News & Brews August 3, 2022

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Pa. Supreme Court upholds mail-in voting

In a 5-2 ruling yesterday, the state Supreme Court upheld Act 77, which provided for no-excuse mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. The court concluded it found “no constitutional violation” in the provision and stated “that the phrase ‘offer to vote’ does not establish in-person voting as an elector qualification or otherwise mandate in-person voting.”Justices Kevin Brobson and Sallie Updyke Mundy dissented, and you can find their respective dissents here and here.

Senate Republicans file intervention to Wolf’s lawsuit over constitutional amendments

On Monday, the Senate Republican Caucus filed an emergency application for leave to intervene in Gov. Wolf’s lawsuit seeking to block voters from voting on several proposed constitutional amendments. Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward stated that Wolf’s lawsuit, “demonstrates another attempt by Gov. Wolf to mute the voices of millions of Pennsylvanians by taking away the power granted to them by the constitution.”

Wolf tries again for $2K handouts

Yesterday, Gov. Wolf reiterated his push to send up to $2,000 in direct payments to households making less than $80,000. Democrat state Rep. David Dellosso, who is introducing the legislation in the House, stated the program will help Pennsylvanians “with the high cost of child care and after-school care, invest in their education and training to complete their degree, credential or license, strengthen their ability to earn increased wages and to pursue jobs that offer a better quality of life.” But not everyone agrees this government handout is a great idea (well, duh). The Commonwealth Foundation’s Nathan Benefield warned, “Over-spending now means tax increases later,” noting, “Democrats want to fund stimulus payments through the state’s General Fund—despite Wolf just signing (and celebrating) a new state budget. One which already spends $2 billion more than revenue and runs through next June.”

DOJ ends PSERS investigation, SEC investigation continues

The U.S. Department of Justice has closed its investigation into our state’s largest pension fund, the Inquirer reports. According to PSERS’s board chair, “We understand from the closure of the investigation that DOJ will not be pursuing civil or criminal charges.” The investigation was probing possible “honest services fraud” at PSERS. A separate investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, looking at PSERS’ mistake on reporting investment returns as well as “possible conflicts of interest arising from travel and other gifts given to PSERS staff by Wall Street investment contractors,” continues.

Pa. Turnpike Commission approves 5% toll hike for 2023

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission approved a 5% toll increase for both EZ-Pass and Toll-by-Plate drivers, beginning January 8, 2023. In a news release, the Commission noted, “The most-common toll for a passenger vehicle next year will increase from $1.70 to $1.80 for E-ZPass customers and from $4.10 to $4.40 for Toll By Plate customers.” This marks the 15th annual turnpike toll increase, driven not by fiscal responsibility but by power, patronage, and politics.

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