The indispensable Budget Week recap | Five for the Weekend

By: - February 6, 2021 6:30 am

Gov. Tom Wolf gives the 2021-2022 budget address virtually (Capital-Star Screen Capture).

Happy Weekend, all.

With a snow storm in the first half of the week, the departure of State Secretary Kathy Boockvar and the passage of several amendments it’s easy to miss the items included (and not included) in Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021-22 budget proposal.

If you need a recap, here’s a few stories to help you get caught up:

As always, the Top 5 Most-Read Stories from this week are below.

Cheers to a leisurely weekend,
Cassie Miller, Associate Editor

1. MontCo’s Bruce Castor who declined to prosecute Bill Cosby, to represent Trump at impeachment trial

Bruce L. Castor, Montgomery County’s former elected district attorney, will be one of two lawyers leading ex-President Donald Trump’s defense at his Senate impeachment trial.

In a statement, Castor, a Republican who declined to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005 for sexual assault, said he “[considered] it a privilege” to represent Trump at the Senate impeachment proceeding now set to begin Feb. 9.

“The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history. It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always,” Castor said.

Castor, a former two-term county prosecutor, also served on Montgomery County’s Board of Commissioners, and did a brief stint as the state’s acting attorney general, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

2. Pa. Rep. Mike Kelly came closer than you think to stealing the election for Trump | Bruce Ledewitz

The people of Pennsylvania are unaware of how close U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly came to stealing the election for president in Pennsylvania, and maybe the nation, for Donald Trump.

Kelly, a Republican and Trump loyalist who represents the Mercer County-based 16th Congressional District, challenged Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting in court and then, after the attack on the Capitol, objected to the certification of the State’s electors for Joe Biden. He now claims that all he did was stand up for the rule of law.

But, looking at events as a whole, Kelly not only took advantage of ordinary voters, but also of legislators in his own party.

In 2019, a bipartisan majority in the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 77, creating for the first time a regime of no-excuse mail-in voting for the State.

Everyone knew that there could be a state constitutional challenge to this change. Pennsylvania caselaw from the 19th and early 20th centuries treated in-person voting as the constitutional standard, with only limited exceptions for absentees. Because of anticipated legal actions, Act 77 gave challengers six months to sue and fast tracked any such challenge directly to the State Supreme Court.

This timetable would have given the General Assembly a chance to cure any defects, perhaps in time for the 2020 primary, but at least in time for the general election.

Surprisingly, no legal challenge was brought.

3. Why it takes 2 shots to make mRNA vaccines do their antibody-creating best. And what the data shows on delaying the booster dose | Analysis

With the U.S. facing vaccination delays because of worker shortages and distribution problems, federal health officials now say it’s OK to push back the second dose of the two-part vaccine by as much as six weeks.

As an infectious disease doctor, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions from my patients as well as my friends and family about whether the COVID-19 vaccine will still work if people are late receiving their second dose.

4. Top Pa. election official Boockvar to step down after error delays sex abuse reform

A top Pennsylvania state official is leaving her post after an administrative blunder by her office set back a years-long effort to amend the state constitution and give child sex abuse victims their day in court.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s office announced Monday that Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar would leave her post Friday, Feb. 5 after her agency failed to notify the public of a a proposed change to Pennsylvania’s constitution: an amendment that would give victims of child sexual abuse a two-year retroactive window to sue perpetrators in decades-old cases, which was on track to go before voters this year.

Boockvar’s oversight and expected resignation were first reported by the investigative news outlet Spotlight PA on Monday morning. Wolf released a statement shortly before 12 p.m., confirming the Department of State’s mistake and announcing Boockvar’s departure.

Wolf also said he’d asked the state Inspector General to review the situation and help the department improve its process for handling constitutional amendments. The agency has already implemented “new controls” to ensure similar failings do not occur in the future, Wolf said.

5. It was already awkward between Wolf and lawmakers. The Boockvar blow-up just made it worse | Tuesday Morning Coffee

It’s no stretch to say that relations in this pandemic year between the Democratic Wolf administration and the Republican-controlled General Assembly have been less than smooth.

From last year’s still simmering transparency fights over the administration’s COVID-inspired shutdown orders and the ensuing veto override cage matches those orders inspired, to the barely settled squabbling over election reform and mail-in balloting, taxpayers could be forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled into the most poorly scripted WWE match ever.

And on Monday, just days before Wolf was to submit his 2021-22 budget plan to lawmakers, the Capitol was rocked by the news that Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar resigned after a blunder by her office set back a years-long effort to amend the state constitution to give child sex abuse victims their day in court.

As the Capital-Star’s Elizabeth Hardison and Stephen Caruso reportedBoockvar’s office failed to properly advertise the proposed amendment after it was approved by the General Assembly.

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.