Friday Happy Hour: Support Alligator Edition
Megan Dapp joins Triad Strategies

Friday Happy Hour: Hellbender Edition

Eastern Hellbender

The U.S. economy shrugged off the January government shutdown, creating an astounding 304,000 new jobs. The job-growth numbers for last month represented the 100th straight month of expansion. YUGE!  

The nation spent the week in the clutches of a polar vortex, the likes of which we have not seen in decades. How cold was it? Chicago’s commuter train system lit its track on fire. That cold. 

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey publicly (and rather strongly) broke with President Trump this week over the White House’s tariff-the-daylights-out-of-everyone policy, vowing to pursue legislation that would strengthen congressional oversight of trade policy. We assume there will be an incoming Tweet in 3…2…1…

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed the president that he can come on over to the Big House (no, not THAT Big House) and give his State of the Union address on Feb. 5. Shortly thereafter, the Democrats unveiled their choice to give the official response. Even though congressional Democrats have the largest freshman class in recent history, chock full of bright, energetic men and women, they chose a person who lost a gubernatorial race in Georgia. Alrighty, then. We guess Howard Dean was busy. 

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz announced that he may run for president as an independent, setting off a firestorm of criticism from Democrats who view him as a spoiler. Schultz spent the entire week on television and incredibly, not one, single interviewer asked him why the “grande” isn’t the biggest cup of coffee.  

Back here in frozen Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf was omnipresent, rattling off second-term priorities like a hyper-caffeinated auctioneer. First was his call to the General Assembly to enact new gun safety measures, which for a slight majority of the General Assembly means “keeping your guns safely in your own hands.”

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Mayor Bill Peduto was the target of a criminal complaint by a Pittsburgh resident who apparently has only a passing acquaintance with the law. It seems said resident wanted the county district attorney to cuff and stuff the mayor over his advocacy of gun-control measures that haven’t even been voted on yet. Horse first, then cart. The D.A. dismissed the case roughly eight minutes after it was filed. 

Getting back to the Wolfapalooza, the governor then called for an immediate hike in the minimum wage in addition to phasing in a plan to get the wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Wolf has advocated for a higher wage since taking office, let’s see if that dog will hunt this year.

And finally, the governor unveiled a truly massive $4.5 billion (yes, with a “b”) infrastructure investment plan, which would be funded by the proceeds of – wait for it – a Marcellus shale tax! The plan would fund everything from flood protection to broadband connections in rural Pennsylvania. On this one, we give him an “A” for “audacious,” knowing full well we don’t typically do audacious around these parts.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate GOP have a new priority themselves, that being prohibiting so-called “venue shopping” by trial lawyers in malpractice cases. Their interest in the topic was spurred by a Supreme Court rule that seems to pave the way for such shopping. Expect that one to be front-and-center in a General Assembly near you very soon. For everyone who survived the medical malpractice debates of the 90s, this session will be a nice trip down Bad Memory Lane.    

This week, a few dozen lawmakers rolled out a package of rules reforms for the Lower Chamber, fundamentally changing how the House operates. Noticeably absent from the coalition were any current top-level House leaders, leading us to dub this new group the Sisyphean Caucus.

The criminal justice reform train just keeps on rolling, fiery tracks or not. This week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a new probation reform package that would drastically shorten parole and probation time frames for some offenders. It is still rather astounding to see how this issue got such traction from legislators from both urban and rural Pennsylvania. 

Will this year finally be the year that the Eastern Hellbender becomes the official amphibian of the Keystone State? That is the question on everyone’s mind as the new legislative session kicks into gear.  Hope abounds! 

We pause this week to remember the life of David Glancy, a longtime leader of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee and a lobbyist for the University of Pennsylvania. Glancy passed away at the age of 74 this week, and we send our condolences to his family and friends.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Arizona, where a congressman has proposed an online porn tax to fund border wall construction. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the tax would generate $68 trillion in the first year. 

That's what passes for news around here as we anxiously await Governor Wolf’s Tuesday budget address.  We will be there for it, and if you are lucky, we will force one of our associates to live-Tweet it. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!

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