News & Brews July 6, 2021

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PA was 4th worst in nation in LTCF deaths during fall COVID surge

A damning new investigative report from Broad + Liberty’s Todd Shepherd shows that during the second COVID wave that hit during the fall, Pennsylvania was fourth worst in the country in the number of deaths in long-term care facilities (LTCFs). By December, the national average rate of LTCF deaths was 18 per 1,000 facility residents. In PA, that number was nearly double, at 35 deaths per 1,000 residents. Meanwhile, Gov. Wolf’s Department of Health was issuing new restrictions on the public, but “said little to nothing about protecting nursing homes.” Read more here.

Issues to expect in fall session

When lawmakers return in the fall, there will be several issues competing for attention and votes that went unresolved this spring. Spotlight PA walks through five of those issues, including election reform and cocktails-to-go, explaining where things stand and what obstacles they face.

WSJ: School choice marches ahead (PA shout-out)

PA gets a shout-out in a Wall Street Journal editorial (paywall) highlighting recent school choice expansions in four states. Here, it’s the $40 million increase in our highly popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit scholarship program. As a result of the expansion, approximately 13,000 additional students will be able to access scholarships to attend a school that best meets their needs.

Wolf fans harder to find

As Gov. Wolf enters the twilight of his second term, his usual supporters on the Left are voicing their displeasure in his budget leadership. These union and Democrat critiques, coupled with Republicans feeling emboldened by the success of recent ballot initiatives, “are the latest sign that the second-term Democrat’s influence is waningas next year’s open-seat race to succeed him draws near and lawmakers in both parties increasingly treat him as a lame duck,” explains the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Republicans irate with PennDOT over bridge tolling plan, refusal to meet with lawmakers

It seems the Wolf administration really doesn’t like talking with lawmakers. This time, it’s PennDOT, which has refused to meet with Senate Transportation Committee Chair Wayne Langerholc to discuss alternatives to tolling nine bridges across the state. The Post-Gazette reports that last week, PennDOT “advertised for firms to submit qualifications if they are interested in replacing and maintaining the bridges for 30 years. That infuriated Republicans in the General Assembly, especially since they added $279 million in federal funds to the department’s budget that has been signed by Gov. Tom Wolf.”

After Cosby ruling, lawmakers seek stricter regulations on prosecutorial deals

Republican Sen. Lisa Baker and Democrat Sen. Steve Santarsiero are proposing legislation that would require all future non-prosecution agreements to be in writing in order to be enforceable. The proposal comes after the state Supreme Court last week tossed out Bill Cosby’s conviction on grounds that he had relied on a verbal promise of non-prosecution by one district attorney, only to have a subsequent district attorney prosecute him.

Biden nominates UPenn President Amy Gutmann as Ambassador to Germany

On Friday, President Biden nominated University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann as U.S. Ambassador to Germany. As she awaits Senate confirmation hearings, Gutmann promised to be “absolutely energized and engaged” at UPenn, adding her confidence that there will be a “smooth transition.”

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