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Senate committee plans to vote today on school choice expansion
The Senate Education Committee has a meeting this morning at 9:30 to consider legislation, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Regan (Cumberland and York counties), that would implement an automatic escalator for Pennsylvania’s highly popular Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. Under the escalator, the EITC and OSTC caps would automatically increase “by 25% each Fiscal Year when at least 90% of the respective available tax credits are claimed in the previous Fiscal Year.” In other words, supply would keep up with demand. Currently, tens of thousands of scholarships are denied each year because of arbitrary caps. The committee meeting will be live-streamed here.
Wolf admin to announce vaccine mandate for healthcare workers
CBS21 reports that the Department of Heath will implement a vaccine mandate for health care facilities, effective January 28 and requiring that 80% of the staff be vaccinated. As attorney Kevin Levy noted, the department “will need to carefully tailor this order to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s requirements handed down just last month when it rejected the statewide school mask mandate.” Also, wasn’t it just last week that the Wolf administration said it’s “not considering further [Covid] mitigation at this time” and the administration “believe[s] Pennsylvanians will do the right thing”? (Watch that outdated press conference here.)
Lawmaker calls for House to impeach Philly DA Krasner
Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, who is also running for the GOP nomination for governor, yesterday called on the House to begin impeachment proceedings against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. In his letter, Corman wrote, “The recent spike in violent crime is a direct result of DA Krasner’s failed policies and his refusal to perform the duties of his office to hold criminals accountable for the crimes that they commit.” Democrats immediately criticized the call as an attempt to overturn Philly’s election (Krasner was re-elected last year). Meanwhile, Fox29 reporter Jennifer Joyce noted yesterday that “Philly homicides are up 36% over this time last year…already at 32 total.”
Facing redistricting deadline, lawmakers predict courts will decide
Yesterday, the Senate State Government Committee advanced on party lines the proposed redistricting map passed by the House, even as Senate Republicans and Democrats had been negotiating in hopes of arriving at a map that would pass both the House and Senate and be approved by the governor. Deadlines are looming, however. Spotlight PA reportsthat “[t]he state’s top election official has said her department needs a final map no later than Jan. 24 to meet the first of several spring primary deadlines. And Commonwealth Court has given those in charge of drawing the map until Jan. 30 to do so before it takes over the process.” Meanwhile, many lawmakers believe that despite attempts to get a map done by the deadline, ultimately, the courts will decide.
Natural gas impact fees projected to rebound this year
A new report from the state Independent Fiscal Office says estimated impact fees for 2021 will reach $233.8 million, or $87.6 million higher than 2020, which was a record low year. The Post-Gazette notes, “Counties and municipalities that host wells are expected to split $129 million when payments are disbursed, or $53 million more than last year.”
Senator to introduce Lifeline Scholarship legislation
On Monday, Republican Sen. Judy Ward (Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, and Huntingdon counties) announced plans to introduce legislation to create Lifeline Scholarships, which would be available to “parents with children in grades 1-12 who reside within the attendance area of a district school in the bottom 15 percent of performance metrics based on state testing.” The scholarships, which would be administered by the state treasurer, would “only be used for qualified education expenses such as tuition, textbooks, curriculum, tutoring, or services for students with special needs.” House lawmakers introduced similar legislation in December. Ward’s bill is one of multipleschool choice bills Republicans have introduced this session.
Rep. Ryan not running for re-election
Republican Rep. Frank Ryan (Lebanon County), who was first elected in 2016 and has been a champion for fiscal responsibility, announced he will not seek re-election this year. Ryan said, “It has been an honor to serve the citizens of the 101st Legislative District the past five years and to advocate on behalf of all Pennsylvanians on the issues of property tax reform, sound fiscal management in the state’s budgeting and pension systems, and the protection of individual freedoms. Now it is time for the next generation of leaders to do the same.” Ryan is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel who has walked across America—literally. A couple years ago, we chatted with him about this, his political career, and more. The interview is worth a listen—check it out here.