Representative Paul Schemel talks antidiscrimination laws, Quincy Township and the Election Reform bill

October 3 – State Representative Paul Schemel joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen Friday morning during First News to take a look at some of the issues facing Pennsylvania and his constituents.

In terms of the nondiscrimination ordinance for the LGBTQ+ community passed by the Chambersburg Borough Council recently, one argument that was used was to push the state to adopt similar laws.

Schemel warned, “We should always be suspicious of any sort of a law that tries to control ideas. So if an individual who is a biological man believes himself to be a woman, that’s an idea. He has every right to do that under the law. Be suspicious of any law that says now you have to accept that he is a man or a woman. And that’s what these try to control. They try to control what your idea is. What your intent is. It’s bad law. It’s bad policy. It’s bad policy in states that have done it. We have laws and we have discrimination laws that are intended to solve real discrimination problems from the past. Candidly, a lot of those laws probably have no place in our modern jurisprudence because, thankfully, many people are not discriminatory toward African Americans and others as has been a problem in the past. So laws that try to control what you think or what you believe and try to control problems that don’t exist are dangerous things to have on the books. I can tell you that there’s no interest in that at the state level and if the borough thinks that that’s going to push us to do that, then they’re sadly mistaken.”

In the borough’s internal nondiscrimination policy, it says a person’s behavior and attitude has to match social justice.

Jansen said, “That kind of thing worries me.”

Ryan asked, “How do you get away with something like that? I mean they’ve got hot and cold running lawyers over there.”

Jansen said, “They say the commitment of their nondiscrimination policy is to make sure that every employee, including employees contracted, through businesses that contract with them, volunteers and elected officials they now include in that, too, must have attitudes and behaviors that match their idea of cultural diversity and social justice.”

Schemel said, “So once again it’s trying to control what you think and what you believe. And look, trying to insist that you believe something that is patently, obviously not true. That someone who is biologically male is actually female. If you want to believe that, that’s fine, but requiring you to believe something it’s requiring you to deny reality. The law has no place in doing that. There is no history in our jurisprudence of ever doing that. We have anti-discrimination laws because people would discriminate against others because of the color of their skin. We know that someone is African American. There’s no denying that. There’s no debate about that. A biological woman is a woman. That is what woman-ness, womanhood is. And insisting that you deny that and instead that you embrace an alternative reality is an attempt to control our ability to think freely in a way that we have never had in this country.”

Jansen wondered where the impeachment of Quincy Township Supervisor, Kerry Bumbaugh stands. Bumbaugh was charged with various crimes that are directly related to his conduct as a supervisor, including misuse of funds and is under an FBI investigation.

Schemel said, “I filed the Resolution of Impeachment and that went to the judiciary committee, passed through the judiciary committee so now it sits with the leadership of the full House. We’ve been back in session for a couple of weeks. The majority leader has been, there’s been a lot of priority items that we have to get done. There are a lot of deadlines that relate to COVID money that we received and how it gets spent and also the regulations that we left in extending some of the regulation waivers. So some of these things, particularly impeachment has not been a priority at the moment for the leadership. There are two impeachments right now. There’s the one against Kerry Bumbaugh. There’s also one in Schuylkill County against a commissioner. I know the leader has them in mind. The leader is sort of hoping that these two officials will resign, but if not, then I think the majority leader will take it up before the House. It’ll get sent back to the judiciary committee, but then what we have to do is hire lawyers and go through basically a trial. It’s a lengthy process. So I do want people to understand it’s a lengthy process. I know the resolution got filed and passed through committee quickly, but it’s lengthy. And it should be. When you impeach someone, you take away their ability not only just to serve in that office, but to ever serve in any political office and we shouldn’t do that lightly. The voters voted Mr. Bumbaugh in and they should not have their rights to vote who they want in taken away too easily. It’s a lengthy process. We will let it move through. I do hope that Mr. Bumbaugh resigns. I’ve asked him to. He knows that. And makes this not necessary perhaps, but so far he’s not demonstrated a willingness to do that.”

Could the PA Election reform bill be coming back around? 

Schemel said, “This is a very big deal. We passed this once before. The governor vetoed it. It is a comprehensive reform. The House and the Senate have taken different paths in regard to elections. The Senate’s been very focused, off and on, on having some sort of an investigation of last year’s election. What the House did, we have no subpoena powers. We can’t subpoena information. What we did instead was we looked at the election program from start to finish and find where the holes and weak spots are and where it needs to be modernized and we looked at best practices from other states. We developed a comprehensive reform of our election system. So people all the time ask me how can I be confident in our elections? We have the answer to that. How can we have a world-class election program in Pennsylvania? We have the answer to that. The governor vetoed it, but he subsequently said maybe I shouldn’t have vetoed it, maybe there is a place for some of these reforms. So we passed it again and we’re inviting the governor to get into that conversation that he was not willing to before and say okay, let’s look at these reforms, let’s get this passed. We need to get it passed this year. Heaven sakes, we cannot implement a new election reform law in the same year that we have a big election in 2022.”

Ryan asked, “Why the change?”

Schemel said, “Pat, the governor said he didn’t read the bill before he vetoed it. That sounds…dumb, but I don’t know what else to tell you. I think that’s it. Honestly I think what happened is a lot of counties came to him after the fact and said, hold on a second. A lot of those reforms in that bill we wanted and there was money for it that we want to modernize our election system and to take away the inconsistency. What we heard from 67 counties in Pennsylvania is how much conflicting advice they were getting. And so counties were confused. What do we follow? Our neighboring county is doing X. We’re doing Y and we don’t know which is which. We’re getting advice from the Secretary of State, midnight the night before election and I think they say enough of that. We don’t want people showing up telling us that we were corrupt or having problems or being suspicious of this and that. We want everything fixed so I think that was the pressure put on the governor.”