Archive | April 2014

Democrats increase edge in county voter registration

The Democratic Party has increased its margin as the majority party in Delaware County.

As of Tuesday, there were 386,696 registered voters in Delaware County. Democrats (171,188) outnumbered Republicans (168,941) by 2,247. There were 46,567 voters registered without affiliation or to another party.

The deadline for registering for the May 20 primary election was April 21.

Delaware County had long been a Republican stronghold, but Democrats first surpassed the GOP last September.

However, the Democrats’ new majority did not bring them any victories in the county election last November. The Republicans swept a county slate that included two county council seats and two seats on the Court of Common Pleas. The election cycle also included the county sheriff, register of wills and controller.

Delaware County  has seen a surge in Democratic registration within the last decade.

In 2002, the county had 327,453 registered voters – 196,614 Republicans and 99,296 Democrats. That continued an uptick from the previous decade. The county had 218,774 Republicans and 82,783 Democrats among 324,241 registered voters in 1992.

While the Democratic and Republican parties dominate political affiliation, registration numbers show county residents who claim to be affiliated with the following parties: Birthday, Bull Moose, Communist, Fascist, Good Neighbor, Halloween, Indepent (sic), Jedi, Natural Law, No Longer In Use, Pirate Party of the United States, S.Q.U.I.D., Whig and Wild.

 

 

Minimum wage bill fails to gain necessary support in Senate

Democrats in the U.S. Senate were unable to drum up the support needed today to vote on legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage – a top priority of President Barack Obama.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to begin debate on the Senate floor. The Senate voted 54-42 in a test vote.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act gradually would increase the $7.25 minimum wage to $10.10 over 30 months. Automatic annual increases would follow to adjust for inflation.

Democrats argue that increasing the minimum wage will lift people above the poverty line. Republicans claim the increase would be too expensive for employers and result in lost jobs.

In a survey released in February, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would eliminate 500,000 jobs but also increase the wages of 16.5 million people.

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., said enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) would decrease in Pennsylvania by 156,000 recipients, including 5,600 in Delaware County. Pennsylvania would save $207.5 million, including $7.5 million in Delco.

“Raising the minimum wage is about basic fairness and economic security for Pennsylvania’s workers and families,” Casey said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., released a statement saying he does not support a policy that could put hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

“Even worse, this bill will hit people who have fewer skills and younger workers the hardest – the very people who most need an opportunity to get into the workforce, get their first job and start their way up the economic ladder,” Toomey said.

Toomey said the Senate needs to move ahead on proposals that will put people to work, citing the Keystone XL pipeline, tax reform and federal worker training programs.

Increasing the minimum wage has been among the chief priorities of Senate Democrats, who are in danger of losing their majority in November’s mid-term elections. Had the bill passed the Senate, it was unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Candidates for 163rd District announce endorsements

Both candidates campaigning for the open seat in the 163rd Legislative District announced endorsements late this week.

Republican Jamie Santora gained the backing of the Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association while Democrat Vince Rongione was endorsed by the United Transportation Union.

The Fire Fighters Association represents more than 10,000 paid firefighters, EMTs and paramedics.

“I have the utmost respect for our emergency service personnel, and it means a lot to me to have the backing of our everyday heroes,” Santora, of Upper Darby, said in a statement. “As a member of the legislature, I will be a strong advocate for our first responders and will fight to ensure they have the funding and resources needed to do their jobs safely and effectively.”

The Transportation Union represents Delaware County’s Amtrak workers and SEPTA trolley and bus drivers.

“Creating jobs through public transportation and infrastructure improvements will be among my top priorities as State Representative for the 163rd District,” Rongione, of Upper Darby, said in a statement. “… I will be (a) tireless advocate for infrastructure improvements because it creates jobs, strengthens our economy, and makes our community a nicer place to live and raise a family.”

Santora and Rongione seek to replace Republican state Rep. Nicholas Micozzie, of Upper Darby. Micozzie is retiring at the end of his term.

Corbett announces Women for Corbett-Cawley coalition

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and First Lady Susan Corbett announced the formation of the Women for Corbett-Cawley coalition at a campaign stop Thursday in Media.

The coalition aims to spread Corbett’s campaign message in a grassroots manner. The coalition has broken the state into eight regions where regional chairs oversee county operatives.

Gov. Tom Corbett announces the formation of the Women for Corbett-Cawley coalition

Gov. Tom Corbett announces the formation of the Women for Corbett-Cawley coalition

It’s goal, Corbett said, is to preach his message: That he and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley delivered on their 2010 campaign promises of more jobs and less taxes.

“We need your help,” Corbett told the women assembled at D’Ignazio’s Towne House Restaurante. “These are campaigns. Campaigns are not just won with advertisements on TV. They are won at the grassroots level.”

