Dems failing to find Orie seat candidate

Published by Tim McNulty on .

As of Wednesday night not a single Democrat is even attempting to take convicted felon Jane Orie's place in the state Senate north of Pittsburgh.

The McCandless Republican's fate was sealed for weeks before she was sentenced to jail Monday but apparently the Democratic party hasn't been able to attract a single candidate to run for the Aug. 7 special election to fill the 2.5 years left on her term. It's a Republican-leaning district anyway, but the party seems poised to let Melissa Hart (or the other Republican hopefuls running) take the job with no competition whatsoever.

Democratic committee members are supposed to vote Thursday night on their candidate (and had promised letters of intent by 5 p.m. Tuesday) but apparently no one has applied. We've asked for updates all day from officials from both the Allegheny County and state Democratic party organizations and have heard nothing in response. Nor has 2010 Orie challenger Dan DeMarco responded to questions.

Democratic committee members in the North Hills district (covering parts of Allegheny and Butler counties) are supposedly giving more attention to supporting former PSU professor Missa Eaton's challenge of freshman congressman Mike Kelly of Butler.

UPDATE 9 am: Party officials say they expect to have a candidate(s?) by this afternoon.


Union & Corbett right about LCB contract

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Both the state store clerks union AND the Corbett adminstration were right about a contract clause and its impact on liquor privatization efforts. That may be one reason Majority Leader Mike Turzai still plans to move on his privatization bill, maybe as early as Monday (says John Micek at the Morning Call).

A new contract for the Liquor Control Board's 3,500 unionized clerks indeed has a clause protecting them from privatization through July 1, 2015 (my story is here), but the language (often called a "successorship clause") would surely be challenged in court should the state sell off its liquor operations. That's the verdict of John T. Delaney, Dean of Pitt's College of Business and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, and a nationally-known expert in labor issues.

"It isn't quite as clear cut as has been suggested by either the union or the state," Mr. Delaney said.

The clause in question -- forwarded by the United Food and Commercial Workers union -- is in full below.

The beginning and end of the clause clearly suggest the state and prospective private buyers would have to meet with the union, Delaney said, and make all sides aware that the contract language exists. The fights will be over Section C and the extent to which it is binding on private buyers of the government-run state store system.

"If an entity were to to acquire operations subject to terms of the contract, courts historically would look at how that acquisition takes place," Delaney said. "If it is a purchase, what is it that the private entity purchase? If it's assets, the courts would have to determine what the assets are. Are employees the asset? Are stores the asset? Inventory?

This would guarantee there would be arbitration and probably a court hearing about what the clause means."

The differences over what the wording means (and the fact Corbett administration negotiators didn't challenge the clause during bargaining with the union) probably means both sides know it will be a court matter if privatization moves forward.

"This was probably carefully vetted by both sides to allow everyone to make the claims they made," Delaney said. "Hence, in some ways it services the interests of each constituency. Someone else -- an arbitrator or a judge -- will determine what it really means."

{Jscribd document_id:=96191657 access_key:=key-2cexekhbje1ukz86scls viewmode:=List h:=500 w:=458}


Santorum starting social issue non profit

Published by Tim McNulty on .

ABC News has more on Rick Santorum's future plans. The former senator is looking to start a non profit (yup, one of those) to support social causes that have defined his political career.

From ABC:

On Tuesday, sources close to Santorum told ABC News that the former presidential candidate will be announcing the formation of a 501 c(4) organization that he will use to pursue a set of issues he has fought for during much of his political career.

This first wave of issues is likely to focus on an agenda that includes anti-abortion and faith and family causes.

However, another senior strategist with ties to Santorum cautioned supporters would have to wait until Friday to find out about Santorum's next move.

Though Mitt Romney is now at the helm of the Republican Party as its presumptive presidential nominee, it stands to reason that Santorum can still remain relevant as a de facto leader of social conservatives.

Last month the pro-Santorum super PAC, the Red, White, and Blue Fund, became a hybrid political action committee that will also work as a traditional leadership PAC to push Santorum's message, support his political travel, cover administrative costs and donate money to candidates he supports with similar views. This new issues-oriented push from Santorum could easily operate out of this leadership PAC.



Casey differs with Toomey, Smith on wage bill

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Pennsylvania's two senators broke over party lines -- as did the rest of the Senate -- yesterday in blocking a vote on a pay equity bill pushed by Democrats. Tracie Mauriello has the pitches from the Bob Casey and Pat Toomey camps:

Women are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. That's an improvement from 1963, when they earned 59 cents for every dollar, but America can do better, said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.


As chairman of the Joint Economic commission, Mr. Casey has been among the Senate's most vocal supporters of measures to provide pay parity for women. The Mikulski bill, he said, "would give women tools as fundamental as being able to share salary information with a co-worker without being punished." He said passage would have provided more peace of mind to women and families who depend on mothers' paychecks.

. . . Nachama Soloveichik, communications director for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said: "The so-called Paycheck Fairness Act would place onerous burdens on businesses, subject them to potentially frivolous lawsuits, encourage larger class-action cases and discourage merit-based compensation. Faced with increased costs, regulations and liabilities, employers would be discouraged from increasing wages and hiring new employees. This can only exacerbate our economic challenges and flagging job growth."

A Lehigh Valley paper got reaction from Casey's GOP opponent Tom Smith, who opposed the legislation too:

"Tom Smith supports pay equality but believes we can do better than a bill that does little to solve the real issue while benefiting only Senator Casey's trial lawyer friends," Smith campaign manager Jim Conroy said via email.


Zappala rejects Orie claims

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. swung back at Jane Orie yesterday, after the convicted felon stood by her guns and continued to say her prosecution was politically motivated and her defense was hampered by not being able to talk about the Zappala family's connections to legalized gambling.Stephen Zappala Jr.

The P-G's Moriah Balingit has Zappala's rebuttal, which involves a look at Orie's voting record and attempts to get one of her brothers a job:

Mr. Zappala also responded to criticism that his prosecution was motivated by a feud between the two judicially and politically connected families. Orie has contended she was targeted because of her opposition to a casino in which Mr. Zappala's uncle was involved and because of her criticism of the Pennsylvania Casino Association, where his father, Stephen Zappala Sr., is a member.

"The use of the term 'vendetta' was intended to be an ethnic slur," Mr. Zappala said, suggesting that the Orie family framed the prosecution this way because his family is Italian.

But, he said, "this isn't a political campaign," he said. "When you try and mislead the public, you're going to have to go to court and you're going to have to prove your case."

In an email from his spokesman Mike Manko, Mr. Zappala countered that Orie voted for Senate Bill 711, which would have authorized table games in the commonwealth, in July 2009 and even served as a sponsor on the original bill.

But ultimately, Orie opposed table games, voting against the final bill in January 2010. The original bill that bore her name did not permit table games.

Still, Mr. Zappala reiterated that he had no animosity toward the Orie family, nor toward Orie herself.

"First, with respect to their being any sort of [animus] from Steve to the Orie family, the only time he can remember having a lengthy conversation with Jane is when she called here to ask that her brother [Jerry], who was working here at the time, be given a raise," Mr. Manko wrote. "As Steve recalls, the raise was granted following the conversation."