Ohio Democrats Release Records on DeWine Seeking Legal Advice on FirstEnergy

On Wednesday, the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) released new records pertaining to the FirstEnergy scandal, indicating that Governor Mike DeWine (R) frequently spoke with a “risk communications team” as well as attorneys including Ohio Attorney General David Yost (R) concerning the issue. 

Jeff Crossman and Taylor Sappington, respectively Democratic candidates for Ohio attorney general and Ohio Auditor, are also publicizing these documents via their campaign websites to underscore what their party suggests is increasing evidence of culpability on DeWine’s part. (Crossman will face Yost in this November’s election; Sappington is running against incumbent Auditor Keith Faber.)

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Bucks County Lawmakers Propose Mandatory Prison for Unlawful Gun Possession in Pennsylvania

Two state legislators with districts just northeast of violence-plagued Philadelphia announced this week they plan to introduce legislation mandating prison time for anyone convicted of keeping a firearm illegally in the Keystone State.

Representatives Frank Farry (R-Langhorne) and Kathleen “K.C.” Tomlinson (R-Bensalem) propose sentences of under two years for a first breach of gun-possession restrictions. Recidivists, however, would incur longer terms.

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Ohio Supreme Court Rules for Gibson’s Bakery over Oberlin College

Ohio’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with Gibson’s Bakery in its libel case against Oberlin College, declining to hear the school’s appeal and permitting the family-owned establishment to collect over $36 million in damages. 

The litigation against Oberlin and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo stemmed from uncorroborated accusations of racism that the Gibson family believes initially cost their store half its patronage. In June 2019, a Lorain County court ordered the school to pay the bakers $32 million. About $4.5 million in interest has accumulated since that ruling. 

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Ohio GOP Vice Chair Williams Announces Bid for Chair, Voices Concern About ‘Unlawful’ Vote Postponement

Ohio Republican Party (ORP) Vice Chairman Bryan Williams on Monday announced he will seek election as the committee’s chairman at a reorganization meeting to be held on September 9. 

It is widely anticipated within the party that incumbent Chairman Bob Paduchik will seek reelection as the ORP’s leader. Williams and other reform-minded conservatives close to the ORP anticipate, based on statements they say the’ve heard from Paduchik, that the chair will seek to defer the leadership elections to a meeting in January of next year, something party leaders have done in the past. 

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Ryan to Appear with Biden in Ohio Despite President’s Low Approval Rating

U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), a candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio, said this weekend that he will make a public appearance alongside President Joe Biden despite the latter’s abysmal approval rating in the Buckeye State.

A July survey from Morning Consult indicated Biden suffered from a -23-point net approval rating in Ohio. Ryan is himself struggling to win sufficient favor with Ohioans in his race against Republican attorney, venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance who maintains a 3.7-point average polling lead against the Democrat according to RealClearPolitics.com. 

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Bill Proposed to Compensate the Wrongfully Convicted in Pennsylvania

Two Pennsylvania state legislators on Friday proposed a law to facilitate compensation for those who the commonwealth imprisons based on wrongful convictions. 

Representatives Frank Ryan (R-Palmyra) and Regina Young (D-Philadelphia) plan to introduce the legislation to bring Keystone State policy into line with 38 other states that indemnify exonerated people. 

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Ohio Senate Candidates Slam Biden’s Handout to Student Debtors

Both U.S. Senate candidates from Ohio criticized President Joe Biden for forgiving $300 billion in student-loan debt, with Republican J.D. Vance issuing a particularly scathing rebuke for what he called “an elite giveaway on the backs of American workers.”

“Today, in the midst of a historic inflation crisis, Joe Biden supplied a $300 billion giveaway to college graduates – paid for by single moms in the form of higher food prices, by trade workers in the form of higher taxes, and by the next generation of students in the form of higher tuition,” the attorney, venture capitalist and author said in a statement. 

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Pennsylvania Business Leaders Alert Lawmakers to Prosperity Hindrances

Pennsylvania’s House Republican Policy Committee on Thursday heard testimony from several small-business executives Thursday suggesting that unemployment compensation (UC) taxes among other issues pose major impediments to economic growth in the Keystone State. 

As The Pennsylvania Daily Star reported this week, Pennsylvania has lagged behind other states in terms of making up economic ground lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2022, about 6.17 million Pennsylvanians held jobs, a 2.8-percent rise over the same month one year prior. National employment meanwhile increased 3.7 percent during that time. 

