News & Brews August 19, 2021

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Pa. Health Care Association responds to Biden’s vaccine mandate

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA), which represents more than 400 long-term care and senior service providers, responded yesterday to President Biden’s threat to pull Medicare and Medicaid funding from nursing homes that don’t require their staff to receive the COVID vaccine. PHCA President and CEO Zach Shamberg stated, “The vaccine mandate proposed today by President Biden – and the threat of withholding federal dollars for an essential industry already on the brink of collapse – has the potential to exacerbate an existing workforce crisis and jeopardize access to care for tens of thousands of vulnerable residents throughout Pennsylvania.” Read the full statement here.

Noon today: Press conference highlighting educational opportunity

Today at noon, Rep. Andrew Lewis (Dauphin County), lead sponsor of the Excellence in Education for All Act (HB1), will hold a press conference highlighting how the legislation would expand educational opportunity for vulnerable Pennsylvania students. Among those joining Lewis will be bill co-sponsor Rep. Matt Dowling (Fayette and Somerset counties) and Corey DeAngelis, national director of research at the American Federation for Children. Barring any technical difficulties, you can watch the event live online here.

Senate committee urges commission to reject RGGI

Yesterday, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee sent a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission urging the commission to reject the proposed Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The letter reflects the latest effort to prevent Gov. Wolf from acting unilaterally to join RGGI.

PA pension recipients want COLA, but system already underfunded

PennLive reports that the call for cost-of-living adjustments for public pension recipients in PA is running up against the reality that “[t]hese can be expensive benefits.” The story notes, “While lawmakers have proposed or introduced legislation in response to constituent requests for adjustments for inflation, such bills rarely gain traction. That is in part due to the cost and both pension systems being under 60% funded – which is below the national median for public pension systems of 72%, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators.”

State’s largest teachers’ union calls for school mask mandates

Yesterday, the head of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) called on school districts to implement mask mandates. PSEA president Rich Askey said, “If we’re going to be able to keep our schools open for in-person instruction all year, we need to make the right decisions now.” Of course, for the past 17 months teachers’ unions have been the major roadblock to reopening schools for in-person learning. In fact, a study this past spring of 835 school districts nationwide showed that whether a school district opened for in-person learning was not dependent on the spread of COVID in the district but rather “strongly associated” with the strength of the teachers’ union. The stronger the union, the less likely the schools would reopen.

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