July 17, 2024

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Our autumn of discontent: Three Pa. politics storylines to track this fall | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Welcome to the first day of a shortened working week. I hope your Labor Day weekend was a restful one, filled with time with family and friends, and with your mind as far from matters of state as it could possibly get without moving to Delaware.

Because now that the dog days of summer are behind us, one of the nation’s least efficient and most expensive state legislatures is going to have its hands full this fall with all sorts of stuff. And you’ll be shocked to learn that none of it involves making the lives of the average Pennsylvanian measurably better.

So, with that in mind, settle in, pour yourself another cup of coffee, and then spike it with your favorite Special Adult Beverage. Because here’s your clip-and-save guide to three of the bigger storylines that will be devouring the political oxygen as the temperatures grow cooler (and, inevitably, the tempers grow hotter).

Pa. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre | Capital-Star file photo

1. Who was that (un)masked man?

Late last week, state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, joined by a group of parents, and a Republican state lawmaker from central Pennsylvania, filed suit in Commonwealth Court seeking to block the Wolf administration’s mask mandate for K-12 students and child care centers.   

That order, signed by acting Health Secretary Alison Beam, takes effect today as students return to class from the long weekend.

If you haven’t read it already, this excellent explainer by Capital-Star Staff Reporter Marley Parish has all you need to know about the order, and how state officials intend to enforce it against school districts that refuse to comply with the mandate (Spoiler Alert: They pretty much don’t. But refusenik districts could open themselves to litigation, Parish reports.).  

In the filing, the Senate’s top Republican and his fellow plaintiffs argue that Beam exceeded her authority by signing the order. The filing also accuses Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of trying to do an end-run around a pair of recently approved constitutional amendments curtailing his emergency powers.

As Parish reports, this latest taxpayer-funded spat between the GOP-controlled General Assembly and the Democratic administration comes as 65 Pennsylvania counties show a high virus transmission rate (according to Centers for Disease Control & Prevention data). Since classes resumed in August, state data shows more than 5,000 students statewide had tested positive for the virus).

(Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

2. Math is Hard.

Fourteen state House Republicans sued in Commonwealth Court last week to overturn Pennsylvania’s mail-in balloting law, arguing that it’s unconstitutional, the Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso reported.

Eleven of them, who were safely re-elected under its aegis, voted for it.

That’s it. That’s the entry.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks with attendees on the Capital steps of a rally for gun rights on September 29, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

3. There’s no fighting here, this is the war room!

Ten months after the November 2020 election, and seven months since the results were certified, a Pennsylvania state Senate committee expects to launch an investigation into the electoral process this week.

The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee will hold its first public hearing as part of the investigation on Sept. 9 at the Capitol, its chairman, Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jeffersonsaid last week.

The session, billed as a public hearing on the “[Pennsylvania] Department of State’s last minute guidance to counties regarding the 2020 general election,” is currently scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building.

As the Capital-Star’s Marley Parish previously reported, as part of the probe into the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections (Spoiler Alert: In which there is zero evidence of fraud) the 11-member panel has invited the public to share “any potential violations of election law or voting irregularities they have witnessed personally.”

“This evidence will be critical in the committee’s efforts to identify gaps in our elections that can be addressed by the General Assembly,” a statement on the web page to submit testimony reads.

Dush was installed as the panel’s chairman after a intra-party feud between Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, that saw the south-central Pennsylvania lawmaker stripped of his both his staff and his committee chairmanship. It all would be, frankly, hilarious if the stakes were not so high.

The Senate returns to session on Sept. 20. The House is back a week later, on Sept. 27.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
The Republican state lawmakers who are pushing a ban on transgender athletes are being accused of ignoring existing gender inequities in the school districts they represent, Cassie Miller reports.

Marley Parish runs down what you need to know about the mask mandate that takes effect in K-12 public schools and child care centers this Tuesday morning.

If you think unions just represent coal miners and public employees, think again. Stephen Caruso introduces you to the changing face of the labor movement in Pennsylvania. And if you missed it, Cassie Miller runs down Labor Day 2021, by the numbers, in this week’s edition of the Numbers Racket.

In Philadelphia, HIV cases remain high among queer and trans people of color, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, columnist Rob Schofield, of our sibling site, NC Policy Watch, explains how the fight to get people to wear masks and take the vaccine underlines the toll that’s been taken by decades of anti-government propaganda. And slavery was the ultimate labor distortion. Empowering workers today is a form of reparations, a Vanderbilt Divinity School scholar writes.

(Photo via Getty Images/Colorado Newsline.)

The Labor Day weekend didn’t slow the epidemic of violence in Philadelphia. At least 13 people were shot between Friday and Sunday, two of them fatally, the Inquirer reports.

State officials are renewing their efforts to sell the shuttered Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, the Post-Gazette reports.

Officials say there are too many strings attached to the federal assistance that is flowing into Pennsylvania’s community health centers, PennLive reports (paywall).

Lancaster County is 14,000 jobs short of pre-pandemic levelsLancasterOnline reports (paywall).

There will be an increased police presence today at the Parkland Schools in suburban Allentown after a threat, the Morning Call reports.

Ten employees of Luzerne County’s Children & Youth Agency left in August — voluntarily or otherwise, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

WHYY-FM explains why information about COVID-19 and the vaccines keeps changing.

StateImpact Pennsylvania explains how climate change left its fingerprints on Hurricane Ida.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau delves into the legality (or not) of the Wolf administration’s mask mandate, which takes effect today (paywall).

City & State Pa. introduces readers to its Labor Power 100.

PoliticsPA runs down last week’s winners & losers in Pennsylvania politics.

Progressives on Capitol Hill want to link the infrastructure and budget reconciliation bills so that their moderate colleagues can’t water down the latter, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
The desk is clear for a day. Enjoy the silence.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
But capitalism is eternal. The Senate Republican Campaign Committee holds a 12 p.m. golf outing at Saucon Valley Country Club in lovely Bethlehem, Pa. Admission runs from a simply ridiculous $500 to an utterly unnecessary $10,000.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to former Pennsylvania Cable Network head honcho Brian Lockman, who celebrated on Saturday. Up-to-date best wishes go out this morning to Harrisburg attorney (and reader) Irwin Aronson, who celebrates today. Congratulations all around.

Heavy Rotation
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of their landmark LP ‘Architecture and Morality,’ British synthpop stalwarts Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark are reissuing the record’s three hit singles along with their demo recordings. Here’s the demo recording for one of them, the lovely and haunting ‘Maid of Orleans.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Barcelona President Joan Laporta still hasn’t given up hope on the scuttled European Super League, no matter how crashingly bad an idea it is. The Guardian has the story.

And now you’re up to date.