on Cloud nine
WASHINGTON — John Joyce insists he wants everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The second-term Republican congressman from Blair County, who spent more than 25 years as a dermatologist and often refers to his medical background on health care matters in Washington, believes the vaccine is the key to stamping out the pandemic. Mr. Joyce already received his jab and has repeatedly pressed, in letters
and congressional hearings, Pennsylvania’s Democratic officials to speed up vaccine distribution.
But when it comes to the matter of federally mandated vaccine passports, which would be government-verified documents proving someone has received the vaccine, Mr. Joyce sees a tyrannical act.
This week, he introduced the Protecting Americans’ Safety, Security and Privacy Over Repressive Tyranny Act, or PASSPORT Act, which would prohibit federal funds from being used to develop, implement, support or endorse vaccine passports.
The bill would prevent taxpayer dollars from supporting any system under which an individual is
required to provide documentation that shows vaccination status for that person to conduct an activity, including to travel or attend an event.
The text of the bill appears to go further than similar legislation introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and co-sponsored by 18 of his House Republican colleagues earlier this month.
Mr. Biggs’ bill, the No Vaccine Passport Act, blocks federal agencies from issuing any standardized documentation that could be used to certify a U.S. citizen’s COVID-19 status to a third party, such as a restaurant or an airline. It also prohibits proof of COVID-19 vaccination from being a requirement for access to federal or congressional
property and services.
Mr. Biggs’ bill effectively leaves open the possibility of government support or endorsement of privately issued vaccine passports, while Mr. Joyce’s bill blocks any endorsement or support.
In an interview, Mr. Joyce said he supports — despite his personal views that vaccines are effective — a person’s right to choose not to get the vaccine and worries about loss of personal freedoms those people would face as a result of not being vaccinated. He called government-mandated passports a “dangerous and radical infringement on Americans’ fundamental rights.”
“As a doctor, I believe that every
All Pennsylvania voters — yes, that includes independents and minor-party members — will be asked to consider four ballot questions on May 18. Two of them are about as noncontroversial as possible. The other two? A different story. Below, Spotlight PA breaks down the basics of what they would do, who is in favor, and who is opposed.
What would it do? This is a statewide referendum (as opposed to a constitutional amendment) that would allow municipal fire departments or companies with paid personnel, as well as EMS companies, to apply for a loan through an existing state-run program for volunteer companies. The money can be used to modernize or purchase equipment.
Who is in favor? The measure passed the Legislature with unanimous support from Democrats and Republicans. The Pennsylvania Fire Emergency Services Institute is urging a “yes” vote, as is the Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association.
Who is opposed? Spotlight PA could not identify any opponents.
What would it do? Currently, only Pennsylvania’s governor can end a disaster declaration, like the one the state is currently under to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. State law gives the General Assembly the option to pass a resolution to terminate the declaration, although the state Supreme Court ruled last year the governor still gets the final say. The Legislature can overturn a governor’s veto with support from two-thirds of members.
This proposed constitutional amendment would allow a majority of lawmakers to terminate the declaration at any time, without the governor’s consent. What happens after that is the matter of some debate.
Who is in favor? This proposal, born out of a contentious response to the Wolf administration’s approach to the pandemic, has been championed by the House and Senate Republican caucuses, with support from a few Democrats.
The Pennsylvania chapter of the conservative political group Americans for Prosperity has also launched a campaign to urge a “yes” vote on the question.
Who is opposed? Most Democrats including Gov. Tom Wolf are urging Pennsylvanians to vote “no,” as is the grassroots Democratic group Turn PA
The Black Political Empowerment Project is calling for changes in local policing and asking that several types of police traffic stops be halted “immediately” to avoid tragedies like the recent death of Daunte Wright outside Minneapolis.
Tim Stevens, B-PEP chairman and CEO, issued a statement Tuesday — the same day that former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering another Black man, George Floyd — directed at Pittsburgh police, Mayor Bill Peduto’s office and other city and county officials. In it, Mr. Stevens acknowledged that city police have already begun reviewing their use-of-force policies, but he urged them to make that review an even “higher priority.”
“We are calling for political leaders and the heads of police departments in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to help prevent future unnecessary arrests and deaths resulting from what historically has been referred to as ‘routine traffic stops,’ ” Mr. Stevens said in the statement. “The Black Political Empowerment Project is in fact urging all police departments in our area to take whatever steps are necessary to immediately suspend traffic stops.”
Wright was shot and killed by Minneapolis police on April 11 after being pulled over due to an expired vehicle registration. And while Floyd’s death didn’t occur during a traffic stop — his interaction with police began when he was questioned about a counterfeit bill — much of Mr. Stevens’ statement was framed in the context of the Black community being disproportionately targeted by police.
In its request, B-PEP asked that police discontinue traffic stops for the following infractions: out-of-date tags or plates; broken taillights; partially obscured license plates; failure to use turn signals; failure to stop at stop signs; going through stop lights; failure to obey “yield” signs; driving over the speed limit; failure to slow down in and around construction sites; passing in a “no passing” zone; failure to stop at a railroad crossing; ignoring “No U Turn” signs; failure to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk; and failure to stop for school buses with flashing red lights.
A spokesman with Mr. Peduto’s office declined to comment directly on B-PEP’s demands.
“Mayor Peduto has long worked with Tim Stevens and B-PEP on police reform issues and will review their latest request,” mayoral spokesman Timothy McNulty said via email Wednesday.
Bucking her colleagues on Pittsburgh City Council to become the only member to endorse the sitting mayor’s primary challenger, Councilwoman Deb Gross said state Rep. Ed Gainey should be the next mayor because he’d take action on the pressing issues facing the city and not just talk about them.
Ms. Gross, who represents council’s 7th District, said Pittsburghers deserve a mayor they can trust and who trusts them back, and one who will listen to them.
That’s Mr. Gainey, she said, and not Mayor Bill Peduto.
In making her announcement Wednesday night, the councilwoman described a city that is changing rapidly, with some neighborhoods seeing massive development in recent years — to the tune of millions of dollars — while others suffer from blight, abandonment and disinvestment.
“What we need to do now is take action. We’ve had plans. We’ve had reports. We’ve had task forces. But
we have not seen action,” Ms. Gross said at a news conference in Lawrenceville, “and we’ve waited long enough.”
As his campaign deemed Ms. Gross the city’s “most progressive councilwoman,” Mr. Gainey claimed the incumbent mayor has run an administration of broken promises over two terms, and claimed his opponent hasn’t kept his word on bringing affordable housing to the city, bettering police-community relations and creating an equitable city for Black and white residents.
The Butler Eagle is the latest newspaper to sue Google and Facebook on antitrust grounds, saying the two digital behemoths control most of the digital advertising in the U.S. and are threatening the survival of newspapers by siphoning off ad revenue.
The paper, which does business as Eagle Printing Co. and also publishes the Cranberry Eagle, filed the suit Monday in federal court in Pittsburgh and is
asking a judge to enter an order declaring the companies’ actions illegal.
The suit also asks for triple damages for direct harm suffered by the newspaper at the hands of the two giants.
Newspapers around the country have in recent years filed similar suits challenging the dominance of Google and Facebook, with many saying the tradition of a free press in America is at risk without government intervention.
It’s April, right? Snow covers the green of spring on some trees in Brighton Heights after a snowstorm on Wednesday.