In the US, women in general make 85% of a man's median annual earnings. Asian women make 90%, white non-Hispanic women make 77%, African American women make 63%, Pacific Islanders make 59%, Native American women make 57%, and Hispanic women make 54% of a non-Hispanic white man on a annual basis.

Equal Pay Day 2018

Tuesday, April 10, 2018, is the day on which women’s wages catch up with men’s wages from the previous year. This day varies year to year. It symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man made the previous year.  April 10 is six days later than Equal Pay Day 2017, two days earlier than Equal Pay Day 2016, four days later than Equal Pay Day 2015, one day later than Equal Pay Day 2014, five days earlier than Equal Pay Day 2013, and seven days earlier than Equal Pay Day 2012 when Ni-Ta-Nee NOW started tracking this date!

Since I started this blog at the end of 2012 (8 months after Equal Pay Day 2012), I’ve created a blog to provide some information on this day and its meaning to economic justice for women.  Each year, I created a flyer for Ni-Ta-Nee NOW that we distributed to the public in State College, PA on Equal Pay Day and then turned it into a blog for the general public. The previous blogs can be found here:

In the US, women in general make 85% of a man's median annual earnings. Asian women make 90%, white non-Hispanic women make 77%, African American women make 63%, Pacific Islanders make 59%, Native American women make 57%, and Hispanic women make 54% of a non-Hispanic white man on a annual basis.

A look at the national wage gap by gender and ethnicity on Pay Equity Day 2018. Data collated by AAUW.

The general theme of these previous blogs is that women’s wages are currently moving at a snail’s pace towards equity with men’s wages. At the rate of change since 1960, it will be 2059 before women achieve wage parity; but at the slower, snail’s pace rate of change since 2001, it will be 2119 before women’s wages reach parity.

Yet there is some bright news. On Tuesday, April 9, 2018, the eleven-member 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously gave the idea of pay equity a boost by ruling that “employers cannot use previous salaries to justify higher payment for men than for women.” This decision only applies to the nine states within the 9th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction, but it is a start.

So to change my blog a bit, I thought I’d share Nel’s New Day‘s commentary on this decision and on Equal Pay Day 2018.  She talks about similar issues, including varying dates of pay equity for people of color and a more in-depth effort to debunk the reasons for pay inequity than I have done in the past.

She also talks about international pay equity, ranking the United States against other countries around the world. I, in contrast, looked at the ranking of PA as compared to the United States.  So I’ll add that bit and then share Nel’s commentary with you.

How About PA?

The wage gap is even worse in Pennsylvania than in the United States. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap places us at 29 out of 51 (tied with CT, TX, OR, & IL) among the states. The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year-round in Pennsylvania in 2016 (the last date data were available) was $41,047 compared to men’s $51,780 or 79% of what a man earns. This is a wage gap of 21%.

In  the Old PA 5th Congressional District where I live

In 2016, Pennsylvania’s old 5th Congressional District (CD)women in the district made $35,384 compared to the $45.640 that men earned or 77.5% of what a man earned (a BIG improvement over the 73.4% in 2015). The old 5th Congressional district ranks 9 out of 18 (up from 15) in the state in terms of the wage gap.  This is a wage gap of 22.5%. Philadelphia’s 1st CD fairs better than the rest of the state with a difference of just 13.7%.

[Side note: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on January 22, 2018, that Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. After the General Assembly and the Governor failed to create a new map by the mandated February 15 deadline, the Supreme Court established and announced the new districts on February 19.  Due to this recent redistricting, the pay equity data for Pennsylvania’s new Congressional Districts has yet to be done.]

Lifetime Wage Disparity in Pennsylvania

A woman in Pennsylvania who is just starting her career now will earn, on average, $429,320 less than her white, non-Hispanic male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career (ranked 30 out of 51 states). For Asian-American women, it’s $418,280; for white, non-Hispanic women, it’s $463,960, for Black women, it’s $657,680; for Native American women, it’s $840,800; & for Hispanic women, it’s $679,920.

Equal Pay Day – Help from the 9th Circuit with a National and International Perspective on Pay Equity

via Equal Pay Day – Help from the 9th Circuit

If women got the same wages that men do for equal jobs, then Equal Pay Day would be December 31 each year. But we don’t, and women on the average have to work over three months longer to equal the men’s salaries each year because women make $.80 for each $1.00 that men make. This year, Equal Pay Day is April 10, and women can celebrate a great court win today.

