News & Brews March 19, 2021

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Virtual forum ‘kicks off’ race for PA Supreme Court

On Wednesday evening, the four candidates for state Supreme Court participated in a virtual forum hosted by the Free Library of Philadelphia and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. Candidates for the single vacancy on the court are Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson (an exceptional judge who received the GOP endorsement), Republican Philly Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick, Republican Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, and Democrat Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin. WHYY recapped the event.

Op-Ed: On May 18, voters can restore legislative check on gov’s powers

The Commonwealth Foundation’s Steve Bloom has a new op-ed in the Lancaster LNP highlighting the lack of transparency that’s hallmarked the Wolf administration’s COVID response. The solution? The proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot in May and “would prevent a governor from perpetually extending disaster declarations without legislative consent.”

Restaurants & Nursing Homes: Wolf shut us out

More than a year into the COVID pandemic, Broad + Liberty spoke with restaurant and nursing home industry leaders about how Gov. Wolf’s original communication with them morphed into Wolf shutting out their voices as time wore on.

From east to west, anger mounts over state’s vaccine strategy

As the state Department of Health cut the number of vaccine providers by more than two-thirds, from 780 sites to 234, providers in western PA are frustrated to say the least, with one provider stating, “Pennsylvania government is not in the drug distribution business and has no business in it. The common people are not being served. It’s very disgusting.” Across the state, the tension continues to mount between SEPA county officials and DOH, as local officials criticized DOH for not listening to county input, while DOH accused local officials of “wasting precious time” by opposing the state’s plan to use one mass vaccination site rather than send vaccine doses to county-run clinics. In short, it’s a mess.

U.S. reps press Levine on PA nursing home data

As former PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine’s confirmation to the post of Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health advances, several federal lawmakers are pressing her to answer questions about missing PA nursing home data, Spotlight PA reports. This week, four Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee, including Reps. Mike Kelly and Lloyd Smucker, sent Levine a letter asking for an explanation for the missing data by next Tuesday. Separately, Sen. Pat Toomey and members of the PA House delegation wrote to Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam asking for the Department of Health’s plans to protect nursing home residents moving forward.

Should state increase film tax credit?

It’s not a trick question. The answer is no. But that’s not stopping efforts to increase the cap on the taxpayer-funded Hollywood handout by a whopping 79%, from $70 million to $125 million. Supporters claim the corporate welfare program generates a positive economic impact. But according to a 2019 report from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office, the program actually has an ROI of just 13.1 cents on the dollar.

Future of child abuse survivor amendment still in question

WITF reports the House could vote as early as next week on the constitutional amendment extending the window for victims of child sex abuse to sue. Lawmakers have said they want to advance the amendment using an emergency process after the Department of State derailed the typical process by failing to advertise the amendment. The measure’s future remains unclear, however, as several lawmakers question whether the court would strike down the amendment, deeming it advanced absent a true emergency. 

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