News & Brews June 9, 2021

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House votes to fully end Wolf’s disaster declaration

Last evening, the House voted 113-90 to fully terminate Gov. Wolf’s emergency disaster declaration. The vote on HR106, sponsored by Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, came after the resolution was amended from partially ending the declaration to fully ending it. In announcing the vote, Benninghoff stated: “The emergency is over. Our hospitals are not overrun, successful vaccines are available and abundant, our schools are prepared to teach in person and Pennsylvanians are back to work. The time is now to end the declaration…. Certain regulations that have proved to benefit Pennsylvania may need to be further suspended or waived and we will run legislation to address them as part of the budget process.” The resolution now heads to the Senate.

Sen. Martin mulling bid for governor

Sen. Scott Martin (Lancaster County) yesterday announced he’s formed an exploratory committee to consider running for governor next year. Martin, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, is a school choice champion and the lead sponsor of the recently introduced Senate Bill 1, which would expand educational opportunity across PA. He plans to spend the summer talking with Pennsylvanians across the state and then make a decision on whether to run.

New unemployment system debuts to glitches and frustrations

“Whoever is in charge of this circus should be fired and have to sign up for unemployment.” That’s how one person reacted to yesterday’s launch of the state’s new unemployment system, which Spotlight PA reports is filled with glitches, “frustrating some jobless workers and confirming the concerns of critics who feared the new system would buckle under the heavy, pandemic-fueled demand.”

PSERS’ mess…the latest

As PSERS, the state’s largest pension fund, remains under FBI investigation, the fund recently backtracked on a previous disclosure that said its top investment staff were being paid both by PSERS and by a firm PSERS hired to manage real estate the fund had purchased in Harrisburg. Now, PSERS says no such extra pay is happening. The reversal comes as Sen. Katie Muth (Berks, Chester, and Montgomery counties), who serves on PSERS’ board, has sued the fund, seeking financial records PSERS has refused to hand over to her. PennLive reports that Muth shared that “the board has repeatedly been asked to vote on major issues and investments on relatively short notice without access to all the supporting documents.”

Wolf, Dems: $6.3 billion extra for schools isn’t enough

As budget season is underway, yesterday Gov. Wolf and Democrat lawmakers made their pitch to spend an additional $1 billion on public education—in addition to the nearly $6.3 billion in additional funds PA’s public schools are receiving from COVID relief programs. Not to mention schools are sitting on $4.9 billion in reserves. As the Commonwealth Foundation’s Michael Torres told PennLive, “If, in the last year, school districts in this state have experienced expenses beyond the approximately $11.2 billion in total that they have in reserves and coming from the federal government, that would be something they should be explaining in detail.” I’m not holding my breath. (For more on education funding in PA, scroll down to the second podcast below.)

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