News & Brews November 19, 2021

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PSERS’ top execs call it quits

The top two executives at our state’s largest pension fund are leaving their jobs. “With no explanation and after a meeting closed to the public and media, the PSERS board said that executive director Glen Grell, 64, and investment chief James H. Grossman Jr., 54, were both retiring,” Spotlight PA reports. Their departures come as PSERS has been in the hot spot for using artificially inflated investment returns and as the fund remains under federal investigation.

Lawmakers warn they may remove Lehigh County elections board

After our state Supreme Court rewrote the law just before last year’s elections, it’s almost as if some folks think the law doesn’t matter. Case in point: Lehigh County. In violation of the law, the Lehigh County Board of Elections voted to count more than 250 mail-in ballots that were submitted without the required date on the outside envelopes. In response, House Republican leaders warned that unless the board rescinds its decision, they will remove the elections board “using the authority vested to the House of Representatives.” Of course, the board of elections could just follow the law. See, it’s not that hard.

Why is the PLCB still breaking the law?

Speaking of lawbreaking, what’s up with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board? The government liquor monopoly was in Commonwealth Court yesterday, where Judge Anne Covey asked, “How do we get the government to stop violating the law?” At issue is “the wine and liquor monopoly’s ongoing violation of a law requiring it to permit wine dealers to ship wines not carried by the agency directly to retailers and restaurants. The agency snags a fee for that, but was supposed to stop taking those payments by June 2017.” It gets worse. Last year, the Commonwealth Court ordered the PLCB to allow direct shipments and stop the fees, and earlier this year, the Supreme Court upheldthe order. But the PLCB is still charging the fees. Here’s a great idea. Let’s get rid of the government liquor monopoly altogether. Then there would be no PLCB to violate the law. Problem solved.

Op-Ed: Will Johnny Doc’s conviction mark a turning point for Philly?

Our president and CEO Matt Brouillette has an op-ed in Broad + Liberty detailing the extent of Johnny Doc’s political influence. “As of the end of 2020,” Matt writes, “47 sitting judges, 62 state lawmakers, 4 district attorneys, and 45 county and local officials owed their elections at least in part to Johnny Doc’s patronage.” Among these are Democrat Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, who has taken approximately $250,000 from Johnny Doc’s union over the course of his political career. Will Shapiro return the money? And will Johnny Doc’s conviction mark a turning point for Philly? Only time will tell.

House could vote on election reform next month

After voting on amendments yesterday, the House could take up the full Voting Rights Protection Act 2.0 when it returns to session next month. Rep. Seth Grove (York County), the bill’s sponsor, explained one amendment that passed: “The amendment offered by Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery) would require absentee and mail-in ballots received before Election Day be opened and counted by 9 p.m. election night. All mail-in and absentee ballots received on Election Day would need to be opened and counted by 2 a.m. the following day. Finally, election offices must compute all returns from each precinct, with the exception of provisional ballots, and all canvassed mail-in or absentee ballots, by no later than 6 a.m. the day after the election.”

A bit of Instagram irony

Yesterday, Democrat Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro announced he had launched a nationwide investigation into Facebook (now Meta) “for providing and promoting its platform – Instagram – to young people in a way that puts them at risk online and violates state consumer protection laws.” So, does this mean Shapiro is going to delete his Shapiro for Governor Instagram account, since he says the platform is so harmful to young people? Not so fast. Instead, yesterday he posted a note from a 15-year-old to his account.

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