Pa. map battle lands in Supreme Court

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop a new congressional map from being implemented is now in the hands of the nation’s highest court.

The filing made late Wednesday asked Justice Samuel Alito to intervene, saying the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in imposing a new map.

More litigation may follow, as Republicans are considering a separate legal challenge in federal court in Harrisburg this week.

The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican crafted map that was considered among the nation’s most gerrymandered, saying the 2011 plan violated the state constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections.

The new map the state justices announced Monday is widely viewed as giving Democrats an edge as they seek to recapture enough U.S. House seats to reclaim the majority.

House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said the state’s highest court made an unprecedented decision.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map,” they wrote in a filing made electronically after business hours.

The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot.

A spokesman for Democratic

Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers’ filing, said Wolf was “focused on making sure the Department of State is fully complying with the court’s order by updating their systems and assisting candidates, county election officials and voters preparing for the primary election.”

It is the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took leading roles in creating.

Alito handles emergency applications from Pennsylvania and the other states covered by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justices have the authority to deal with these applications on their own, or they can refer the matter to the entire court.

In November, Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit.

On Feb. 5, Alito rejected a request from Turzai and Scarnati to halt a Jan. 22 order from the state Supreme Court that gave the Republican leaders two weeks to propose a map that would be supported by Wolf and until last week to suggest a new map to the court.

Turzai and Scarnati argued that the state’s high court gave them scant time to propose their own map after throwing out the 2011 version.

As a sign of the litigation’s potential impact on national politics, President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Republicans to press their challenge of the map to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The five Democrats on the state Supreme Court sided with Democratic voters who challenged the map, although one of the Democratic justices, Max Baer, has opposed the compressed timetable.

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Rep. Warner announces re-election bid for state House

Rep. Ryan Warner (R-52nd) announced that he will seek re-election to the State House of Representatives to continue his work of protecting taxpayers, fighting for jobs and values and reforming state government.

Warner is serving his second term and is known for providing local residents with a strong voice in state government.

“I was elected to put people before politics, and I have done that as state representative,” Warner said. “I am proud of my work to enable local families to keep more of their hard earn money; my fight for our hometown values; and my efforts to provide local seniors and residents with the services they need. We have made positive steps, but I know there is more that needs done for the hard-working men and women I serve. That is why I am running for re-election.” Warner continues to lead on reforming state government. During his first two terms in office, he has honored his promise to refuse the costly per diems, state car and state pension. Warner was also one of the few House members who did not accept a paycheck during the extended 2015 budget impasse.

“I grew up in a blue collar household,” Warner said. “So when I ran for election, I promised that I would continue to live like the residents I serve. That’s why I refused the costly perks and have worked so hard to reform the system to better protect taxpayers.”

In the House, Warner is respected for being a common sense legislator who knows that residents cannot afford higher taxes, especially when the majority of these tax dollars go to Philadelphia instead of Fayette or Westmoreland counties. He was a leading supporter of a Constitutional Amendment to provide reasonable spending limits, performance-based budgeting legislation that became law and is part of a bipartisan group of reform legislators who continue to work for a responsible budget process.

“Gov. Wolf continues to propose higher taxes in order to support bigger, more expensive government,” Warner said. “I know there are better ways to balance the budget. That is why I fought for strong measures to stop welfare fraud and abuse to ensure those most in need receive help while helping to reduce costs. During the budget process, I will continue to side with hard-working taxpayers by opposing Gov. Wolf’s excessive tax and spend plans.”

Warner has voted to pass budgets that were fiscally responsible, focused spending on priorities and did not raise taxes. In fact, the budget proposals he has supported provided additional funding for education and important programs that would benefit local residents, seniors and children. Warner has also worked to refocus education on teaching children the important skills they need for success, rather than teaching to a test.

“As the father of two children, I support our public school system and the teachers who work hard to help provide our kids with the skills they need to succeed after graduation,” Warner said. “That is why I supported budgets in the House that provided record funds for our schools. However, I also understand that a quality education is not just about money and must be affordable to property taxpayers. That is why I supported a historic proposal to reform the pension system, which is a driving cost to governments at all levels, but especially for school districts.”

Warner is a proven fiscal conservative committed to making Pennsylvania more business-friendly and to supporting our energy and coal industries, which have a new friend in the Trump administration. As representative, he has opposed irresponsible federal and state policies in order to keep the jobs we have and to grow the economy to create new local jobs. Warner has promoted the responsible development of Marcellus Shale natural gas without eliminating the impact fee, which has delivered millions of dollars for local improvements.

“The people of Fayette and Westmoreland counties have told me repeatedly that now is not the time for broad-based tax increases,” Warner said. “They want responsible fiscal leadership that cuts wasteful government spending, fosters sustainable job growth and forces government to live within its means like our families must do.”

Born and raised here, Ryan learned the importance of hard work, faith, family and service to others from his family. His grandfathers and their families were trusted members of our community. Charles Warner was a local farmer, and John Marks was in real estate. His father, Jim, owns and operates JTE Logging. His mother, Annette, is a branch manager at PNC Bank.

