PA Capitol Report: Top 12 Stories From Harrisburg Last Week

Here are the Top 12 Stories From Harrisburg last week

— WITF: House Lawmakers Get An Earful On How To Redraw PA’s Congressional Maps: ‘Do No Harm’

House lawmakers of the chamber’s powerful State Government committee are starting to get ideas and input on their once-in-a-decade task of redrawing Pennsylvania’s congressional districts.  In an attempt to open the drafting process to the public, the State Government committee is holding comment hearings across the state and allowing idea submissions through a special website.

— PA Cap-Star Guest Essay: The Philly Suburbs Grew Over The Last Decade, That’s A Problem For Republicans

— Fair Districts PA: Winners Of Statewide Voting District Mapping Contest Announced

— AP: PA Republican Lawmakers Go To Court To Get Mail-In Voting Law Thrown Out

Fourteen PA Republican lawmakers have filed a new lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law, calling it unconstitutional and asking for it to be thrown out.  The legal challenge was filed just before midnight Tuesday in the state Commonwealth Court.

It is the latest attempt by Republicans to invalidate the 2019 law that Republican lawmakers almost unanimously supported.

The central claim of the lawsuit is that the law — which allowed no-excuse voting by mail — violates a constitutional provision that requires lawmakers to provide a way for people to vote if they are unable to vote in person for specific reasons.

— TribLive Editorial: No-Excuse Mail-In Voting Is The Law Of The Land – Lawsuit Against It Republican Sour Grapes

— City & State: 4 Election ‘Reform’ Bills Lawmakers Could Consider This Fall

— PA Cap-Star: Republican Election ‘Investigation’ Hearings Begin Next Week, Senate Committee Seeks Public Testimony

Ten months after the November 2020 election, and seven since the results were certified, a Pennsylvania Senate committee expects to launch an investigation into the electoral process next week. And its members are soliciting the public for help.

— WHYY – Katie Meyer: Republican Senators Push Forward With Vague Idea of 2020 Election Audit

— Sen. Dush: Senate Committee Plans First Public Hearing Of Election Investigation

— Sen. Dush: Senate Committee Invites Public To Submit Sworn Testimony In Election Investigation

— PA Cap-Star: PA Republicans Eye Constitutional Amendment To Restrict Authority Of State’s Top Health Official

Senators Judy Ward (R-Blair), Patrick Stefano (R-Fayette), and Kristin-Phillips Hill (R-York), are leading the latest effort to do an end-run around Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent executive action. In a Wednesday memo seeking support from colleagues, the lawmakers announced plans for an amendment that would tie the state health secretary’s response powers to an existing public health disaster emergency declaration.

— Gov. Wolf: Requires Masking In Schools, Early Learning, Child Care Settings To Keep Students Safe

— Gov. Wolf: Medical, Education Experts Support Secretary Of Health Order Requiring Masking In Schools, Early Learning, Child Care Settings

— AP: Republican Sen. Corman, Others File Lawsuit Challenging PA’s New Mask Mandate For Schools

— TribLive: Legal Experts Say Wolf Administration Has Authority To Issue Mask Mandate

— WESA: As PA’s School Mask Mandate Takes Effect, Any Court Challenge May Face Slim Odds

— Williamsport Sun Editorial: We Absolutely Must Do What Is Best For The Children – Wear Masks; School Board Members Are Being Intimidated To Do Otherwise

— PG Editorial: It’s About Time – School Mask Mandate Is Necessary In PA

— MCall – Ford Turner: Battle Over Masks In Schools Heads To Legislature

— TribLive: School-Age COVID Cases Continue To Rise In Allegheny County

— TribLive: Nearly 100 Students Quarantined Due To COVID Exposure At Plum’s Oblock Junior High

— LancasterOnline: 112 COVID Cases Reported By Lancaster County School Districts, Schools Shutdown Last Week

— WilliamsportS: COVID Cases On The Rise In Area School Children

— Inquirer: Mask & Vaccine Mandates Have Broad Support, Polls Show, But Some PA Republicans Are Campaigning Against Them

— PA Cap-Star: Republican Rep. Diamond Compares COVID Vaccinations To Sexual Assault, Faces Backlash

— MCall: Republican Candidate In Northampton County Says He’ll Bring ‘Strong Men’ To Confront Pro-Mask School Board

— PG: Upturn In COVID Deaths Continues In PA

— Spotlight PA: Your Questions About Climbing COVID Cases In PA Answered

— PennLive: Sickest COVID Patients At Penn State Health In 20s, 30s, With Almost None Vaccinated

— PG: Breakthrough COVID Cases Rising, Experts In PA, U.S. Are Trying To Figure Out Exactly What That Means

— PennLive: PA Reports Another Spike In COVID Infections, 90 New Deaths

— WITF: Unvaccinated People, Sick With COVID Flood Midstate Hospitals As Delta Variant Surges

— ErieT: COVID Surge Higher Than Erie Hospitals Predicted

— MCall – Paul Muschick: Why Did Gov. Wolf Put School Boards Thru Hell If He Planned To Overrule Them On Masks?