Almost one year ago, a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court ruled that employers can pay women less than men for the same work by using differences in workers’ previous salaries. The decision overturned a lower-court ruling and was appealed. Deborah Rhode of the Stanford Law School pointed out that this decision “perpetuate[s] the discrimination” because it “allow[s] prior discriminatory salary setting to justify future ones.”

Today, the eleven members of the 9th Circuit Court unanimously ruled that employers cannot use previous salaries to justify higher payment for men than for women. Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote the majority opinion before he died last month at the age of 87. The case concerned a starting salary for Aileen Rizo, a math consultant with the Fresno County Office of Education, who was paid less than all her male colleagues. The decision applies to the nine states of the 9th Circuit Court.

Although April 10 is Equal Pay Day for all women, dates vary for different ethnic groups when compared to white non-Hispanic men:

  • Asian-American Women: February 22, 2018 ($.87)
  • White Women: April 17, 2018 ($.79)
  • Black Women: August 7, 2018 ($.63)
  • Native American Women: September 27, 2018 ($.57)
  • Latinas: November 1, 2018 ($.54)

People who refuse to believe in the existence of the gender pay gap spread these myths:

  1. Myth: Women choose lower-paying work. Women are consistently told that they cannot do as well in male-dominated fields such as finance and technology. As career fields have a higher percentage of female entering them, the salaries drop because male-centric jobs are more prestigious. For example, biology and design were higher paying when more males were employed in these fields, whereas computing paid less in early years because early programmers were women. The trend then reversed for all these fields—computing became more lucrative when men dominated, and biology and design paid less with more women.
  2. Myth: Women choose to work fewer hours and select more part-time work than men do. Again, this is not a choice because the U.S. lacks federally mandated family leave, and child care is prohibitively expensive. With salaries higher for men, households with one worker keep the woman at home. Gender biases also allow men to leave home to work, leaving women to care for the children.
  3. Myth: Women choose jobs with flexibility over high pay so they can care for families. Female-dominated workplaces—care work, primary education, and clerical—have far less flextime than other workplace.
  4. Myth: More women are getting college degrees than men, so the gap will close on its own. Women continue to select college majors with lower-paying jobs. At the current rate, the closure of the gender pay gap may not occur for another 200 years.

Take-home pay is not the only problem from the gender pay gap. The discrimination leads to trickle-down financial disadvantages causing income inequality and financial insecurity:

  1. The retirement savings gap: Women save about half ($45,614) as much as men ($90,189), and only 52 percent of women have retirement savings’ accounts such as a 401K, compared to 71 percent of men.
  2. The student debt gap: Although women have less student debt, they are less equipped to deal with this debt; 28 percent of women see their loans a “not at all manageable” compared to less than half this percentage for men at 13 percent.
  3. The financial literacy gap: Men are taught far more about managing their finance, and parents think that sons have a better understanding of their money’s value than their daughters.
  4. The work time gap: Women are twice as likely as men to have part-time jobs which fail to offer such benefits as health care, retirement investment, and transit support. Women’s expenditures are more than those for men without these advantages. Again, women are left at home to care for the children because of the myth that they have more skill in this area than men.
  5. The homeownership gap: Homes owned by men are worth more than those owned by women, and male-owned homes appreciate more. Times reported that “homes owned by single men on average are valued 10 percent higher than those of single women, and that the value of their homes have appreciated by 16 percent more than those of their female counterparts.” Women, especially those of color, are also far more likely to be targeted by predatory lenders. “In 2005, women were 30 to 46 percent more likely to receive subprime mortgage loans than men. Black women were a staggering 256 percent more likely to receive subprime loans than white men,” according to Salon.

The gender pay gap doesn’t need to exist. A new Iceland law requires employers to pay women the same as men. All public and private employers with 25 or more employees must obtain government certification of equal pay policies or face fines. The legislation was supported by Iceland’s center-right ruling party and the opposition.  The 2017 Global Gender Pay Report shows that Iceland has the most gender equality of any country in term of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

The United States ranks 49th in gender equality, ahead of Kazakhstan but behind Uganda. The United States ranks 96th in political empowerment of women, behind Nepal, Algeria and Pakistan.