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Language Finalized on Proposed Ohio Referendum Banning Noncitizen Voting

This week the Ohio Ballot Board finalized the wording of a referendum on a proposed state constitutional amendment to prohibit noncitizens from participating in local and state elections. 

A majority of Ohio voters will need to approve the measure during the November 8 election for the amendment to become law. The ballot question informs electors that the amendment would “require that only a citizen of the United States, who is at least 18 years of age and who has been a legal resident and registered voter for at least 30 days, can vote at any state or local election held in this state” and that the law would “prohibit local governments from allowing a person to vote in local elections if they are not legally qualified to vote in state elections.”

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School Choice Advocates Remind Philadelphia Parents of Options as District Workers Prepare to Strike

As unionized public-school staffers protest the School District of Philadelphia’s failure to assent to the union’s salary and training terms, threatening to strike at the beginning of the school year, school-choice advocates are reminding parents of alternatives.

Bus drivers, custodians, maintenance staff and other workers represented by the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ have authorized a strike that could compromise the resumption of schooling that is scheduled for next Monday. Pro-strike workers insist they are underpaid, noting that cleaners make roughly $16,000 per year at the low end. At the high end, construction inspectors make approximately $70,000.

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Billboards Advertise Choice as Teacher Strike Keeps Columbus Kids Out of School

As a teacher strike keeps Columbus students out of the classroom in the first week of the school year, advocates for Christian education are advertising private school choice on five billboards around the city. 

The signs read, “COLUMBUS CITY SCHOOLS LOCKS KIDS OUT… AGAIN,” referencing long periods during which schools were closed in response to COVID-19. The ads, placed by the Columbus-based Center for Christian Virtue (CCV), let passers by know that various Ohio school-choice programs are available to families, particularly low-income ones. CCV is encouraging interested parents to visit BackpackBill.com/Columbus to learn about these opportunities. 

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Report: Pennsylvania Job Openings Continue to Fall

A report released Monday by Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) shows that new Keystone-State employment opportunities fell in June, marking a three-month overall decline.

Examining numbers from the federal Department of Labor, the IFO found that around 393,000 new jobs opened in June. Although that number exceeds the 281,000-per-month average for job openings that preceded COVID-19 in 2020, it continues a downward slope that began after new employment offerings reached 514,000 in March.

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Court Orders Three Pennsylvania Counties to Count Undated Ballots

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court on Friday ordered three counties that declined to count undated absentee ballots to count them.

Republican Commonwealth Court President Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer issued the ruling affecting Berks, Fayette and Lancaster counties. Last month, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman (D) sued the three jurisdictions to compel them to include votes delivered in undated envelopes in their May 17 primary results. 

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In Tight Ohio Senate Race, Republicans Prepare Major Ad Buy

JD Vance

Republican JD Vance and U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) are locked in a tight race to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate, but the GOP is moving to push Vance ahead with a major advertising purchase.

The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) announced Thursday it will buy $28 million worth of broadcast ads to air across the Buckeye State beginning on Labor Day. National Republican organizations have spent only about $5 million in Ohio so far in Vances contest with Ryan.

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DeSantis Stumps for Vance in Youngstown, Ohio Suburbs

Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) came to the Youngstown area this weekend in support of Ohio Republican JD Vance’s U.S. Senate campaign against U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), whose district includes Youngstown.

“It is important that the people of Ohio send JD Vance to the U.S. Senate this year,” the Florida chief executive, whose mother is from Youngstown, told an audience at the Metroplex Expo Center in Girard. “Yes, Republicans need to take back the majority, and I think we will. But just as important as having the majority, we need people who are willing to go up there and do something with the majority; stop talking and actually get something done. And I think JD is somebody who’s going to be a leader and not just be a follower and we need that in that swamp more than ever.” 

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DeSantis: Electing Mastriano an ‘Opportunity to Make Pennsylvania Free’

Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) came to Pittsburgh this weekend to argue that his success governing Florida needs to be replicated in Pennsylvania and that state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-PA-Gettysburg) is the man to do it. 

The Adams County lawmaker is running against Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, someone who Mastriano and DeSantis believe will intensify the liberal governance the Keystone State has underwent during Tom Wolf’s eight-year administration. 

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Cook Report Signals Trouble for Oz, Though Fetterman’s Had a Rough Return to the Campaign Trail

The Cook Political Report this week changed its description of the Pennsylvania Senate race from “toss up” to “lean Democrat,” signaling trouble for Republican candidate Mehmet Oz, even as Democrat John Fetterman struggles with his return to the campaign trail. 

