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Legislative roundup

EMILYs List endorses Keir Bradford-Grey for state attorney general; House Republicans unveil package of anti-looting legislation; Kayden’s Law up for Senate vote

Keir Bradford-Grey. Submitted Photo

EMILYs List backs Bradford-Grey for AG

EMILYs List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women, endorsed Keir Bradford-Grey for state attorney general, not surprisingly, as she is the only woman running.

EMILYs List Vice President of State and Local Campaigns Sarah Curmi released the following statement:

“Keir Bradford-Grey has spent over two decades of her life fighting for the vulnerable, taking on big corporations, delivering results and protecting our rights. As Pennsylvania Republicans continue to work overtime to take away reproductive freedoms, we need Democratic pro-choice champions like Bradford-Grey standing in the gap, ensuring that Pennsylvanians will always have the ability to determine the course of their lives, their families and their futures. EMILYs List is proud to endorse Bradford-Grey, and we know she will truly be an attorney general for the people.”

Bradford-Grey is the former chief public defender of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, and the first black person to run those offices.

Other Democrats in the race are former Bucks County Solicitor Joe Khan, state Rep. Jared Solomon and former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday is running as a Republican. ••

VoteVets supporting Solomon

The liberal VoteVets PAC endorsed state Rep. Jared Solomon to be Pennsylvania’s next attorney general.

“VoteVets knows that Pennsylvania is on the frontline of the battle to protect voting rights, women’s reproductive rights and so many of the fundamental freedoms that veterans fought to protect,” Solomon said. “That’s why I am so grateful to have the VoteVets community’s endorsement for attorney general, because they know I am a fighter.”

Solomon is a former JAG Officer in the Army Reserve and a current Pennsylvania National Guardsman serving in a Trial Defense Services unit. He is chairman of the Pennsylvania State House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Solomon is married with a daughter and lives in Philadelphia. ••

Anti-looting legislation

In the wake of recent rampant and violent looting in Philadelphia that caused significant property damage and loss, House Republicans unveiled a package of anti-looting legislation that will increase penalties on looters, put additional teeth in juvenile curfews, crack down on social media coordination of looting and enhance penalties for those looting state property, including liquor stores.

With some of the looting and violence allegedly promoted and furthered by the Philadelphia social media influencer known as “Meatball,” Rep. K.C. Tomlinson will be introducing legislation to create a new criminal offense for those who utilize social media to incite rioting, burglaries, thefts or other dangerous criminal conduct that threatens others.

“Coordinating this kind of behavior only exacerbates the risk to public safety and the unchecked lawlessness we saw on the streets of Philadelphia last week,” Tomlinson said. “Those who use their social media influence and presence to incite this kind of behavior need to be held accountable for that action. It is not acceptable for influencers to utilize their social media platforms to cause crimes.”

With an understanding that many recent looting incidents have involved juveniles, and youth curfews are a useful tool to prevent patterns of looting, Tomlinson will also introduce legislation to put teeth in youth curfews by providing a tool for police to arrest and charge juveniles who intentionally violate a lawful curfew with the intention to commit a crime.

“We need strong tools and disincentives to prevent and stop looting when it occurs on a repeated and coordinated basis,” she said. “Looting is primarily perpetrated by youth, preserving public safety by allowing the arrest and detention of those offenders who are breaking curfew with the clear and obvious intention of committing crimes will stand as a preventative tool to curb ongoing looting, violence and property damage.”

Recognizing that nearly 20 liquor stores in Philadelphia were looted or closed due to the looting in Philadelphia, Rep. Joe Hogan said he will be introducing legislation to provide for a penalty enhancement for looting state-owned property, including liquor stores.

“If coordinated and targeted looting of private property is not bad enough, we saw the Philadelphia looters specifically target state-owned liquor stores, which jeopardized state property and state employees,” Hogan said. “We must make sure that people know state-owned property, and specifically liquor stores, are off limits for those who seek to only bring harm and chaos to their communities.” ••

Weighing options to address crime

As the Philadelphia area struggles with an increase in crime, state Reps. Kristin Marcell and Kathleen “K.C.” Tomlinson held a hearing in conjunction with the House Republican Policy Committee focused on the reasons behind the increase in crime and options to address it.

“As crime continues to rise in the Philadelphia area, it is becoming harder for our communities to feel safe,” Marcell said. “It is crucial we do all we can to find the reasons why this increase is happening and what we can do to fight back against it. With a district attorney unwilling to act in Philadelphia, it has become clear it is up to us as legislators to find solutions to this crime increase. It is crucial we put the safety of our constituents first.”

“Representing a community directly bordering Philadelphia, I know firsthand the consequences of trickle-down crime from the city,” Tomlinson said. “This increase in crime makes families feel less safe, small businesses feel unprotected and makes the job of our law enforcement harder. The consequences this increase has on our communities impacts every person in our districts. It’s time to refocus on justice for those who have been affected and giving our law enforcement the tools they need to do their jobs.”

The hearing’s testifiers were Jennifer Schorn, Bucks County first assistant district attorney; Fred Harran, Bucks County sheriff; William McVey, director of Public Safety, Bensalem Police; Steven LeCompte, chief of police, Northampton Township; Rudolph Mueller, security director, Bimbo Bakeries; and Dominic Varacallo, police chief, Upper Southampton Township.

