News & Brews July 22, 2022

Mailing it in

With elections on the horizon, confusion—and lawsuits—surround mail voting laws. Is Act 77 unconstitutional? Is it nullified regardless of the pending state Supreme Court verdict? Will there be a new course entirely with the next governor? (Answers: we’ll get a ruling soon, some think so, and it depends.) The Inquirer takes a closer look at the status of mail-in voting and the questions that election officials statewide are asking.

How solvent should state unemployment program be?

Pennsylvania’s unemployment trust fund is currently at 0% solvency. Some lawmakers are arguing that it’s past time (the fund hasn’t been fully solvent since 1971) to update the solvency formula, saying a, “more cautious metric would better support the system and avoid more taxpayer-funded debt service on stopgap loans and bonds, but critics say it would unfairly burden already struggling business owners with heightened tax burdens,” reports Spotlight PA. Proponents argue the baseline should be set based on the the last three recession years, not the last three calendar years. But who will bear that burden? Job creators and taxpayers. Read more.

Shrinking workforce reflection of COVID policies

Pennsylvania’s labor force participation rate remains lower (61.7% versus 61.9%) than pre-pandemic levels. WESA examines some of the causes—including dramatic increases in homeschooling and elder care, the former certainly boosted by extended school closures and mask mandates. But, as the article points out, Pennsylvania’s economy hasn’t recovered nearly as fast as southern states where many Pennsylvanians are migrating. Read more.

Also happening this week

Behind closed doors

The Morning Call examines the changes surrounding the Property Tax Relief Fund that received little attention in the state budget negotiations. Legislative leaders and Gov. Wolf assured that property tax relief efforts remained and the change is “semantics,” while other legislators say they feel “duped” and that a promise was “reneged.” Read more.

Grove calls on Wolf to work out election reform

Pa. State Rep. Seth Grove, head of the House State Government Committee, released his third report on the problems facing Pennsylvania’s election system, many which have garnered national attention. From PennLive: “The fixes that his caucus has in mind were initially included in House Bill 1300 that passed both legislative chambers last June. It included such provisions as ones allowing early in-person voting, making it easier for disabled people to vote, and giving counties what they most want – more time before Election Day to begin preparing mail-in ballots for counting to ensure timelier election results.” Gov. Wolf vetoed HB 1300. Rep. Grove called on Gov. Wolf to meet with him to work out these issues. “Instead of having nice things, we have chaos,” Grove said. Read more in City & State.

Making the switch
Republicans have the lead over Democrats when it comes to voters changing party registration nationwide and in Pennsylvania. PennLive reports on a national analysis showing more than 1 million voters in 43 states switched their voter registration to Republican. And using data from the Pa. Dept. of State, they report that “In Pennsylvania in 2022, more than 35,000 people officially switched their political allegiance from Democrat to Republican as of July 11. This is more than three times the number of people who switched their voter registration from Republican to Democrat.”

State constitutional amendments to watch

With a governor who loves a veto, legislators have taken to the (rightfully) long and painstaking process of passing constitutional amendments, like the landmark amendment passed last year that limits the emergency power of the executive office. PennLive has a rundown of the constitutional amendments in process, including those that: require voter identification, allow gubernatorial candidates to choose their running mates, enable the state auditor general to conduct regular election audits, and moreRead more.

Last Week in Wolf: Executive order, veto pen

Similar to Democratic governors in other states, Gov. Wolf signed an executive order related to non-Pennsylvanians seeking abortions in Pennsylvania after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. PennLive reports, “Wolf said in a statement that he would refuse a request from any other state to arrest or detain any out-of-state resident who had traveled to Pennsylvania to seek an abortion, as well as anyone providing or assisting with it.” (For a thorough read on where things stand with Pa. abortion laws and legislation, check out this piece in the Inquirer.) But lest you think Wolf traded in his veto pen in favor of executive orders, last week Gov. Wolf vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have prevented municipalities from banning natural gas hookups in building codes. Apparently, Gov. Wolf is in favor of local decision-making in regards to climate change mandates, and federal decision-making in regards to expanding abortion access.


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