Corbett faces a primary challenge from Ardmore businessman Bob Guzzardi, but his bigger battle likely will come in the general election. There are four gubernatorial candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, including York businessman Tom Wolf, who leads most polls.

In announcing the coalition, Susan Corbett praised her husband as being a “champion of women in the workforce,” highlighting the various high-ranking women who have worked under him. She noted that seven women head state agencies that combine to manage almost 90 percent of the state’s budget. Of Corbett’s 16 closest advisers, 10 are women, she said.

“He’s got a great track record of supporting and working with women,” Susan Corbett said. “… My husband says that he makes no concerted effort to hire women over men. He simply hires the best people for the job regardless of gender.”

The Corbetts also announced that Bernadette Comfort will chair the coalition. Comfort is the executive director of the Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series, a political leadership training program for women.

“We’re going to doing exactly what the Governor said – taking the message to the people at the grassroots level and in our everyday lives,” Comfort said. “We’ll be taking the facts about the Corbett-Cawley administration to the people and talking about the record that they’re running on.”

David Landau, chairman of the Delaware County Democratic Party, said Corbett’s record on women’s issues is “terrible,” adding that no amount of press conferences or election-year organizations will enable him overcome it.

“At first I thought this was a bad joke because Tom Corbett has the worst record imaginable on women’s issues,” Landau said.

Landau cited the “just close your eyes” remark Corbett made two years ago regarding legislation that would have required women to undergo mandatory ultrasound examinations 24 hours before having an abortion.

Landau also noted that Pennsylvania has fallen precipitously from its January 2011 ranking as being the seventh-highest state for job creation. Pennsylvania now ranks 45th, according to Arizona State University, a factor Landau said greatly impacts women.

 

Rongione nets endorsement from Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 endorsed Vince Rongione for the open seat in the 163rd Legislative District.

Rongione is running for state House against Republican Jamie Santora. They seek to fill the seat being vacated by retiring state Republican state Rep. Nicholas Micozzie, of Upper Darby.

“I’m honored to have the support of Local 19 and all of their members in 163rd,” Rongione said in a statement. “With the right priorities, we can turn Pennsylvania’s economy around and bring good paying jobs to Delaware County. I’m excited to work with the Sheet Metal Workers to accomplish that.”

The union has 4,300 members across 23 counties in the state.

Rongione, of Upper Darby, also has been endorsed by United Steelworkers Local 10-1, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 614, Plumbers Local 690 and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776.

Santora, an Upper Darby Republican, said he will be announcing a list of his own endorsements in the future.

“I would have loved to have had a chance to sit down with the local myself,” Santora said. “I’m going to bring a new approach to Harrisburg — not partisan politics.”

Pennsylvania Business Council PAC endorses Margo Davidson

State Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164, of Upper Darby, received the endorsement of the political action committee affiliated with the Pennsylvania Business Council.

Davidson, who faces a challenge in the Democratic primary, was among seven incumbent House members endorsed by the organization’s political action committee. The group backed four Democrats and three Republicans.

“These seven House members all supported both the recent Transportation overhaul legislation and the ‘Apology’ bill, a tort reform measure which prohibits plaintiffs from using most physician apologies against them in court,” PBC President David W. Patti said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania Business Council founded its political action committee in 1972. The PAC bills itself as the oldest, pro-business PAC in Pennsylvania.

According to the endorsement announcement, the PAC supports candidates “who are best for the business community without regard to political party membership.”

Davidson is seeking her third term in Harrisburg. She faces a primary challenge from Billy Smith, of Lansdowne, and Dafan Zhang, of East Lansdowne. Davidson also has the endorsement of the Delaware County Democratic Party.

Saud Siddiqui, of Upper Darby, is running for the seat as a Republican.

A quick look at Meehan, Balchunis and Brady’s campaign finance reports

The first-quarter campaign finance filing deadline for federal candidates was yesterday. Here’s a quick look at the campaign funding raised by each of Delaware County’s candidates for the House of Representatives.

  • Incumbent Patrick Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, reported receiving $149,014 during the first quarter, including $141,575 in campaign contributions. He received $65,575 from individual donors and $76,000 from political action committees. Meehan reported $130,772 in operating expenses, leaving him with $1.6 million at hand.
  • Meehan’s Democratic opponent, Mary Ellen Balchunis, reported receiving $10,119 in campaign contributions, including $8,795 from individual donors. She raised $1,000 from political action committees and $324 from candidate contributions. Balchunis, of Ardmore, reported $506 in operating expenses, leaving her with $9,612 at hand.
  • Incumbent Robert Brady, D-1, of Philadelphia, reported receiving $90,307 during the first quarter, including $90,075 in campaign contributions. Brady received $72,075 from individual donors and $18,000 from political action committees. He reported $65,869 in disbursements, including $62,934 in operating expenses. Brady has $695,640 in hand.
  • Brady’s Republican opponent, Megan Rath, did not file a first-quarter campaign finance report.