Cook’s shifting outlook on the Senate contest is partly a response to figures on the FiveThirtyEight data-analysis website showing that Oz, a celebrity doctor, trails Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, by an average of 11.5 percentage points. 

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DeSantis to Rally with Vance in Ohio and Mastriano in Pennsylvania

Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is coming through western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio on Friday, August 19, to speak at two rallies, one for Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and the other for Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance. 

The conservative activist organization Turning Point Action is hosting the events. In a statement, turning Point founder and president Charlie Kirk expressed his gladness to facilitate the rallies and his hope that DeSantis’s endorsement will “unite conservatives” around Mastriano and Vance.

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Pennsylvania Considers Open Primary Legislation

State Rep. Chris Quinn (R-PA-Media) this week testified before legislative colleagues in favor of his bill to open Pennsylvania primaries to voters who choose not to affiliate with a political party. 

About 1.2 million voters in Pennsylvania decline to register as members of either major party and over 740,000 consider themselves nonpartisan or independent. Quinn said he finds it troubling that current law requires many taxpayers to fund GOP and Democratic primaries while excluding those independents from participation in nominating elections. 

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Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Funds Raised to $100 Million

During a visit to the Whitehall Police Department this week, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) indicated he will expand funding for the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program from $58 million to $100 million, citing a nationwide spike in violence.

According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2011 and 2020 Uniform Crime Reports, homicides in the Buckeye State rose sharply in the decade between those years. Five hundred murders occurred in Ohio in 2011 and 820 took place in 2020. Regional figures also show violence worsening, with one poll of Franklin County police chiefs showing that aggravated assault increased by 36 percent in that jurisdiction between 2020 and 2021.

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Pennsylvania Legislator Proposes Abortion Insurance Mandate and Training Program

Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D-PA-Philadelphia) proposed two bills to promote abortion in the Keystone state: an abortion training program and a bill to require insurers to cover abortion without cost sharing. 

In a memorandum seeking cosponsors for her training measure, the democratic socialist representative from south Philadelphia indicated the legislation would bestow funding on the state Department of Health to provide medical professionals with up-to-date abortion instruction.

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Allan Domb Resigns from Philadelphia City Council, Anticipating Mayoral Run

Philadelphia City Councilman Allan Domb (D-At Large) announced this week he will leave his seat Tuesday as he considers a potential 2023 mayoral campaign. 

The luxury real-estate executive submitted his letter of resignation to Council President Darrell Clarke (D-5) on Monday. Therein, he celebrated what he considered his successes while on the city’s legislative board, including wage and corporate tax reduction, fiscal waste mitigation and increased public-education funding. Yet, he lamented, the City of Brotherly Love has further strides to make particularly concerning public safety. 

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State Representative Proposes Emergency Response Devices for Pennsylvania Schools

State Rep. Karen Boback (R-PA-Dallas) on Friday proposed legislation to equip Pennsylvania K-12 public schools with emergency response devices. 

The representative modeled her bill on “Alyssa’s Law,” named after Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student who was killed in the mass shooting that occurred on February 14, 2018. Alyssa’s Law, which Florida, New York, New Jersey and Nebraska have already enacted, requires all elementary and secondary schools to install panic alarms which are connected to area law-enforcement agencies. 

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Report: Text Messages Show Ohio Lieutenant Governor’s Involvement with FirstEnergy

Text messages between FirstEnergy Corp. executives indicate Ohio Lieutenant Governor John Husted (R) had discussions with company officials related to the scandal-plagued House Bill 6, according to a motion filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. 

In July 2019, Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed that measure into law, bailing out the FirstEnergy-operated Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants to $1.3 billion. Federal attorneys have since accused numerous political bigwigs, including former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, of partaking in a $61 million bribery scheme to enact the bill. The company has itself been smacked with a $230 million fine for its part in the scandal. 

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Renacci to Host Pro-MAGA Forum Series Starting in Medina, Ohio

Jim Renacci, a Republican former Ohio gubernatorial candidate who now chairs the pro-Trump American Greatness PAC, announced Friday he will host a series of forums across the Buckeye State this fall to foster conservative unity on political strategy. 

The first of these events will occur on the evening of September 15 at the Thirsty Cowboy in Medina. Subsequent forums will be announced at a later time. The events will also feature vendor tables for aligned political organizations.

