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Camp Hill lines up before a game against Schuylkill Haven in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals Thursday.

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State Politics
Pa. House GOP unveils ambitious proposal to revamp election law

HARRISBURG — A Republican proposal to revamp Pennsylvania election law was unveiled Thursday, a 149-page bill that would change deadlines, adopt new rules for early voting, alter mail-in ballot procedures and mandate IDs for all in-person voters.

The measure produced by State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove is likely to encounter pushback from Democrats in a state where both parties are competitive in statewide races.

Although Pennsylvania’s 2020 election was carried out smoothly, many Republicans have called for election-law changes in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voting fraud.

“This is not a view of the Republicans or the Democrats,” said Grove, R-York, whose committee conducted hearings on the topic this spring. “This is a view of what we heard through 10 extensive hearings from all sides.”

The bill was introduced by Grove and House Republican leaders with just three weeks left before lawmakers are due to wrap up business and head home for the summer.

The detailed, complicated legislation will need approval by majorities of both Republican-majority chambers as well as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature to become law.

Voter ID is a flashpoint in Pennsylvania election law talks

The renewed fight over Pennsylvania's election law comes as Republicans wage a campaign to tighten voting laws in other political battlegrounds, including Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Texas and Arizona, spurred on by Trump's baseless claims about election fraud.

Wolf press secretary Lyndsay Kensinger said the bill aimed to install new barriers against voting, in effect silencing people’s voices and turning ballot access into a political weapon.

“This proposal is not about protecting voter rights or increasing access,” Kensinger said. “It is an extremist proposal to try and undermine confidence in our election system, which led to the assault on the U.S. Capitol. They don’t like the outcome of the November election and now they are retaliating against the voters by pushing a proposal disguised as ‘election integrity.’”

The state’s counties, which run the nuts and bolts of elections, have urged lawmakers to pass just two specific changes to mail-in ballot applications and counting procedures by the end of June. They have said those changes to allow the counting of mail-in ballots before election day and to push back the deadline for applying for an absentee ballot will fix most of their election administration headaches in time for the Nov. 2 general election.

Grove’s bill was not negotiated with legislative Democrats or Wolf, leaving it to GOP leaders to hammer out an agreement in the coming weeks amid a busy period of final state budget negotiations.

“We plan on reviewing this 150-page rewrite of our election laws carefully since it was done with no Democratic input and it appears to make voting more complicated, not easier,” said House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton. “Improving ballot access for all voters in a bipartisan way like we did in 2019 should be the standard for any election changes.”

The legislation would provide new restrictions on drop box locations for mail-in ballots, improve access to polling places for voters with disabilities and let counties begin to start counting mail-in ballots five days before election day.

The deadline to register to vote would change from 15 days to 30 days prior to an election, as had been the case before a 2019 law change. Mail-in ballots would have to be requested 15 days before election day.

Drop boxes for mail-in ballots would only be allowed for seven days before an election, and available for use during the hours of 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Counties must have at least one drop-box site and can add one for each 100,000 people who live in the county. They must be monitored by election inspectors from each major political party.

Early voting in person would be permitted starting in 2025.

The proposal includes rules for fixing problems on mail-in ballots envelopes, such as lack of signatures or dates. It would put in place new rules for how lists of registered voters are maintained.

Grove’s bill would also require audits of voting results and establish a Bureau of Election Audits in the state auditor general’s office with subpoena power to complete multiple audits, including “result-confirming audits” that will be due on the third Friday after every vote.

Counties would have to issue “scannable and durable” voter registration cards that those voting in-person would be required to show.

The bill would also constrain the Department of State’s guidance to counties regarding election procedures, limiting the agency to explicit duties regarding elections that are outlined in state law.

It would ban counties from accepting private donations aimed to help them run elections, as occurred last year. Any such donations would have to be distributed by the Department of State and be available to all counties.

The bill would end the current practice of letting people sign up to permanently receive mail-in ballots. Instead, voters would have to request one for each election.

It also boosts the fines for a variety of election law violations and raises the pay for judges of the election from the the current range of $75-$200 to $175-$300.

Grove’s committee is scheduled to take up the bill on Tuesday.

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Monroe Township
Speranza founder praises community response to rescue of 400 animals from Southampton property

At first, Janine Guido had no words for what she saw on hell’s half-acre.

“It left me speechless,” she recalled. “I can’t describe how upsetting it was.”

As president and founder of Speranza Animal Rescue in Monroe Township, she received an emergency call around 4:30 p.m. June 4 from state troopers investigating a half-acre property on Sandbank Road in Southampton Township.

“I drove out there within 45 minutes,” Guido said. “The police were walking around. I was walking around with them. It was just a mess. It was pure hell.”

Here and there were dead farm animals co-mingled and crammed together, with hundreds of survivors clinging to life. The water that was provided was chocked with algae or contaminated by feces and decaying birds.

Livestock was kept in pens without grass, hay or sanitation, Guido said. “There was just poop — a couple feet worth. They were laying in it.”

Rabbits and birds were crowded into cages and crates, she said. “They had no food or water for at least 24 hours. Some of them had gotten trampled and suffocated.”

And that was just what she witnessed. She didn’t accompany the police officers in their walk-through around the rear of the property.

Overall, 404 animals were rescued from the crime scene and surrendered to Speranza. State troopers have arrested and charged Barry Lee Orndorff, 64, of Shippensburg with 450 counts of felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Police accuse Orndorff of failing to provide necessary sustenance, potable water, clean and sanitary shelter and necessary veterinary care for a number of animals, including one horse, about 40 sheep, 20 goats, 40 ducklings, 40 assorted birds and 10 rabbits.

