News & Brews February 22, 2023

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Rancor reigns as Pa. House reconvenes 

Yesterday, the Pa. House reconvened in special session with a new Democratic majority in place. The first several hours were spent debating rules for the special session. As the Post-Gazette reports, “There were accusations of stalling, stifling debate — and some shouting.” Finally, after rules were passed, a five-member committee convened to consider proposals to aid victims of sexual abuse. The committee voted 5-0 to pass a proposed constitutional amendment on the subject and send it back to the full House for consideration. The committee also voted 3-2 to advance a similar proposal via legislation (rather than via constitutional amendment).

EPA orders Norfolk Southern to clean up East Palestine

Yesterday at a press conference in East Palestine, Ohio, the EPA announced it is ordering Norfolk Southern “to identify and clean up contaminated soil and water, reimburse the EPA for cleaning services offered to residents and businesses, attend and participate in public meetings at the EPA’s request and pay for the EPA’s cost for work performed under the order.” Gov. Shapiro, who spoke at the presser, said, “It was my view that Norfolk Southern wasn’t going to do this out of the goodness in their heart, there is no goodness in their heart.”

No action taken against Dem rep accused of harassment

For all the talk of #MeToo, it appears Democrats are more than willing to keep secret the identity of Democrat lawmaker accused of groping a lobbyist. Broad + Liberty reports that the identity of the state rep “is one of the worst-kept secrets in Harrisburg political circles.” But the “member appears to be facing no discipline for the misconduct while Democratic leadership seems content to allow the issue to evaporate without consequence.” Former Republican Rep. Becky Corbin said that “if this accused person were a Republican, there would be a full-court press from elected Democrats and from the media to name and oust this person. But in this particular instance, the only explanation that makes sense for all of the silence is that Democrats can’t afford for this person to be expelled because of their narrow majority.”

Pa. ‘making progress’ toward public pension sustainability 

A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts says that although our public employee pension plans are still underfunded, the plans “are on a path to long-term fiscal sustainability thanks to a multiyear effort by policymakers to address the state’s sizable unfunded pension liability.” This is thanks in no small part to the pension reform of 2017. Pew notes, “It will take decades for Pennsylvania’s pension plans to achieve full funding, but an understanding of how policymaker decisions created a more positive trajectory can inform efforts elsewhere to improve the fiscal sustainability of public employee pensions.”

Roundtable today on protecting tax dollars from waste

This morning at 9:00 a.m., Rep. Seth Grove (York County), chair of the House Republican Appropriations Committee, will host a roundtable discussion “on making sure federal and state taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately on necessary services while preventing fraud, waste, and abuse.” The roundtable will be live-streamed here.

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