Ahead of House vote, progressives offer Appalachia infrastructure agenda | Wednesday Morning Coffee

The letter from a coalition of three-dozen stakeholders urges lawmakers not to pass on a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our infrastructure’

August 25, 2021 7:17 am

©soupstock –

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

As the U.S. House gears up for a September vote on a sprawling bipartisan infrastructure bill, a coalition of progressive groups are calling on lawmakers to make sure the interests of Pennsylvania and Appalachia are included in the final product.

In a letter sent to Pennsylvania’s Capitol Hill delegation on Tuesday, stakeholders representing organized labor, the environmental movement, and good government reformers, beseeched lawmakers to not pass on a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to invest in “our infrastructure, family-sustaining jobs, and a cleaner environment for future generations in the Appalachian region.”

The letter’s signatories include the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, the Keystone Research Center, the League of Women Voters, and PennFuture, as well as a constellation of business owners, community, faith-based, and racial justice organizations.

The majority Democrat U.S. House voted 220-212 on Tuesday to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that calls for wholesale overhauls of the nation’s healthcare, education, and tax laws, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson reported.

The vote was a place-setter for further House action on a previously approved U.S. Senate bill that would spend some $1 trillion in taxpayer money in road and bridge repairs, broadband internet expansion, and pipe replacement, the Washington Post reported.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 21: The U.S. Capitol is shown at dusk.(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In their letter, the groups said the Senate bill represented a “significant down payment” on a host of policy goals that includes $21 billion for cleaning up abandoned wells, mines, and federal Superfund sites. But more work remains, they added.

“As debate moves forward on a budget reconciliation package, those signing onto the letter have asked members of Congress to ensure significant investments in manufacturing and innovation, redevelopment of abandoned coal plants and former steel facilities, the inclusion of community and labor standards, and the revitalization of the Civilian Conservation Corps are incorporated in legislation,” the letter reads. “These measures will reinvest in communities and local economies, create jobs and business opportunities, and reduce pollution to protect public health.”

Advocates told lawmakers they believe the commonwealth is “ready for an Appalachian Climate Infrastructure Plan that creates good union jobs and builds local wealth while laying the foundation for a 21st century economy.

“An infrastructure plan must also recognize Appalachians already have many of the skills needed to do the work and an amazing system of union apprenticeship programs to train for the ones they don’t,” the letter continued. “To accomplish these ends, the infrastructure package(s) must include community and labor standards designed to maximize the benefits of these investments for workers and the health of our communities.”

Similar letters were sent to lawmakers in Ohio and West Virginia, the advocates said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
A legislative panel voted Tuesday to end a practice known as prison gerrymandering, clearing the way for a small, but meaningful, shift in population from the Pennsylvania countryside to its cities that will increase urban representation while reducing rural representation. Stephen Caruso has the details.

As Senate Republicans coordinate an investigation into Pennsylvania’s two most recent elections, an audit initiative is under review — 10 months after it launched — by an executive branch committee with election oversight, Marley Parish reports.

From outdoor recreation and agriculture to forestry, invasive species are wreaking havoc on Pennsylvania, state officials and environmental experts testified before a legislative agency Tuesday. Cassie Miller has the details.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday muscled through a $3.5 trillion budget framework, overcoming a standoff with a handful of centrists who had demanded the House first approve the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate. Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson (with an assist from me) has what you need to know.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan considers whether Afghanistan is President Joe Biden’s Vietnam. And if you want your kids to stay safe this school year, they need to wear a mask, the head of Pennsylvania’s biggest teachers’ union writes.

(Philadelphia Tribune photo)

Vaccinations are now mandatory for 20,000 Philadelphia school district employees, the Inquirer reports.

And the results of the city’s vaccine lottery were “discouraging,” WHYY-FM reports.

In a new federal lawsuit, Westmoreland County’s former elections chief claims she was fired for no reason, forced to change her political party, and was  “scapegoated” while she had the job, the Post-Gazette reports.

Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, and a gang of eight state lawmakers blasted out a letter to Pennsylvania school officials urging them to resist mask mandates, PennLive reports.

A 30-year-old Bethlehem resident has been charged with allegedly threatening to stab Asian students at Lehigh University, telling one woman “she didn’t belong here,” the Morning Call reports.

Thanks to a $5 million donation, Lancaster County has a new nature preserve, LancasterOnline reports (paywall).

A Luzerne County woman has been sentenced to up to two years in jail for deliberately coughing on food in a local supermarket at the start of the pandemic, the Citizens’ Voice reports (paywall).

In a reversal, state health officials now say that Allegheny County can run its Women, Infants, and Children program after the contract was controversially awarded to an agency in Washington County, WESA-FM reports.

A group of advocates has called on the state to increase its investment in the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program, which hasn’t seen a bump in years, City & State Pa. reports.

A second Republican has joined the race to try to unseat U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th DistrictPoliticsPA reports.

In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Biden administration’s attempt to end the Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico,’ policy, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
Just a pair of events on the docket for today.
9 a.m., Uniontown, Pa.: House State Government Committee
10 a.m., Media, Pa.:House Consumer Affairs Committee

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Capital-Star Correspondent Michala Butler, who completes another trip around the sun today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
The rock world lost a titan on Tuesday with the death of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. The engine room of the Stones was 80 years old. Here’s one of my favorites from the career-reinvigorating ‘Steel Wheels‘ LP. It’s ‘Almost Hear You Sigh.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Aston Villa rolled over League Two side Barrow, 6-0, during Carabao Cup play on Tuesday, with Villa forward Cameron Archer, still only a teenager, notching a hat trick, the Guardian reports.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.