Harran spoke on the general increase of crime in Bucks County, along with the growing use of xylazine in communities. Last year alone, Bucks County experienced major increases in crime overall; up by 22.7% in robbery, 17.1% in sexual assault, 32.9% in burglary, 21.8% in theft and 30.6% in auto theft, for a 18.7% total increase in major crimes. Along with this crime increase, police, sheriff and corrections departments continue to see a reduced number of law enforcement applicants, making it difficult to staff and protect our communities.

“You often hear the phrase ‘crime knows no borders,’ and this is so true in this situation,” Harran said. “When Philadelphia criminals commit crimes in Bucks County, the reception is much different here. They are arrested, prosecuted and, if convicted, they go to jail.”

Schorn discussed the rise of catalytic converter thefts and how making those thefts felonies instead of misdemeanors would help police save resources to be used to investigate more brutal crimes.

“These are the people who should never possess a firearm. They have lost that right,” McVey said. “When an officer removes a gun from a felon, they may have saved a future life or prevented a future tragedy. The problem is, without strong penalties, these felons are often released and go back to carrying and using illegal firearms. Many of these felons were arrested after being stopped on a car stop by an officer for a minor offense. Many are from Philadelphia, in some cases out on bail for illegal gun charges or violent crime. Without a system of justice that holds criminals accountable and places more focus on the victims of crime, we will continue to be plagued by what we are seeing play out now on our streets.”

“It is a blight on all of our resources day in and day out,” Schorn said. “As the resources are devoted to these thefts, homicides are happening. And the same detectives who must investigate the most brutal homicides are getting swept so thin because they’re dealing with a rash of catalytic converter thefts.”

LeCompte spoke on the growing prevalence of mail theft. Mail theft has grown by 600% in the last two-and-a-half years in Northampton Township.

“Mail theft is often an organized criminal act, and the grading of the offense should reflect the serious impact it has had on our businesses and residents,” LeCompte said. “The problem is so serious we told our residents to take their mail into the post office to prevent theft and to avoid using the U.S. mailboxes outside the post office.”

In response to this uptick in crime, the Bucks County GOP delegation, along with state Rep. Martina White of Philadelphia, have introduced two legislative packages focused on crime. The first package focuses on mandatory jail time for illegally possessing a firearm, cracking down on porch pirates, reducing catalytic converter robberies, increasing penalties for gun store robberies, increased penalties for street racing and enhanced charges for rioters. The second package focuses exclusively on punishment for rioters and looters, which has seen an uptick in the Philadelphia area itself over the last two years. ••

Kayden’s Law advances

Senate Bill 55, known as Kayden’s Law, was unanimously voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Sens. Steve Santarsiero and Lisa Baker, and is named for Kayden Mancuso, a 7-year-old from Lower Makefield Township who was killed in August 2018 by her biological father during a court-ordered, unsupervised visit granted following a year-long custody dispute.

“No child in Pennsylvania should fear for their safety or be left alone with an abuser,” Santarsiero said. “Kayden’s Law will ensure the safety of the child is paramount in custody cases and will absolutely save children’s lives.”

Senate Bill 55 will:

• Strengthen the current factors that judges must consider in making custody and visitation decisions, to make it clear that the most important issue is the protection of the child;

• Ensure that if there is a finding by the court of an ongoing risk of abuse, that any custody order includes safety conditions and restrictions necessary, including supervised visitation, to protect the child; and

• Encourage the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to implement an annual educational and training program for judges and relevant court personnel on child abuse, adverse childhood experiences, domestic violence and its impact on children.

Santarsiero said, “Kayden’s Law has been a collaborative effort, led by the tireless advocacy of Kayden’s mom Kathy Sherlock, along with family law experts.  I am proud to have the opportunity to sponsor this legislation and will continue to advocate for the bill to be brought before the full Senate.”

Kayden’s Law passed the Senate in 2021 but was not brought up for a vote in the House. Senate Bill 55 may now be brought up for a full vote of the Senate. ••

Farry office hours in Bensalem

State ​​Sen. Frank Farry (R-6th dist.) is offering satellite office hours the first Wednesday of every month, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Bensalem Township Municipal Building, 2400 Byberry Road, Bensalem.

Farry’s staff will be on site to assist with state government services; Property Tax/Rent Rebate applications, birth and death certificate applications, SEPTA Senior Key card registrations and renewals; and unemployment issues. ••

Lower South supervisor meeting schedule

The Lower Southampton Township Board of Supervisors will meet on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m., at the Township Building, 1500 Desire Ave., Feasterville.

Future meetings, all at the same time and location, are scheduled for Nov. 8 and 20 and Dec. 13 and 20. ••

Bensalem Council meeting schedule

Bensalem Township Council meetings are generally held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building at 2400 Byberry Road, Bensalem.

Meetings can be viewed live on Comcast Xfinity Channel 22 in Bensalem and on Verizon Fios Channel 34 throughout Bucks County. They can also be streamed live on the Bensalem Township YouTube channel.

The schedule is Nov. 13 and 27 and Dec. 4 (budget meeting) and 11. ••

Bensalem school board meeting schedule

The Bensalem Township Board of School Directors holds meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Dorothy D. Call Administrative Center, 3000 Donallen Drive, Bensalem.

Upcoming meetings will take place on Nov. 28 and Dec. 19 (third Tuesday).

The public is invited to attend.

The School Board annual reorganization meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. ••

Commissioners meeting Nov. 1

The Bucks County Commissioners will hold their next meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 1, at 10:30 a.m. at the Bucks County Administration Building, 55 E. Court St., in Doylestown.

The meeting will be broadcast on the county’s YouTube channel.

Future meetings will be on Nov. 15, Dec. 6 and Dec. 20. ••

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