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Pennsylvania Republicans want voters to be able to recall elected officials — but only in Philly

A bill would give voters across the state the power to recall elected officials. A Republican changed it to apply only to Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Harrisburg.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Harrisburg.Read moreMatt Rourke / AP

Clout pop quiz: What’s the most efficient way to foul up reform-minded legislation with potential for bipartisan support in Harrisburg?

Make it apply only to Philadelphia!

State Rep. Martina White, who represents Northeast Philly and chairs the Republican City Committee, introduced a bill in March to give voters across the state the power to recall elected officials, from governors and auditor generals down to mayors and district attorneys.

State Rep. Jared Solomon, a Democrat who also represents Northeast Philly, offered a similar bill in 2019 and was ready to push for it again this year.

White’s bill landed this week in the House State Government Committee, where State Rep. Frank Ryan, a Republican from Lebanon County, amended it to apply only to Philadelphia. That amendment passed on party lines.

Solomon wryly joked that Ryan was “moonlighting” as a Philly legislator while messing with a reform.

“This is something we need to be attuned to everywhere, in every single nook and cranny of Pennsylvania,” Solomon said.

» READ MORE: More Clout: Indicted Philly politicians are collecting courtroom cash

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat from North Philadelphia also on the committee, accused Republicans of picking politics over policy.

“He took a bill that could have gotten bipartisan support and did what they always do, which is politicize it rather than legislating,” Kenyatta said.

Ryan says he wasn’t trying to offend anyone and noted the legislation still has a lot of runway before takeoff. It would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, so it must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and then approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter has a recall provision, but the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional when it was used against Mayor Frank Rizzo in 1976.

White, who is not on the committee, told Clout she wanted the bill to have bipartisan support and statewide impact.

“But I still think it’s good for the people of Philadelphia that they have the recall option,” she said.

» READ MORE: How Philly DA Larry Krasner won — and won big

Clout wonders if Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s big win in last month’s Democratic primary was a motivating factor in limiting recall to just the city.

George Gascón, a progressive prosecutor like Krasner, faced a recall effort in California shortly after taking office this year as Los Angeles County DA.

White, a political ally of the Fraternal Order of Police, which backed Krasner challenger Carlos Vega, said she couldn’t speak to Ryan’s motivations. White’s party has endorsed Republican nominee Chuck Peruto in November’s election.

Ryan told Clout his amendment wasn’t aimed at Krasner. “I don’t even know the gentleman,” he said.

Scott Perry votes nay on honoring police

When some protesters last fall called for defunding the police, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) signed a pledge to support law enforcement, saying police have dangerous jobs, “often risking their lives protecting us,” especially from “violence, looting and lawlessness.”

Yet when Congress moved this week to honor the officers who protected the York County Republican and everyone else at the Capitol during the violence, looting, and lawlessness of the Jan. 6 insurrection, he voted against it.

He was one of just 21 “nays” (all Republicans) while 406 House members (including 188 Republicans) voted to award four Congressional Gold Medals: to the U.S. Capitol police, Washington’s Metropolitan police, and for display at the Smithsonian and Capitol.

Perry previously amplified former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election, which fueled the riot as Perry and fellow Republicans tried to throw out their state’s votes.

» READ MORE: Scott Perry is the most loved and hated congressman in Pennsylvania

Perry now says said he’s “indebted and grateful daily for the bravery and dedication” of police and that “despite the disgraceful events that put their personal safety in jeopardy, these officers not only defended our Capitol and those who serve in it, but defended our Republic itself.”

So why vote against recognizing them?

Perry said he voted for a similar bill in March and supports honoring police, but that the new version “was a politically motivated narrative unbefitting the honor earned by these brave officers.” His complaint: The display at the Capitol will include that narrative. But that’s not spelled out in the bill.

Speaking of “politically motivated narratives,” Perry told Central Pennsylvania’s Fox 43 this week that there were 100,000 more votes than actual voters in Pennsylvania in November’s election. That conspiracy theory was debunked months ago.

Police group fined in DA race

Protect Our Police PAC, founded last year by retired Philadelphia police officers who wanted to defeat Krasner’s bid for a second term, was fined $12,000 this week for being tardy in explaining where its money came from and how it was spent.

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics on Thursday cited seven campaign finance reports the group failed to file on time this year. In a settlement agreement, the board also cited a complaint filed in April. That came from Real Justice PAC, which backed Krasner.

Protect Our Police PAC raised more than $923,000 in 11 months, spending 57% of that on consultants to impact races here and in other states. Nick Gerace, the group’s president, was paid almost $62,000 for his efforts. He did not respond to Clout’s question about the group’s future.

The group noted Thursday on Twitter that Krasner’s campaign paid a $4,000 Board of Ethics fine in 2019 for receiving excess contributions from Real Justice PAC in 2017.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.