Investigations Reaching Pennsylvania Politicians | News, Sports, Jobs
The FBI’s raid of former President Donald Trump’s Florida mansion grabbed headlines this week, but Pennsylvania lawmakers are also finding themselves embroiled in investigations.
On Wednesday, PennLive reported that the FBI issued subpoenas to several Republican offices of state representatives and senators in Harrisburg.
The names of the lawmakers have not been confirmed, and on Friday GOP spokespersons said they had no evidence the members were targets.
This news came shortly after it emerged that federal agents had seized US Representative Scott Perry’s cellphone as part of an ongoing investigation. Perry, R-10th District, later emphasized that he was not the target, telling Fox News’ Tucker Carlson: “I heard from my lawyers, who spoke directly to the Department of Justice, who said that I, their client, am not the target of this investigation.”
Federal officials are reportedly investigating the voter list that Trump allies curated in the 2020 election. Weeks after then-candidate Joe Biden won the November election, a group of Trump supporters – including some prominent political figures in Pennsylvania — signed a form saying they would serve as alternative voters who could help turn the Trump race around.
The federal voter investigations — and the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill — have drawn numerous GOP politicians, though none have been charged or explicitly named as targets.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, reportedly appeared briefly this week before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 incident. Mastriano spoke with the FBI earlier this summer.
While little remains publicly known about the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home or ongoing investigations in Pennsylvania, conservative candidates have attacked the probe as politically motivated.
Speaking to right-wing news station Newsmax this week, Mastriano attributed the investigations to Democratic opponents, though he provided little to back up that claim.
“The Democrats are simply going too far. I see it in Pennsylvania, we see it in Washington, DC, and we saw it in Florida last night,” he said.
Representative in latest push to change school funds
A state legislator is moving to radically reshape the way public schools are funded, with a proposed constitutional amendment that could eliminate property taxes and replace them with sales and income taxes.
Rep. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon, has long worked to change the state’s school funding system, which relies on local property taxes. Ryan is set to retire this year, but he is proposing one final constitutional change that would extend beyond his legislative career.
call plan “Extremely important” in a note to colleagues this week, Ryan said: “Moving to a sales/income tax eliminates the regressive school property tax and will serve to remove barriers to homeownership.”
Ryan’s amendment would have to clear several hurdles: the General Assembly would have to pass it in two consecutive sessions before it is released for a referendum. GOP lawmakers have proposed several constitutional changes in recent months, in part to avoid a Democratic governor’s veto.
Ryan previously offered a package in February to change the way Pennsylvania funds its schools, along with other sponsors including R-Washington Rep. Bud Cook.
The bill — which Ryan has proposed to use as replacement legislation if his amendment passes — would replace property taxes with a 2% sales tax and a personal income tax hike. Some retirement income would also be taxes under his plan.
“The time has come to save the Commonwealth from financial bankruptcy and its people from homelessness”, he said.
The school funding system has long been a source of controversy.
Supporters and opponents of the state funding formula have been wrangling in court for months this year, in a case that dates back nearly a decade. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the funding formula violated the state constitution’s promise of equal protection, with poor districts receiving less than their fair share.
Commonwealth Court judges heard final arguments in the case last month.
Democrats celebrate a narrow victory
Congressional Democrats have spent the past week celebrating a key legislative victory, with hundreds of billions of federal dollars earmarked to promote renewable energy and combat the effects of climate change.
The Cut Inflation Act – named amid concerns over soaring prices – includes a scaled-down version of much of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The bill includes new taxes to raise funds, as well as tax credits to encourage Americans to buy electric vehicles. Funds are also provided to encourage more energy efficient and environmentally friendly appliances and power generation systems.
“We are currently living in a time where unique storms occur every two months. Extreme weather conditions are now the norm. As hurricane remnants flood the Vine Street Freeway in Philadelphia, western states are on fire and lakes are disappearing in the worst drought in a millennium,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said in a press release after voting for the legislation. “It is high time we took bold action to tackle the climate crisis.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who is due to leave office this year, called the plan a “a partisan tax-and-spend frenzy.”
The bill also expands some forms of health care coverage and aims to reduce the federal deficit.
Republicans voted evenly against the bill, with the final Senate vote 51-50. In the House last year, all Republicans voted in opposition while only one Democrat broke ranks to join them.
The Pennsylvania delegation was neatly split along party lines, with only Perry not voting.
Ryan Brown covers statewide politics for Ogden Newspapers. He can be contacted at [email protected]