News & Brews May 25, 2021

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Lawmaker proposes resolution to end part of Wolf’s disaster declaration

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff has introduced a concurrent resolution that would end in part and extend in part Gov. Wolf’s COVID emergency disaster declaration. According to Benninghoff’s office, the resolution “would terminate the administration’s ability to use the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration to engage in no-bid, single-source contracting … and end the ability of the governor to use the emergency disaster declaration to mandate occupancy limits, business closures, and stay-at-home orders.” The resolution would extend the remainder of Wolf’s declaration until October 1, 2021, “as the General Assembly continues reviewing the various administration actions taken during the last 15 months.” The House State Government Committee is scheduled to consider the resolution this morning during a 10:30 am meeting, which you can watch here.

Work search requirements returning in PA

Beginning July 18, Pennsylvania will resume work search requirements for individuals receiving unemployment benefits. The re-implementation of the requirements comes as employers across PA are struggling to find workers, a problem many are blaming on jobless benefits coupled with the additional $300 per week in federal pandemic assistance.

Lawmakers take 1st step to ban government vaccine passports

Yesterday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed legislation—notably along party lines—to ban governments and school districts in PA from discriminating on the basis of COVID vaccine status by requiring proof of vaccine for access. The legislation, which now heads to the full Senate and would not apply to private businesses, is sponsored by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (York County), Michele Brooks (Crawford, Erie, Mercer, & Warren counties), and Judy Ward (Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, & Huntingdon counties).

Speaker Cutler calls for new Bureau of Election Audits

Yesterday, House Speaker Bryan Cutler (Lancaster County) introduced legislation that would establish a Bureau of Election Audits within the state Office of the Auditor General. According to Speaker Cutler’s office, the new bureau (which would not look at past elections), “would comprehensively examine all future elections, looking at all aspects of the process and results, including equipment, absentee and mail-in ballots, performance audits of election systems at least every five years, and any other audit deemed necessary by the Bureau of Election Audits to ensure the public trust in the outcome of each election. Additionally, the bureau would be required to provide corrective action plans to address any errors or deficiencies discovered in the audit.”

Union v. union

Amid the federal investigation into PSERS, our state’s largest pension fund, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) of Pennsylvania, whose members include about 36,000 teachers and staff in Philly, Pittsburgh, and a few other smaller communities, has called for the resignation of the majority of PSERS’ board. This includes the five board members who are from the rival union, the 168,000-member Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). Not surprisingly, PSEA is not amused, noting, “We think it is wise to wait for PSERS and the FBI to complete their work before making any judgments about what to do next.”

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