A major difference between the United States and Iceland is also the female participation in Iceland’s federal government. Almost 50 percent of Iceland’s parliament is female. Women make up just 19 percent of the U.S. Congress.

Iceland is smart in this legislation: equal pay can help a country’s economy. Equal pay for women can increase the GDP, adding women in senior management roles and corporate boards can boost companies return on assets, and raising women’s wage can cut the poverty rate for both working women and their children in half if women earn as much as men. The U.S. economy could add $512.6 billion in wage and salary income, equivalent to 2.8 percent of 2016 GDP.  Lifting women out of poverty would vastly decrease the need for costs in the nation’s the safety net.

Statistics surrounding U.S. pay will be unknown in the future, however, after Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) eliminated the requirement for large companies to report wages by race and gender. In Iceland, all pay data will be made public for transparency.

Conservatives claim that the 1963 Equal Pay Act covers all problems with the gender gap in salaries. Yet among the caveat for “equal” pay is “a differential based on any other factor other than sex.” This one was used when the three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court ruled last year that past salaries could be used to pay women less.

A consistent argument against the Paycheck Fairness Act in the United States is that men make more money because they work harder and their jobs are “riskier.” That came from GOP state Rep. Will Infantine in New Hampshire. He added, “[Men] don’t mind working nights and weekends. They don’t mind working overtime, or outdoors in the elements.” As if that wasn’t enough, he said that “men are more motivated by money than women are.” That was in 2014. The state house gave “preliminary approval to the Paycheck Equity Act,” and the law took effect in 2015. Infantine is no longer in the state legislature.

Women can also be destructive to decreasing the gender pay gap:

  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), now a candidate for Senate, said that women “don’t want” equal pay laws.
  • Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) said it is “condescending” towards women to work on policies intended to prevent wage discrimination.
  • Phyllis Schlafly, before her death, wanted the pay gap to be larger so that women could find a “suitable mate.”
  • Kirsten Kukowski, RNC Press Secretary in 2014, could think of any policies her party could support to improve pay equity.
  • Cari Christman, head of Texas PAC RedState Women, said that women were too “busy” to find a solution to the gender pay gap.
  • Beth Cubriel, the 2014 executive director of the Texas GOP, said that women needed to become “better negotiators” if they want equal pay.
  • Fox network’s Martha MacCallum declared, “Many women get paid exactly what they’re worth.”

GOP men are equally dismissive. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wanted to know what gender pay fairness would do for men, and Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, called the debate “nonsense.”

Many people on the far right are even questioning women’s right to vote.

  • White supremacist leader Richard Spencer said that women voting in U.S. elections isn’t “a great thing.”
  • Casey Fisher, a Davis County (UT) GOP precinct chairman, called voting rights for a “grave mistake.”
  • Davis County GOP chairwoman Teena Horlacher, Fisher’s colleague, defended him by saying that Fisher was following the beliefs of the Founding Fathers.
  • Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore co-authored a textbook that was critical of the women’s suffrage movement.
  • Ann Coulter also opposes women’s right to vote, but her net worth was almost $9 million in 2016.

Imagine the gender pay gap if women couldn’t even vote. Happy Equal Pay Day!

Peter Buckland’s remarks at the “No to Nestlé” forum

Concerns about Nestlé Waters, a large multi-national corporation, creating a plastic water bottling plant in Centre County along Spring Creek are heating up.

From my reading of the Forum, there appeared to be general concerns of corporatocracy and regulatory capture. Corporatocracy is defined as  “a society or system that is governed or controlled by corporations.”

Regulatory capture is more complicated.  According to Emory Law, regulatory capture is not illegal acts, corruption or control over governments. Instead,

Regulatory capture is characterized by the regulator’s attitude, not the regulated entity’s actions. A regulator is “captured” when he is in a constant state of “being persuaded”: persuaded based on a persuader’s identity rather than an argument’s merits. Regulatory capture is reflected in a surplus of passivity and reactivity, and a deficit of curiosity and creativity. It is evidenced by a body of commission decisions or non-decisions—about resources, procedures, priorities, and policies, where what the regulated entity wants has more influence than what the public interest requires….

