News & Brews August 10, 2023

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WSJ: ‘Shapiro’s union payback’

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board writes that AFSCME got a “tidy return” on their “$1.26 million investment in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s 2022 campaign.” This refers to the contract Shapiro just negotiated with the union. Beyond the 20.25% pay increase over four years, the contract includes other goodies. For example, employees will see a 0.5 percent increase in healthcare contributions, but “the employer will contribute 28 percent more.” In the Journal’s words, “Try getting that from your boss.” Unfortunately, this is what you get when governors negotiate contracts behind closed doors with their huge campaign donors.

National Republicans eye 2 Pa. congressional seats

According to a memo sent by the PAC tied to U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, national Republicans plan to target swing congressional seats in traditionally blue states in 2024. POLITICO reports that the PAC— the Congressional Leadership Fund—is launching a “Blue State Project.” But the PAC won’t limit itself to blue states. Among additional races targeted are two in Pennsylvania. The memo notes, “Susan Wild … and Matt Cartwright … only won because of top-of-ticket drag from Doug Mastriano. Their images are hobbled, and they’re strapped for cash after last cycle. They will face serious challenges.”

PUC hasn’t had director for 7 months; does it need one? 

The state Public Utility Commission has been without an executive director since January and is currently being led by an acting executive director. The agency says operations have continued “uninterrupted” in the absence of an executive director. This led one state Senator to question whether the role is even needed. Republican Sen. Jarrett Coleman (Bucks and Lehigh counties) said, ”You have to believe that not having an executive director is having an effect on the operations of the PUC. If it doesn’t, why does the executive director position exist?”

Lawrence County joints Pittsburgh Metro Area 

The Pittsburgh Metro Area just got a bit bigger in the government’s eyes. The Tribune Review reports that Lawrence County “is now part of the Pittsburgh metro area thanks to a revised designation from the White House.” The addition “gives the Pittsburgh metro area a population boost of nearly 85,000 people.” This ups the total population of the area to 2,434,021, per July 2022 U.S. Census data.

House committee to meet today on ‘Level Up’ funding

The House Education Committee is scheduled to hold an informational meeting at 1:00 pm today on “Level Up” funding, which is funding directed at the state’s poorest school districts. The state budget signed by Gov. Shapiro included an additional $100 million in Level Up funding. But it’s currently on hold as neither the House nor Senate has passed the code bill required to implement the funding. Democrat House Education Committee Chair Peter Schweyer (Lehigh County), who announced today’s meeting, supports Level Up funding. Yet he opposes giving children an opportunity to escape failing schools to access a better education. This even though he attended private school. The hearing will be live-streamed here.

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