Bad things are afoot in PA. It's time to get informed and contact our PA senators and representatives. Let's share here, the way national politics cooperation has begun in Writing to Congress.

I find Politifact Pennsylvania useful.

 Let me know if you find a state level resource to assist activism. I haven't located a progressive daily guide to PA politics. I've had to depend on email alerts and looking up bills pending.

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A bit of good news (and nothing to do with the sportsball win :) -- SCOTUS will not interfere with the PA Supreme Court's ruling striking down our heavily gerrymandered congressional districts! Republicans claiming that the legislature, not the courts, has sole power to draw districts applied to Samuel Alito, who rejected the appeal without even consulting the full Supreme Court.

BREAKING: Pennsylvania’s Republican gerrymander is finally dead: America takes a step back toward democracy. (Ian Millhiser, ThinkProgress)

Hi, GC. Here in California, where a non-legislative commission draws district lines, I too am cheering the PA result.

The GOP plan may have appalled Alito. Even Alito, whose years in academia’s ivory tower have built a wall between reality and his Platonic mind.

One of our Republican state representatives actually called for the impeachment of the Pa. justices who dared vote against Greedy Old Party supremacy.

There's at least one online petition calling on him to retract that demand. I'm not in Cris Dush's district, but still called his office. Here's the letter I would have sent if I hadn't gotten through. (Contact info from his website; quoted campaign statement from Ballotpedia.)

Dear Rep. Dush,

You campaigned as a constitutionalist, citing the wisdom of the Founders in writing the Constitution of the United States, and writing that "Pennsylvania's original constitutions of 1776 and 1790 benefited from the proximate date and essential authors of the United States Constitution." You undoubtedly know that our Commonwealth's constitutions from 1790 to the present stipulate that "elections shall be free and equal."

It is therefore all the more disappointing and shocking that this week you called for the impeach­ment of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices who ruled against our gerrymandered Congressional district map. Your memo brought shame to Pennsylvania.

The justices did not swear to support, obey, and defend the supremacy of the Republican Party, but rather the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth.

I call on you to renounce this petty authoritarianism, respect the Pennsylvania Constitution, and retract your demand for impeachment.

GC, I’ve heard PA described as “Pittsburg and Philadelphia with Alabama between them.”

ROFL! As a lifelong Pennsylvanian and current Phila Area resident, I agree.

As another Philly area resident, I'll second that characterization of Pennsyltucky! Over and over again I see voting patterns, and outrageous statements and bills by our state legislators, that leave me shaking my head and wondering "WHAT were they thinking?"

Ruth, and Cat, are you in the Philly area that on Tuesday went Demo for the first time in decades?

I'm just north of Philly, though I used to live there. Grinning Cat is a Philadelphian.

L'esprit de l'escalier: the penultimate paragraph would have been stronger starting with "Before taking office, both you and the justices swore to support not the supremacy of the Republican Party, but rather...."

In the wake of the grand jury report on the sexual abuse of more than a thousand children by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania, an email alert from Center for Inquiry is asking us to call on our state legislators to, in CFI's words:

  • Support HB 612, a bill that gives the victims of the crimes in the report two years to file suit against their abusers.
  • Support SB 261, which would extend the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors until the victim is 50 years old.
  • Repeal Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23, Section 6304–literally titled “Exclusions from child abuse”–which privileges religion by providing an exemption for religiously-motivated medical neglect.  
    [My note: or at the very least repeal Section 6304 (b) "Practice of religious beliefs"; see below]

(My state representative is a cosponsor of HB 612. I'll be thanking him on Monday. Only three senators are listed for SB 261.)

There should be absolutely NO privilege for "Practice of religious beliefs" in the law. (Reasonable accomodations for religious and secular people, yes, that's different.) Title 23, Section 6304 has a subsection (b) with that title, setting out conditions on when denial of medical care isn't considered child abuse.

"(b)  Practice of religious beliefs.--If, upon investigation, the county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of sincerely held religious beliefs of the child's parents or relative"-- [emphasis is goddamned mine] STOP RIGHT THERE. If a kid didn't get medical or surgical care they needed, because of a responsible adult's willful or neglectful action or inaction, that's child abuse. Period. Full stop. Doesn't matter if Jesus or Allah or Siva or Zeus or the Great Juju at the Bottom of the Sea or some other "bona fide religion" allows it. Even if the kid doesn't die, and their "long-term health" isn't found to be threatened -- every kid has the right to a good and healthy life, and to not suffer and be sick needlessly, whatever their parents' deeply and sincerely held beliefs. "Parental rights" (to be ignorant assholes) should never trump children's interests.

And a county agency just might turn a blind eye to parents letting their kids suffer in the name of the local socially approved Absolutely True Fairytales, as opposed to those other, obviously false and ridiculous and dangerous fairytales.

Section 6304 has a variety of other exclusions, it turns out. I am not a lawyer or a child welfare worker; how many of these are legitimately necessary?

“(a) Environmental factors” e.g. “inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing, and medical care ... beyond the control of the parent...” (not applicable to child care services)
“(c) Use of force for supervision, control and safety purposes” (with conditions)
“(d) Rights of parents.--Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to restrict the generally recognized existing rights of parents to use reasonable force on or against their children for the purposes of supervision, control and discipline of their children. Such reasonable force shall not constitute child abuse.” [Too easily abused, I'd think!]
“(e) Participation in events that involve physical contact with child” (sports etc.)
“(f) Child-on-child contact” (unless the acting child is a “perpetrator” above age 14, or in cases of rape, sexual assault, etc.)
“(g) Defensive force” - “Reasonable force for self-defense or the defense or another individual...”

Is it necessary to keep any of these in light of Sec. 6303 (c) “Restatement of culpability.--Conduct that causes injury or harm to a child or creates a risk of injury or harm to a child shall not be considered child abuse if there is no evidence that the person acted intentionally, knowingly or recklessly when causing the injury or harm to the child or creating a risk of injury or harm to the child.”?

Again, I'm not a lawyer; anyone know more?

The Pennsylvania House just passed SB 261 in a 173-21 vote. Apparently it was amended in the House to add the two-year window for civil suits; this version would, according to Friendly Atheist,

  • Get rid of all statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse cases.
  • Extend the deadline for civil cases against abusers and those supervising them to age 50. (It’s currently 30.)
  • Create a two-year window for past victims to sue their abusers if they’re currently timed out of the legal system due to a statute of limitations.

"That last one is a really big deal, because it would allow victims who are much older today — and who have a much clearer understanding of what happened to them — to sue their abusers. Many of them are speaking out these days but have no legal option available to them because the crimes occurred decades ago. Now, they could do something about it."

"This is such sensible legislation… so why isn’t its passage a foregone conclusion?

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference [...] did raise concerns last week. The biggest concern? Money. The creation of a two-year window for victims who are currently shut out of the legal system would lead the Church into bankruptcy."

"[...] while the details may change, the broad strokes of this bill are good for victims seeking justice. Republicans fighting to eliminate the two-year window would effectively be saying they don’t care about abuse that happened decades ago. The campaign ads for their opponents would write themselves.

If you live in Pennsylvania, call your state senators and urge them to vote for its passage without delay."

(bolding and ellipses mine)

"PA House Passes Bill Creating Two-Year Window for Old Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits" (Friendly Atheist)

SB0261 PN2003 (bill text)

Here's the final 173-21 state House vote on Senate Bill 261. All but one of the 21 "nays" were from Republicans. (Yet the party pretends to have any moral authority.)

If you live in Pennsylvania, it can't hurt to thank (or criticize, as appropriate) your state representative!

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