News & Brews March 11, 2021

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Are PA school districts profiting from COVID?

We keep hearing schools need more money to re-open….but do they really? The Commonwealth Foundation’s Jennifer Stefano joined Fox News’ Laura Ingraham to expose that many Pennsylvania public school are actually profiting from COVID, despite their protests to the contrary. Watch the segment here.

Lawmaker wants to halt new bridge tolls

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Wayne Langerholc (Bedford, Cambria, and Clearfield counties) aims to halt PennDOT’s plan to toll nine major bridges across the state, at least until lawmakers have the opportunity to approve (or reject) it. Langerholc recently introduce legislation that would require legislative approval for any transportation project incurring a user fee. Critics say lawmakers already had the chance to block PennDOT”s plans but failed to, but Langerholc questions this interpretation. Meanwhile, Gov. Wolf’s administration opposes input from the Legislature on this. Shocking, I know.

Wolf admin continues to lack metrics, timeline for reopening

“How, after nearly of year of managing this pandemic, do we not have clear steps and metrics outlined to return businesses to full capacity?” That’s the sentiment of Tim Sudall, president of the Philadelphia, South Jersey, and Delaware chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events. Sudall is not alone in his frustration. As groups continue to urge Gov. Wolf to ease his COVID restrictions, Sudall adds, “It’s a failure of leadership to not be planning and communicating now for the eventual rollback of these mitigation orders.”

L&I promises to answer unemployment calls … eventually

In response to months (nearly a year) of criticism from lawmakers as well as tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians unable to reach the Department of Labor regarding their unemployment benefits, Labor and Industry Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier said yesterday that her department is hiring at least 500 and possibly up to 1,000 new teleworkers in a new effort that should be in place by May. In response, House Appropriations Committee Chair Stan Saylor (York County) said, “I’m certainly glad the Wolf administration heard our message…that the current level of service at our unemployment system is disgraceful. Candidly, however, they should have taken these steps a long time ago.”

Guess who missed the COVID vaccine hearing? 

At a recent public hearing on the COVID vaccine rollout for seniors, one entity was conspicuously absent: the state Department of Health. It wasn’t for lack of an invitation. Instead, a spokesperson claimed the Department was unable to participate. Not only this, but Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam also wouldn’t take a phone call from Rep. Gary Day (Lehigh and Berks counties) on the topic, despite his promise to keep the call to six minutes. This comes as the Wolf administration is under intense criticism, including from many Democrats and even the Philly Inquirer (but I repeat myself), for its handling of the vaccine rollout.

Op-Ed: We need more, not fewer, earmarks (nope, not a typo)

And for today’s humorous take (except sadly it’s meant to be serious), Mark Holman, former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Ridge, has an op-ed in the Inquirer arguing that earmarks–or political bargaining chips often used to gain lawmakers’ support for a bill in exchange for a pet project in their district–are good policy and should be the wave of the future. Because who doesn’t love millions (or billions) in pork-barrel spending so a politician can get a good press release and photo op? #Priorities

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