State Rep. sponsors legislation reviewing Pa.’s competitive status with China

To review Pennsylvania’s competitive status with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh) is sponsoring legislation to create a select committee in the House of Representatives. 

The legislative is bipartisan, as Rep. Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia) is the measure’s co-prime sponsor. 

If the measure is approved, the select committee will investigate, review, and provide findings and recommendations regarding the status of the CCP’s economic, technological, and security progress as it relates to its competition with Pennsylvania and the United States. 

The U.S. House of Representatives recently created a committee to investigate competition with the CCP at the federal level, and Mackenzie said in a statement that Pennsylvania’s select committee would be similar. 

“We believe there are many issues at the state level regarding our competition with China that need to be examined as well,” said Mackenzie. 

State-related issues referenced by Mackenzie include the following: 

  • Banning TikTok on all Pennsylvania government-owned devices. 
  • Divesting the state from Chinese assets connected to the CCP. 
  • Prohibiting the sale of state agricultural land and critical land near military bases by Chinese investors with ties to the CCP. 
  • Oversight or banning of Chinese investment or donations connected to the CCP that may be made to Pennsylvania colleges and universities. 
  • Locations of, and work being conducted by, Department of Community and Economic Development trade offices. 

A co-sponsorship memo seeking bipartisan support for the legislation is being circulated by Mackenzie and Burgos. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the approaching weeks. 

Legislation introduced in Pa. House of Reps to protect, honor Native American culture

To protect and honor Native American culture and history, State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., announced he is introducing wide-ranging legislation this month, November being Native American Heritage month. 

The Native-centered legislation is aimed at bringing awareness to the indigenous peoples, their culture and history, and how Pennsylvania can right the wrongs of misappropriation. 

Rabb authored a resolution in 2021 aimed at amending the rules of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to include a formal land acknowledgement at the beginning of each legislative week. In 2018, he introduced a bill to formally abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day (H.B. 2110). He has reintroduced the latter legislation twice. 

“Symbolism matters – particularly when it’s tethered to substantive action,” Rabb said in a statement. “That’s why rhetoric must be followed by redress.” 

Rabb has also put forth, with the affirmation and involvement of tribal leaders, legislation to protect Native American trademarks. The legislation would prevent the use of Pennsylvania state trademarks by non-Native groups to claim Native American patterns and tribal names, as well as other cultural heritage and intellectual property. 

Rabb cited the name change of the NFL’s Washington team to the Commanders, calling it a small step to address the use of racist logos and team names in professional sports. In Pennsylvania, schools and stores sell clothes, keepsakes, and household items that use North American tribal names, patterns, and symbols supporting teams using Native American mascots. Rabb noted that the profits from these sales support groups that are not affiliated with Native Americans. 

“We have a special responsibility to ensure that our state and state laws do not support cultural theft and profiteering,” said Rabb. 

Rabb has authored two bills relating to Native mascots, one that prohibits their use by public schools and another that would assist schools in Pennsylvania committed to updating mascots, logos, school or team names through a grant program. The bill would provide grants to schools that have a Native American mascot and voluntarily discontinue their use of the mascot. 

Pennsylvania has more than 60 schools whose mascots embrace Native American culture. These schools have retained their Native American names and mascots despite continued calls from the Coalition of Natives and Allies and other advocacy groups. 

“Decades of social science research have shown how derogatory mascots have a serious negative psychological and social impact on those with an indigenous heritage,” said Rabb. “In fact, it is well established that mascots, logos and the like that stereotype or fetishize indigenous peoples highly correlate to the alarmingly high suicide rate among Native youth. 

“As the descendant of 16 great-great-grandparents of African descent born across six states wherein slavery was state law, the systemic denial of ‘personhood’ and the use of racist stereotypes to further dehumanize marginalized people is deeply personal to me.” 

Rabb will draft legislation in the new legislative term to study the elements of a land back initiative toward re-establishing sovereignty, particularly the political and economic control of lands, for indigenous peoples descended from tribes that predated settler colonization of Pennsylvania.

Pa. House passes bill to end governor’s shutdown order

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives late Thursday night approved a bill to end the shutdown of businesses in the state.

The bill, which passed by a 117 to 85 vote, which was largely along party lines, with a few Democrats voting in favor, would end the governor’s executive order that shut down businesses.

It would leave in place the state’s emergency declaration so assistance would still be available for such entities as nursing homes. The bill now heads to the state senate.

In a press release, the Republican leaders criticized the shutdown as “arbitrary, frustrating and destructive to family-owned small businesses.”

Non-life-sustaining businesses were shut down in mid-March as part of the governor’s plan to stop the progression of the COVID-19 virus.

Some parts of the state entered the green phase of the governor’s reopening plan today, which allows most businesses to resume, but with social distancing.

The rest of the state will move to the yellow phase of the governor’s reopening plan on June 5. The yellow phase allows retail and restaurants to open with some restrictions. Restaurants, for example, would be allowed to provide dine-in service in outdoor areas with socially-distanced seating.

Businesses such as salons, gyms and theaters will not yet be allowed to reopen.

As of Thursday the state had more than 70,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and more than 5,300 deaths.