News & Brews July 22, 2021

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After Wolf’s flip-flop, lawmaker restarts election reform efforts

Following Gov. Wolf’s abrupt about-face—from characterizing voter ID laws as voter suppression and anti-democratic to thinking they may be a good idea—Rep. Seth Grove, who had sponsored the Voting Rights Protection Act (which Wolf vetoed) is reviving his efforts to advance election reform. The Center Square reports that Grove is circulating a cosponsorship memo seeking support for the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act 2.0. The bill will focus on increased access, increased security, and modernization. Click here for additional details.

Wolf admin defends another no-bid contract for contact tracing

Yesterday in a Senate hearing, the Wolf administration defended its decision to award a multi-million-dollar no-bid contract for COVID contact tracing. This after the last no-bid contract went to Insight Global, which leaked the private health information of more than 70,000 Pennsylvanians. The Associated Press has more.

Op-Ed: The many unanswered questions surrounding Josh Shapiro

Since taking office as Attorney General, Josh Shapiro has issued more than 990 press releases—or one every 1.67 days. But while he says a lot, many questions remain unanswered. Yours truly has a new op-ed in Broad + Liberty outlining some of the questions for Josh Shapiro that Pennsylvanians deserve to have answered.

Wolf admin proposes new nursing home mandates

Yesterday, the Wolf administration proposed a new rule that would increase the number of direct care hours that nursing homes are required to provide daily to residents. While this may sound good, the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA), which represents more than 400 long term care facilities and has been an outspoken advocate for these facilities and their residents throughout COVID, criticized the proposal as “an unattainable, unfunded mandate that will cripple an essential component of the long-term care continuum in one of the oldest states, in terms of population, in the entire country.” Read PHCA President and CEO Zach Shamberg’s full statement here.

PA Supreme Court says using millions from natural gas drilling leases to fill state budget was unconstitutional

Our state’s highest court ruled yesterday that state government “acted unconstitutionally when it transferred hundreds of millions of dollars from leasing large tracts of state forest for Marcellus Shale gas drilling to fill state budget holes in 2009 and 2010,” the Post-Gazette reports. The 4-3 ruling echoed a previous ruling that royalties the state collects from state forest gas leases need to be used for conservation rather than for general government spending.

Op-Ed: Energy production key to state’s environmental future

Sens. Scott Martin (Lancaster County) and Gene Yaw (Lycoming County) had an op-ed in the LNP highlighting the importance of energy production to Pennsylvania’s economy and warning that “many who are pushing for changes in public policy when it comes to energy growth and development do not seem to comprehend the depths of what that means.” Read the piece here.

Butler v. Wolf: Oral argument today

Oral argument in Butler v. Wolf, the federal case challenging Gov. Wolf’s shutdown orders and capacity limits, is scheduled for this morning in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The court convenes at 9:30 am, and it appears this case is the only one on the schedule for today. Audio of the proceedings will be live-streamed here.

Biden taps Comcast exec for ambassador to Canada

I know what y’all are thinking: We have an ambassador to Canada? Yep. And President Biden has nominated Comcast executive and major Philly political fundraiser David Cohen for the role. The nomination drew praise from Sen. Pat Toomey, who called it “an outstanding decision.”

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