Looking to better days ahead | Five for the Weekend

By: - April 17, 2021 6:30 am

A vial of COVID-19 vaccine (Commonwealth Media Services screen capture)

Happy Weekend, all.

Today, I can breathe a little easier.

On Friday, in a stranger-than-fiction family event, my grandma and I both received the first doses of our COVID-19 vaccines.

If you had asked me earlier this year when I thought I would get the vaccine, I probably would have guessed in the fall or the latter half of 2021. That said, I am immensely grateful to have received the first dose of the vaccine far ahead of my initial thinking. I hope to be covering news and events in-person again soon!

A huge shout out to the staff, who in addition to ensuring we received the first dose, gave us a little jolt of confidence after more than a year of isolation and self-quarantines.

Today, I feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is a little closer.

For those trying to locate a vaccine provider, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s first dose map can be found here. Personally, I have found VaccineFinder.org, a national vaccine locator website operated by the Boston Children’s Hospital and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to be helpful.

As always, the top five stories from this week are below. 

Cheers to a leisurely weekend,

Cassie Miller, Associate Editor

1. What if Chauvin is acquitted of killing George Floyd? | Michael Coard

Black folks have prayed, marched, sat-in, and petitioned in the attempt to stop white cops from rampantly murdering innocent and unarmed Black men, women, and children with impunity. But they keep murdering us. And they keep getting away with murder. Even when it’s on video.

So what are we gonna do if Derek Chauvin is acquitted in the murder of George Floyd, the Black man who was nonchalantly, heartlessly, and slowly strangled to death under Chauvin’s knee for nine minutes 29 seconds in broad daylight?

What are we gonna do if he’s acquitted despite the fact that he murdered Floyd while Floyd was handcuffed behind his back, while he was prostrate face down in the street, while horrified witnesses conspicuously videoed the brutality and pleaded for mercy, while Floyd begged for his life as he was clearly gasping and visibly dying before their (and eventually the world’s) very eyes?

2. Report: Pa. at ‘moderate risk’ for partisan gerrymandering | Thursday Morning Coffee

This is one of those good news, bad news kind of stories.

With the once-a-decade redrawing of Pennsylvania’s congressional and legislative maps already underway, the bad news is that the Keystone State faces a moderate threat of being subjected to partisan gerrymandering. The good news is that, based on the map above, it could be a lot, a lot worse.

That’s based on the findings of the advocacy group RepresentUswhich bills itself as an effort to bring “together conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between to pass powerful state and local laws that fix our broken elections and stop political bribery. Our strategy is central to dismantling the root causes of inequities in our democracy, and ending political corruption, extremism and gridlock.”

Pennsylvania, which knows a thing or two about corruption, extremism, and gridlock, gets its moderate threat rating because it boasts “some good protections against partisan gerrymandering and some key weaknesses,” according to RepresentUs’s ratings scale.

3. Harrisburg Republicans meet with Kansas’s Kobach to talk election, immigration policy

Pennsylvania Republican legislators met with a controversial, Trump-aligned former Kansas elected official on Tuesday night to discuss model legislation on election policy, among other topics.

The session, organized by arch-conservative Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, included former Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an unspecified number of GOP lawmakers, as well as the state House GOP’s top election official.

Metcalfe, who confirmed the details, told the Capital-Star that he believes Kobach, “has a lot of expertise to add,” to lawmakers’ efforts to draft new voting and immigration laws in the commonwealth.

Kobach was Kansas’s chief elections officer from 2011 until 2019. During that time, he built a national profile for claiming without evidence that undocumented immigrants were registering to vote and casting illegal ballots.

Using the statewide office as a bully pulpit, he convinced Republican lawmakers to pass a strict voter ID law in 2013 that required voters to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

4. A risky wager? What supporters and opponents are saying about Wolf’s Nellie Bly scholarship proposal

Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry says it’ll be left in the dust if Gov. Tom Wolf gets his way and lawmakers sign off on a plan to reroute $200 million in industry assistance to a scholarship program for students enrolled in the commonwealth’s 14 state-owned universities.

The Wolf administration says its second try at winning legislative authorization of its Nelle Bly scholarship program also will relieve some of the pressure the commonwealth is feeling from the ongoing “brain drain” crisis, and declining enrollment at state-system schools.

But opponents say the money now being funneled to the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund is needed to prop up Pennsylvania’s ailing horse racing industry, which is suffering from declining attendance and competition from casino gambling.

5. Pa. unemployment system to undergo long sought upgrade in June, though concerns linger

An upgrade more than a decade in the making is finally coming to the Pennsylvania unemployment compensation system.

The Department of Labor and Industry announced Thursday that the system, which pays out unemployment insurance to jobless workers, will move over to an upgraded system and modern website on June 8.

The new website will process standard unemployment compensation, pandemic emergency benefits, extended benefits, short-term compensation and payments to workers displaced by foreign trade will be processed in the new system.

The new website will allow for benefit-seekers to file new cases, appeal and reopen a claim, check the status of their payments, and set such options as how to withhold federal taxes.

For employers, the system also will allow them to access more information, such as notices of separation and hearing dates, in real time.

And that’s the week. Enjoy the weekend and we’ll see you back here next week. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.