News & Brews September 1, 2021

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Wolf flip-flops on statewide school mask mandate

For the past weeks, Gov. Wolf has said he believes masking decisions are best left to local school districts. It turns out this is only if local districts agree with Wolf on masking decisions. Yesterday, claiming he was forced into action, Wolf announced a statewide mask mandate for schools. Technically, the order came from Acting Secretary of Heath Alison Beam under the Disease Prevention and Control Law and DOH’s own regulations. Oddly, Wolf claimed his mandate is an example of local control (ummm), and even more surprisingly, he admitted to following the request of the state’s largest teachers’ union (incidentally one of his biggest campaign donors) in implementing the mandate (see comment at 3:20 mark at video link below). It seems even Wolf had trouble keeping up with his logic sometimes, though—check out the Q&A from the press conference, beginning at around the 27:00 time stamp here.

Is it time to clarify Sec’t of Health’s powers?

Shortly after Gov. Wolf and Acting Secretary of Health Beam announced the school mandate yesterday, Sen. Scott Martin (Lancaster County) announced he will soon introduce legislation clarifying that the Secretary of Health’s powers to issue emergency mandates stem from an existing public health disaster emergency declaration. In other words, no emergency declaration, no emergency mandates. Read Sen. Martin’s cosponsorship memo here.

Are gov’t agencies making Right-to-Know requests easy?

The state Office of Open Records released its first “review of how local and Commonwealth agencies post information explaining how to submit Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) requests on their websites.” The report found that while some agencies make finding RTKL info easy on their websites, others have a ways to go in improving access for residents. See the full report here.

Regulatory commission to vote on RGGI today

The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) is scheduled to vote today on Gov. Wolf’s attempt to unilaterally join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). According to Commonwealth Foundation Senior Fellow Gordon Tomb, joining RGGI would cost Pennsylvania more than 8,000 jobs, $34.3 million in state tax revenue, $3.7 million in local taxes, $539 million in employee compensation, and more than $1 billion in operating expenses, the Delaware Valley Journal reports. The IRRC meeting will be live-streamed at 10 am here, and you can view the meeting agenda here.

Committee hearing this morning on workforce shortage

The House Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Brad Roae (Crawford and Erie counties) will hold a public hearing at 10 am this morning to examine the workforce shortage that’s affecting businesses statewide. The hearing will be live-streamed here.

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