Friday, January 31, 2014

A Candidate for New Hampshire's U.S. Senate Seat from Pennsylvania? Why Not?

A new candidate for New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race launched his campaign during a press conference at the New Hampshire State House on Monday, January 27.
Michael Morrill announced he is running for United States Senate from the state of New Hampshire, seeking the Republican nomination in the primary. Morrill does not believe the fact that he currently lives in Pennsylvania will be a detriment to his campaign.
“There's an open seat in the Republican Senate primary and someone has to fill it. Why not me?” Morrill said. “Like Scott Brown and Bob Smith, I see this race as pure opportunity.”
The tongue-in-cheek press conference was organized by Granite State Progress to highlight the absurdity of the candidates jumping into NH's open Republican Primary for U.S. Senate. Morrill is the executive director of Keystone Progress, Granite State Progress’ sister organization in Pennsylvania.
"Morrill's intent to run for U.S. Senate may not be real, but his New Hampshire credentials are and follow the same logic that Massachusetts’s Scott Brown and former Sen. Bob Smith, most recently of Florida, are using to justify their presence in New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “New Hampshire voters will choose for themselves who they want to represent them, but let’s not forget that Brown and Smith are jumping into this race out of political opportunity, pure and simple.”
Following the press conference, Morrill poses for traditional candidate photos in the State House and around Concord. Expect this to be a theme revisited as long as out of area candidates seek to jump into New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race.

The Push for Pot: Hearing Held on PA Medical Marijuana Bill

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Parents of children who suffer from epileptic seizures were among those testifying before a Pennsylvania Senate committee in Harrisburg this week, asking lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana.

Deena Kenny says her 17-year-old son deals not only with seizures, but also autism and mental retardation, and his medications come with major side effects that even include violence.

Kenny says she has collected vast amounts of information on marijuana's medical uses and wants an opportunity to see if her son could benefit from it.

"I do not know if cannabis will help my son, but I can say what it won't do,” she says. “It won't damage his liver. It won't give him diabetes.

“It won't cause blindness or turn his skin blue. It won't cause him to beat me. The same can't be said for his current medications."

The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach and Republican Sen. Mike Folmer, would allow Pennsylvanians with legitimate medical needs to obtain medical marijuana with a doctor's permission.

Gov. Tom Corbett has said repeatedly he opposes the idea.

Leach is convinced medical marijuana may offer a last hope for families like those who testified at the hearing, and he says there's no time to waste.

"Every day that goes by, there are kids who are dying,” he maintains. “And there are people who, every night, they put their kid to bed not knowing if he's going to wake up in the morning."

Josh Stanley is co-founder of the group Realm of Caring, based in Colorado, where medical – and recreational – marijuana are legal.

He told lawmakers his group's aim is to better the quality of life for people with such serious conditions as cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and epilepsy.

"Now it's really time for states like Pennsylvania to come in with regulated, responsible statewide structure,” he says, “that can help myriads of these children here that need this, who should not have to move to Colorado."

Monday, January 27, 2014

13th CD Candidate Debate (Video)

13th CD Candidate Forum with Valerie Arkoosh, Daylin Leach, and Brendan Boyle.  Sponsored by the Montco chapter of Democracy for America.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

“Tea Party Scorecard” Finds Pennsylvania’s Swing-District Republicans Vote with Tea Party 75 Percent of the Time

Joe Pitts Leads the Pack With 88 Percent, Mike Fitzpatrick Voted 73 Percent of the Time with the Tea Party, Pat Meehan Has a 71 Percent Tea Party Loyalty Score and Charlie Dent Voted 69 Percent of the Time

