A week in the headlines | Five for the Weekend
In the midst of a Supreme Court retirement, redistricting hurdles and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, here are some Pa.-centric headlines that you might have missed in deluge
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Happy weekend, all.
It’s been a busy week in the headlines.
As always, the top five stories from this week are below.
A Pennsylvania appeals court has struck down the commonwealth’s landmark 2019 mail-in voting law, though the near certainty of an appeal means voters might not notice a difference until the Supreme Court weighs in.
In a 49-page opinion issued by Judge Mary Leavitt on Friday morning, the court found that the law, which allows all Pennsylvanians to vote by mail without an excuse, was unconstitutionally enacted as a statute, rather than being approved through the state’s long and rigorous constitutional amendment process.
“If presented to the people, a constitutional amendment to end the…requirement of in-person voting is likely to be adopted,” Leavitt wrote. “But a constitutional amendment must be presented to the people and adopted into our fundamental law before legislation authorizing no-excuse mail-in voting can ‘be placed upon our statute books.’”
Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent in December, according to state data released Friday.
Department of Labor & Industry data confirmed that the commonwealth’s December 2021 unemployment rate is 1.7 percentage points below its December 2020 level, and three-tenths of a percentage point below its November 2021 level.
Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased by 2.8 percentage points over the month to 3.9 percent.
Swimming in hundreds of open records requests since complying with an off-the-books election review, Fulton County is now faced with a series of lawsuits over missing information related to the probe.
Local officials in the rural and historically Republican county, where former President Donald Trump won more than 85 percent of the vote in 2020, have denied knowing who paid for the review and how much it cost.
American Oversight, a Washington D.C.-based government watchdog group, and the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union each have sued Fulton County and asked a court to order the release of all records related to the review, including financial information and email conversations about the public business from the commissioners’ private accounts, a Pennsylvania Sunshine Act violation. The ACLU claims that the requested information “logically must exist.”
A majority of state House lawmakers support passing a law regulating how many patients a single nurse can take care of in hospitals. But don’t expect it to come up for a vote any time soon.
As of Tuesday, 105 lawmakers — 29 Republicans and 76 Democrats — have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill, currently sitting in the House Health Committee.
Despite this broad bipartisan support, the committee’s chairperson, state Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, said at a hearing in her home district last week that the bill would not advance as long as it was before her panel.
“I believe that would be very irresponsible for us to pass that legislation,” Rapp said according to her hometown newspaper, the Times Observer, of Warren, Pa., “and I believe that it [is] best left to the hospitals and the [staff] themselves to work out those agreements.”
Despite some last-minute intrigue, the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate on Monday passed a new congressional redistricting plan along party lines, 29-20, sending it to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.
But Wolf has already expressed his opposition, calling the map “highly skewed” in a December letter to the General Assembly, which means it likely will fall to the state courts to divide Pennsylvania into 17 new congressional districts to match shifting populations.
“It just comes down to we can’t agree,” Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said Monday, speaking at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon. “The governor is going to veto anything that’s not what he produced, and the courts wind up drawing the maps.”
Overall, the Keystone State could play an outsized role in the fight for control on Capitol Hill this fall, as congressional Republicans hope to retain their majority in the U.S. House.
And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week.
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