If regulatory capture is a state of being, assisted and sustained by the captive, what roles are played by others? Regulatory capture is enabled by those who ignore it, tolerate it, accept it or encourage it: … feed[ing] a forest where private interest trees grow tall, while the public’s needs stay small.

 

Issues of lack of governmental transparency, water extraction, costs, and many other concerns have been raised at the “No to Nestlé” forum on March 14, 2018, in letters to the editor, on Facebook, and at the public forum held by Nestle on March 12, 2018.

This speech by Peter Buckland was given at a community “No to Nestlé” forum on March 14, 2018. It presents his concerns about lack of governmental transparency that may have resulted from actions related to what could be considered as regulatory capture by a large multi-national corporation.

Peter is in the Forest

The No to Nestle forum was held on March 14th at CPI. Thank you to the individuals who brought this together, the staff at CPI who helped them set up the meeting, and the organizations who were present: the newly-formed Concerned Citizens of Pleasant Gap, Clearwater Conservancy, Food and Water Watch, Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club Moshannon, and Trout Unlimited. You can watch a video of resident Courtney Morris speaking and read coverage in the CDT. More to come. My remarks (without some ad lib elaborations) are below.

*

NO TO NESTLE BATHTUB Picture courtesy of Meg Weidenhof

Thanks for being here tonight. My name is Peter Buckland. I’m a lifetime Pennsylvanian. My first home was on Purdue Mountain but I’ve lived most of my years in the Centre Region where I’ve been active on community and environmental issues. I also serve in local government. Whatever I say tonight, I need to…

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Does that sound fair? I think not Nestle.

Written by Peter Buckland on his “Peter Is in the Forest” blog:

Does that sound fair? I think not Nestle.

I just did a back-of-the-envelope calculation about the proposed Nestle bottling plant in Spring Township. On plastic alone it’s not pretty.

Just so that you know, I’m interested in the systemic impacts and the ethical issues. So far, I’ve been looking into Nestle’s business practices (awful), what economic development should be for the region(regenerative), Clearwater Conservancy’s statement on the matter (not positive), and the way that businesses shape us. All this should make us realize that the environmental, economic, governmental, and social impacts of a Nestle plant are beyond bad. And if you examine it systemically, it’s not just Spring Township or the Centre County. It’s bigger than that.

It’s plastic.

16999295662_c126b55082_b

If Nestle bottles 432,000 gallons a day from the Spring Township Water Authority into 16 oz bottles that’ll be about 3.5 million plastic bottles a day. In a rosy scenario, 20% will be recycled. But if we consider the balance of all things, it’s really bad. And Nestle, the extractor, has to pay for none of it. But moving on…

Where will they go?

It’ll result in 2.8 million bottles going to landfills, incinerators, into our streams, the Chesapeake Bay, and the ocean every day. Make that an annual number and your brain will melt. In a Dr. Evil moment says this: “We will put just shy of 1.3 billion total bottles and around a billion into pure waste. Mwahahahahahahah!”

Right now, every local township has to deal with a Chesapeake Pollution Reduction Program Why? Because we have to deal with runoff, nutrient loading, and so on.  But you know what…Nestle doesn’t. And none of us have to deal with plastics. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not good enough. Let’s step up.

Nestle doesn’t have to show that their products–plastics and withdrawals–are held to the same standard that farmers, sewer treatment plants, or regular landowners are. They get a free pass while they sell our water on a “free market.” Does that sound fair? I think not.

The loss of community sovereignty, the assured compromise of an exceptional value trout stream, and a handful of jobs. Say no to Nestle.

 

Nestle doesn’t care about communities. We do.

The Spring Creek Watershed Commission is planning on holding a public forum on Nestle’s bottling plant being considered for location in Spring and Benner Townships here in Centre County, PA. Time and place for this forum have yet to be determined. The Commission can’t take sides on this issue but they can provide a platform for the public to air their concerns/support on both sides of this issue.

I’ll add a comment re time and place of the public forum once that is set up.

Peter is in the Forest

The people of Spring and Benner Townships have a difficult decision to make. Should the Nestle Corporation be allowed to build a bottling plant that would extract over 400,000 of gallons of water from the aquifer each day and sell it in single-use plastic bottles? The importance of this decision can’t be overstated. Given the public relations blitz the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County has put out there on Nestle’s behalf, I think we need to take a look behind the curtain.

