It was fifteen years ago this week that Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker, and indeed the eyes of the nation, watched as the last of nine trapped coal miners emerged from a f looded mine in Somerset County. “Nine for nine!” was more than the governor’s exclamation as we all collectively exhaled; it was the defining moment of Schweiker’s short tenure as governor.
The drama in Congress this week was on a scale that rarely happens, as the U.S. Senate struggled with (we are being kind) its version of the Obamacare repeal. The week opened with U.S. Senator John McCain flying to Washington, D.C. after being diagnosed with brain cancer to cast the deciding vote to allow debate to proceed in the Upper Chamber. “All hail John McCain!” the GOP leaders shouted from the mountaintops!
And then two days later, in the most McCain-ian possible way, the senior senator from Arizona put the final nail in the coffin of his own President’s marquee issue by voting against the so-called “skinny repeal,” ensuring that Obamacare will remain the law of the land for the foreseeable future. “What the hell is McCain doing??” the GOP leaders shouted from the mountaintops! By the way, “skinny repeal” sounds like something you order at Starbucks. For one, brief moment, C-SPAN programming was as riveting as CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Final Four.
Today is the 52nd anniversary of Medicaid. We would bet that this fact has not escaped the watchful eye of our own U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.
We learned this morning that the U.S. economy grew at a robust 2.6% this past quarter, a rate nearly double most projections. Although you would have to search far and wide to find that little tidbit, because the White House seems to have a knack for stomping the crap out of its own positive messaging. Maybe don’t vent your spleen to a New York Magazine reporter the night before major economic news hits?
Meanwhile, the national Democratic Party unveiled its new slogan to the world after briefly toying with stealing the Papa John’s tag line. “A Better Deal” is what the Democrats are now offering, so yeah, get on over to your local Democratic Party store and grab some of that better deal while supplies last. They will probably have a new slogan by next week.
Meanwhile, back here in calm, cool and collected Pennsylvania, we spent some time sifting through the rubble of last Saturday’s House of Representatives non-vote on a budget revenue package. All seemed lost for the Minnow and her crew.
But then as the week progressed, the State Senate strode into town and within a span of 36 hours passed a $2.2 billion revenue plan and all the related code bills necessary to finally put this cranky toddler of a budget to bed. To say that Harrisburg insiders were stunned would be quite the understatement.
So, who were the losers in this round of Fund the Budget? Shockingly, natural gas drillers are finally staring at a severance tax, albeit a much smaller one than the governor would have preferred. Oh, and if you happen to use natural gas to heat your home, you will now be paying the same tax that is levied on electricity, known as the Gross Receipts Tax. This budget is a gas, gas, gas. And if you predicted 2017 would be the Year of the Severance Tax, you are either fibbing or you should work for the Long Island Medium.
What happens next? The plan now goes to the State House, where its future is about as certain as Jeff Sessions’ employment. House leaders could return as soon as August 21st (O.K., we use the word “soon” in context here) to either change it, vote it, not vote it, park it on City Island or something we haven’t thought of yet.
And August 21st might be just in the nick of time if you listen to the State Treasurer, who is warning that the state will literally run out of cash right about that time. Convenient how that works, huh? Nothing so focuses a mind as the certain knowledge that one will be hanged in a fortnight. Or something like that.
Now that a report has been issued on how to fix the State System of Higher Education, policy makers must set about the task of actually fixing it. There are times you study an issue in class, but then there are times you have to go into the lab and make stuff happen.
Pennsylvania is working hard to recruit and train doctors to prescribe medical marijuana now that growers and dispensers of the product are licensed and getting ready to, um, grow and dispense.
But meanwhile, In Washington D.C., embattled (the President’s term, not ours) Attorney General Jeff Sessions is readying a brand-new war on drugs by cracking down on marijuana use. Welcome to the 50s; meet us at the sock hop this weekend and we will buy you a malt.
Philadelphia has its first female African-American District Attorney, as Kelley Hodge was sworn into the job this week. Congratulations and best of luck go out to her!
In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Los Angeles, where a man was caught smuggling three King Cobras into the country via potato chip cans. Having been to L.A. it is hard to fathom why anyone would look around and say “You know what this town needs? A few good Cobras.”
That’s what passes for news around here at the end of a wild, wild week in Harrisburg! Make sure to come back next week because really, what else do you have to do? From all of us 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