News & Brews October 3, 2023

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Senate Republican leader denounces Shapiro’s handling of Vereb sexual harassment scandal

Pa. Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (Westmoreland County) is criticizing Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration for keeping Mike Vereb in his cabinet position for months after he was accused of sexually harassing a former staff member. Ward told the Inquirer, “It’s so infuriating that [Vereb] stayed in that position for months, one of the highest positions in the administration.” The Inquirer also notes that Ward “told The Inquirer that if a settlement was reached with the accuser and payments were made using tax dollars, the administration should release the details.”

Is Shapiro disregarding the law on Rainy Day Fund deposit?

The Center Square reports that Gov. Josh Shapiro and lawmakers are “at odds once again over the amount the administration deposited into the state’s Rainy Day Fund.” The Shapiro administration says the amount—which by law is supposed to be 10% of the General Fund surplus—comes to $411.6 million. Republican lawmakers, however, say the administration is leaving out billions of dollars from the calculation and the transfer should actually be $898 million. They are concerned the Shapiro administration aims to use the millions not deposited for additional government spending.

Op-Ed: Biden Clean Power Plan threatens Pa. 

GOP Sen. Gene Yaw (Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Tioga, and Union counties) writes in the Delaware Valley Journal that Pennsylvania “would be particularly devastated” if the Biden Clean Power Plan is finalized in its current form. “Pennsylvania is a member of the PJM power grid, which consists of 13 states and the District of Columbia,” Yaw writes. “Pennsylvania itself supplies 25% of the installed capacity in the PJM grid. As chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, I have held multiple hearings to review grid reliability. Overwhelmingly, the testimonies stated that a rush to shutter our fossil fuel-fired power plants would directly impact our bulk power supply.”

House roster back to 102-101

House Democrats once again officially have 102 state House members to Republicans’ 101, as Democrat state Rep. Lindsay Powell was sworn in yesterday. She won a Sept. 19 special election in Allegheny County’s heavily Democrat 21st House District, and the results of that election were certified yesterday. Republicans have maintained that House Democrat leadership has been stalling taking action to finish the state budget until they once again had a majority of seated lawmakers. (See next item.)

Pa. House returned last week … didn’t do much

The Inquirer reports that the Pa. House returned to session last week after a three-month recess “with more than $1 billion [from the state budget] in unfinished business.” Also in limbo were “hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for four state-related universities” as well as the date of next year’s primary election. But Democrat lawmakers—lacking their one-vote majority (see previous item)—didn’t resolve any of these issues. “Instead, the House voted last week on a number of noncontroversial bills as lawmakers got back to work. As of Monday, none of these time-sensitive issues were scheduled for a floor vote.” This led House Republican Whip Tim O’Neal (Washington County) to ask, “We’re in this situation where we’ve waited all summer to do what? There isn’t any reason why we couldn’t be here, except to ensure a political win.”

*Correction: Yesterday’s News & Brews mistakenly said the Pennsylvania Republican Party is waiting until after the primary election to endorse a candidate for attorney general. Thank you to the reader who pointed out that this is incorrect. The Republican Party plans to conduct an endorsement for attorney general at a meeting to be called by the chair sometime after December 1.

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