When you’re one of 50 states, it’s nice to get a little national notice.
Washington state, for example, is getting attention for passing free and reduced college tuition for its low- and middle-income students.
Iowa gets cited for ranking first in the nation in high school graduation rates.
Well, the education focus here of late is a tad more basic.
It’s schooling members of our legislature to not be haters, and to respect the views of others.
Embarrassingly elemental, yet clearly needed.
So, House Republican and Democratic leaders stood together last week on the House floor to scold their own colleagues.
House GOP Leader Bryan Cutler: “There is no room for hate in any form in this chamber or in our own lives. The people of Pennsylvania expect better from us.”
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody: “We should all respect the views of all Pennsylvanians and we need to respect each other. … The nation is watching.”
Can I get an amen?
(That is not a reference to the recent House prayer controversy.)
And, yeah, the leaders’ reprimand was generic and dishwater-weak. No names or incidents mentioned. It was over in less than two minutes. It should have been stronger and longer. But it’s still noteworthy.
Rarely does any legislative leader seem interested in the image of the institution.
It’s just that lawmakers recently are acting as if auditioning for a return of the TV series Horrible People.
And it’s getting noticed.
Philly Democratic Rep. Brian Sims’ erratic, bullying, intolerant and self-videoed harassment of antiabortion protesters outside a Planned Parenthood clinic attracted the likes of the Washington Post, USA Today, and the National Review.
And, I must say, the Review’s piece by Kevin Williamson, a former editor of the briefly revived Philadelphia Bulletin (2004-2009), reflected a familiarity with our legislature: “As witless a collection of moldering goofs and ravening mediocrities as you will find in any of our state capitals.”
Can I get a hat tip?
The Sims story, which played out on social media, drew hundreds of antiabortion activists rallying outside the same clinic on Friday and calling for Sims’ resignation. Some Republicans want investigations by local, state and federal authorities, and the House Ethics Commission. So, who knows whether it’s over.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s statement after Sims’ video was about as soft as the leaders’ statement. It said that as a former Planned Parenthood escort, Wolf “understands the horrific shaming that patients face … [but] believes we can support and defend our positions without engaging in aggressive tactics.”
I suspect if a GOP lawmaker similarly harassed Planned Parenthood patients, our Democratic governor’s statement would have been stronger.
Next, in an apparent spirit of bipartisanship, Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R., Clinton), picked up some new attention.
Last week, she was seen posing for a selfie with a man in a shirt emblazoned with the name of a group, the American Guard, reportedly tied to white supremacists.
This was at a “Locked and Loaded” rally for gun rights, an annual event at the Capitol, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalf (R., Butler).
You may recall Borowicz made national news in March after offering a prayer in the House praising Jesus 13 times and President Donald Trump for his support of Israel on the day the state’s first Muslim lawmaker, Philly Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, was sworn into office.
The prayer was criticized as divisive and Islamophobic. Gov. Wolf said he was “horrified” by it.
Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D., Chester) recently compared union workers installing a pipeline she opposes to “Nazis.”
And GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai, speaking to an antiabortion group in March, suggested some abortion-rights folks think “like the Nazi regime.”
Seems that Cutler and Dermody need to get specific and stress that, as a general rule, let’s drop all references to Nazis.
Meanwhile, our legislature’s reputation, such as it is, continues to spread (and plummet). And Pennsylvania continues to rank with bottom-dwelling states in almost everything from infrastructure to education.
But I guess that happens when people you elect require lectures on even the fundamentals of civil behavior -- such as tolerance and decency.