News & Brews December 5, 2023

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Shapiro, lawmakers end ‘remarkably unproductive’ year

It’s one thing to be remarkable. It’s quite another to be “remarkably unproductive.” Yet, that’s how the Erie Times-News categorizes this past year of (non)-results from Gov. Shapiro and the state Legislature. “As of Dec. 3,” the story notes, “Gov. Josh Shapiro had signed just 32 new bills into law. That’s fewer than a third of the 96 approved by former Gov. Tom Wolf during his first year in office — a year in which the Democratic governor was locked in a prolonged budget standoff with a Republican-controlled Legislature.” Of course, Shapiro’s defense will be he’s the “only governor with a full-time divided legislature.” In other words, he can be effective only with single-party legislative control.

New House rules haven’t led to bipartisanship

Spotlight PA reflects on whether changes to the Pa. House rules have had the intended effect of improving bipartisanship in the lower chamber. And, put simply, they have not. “Under the new rules,” the story notes, “members of the minority party have more committee representation, while committee chairs have a stronger check on their ability to unilaterally sink bipartisan legislation. But as the two-year session reaches the halfway mark, good-government advocates and Republican members of the state House minority caucus say nothing has changed. The majority party, observers said, is not any less powerful, and an increase in minority party bills is driven by Democrats’ goodwill — and could reverse anytime.”

More on lawmaker’s ‘excessive’ mileage reimbursements

Last week, I shared the story of Erie Democrat Rep. Pat Harkins’ $154K in mileage reimbursements. ABC27’s Dennis Owens dives a bit more deeply into the amount, noting that while some of it was for travel to and from legislative sessions or meetings, a whole lot of it was in Harkins’ (very small) district or simply marked as “other.” And when it comes to explaining what “other” means, Harkins is no longer responding to ABC27’s questions.

WSJ Editorial: Gov’t unions love Democrats

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board looks at a report from the Commonwealth Foundation showing that when it comes to government unions’ political spending, “Democrats and their causes receive 95.7% of the cash from unions’ political action committees.” The Ed Board notes, “The root problem here is collective bargaining for public unions, which puts politicians in the position of determining the salaries and benefits of the union members who help to elect them.”

Jury set to deliberate in Johnny Doc case

A jury is set to begin deliberations today in the federal embezzlement trial of former Philly labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and his co-defendant, former union president Brian Burrows. The deliberations “will follow a monthlong government effort to prove that Dougherty and … Burrows skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars from union coffers between 2010 and 2016.” This is Dougherty’s second felony trial in two years. He has already been convicted of corruption.

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