Washington DC – While nationally, Pennsylvania is increasingly seen as a solid blue state, on the local level the Tea Party has a strong grip on the Republican Party, resulting in a mismatch between many Republican Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the moderate to Democratic districts they represent. Such were the findings of“Tea Stained,” a groundbreaking new legislative scorecard compiled by Americans United for Change.
“Tea Stained” details the voting records of 47 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are running for reelection in statistically swing districts or who are facing significant reelection challenges.  As a group, these Members voted for Tea Party priorities 81 percent of the time.
The four House Republicans who fall into this category in Pennsylvania voted with the Tea Party an average of 75 percent of the time, the scorecard found. Leading the pack in Tea Party loyalty was Rep. Joe Pitts, with a score of 88 percent. He is followed closely by Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (73 percent), Rep. Pat Meehan (71 percent) and Rep. Charlie Dent (69 percent).
Worth noting is that the three greater Philadelphia-area members would have markedly higher loyalty scores but for their bucking the Tea Party on three votes related to Hurricane Sandy, which hit the area they represent.  Without the Sandy votes, Fitzpatrick would have scored 78, Meehan 76 and Dent 75.
The scorecard measures Tea Party loyalty based on 48 recorded votes. The votes scored either appear in the scorecards of Tea Party-affiliated groups Americans for Prosperity or Freedomworks or both or represent the Tea Party’s core values – obsession with the Affordable Care Act – or the Tea Party’s major accomplishment for 2013 – shutting down the government.
“Americans United undertook this project in the wake of the two-week, Tea Party orchestrated government shutdown that brought America to the brink of economic disaster. The American people were furious and disgusted and Republican Members of Congress in all but the reddest districts knew they had to somehow differentiate themselves from the Tea Party extremists who were being – rightly – blamed for this mess,” Americans United for Change President Brad Woodhouse explained. “And so they ... talked. They didn’t vote against the Tea Party ideologues who had masterminded this disaster. They didn’t take a stand where it really matters, on the floor of the House. But in the press and on TV, they made every effort to sound rational and moderate, as if they were making a real effort to buck the Tea Party.
“Voters deserve better. Whether they embrace the Tea Party ideology or despise it or fall anywhere in between, they have a right to know where their elected representatives fall on the Tea Party spectrum – not where they say they fall, but how they actually vote. That is what the Tea Party Scorecard provides. What it proves, unfortunately for non-extremists who are represented by Republicans, is that there is no longer a meaningful distinction between the Tea Party and the Republican Party in American politics today.”

Friday, January 17, 2014

Commonwealth Court Overturns PA's Voter ID Law- Tell AG Kane not to appeal

Commonwealth Court Overturns PA's Voter ID Law-
Tell AG Kane not to appeal

The great news is that Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said the Pennsylvania Voter ID bill is unconstitutional.

He ruled that the law is "invalid and unconstitutional on its face as the provision and issuance of compliant identification does not comport with liberal access and unreasonably burdens the right to vote.

“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal.”

Now the bad news.  It is still possible for the law to be appealed.  PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane  defended the Voter ID law before Commonwealth Court.  She may appeal the ruling to PA's Supreme Court.

 If she does appeal, the Voter ID law may be reinstated.

Tell Attorney General Kane that we agree with Judge McGinley.  Voter ID is “invalid and unconstitutional on its face.”  Do not appeal Voter ID to the Supreme Court.

Click here to send your message

Internet-Freedom Advocates: Appeals Court Strikes "Huge Blow"

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

 PHILADELPHIA – It's being called a huge blow to all Internet users. 

A federal court ruled this week in favor of Verizon, striking down Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules that regulate the Web.

The ruling means broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast could charge Netflix, ESPN and other content providers higher prices for faster download speeds, creating Internet fast lanes.

Josh Levy, Internet campaign director for the watchdog group Free Press, says in its court arguments in the case against the FCC, Verizon revealed a broader goal.

"It actually said that it has the right to treat the Internet as a newspaper, and it would be the editor of that newspaper,” he points out. “And it would have the right to block or not block whatever content flows over its pipes."

Philadelphia-based Comcast, which has opposed net neutrality, issued a statement saying the company has consistently supported the Commission's Open Internet Order as an appropriate balance of protection of consumer interests while not interfering with companies' network management and engineering decisions.

The FCC's new chairman, Tom Wheeler, says the agency might appeal the ruling.

"We think this is a huge blow to all Internet users, who can now expect Internet service providers to block any content on the Internet, at will,” Levy says of the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. “And right now, there's no cop on the beat that will be able to stop them from doing so."

The court acknowledged that the FCC has the authority "to promulgate rules governing broadband providers' treatment of Internet traffic."

Levy maintains this gives the agency a chance to rewrite the provisions.

"They were struck down because they weren't passed in the right way,” he contends. “And so, what we need is for the FCC to pass strong protections for Internet users in the right way."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Collaboration is Key to Controlling PA's Polluted Runoff

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

HARRISBURG, Pa. - From trash to fertilizers to pet waste, polluted runoff in Pennsylvania waterways is a growing concern. Now, there's an effort to give communities the tools they need to get a better handle on it.

Harry Campbell, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania, said pollution that gets its start on a city street, a suburban parking lot or even a rooftop, can end up doing damage far away.

"Urban and suburban polluted runoff impairs over 2,500 miles of streams in Pennsylvania," he said, "and is one of the leading causes of pollution affecting not only the Susquehanna River but ultimately the Chesapeake Bay."