According to Forbes, Nestle was worth just shy of $230 billion last year. They are among the world’s largest food and water companies. That monetary worth, though, has come at tremendous costs to communities across the United States.

On the arid Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation in Cabazon, California, Nestle has continued to pump water during a record-setting drought. The tribe has little to no data to…

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PA Supreme Court Overturns Congressional Map

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital

 

This morning, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court overturned Pennsylvania’s Congressional District map as being unconstitutional and ordered that a new plan for the 18 Congressional districts in the state is to be redrawn.  Five of the seven Supreme Court Justices ruled that the maps were unconstitutional.  And four of the seven Justices ordered that the maps be redrawn in the next few weeks.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has until February 9 – 18 days from now to redraw the lines. Governor Tom Wolf has until February 15 to sign off on this plan.  If the legislature fails to meet its deadline and/or Governor Wolf fails to sign off on the plan submitted to him, the PA Supreme Court will create their own map based on information received by the lower, Commonwealth Court.

The state is then expected to publish the new districts by February 19 and, if necessary, readjust the election petitioning process to ensure that the May 15, 2018, primary takes place as scheduled.

This decision is based on Pennsylvania’s Constitution.  In its order, the state Supreme Court used words directly from our state constitution describing why creating districts based on partisan association is unconstitutional.

I located the order from the Supreme Court.  The case is known as League of Women Voters et al. v The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al.  Here’s the statement that says the current map is unconstitutional.

First, the Court finds as a matter of law that the Congressional Redistricting Act
of 2011 clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.
Accordingly, its further use in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States
House of Representatives, commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary, is
hereby enjoined.

And using text from the state Constitution, the Court mandates that the new map be redrawn to the following specifications:

Fourth, to comply with this Order, any congressional districting plan shall consist
of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly
equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city,
incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure
equality of population.

If the PA Senate GOP appeal to the US Supreme Court to stay this decision is turned down, all 18 districts will be redrawn. This includes the highly gerrymandered PA’s 7th Congressional District (aka “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck”) in the southeast and the 12th Congressional District (aka “The Hammer”) in the southwest.

Here’s what the current Congressional District map looks like with 13 Republicans and 5 Democratic US House Representatives.  There are many possibilities as to what the new, non-partisan districts might look like.  Stephen Wolf has presented one possible non-partisan alternative that could result in as many as 11 or as few as 6 Democratic Congressional seats.  The revised map will almost certainly differ from this initial idea designed by a single, non-elected person. But it does show that it is possible to create a non-partisan district map.

 

Pennsylvania_Comparison_2018 potential non-partisan districts

Current Gerrymandered and Hypothetical Nonpartisan Pennsylvania Congressional Districts. Attribution: Stephen Wolf https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/1/22/1733876/-Huge-Court-strikes-down-Pennsylvania-s-GOP-congressional-gerrymander-and-orders-a-new-map-for-2018

Thank you to the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania for taking the lead in this case.

 

Religion Is No Excuse For Bigotry. | National Organization for Women

“Allowing a doctor, nurse or other healthcare workers to deny medical care that goes against their so-called moral or religious beliefs would do tremendous harm, not only to individuals suffering from a medical emergency but to the fabric of society itself.

We must not tolerate a two-tier system for health care, one for “good Christians” and one for everyone else. Women have made their personal health care decisions based on their own moral and in some cases religious convictions.”

Source: Religion Is No Excuse For Bigotry. | National Organization for Women

Bellefonte’s Civil Rights Legacy

My town. Bellefonte. I’m proud of its legacy on civil rights. We were a significant part of the Underground Railroad in the 19th Century.

Serge Bielanko posted an article about Martin Luther King and Bellefonte’s history associated with civil rights on our local website.  There are a couple of paragraphs from this article that I’d like to share:

In the early 19th Century, Bellefonte rose up from nothing on the hardworking backs of the iron workers who sweated away in the forges that dotted the landscape. Many of those workers were African-American. And later, before the Civil War- when slavery was becoming a hotly contested issue- Bellefonte was a vital stop along the infamous Underground Railroad. The name Bellefonte was whispered in hushed tones among men, women, and children who were fleeing a life of servitude in search of true freedom.

