017, it has now been referred to the Appropriations Committee.

    House Bill 444 had been passed by the State’s House of Representatives in December, 2017, by a vote of 191-0. It proposes to correct an inconsistency in current law that creates different ballot access requirements for candidates for school board within the same school district. In order to clarify the law, the bill would require that all candidates for School Director be required to submit 25 signatures for nomination. A minor amendment to the text of the bill was made by the Committee on State Government, and the Senate had given it a first consideration in December, 2017. It is reported that, yesterday, it was laid on the table and then removed from the table, (perhaps a suggestion that the Senate wishes more work on the bill before it is given further consideration on the floor).

  10. lwvlablog March 17, 2018 / 2:58 pm

    LWVLA Candidates Night Participation Policy
    1. The LWVLA will invite candidates registered with the Secretary of State and Local Board of Elections and Declared Write-in candidates, if any, for the office in question to participate in our events. All candidates will be invited simultaneously and in the same manner, which will include email. If an email address is not available for the candidate, regular mail may be used for that candidate. Invitations will specify this new policy.

    2A. If an invited state or local candidate is unable or decides not to appear at a scheduled Candidates Night, the event will still be held. This is the case even if only one candidate for an office with a scheduled panel appears. Unopposed candidates may appear alone.

    2B. Federal Races- In cases where more than one candidate for a federal office is present, but not all the candidates, the League will follow the same format as originally planned with those candidates who are in attendance. Names of absent candidates will be announced as the office arises. If only one candidate is present, the debate for that office will be cancelled.

    3. No substitutes or stand-ins for the candidates will be allowed.

    4. The moderator will announce that all candidates were invited to participate. In announcing that a candidate is not participating, the moderator will present a brief statement that a candidate either did not respond or declined or was unable to participate without any editorial comment.

    5. The candidate or candidates who attend will have an opportunity to make opening and closing statements and to express their positions on issues and respond to questions submitted by our League and the audience. Should a candidate, that committed to attend, advise our League in writing, that he/she is unable to appear due to extra ordinary circumstances, and at the discretion of our League’s Board, may then submit a written statement to be read by the moderator equal in length to the opening statement of the candidate or candidates present on the panel for that office.

    6. All media outlets that typically cover LWVLA events will be notified of this policy in the press releases, media interviews, social media and other communications prior to the events.

    7. The League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area Candidates Night events will be conducted in accordance with other event rules as provided to candidates with their invitations.

  11. Carole Madle March 17, 2018 / 2:12 am

    Thanks to Janice Bigelow for getting this set up and to Blue Jacket for blogging the updates on state legislative actions/inactions. Anxious to see what else shows up.

  12. Blue Jacket March 16, 2018 / 9:22 am

    An update of recent activity of the State Legislature that might be of interest to LWVLA members

    The Legislature’s Update of activity reports that, yesterday, Senator Stefano (R-Fayette) has introduced Senate Bill 1085 to improve transparency in local elections. The bill proposes that counties, upon receiving required reports of campaign contributions, would then convey this information to the Department of State to post on their public website for review.

  13. Liz Clement March 15, 2018 / 5:58 pm

    Me too…I’ve always been proud to be a part of LWVLA. Kudos to Janice – this blog looks fantastic!

  14. Susan Warner-Mills March 15, 2018 / 4:16 pm

    Me Too! Nice job, Janice, getting this great blog up and running

  15. Anonymous March 15, 2018 / 4:15 pm

    ME TOO! Nice work, Janice, getting this up and running!

  16. Blue Jacket March 15, 2018 / 9:08 am

    An update of recent activity in the State Legislature that might be of interest to LWVLA members.

    League members may recall that House Bill 722 is one of two bills concerning legislative reapportionment procedures which have been supported by the League and Fair Districts, Inc. The bill proposes “to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution by establishing an Independent Redistricting Commission to provide a nonpartisan process for redistricting in the Commonwealth for State Senate, State House and Congressional districts.” It was introduced in May, 2017, and was referred to the Committee on State Government. The Committee has taken no action on the bill since that time. Yesterday (March 14, 2018), a Joint Resolution was introduced in the State House of Representatives to discharge the Committee from further consideration of the bill. However, the companion or counterpart to this bill is still pending in the State Senate (The companion bill is SB 22, which is also supported by the League).
    .

