Investigations reached Pa. policy | News, Sports, Work

FILE. A bicyclist rides past the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on March 22, 2021.

The FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida mansion has grabbed most of the headlines this week, but Pennsylvania lawmakers also find themselves embroiled in the investigation.

On Wednesday, PennLive reported that the FBI served subpoenas to several offices of Republican representatives and senators in Harrisburg.

The names of the lawmakers have not been confirmed, and as of Friday, GOP officials said they had no evidence that their members had been targeted.

The news came shortly after it was revealed that federal agents had taken over

cell phone of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, as part of an ongoing investigation. Perry later emphasized that he was not a target, telling Fox News’ Tucker Carlson: “I have heard from my attorneys, who have spoken directly with the Department of Justice, who have said that I, their client, am not a target of this investigation.”

Federal officials are reportedly investigating a voter registration list organized by Trump allies during the 2020 election. Weeks after then-candidate Joe Biden won the November election, a group of Trump supporters, including some prominent Pennsylvania politicians, signed a form indicating they would act as alternative voters who could help swing the race in Trump’s favor.

The federal probes surrounding the voters — and the Jan. 6 riots outside the Capitol building — have drawn many Republican politicians, though no one has been charged and no one has been specifically named as a target.

This week, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Fayetteville, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, reportedly appeared briefly before a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 incident. Earlier this summer, Mastriano spoke with the FBI.

While little is publicly known about the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home or the ongoing investigation in Pennsylvania, conservative candidates have criticized the investigation as politically motivated.

Speaking to right-wing news station Newsmax this week, Mastriano attributed the investigation to Democratic opponents, though he offered little to back up that claim.

“Democrats have simply gone too far. I see it in Pennsylvania, we see it in Washington, D.C., and we saw it in Florida last night.” he said.

Representative in latest push to change school fund

A state lawmaker is working to overhaul the way public schools are funded by proposing a constitutional amendment that could eliminate property taxes and replace them with sales and income taxes.

Congressman Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon, has long worked to change the state’s school funding system, which is based on local property taxes. Ryan is set to retire this year, but he’s proposing a final constitutional amendment that extends beyond his legislative career.

Challenge the plan “critically important” In a note to colleagues this week, Ryan said: “Moving to a sales/income tax would eliminate the regressive school property tax and help 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 would be put to the public for a referendum. In recent months, GOP lawmakers have proposed several constitutional changes, including one to avoid a Democratic governor’s veto.

Ryan already proposed a package in February to change the way Pennsylvania schools are funded, along with other cosponsors, including Rep. Bud Cook, R-Clover Hill.

The bill, which Ryan proposed to use as a substitute for the law if his amendment passes, would replace property taxes with a 2 percent sales tax and increase the personal income tax. Under his plan, some retirement income would also be taxed.

“It’s time to save the Commonwealth from financial bankruptcy and its residents from homelessness.” he said.

The school funding system has long been controversial.

Proponents and opponents of the state funding formula have been squabbling in court for months this year in a case that dates back nearly a decade.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the funding formula violates the state constitution’s promise of equal protection because poor neighborhoods receive less than their fair share.

Last month, Commonwealth Court judges heard closing arguments in the case.

Democrats celebrate a close victory

Democrats in Congress spent the past week celebrating a key legislative victory that will see hundreds of billions of federal dollars earmarked for renewable energy and climate change.

The Lower Inflation Act — named amid concerns about soaring prices — includes a watered-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 cars. The money is also intended to encourage more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly appliances and power generation systems.

“Now we live in a moment where storms happen once in a lifetime every couple of months. Nowadays, harsh weather conditions have become the norm. As hurricane remnants flood Philadelphia’s Vine Street Freeway, western states burn and lakes disappear in worst drought in millennia.” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said in a news release after voting for the legislation. “It’s high time we took bold action to tackle the climate crisis.”

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, who is set to leave office this year, called the plan a “partisan tax and spending spree.”

The bill also expands certain forms of health care coverage and aims to reduce the federal deficit.

Republicans voted against the bill in a final 51-50 Senate vote. In the House last year, every Republican voted in opposition, while only one Democrat broke ranks to join them.

Pennsylvania’s delegation was perfectly split along party lines, with only Perry not voting.

Ryan Brown covers state politics for Ogden Newspapers, owner of the Sun-Gazette.

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