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State Representative Pushes to Constitutionally Eliminate Pennsylvania School Property Taxes

State Representative Frank Ryan (R-PA-Palmyra) this week proposed amending the Pennsylvania Constitution to eliminate the portion of property taxes collected by localities to fund public schools.

In February, Ryan sponsored another bill to abolish school property taxes by statute; that measure has yet to receive a vote in the House of Representatives Finance Committee. While enacting a statute requires majority assent of the House and Senate and the signature of the governor, amending the state Constitution requires House and Senate approval in two consecutive sessions. The policy would then go before Pennsylvania voters as a ballot question for approval or rejection and the governor would play no role in that process.

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Republicans Condemn FBI Seizure of Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry’s Phone

One day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched former President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach home on Monday, agents seized the cell phone belonging to U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA-10), eliciting outrage on his side of the political aisle.

The FBI has refused to comment on the investigation, leaving it presently uncertain what messages or other data the bureau seeks to obtain from the lawmaker’s device. Perry, who represents Harrisburg, York and surrounding communities, has been at odds with Congress’s Democratic majority and Joe Biden’s White House over investigations related to the January 6, 2021 riot and Capitol Building breach. The U.S. House select committee probing the event issued a subpoena to the congressman with which he declined to comply.

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Ohio Republican Party Condemns FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik this week condemned the search of former President Donald Trump’s residence at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, FL that the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed on Monday.

Many in the ex-president’s party have expressed outrage that Biden Administration Attorney General Merrick Garland secured a warrant for federal agents to surprise Trump with a search of his home. No Justice Department has ever taken similar action to investigate a former commander-in-chief.

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Pennsylvania House Republicans Want Education Secretary’s Gender Policy Reversed — or His Resignation

Twenty Republican members of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives this week called on acting Pennsylvania Education Secretary Eric Hagarty to reverse controversial state guidelines concerning schools’ treatment of sex and gender. 

On a webpage titled “Creating Gender-Inclusive Schools and Classrooms,” the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) calls “binary gender,” e.g., the idea that gender and biological sex are properly denoted as either “male” or “female,” a “faulty concept.” The document also suggests that teachers host a “gender-neutral day” for students above the second grade wherein kids would identify ways in which they will eschew gender stereotypes on that day. Elsewhere, the guidance counsels teachers to ask a student his or her gender identity before assuming the right pronouns by which to call the child. 

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Ohio GOP Congressional Delegation Wants Garland and Wray to Explain Mar-a-Lago Search

Republican members of Ohio’s congressional delegation reacted with mistrust that the federal government had sufficient cause to conduct its surprise search of former President Donald Trump’s home at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, FL earlier this week.

The former president himself has characterized the move as “prosecutorial misconduct” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice to unfairly target President Joe Biden’s most high-profile adversary. Sources with knowledge of the event told the press that agents intended to gather evidence regarding whether Trump brought classified documents from the White House to his Palm Beach residence.

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Pennsylvania Governor and Business Leaders Celebrate Corporate Tax Reduction

Pennsylvania business advocates joined Governor Tom Wolf (D) at the York County Economic Alliance on Monday to welcome an upcoming change in tax policy championed by entrepreneurs across the commonwealth.

Via the new budget agreed to this summer by Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly, Pennsylvania will begin a decade-long phased halving of its corporate net income tax (CNIT). Of the forty-four states with a business income tax, the size of the Keystone State’s current 9.99-percent rate is second only to New Jersey’s 11.5-percent tax. Besides these two states, only four others levy top business income tax rates that exceed nine percent.

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Pennsylvania House Democrat Introduces Bill to Create Gun Purchase Permits

Pennsylvania state Representative Emily Kinkead (D-Pittsburgh) announced on Friday that she will sponsor a bill to require residents to obtain permits to buy guns. 

Her legislation is a companion to a Senate measure authored by Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia). The senator began touting his legislation the day after the May school shooting in Uvalde, TX in which an 18-year-old killed 19 children and two teachers. 

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Ohio Police to Get $5 Million for Body Cameras

Ohio police agencies will soon be eligible to receive $5 million in new funding for body cameras and related equipment, according to Gov. Mike DeWine (R).

Many law-enforcement organizations in the Buckeye State have wanted to equip their officers with video recorders but costs have reportedly proved prohibitive for many localities. This led DeWine to launch the Ohio Body-Worn Camera Grant Program which awarded its first $4.7 million in January. 

