News & Brews April 17, 2023

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Shapiro admin’s secret meetings

The AP reports that last week, “[t]he group tasked by Gov. Josh Shapiro with developing a state-level plan to fight climate change met for the first time.” But aside from the group’s two chairs, “Shapiro’s office declined to identify any other members of the group.” His office also declined to “discuss the instructions that the governor gave to the working group.” Additionally, “the governor gave the working group no timeline to come up with recommendations, and is letting the group meet privately, without keeping public minutes of its meetings.” Great. Secret meetings, no records. What could go wrong?

State-funded abortion advocacy site draws questions at budget hearing

At Friday’s Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing with Gov. Shapiro’s office, a new state-run abortion advocacy website drew fire. PennLive reports that the site “provides information about how to access abortion care in the state and how to pay for it. Other features include an interactive map that identifies the location of providers.” State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (York County) noted that Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act prohibits taxpayer funding for abortion-related activities, with few exceptions. The Shapiro administration tried to liken the website to other info-providing sites. However, Phillips-Hill noted that the site does not provide any options or alternatives other than abortion.

Profiling Shapiro at (nearly) 100 days

As Gov. Shapiro approaches his 100th day in office, the Inquirer looks at his governing style to date. “Across political parties,” the story notes, “those who have worked with Shapiro over his career describe him as someone who at his core wants to solve problems and find common ground.”  And the Inky says he’s extended “olive branch after olive branch” to Republicans. That said, not everything is coming up roses. And “GOP lawmakers won’t budge on a number of issues: energy policy, tax increases, school choice, and maintaining the state’s ‘rainy day’ reserve fund.”

The judicial branch in this year’s budget

Spotlight PA reports, “In its proposed budget for the next fiscal year, the judicial system asks for more than $406 million — the same amount of general funding suggested by [Gov.] Shapiro. That’s about 1% of the $44 billion budget for the commonwealth.” Unlike in some previous years, judicial officials did not appear at budget hearings. This is not entirely unusual, however. A spokesperson for Senate Appropriations Chair Scott Martin wrote, “It is worth noting that the review of the governor’s budget plan is not restricted to the three weeks of budget hearings. If there are specific questions or concerns regarding the courts’ budget requests at any point in the budget process, those issues can typically be addressed through conversations and meetings that are always ongoing.”

Fetterman returning to Senate this evening

The Inquirer reports that a “highly routine” Senate vote this evening “will likely be met with outsized attention.” This is because it will mark U.S. Sen. John Fetterman’s return to the Senate following six weeks of hospitalization for clinical depression. Fetterman was released from the hospital on March 31 and has been spending time with his family

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