In York County, Campbell said, the planning commission and others have put together a watershed implementation plan to help guide the initiative.

"The York County effort is a prime example of dealing with polluted runoff from urban and suburban communities in a way that yields multiple benefits, at multiple scales, at the least cost," Campbell said.

Taking aim at pollution by helping communities help themselves brings about benefits that extend beyond the local waterways, he said.

"Hopefully, at the end of the day," Campbell said, "that will not only create a better environment, reduce flooding, but also improve our quality of life, our communities and the economic vitality of them."

Campbell said the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has launched a pilot program of educational and technical resources for communities to help them reduce polluted runoff. York is one of two counties in the program, and the first in the state to look at curbing the pollution from a county level.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

1st Bill from PA Agenda for Women's Health Passes House

YOUR ACTION MADE A DIFFERENCE! 1st Bill from PA Agenda for Women's Health Passes House 
Today, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 1796 after adopting amendment A05141 on the House floor. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) believes a victim of a crime should never be punished for seeking help from those who are charged to serve and protect. In response to your advocacy, your Representatives showed that they agree! Please click here to thank your Representative for supporting victims of domestic violence by voting "YES" to House Bill 1796. 

House Bill 1796, sponsored by Representative Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), would prohibit local nuisance ordinances from penalizing tenants for calling police to respond to domestic violence and other emergencies. Rep. Stephens recently offered amendment A05141 to the bill that would ensure victims are protected from nuisance ordinances whether or not the person making the call to police knows that a crime is taking place within the home.

Victims should not be forced to make the impossible choice between stable housing and police protection. The case of Briggs v. Borough of Norristown illustrates the harsh options with which victims are faced. Ms. Briggs, the plaintiff in the case, was repeatedly attacked by her abuser, but each time refrained from calling the police because she feared that calling for help would result in her eviction due to a nuisance ordinance. Ms. Briggs' fears came true after a particularly brutal attack in which her ex-boyfriend slashed her throat with broken glass. After the attack, a neighbor called for emergency assistance. Ms. Briggs was airlifted to the hospital, and shortly thereafter the city forced her landlord to institute eviction proceedings. 

The bill will now move to the state Senate for consideration. 


QUESTIONS? Contact Abigail Hurst, PCADV Policy Specialist, at or 717-545-6400x157 for more information. 

Keystone Progress Announces Participants in Lieutenant Governor Debate

Candidates to face off on March 1, 2013 at PA Progressive Summit in Harrisburg

(HARRISBURG, PA)—Keystone Progress announced that it is hosting a second major debate at the 2014 Pennsylvania Progressive Summit ( in addition to the already-scheduled gubernatorial debate.

Brad Koplinski, Mark Smith, Brenda Alton and Mike Stack will face questions from an audience made up of progressive activists and leaders from across the state.  (Candidates listed in order of confirmation of attendance.)

All other potential and declared candidates were invited to participate but have not yet responded.
The debate will be held on March 1, 2014 at 12:00 PM at the Hilton Harrisburg.  It is expected that one thousand progressive leaders and activists will be in attendance at the Summit.

“We are excited about the impact that our debate will have,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress.  “Since this is the first Lieutenant Governor debate it is an incredible opportunity for the progressive community to set the agenda for the entire campaign.”

Questions will come from the sponsoring organizations and from the audience, which will be made up of participants in the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit.  Hundreds of progressive grassroots and netroots leaders and activists will be gathering the weekend of the debate to network and discuss the progressive agenda for 2014 and beyond.

This is the fifth Pennsylvania Progressive Summit, and the third in Harrisburg.  The Summit is organized by Keystone Progress,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Solutions That Work: "Required Reading" for PA Governor, Lawmakers

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The head of the union representing teachers and other public employees in Pennsylvania says the union’s new 100-page report on education should be required reading for Gov. Tom Corbett and state lawmakers. 

Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), says the report – Solutions That Work – details 20 research-based, classroom initiatives proven to help students learn.

"We've taken a look at every aspect of the school environment,” Crossey explains, “and we put together a series of resolutions and a series of suggestions that we know work for kids, make kids the best they can be."

The report looks at issues facing schools, ranging from class size to dropout rates, to poverty.

Crossey says despite some school funding being restored by the General Assembly, Pennsylvania's public schools today remain more than $700 million below their funding levels of just three years ago.

He says the report has been years in the making.

