News & Brews April 5, 2021
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Trial date set for PA school funding case
The Commonwealth Court has set a tentative trial date of September 9 in the nearly 7-year-old school funding case that has invited the court to determine appropriate levels of education funding. In the case, William Penn School District v. PA Department of Education, the plaintiff contends the state’s system of education funding violates our constitution. The Commonwealth Court dismissed the case because educational funding is not within judicial purview. The PA Supreme Court voted 5-2 to reinstate the case and send it back to Commonwealth Court. This means the judicial branch–and potentially our state Supreme Court if it winds up back there–could dictate educational funding in violation of the separation of powers. Other state courts have defined “adequate funding” as millions and millions in additional funding—a gift to teachers’ unions—despite no evidence of performance improvements. Here in PA, a study commissioned by the litigants said $4.6 billion more is needed.
Lawmakers move to prohibit vaccine passports
A group of Republican state lawmakers plans to introduce legislation that would “prohibit the use of vaccine passports from being required by citizens to participate in routine activities within this Commonwealth.” The lawmakers, led by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (York County) along with Sen. Michele Brooks (Crawford, Erie, Mercer, and Warren counties) and Sen. Judy Ward (Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, and Huntingdon counties) seek to be proactive against the threat of vaccine passports as endorsed last week by Gov. Wolf. His spokesperson recently claimed any such passport “would need to be a product of the private sector,” but that’s different from Wolf’s recent statement that he’d support a legislative requirement for such a passport.
Some of Wolf’s restrictions eased as of yesterday
Yesterday, Gov. Wolf’s latest capacity restrictions went into effect, including a new 75% capacity restriction for bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, casinos, and malls. Beginning yesterday, event venues could also increase their capacity to 25% of maximum occupancy for indoor events and 50% for outdoor events. Of course, all of this is at the pleasure of Gov. Wolf, who maintains he can reimpose any restrictions he wants at any time. On May 18, voters can change this by voting to rein in a governor’s emergency powers (scroll down for more on this).
$1.5 million for 500 trips. Thanks, Taxpayers!
The Inquirer reports that in the three years before COVID, taxpayers funded about 500 trips by 40 employees of the state’s largest pension fund–-to the tune of about $1.5 million. These included a $15K trip to London, another near-$15K trip tp Florence, a $16K trip to Paris, and a $13K-plus trip to Zurich. Now, tell me about your taxpayer-funded luxury trips. None? Ok.
PA Senate race ‘test of progressive firepower’
NBC News profiles PA’s race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, calling the current contest between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta “a test of progressive firepower in a post-Trump era.” Of course, the field has yet to be completely filled, and more “middle of the road” candidates may join. (More accurately, this should say more “middle of the Left lane” candidates.) Read more here.
On May 18, VoteYesPA to save lives and livelihoods
On May 18, voters can approve two proposed constitutional amendments that would restore a legislative check and balance on Gov. Wolf’s (and any future governor’s) emergency powers. Check out VoteYesPA.com, which has resources including link to request a mail-in ballot, a VoteYesPA sign you can download and print, a sample email businesses can send encouraging others to vote yes on May 18, and more.