News & Brews February 5, 2021

Voters will have final say on checking governor’s emergency powers

This morning, the House gave the final vote needed to send voters two proposed constitutional amendments providing a check on the governor’s emergency powers. One amendment would require Legislative approval for the extension of an emergency disaster declaration beyond the initial 21 days, and the second amendment would allow the General Assembly to terminate a governor’s declaration without the governor’s approval of the termination. The amendments are expected to be on the May 18 primary ballot for ratification by voters.

How some lawmakers score a ‘golden pension parachute’

Former Democrat House Minority Leader Frank Dermody lost election in November after serving 30 years in the House, but he just landed a taxpayer funded gig that could boost the base pay used to calculate his taxpayer-funded pension. Spotlight PA looks at how some former lawmakers score the “golden parachute” by snagging coveted spots on Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board.

Fetterman takes steps toward possible U.S. Senate run

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission this week—a move that falls short of a formal announcement of a Senate run but brings Fetterman one step closer to one. The filing comes about a month after Fetterman said he was exploring a run for U.S. Senate. This seems an apropos time to head down memory lane to that time Fetterman pulled a gun on an innocent man then claimed “I believe I did the right thing, but I may have broken the law during the course of it.”

Lawmakers look to aid victims after Dep’t of State’s catastrophic blunder

The proposed constitutional amendment to aid victims of child sex abuse was close to getting on the ballot this May, until Gov. Wolf’s Department of State botched its responsibility and derailed the entire process (more on that below). As it stood, the amendment process would have to begin anew, and the earliest the measure could reach the ballot was 2023. Now, however, lawmakers are hoping voters may still get a say this spring. Lawmakers may be able to use an emergency process that would allow the amendment to proceed to the ballot if both chambers pass it with two-thirds approval at least 30 days before the May 18 primary. The AP has more.

Dueling op-eds on establishing judicial districts

The Inquirer invited op-eds from Republican Rep. Russ Diamond (Lebanon County) and the progressive Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center to offer pros and cons of the proposed constitutional amendment (sponsored by Rep. Diamond) to establish judicial districts for electing judges to our statewide appellate courts. Read both pieces here.

PA’s vaccine rollout continues to draw criticism

Yesterday, Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam answered questions and heard frustrations from lawmakers over the slow pace and lack of transparency of PA’s COVID vaccine rollout. Beam promised “accountability” as the state moves forward.

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