Think about that for a moment.

Bellefonte once literally meant ‘one step closer to freedom’ to human beings in a way that none of us will ever truly understand or fathom. That’s something for each and every one of us to be proud of in this town. I’m not blowing smoke. It’s a heavy notion, but one which I suspect Dr. King would have tipped his own cap to if given half a chance.

Around the time Civil War broke out, Bellefonte’s very own, Andrew Curtin, became Governor of Pennsylvania. This native son was a fierce champion for equality and a close confidant of President Abraham Lincoln’s throughout the war. Governor Curtin was in staunch opposition to slavery and fought fiercely to wipe it off of the American map. He was an important man in United States history, and one that represented a side of Bellefonte that so many current residents still stand strong for.

Among the several stops on the Railroad were the Saint Paul AME Church, the Linn House (which now houses the Bellefonte Art Museum), the Samuel Harris House (home to Candace and Bob Dannaker; she’s a former mayor of Bellefonte), and the William Harris House (aka, “The Wren’s Nest,” home to Ted and Carla Conklin ). Here are some pictures of these stops on the Underground Railroad.

IMG_9809 St. Paul AME Church-001

St. Paul AME Church

IMG_9812 Wren's Nest-001

William Harris House: aka The Wren’s Nest

IMG_9815 Samuel Harris House

Samuel Harris House

IMG_9813 Linn House-001

Linn House

Standing up for equality on Martin Luther King Day and every day, as was done here in the 1800’s, is the legacy we need to perpetuate here and across the country.

I’ll do my part. Will you?

 

Swearing-In of Public Officials for Centre County and Bellefonte Borough Council

Every two years, Bellefonte Borough elects about half of members of the nine-member council and every four years, we elect our Mayor.  This year, five people were elected to four-year terms on council and one person was elected to a two-year term to fill a position that was vacated by a former council person. In addition, this was the year we elected our Mayor.

Their terms start on Monday, January 1, 2018.  But since January 1st is a national holiday, the county decided to hold the swearing-in ceremonies for the county-wide offices and for Bellefonte Borough on Friday, December 29, 2017.  We hold his joint swearing-in ceremony at the same time because the county seat is located in our borough of Bellefonte.  All of the other municipalities hold their own ceremony.

I was sworn into office two years ago but decided to attend today’s ceremony in honor of my fellow colleagues. I was able to snag a front-row seat and was, therefore, able to record each of their oaths of office.

The program started at 9 am.  As people entered the courtroom, we were each handed this program listing all of the participants and the oath of office.

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There were six people sworn into county-level offices by the four currently seated judges on the Court of Common Pleas.

Retiring Judge Thomas Kistler administered the oath of office to President Judge Pamela Ruest who retained her position for another ten years. She is the first female to have served as a Centre County Judge and is now the first women to hold the position of President Judge. Once she took her oath of office, President Judge Ruest administered the oath to everyone else.

The county-level officials sworn into office include two Court of Common Pleas judges – one new (Brian Marshall) and President Judge Pamela Ruest as well our new District Justice Casey McClain (D), our new District Attorney Bernie Cantorna (D), and one new (Jason Moser (D)) and one re-elected (Hope Miller (R)) Jury Commissioner.

Most of the new public officials brought their immediate family to stand with them when they were sworn in. One person—Bernie Cantona—invited his entire extended family to stand with him.  I don’t know how many people that was, but it looked like at least 1/3 of the people in the courtroom joined him up front when he was sworn in as the new District Attorney:

District Attorney Bernie Cantorna 20171229_091439

District Attorney Bernie Cantorna (D) and his extended family at the swearing-in ceremony.

Once the County-level officers were sworn in, the judges then swore in Mayor Tom Wilson and five of the six Bellefonte Borough Council Members.  Evan Duffy, the individual elected to the two-year term was not present and will be sworn in at a later date.

Newly sworn-in council members and mayor 20171229_092854

Newly Sworn-in Members of the Bellefonte Borough Administration. Left to Right: Council Member Jon Eaton, Council Member Michael Prendergast, Mayor Tom Wilson, Council Member Randy Brachbill, Council Member Melissa Hombosky, and Council Member Anne Walker.

