Governor Wolf Proposes Direct Payments to Pennsylvania Residents

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday proposed a new plan to disperse a portion of the state’s unused coronavirus relief funds.

Wolf’s plan would appropriate $500 million of the state’s available $2 billion for direct payments of up to $2,000 to certain households throughout the state.

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Commonwealth Court Blocks Pennsylvania’s Entry into Carbon Taxation Initiative

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court this week blocked the state’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an 11-state compact requiring de facto taxation of power plants’ carbon emissions.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) tried to effect Pennsylvania’s participation in the initiative by issuing an executive order in 2019, thus neglecting to seek approval of the Republican-led General Assembly. The court’s new opinion comes one day after the state Senate failed to override the governor’s veto of legislation letting the General Assembly end the state’s membership in the compact. Legislative leaders have argued that the governor’s unilateral action violated the state Constitution and were heartened upon hearing of the judges’ decision.

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State Senator Yaw Proposes Legal Framework for Carbon Capture in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Williamsport) indicated Wednesday he will soon introduce legislation to create a regulatory framework for “carbon capture” in the commonwealth.

Carbon capture is the process of catching carbon-dioxide discharge from fossil-fuel-fired power plants and manufacturing facilities for either reuse or storage so that the emissions don’t make it into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming.

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Legislation Would Let Pennsylvania Voters Reject Tax Increases

A bill that was referred to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Finance Committee last week would amend the state Constitution to allow voters to reject any state-level revenue hike. 

The legislation, introduced by State Rep. David Rowe (R-Mifflinburg), would place a question on the primary ballot regarding any new tax or fee or any new increase in such levies. Should Pennsylvanians reject a revenue increase, the legislature could attempt to override the voters but would need support from two thirds of its members to succeed.

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Review Board Approves Pennsylvania Charter School Regulations

Girl standing up in the middle of classroom

A regulatory review panel on Monday approved numerous new administrative rules imposed by Pennsylvania’s executive branch on charter schools, a move the institutions did not welcome.

Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) Chair George Bedwick, Commissioner Murray Ufberg and Commissioner Dennis Watson, all appointed to the board by Democratic state officials, voted in favor of the new regulations. Vice Chair John Mizner and Commissioner John Soroko, both Republican appointees, voted in opposition.

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Pennsylvania House Education Committee Issues Letter Opposing Wolf’s New Charter School Regulations

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives Education Committee Tuesday issued a letter opposing new regulations Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has imposed on the state’s charter schools.

All 15 Republicans on the committee voted to authorize the letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) while all 10 Democrats voted against it. Majority Chairman Curt Sonney (R-Erie) said the panel is not voicing opposition to every new rule on the list published last month but merely those that frustrate reputable charter schools’ ability to operate.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Redistricting Appeals in North Carolina, Pennsylvania

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected appeals from Republicans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, an attempt to prevent the states’ redistricting maps.

GOP leaders in both states asked the Court for a temporary stay of the two maps in order to block them from being fully enacted. Because the ruling is not on the constitutionality of the maps, litigation can continue while the boundaries are in place.

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Lawmakers Consider Requested 40 Percent Funding Hike for Pennsylvania State Police

At a Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, representatives discussed the governor’s requested 40-percent state-police funding increase with department officials.

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) received $629,342,000 this fiscal year. In a budget proposal unveiled last month, Governor Tom Wolf (D) asked the Republican-run General Assembly to fund the agency at $925,599,000 (in combined state and federal dollars). The governor, however, anticipates that PSP funding can be kept flat over the four fiscal years after next year.

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Pennsylvania Lawmaker Urges New Jersey and New York to End Pipeline-Construction Bans

Pennsylvania State Representative Stan Saylor (R-Red Lion) announced Monday he’ll introduce a resolution exhorting New Jersey and New York’s respective governors to allow construction of natural-gas conduits.

