After the Republicans blocked their electoral reform efforts for the third time, some Democrats are pinning their hopes on changing the obstruction rules of the U.S. Senate.
This week, Democratic Senator Bob Casey and other senators severely criticized their colleagues for stopping the bill, which would make election day a national holiday and set national standards for early and mail voting.
Casey said in a written statement Wednesday evening: "Our democracy is under siege. Today, Senate Republicans voted against the Senate for the third time this year, even debating legislation protecting voting rights."
Failure-after months of negotiation and compromise with centrist Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va. -Emphasizes the difficulties faced by the Democratic Party in passing or even watered down legislation.
Some people think this is another reason to change or cancel the obstruction bill. This is the tradition of the Senate, allowing the 40-member minority to retain most of its business indefinitely.
In recent months, Casey has expressed willingness to stop obstructing the discussion. Among his Democratic colleagues, he is not alone, especially as President Joe Biden’s agenda is growing.
"I was elected to serve the people, not an arcane Senate procedure," Casey tweeted in April. "If the choice comes down to obstruction or democracy, I know which side I am on."
Despite the hope that Manchin might lead some people to support the weaker version, Republicans are still united against the recent voting rights bill. In June, Republican Senator Pat Toomey called a bill of this type "election law power grab", which would prevent states from setting their own rules.
Democrats in Congress increasingly urgently need to reform federal election laws, especially as Republican-controlled states impose new restrictions. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has lifted the new restrictions, but some Republican legislators have passed constitutional amendments to pass voter ID rules to avoid his veto.
As Democrats like Casey have said, state-level restrictions like those passed in Georgia this year could have a huge impact on black voters.
"Let me be clear: the core of suppressing voters is white supremacy," Casey said, citing long-term restrictions that have effectively targeted black citizens. "Our democracy is under attack, and we need to continue to fight to ensure that all Americans have a say in their government."
The train case spurs the Good Samaritan Act
A state legislator said that this week the rape of a woman on a train in the Philadelphia area made national headlines. He hopes to pass a law that requires bystanders to help victims of crime.
State Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) said on Tuesday that he intends to introduce a bill requiring witnesses to “provide reasonable assistance” to anyone facing serious bodily harm. He cited a similar Minnesota law — known as the "Good Samaritan Act" in some states — which made not providing assistance a misdemeanor.
Brewster said he was enacting the bill when news of the Philadelphia area case came out. The police stated that a man sexually assaulted a woman on the SEPTA train because the witnesses reportedly failed to provide help or contact the authorities.
The District Attorney in Delaware County later questioned the details of the story, believing that most passengers may not know it, and officials may have been contacted. Nonetheless, the case sparked interest in stricter liability for civilian bystanders.
Although in some cases bystanders cannot directly help—for example, for safety reasons—Brewster’s bill requires them to at least call the police. He said that those who have a chance but no chance will face a third degree misdemeanor.
Bill will call for lenient bus licenses
With jobs still vacant across the country, state leaders are working to strengthen the Pennsylvania school bus driver team.
This week, two lawmakers stated that they wanted to petition the federal government to relax the license requirements for bus drivers and seek help from the governor to suspend some of the testing rules.
At least since the beginning of the school year, the school bus route has been understaffed, although the roots can be traced farther afield. Observers pointed to several reasons-including concerns about the coronavirus, the retirement of elderly drivers, and the appeal of app-based carpooling to young people.
“In the past 10 years, the Federation has lost approximately 2,000 school bus drivers,” State Rep. Rosemary Brown and State Rep. Tim Hennessy (R-Chester) when announcing their bill Say.
In Pittsburgh, the public school year was postponed due to shortages; officials eventually recruited the county transportation service to help transport the children to school. In Ohio, schools offer cash rewards, while in Maryland and North Carolina, drivers have threatened or went on strike in recent weeks, demanding that they resolve wage and condition issues.
In Massachusetts, officials called the National Guard to drive buses in a severe shortage. Brown and Hennessey are expanding the Pennsylvania driver base in another way: by petitioning the federal government to make it easier for them to obtain a driver's license. According to current regulations, school bus drivers must study for several weeks, pass a series of tests and demonstrate their understanding of the internal workings of the vehicle.
Although their resolution cannot change these rules, lawmakers said they hope to obtain temporary exemptions while asking Congress to relax federal policies and even establish new licenses for school bus drivers.
"CDL truck drivers and CDL school bus drivers are different professions," Brown and Hennessey said, but in terms of licenses, "their treatment is the same."
Ryan Brown covers statewide politics for Ogden Newspapers. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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