"We have these policymakers across the street and they'd say to us, 'Well, you know, we want to do this,'” he explains. “And we'd go, 'Well, that doesn't work.' Finally, somebody said, 'What do you want?' And we said, 'Good idea – we'll tell you.'"

Crossey emphasizes the report is not intended to be an agenda for PSEA.

"It doesn't talk about teachers, other than the fact that, you know – professional development and those kind of things,” he says. “This entire document is about helping our children in our public schools be more successful."

REPORT: Pennsylvania Rates a D On Reproductive Health Care

Pennsylvania Rates D, U.S. a C-

According to a new report from the Population Institute, an international family planning nonprofit, the United States barely earns a passing grade on several measures of reproductive health care. Thirteen states failed the test — which includes rankings for affordable health care options and effective family planning resources — dragging theaverage score for the entire nation down to an unimpressive “C minus”:
repro map
The Population Fund notes that while most Americans may be aware of the bleak national headlines about ongoing assaults on reproductive rights, they may not realize exactly where their own state stands. The group calculated each state’s grade based on factors like access to emergency contraception, comprehensive sex ed requirements, funding for government-run family planning clinics, abortion restrictions, the number of its residents who live in a county that lacks an abortion clinic, whether its Medicaid program has been expanded under Obamacare.

The report authors note that the country is a “historic crossroads” when it comes to reproductive health. On one hand, the implementation of Obamacare represents a huge step forward for the women who will gain access to affordable insurance, including no-cost coverage for a range of preventative health services specific to their gender. On the other hand, fierce state-level attacks on family planning programs and abortion clinics are putting health care out of reach for many women.
Read full article at Think Progress.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Expert: Despite Deep Freeze, World is Still Warming

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania and other parts of the nation are breaking out of a deep freeze unlike any in decades.

But a climate expert at Ohio State University says the world is still warming.

Lonnie Thompson, who has studied the effects of climate on glaciers around the globe, says public opinion on climate change tends to shift in response to cold weather patterns.

"We have a tendency to say, 'Well, if it's cold here, the world must be getting colder,'” he explains. “Well, this is not true. We live on a huge planet. It's a complex system, and that natural variability that's always been with us continues, even though the longer-term trend is toward warming."

Thompson points out conditions we've seen in recent days and climate figures are averages based on the weather.

And, while the world does go through ice ages and warming periods, he explains it's the longer-term rate of change that is prompting alarm about the earth's warming pattern.

Thompson says each of the past three decades has been hotter than the one before – and those three decades were hotter than at any time in the previous 1,400 years.

In his travels, Thompson has studied glaciers, tree rings, corals and other bio-records to find the natural indicators of climate change. He says scientific data tells the same story.

"If you look at the instrumental records, eight of the nine warmest years in that 132-year record have occurred since 2000,” he says. “So, the world hasn't stopped warming – it just happens to be cold right now."

Thompson adds that the current frigid temperatures, as well as other so-called extreme weather events, could be connected to climate change.

And some scientists think it's through a chain reaction starting with the warming of the Arctic.

"A number of papers have been published suggesting that the loss of sea ice in the Arctic has caused larger undulations in our jet stream, which allows these Arctic air masses to penetrate further to the south, and also warm air to move further to the north," Thompson explains.

When considering the changing climate, he says it's important to look at what's happening on a global scale.

While it may have been below zero in Pennsylvania on Monday, it was 34 degrees Fahrenheit in Anchorage, Alaska.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Keystone Progress PAC announces that it will endorse candidates for first time

(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Keystone Progress Political Action Committee (KPPAC) announced today that it will endorse candidates for the 2014 election cycle.  This will be the first time that the progressive organization will endorse candidates.

“Keystone Progress has grown to be one of the most powerful progressive organizations in Pennsylvania.  Our board of directors has recognized that we can have an impact beyond our usual issue-based work by getting actively involved in electing progressive candidates,” said Michael Morrill, speaking for the PAC. “We can’t win on our most important issues if we keep electing people who don’t share our values.”

Keystone Progress has hundreds of thousands of members who frequently take action on a variety of progressive issues.  Keystone Progress members will be encouraged to support endorsed candidates through their votes, volunteering for campaign work and by making contributions.

KPPAC has posted a questionnaire for candidates seeking its endorsement.  The questionnaire is available at

The endorsements will be announced on a rolling basis, with the first endorsements likely to be announced during the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit in Harrisburg, February 28-March 1.

