News & Brews February 16, 2023

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Pa. House returns next week, but will lawmakers do anything?

House lawmakers are set to return to session next week, but with their inability over the past six weeks to complete even the basic task of adopting House rules, it’s unclear what will happen when they return. The AP reports that since early last month, Speaker Mark Rozzi and his working group have held public meetings in hopes of coming up with the “Rozzi rules.” However, “Nothing has been made public and it’s unclear whether he will be able to wrangle a majority to adopt his rules next week. It’s also unclear if other Democrats or Republicans will have the votes to adopt their own rules, or even replace Rozzi at the speaker’s rostrum.”

Questions swirl around Ohio train derailment

Nearly two weeks after the derailment of approximately 50 train cars in East Palestine, Ohio (along the Pennsylvania border), questions about health concerns are mounting. Following the derailment, a controlled release of toxic chemicals took place to prevent an explosion. The Post-Gazette reports, “Senators from Pennsylvania and Ohio released a joint statement on Wednesday calling for additional testing and for the freight train’s owner, Norfolk Southern Railway, to be held accountable. It was sent to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan, and followed a letter to Norfolk Southern from Gov. Josh Shapiro the day prior.” Relatedly, Beaver County residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern Railway, seeking payment for medical monitoring.

Casino regulators met with lobbyists before opposing casino competitors

Spotlight PA investigates off-the-record meetings between members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and lobbyists for Parx Casino—Pa.’s largest casino. The meetings happened before the Board abandoned its “hands-off position” regarding skill games (a major competitor to Parx). After the meetings, the Board came out in opposition to skill games and petitioned to join a lawsuit to declare the games illegal. The fact that the Board kept the meetings secret is raising lots of questions.

Dep’t of Health goes to court to keep secrets

If you received these daily emails during COVID, you know how fiercely the state Department of Health (DOH) fights to keep secrets from the public. Well, DOH is at it again. This time, DOH is suing the media outlet Spotlight PA (again) “in an attempt to keep information about how patients obtain a medical marijuana card secret from the public.” The state Office of Open Records recently “determined that records should be made public to the extent that they exist,” but instead of complying, DOH has appealed to the Commonwealth Court to keep the info hidden. Seriously, transparency shouldn’t be this difficult.

Analysts weigh in on Pa. economic outlook

At a House Republican Policy Committee hearing on Tuesday, analysts from various organizations testified on ways to make Pennsylvania more economically competitive. Among the recommendations: eliminate corporate welfare, accelerate the reduction of the corporate net income tax rate, and maintain a healthy rainy day fund.

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