— PA Cap-Star: Q/A With Republican Gov Candidate Nche Zama – PA Is Sick And Needs A Doctor

Nche Zama is a 65-year old heart surgeon who lives in the Poconos. He immigrated to the United States from the central African country of Cameroon at age 14, before studying medicine, including at Harvard University.  Zama is a newcomer to politics, but argues his fresh face and backstory will help him break into a crowded field.

— WITF/AP: Parnell Gets Endorsement In PA Republican Senate Race

— AP: Fmr Rep. Rick Saccone To Run For Republican Nomination For Lt. Gov

— Spotlight PA: PA Senate Gives Public Online Access To Spending Records

— MCall: With Hispanics Now Making Up A Majority In Allentown, Political Hopefuls Try To Build The Community’s Political Clout

— PG – Robert Swift: House Hearing Explores State’s Worker Shortage

Both the majority and minority chairmen of the House Commerce Committee agreed Wednesday that worker shortages are slowing Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— TribLive: Some Businesses Are Hiring 14- and 15-Year-Olds To Address Staffing Shortages

— PG: Pittsburgh-Area Workers Prepare For End Of Federal Unemployment Benefits

— WITF/AP: Extra Federal Unemployment Aid Ending For 640,000 Pennsylvanians

— Dept. Of Labor & Industry: Help Available As Federal Pandemic Unemployment Benefits End

— WPost: Why America Has 8.4 Million Unemployed When There Are 10 Million Job Openings

— Dept. Of Revenue: August Tax Collections $135.5 Million Over Estimates; $132.4 Million Over Fiscal Year-To-Date

Pennsylvania collected $2.6 billion in General Fund revenue in August, which was $135.5 million, or 5.6 percent, more than anticipated. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $5.3 billion, which is $132.4 million, or 2.6 percent, above estimate.

— Independent Fiscal Office: August Tax Collections $71,5 Million Over Estimates

— YorkDR Guest Essay: Manufactured Crisis Over Critical Race Theory Distracts From Real Problems In PA Schools – Rep. Bullock (D-Philadelphia)

— ScrantonT Editorial: If Talk Were School Property Tax Reform, PA Would Have The Best System In The Nation

 — Inquirer: Ida’s Legacy: 5 Deaths, 7 Tornadoes Record Flooding, Hundreds Of Water Rescues, One Incredibly Soggy Mess

One of the most disruptive storms in the region’s weather history was blamed Thursday for killing five people, inciting record flood levels, spawning at least seven tornadoes — one of them spinning at 150 mph — and leaving some people disbelieving what they had experienced.

— Inquirer: Ida’s Costs Could Reach $95 Billion, On Top Of COVID, ‘It’s One More Painful Thing’

— MCall: Ida Drops Up To 8 Inches Of Rain On Lehigh Valley Area, Major Flooding Continues Along Rivers

— AP: Heavy Rain Prompts Evacuation Below Johnstown Area Dam

— WBTimes: Cleanup Begins After Record Rain Storm

— LancasterOnline: Ida Swamps Lancaster County

— PennLive: Over 109,000 People Without Power In Central, Eastern PA Due To Ida

— TribLive: Corps Of Engineers Declares State Of Emergency Along Monongahela River

— AltoonaM: Floods Continue To Impact Blair County Region

— AG Shapiro: In Wake Of Hurricane Ida, AG Shapiro Reminds Homeowners Of The Rights, Warns Of Scams

— Gov. Wolf: PA Air National Guard Activated To Support Afghan Ally Refuge Efforts

Gov. Wolf announced Wednesday 43 Pennsylvania Air National Guard members have been activated to support Afghan ally refuge efforts in the United States. The airmen, who are on federal orders through the end of September, will provide general base support such as security, firefighting and ground transportation duties as needed at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J.; Volk Field, Wis.; and at the Pentagon, Wash. D.C.

— ErieT: Some Of The Oldest Victims Of Clergy Child Sexual Abuse Fear They Will Die Without Justice

Juliann Bortz was one of the first Pennsylvania priest abuse survivors to come forward, reaching out for help shortly after the Boston scandal broke in January 2002. Sixteen years later, she testified before a Pennsylvania grand jury that ultimately determined in an August 2018 report that 301 “predator priests” had abused more than 1,000 victims.

She thought by now the Pennsylvania Legislature would have provided victims with a path to justice. But her hopes are increasingly fleeting amid a stalemate among lawmakers and a botched referendum to allow victims to sue their abusers.

— Spotlight PA: The Coming Crisis In Dementia Care, Why PA Is Woefully Unprepared

The COVID pandemic has laid bare chronic oversight failures in homes that account for half of all COVID-19 deaths statewide. Medical professionals and memory care experts say the chaos confirmed what they already knew: Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s most elderly states, is unprepared for another kind of public health emergency — this one with no vaccine, few preventative measures, and its own set of dire economic implications.

— Inquirer: Horse Deaths At Parx Racing/Casino Are On Pace To Surpass 2019’s Fatalities; 31 Died In First 6 Months Of 2021

The number of horse deaths at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Bucks County continues unabated. Thirty-one horses died at Parx during the first six months of the year, according to data released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

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