Check out the Daily Times later this week for a closer look at the candidates’ reports.

Save Upper Darby Arts endorses Billy Smith for state House

The political action committee formed by Save Upper Darby Arts announced it is endorsing Billy Smith for state House.

Smith, a lawyer from Lansdowne, is challenging state Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164, of Upper Darby in the Democratic primary. Dafan Zhang, a law student from East Lansdowne, also is running as a Democrat.

Saud Siddiqui, the chief operating officer of Upper Darby Caring Foundation, is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

Save Upper Darby Arts formed as a grassroots organization two years ago to prevent drastic cuts to Upper Darby School District’s art, music, physical education, library, technology and foreign language programs.

The group attracted national media attention by producing an online video and gathering more than 22,000 petition signatures. The group’s efforts led the General Assembly to restore $2.726 million to Upper Darby.

Chairperson Colleen Kennedy released a statement saying the endorsement is “the most important endorsement we will make this election cycle.” The statement said the PAC is backing Smith because Davidson previously voted in support of a vouchers amendment and also accepted campaign donations from Students First, a political action committee supporting school choice.

 

State Senate committee approves bill banning cash gifts

The Senate State Government Committee unanimously approved legislation Monday that bans cash gifts to legislators and public officials.

Senate Bill 1327 would prohibits legislators and public officials from accepting cash gifts from lobbyists and other individuals seeking to influence the legislative process. Violators accepting a cash gift of more than $250 would face a maximum fine of $10,000 and a maximum prison sentence of five years.

The legislation is a bipartisan response to a dropped state investigation in which four state legislators allegedly failed to document cash gifts totaling $16,750.

“State residents deserve to know that the decision-making process in the legislature is driven solely by the desire to enact good public policy,” state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-13, of Lancaster County, said in a statement. “Substantial reforms are necessary to prevent abuses of the legislative process and begin the process of restoring the public’s faith in state government.”

Similar bipartisan legislation is being considered in the state House of Representatives.

McGarrigle proposes severance tax on natural gas companies

Republican state Senate candidate Tom McGarrigle unveiled his plan to raise state education funding by levying a severance tax on natural gas companies.

McGarrigle said implementing a 4 percent severance tax on natural gas will generate $1.6 billion in new state revenue over the course of two years. The tax would raise $709 million in its first year and another $887 million in its second.

All of the funding would be devoted to public education, McGarrigle said. The revenue also would be required to supplement – not replace – existing education funding sources.

McGarrigle

Tom McGarrigle announces his plan to raise education funding by taxing natural gas companies.

“There is broad support from residents across Pennsylvania to create a severance tax on natural gas drilling companies,” McGarrigle said, who also is the chairman of Delaware County Council. “The difference with my plan is the entire 4 percent tax will supplement existing funding for basic education. That means more money being spent in classrooms to educate students.”

McGarrigle, of Springfield, is running against Democrat John Kane, of Ridley Township, for the open seat in the 26th Senatorial District. The seat is being vacated by retiring Republican state Sen. Edwin “Ted” Erickson, of Newtown.

Pennsylvania has the lowest effective tax rate on natural gas drilling companies among 11 states in the region, according to a study released last month by the state’s nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office. Pennsylvania has not levied a severance tax, but has enacted an impact fee.

McGarrigle’s proposal would maintain the impact fee while also imposing a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drilling companies.

“We don’t want to overtax them and drive them out of Pennsylvania, but they need to pay their fair share,” McGarrigle said.

State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-7, of Philadelphia, announced last month that he plans to introduce legislation to levy a 5 percent severance tax. His proposal would generate $720 million in its first year and earmark $375 million to education funding.

McGarrigle said he would back any plan that raises education funding by taxing natural gas companies.

“We should get behind good ideas, whether they’re from a Democrat or a Republican,” McGarrigle said. “School districts need more funding to educate these children. Whoever provides it – we should look for good ideas.”

Kane, the business manager of Plumbers Union Local 690, also supports levying an extraction tax on natural gas companies.

“I want to applaud Tom for standing with me and the Senate Democrats on the issue of adequately funding education by proposing a modest tax on natural gas extraction,” Kane said in a statement. “I’m glad that we both can bring support and publicize this idea, which has broad support among Delaware County residents.

“My only hope is that as the campaign progresses, my opponent continues to stand up for the interests of Delaware County instead of the interests of his party.”

Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican seeking re-election, has opposed implementing a severance tax, arguing it would deter investment.