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Ohio Pro-Abortion Amendment Anticipated to Appear as Ballot Question

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio announced this week they are working to place a state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights on the election ballot in Ohio. 

The prospective effort comes as abortion proponents’ confidence surges after Kansas voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have stipulated that the Kansas Constitution does not contain the right to terminate a pregnancy failed by a vote of 59 percent to 41 percent. 

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Senators Introduce Pennsylvania Data Privacy Measure

Two Pennsylvania legislators this week proposed a law to protect consumers’ data from merchants who collect such information.

Authored by Senators Maria Collett (D-North Wales) and Lisa Boscola (D-Bethlehem), the bill would ensure Pennsylvania consumers are informed about what personal information businesses collect. The policy would also require disclosure of any entities to whom the data is being sold and allow customers to decline to have any of their information trafficked or utilized for profit. Selling the data of consumers under the age of 16 would be prohibited outright.

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After Pennsylvania Court Ruling on Absentee Voting, Republicans Renew Call for Reform

This week’s decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholding Act 77 which legalized no-excuse absentee voting in the Keystone State is spurring Republican lawmakers to renew their push for election reform. 

A Republican-led legislature passed and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 77 three years ago. Moderate Democratic Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Bethlehem) initially drafted the bill to get rid of straight-party voting, a policy on which Republican legislators largely agreed with her. More Democrats came around to support the measure once a section was added allowing voters to cast mail-in ballots without providing a reason they could not come to the polls (i.e., illness, injury or travel). 

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Mastriano Denounces Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Gender Policies

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) on Tuesday denounced guidelines the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has outlined for the treatment of controversial gender issues in public schools. 

The senator, who is running for governor against Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, particularly objected to recommendations that teachers consider utilizing nonconventional pronouns like “ne, ve, ze and xe” that some who claim to be neither male nor female have begun using to refer to themselves. Mastriano also criticized Governor Tom Wolf (D) and PDE for denying the link between biological sex and the gendered terms (i.e., male and female) that correspond to it. 

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Johnson Keeps Ohio Republican State Central Committee Seat; Reformers Win Victories Elsewhere

Ohio Republican Party (ORP) Treasurer Dave Johnson won his race for re-election on Tuesday to represent the Youngstown-area 33rd District in the GOP’s State Central Committee. However, conservatives and reformers won several ORP victories elsewhere. 

Johnson defeated challenger Rick Barron, who ran on implementing rigorous and regular audits of committee finances, something many in the party believe Johnson has neglected. Alleged financial irregularities, including $3 million said to have “gone missing” from party financial records, have led several ORP members to sue Johnson and state-party Chair Bob Paduchik.

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Pennsylvania Governor Promotes Abortion with Lawsuit and Executive Order

As the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly advances a constitutional amendment to preserve its ability to restrict abortion, Governor Tom Wolf (D) is suing to defeat that amendment and taking executive action in favor of the practice. 

Keystone State governors typically don’t play a role in the constitutional-amendment process. If both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate pass an amendment in two consecutive sessions, the commonwealth submits the measure as a ballot question for voters to accept or reject at the ballot box. If a majority agrees to it, the amendment becomes law, with or without gubernatorial blessing. 

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Third Parties Merge in Pennsylvania, with Candidacies Potentially Coming Soon

As three national political third parties proceed with a merger they announced last week, several independent state-legislative candidates are seeking approval to run under the Forward Party banner in Pennsylvania.

The expanding centrist political organization includes the Forward Party, founded by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang; the Renew America Movement, founded by several former Republican public officials; and the Serve American Movement (SAM), currently led by former Republican Florida Congressman David Jolly. Yang and former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman will co-chair the newly consolidated party. 

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Whaley Energy Plan for Ohio Excludes Fossil Fuels

Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley this weekend took to Twitter to promote an energy plan for the Buckeye State that excludes fossil-fuel production in favor of renewables.

“Check out mine and [running mate Cheryl Stephens’s] energy plan…,” she wrote. “1. Reform the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) so consumer interests are at its core; 2. Spur innovation & create good-paying, union jobs in clean energy; 3. Build climate resilient communities.”

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Pennsylvania State-Related Universities Going Ahead with Tuition Hikes

Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities are moving ahead with tuition increases in spite of Republican lawmakers’ exhortations that they freeze their prices. 

