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Impeachment splits voters

As the impeachment process against President Donald Trump moves into public hearings, a recent poll shows Pennsylvanian voters are as sharply divided as those across the country.

A Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll released last week shows 51 percent of Pennsylvanians in support of impeachment, with 47 percent opposed. Almost none remain undecided on the issue — an example of the hardening divide shown in some national polls on impeachment.

When pollsters asked voters whether Trump should be removed from office as a result of impeachment, voters were almost evenly split. Both results are within the poll’s 6-percent margin of error.

The inquiry surrounds Trump and his allies’ activities in Ukraine, where officials report military aid was held up to pressure officials into investigating presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s son. Defenses of Trump have hinged on denials of a “quid pro quo” — an offer to resume aid if Biden’s family was targeted.

Republican lawmakers have fought every step of the investigation, arguing that it is an attempt to reverse the 2016 election results. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District continues to argue that impeachment subverts the voters’ will.

“It doesn’t matter whether I’m leaving the barbershop in downtown Altoona, coming out of Walmart, or leaving church — people don’t want their votes to be taken away from them and they realize that this impeachment inquiry is a sham process,” he said on Fox Business last week.

The start of public hearings last week raised the stakes, especially after Trump tweeted attacks on former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch while she sat on the witness stand. Democrats called the tweets an attempt at witness intimidation — potentially another impeachment charge — while even some Republicans questioned the president’s decision.

But for the most part, local GOP representatives have stood behind Trump — casting doubt on rival Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. and the unidentified government whistleblower who first brought Trump’s Ukraine policies to light.

“Instead of Chairman Schiff’s hand-selected witnesses (all of whom lack any firsthand evidence of impeachable offenses), the American people should hear directly from the whistleblower,” Joyce said on Twitter.

Rights amendment returns, decades later

An historic Democratic sweep in Virginia this month has rekindled hope for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — an amendment Pennsylvania has been waiting for since 1972.

Virginia could become the 38th state to ratify the amendment in its legislature, passing the constitutional bar for the first time since Congress passed it in 1972. But the amendment — which would formally enshrine equal rights on the basis of sex nationwide — still faces an uphill legal battle.

Pennsylvania’s Legislature ratified the amendment in May 1972, part of a wave of states that backed the short constitutional amendment. First proposed in 1923, the amendment states in part: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

It passed near-unanimously in Pennsylvania, with the House voting 179 to 2. The state had adopted its own amendment against sex discrimination a year earlier.

“We’re not asking for anything that is new,” state Rep. Patricia Crawford, R-Chester told colleagues at the time, according to a contemporary Associated Press report. “We’re asking for correction of the oversights of the men who wrote the Constitution.”

But even after dozens of state Legislatures backed the move, it stalled in a few states and failed to clear the 38-state ratification goal. Since then, a handful of states have rescinded ratification.

That fact, along with congressional deadlines dating to the 1970s, raises questions about the amendment’s hopes. Still, supporters appear ready to make the effort.

“If we get it to the floor and let people vote, then it will become law, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said.

Pa. gets union dues challenge

A group of nonprofit organizations responsible for a landmark anti-union Supreme Court case have taken their fight to Pennsylvania, with a new lawsuit aimed at a union representing state workers.

Two groups — the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation — filed the suit alongside a state worker who says he wants years of union dues repaid. The tactic was effective in Washington, where they won the key Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees case last year.

That case ended automatic deduction of dues from government workers’ paychecks, a shift that deprives public-sector unions of needed funding.

Lawmakers like former state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr. fought for the policy in the General Assembly without success; supporters are now seeking victory in the courts.

The new case’s lead plaintiff, former state employee David Schaszberger, said he wants thousands of dollars in dues back from the time before the Janus ruling.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO head Rick Bloomingdale rejected the argument, according to WHYY.

“I would just tell the guy if he doesn’t like what the union did, give back his healthcare, give back his holidays, give back his pay increases,” Bloomingdale said.

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