GOP Leaders Punt Mask Mandate Question to Local Level
Last week, following Gov. Wolf’s call for lawmakers to pass a statewide masking mandate for schools in light of rising COVID-19 case counts, legislative leaders responded that they believe local officials are better positioned to craft their own responses to the pandemic. “At this late date … local leaders have already made important decisions they believe are in the best interests of their residents and are prepared to adjust those situations as changes evolve,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Center, and House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, wrote in a joint letter to the governor. According to a story by the Associated Press, Gov. Wolf did not signal an intention to unilaterally mandate masks following the GOP response, but repeated his call for legislative action.
Opioid Emergency Declaration Comes to a Close
After several years, Gov. Tom Wolf’s opioid disaster declaration has come to its end. The declaration was initially instituted in 2018 in response to an ongoing opioid abuse crisis. The Wolf Administration has renewed the declaration 15 times since its enactment – the most recent renewal occurring earlier this month. Due to newly implemented changes to the governor’s emergency powers, disaster declarations issued by the executive branch can only last 21 days before legislative approval is required for an extension.
PLRC Issue Over Counting Incarcerated Voters May Extend Map Deadline
The PA Legislative Reapportionment Commission that is redrawing Pennsylvania’s district maps voted last week to count incarcerated Pennsylvanians in the district from which they came – not the district in which they are imprisoned. This move received cheers by the commission’s Democrats and jeers from the Republicans (all of whom serve in the top leadership positions in the state legislature) – with the Republicans arguing that the decision stands outside the scope of the commission’s powers and should be considered through constitutional amendment or the legislative process. In addition, state House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, argued that the decision will further delay the finalization of population data, which could delay the finalization of the maps prior to the Primary Election on May 17, 2022.