News & Brews March 2, 2023

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Pa. House (finally) passes rules to organize

Yesterday, the Pa. House finally passed operating rules that will allow it to do its work. The move came nearly two months after the January 3 election of Speaker Mark Rozzi, who promptly recessed his chamber without doing anything. Rozzi resigned as Speaker this week, although he developed the rules that were ultimately passed yesterday. Among the changes in the new rules are expanding who can file harassment complaints against lawmakers, shrinking the size of House committees, diminishing a committee chair’s ability to block legislation, and more.

Senate committee votes to subpoena Norfolk Southern CEO 

Yesterday, the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee voted 9-1 to subpoena Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw to testify at a hearing on March 8 in relation to the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. PennLive reports that committee Chair Sen. Doug Mastriano (Adams and Franklin counties) “said Shaw would be asked to provide documents, videos, texts and emails on the situation ‘that triggered this emergency response.’”

Pa. Treasury wins case at U.S. Supreme Court 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Pa. Treasury Department in Delaware v. Pennsylvania, et al. According to Treasurer Stacy Garrity’s office, the ruling “creat[es] the potential return of nearly $19 million in escheated funds to Pennsylvania from Delaware.” The case stems from uncashed “official checks” sold by MoneyGram, which provides “money transfer and bill payment services.” Pa. contended that the checks “are a form of money order. According to the Federal Disposition Act (FDA), uncashed money orders and similar instruments are to be escheated to the state in which they were originally purchased. Delaware argued that MoneyGram’s ‘official checks’ do not fall into this FDA classification, and are therefore due to the state where the company is incorporated.”

In budget address, Shapiro to call for more corporate welfare

PennLive reports that in his first budget address, Gov. Shapiro “will propose increasing the investment in the Keystone Communities program” by more than $15 million, which is “more than double the amount his predecessor Gov. Tom Wolf proposed in his final budget last year.” The Keystone Communities program is one of Pennsylvania’s many corporate welfare programs, which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, with questionable returns.

Identity of lawmaker accused of sexual harassment revealed

For weeks, news has been swirling of the unnamed Democrat lawmaker accused of sexually harassing a lobbyist. Broad + Liberty previously reported that the lawmaker’s identity, although not publicly known, was the “one of the worst-kept secrets in Harrisburg political circles.” New revelations have now identified the lawmaker as Democrat Mike Zabel (Delaware County). It’s unclear what if any action Democrat leadership plans to take. Republican lawmakers had previously asked Democrat leaders to investigate and request the resignation of the then-unnamed lawmaker. Additionally, the lobbyist who first accused Zabel is calling on him to resign.

Ally of indicted IBEW leader sentenced to 3.5 years in prison

Yesterday, a federal judge sentenced former Philadelphia Councilmember Bobby Henon to 3.5 years in prison. The Inquirer reports that “U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl said Henon deserved his prison term for essentially selling his office to labor leader John J. Dougherty in exchange for a $70,000-a-year union salary.” Judge Schmehl called Henon “a good man who [was] convicted of doing a bad thing.” His sentence is less than the 8-10 years prosecutors had requested.

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