Representative Jesse Topper discusses Bob Casey, Rule of Law, mask mandates and higher education funding

August 7 – Representative Jesse Topper joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen on First News Friday morning to discuss issues that impact Pennsylvania’s citizenry.

The first question was: how do you get to Senator Bob Casey?

Topper said, “Some of my colleagues had no trouble getting to him if you saw the article in the protest that was in DC with several of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle that went down and protested all of our quote election suppression efforts in Pennsylvania by the Republican Party. Senator Casey came out and spoke quite aggressively, calling me and my colleagues racist for trying to push through election reform in Pennsylvania. He can find his voice when it suits his needs and in other cases, obviously, not so much.”

Jansen pointed out, “Well yes. Because that benefits him. Their party benefits from the whole election thing. Let’s face it they do. That’s the reason they don’t want strict laws on protecting and being vigilant about our elections.”

Ryan added, “Well listen, you better show your ID for your vaccination, but it’s not necessary to show it for voting.”

Topper said, “I literally just responded to a constituent this morning via email with that very thought which is I find it incredible that those who are exceptionally pro-abortion and want to say medical decisions should be left between an individual and their doctor, even when it involves taking the life of a child, but now all of a sudden medical decisions are no longer the responsibility of the individual and the doctor. Now apparently restaurants and employers and governments and states can say no you will have this certain something injected into you and you need ID to prove it, but you don’t to go vote. The hypocrisy is starting to get to a point that surely anyone with common sense can see that. I’ve made it very clear. The government’s role in terms of the vaccine roll out was clear. Making sure that everyone who wanted the vaccine was able to get it. We have done that. Even though the Wolf administration botched the roll out, the legislature stepped in and now everyone who wants a vaccine has access to it. That is the only role of a government in this case. That is it. And everything else should be left up to the individual.”

Ryan pointed out, “You have no access unless it’s something that Senator Casey is interested in, despite the fact that it affects people in your district.”

Topper said, “Well there’s access, but I can tell you the answer that he’ll give, which is the answer that the other side in Washington has given, which is there is no problem. You guys are simply promoting fear based on faulty information. There’s no problem. There’s no crisis. It belies any kind of common sense to look at what’s going on and say that we don’t have a crisis. First of all, if you’re worried about people’s health it’s a crisis but also if you’re worried about safety and the rule of law, it’s been a crisis for quite some time. I think Senator Casey to be quite frank, will carry the water for the Biden administration and whatever those talking points are are the talking points that I or you would get whether we had access to him or not.”

Ryan said, “It’s about people at this point, Casey. It’s not political anymore. You got your guy. However he got to the finish line. I don’t want to hear any more people bashing Trump anymore. He’s gone. Why don’t you just deal with what you have in front of you when you see lawmaker after lawmaker after folks in law enforcement saying this is a mess. People are dying on the southern border. You see these folks who don’t have any political skin in the game saying this is a tragedy. It is on Biden. It is on Kamala and the entire administration. People are dying because of Joe Biden.”

Topper said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the crisis at the southern border has reignited with the new administration and their policies but you can’t hold Senators and Congressmen unaccountable in that because they are complicit by encouraging those same policies. There’s no magic formula. People are up for elections and that’s how we decide.”

Jansen called it, “Selective blindness. Whatever benefits me, I see. Whatever doesn’t benefit me, I don’t see. Whether people die, whether the law is followed, they don’t care. You hit on my theme of the day. What happened to Rule of Law? It’s so troubling.”

Topper agreed, “I have said whether it comes to the cities that were on fire, the rioters, the looting and even those who broke the law on January 6 at the Capitol, I have made it my statement that the law doesn’t see politics. It doesn’t see red. It doesn’t see blue. It is the law. I took an oath to uphold the constitution. Our law enforcement officers, our military take oaths to uphold the laws and the constitution and that’s what it should be about. It should be about the Rule of Law and right now the most troubling thing for me, especially from the other side is the hypocrisy of calling out what they like and what they don’t like based on simply ideology.”

There was a hearing on trans athletes in high school sports this last week in Harrisburg. It was an emotional hearing.

Topper said, “The same people who say follow the science only follow the science when it’s advantageous to their cause. They’re not actually about following the science if it doesn’t agree with their ideology and that is a problem when it comes to making public policy. It really becomes indoctrination at that point. It’s not about science. It’s not about facts. It’s about ideology and that is the biggest threat I think to our democracy is when we throw out any kind of factual basis for making our decisions and it’s totally based on how we feel at the given moment, then we have a problem on either side.”

In terms of mask mandates, the Wolf administration is giving a lot of people whiplash. What’s really going on?

Topper explained, “There won’t be any mandates from the governor’s office because he knows that wouldn’t last under the state of emergency declaration because of what was passed and the state of emergency was taken away. That being said will the Department of Education, one of the things they like to do is they could make it so difficult on school districts that don’t do it that school districts would feel like they need to. That’s not the way it is at the time. I’ve been very clear to all the school districts I represent and anywhere. It is an option. You have the choice to design your own health and safety plan in terms of COVID 19, including masks. So far from what I hear, the schools in this area are saying that they’re optional which is fine. If a kid or a parent feels safer wearing a mask, I don’t have a problem with anybody who wears a mask. I don’t have a problem with anyone who gets a vaccine. My problem comes with mandating that everyone do it.”

There is also an upcoming hearing on higher education funding – and one of the main issues is the state-related universities.

There are four colleges – Lincoln University, Penn State University, Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh – that are separate, private entities, operating under their own charters, but that are still given annual financial appropriations from the state in exchange for tuition discounts to students who are residents of PA.

In addition, the commonwealth has state schools that function under the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PSSHE), which is a state agency of the commonwealth. There are 14 universities run by the state.

Topper explained, “We have a responsibility to make sure our state system functions because it is a state system, we own it. That is not the case with state-relateds, Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln. We need to see whether we should be funding institutions or funding students directly and that’s really what the theme of this hearing is going to be about. Are we doing this in a way that funds the institutions? Are we doing this in a way that helps Pennsylvania students afford higher education? And if it’s not the latter then we need to make some changes.”

The state system of universities will also be at the hearing.

Topper said, “We owe it to our state system to fund both the system and the students because we own the system. That’s not the case with the state-relateds.”

Jansen pointed out, “And with the state-relateds, they get a lot of money privately as well. How do we figure out this formula? Why should we be giving them money?”

Topper laughed, “And the fact that their endowments are bigger than some of the PSSHE schools entire budgets, but that being said, we have a lot of constituents and students that want to go there and those universities do offer to help in the state in terms of the economy as well so we need to look at that holistically but we also need to look at it. It shouldn’t just be a given that we’re giving money to institutions of which the state does not own.”