Right after we got back from shopping at Nordstrom’s last night (kidding, we don’t have a Nordstrom’s in Harrisburg), we were informed that a U.S. Appeals Court had upheld a lower court decision to slap a hold on President Trump’s Travel Ban Executive Order. Trump’s response to the court was “We will see you in court!” Which further confused the court.
Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats continued their spirited battle to defeat a whole host of Trump’s cabinet nominees. They failed to stop Jeff Sessions from winning approval as the country’s next Attorney General, bringing their record to zero wins against all losses. We lost track of the count.
Western Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny) announced this week that he will challenge U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. for his seat in 2018. We suspect that Saccone will not be alone, and will have to emerge from what could be a very crowded Primary battle. The important thing to note here is that our elections never, ever end. They just bleed into the next.
Governor Tom Wolf laid out his vision for the 2017-2018 fiscal year state budget this week, calling for increased spending on public education (no surprise here), increased spending on addiction treatment (even less of a surprise), no broad-based tax increases (somewhat of a surprise), and a whole lot of state government downsizing and outsourcing (surprising to the extent that it came from a Democratic governor.)
One of the centerpieces of the Wolf plan is a sizeable hike in the state’s minimum wage, moving the bogey from the current $7.25/hour to $12.00/hour. That sound you heard on Tuesday was the state’s Chamber of Business and Industry hitting the floor after passing out. Team Wolf estimates that the hike will generate an additional $90 million or so in combined increased income and sales tax receipts. GOP leaders, meanwhile, estimate the numbers as OVER OUR DEAD BODIES! So, there is room to negotiate.
As for the aforementioned state government consolidation, Wolf would like to see several departments go the way of all flesh, merging the current Aging, Health and Drug and Alcohol Departments under Human Services, a move that will make current DHS Secretary Ted Dallas 1. the most important cabinet member in all the land and 2. wracked with ulcers. We will be busy over here trying to find the devil that is reportedly located in the details.
One of the more controversial pieces of the governor’s vision for next year is a new fee for municipalities who rely on the State Police for services instead of paying for a local police force. We say this is controversial because half the state’s local government units currently don’t have local police, and hence, half the state’s senators and House members are likely to be opposed. Wouldn’t it be fun to imagine what would happen if both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh decided to stop paying for police and rely instead on the State Police? You think a $25 per person fee would be enough to cover that?
Wolf also proposed on Tuesday to trim back the amount of money the Commonwealth provides to the only veterinary medicine school in the state, Penn Vet. And by “trim back” we mean “totally eliminate”, taking the appropriation from $30 million annually down to a tidy zero. No middle ground there, huh folks?
The State Senate this week passed a measure banning abortions after 20 weeks, which would be the strictest such law in the nation should it becomes law. According to Governor Wolf, the chances of that happening are less than the number of dollars he has earmarked to Penn Vet in this year’s budget.
A bill that would kick Philadelphia right in the ol’ exchequer for its status as a sanctuary city sailed through the State Senate this week, inching ever closer to a showdown with Governor Tom Wolf. At stake is a potential loss of state revenue that could surpass $600 million annually. Things just got very real up here, folks. We can tell you that the City of Brotherly love currently does not have an extra $600 million under the cushions of its couch.
Lastly from the State Senate files this week comes the time-honored “paycheck protection” bill, which would ban the use of automatic deductions for political contributions from public employees’ paychecks. That plan passed the upper chamber this week on a less than enthusiastic 28-22 vote, signaling that if Governor Wolf should veto this bill, the chances of an override are right around, if we dare say it again, zero.
But lest anyone believe Philly is the only target here, we can assure you that is not the case. Counties all over the Commonwealth could also be in line for such fiscal punishment, many of whom may not even be aware of it. We give you the fine folks of Bedford County.
A nominally bipartisan group of Pennsylvania lawmakers are continuing their pushback against Philly’s sugary drink tax after the courts re-affirmed the legality of the levy. The drink tax has shown to be a sturdy little thing in its early days, for sure. But there are a lot of courts in this Commonwealth, so we are sure the legal wrangling has only just begun.
This just in from the banks of the Schuylkill River: Philly will have a new District Attorney next year.
Triad head honcho Roy Wells this week had the honor of hosting a delegation of officials from Afghanistan for the International Visitors Leadership Program. Because that is how he rolls!
And finally this week in our We Can’t Make This Up section, we take you to Pennsylvania’s own Franklin County, where a 68-year-old woman beat her husband with a pink dumbbell during a dispute over household chores. Now if you will excuse us, we are heading home to take out the trash and clean the toilets.
That’s what passes for news around here in windy, cold but action-packed Harrisburg. We will be back next week for more of the same, but in the meantime, follow us on Twitter. We may not be as amusing as President Trump, but we can hold our own when it comes to mundanity! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!
The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh