Not showing up for work? Only the House was in voting session this week but that didn’t stop the state Senate from making news. The week started with a scheduled hearing of the Senate State Government Committee to discuss legislation to implement recommendations from the Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform and to receive comments from the Department of State (DOS) regarding Senate Bill 878, which was a bill to implement many of these reforms. However, one problem quickly developed—the Department of State failed to show up to testify. Chairman Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) criticized the decision to not appear as well as Governor Tom Wolf’s threat to veto the bill. He stated, “I cannot understand the unwillingness of the acting secretary of the commonwealth to appear today. If the acting secretary and the governor think that much-needed election reforms will occur through stonewalling and press releases, they are 100 percent wrong.” This should make for an interesting fall session going forward.
Touting accomplishments. Meanwhile, the atmosphere over in the House was a little less contentious. Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff wrapped up the week touting some accomplishments he said were important “wins” on some legislative fronts. The list includes:
- extending the Tropical Storm Ida disaster declaration;
- passing legislation to help fight the opioid addiction crisis by allowing greater information sharing in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program;
- passing Shawn’s Law to protect those who are mentally and emotionally vulnerable;
- passing legislation to keep government limited by continuing the regulatory waivers and suspensions;
- passing bills to create greater transparency in education and in public health emergencies;
- passing legislation expanding eligibility for the economically disadvantaged schools program;
- passing legislation to keep seniors eligible for the PACE/PACENET program;
- passing legislation to make it easier for law enforcement to find missing persons; and
- starting important discussions on higher education funding, broadband access and expansion, election reform, and school choice.
Pink Unity. It was nice to see Republicans and Democrats coming together at the Capitol’s fountain in a unified moment to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Several cancer survivors joined with legislators from both sides of the aisle in support of the ongoing fight against breast cancer. This year’s theme is to encourage women who are older than 40 years or are pre-disposed to breast cancer to schedule a mammogram especially because many women did not schedule an annual mammogram during the pandemic and are at an increased risk. An emotional plea, Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) described her own diagnosis of breast cancer in 2020. She remarked that she was able to catch her cancer early due to a mammogram and encouraged other women to schedule their mammogram to reduce their chances of metastatic cancer.
Upcoming schedule. The General Assembly will be in brief recess due to the Columbus Day holiday next week. The Senate will return on Monday, October 18, while the House won’t return until Monday, October 25.