State Election Results –The More Things Change… ; PA Capitol & COVID Weekly Report
With some ballots in the state still outstanding, the final results of some races are still not decided, but some overall projections have been established.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly will stay in Republican control. While some pre-election predictions had Democrats gaining additional seats in both the Senate and the House it appears Republicans actually added seats to their majorities.
The state Senate is currently comprised of 28 Republicans, 21 Democrats and 1 independent.
Republican Sen. Tom Killion (Delaware County) lost his bid for reelection. Democratic Sen. Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny) also lost her re-election, while the outcome of Sen. Jim Brewster’s (D-Allegheny) race is too close to call.
Sen. Brewster is approximately 400 votes behind with at least 17,000 additional ballots to be counted by Allegheny County beginning Monday.
The final Allegheny County count could also impact the result of the election of House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, who currently trails his Republican opponent by several hundred votes.
The House Republicans currently have 109 members–102 required for the majority. Most observers have determined that number will likely increase to 113, the final number dependent on the Dermody result.
Important leadership elections by all four legislative caucuses will be held this week.
All Pennsylvania incumbents were re-elected.
State Revenue Up
On November 2, the Department of Revenue collected $2.6 billion in General Fund revenue in October, which was $365.6 million, or 16.4 percent, more than anticipated.
Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $12.5 billion, which is $824.5 million, or 7.1 percent, above estimate. Read more here.
The Independent Fiscal Office released its own report on October state revenues saying they were $275.2 million or 11.9 percent higher than their projections. Read more here.
Obviously, won’t be enough to fill a $5 billion hole in the FY 2020-21 budget.
Liquor Profits Up
Apparently, the COVID pandemic gave a big boost to liquor sales, according to the 2019-20 annual report released by the Liquor Control Board on Thursday. Read more here.
Although retail sales from July 2019 to June 2020 were down by $110 million, net income for the LCB hit an all-time record– $208.7 million– 9 percent higher than 2018-19. Read more here.
Sales during the pandemic were just like the typical big sales days before Thanksgiving and Christmas, an LCB spokesperson said.
Statewide Percent Positivity 6.9%
The statewide percent-positivity went up to 6.9 percent from 5 percent last week. Anything above 5 percent is bad. Read more here.
The 10 counties with the highest percent-positivity include– Bedford (17.5 percent), Indiana (14 percent), Armstrong (13.1 percent), Franklin (12.3 percent), Lawrence (12.2 percent), Bradford (12.1 percent), Wyoming (12 percent), Venango (11.8 percent), Juniata (9.7 percent), and Huntington (9.5 percent).
The Department of Health added Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas to the list of 31 states they recommend travelers self-quarantine when they return.
COVID-19 Death Toll, Record New Cases
The number of new COVID cases in Pennsylvania again set records one day after the next last week with the highest single day total of 4,035.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 increased from 8,812 on October 31 to 9,015 on November 7. The number of people testing positive for the virus went from 208,027 on October 31 to 227,985 cases on November 7.
The Board reported 28 cases at Rivers Pittsburgh casino, 25 cases at Parx casino in Bucks County and 11 in Rivers Philadelphia casino.
For the week October 25 to 31, there were 23,742 unemployment claims, up from 19,233 the week before. The highest weekly total came March 22 to 28– 374,056. Read more here.
Rent Relief Goes Unused
A federally-funded program designed to help renters– and landlords– by helping to pay rent has left millions of dollars of assistance on the table because the General Assembly failed to pass changes to the program.
As of September, over $102 million of the total $150 million had been requested statewide by renters, but only about $10 million in assistance had been disbursed.
The program ended November 4. Read more here.
Utility Shut Off Moratorium Ends
The utility shut off moratorium imposed by the Public Utility Commission at the beginning of the pandemic will end Monday, November 20.
In its place, the PUC put in place a series of consumer protections designed to ease customers through a transition. Read more here.
The PUC says utility customers own an estimated $721 million as of September, up from $432 million last year. Read more here.
In Western Pennsylvania alone, there are more than 200,000 utility customers behind in their utility bills. Read more here.
Wolf Signs 7 Bills, Vetoes 1
On November 3, Gov. Wolf signed seven bills into law on a variety of subjects, including to student sexual assault, establishing commerce and veterans’ courts, establishing a PA Housing Tax Credit and more.
Wolf vetoed a bill requiring the certification of a natural death which he said would delay reporting and access to public health information during a public health emergency. Read more here.
The Senate and House will not be back in Harrisburg until November 10, which as of now is the only voting day they have scheduled before the 2019-20 session officially ends and all bills die November 30.
So what will they do with that time?
All four caucuses will be electing members to leadership positions.
The Senate Republicans and the House Democrats appear to have the most “reorganization” to do because of retirements and in one case an apparent defeat.
With President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati retiring, that spot and the Senate Republican leader spot will be open along with all the other officers and the Chair of the Appropriations Committee.
With the reelection of Frank Dermody still in doubt, what House Democrats will do with leadership elections is not known.
Of course there will be lots of other Capitol intrigue on whether Senate Democrats will keep the same leadership team after their defeats and non-wins at the polls, etc. etc.
The House Republicans look, at this point, like the most stable of the caucus leadership teams, having just gone through that exercise when Speaker Turzai abruptly left earlier this year.
So, we will all find out together.