WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in the case concerning the constitutionality of state laws that define marriage as only between one man and one woman. The outcome of these hearings, set for late June, could cause a potentially damaging ripple effect for conservative business owners who, based on their personal religious beliefs, do not want to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. The Foundation for Moral Law, a Montgomery, Alabama-based nonprofit corporation dedicated to defending the Constitution, filed a motion Monday before the court, urging the recusal of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, who have performed same-sex marriage ceremonies, and Justice Ginsburg has made several statements indicating that she favors same-sex marriage. Canon 3A(6) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges provides that “A judge should not make public comment on the merits of a matter pending or impending in any court.” It mandates that a Justice “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Supporters of biblical marriage are urging God’s people to pray for the Court and for those making their presentations to defend biblical marriage before the Justices.
ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is temporarily moving his office from the state capital, Annapolis, to Baltimore today after rioting and fires broke out in the city overnight. Hogan spokeswoman Erin Montgomery says the governor will visit sites around the city today and plans to work out of state offices in downtown Baltimore with Cabinet members and senior staffers. Rioting erupted in the city Monday, hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old died of a spinal injury days after being taken into police custody. National Guard troops fanned out through Baltimore, shield-bearing police officers blocked the streets, and firefighters doused still-simmering blazes early today. Monday’s riot is the first time the Maryland National Guard has been called up for a civil disturbance in the state since 1968, when Baltimore erupted in violence after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. About 500 guardsmen are being deployed in Baltimore today, and the force will build to about 2,000 through the day. That can build to 5,000, and officials also could call on Guard forces in neighboring states if needed.
HARRISBURG – The Senate State Government Committee has approved legislation intended to help educate Pennsylvanians about how their tax dollars are being spent. Senate Bill 442 requires all Commonwealth agencies to use the phrase ‚Äúpaid for with taxpayer dollars‚ÄĚ whenever tax dollars are used for advertising. Lebanon County Sen. Mike Folmer is the bill’s prime sponsor. The measure could also help reduce overhead costs for state programs as managers would be asking themselves if advertising with tax dollars is warranted. Senate Bill 442, known as the Taxpayer-Funded Advertising Transparency Act, would apply to TV, radio, print, and billboard advertising. The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
HARRISBURG – Legislation aimed at getting borrowing by state government under control was introduced recently by a group of House Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg. The four bill package is designed to increase debt transparency and control the growth of the debt burden incurred for funding capital projects, as well as putting lower debt ceilings in place for borrowing that funds the economic development program known as RACP. Lancaster County Rep. Steven Mentzer, a member of the PA House Speaker’s Debt Working Group, said lawmakers are looking to keep the state‚Äôs growing debt burden under control. The legislative package will reduce more than $10.5 billion in taxpayer debt.
HARRISBURG (AP) – A Dauphin County surgeon is headed to trial on charges that he punched a police officer after a road rage incident. Pennlive.com reports 55-year-old Walter Peppelman of West Hanover Township waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the case. It was scheduled for Friday. Police say a woman called on Jan. 10 reporting that a Jeep began following her after she honked the horn when the driver cut her off. Police say Peppelman chest bumped a Lower Paxton Township officer and punched him in the side of the head when he tried to arrest him. He was eventually taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest, harassment, and related offenses. Peppelman was released on $5,000 bail and is due back in court on June 23.
LANCASTER – Relief efforts to help victims of the earthquake that hit Nepal are kicking into high gear. The quake leveled buildings, killed thousands, and injured others. A number of area ministries have begun to reach out. Global Aid Network or GAiN is seeking prayer and financial donations that will be used by staff on the ground in Nepal to help relieve suffering in the name of Jesus Christ. They are assessing the greatest needs in Kathmandu. Financial donations for Nepal to GAiN can be made online at www.gainusa.org or calling 1-800-778-7806. Mennonite Central Committee has confirmed that all of their staff are safe and their buildings are intact. MCC will be responding and welcome donations to the effort. They also ask for prayers for the people of Nepal and those affected in neighboring countries. Donations to MCC can be made online at www.mcc.org or calling 1-888-563-4676. A Samaritan‚Äôs Purse disaster response team member who arrived in Kathmandu is seeing incredible destruction, death, and need. They are asking God’s people to pray and make a financial contribution to help with relief efforts. Donations for Nepal through Samaritan’s Purse can be made online at www.samaritanspurse.org or calling 828-262-1980.
HARRISBURG (AP) – A grand jury report issued says PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane engaged in a cover-up and was not “truthful” about her role in the alleged unlawful leak of material from a 2009 investigation. The report’s release came three months after it became public that the grand jury had recommended Kane be charged with perjury, obstruction, and other offenses. A suburban Philadelphia prosecutor is now reviewing those recommendations. The grand jury was investigating Kane’s actions in connection with a Philadelphia Daily News story about the grand jury investigation. The panel concluded that her testimony was “materially false.” Kane has denied any wrongdoing. A spokesman says Kane would have preferred that full transcripts of testimony had been released and not just the grand jury report.
NORRISTOWN (AP) – A criminal investigation of Kathleen Kane may expand to include the firing of staff prosecutor James Barker following his grand jury testimony. A three-judge panel referred the matter to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman to determine if Kane should be charged with retaliation and official oppression. Ferman is already reviewing grand jury findings that Kane unlawfully leaked secret material from a 2009 investigation. The judges are leaving it up to Ferman to decide whether to investigate this month’s firing of Barker. The judges had initially weighed whether to try Kane for contempt of court for firing Barker, who had testified in the leak investigation. Kane’s lawyer says Barker’s firing wasn’t retaliatory, but part of a staff reorganization.
HARRISBURG (AP) – A new audit says Pennsylvania’s system of 14 state-owned universities should do a better job of tracking crime and sex discrimination. State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a generally favorable audit of the State System of Higher Education that also cites administrative flaws in the universities’ compliance with federal laws that could result in costly penalties. DePasquale is citing the system’s discontinuance of internal audits of compliance with a law requiring schools to report crime on or near campuses. He says the system also failed to establish uniform procedures for handling grievances under the law barring sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. The auditor general says the system should also continue exploring ways to rein in rising tuition rates, especially through reductions in personnel and operating expenses.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Prosecutors can’t release a video showing a police officer shooting to death an unarmed man until after a hearing has been held. Dauphin County Judge Deborah Curcillo announced the hearing next month on whether to allow prosecutors to make public the video that’s been used to charge Hummelstown Police Officer Lisa Mearkle with criminal homicide. The hearing will focus on whether the release before trial will interfere with the judicial process and the right to a fair trial. Mearkle is accused of fatally shooting 59-year-old David Kassick as he lay face down. She had attempted to stop his vehicle for expired emissions and inspection stickers. Mearkle’s lawyers say she was acting in self-defense.