Legalize Marijuana in Pennsylvania

Legalize Marijuana in Pennsylvania
Twelve years ago I made a proposal that to many people seemed crazy and out of touch.  I proposed the legalization of marijuana, allowing Pennsylvania farmers to grow it, the Commonwealth to regulate it and the state's Wine and Spirts Shoppes to sell it (bringing new meaning to the word “Spirits”).

Now, the idea is so mainstream that it marijuana in legal in Colorado and Washington state.  And it has been introduced as legislation in the Pennsylvania Senate. State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) has legislation that will allow marijuana to be grown and sold legally in PA.

“The modern prohibition of marijuana does a disservice to Pennsylvania by tying up our resources in the prosecution of its users; by depriving us of the revenue that this marijuana could generate; and by denying the Pennsylvanians suffering from terminal illnesses access to a natural medicine that could take away their pain,” Leach said. “It’s time we legalize marijuana and reap the benefits it has to offer.”

What benefits could we reap?
·      Money to balance the state budget. Based on national figures, there is at least $3.4 billion in illegal sales of marijuana in PA each year.  If we legalized it and taxed it at 6% it would generate $200 million.  If we sold it in the State Wine and Spirit Shoppes, we could generate another $680 million with a 20% markup.
·      Fewer people in prison, lower costs for taxpayers. Approximately 25,000 citizens are arrested annually in Pennsylvania for marijuana-related offenses, at a cost of some $325 million dollars.
·      Legal access to a widely used medicine.  Marijuana has legitimate medicinal uses and should be available to those who need it without risking arrest or dealing with underworld criminals.
·      A lucrative cash crop for PA farmers.  Those who choose to grow marijuana will have a crop that can reap great profits.
·      An end to organized crime dealing in marijuana.  Marijuana is the number money-maker for organized crime.  Legalizing ends their participation in its trafficking and the associated violence.

And that’s just the beginning.

It’s time to end the hypocrisy, help to balance our state budget and end the 21st century version of Prohibition.

Please join us by signing our petition to Legalize It!

In Solidarity, 
Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress

Equal Pay Bill Unveiled in PA Women's Rights Agenda

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A bill on the table in Harrisburg aims to ensure that women in Pennsylvania aren't making less money than men only because they're women.

House Bill 1890 would clarify the reasons why an employer could legitimately pay different wages to workers - such as for different levels of education, training and experience. Its sponsor, state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, said it also offers protections for a woman who wants to find out where she stands in terms of compensation.

"We're introducing legislation that's going to remove the barriers to employees and women that was preventing them from determining what their peers are making, from disclosing their salaries, and from really finding out if, in fact, they're being paid less than their peers because of their gender," he said.

While pay-equity laws have been around for four decades or more, Sims and co-sponsor, Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Allegheny, believe women are still being shortchanged. Sims called the bill a simple matter of fairness and a key part of the larger "Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health."

"When people are paid a fair wage, when people are paid at their full value, they have more opportunity to lead the type of quality life that I think that they should be entitled to," he said.

The bill is part of a larger package of legislation addressing such issues as workplace accommodations for pregnant women, increased eligibility for breast and cervical cancer screenings and protections for victims of domestic violence.

The bill's text is online at

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dangerous Elements Occur Naturally in Fracking Brine

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Research about naturally occurring chemicals, some radioactive, coming out of fracking wells suggests concerns for Pennsylvanians.

Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University, has studied the salty water that comes to the surface when Marcellus shale is fracked.

He says the brine contains things such as bromide and radium, which is naturally radioactive – and, he notes, the levels of bromide in Marcellus brine are very high.

Bromide is typically of little concern, but Vengosh says it combines in a dangerous way with the chlorine used to sterilize drinking water.

"This combination can generate a very toxic organic compound, could be very toxic if consumed by the people that use this water, from this utility," he explains.

Vengosh adds the oil and gas industries are exempted from the federal Clean Water Act – otherwise they'd have to clean up the brine before it gets into surface or groundwater.

Vengosh explains that radium in the brine ordinarily contains a very low level of radioactivity – but he has found it can accumulate in the sediment at water treatment facilities.

And he says there are reasons to think it may also bio-accumulate – or build up as organisms feed on each other, and even end up in the fish that people eat.

"It could move from bugs in the sediments into higher organism, higher-order organism and eventually end up with fish," he says.

The industry maintains it is recycling more of the fluids it uses, and insists it isn't harming water quality.

Vengosh agrees that more is being recycled, but he says the brine is very loosely regulated, and in many states its chemical content isn't even monitored.

He says the good news is that the brine can be treated and cleaned up.

"And it's doable,” he stresses. “There's no need for technological breakthroughs. All those technologies are available. The only question is the cost."