News & Brews March 18, 2021

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Lawmakers rally around legislative pay freeze, but Dems balk at ending vehicle perk

The House State Government Committee voted unanimously yesterday for a bill sponsored by Rep. Frank Ryan (Lebanon County) to freeze state officials’ salaries for the second consecutive year. Lawmakers weren’t quite as unified on a separate bill, however, sponsored by Rep. Brad Roae (Crawford and Erie counties) that would end the perk of taxpayer-funded vehicles for lawmakers. (Rep. Jared Solomon of Philadelphia was the lone Democrat on the committee to vote in favor of the bill.) PennLive reports that among those opposed was Rep. Margo Davidson (Delaware County), who incurred $30,000 in damages to her state-issued vehicle over the course of three years–damages paid for by taxpayers .

Tracking PA schools: Open, hybrid, or closed?

Here’s something I missed several days ago. The American Enterprise Institute has created a national “Return to Learn Tracker,” which, among other things, details the percentage of schools districts that are fully remote, hybrid, or fully in person (meaning for all grade levels). The tracker notes that in PA, 12.1% of our districts are fully remote, 74.3% are hybrid, and 13.6% are fully in-person.

Lawmakers ask whether amendment meets ’emergency’ criteria

As some lawmakers hope to use a rarely used emergency process to advance a proposed constitutional amendment expanding the window for victims of child sex abuse to file lawsuits, others question whether the effort meets the criteria for such amendments. In times of emergency, the legislature can bypass the requirement that amendments pass the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions before heading to voters. Instead, by two-thirds majority in both chambers, the Legislature can send the measure to the ballot. This emergency process has been used three times since the 1970s, each related to floods. So the question is whether the Department of State’s mistake that derailed the amendment qualifies as creating an “emergency” situation under the law. PennLive has more.

Op-Ed: Let’s make stuff up

Democrat Sen. Wayne Fontana (Allegheny County) has an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette excoriating Republicans in the Legislature for taking “no action” to allow for pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots before Election Day. Um, actually, Republicans DID take action to do just this. In September, Republicans in the House passed legislation that, among the things, would have allowed counties to being processing mail-in ballots three days before Election Day. Senate Republican leaders introduced similar legislature. The roadblock? Actually, it was Gov. Wolf, who threatened to veto the bill because he didn’t like other provisions in it. Here’s something you can retweet if you want to join me in asking Sen. Fontana if he’d like to correct his piece.

Dems look to state Supreme Court as ally in redistricting

As the redistricting battle looms, Democrats are hoping an “improved” court, in their words (meaning a Democrat majority), will hand them more seats in the Legislature. The Morning Call has more.

Four special elections set for May 18

We’re up to four special legislative elections that will take place on May 18: Two for House and two for Senate. In the House, voters will fill seats left vacant by the recent retirement of Rep. Jeff Pyle (Armstrong, Butler, and Indiana counties) and the death of Rep. Mike Reese (Somerset and Westmoreland counties). In the Senate, voters will fill seats left vacant by the resignation of Sen. John Blake (Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Monroe counties) and the death of Sen. Dave Arnold (Dauphin, Lebanon, and York counties).

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