Meanwhile, here are videos of the Bellefonte members being sworn into office.

Mayor Wilson (R) was sworn into his second term as Mayor.  Prior to being Mayor, he had served as a member of the Council.

The first member of Council to be sworn in was G. Michael Prendergast(D). He will join me in representing Bellefonte’s West Ward.  This is his first term in public office.

Following Mike, Anne Walker (D) was sworn in. She too is a first-time member of the Council and will also be joining me in representing the West Ward.

Melissa Hombosky (D) was next to be sworn in. She represents the North Ward and this will be her first full four-year term; she was appointed to a vacated seat by the previous Council in the spring of 2016 and will now serve a full four-year term.

Randy Brachbill (R), representing the South Ward, was next to be sworn in. He has served several terms on Council and most recently has served as Vice-President of Council. New officers will be elected out our first meeting on January 2, 2018.

Following Randy, Jon Eaton (D) was sworn in. Jon is representing the North Ward with Melissa Hombosky. He is another first-time member of Council.

Evan Duffy (R) will be sworn in on Tuesday, January 2, 2018, for a two-year term. He will be representing the South Ward and will be up for reelection in 2020.

The remaining three members of Council who were not sworn in today will stand for re-election in 2020. They are myself (D) representing the West Ward, Doug Johnson (D) representing the North Ward, and Renee Brown (R) representing the South Ward.

With this new makeup, Bellefonte Borough maintains gender parity with four women and five men serving as council members. With this gender parity, civility now reigns on our council. I agree with Renee Brown; we are now held more accountable to the public. I believe that’s the way it should be. (You can read this article  on gender parity in the Centre County Gazette to see why the women on Council generally feel this way.)

I’m looking forward to working with all of the members of Council—both male and female. Congratulations everyone!

Women’s Law Project Statement: Why We Strongly Oppose Senate Bill 3

A 20-week abortion ban is moving through the PA House of Representatives. This bill, known as SB 3, also criminalizes the D&E form of abortion. It passed the Senate last winter and on December 4, 2017, it passed out of the House Health Committee. It is currently listed on the House Calendar for a vote by the full PA House of Representatives on Monday, December 11, 2017.

If you live in Pennsylvania, take a moment and call your state Representative. Tell her/him that you oppose SB3 and that it is an assault on women’s reproductive rights and health. Then say, “Please vote no this bill, and instead support laws that put women’s health first.”

Here’s a link to an easy-to-use call-in action page. It will link you to your Representative and provide a short message calling for a NO vote on SB 3.  This link is provided to you courtesy of Keystone Progress.

Thanks for your activism.

WLP Blog

PENNSYLVANIA–The Women’s Law Project strongly opposes Senate Bill 3, which passed the state House Health Committee last night by a vote of 16-10, along partisan lines.

“Pennsylvania politicians just advanced an unconstitutional bill that seeks to throw doctors in jail for providing standard medical care for their patients,” says WLP Senior Staff Attorney Susan J. Frietsche. “They are using discredited junk science to justify it, and repeatedly refusing testimony from real doctors, or their constituents. Anyone not seriously alarmed at both the goal and the process here is not paying attention.”

By criminalizing D&E, a common and safe medical procedure, for no medical reason, SB3 mandates substandard care for women. By criminalizing all pregnancy termination after 19 weeks for no medical reason, SB3 would force doctors to refuse standard medical care for patients facing crisis pregnancies, forcing them to carry unviable pregnancies to term, against their will and despite…

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History Shows Disaster of Tax Bill

History appears to be repeating itself. We’re heading towards another economic cliff with this Republican tax proposal. As my husband said this morning, we don’t need or want this devastating tax cut that’s being proposed. And neither does anyone else we’ve talked to.

Nel's New Day

Over a century ago, George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This saying applies to the disastrous tax bill moving through Congress. “The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” tax raises for the poor and middle class (to paraphrase the title of Judith Viorst’s children’s classic) has passed the House, and another one, probably worse, has moved from committee to the Senate floor after GOP senators were bought off by bribes. Historian Robert S. McElvaine wrote this perspective from the past to illustrate the nation’s future: “I’m a Depression historian. The GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929.” The piece is subtitled “Republicans are again sprinting toward an economic cliff.”

“There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous…

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