Of the rescued animals, about 75 to 100 birds have been placed with volunteers and other rescue organizations, Guido said. Placements have since stopped because the remaining animals are sick and under quarantine pending the results of medical tests, she said.

“All of them were in horrific shape,” she said. “We have lost some already.”

Since the weekend, a rabbit, a duck, two goats, three sheep and 10 to 15 birds have died. Guido is convinced that all their ailments were caused by poor living conditions on the half-acre property that she described as more residential than agricultural.

The horse was emaciated and crippled due to an old leg injury, she said. “We have him on really strong pain meds. All the goats and sheep have upper respiratory infections. Some have pneumonia. Some have an oral disease.”

She said the birds from the property included chickens, ducks, geese, quail and turkey. Guido heard from a source that Orndorff may have purchased the livestock at auction for resell as meat. The rabbits, sheep and goats had tags on their ears, she said.

State troopers found a dog in the house that stands on the half-acre property. “I met the dog,” Guido said. “It looked healthy and happy. It was well taken care of.

“With all the support that we are receiving, it has definitely restored our faith in humanity,” she said. “The community has been absolutely wonderful. We really appreciate the support.”

For now, Speranza Animal Rescue could use donations of either money or food. Typically, the organization spends about $2,000 a week on food to keep 50 dogs and other animals housed on its Monroe Township property.

With the influx of animals rescued last weekend, the weekly food bill has increased to $7,000 to $8,000, Guido said. Bedding for the animals also costs money, she said.

“We don’t know how long we will have them,” Guido said. To make a donation, visit the website at

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Mechanicsburg Schools
Parents push Mechanicsburg school board for removal of mask mandate

Mechanicsburg Area School District administrators advised parents at a school board meeting Tuesday that the district can’t lift Gov. Tom Wolf’s standing mask mandates for unvaccinated people because it doesn’t have authority to do so.

During a public comment period at Tuesday’s virtual meeting, a dozen or so parents spoke out against the district following the state’s current state mask mandate, with some “imploring” the board to take action “right now” regarding summer activities and the upcoming school year.

Many said they couldn’t wait until the board next meets in August for action because it affects where their children attend school next year.

Superintendent Mark Leidy addressed those concerns online Tuesday via a Zoom platform, saying that it’s too early at this point for the district to make decisions based on what circumstances could be in August, but adding, “I believe the direction we’re heading in now could lead to (no masks).”

“There are some districts that voted to eliminate masks and they were contacted by the (state) Department of Education that they don’t have the authorities to do this,” Leidy said.

Cumberland Valley School District voted May 24 to lift the state’s mask mandate for unvaccinated students, staff and parents in the district effective June 5. Last week, the state Education Department notified CV’s administration that it had no authority to make such a move and that the mask mandate would continue as enforced by the state Department of Education and the state Department of health.

Parent Gretchen Stockbaurer told Mechanicsburg officials Tuesday that she was “worried” that masks will be mandated for her children attending a summer playground camp sponsored by the Mechanicsburg Area Recreation Department, of which the school district is a sponsoring partner. “Children will have to wear masks in 90-degree heat,” she said.

Leidy said administrators will look into ways that area summer camps could offer “mask breaks” to attendees while remaining compliant with state regulations.

Wolf recently announced that the state will lift its existing mask mandates either on June 28 or when 70% of the state’s adult population is fully immunized, whichever occurs first.

Leidy said Tuesday that as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandates “continue to evolve,” district policy will automatically follow without board action due to a flexible district health and safety plan that school directors approved last year.

Budget approved

Also on Tuesday, the Mechanicsburg Area School Board authorized final adoption of the district’s 2021-22 general fund budget that will increase real estate taxes by 3.6% starting July 1.

The finalized $83,937,825 budget raises the district’s current tax levy of 14.1558 mills to 14.6654 mills for next year. As a result, an owner of a property assessed at the district’s current median value of $189,000 can expect their 2021-22 tax bill to increase by $96 to $2,771.

Contractor bids

Also, the Mechanicsburg Area School Board approved contracts Tuesday for the district’s planned high school expansion project expected to begin later this year. Contracts totaling $17,655,369 were awarded as follows:

  • General construction: eciConstruction, $12,022,000
  • HVAC: North Bay Mechanical Ltd., $2,520,000
  • Plumbing: Jay R. Reynolds Inc, $869,600
  • Electrical: McCarty & Sons, $2,001,972
  • Fire alarm/control: JCI/Simplex, $241,797

The district plans to construct front and rear additions to the high school that will increase the building’s size by more than 20%. The project is designed to accommodate the high school’s growing enrollment and “evolving” educational programs.

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Carlisle Borough among 10 All-America City Award recipients

Carlisle Borough was named one of 10 winners of the All-America City Award from the National Civic League on Wednesday night.

The award, issued since 1949, “shines a light on communities that are working to tackle tough issues and lifts these places up for national recognition,” according to the league. For 2021, the award theme was “building equitable and resilient communities.”

Towns and cities entered the contest by submitting an application highlighting their work and innovation; 20 finalists were announced in March.

The National Civic League commended Carlisle’s efforts, including work done by the Community Action Network with pandemic public health programs, as well as the group’s task force on summer child care and education.

The league also praised the borough’s efforts surrounding racial justice, including the re-dedication of Lincoln Cemetery and the borough’s efforts toward a public dialogue on racism, including the planning of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The borough’s Climate Action Commission and its work in environmental planning for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was also a notable accomplishment, according to the National Civic League.

The benefits of the award, according to the league, include community pride, as well as a better time attracting and retaining new businesses and residents.

Carlisle Deputy Mayor Sean Shultz accepted the award on behalf of the borough Wednesday night during the announcement.