News & Brews August 31, 2021

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Senator to propose pandemic ESAs

Sen. Ryan Aument (Lancaster County) plans to introduce legislation creating universal Education Savings Accounts during COVID. “As we approached the new school year, I have heard from many parents who genuinely disagree with the decisions being made by their school districts, especially when it comes to COVID-19 Health and Safety Plans,” Aument states in his cosponsorship memo. “While it is imperative that we empower local officials to make decisions and create policies that they believe will best serve the unique needs of their communities, it is also important that we empower parents to choose where to send their children to school, especially when the decisions made by the local school district create concerns surrounding the health, safety, and academic success of their children.” Aument’s proposal will, of course, be opposed by teachers’ unions, which oppose educational choice and have fought to keep schools closed both in PA and nationally.

Unemployment backlog is still nearly 200K cases

Yesterday, Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier said her department has made “significant progress” in the backlog of unresolved unemployment cases, bringing the number from about 325,000 several months ago to 190,000 cases. To these 190,000 Pennsylvanians still left waiting after months? The state “really appreciates your patience.”

Lawmakers hear testimony on property tax solutions

Yesterday, the House Republican Policy Committee held a hearing to tackle the seemingly ever-present question of how to reduce or eliminate school property taxes. Testifiers included representatives from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the state AARP, among others. The Tribune-Democrat reported on the hearing, and video of the hearing is available here (part 1) and here (part 2). Rep Frank Ryan (Lebanon County) also released highlights from the hearing.

Op-ed: Pennsylvania—a rising or setting sun?

Guy Ciarrocchi, CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry, writes that Pennsylvania has no reason to have the current mindset of “managing decline” when it comes to our state’s economic future. Given our state’s assets—from energy to higher education to agriculture to industry—he writes that “it’s baffling that our economy isn’t among the best in the nation.” What’s the solution? Policymakers must decide “to stop managing decline and start planning for growth.” Read Guy’s piece here.

Former state rep to run for Lt. Gov.

Former state Rep. Rick Saccone (Allegheny and Washington counties), who served in the House from 2011-18, is running for lieutenant governor. Saccone previously ran unsuccessfully for congress. He plans to formally announce his Lt. Gov. bid on September 10.

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