In 2014, Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s predecessor Andrew Cuomo (D) banned hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) for natural-gas extraction and thenceforth barred the creation of new natural-gas pipelines. Last month, Hochul endorsed a statewide prohibition of gas power for new buildings, the first such state-level interdiction in the U.S. 

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Ruling Prompts Pennsylvania Senate Legislation to Limit Court’s Redistricting Power

Senator David G. Argall

One day after Wednesday’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision imposing a Democrat-favored congressional map, state Senator David Argall (R-Mahanoy City) is legislating to limit similar future rulings.

Argall, who chairs the Senate State Government Committee, has asked colleagues to cosponsor a measure disallowing any congressional-district plan ordered by a court to remain in effect after the election cycle for which it was enacted.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Picks Democrat-Favored Congressional Map

Democrats celebrated and Republicans demurred Wednesday after the Democrat-controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected the state’s new congressional map.

In so doing, the court overturned a decision earlier this month by Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia A. McCullough (R) to allow implementation of a redistricting plan passed by the GOP-led General Assembly but vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf (D). The initial version of the legislature-approved map was drawn by a private citizen, Amanda Holt of Lehigh County, though legislators modified her plan somewhat.

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Fiscal Office Chief: Pennsylvanians Leaving for Low-Tax Southern States

On Tuesday, at the first Pennsylvania Senate hearing on next fiscal year’s budget, lawmakers considered the state’s slow economic recovery—and the state’s failure to attract new residents.

Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) Director Matthew Knittel testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding the state’s fiscal, economic and demographic outlook. Particularly in that last category, the Keystone State doesn’t boast an envious position.

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Inflation Prompts Pennsylvania Legislators to Suggest Tax Holidays

Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are proposing that the commonwealth offset some of the inflationary burden on residents by pausing certain taxes.

One bill State Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Bethlehem) is currently drafting would stop sales taxation in June and July 2022 at a time the senator says the state can afford to do so. In a memorandum seeking co-sponsors for her bill, she cited Governor Tom Wolf’s (D) recent declaration that Pennsylvania will amass a budget surplus for Fiscal Year 2021-22 of over $2 billion and a similarly large surplus for the following year. Since budget years end on June 30, the legislation is thus timed to spread the financial loss to the state over both budget cycles. 

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Economic Development Chief Testifies to Consequences of Pennsylvania’s Lockdown, Refuses to Apologize

At a Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday, the panel’s GOP majority grilled the state’s chief economic-development official on the damage inflicted by COVID-related business restrictions.

In March 17, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf (D) responded to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus by ordering the shuttering of all businesses he deemed “nonessential.” The commonwealth phased out most of the closures that summer, though capacity restrictions on restaurants and other gathering places continued into 2021. Republicans in the General Assembly attempted to end the shutdowns but did not have the two-thirds supermajority needed to override the governor.

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Governor Wolf Wants Less Money for Pennsylvania Corrections Than Department Requested

Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) is recommending that lawmakers fund state prisons at a lower level in future years than the state’s Department of Corrections has requested.

At a budget hearing Wednesday, members of the state House Appropriations Committee questioned Acting Secretary of Corrections George Little about the contrast between the governor’s projections and the department’s own outlook.

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Pennsylvania Fiscal Office Expects Lower Revenues Than Governor

On Tuesday, at the first legislative hearing on Pennsylvania’s next budget, the Wolf administration and the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) offered divergent near-term revenue projections.

Governor Tom Wolf (D) proposed a Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget last week that would total $43.7 billion, 16.6 percent greater than the current fiscal year’s spending allotment. The plan’s feasibility (without a tax increase) will partly depend on whether the general-fund revenues anticipated by the governor’s Revenue Secretary, C. Daniel Hassell, come to fruition. 

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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Opposing Greenhouse Gas Initiative Offer Alternative Policy

Lawmakers who have attempted to stop Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) are proposing alternative measures to mitigate carbon emissions in the Keystone State.

