U.S. lawmakers seek details about United Airlines fracas

April 14, 2017 GMT

tribune staff writer

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) has joined other Democratic senators from throughout the country to demand answers from United Airlines over its forcible removal of a passenger from an aircraft at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

A video that has been widely circulated showed law enforcement officers dragging a passenger off of a United flight on Sunday after he was bumped from the flight and refused to leave the aircraft. Two days later, the conglomeration of Democratic senators, who included Cory Booker of New Jersey, sent a letter to airline’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, requesting details about the incident and the carrier’s policy.

The letter read, in part, “We are deeply concerned by the recent incident aboard Flight 3411 in which a United Airlines passenger was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago, Illinois to Louisville, Kentucky.” It then listed a number of questions the senators wanted answered about the incident.

‘Stop-and-go’ liquor establishments addressed

State Reps. Morgan Cephas (D-192) and Pam DeLissio (D-194) held a public meeting to address nuisance “stop-and-go” establishments that sell alcohol.

Citing the unintended consequences of changing the state’s liquor laws, Cephas said, “It remains critical for local and state agencies to keep a watchful eye on nuisance establishments that are taking advantage of loopholes and this hearing, and others like it, is a step in the right direction.”

The public meeting also allowed testimony about the effects of “stop-and-go” businesses on surrounding communities. The Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the Philadelphia License and Inspection Department and community members were among the participants.

17 schools found ineligible for grants based on staffing

In a Wednesday press release, City Controller Alan Butkovitz announced that a fiscal 2016 audit of the School District of Philadelphia’s grant funds found that 17 schools had insufficient staffing to meet Pennsylvania Department of Education requirements.

Butkovitz audited 23 schools and found 17 out of compliance. A certain student-to-staff ration must be maintained to be eligible for Title I grant money.

Frankford High School, Benjamin Franklin High School, Ethan Allen Elementary School, Bartram High School and Huey Elementary School were the schools with the highest levels of non-compliant staffing.

“The grant funding requirements are specific in that all schools receive comparable money for the number of students that it educates,” Butkovitz said. “It is essential that schools in some of the city’s high-poverty neighborhoods have the same education opportunities as schools in other neighborhoods.

According to his report, the school district is taking steps to help recruit staff members.

Policy forums zero in on state, local legislative issues

State Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-194) held the first of two policy pow-wows on Wednesday, with the second scheduled for Monday. It is a followup from a series conducted in August.

The meetings, held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at DeLissio’s district office at 6511 Ridge Ave., have allowed residents to take a more detailed look at policy issues and legislation initiatives pending in Harrisburg.

Wednesday’s pow-wow covered Senate Bill 3, which seeks to restrict abortion after 20 weeks, and SB 10, which aims to defund sanctuary cities in the state.

In May, topics will focus on a push to eliminate the statute of limitation for child sexual abuse as well as tackle gun control issues.

To make reservations, call DeLissio’s district office at (215) 482-8726.

Voter registration deadline for May primary is Monday

Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the May 16 primary elections.

In the May primary, voters registered as either Democrat or Republican can vote in their respective party’s election. Positions on the ballot in May include District Attorney, City Controller and judicial candidates.

Gov. Tom Wolf reminded voters that they could use the Online Voter Registration to signup, even without a driver’s license or other PennDOT identification card.

The online form can be found at the Pennsylvania Voter Services website at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx.

People can also register online at votespa.com, which also lists county voter registration offices where they can signup or download a form that must be postmarked by April 16.

To vote, residents must be a U.S. citizenship, have lived in Pennsylvania for at least a month and be at least 18 years old.

Casey joins colleague on inquiring about Syria

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) joined with colleague Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Monday in sending a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking the his department to determine whether Russia or Iran knew about or were involved with Syria’s chemical weapons allegedly stored at al-Shayrat air base, which was the target of a U.S. missile attack last week.

Before posing a number of questions about Russia and Iran’s knowledge or potential involvement regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent use of chemical weapons, the letter reads: “Russia’s continued denial of Assad’s chemical weapons attack — even in the face of overwhelming evidence — leads us to question Moscow’s own involvement in what amounts to a crime against humanity.”

The letter concludes by praising President Donald Trump’s administration’s decision to authorize the U.S. warships to launch the missiles on al-Shayrat.

“It is important, however, to address the remaining Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles and the possibility that other [Chemical Weapons Convention] member states may have violated the treaty in order to circumvent the international norms against the use of chemical weapons,” Casey and Rubio wrote.

Concerns of intellectual disabilities confronted

State Reps. Stephen Kinsey (D-201), Isabella Fitzgerald (D-203) and Chris Rabb (D-200) held a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing concerning people with intellectual disabilities on Tuesday at SpArc Philadelphia.

“This hearing is an opportunity to hear from those on the front lines,” Kinsey said. “At the end of the day, it is incumbent upon us as a lawmaking body to help the thousands of disabled Pennsylvanians who are disadvantaged get the support and services they need and deserve.”

The hearing was designed to explore ways state government can address issues within the intellectual disabilities community, and featured speakers including included Kathy Brown-McHale of Special People in Northeast, Marian Baldini of Vision for Equality and Boyd Carroll, a resident at the Inglis House.