News & Brews May 21, 2021

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Wolf renews disaster declaration

Yesterday, Gov. Wolf renewed his COVID emergency disaster declaration for the fifth time. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: What about the amendments? A couple things to keep in mind. First, the passage of the amendments alone does not automatically end a disaster declaration (despite the narrative from the Wolf administration in the weeks leading up to the vote). Second, Tuesday’s vote is not yet certified as official, and certification isn’t expected until June 7. Meanwhile, however, Gov. Wolf has already (finally) started to talk with lawmakers about next steps moving forward. Capitolwire’s Chris Comisac dives into this a bit more.

PA (finally) firing vendor that leaked health data

The Wolf administration is finally firing Insight Global, the contact tracing vendor that leaked the private information of more than 70,000 Pennsylvanians. The state had originally intended not to renew the contract when it expired but had not moved actually to fire the vendor. According to the AP, the Department of Health made the decision “after more fully evaluating the circumstances.” (Not sure what else needed evaluation beyond “You leaked the private info of 72K Pennsylvanians.”) Meanwhile, Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, who chairs the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, which had begun looking into the breach, said she will continue taking action to address data breaches, and her committee will consider legislation next week on the topic.

Can we bid farewell to some regulations?

The question has been asked for months: Can PA permanently repeal many of the regulations that were temporarily waived under COVID? With the passage of the constitutional amendments signaling a new way of handling emergency disaster declarations, lawmakers will consider which regulations waived by Gov. Wolf under his disaster declarations can potentially be eliminated permanently.

Another GOP candidate enters gubernatorial race

Yesterday, Jason Richey, an attorney from Allegheny County, became the fourth Republican to announce his bid for governor. Richey joins former Congressman Lou Barletta, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, and former Corry Mayor Jason Monn in a field that’s expected to get much bigger over the coming weeks and months. (My mistake in failing to mention Monn in a previous News & Brews where I listed announced Republican candidates.)

Commonwealth Court Dem primary race still too close to call 

The contest for one of two Democratic nominations for Commonwealth Court remains too close to call. Judge Lori Dumas won one of the nominations for the two open seats on the court, but the second nomination is still to-be-determined between Judge David Spurgeon and Attorney Amanda Green-Hawkins. The two winners of the Democratic primary will face Republicans Stacy Wallace and Judge Drew Crompton in November. 

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