Throughout his life, Warner has helped his father with the family’s logging business. He began in high school by stacking, sorting and cutting lumber before working his way up to operating and maintaining the sawmill machinery and heavy equipment.

Warner attended Frazier High School and graduated from Penn State University. Following college, he went to work for Siemens Industry in Westmoreland County as a project controller. As a result of a tough economy, Siemens reduced its workforce and Warner was one of those who were let go after nearly five years on the job.

“My story is like many other western Pennsylvanians,” Warner said. “As state representative, I never forget the importance of providing people with a reliable safety net and effective job retraining programs when needed so they can get back to work supporting their families. I work hard every day to keep the jobs we have and to grow our economy to create new local jobs.”

Warner has also been an effective legislator who is fighting for our values in Harrisburg. His bipartisan legislation to cut government red tape was signed into law just five months after he took office. He has introduced common sense legislation including bills to make English the official language of Pennsylvania, provide tax credits to our volunteer firefighters and EMS workers and to stop wasteful government spending.

Warner co-sponsored bills to protect pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-family values. He has also put workers first by supporting efforts to deny public benefits to illegal immigrants. Ryan and his wife Leslie reside in Perryopolis where they are raising their two children, Paloma and Ben. They are members of St. John the Baptist Parish. He has deep family roots in our community and is an avid hunter and sportsman.

The 52nd District includes portions of Fayette and Westmoreland counties. Warner is seeking the Republican nomination in the May primary election.

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Keedy announces run for state office

Connellsville City Councilman, small business owner and substitute teacher Ethan Keedy is seeking the Democratic nomination for state representative in the 52nd Legislative District.

The 52nd District includes portions of Fayette and Westmoreland counties and is currently represented by Republican Ryan Warner.

Keedy said he wants to use his experience to fight for local values in Harrisburg.

“Our local leadership continues to borrow money to fund our state budget, and allow an out of control property tax system to disproportionately burden our community,” Keedy said of his inspiration to run. “We must fight for property tax reduction and sustainable revenue sources, proper funding of our schools and government, and good paying jobs for our working families.”

Keedy, who was elected to Connellsville City Council in 2015, serves as the council’s director of finance. According to Keedy, in his two years in that position, he has worked to turn a $680,000 deficit into a surplus, with revenue available for needed infrastructure improvements without a tax increase or layoffs.

“We achieved a surplus through normal family economics and fiscal responsibility. When you sit around and do your budget with your wife, you don’t plan to borrow money against pretend money you might have in the future— Harrisburg must stop this,” Keedy argues of the current state of fiscal policy in Harrisburg.

Keedy said there has been too much focus by local legislators on other areas of the state, and not on the region represented.

“I want to put the 52nd District on the map,” Keedy said of infrastructure investment. “We must put the money and resources into growing out local economy, and fighting for continued small business growth and jobs growth in this region and I know our current leadership doesn’t do this”.

Having lost his father to the opioid epidemic, Keedy also believes Harrisburg is only paying lip service to our community’s heroin problem during election time. He knows we as a community must fight against the opioid epidemic 365 days a year— not just during election season.

“I lost my father, and have seen so many promising lives stopped short in our community because our leaders in Harrisburg only talk the talk. Now is the time for strong investments in addiction treatment, counseling services, and rehabilitation,” Keedy said.

Keedy is a lifelong resident of the 52nd Legislative District. He is the owner of Keedy’s Pizzeria and looks to expand other small businesses and economic development in the district. He lives in Connellsville with his wife, Chelsea.

The 52nd District includes the city of Connellsville, Bullskin, Connellsville, Dunbar, Lower Tyrone, Menallen, North Union, Perry, Saltlick, and Upper Tyrone township and Dawson, Dunbar, Everson, Perryopolis, Seven Springs, South Connellsville, and Vanderbilt boroughs in Fayette County. It also includes portions of East Huntingdon Township, Bessemer, Whites and Scottdale in Westmoreland County.

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Mahoney announces bid to reclaim 51st Legislative District seat

Upset at the way things are going, former state Rep. Timothy S. Mahoney is running to reclaim the 51st Legislative District seat he held from 2006-2016. A plain-speaking but principled office holder, Mahoney said he can’t sit idly by while his successor favors “doing crazy things like giving away $2 billion set aside to complete the Mon-Fayette Expressway.”

“For the past year, the guy who came after me has been, for all intents and purposes, ‘The Invisible Man’ when it comes to new ideas and displaying leadership,” Mahoney said. “At the behest of many supporters and friends in Fayette and Somerset counties who want real representation, I have decided to climb back into the political ring for a rematch. I’m ready. Trust me on that.”

Mahoney, of South Union Township, said he plans to gain back the seat with the backing of the Fayette County Democratic Party that was splintered in 2016, but is now more unified.

He also said national campaign forces that were a factor in state and local races two years ago won’t create the same political backdraft that aided his opponent.

“The number of people urging me to run again is nothing short of astonishing,” Mahoney said. “Everywhere I go, I started asking people, ‘Are things better, worse or the same?’ The overwhelming response was, ‘Tim, things are worse than they’ve ever been!’ I want to change that, and quick.”