  17. Blue Jacket March 14, 2018 / 11:17 am

    3/14/2018. A further update of recent activity of the State Legislature that might be of interest to LWVLA members
    .
    The Pennsylvania Legislature’s daily Update of activity indicates that, on 3/13/2018, the State House of Representatives passed House Bill 153, which proposes an amendment to the State Constitution in order to reduce the size of the House of Representatives from 203 legislators to 151. This is the second year in which a bill containing that proposal has been passed and, if it were also to pass the Senate in that form this year, it would be placed on a ballot for the voters to consider in the upcoming election.
    However, this year’s version of the bill also includes another provision, calling for a reduction in the size of the State Senate from 50 members to 38. That provision was not in the version of the bill which was passed last year. It is conceivable that the Senate could pass a bill that does not call for a reduction in the size of the Senate (thereby making the proposal identical to last year’s legislation). Should that occur, the House would have to consider the Senate’s version and, if the House accepts the Senate’s change, the measure would be placed on the ballot for the voters to consider.
    But, if the Senate accepts and passes the bill in its new form (calling for a reduction in the size of the Senate as passed by the House yesterday), the issue would again have to be considered and passed by both the House and Senate again next year before it could be placed on a ballot for the voters to consider.

    In other action, the House has given its first consideration to a recent bill (House Bill 638) which would eliminate the ability of candidates for certain judicial positions and school board positions to “cross-file” petitions to represent both political parties. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Simmons (R-Lehigh County), indicates that, historically, such positions have been thought to be nonpartisan. But, once the candidates are elected and take positions on issues, voters are increasingly perceiving them to be partisan. So, voters are confused when they see candidates’ names shown on the ballot as representing both political parties. Eliminating the ability to cross-file petitions might provide some clarification for voters. The bill must be considered twice more before the House votes upon it.

  18. Blue Jacket March 13, 2018 / 12:32 pm

    So do I.
    In an effort to help keep the members of the LWV of the Lewisburg area informed of Pennsylvania’s legislative activities, perhaps the following notes about new and pending legislative bills might be of interest. If you have interest or questions about the bills, you might consider contacting your State Representative or State Senator. Also, information about bills can be found on the Legislature’s wesbsite at: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/bills/

    An Update of the State Legislature’s activity today indicates that Senator Costa (D-Alleghany County) yesterday (3/12/2018) introduced Senate Bill 1068, which is reported as having been referred to the Committee on State Government for consideration. The title of the bill is “Preventing Foreign Corporate Influence on State and Local Elections.” An excerpt from the Senator’s earlier Memorandum about the bill best summarizes its purpose, indicating that it is intended “to address an alarming loophole in federal and state election law allowing foreign influence in our state elections.” The Memorandum further explained the bill as follows:
    “Recent reports regarding foreign interference in the 2016 election through ads purchased on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms demonstrate just how easy it is for a foreign government or corporation to influence the U.S. election system. As countless federal lawmakers and election officials closely studying this issue have put it, ‘a major foreign power infiltrated U.S. elections with the specific goal of sowing conflict and distrust among American voters with their own government.’ These lawmakers and election officials are not talking about the winners and losers of the 2016 election, they are talking about a breach of national security.
    “Federal campaign finance law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions or expenditures in U.S. elections – at the federal, state and local level. Shockingly, however, this does not prohibit corporations that are registered in the U.S., but still have foreign ownership, from making contributions to political committees that make only independent expenditures (“super PACs”) that are then spent on state and local elections.
    “What’s more, the [US Supreme Court’s 2010] decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission makes it nearly impossible to discern whether a contributing corporation is significantly owned by a foreign national by making it very difficult to track the corporation making the contribution through a super PAC, let alone its ownership.
    “This problem requires an amendment to our Election Code to ban foreign influence in our elections and require that donations are made in a transparent way. My legislation would prohibit foreign-influenced corporations – those with a foreign owner holding at least 5% ownership or foreign owners holding at least 20% ownership – from making independent expenditures, electioneering communication expenditures or contributions to super PACs to spend in state and local elections in Pennsylvania. It would require the CEO of any corporation making such an independent expenditure to file a statement certifying that it is not a foreign-influenced corporation.
    “State and local elections are the foundation of federal elections. Foreign money spent for the purpose of infiltrating or influencing an election, whether it be federal or local, affects the very functioning of American democracy at all levels.”

    In other news, an Update of legislative activity reports that another bill (House Bill 111) has been “Laid on the Table” for a fifth time. The bill was introduced as a Joint Resolution in the Spring of 2017 to amend the State Constitution. It proposes that the way in which judges of the State’s three statewide appellate courts are chosen be changed by establishing a bipartisan citizens’ commission to appoint the judges on a merit system, instead of the current partisan election system.
    The Update also indicates that a new bill (House Bill 2137) was introduced yesterday by Representative Hahn (R-Northampton), proposing that, for reasons of school safety and security, public schools be used as polling places for elections only as a last resort. The bill has been referred to the Committee on State Government.

  19. JANICE BIGELOW February 16, 2018 / 12:47 am

    I like the LWV of the Lewisburg Area

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