Representative Jim Struzzi has amended the anti-RGGI legislation he introduced last year to authorize spending $250 million from Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Response Restricted Account on carbon-dioxide-reduction technologies and related items. Funded projects would include methane abatement, hydrogen-based infrastructure and stormwater mitigation as well as assistance to communities weathering electric-generation plant closures.

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Gov. Wolf Unveils His Final Pennsylvania Budget Proposal, Urging Massive Spending Hike

Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) unveiled his final state budget proposal to the General Assembly yesterday, asking members to approve a 10.9 percent spending increase.

Major items he proposed include $1.75 billion more for public schools and $200 million more for college scholarships. The governor insisted his aims could be realized without resorting to tax rises, though his $43.7 billion plan hinges on the use of about $2 billion in one-time federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

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Commonwealth Court Judge Chooses Citizen-Drawn Congressional Map Favored by GOP Legislature

Pennsylvania Capitol Building

Because Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor and GOP-controlled legislature couldn’t agree on a congressional redistricting plan, a Commonwealth Court judge has stepped in and chosen one favored by the latter.

Judge Patricia A. McCullough (R), who was charged individually with selecting a new congressional map from among several proposed by state officials and nongovernmental actors, issued a 228-page report explaining her decision.

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New Pennsylvania Law Aims to Help Solve Missing Persons Cases

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday signed a new law into action that aims to help solve missing persons cases.

Specifically, House Bill 930 will mandate various law enforcement agencies to submit the DNA of a missing person, child, or unknown deceased person to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) for submission to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS).

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Ruling Against No-Excuse Mail-In Voting in Pennsylvania Appealed

Although Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court on Friday invalidated the law that has allowed no-excuse mail-in voting since 2020, the state’s appeal of the ruling means the decision is not yet in effect.

State officials, represented by Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, will likely face a much friendlier forum in the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by Democrats in contrast to the Republican-majority Commonwealth Court. Democrats denounced the latter court’s ruling and pointed out that Republican legislators overwhelmingly voted for Act 77, which allowed Pennsylvanian’s who were not sick, injured or out of town to vote via absentee ballot.

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Pennsylvania Court Halts Mail-In Voting

A five-judge panel on Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court stopped a provision that allows mail-in voting throughout the state, ruling the measure unconstitutional.

Proponents of the lawsuit argued that any permanent change to the election code of the state must be performed through constitutional amendment. In order for a constitutional amendment to be enacted, the measure must pass the legislature during two consecutive sessions.

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Gov. Wolf Vetoes Pennsylvania Congressional Map

On Thursday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) vetoed a proposed new congressional-district map passed by the Republican-run state legislature.

The governor’s decision effectively turns over the selection of a new map to the state judiciary. The Republican-run Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has indicated it would intervene if Wolf and lawmakers failed to agree on how the new districts will be reshaped. But even if that court chooses the reapportionment plan passed by the General Assembly, Wolf’s party may ultimately get its way by appealing to the Democrat-controlled state Supreme Court.

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Pennsylvania Bill Prohibiting Municipalities from Banning Natural Gas Passes State House

Legislation disallowing local bans on new buildings’ use of natural gas passed the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives Wednesday by a vote of 118 to 83. 

A number of major U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Denver and New York, have prohibited the supply of natural gas to most new buildings. The sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill, Rep. Tim O’Neal (R-Washington) said that while local governments in the Keystone State haven’t yet officially barred the fuel’s use, some climate-action plans generated by state and local governments call for such measures. 

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Pennsylvania Legislature Must Pass, and Governor Must Sign, Congressional Map Monday to Meet Department’s Deadline

Pennsylvania’s Republican-led state Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) must approve a congressional map Monday in order to meet a deadline set by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Last summer, then-Secretary of the Commonwealth Veronica Degraffenried (D) announced that her department wanted new congressional districts enacted before January 24 so election officials and candidates may adequately prepare for the May 17, 2022 primaries. Lawmakers redesign districts every decade according to population changes reflected in U.S. Census data, whose release last year stalled several months owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Population trends dictate that the Keystone State will lose one congressional district out of its present eighteen. 

