Thursday, June 23, 2011

24 hour victories

When defending civil liberties at a state legislature that is hostile to them, we have to hang our hat on all victories, no matter how small, even if they last just a few months, a few weeks, or even 24 hours.

Yesterday had the potential to be a rough day at the PA General Assembly, particularly in the House. Somehow we came out of it almost completely unscathed.

Voter ID, HB 934: We expected the House to vote on final passage. It never happened. The House adjourned abruptly just after 4pm without a vote on the bill. Also, more good news on this front yesterday. The AARP of Pennsylvania sent a letter to all House members expressing their opposition.

I still expect this bill to get a vote today or at least before the summer recess. But we'll take victories where we can get them. Rep. Mike Sturla of Lancaster had some insight on the two week delay of this bill earlier this month:
House GOP leaders delayed this bill as long as they could, but, needing budget votes from the Paranoid Delusional faction within the Republican Caucus, we now find ourselves devoting hours to debating a voter suppression bill, rather than, you know, discussing a state budget.

ID for aid, SB 9: More "papers, please" legislation. This bill denies public aid to anyone who is unable to produce government-issued ID. The House State Government Committee was expected to take up this bill but instead held it over. The bill will be part of a series of hearings the committee is going to hold over the summer on immigration issue. Mind you, without credible evidence of ineligible persons receiving benefits, it's not an immigration issue at all but is, instead, a poverty issue.

Publicly-funded private school vouchers, SB 1/HB 1708: There were some signs that a compromise on school vouchers might be jammed through before the legislature finishes the state budget, which is due June 30. On Tuesday, the House Education Committee posted notice of hearings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday on this issue. But the Democratic chairman of the committee, Rep. James Roebuck of West Philly, objected because the notice did not follow House rules on sunshining a hearing. To his credit, the majority chairman, Rep. Paul Clymer of Bucks County, agreed and promptly cancelled both hearings.

There was some bad news...

Abortion coverage in the insurance exchanges created by healthcare reform, SB 3: We got crushed. This bill was voted out of the House Insurance Committee on a vote of 22-2. The legislature is struggling to finish the budget by the June 30 deadline (and completely missed their own goal of finishing it by the end of May) but has plenty of time to deal with abortion, apparently.

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