News & Brews March 6, 2024

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Shapiro paying consultants nearly $1M for higher ed plan

PennLive reports, “Several consultants have been brought in to assist in filling in the details of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Blueprint for Higher Education at a cost of nearly $1 million.” Earlier this year, Shapiro pitched a major overhaul of the state’s system of higher education, but he offered precious few details, much to the concern of many lawmakers. It’s rather ironic that the governor’s office is now paying outside consultants even as he neglected to involve the chancellor of the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education in the overhaul planning—a fact that drew criticism at yesterday’s budget hearings.

Op-Ed: Voters would rather afford groceries than ‘save democracy’

CP President and CEO Matt Brouillette writes in RealClear Pennsylvania that as President Joe Biden campaigns for re-election on vague notions of “saving democracy,” voters are more interested in affording the necessities of life. “[F]or low-propensity Republican voters and disaffected Democratic voters — who number in the millions across the country and are notable voting blocks in swing states like Pennsylvania — this November’s election won’t be about red or blue. It won’t be about democracy or abortion. It will be about buying groceries and staying safe.”

Huge settlement raises question of where money comes from 

In the wake of the sexual harassment scandal involving Gov. Shapiro’s former secretary of legislative affairs, Mike Vereb, Pennsylvanians became more aware of the Employee Liability Self Insurance Program (ElSIP), which pays out settlements. But ELSIP ‘s payout is capped at $250,000. In the Vereb case, the settlement was $295,000, so Shapiro’s office reportedly paid the balance. Broad & Liberty reports, however, of a massive $13,000,0000 settlement paid out late last year to a man wrongly convicted in the 1980s. After the first $250K, the remaining $12,750,000 was paid by the Pennsylvania State Police, deemed the responsible agency in this case. This raises the question: Where did the PSP—and any other agency that’s required to pay out settlements, such as Gov. Shapiro’s office—get this taxpayer money? Is it diverted from other budget items? Or is it simply sitting around?

Antisemitic account tied to Rep. Summer Lee staffer

POLITICO covered a story by the Jewish Insider, reporting that an Instagram account named “Dear White Staffers”—once a place for sharing gossip and allegations of abuse about lawmakers and other Hill staffers, but increasingly an openly antisemitic account following the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks—has been linked to a staff member of U.S. Rep. Summer Lee of Pennsylvania. “Jewish Capitol Hill staffers, who have said they face an increasingly hostile workplace among their peers since Oct. 7, have pointed to the Dear White Staffers account, which is particularly influential among younger Capitol Hill staff, as contributing to that dynamic.” Rep. Lee has drawn repeated criticism for her anti-Israel views and votes.

Watch today’s budget hearings

The House Appropriations Committee will hear from the Department of Human Services this morning 10:00 a.m. (watch here) and will continue with the same agency this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. (watch here). The Senate Appropriations Committee will hear from the Department of State at 9:30 a.m. (watch here) and from the Department of Transportation at 1:00 p.m. (watch here).

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