Earlier this week, state Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) sent a letter to the administrators of Temple University, Lincoln University, the University of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania State University to urge them not to further economically burden students or their families as inflation rages. Soon thereafter, GOP leaders of the state House of Representatives sent their own message to the four schools which operate independently but rely heavily on state funding.

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After Court Win, Ohio Republican PAC Backs State-Committee Slate in Tuesday’s Elections

Ohio Republican Party (ORP) Committeeman Dave Johnson dropped his lawsuit against the Ohio Republican PAC (Political Action Committee) on Thursday, giving the latter group a major win as they advocate for conservative Republican State Central Committee candidates across the Buckeye State.

Johnson, who represents the ORP’s 33rd district, is running for reelection to that seat against Rick Barron who has the Ohio Republican PAC’s endorsement. Johnson sued the PAC and its affiliates in Mahoning, Carroll and Columbiana counties for conducting what he called a “sham” operation designed to mislead voters into believing that Barron had the ORP’s support. The ORP itself has not issued endorsements for State Central Committee this year. 

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Veteran-Benefit Bill That Would’ve Facilitated Miscellaneous Spending Blocked; Pennsylvania Senator Toomey Urges Refocusing It

On Wednesday, a U.S. Senate vote to proceed with veteran-benefits legislation failed to receive the 60 votes needed for cloture, as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and other fiscal conservatives noted the PACT Act would have permitted up to $400 billion to be spent on unrelated programs.

Earlier this week, Toomey urged Senate colleagues to accept his proposed amendment to keep the bill focused entirely on aiding those who served in the Armed Forces.

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Columbus City Council Tables Funding to Reinstall Christopher Columbus Statue

Columbus, OH City Council this week indefinitely tabled an ordinance to spend $253,000 on the possible reinstallation of the Christopher Columbus statue that stood outside of City Hall until the summer of 2020. 

If adopted, the policy would permit the municipal Department of Development to agree to a contract with Designing Local Ltd., a planning company, to initiate a series of public meetings about whether the statue would return.

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Mastriano to State-Related Universities: Ditch Tuition Hikes

State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) this week wrote to Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities to urge them to abandon their planned tuition increases and freeze in-state tuition in light of skyrocketing inflation.

The senator noted that the Keystone State’s Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget allots $600 million in total to Lincoln University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania State University. Those institutions are also getting $40 million in new discretionary funding from Gov. Tom Wolf (D). With such generous state subsidies, Mastriano reasoned, partially public universities should make every effort to avoid putting new pressures on students and their families.

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Bill to Mandate Human Trafficking Awareness Training in Lodging Introduced in Pennsylvania

State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-PA-Reading) announced on Monday she will introduce a bill mandating that Pennsylvania hotel and motel businesses train their workers in human-trafficking awareness. 

Human trafficking, an industry the International Labour Office believes to generate $150 billion each year, is a form of slavery whereby human beings are defrauded or coerced into servitude that is often sexual in nature. The U.S. Department of State estimates that about 25 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking. Of those, nearly a third are children or teenagers and roughly half are women. 

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Fetterman’s Anti-Fracking History a Vulnerability in Pennsylvania Senate Race

John Fetterman handily won campaigns for mayor of heavily Democratic Braddock, PA in the 2000s and 2010s and won two statewide Pennsylvania primaries, one for lieutenant governor in 2018 and another for U.S. senator this year. His history of opposing hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking” to extract natural gas didn’t burden him in those races. 

But now the Democratic lieutenant governor faces a general election for U.S. Senate against Republican celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz. And although Fetterman now says he does not support prohibiting fracking, his past support for a fracking ban promises to complicate his appeal to working Keystone Staters on whose livelihoods fossil-fuel development depends. 

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Ohio Awards Grants to Toledo, Cortland to Combat Trafficking, Other Crimes

Governor Mike DeWine

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) announced Friday that numerous local law-enforcement departments will receive a total of $3.5 million for anti-trafficking efforts and other anti-crime initiatives, with the cities of Toledo and Cortland receiving significant grants. 

The money comes in the fifth round of allocations from the Crime Reduction Grant Program, a project created last year that has disbursed $23 million to 83 agencies across the Buckeye State so far. 

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Pennsylvania Democrat Wants to Curtail Police’s Rights to Use Deadly Force

Pennsylvania state Rep. Christopher Rabb (D-Philadelphia) this week proposed legislation to curtail police officers’ ability to use deadly force.

In a memorandum on his upcoming bill, he suggests that current state law empowers police to act as “judge, jury and executioner” of fleeing suspects.

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