News & Brews March 17, 2021

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Republican lawmakers unveil “Prioritize PA” plan for small businesses

This week, a group of Senate Republicans announced a package of five bills aimed at delivering financial and tax relief to small businesses hard-hit by Gov. Wolf’s orders. The Center Square reports that Prioritize PA includes bills that would expand tax deductions and offset net operating costs for businesses hurt by Wolf’s orders, waive state fees for retail food and liquor licenses, and create two new relief funds for small businesses, including a no-interest loan program and a temporary business improvement tax credit. Co-sponsoring the package are Sens. Ryan Aument (Lancaster County), Camera Bartolotta (Beaver, Greene, and Washington counties), Judy Ward (Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, and Huntingdon counties ) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (York County). Click here to view the news conference unveiling the package.

Legislative redistricting commission members named (most of them, at least)

Yesterday, House and Senate leaders formally announced the launch of the legislative redistricting process, naming the four legislative members of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. The press release notes, “The commission is made up of majority and minority leaders of both the Senate and the House, and then a fifth member to serve as a chair is selected by the commission members.” The members so-far named are Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton. If the commission members fail to agree on a fifth member, the choice falls to the state Supreme Court. Also, this commission will redraw state legislative districts only. Congressional districts are redrawn via a separate process.

Dems plead for more money to win legislative races, but…

It appears Democrats in elected office aren’t the only ones constantly crying “if only we had more money,” despite record-breaking and ever-increasing spending. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (the national group that focuses on state legislative races) is begging for more money, blaming last year’s down ballot loses on lack of funding. Umm….Democrats actually outspent Republicans in last year’s legislative races. In fact, just after the election, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Democrats had targeted 10 legislative chambers they hoped to flip, and national groups raised at least $88 million to support that cause, compared with more than $60 million for Republicans.” More recently here in PA, the Lancaster LNP also reported that Democrats raised and spent more than Republicans overall. But when it comes to blaming everything on a lack of funding, I guess we can give the Left credit for consistency.

Rep. Pyle announces immediate retirement due to health issues

Rep. Jeff Pyle (Armstrong, Butler, and Indiana counties) announced yesterday that he would retire at close of business yesterday due to ongoing health issues. Pyle has served in the House since 2005. He suffered a stroke last year and has also been undergoing treatment for cancer. We send Rep. Pyle our sincere wishes for successful treatments as he focuses on his health.

3 years into Wolf’s opioid disaster declaration, PA ranks 3rd in nation for drug overdose deaths

The Morning Call reports that 38 months after Wolf issued his first opioid disaster declaration (which he’s since renewed 13 times), our 5,144 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months through July 2020 rank third highest in the nation. There has long been concern over how isolation from Wolf’s shutdown orders would impact drug deaths. Yet, the story notes, “A spokeswoman for Wolf, Lyndsay Kensinger, said it would be inaccurate to say Pennsylvania is doing ‘poorly’ compared to other states. She said the CDC data shows there was a 24% increase in overdose deaths nationwide, but Pennsylvania’s increase was only 18%.” Somehow I imagine that’s not really comforting to the families of the 5,144 people lost.

48th Senate District race is actually 4-way race

A quick correction. Yesterday, I wrote that the special election to fill the 48th Senate District seat would be a three-way race between Democrat Dr. Calvin “Doc” Clements, Republican Christopher Gebhard, and Libertarian Tim McMaster. It will actually be a four-way contest, as former PA Rep. Ed Krebs, a former Democrat then a Republican, is running as an Independent.

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