News & Brews January 12, 2023

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Pa. Senate advances proposed constitutional amendments

Yesterday, the state Senate voted 28-20 to send three proposed constitutional amendments to voters. The amendments would, respectively, “tighten voter ID laws, make it easier to override regulations, and create a two year window for childhood victims of sexual abuse to sue their perpetrators.” Democrat Sen. Lisa Boscola (Lehigh and Northampton counties) was the sole member of her party to join all Republicans in voting to send the amendments to voters for their say. If the House passes the amendments by the end of January, they will appear on the May primary ballot.

Senate postpones Krasner trial indefinitely

The state Senate unanimously approved indefinitely postponing the impeachment trial of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. The trial was slated to begin January 18. The postponement comes after the Commonwealth Court said none of the charges against Krasner constitute “misbehavior in office.”

Shapiro names picks for five more cabinet posts

Yesterday, Gov.-Elect Josh Shapiro announced his intent to nominate Chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners Dr. Val Arkoosh as secretary of the Department of Human Services. Arkoosh was a firm supporter of Gov. Wolf’s COVID lockdowns. She also supports a statewide ban on fracking. Shapiro also picked Dr. Debra Bogan, who supported legal action against restaurants that defied Wolf’s COVID mandates, as Secretary of Health. For Insurance Commissioner, Shapiro picked Michael Humphreys (currently the Acting Commissioner). To lead the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, he picked Latika Davis-Jones, who is currently with Highmark Wholecare. And finally, he picked Jason Kavulich, currently the Director of Lackawanna County’s Agency on Aging, to head the Department of Aging.

Judges hear lawsuit over special election dates

Yesterday, a panel of three Commonwealth Court judges heard argument in the case over special election dates for two vacant Allegheny County House seats. On December 15, Republican Leader Bryan Cutler ordered that the elections be held May 16, to coincide with the primary. As Republicans held a 101-99 majority at that time due to vacancies (and they still do today), they noted Cutler could issue these writs as Majority Leader. Subsequently, Democrat Leader Joanna McClinton ordered that the special elections be held February 7. Cutler’s attorney contends, however, that McClinton was not Majority Leader when she issued the writs of election, so she lacked the power to do so. The judges did not announce a timeline for their ruling.

Lawmakers seek to halt gas tax increase 

In the face of a legally mandated wholesale tax increase on gas, the state Senate yesterday voted 29-19 for legislation, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc (Cambria, Centre, and Clearfield counties) to halt the increase. The legislation now heads to the House, where the future of pretty much anything is in flux as lawmakers haven’t even passed rules to govern the session, leading Speaker Mark Rozzi to cancel sessions.

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