As a state legislator, Mahoney said he wasn’t afraid to put forth bold ideas and take tough stands, even if it meant breaking with his party’s leadership or governor.

He was the author of the House version of an updated state Open Records Law that many of his peers didn’t initially want, and he steadfastly refused to raise taxes under Republican and Democratic governors. Mahoney was also a strong advocate for maintaining and expanding the number of state police, and used the Open Records Law to obtain information that documented a shortfall in the number of troopers at the Uniontown Barracks.

Another signature issue for Mahoney was early warnings about the heroin and opioid crisis. Under a Republican administration, he made a key ally, of the director of the state office of Drug and Alcohol Programs, held the first Town Hall meeting in the state on the topic and urged more state funding for addiction treatment way before it became politically fashionable.

“People know I’m not afraid to speak out when something needs said, or to do something when something needs done,” Mahoney said. “I drive a pickup truck, attend my kids’ and grandkids’ ball games, and root for the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates.

“When I’m your representative, you get someone who’s one of you. Not someone who’s one of them.”

Follow “Bring Back Tim Mahoney” on Facebook.

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State Rep. Dowling seeks re-election in 51st District

State Rep. Matthew Dowling (R- 51) announced that he will be running for re-election in the 2018 campaign season.

Dowling was first elected to the House in 2016, defeating incumbent Tim Mahoney.

“Two years ago, I made a promise to stand strong for the taxpayers of community, support commonsense policies that create jobs, fight the opioid epidemic and work for everyone by refusing to play political games,” Dowling said.

“I am proud that I have kept that promise, but know that much remains to be accomplished to make our communities and our state stronger for the future.”

In Harrisburg, Dowling has quickly earned a reputation as a tough watchdog for taxpayers by standing against Gov. Wolf’s disastrous tax-and-spending increase agenda and attack on the Second Amendment and Pro-Life values of Fayette and Somerset counties.

“Where my predecessor was a willing ally in Gov. Wolf’s liberal agenda and chose to partake of every taxpayer-paid perk Harrisburg offered, I have been a consistent voice to control spending and have led by example by refusing the per diems and perks,” Dowling said. “My goal is to deliver true public service by refusing to play political games and focusing on the issues.”

Dowling has also gained a reputation as a leader in the effort to address the opioid epidemic. In just his first year in office, he helped pass a bipartisan package of new laws that was praised for its focus on combatting the epidemic through changes in prescription rules, professional education, prevention efforts and law enforcement.

Dowling also delivered bipartisan budgets that included increased funding for treatment and prevention efforts.

“I am proud that –– working in a bipartisan manner –– we have accomplished more in the fight against opioids over the past two years than in the 10 years before that combined,” Dowling stated.

“Opioids know no economic, geographic or racial lines,” he continued.

“They are simply hurting Pennsylvanians and must be dealt with strongly. I will continue to focus on this issue to help provide a brighter future for our families,” he added.

Dowling said that other areas of focus during his first term has been job creation, education and infrastructure, noting how these issues, while each important on their own, combine to help drive the economic and job growth our area needs.

“Quality schools better prepare our children for the job market of tomorrow. A strong infrastructure system with the roads and highways we need to connect our community to bigger metro centers and the interstate system makes our area more attractive to job creators.

And having a fair and predictable tax and regulatory system in our state makes Pennsylvania more competitive in the national marketplace for employers,” Dowling said.

“I am working to address these issues in a comprehensive manner to better retain and attract the jobs we need and improve the quality of life for residents,” he added.

As representative, Dowling supported reforms that are helping to control state spending and bring greater transparency to the budget process, worked to provide record levels of state funding for basic education, voted in favor of tax and regulatory reforms that make the state more attractive to job creators and supported completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and its Southern Beltway Connector.

“While many people think being representative is about passing legislation in Harrisburg, I think the more important part of the job is helping real people here at home,” Dowling said.

“I want to listen to and help people. That is why I have made strong constituent services, extensive community outreach and local issues such a large part of what I do,” he continued.

Dowling pointed to examples of his efforts on this front, including hosting gun rights seminars; bringing important state government committee meetings to our community to increase citizen participation in government; delivering grants to local schools, volunteer fire and emergency services companies and for community projects; and outreach efforts like his popular “Morning Meetings with Matt” town hall meetings, “Office Open Houses” across the district to better listen to and serve constituent concerns and his Senior Expo.

A pro-life, pro-Second Amendment legislator, Dowling voted in favor of legislation to limit abortions to 20 weeks, which Gov. Wolf vetoed.

Dowling said he is currently sponsoring legislation to better defend the rights of law-abiding gun owners from overreach by the state under Gov. Wolf’s declared state of emergency over the opioid crisis.

“I will never allow the core values of our community to be ignored by this liberal governor and his allies in Harrisburg,” Dowling said.

“The rights of life, liberty and freedom are the foundation of our Commonwealth and must always be defended,” he continued.

“They are not political chips to be traded in legislative games,” Dowling added.

Dowling is a native son of the 51st District and brings to the legislature experience as a successful small business owner and active community volunteer.

Dowling also served as a Rotary District Governor for the seven-county region.

Dowling and his wife, Rebecca, are the proud parents of two young sons.