Wolf vows to veto House voting bill. Can Pa. get to ‘yes’ on mail-in ballot fixes? | Friday Morning Coffee

September 4, 2020 7:08 am

(Capital-Star photo).

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Lately we’ve been reading quite a lot about the end of the Roman Empire. And despite what you may have heard, fifth century Romans didn’t wake up one morning in 476 A.D., look out the window, and say, “Oh, the Empire’s fallen. I guess we’re onto the Dark Ages, then.”

Rather, the end of the Empire was precipitated by a slow slide into bloated inefficiency and failed governance, punctuated by the odd bit of sacking and looting.

Such was the case in 410 A.D. when the Gothic leader Alaric finally decided that he’d had enough of him and his fellow immigrants getting the short end of it from the state, and went about … ahhh …  creatively redecorating the Eternal City with ruthless efficiency.

Maybe it’s just our late summer reading, but we could not help but be reminded of those end times as we watched the Republican-controlled Legislature and the Democratic Wolf administration fail spectacularly this week at reaching an accord on fixes to Pennsylvania’s voting laws, even though both sides agree that it needs to be done, and a scant 10 days remain before mail-in ballots go out to millions of Pennsylvania voters.

Gov, Tom Wolf (R) and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (L) call on Pa. lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana during a press conference at Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Dauphin County, Pa., on 9/3/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

On a very long Wednesday that we desperately wished was Thursday, the House voted along party lines to approve a voting reform bill that backers say gives counties more time to deal with an anticipated flood of mail-in ballots. Legislative Democrats say it will suppress turn out by, among other things, effectively banning drop boxes.

The bill is now before the state Senate, where the chamber’s State Government Committee reported it to the floor during a hastily convened meeting, the Capital-Star exclusively reported Thursday.

During a news conference later in the day on ThursdayGov. Tom Wolf said he’d veto the bill if it reaches his desk. This was an action that was not exactly like stinging Republicans with millions of tiny and irritable bees. But it had roughly the equivalent effect.

“If he’s going to insist on getting everything he wants, that’s not negotiating, that’s just making demands,” Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, grumbled to us on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Wolf said there are currently no active discussions on reaching an agreement with Republicans on … again .. SOMETHING EVERYONE AGREES NEEDS TO BE DONE … ahead of mail-in ballots going out on Sept. 14.

Gottesman confirmed that on Thursday.

“Our door has remained open to continuing discussions,” he said. Then, referring to some pending court challenges to the state’s voting laws, Gottesman added: “I think they’re hopeful that a friendly [state] Supreme Court will negate their need to have to talk with us.”

On Thursday, when he was asked whether the two warring factions could get a deal on a bill ahead of the deadline, Wolf chuckled and said “That’s a good question.”

Well, that’s the end of the Empire, then.

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

Our Stuff.

Elizabeth Hardison, with an assist from your humble newsletter author, has what you need to know about that highly sketchy Senate State Government Committee meeting.

Trump administration COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Deborah Birxwas in Harrisburg on Thursday, where she praised her home state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen Caruso reports, with an assist from Hardison.

New Pa. Health Department guidelines will allow for in-person care by family and others at Pennsylvania nursing homes, Hardison further reports.

House Republicans have snuffed out the Wolf administration’s latest stab at legalizing recreational marijuana, your humble newsletter author reports.

President Donald Trump barnstormed Westmoreland County on Thursday, where he hit ex-Veep Joe Biden on jobs and the anti-racism protests, Pittsburgh Correspondent Tom Lisi reports.

Allegheny County Port Authority employees are protesting a ban on Black Lives Matter masks, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

En la Estrella-Capital: La prohibición de desalojo de Wolf, ahora expirada, se enfrenta a un desafío pendiente en los tribunales. Y con Pa. en la línea, Pence habla firme durante la parada de campaña del Condado de Luzerne.

On our Commentary Page this morning, occasional contributor Carl Hisiro has some thoughts about the recently concluded political conventions. And state Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, and Maureen Madden, D-Monroewould like you to consider their plan to help Pennsylvanians avoid evictions.

Row home facades on a residential street off Germantown Avenue in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Black-owned small businesses in Philadelphia have been hit by racist emails, the Inquirer reports.
A COVID-19 vaccine will not end the pandemic, a UPMC expert tells the Tribune-Review.
President Donald Trump and ex-Veep Joe Biden will both attend 9/11 remembrance ceremonies in Somerset County,
the Associated Press reports (via PennLive).
Borough officials in Carlisle, Cumberland County, have created a commission to come up with a climate action plan, the Sentinel reports.
Lehigh Valley superintendents are skeptical about allowing fans at high school football games, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

The Citizens-Voice has an explainer on what renters need to know to protect themselves as a statewide eviction moratorium expired this week.
Protesters in Philadelphia demanded a halt to evictions – 17 people were arrested, the AP also reports (via WHYY-FM).
The State College school board voted to cancel school on Friday after Centre County saw its highest one-day spike in cases, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.
It’s Biden, 52-44, over Trump in Pennsylvania, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll (via PoliticsPA).
Politico contrasts Trump’s and Biden’s trips to Kenosha, and explains how they ‘clarified’ the 2020 race.

What Goes On.
There are currently no meetings of the Senate State Government Committee on today’s docket. But, hey, the day is young.
The Senate Democratic Policy does meet, however, at 1 p.m. for a live-streamed session.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to a longtime Friend O’The BlogBryce Connor, guitarist in Harrisburg-based power-pop stalwarts, The Jellybricks. Additional best wishes to former PCN main-man Brian Lockman, who also celebrates today. Congrats go out in advance to Nora Shelly, of the Lebanon Daily News, who celebrates on Saturday. Congratulations all around, friends.

Heavy Rotation.
Speaking of The Jellybricks, here’s our absolute fave tune from them. It’s ‘Can’t Be Wrong,’ from 2004’s ‘Power This.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
forced a game 7 with the New York Islanders, winning 5-4 in double OT on Thursday night.

We’re off Monday for the Labor Day Holiday. See you all back here on Tuesday.

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John L. Micek

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