News & Brews February 29, 2024

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Takeaways from yesterday’s education budget hearing  

Topics at yesterday’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing with the Pa. Department of Education ranged from Democrats’ calls for $5.4 billion in increased education spending and Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposal to slash funding for public cyber charter school students to Shapiro’s plans to overhaul Pa.’s system of higher education and more. Senate Republicans provided an extensive summary of highlights from the hearing.

Philly malpractice cases surge after venue shopping rule change

A rule change that went into effect last year allowing plaintiffs to file malpractice lawsuits in plaintiff-friendly Philadelphia—even if the alleged offense occurred elsewhere—is behind a surge in malpractice cases filed in the city in 2023. The Inquirer reports, “Attorneys filed 544 cases last year, a 33% increase from the average annual caseload in the three years before the pandemic.” Curt Schroder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, which warned against the rule change, “estimated that 41% of last year’s Philadelphia cases could not have been filed in Philadelphia before the change took effect.” The new rule was a gift to trial lawyers, who, of course, like high-dollar payouts. And not surprisingly, “The trend toward high verdicts is starting to affect Pennsylvania’s malpractice insurance market….”

Interview with Pa. Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman

City & State PA recently discussed Pa. energy policy with Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman. Not surprisingly, the fight over Pennsylvania’s entrance into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was central to the discussion. “I want to see us put an end to this debate once and for all,” Pittman said. “This has been a nearly five-year tug of war over whether or not the commonwealth would enter into this compact. I believe the very conversation has injected so much uncertainty into our energy marketplace that it has really crippled our ability to build upon the assets that we already had. It’s time to set a reset button. It’s time to put this issue to bed. The Commonwealth Court ruling [that former Gov. Tom Wolf’s unilateral entrance into RGGI was unconstitutional] was unambiguous and it was decisive, and we are losing precious time by continuing down this path at the expense of having honest conversations about where we go from here.”

Pa. election integrity task force to reconvene

PennLive reports that following a directive from Gov. Shapiro to Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt, “A task force comprising election and law enforcement officials has been reconvened” to prepare for this year’s elections. The inter-agency task force, initially launched under former Gov. Tom Wolf, will include “representatives from every level of government including U.S. Attorney’s offices, the attorney general, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, election directors, state police, homeland security officials, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania National Guard and the governor’s Office of Administration’s Office of Information Technology.”

Watch today’s budget hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee will hear from the Department of Environmental Protection this morning at 9:30 a.m. (watch here) and from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board at 1:00 p.m. (watch here). The House Appropriations Committee will hear from the Judiciary at 10:00 a.m. (watch here) and from State-Related Universities at 1:00 p.m. (watch here).

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