News & Brews December 6, 2022

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House leaders meet to try to figure out party control

Although Democrats won a 102-101 House majority last month, the passing of Democrat Rep. Tony DeLuca put the balance at 101-101. And with two Democrat reps soon leaving for higher office, Republicans would hold 101 seats to Democrats’ 99. This has raised the unusual question: Who has the majority? Republican Leader Bryan Cutler and Democrat Leader Joanna McClinton met yesterday to try to figure it out, but CBS Philadelphia reports that what transpired at that meeting is not yet public. See the story here.

Wolf reflects on eight years as governor

As Gov. Tom Wolf prepares to leave office after two terms, he reflected on his tenure, identifying three highlights, per PennLive: “his administration was devoid of any major public corruption scandal; major advancements were made in funding for public schools; and he leaves the state on what he believes is a much firmer fiscal foundation than he found it.” On the latter, however, as the Commonwealth Foundation’s Elizabeth Stelle explained, “If all of the governor’s spending proposals had gone through, Pennsylvania would have spent an additional $2.7 billion. The Legislature consistently whittled down his unaffordable plans and blocked his massive tax hikes, saving Mr. Wolf from himself. Pennsylvania’s current surplus has everything to do with pandemic cash infusions and nothing to do with the governor’s spending restraint.”

Wolf’s office spends thousands on law firms but won’t say why

A Spotlight PA analysis revealed that over the past three years, Gov. Wolf’s Office of General Counsel has spent “at least $367,500 … on a half-dozen law firms, in many cases without explaining why.” What’s more, “over the past year, Wolf’s administration has actively blocked efforts by the news organizations to publicly release those details, sharing only records that show which firms it hired, and how much those firms charged for some of its legal work — but, in nearly every instance, not what cases or policy and other matters the work involved.” Read more here.

Two Dems eyeing open House seat

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that “Penn Hills Mayor Pauline Calabrese and school board president Erin Vecchio have put their names in the hat for the Democratic nomination for the state House District 32 seat.” The Allegheny County seat is vacant after the passing of Democrat Rep. Tony DeLuca. As this is a special election, each party’s committee will select a nominee to run. The Democrat Committee is scheduled to meet Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Republican Committee will meet December 17. Thus far, no GOP candidate has officially entered the fray, although a few have shown interest, including former state Rep. and Lt. Gov. nominee Carrie Lewis DelRosso. The district leans notably Democrat, and the special election is set for February 7.

Commonwealth Court tosses lawsuit on school mask requirement

The Commonwealth Court has dismissed as moot a lawsuit challenging the authority of local school boards to implement mask mandates. In her opinion, Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon wrote, “that the instant matter is moot as a result of the School District Respondents having lifted entirely, or otherwise made optional, their masking requirements.” The case was filed by nine parents against Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Noe Ortega and multiple school districts.

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