News & Brews January 10 2022

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Union says close schools (again) unless more COVID mandates imposed

You’d think that after the devastation kids have experienced during school closures—from learning loss to increased mental health challenges—teachers’ unions would be fully committed to in-person education. Not so. On Friday, the PA chapter of the American Federation of Teachers asked the Wolf administration to “pause in-person learning for two school weeks” if the administration can’t “in a timely manner” implement sweeping COVID mandates including vaccine requirements for teachers and staff, KN95 masks (or greater), and asymptomatic testing of everyone. Reporting on the union’s demands, Broad + Liberty notes the move “comes just one day after Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said school administrators should strive harder to keep their doors open.” Can’t make this stuff up. Read the story here.

Mastriano announces for governor

As expected, Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano (Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties) on Saturday formally announced his bid for governor. Mastriano was a fierce critic of Gov. Wolf’s COVID shutdowns and has been an equally strong supporter of former President Trump. Read more at the Delaware Valley Journal.

Lawmaker announces bid for Lt. Gov.

Speaking of announcements, on Friday, Republican Rep. Russ Diamond (Lebanon County) announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor. Diamond was a vocal advocate for local control throughout COVID and spearheaded efforts to terminate Gov. Wolf’s disaster declaration. PennLive reports Diamond “said he is seeking the Republican party’s endorsement but if the party would endorse another candidate, he would drop out of the race and support that candidate. If there is no endorsement, he said, he is committed to getting his name on the May 17 primary ballot.”

PSERS gets failing grade on its own governance report

The Inquirer reports that our state’s “largest pension fund lacks a cohesive plan on how to invest its billions. It has ignored calls to improve its financial reporting. And its auditors looked the other way while PSERS staff engaged in worldwide luxury travel and billed retirees and taxpayers.” This according to a new report that PSERS commissioned on itself. Given PSERS’ ongoing drama, somehow this is not surprising…. Read more here.

PA on brink of ‘metamorphic’ political change?

Who doesn’t love a good adjective? The Post-Gazette delivers, telling us that PA is “on the cusp of metamorphic political change” in 2022. Basically, it’s what we already know: a U.S. Senate race, a governor’s race, redistricting, and potential election reform, with some Pittsburgh-specific things included for good measure (it is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, after all). Check out the piece here.

House to vote on proposed congressional map

Spotlight PA reports that the House is expected to vote this week on the preliminary congressional redistricting map that the House State Government Committee approved in December. The map was originally submitted by Lehigh County resident Amanda Holt, and the committee ultimately passed an amended version of that map. Of course, the redistricting process has drawn opposition, including lawsuits. And as I shared last week, Gov. Wolf has refused to come to the negotiating table on the map.

Commonwealth Court selects new President Judge

The Commonwealth Court has selected Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer to serve as the next President Judge, a position previously held by now-Supreme Court Justice Kevin Brobson. PennLive reports that in this role, “Jubelirer will oversee administrative matters of the court, including budgeting, oversight of administrative offices, scheduling, special sessions, education and bench-bar interaction.” Congratulations to Judge Jubelirer.

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