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Pauses Examination of Fulton County Voting Machines

Pennsylvania Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee contractor Envoy Sage cannot yet gather data from Fulton County’s election devices according to a Friday order of the state Supreme Court.

That directive stays part of a recent Commonwealth-Court ruling that allows the investigation to proceed. Fulton County’s commissioners have voted to comply with the Senate probe, which is part of a broader examination of the 2020 and 2021 Pennsylvania elections and has been spearheaded by the committee’s Republican Chairman Cris Dush (R-Wellsboro). The Democrat-run Pennsylvania Department of State and the voting machines’ manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems are litigating to stop it.

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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf Appoints Vote-by-Mail Advocate to State’s Top Elections Post

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf appointed Leigh Chapman to serve as Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth, replacing Veronica Degraffenreid who accepted a different position in the Wolf administration.

In her position, Chapman will serve as the state’s top elections official.

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Governor Tom Wolf Signs Bill to Expand Broadband Access Throughout State

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that will help expand access to broadband internet throughout the state.

House Bill 2071, sponsored by a trio of lawmakers in the House of Representatives, will establish the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, an agency that will help award grants to underserved areas throughout the state.

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Governor Tom Wolf Signs Bipartisan Bill to Address Substitute Teacher Shortage

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Friday signed a bill to address the statewide shortage of substitute teachers since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

House Bill 412, sponsored by Rep. Barb Gleim (R-Cumberland), will reduce certain restrictions that dictate a person’s eligibility to serve in the position.

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Facebook-Linked Grants Backed Democrats in Pennsylvania in 2020

A new report reveals that multiple private grants tied to the Big Tech giant Facebook overwhelmingly backed Democratic candidates and counties in the state of Pennsylvania in 2020, as reported by the New York Post.

The report by the publication Broad + Liberty (BL) reveals that one such grant, the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), spent more money on turning out registered voters in Democrat-majority counties than Republican-majority counties. In addition to the increased push for voter turnout, these counties were given a jumpstart on this grant and information on how to apply by state officials.

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Pennsylvania GOP Senators’ Internal Battle Over Imperiled Forensic Election Audit Goes Public

An internal fight among legislators over a forensic election audit is spilling into public after Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Gettysburg, accused leaders in his own party of stonewalling his investigation.

The senator made the comments during a Thursday interview with One America News Network that he later doubled down on in a lengthy statement posted to his social media pages the following day.

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Crom Carmichael Outlines the Unconstitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Election Law Changes Signed by Governor Wolf

Monday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio to discuss the unconstitutional election laws passed by Pennsylvania’s legislature and governor.

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Changes to Pennsylvania Election Laws Followed by Last-Minute Maneuvers May Lead to Historic Mishaps

The Pennsylvania Legislature passed Act 77 in October 2019 to make voting “more convenient and more secure” according to Governor Tom Wolf (D).  

Major features of the act include:

extending voter registration from 30 days before an election to 15 days;
allowing mail-in voting without an excuse to vote mail-in versus in-person;
extending mail-in request (online and by mail) and submission up to 50 days before an election;
extending the mail-in and absentee submission deadline from 5:00 p.m. the Friday before the election to 8:00 p.m. the day of the election.

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Federal Judge Calls Pennsylvania Gov’s Orders Illegal, Ohio Gov DeWine Defends His Own Orders at Press Conference

Tuesday, a federal court in Pennsylvania issued a declaratory judgement, citing violations of the U.S. Constitution to strike down Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s authority to close businesses, issue stay-at-home orders and limit gatherings.

Although the decision is not binding in Ohio it sets precedent that other judges may reference.

Gyms, restaurants, sports businesses, water parks and dance studios are some of the businesses that have filed lawsuits against the Ohio Department of Health and Governor Mike DeWine.

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