Government Affairs & General Updates
July 20, 2023
1. Democrat quits Pa. House, leaving chamber tied at 101-101. A special election is set for September - A Democratic lawmaker from Pittsburgh resigned Wednesday from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, moving the razor-thin majority her party has held this year to a partisan tie with the Legislature mired in a budget stalemate. Democratic Speaker Joanna McClinton immediately scheduled a special election for Rep. Sara Innamorato’s Allegheny County seat for Sept. 19, a week before the House is expected to return to session. In November, Democrats flipped the number of districts needed to control the House at the start of the of the session. It was their first claim to the majority in 12 years, with a 102-101 margin they have since maintained through several special elections. With Innamorato’s resignation, the partisan breakdown now sits at 101-101. She said in a statement that it was an honor to serve, and explained that the timing of her resignation would enable her to assist in her successor in their new role while she campaigns for local office. “Together, we’ve done amazing things to improve our region, and I am excited to continue serving our neighbors for years to come,” Innamorato said. A leading campaign strategist for the Pennsylvania House Democrats, Trevor Southerland, expected the party to retain control of the seat. “I think in the special elections we have had so far, we’ve made it very clear we will defend the majority,” he said. House Republican spokesman Jason Gottesman described Innamorato’s resignation as an effort by Democrats to “gerrymander the membership of the House” to maintain their power. He said it would have a significant impact on resolving the budget negotiations. Read More
2. PA Turnpike Commission to increase tolls in 2024 - The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) says it will increase toll prices in 2024, for the fifth consecutive year. The PA Turnpike is used every day by many drivers and the news of a toll increase was not welcomed with open arms by some behind the wheel. And although it won’t start until 2024, many are already making new travel plans. On Tuesday, the PTC announced a 5 percent toll increase for all E-Z pass and toll-by plate customers starting on January 7 of 2024. In a press release from the PTC, C.E.O Mark Compton said, “We recognize that our customers pay a premium when they choose to travel on the PA Turnpike. In return, we endeavor to provide a dependable, premium experience that gets our customers safely to their destinations in a timely fashion,” Compton said. When drivers were asked if the price increase will keep them from taking the turnpike some say they have to, regardless of the cost. “Not really because I kind of don’t have a choice. Either way, I have to use it, so I hope it doesn’t go up too much but what are we gonna do,” said Steven Olivares of West Wyoming. While others say they will do what they can to steer clear of the rising tolls. “Yeah, I would try to avoid it, if there was an easier way around. Sometimes it’s just the quickest way and it’s worth the money but usually not, unfortunately,” said Hegarty. Whichever route those behind the wheel decide to take, they all want the same thing at their final destination. “I just hope prices start going down because everything else seems to be going up. So let’s see what happens,” said Olivares. Now an annual toll hike is mandatory-due to legislation passed in 2007 and it’s expected to continue through 2050. Read More
3. Legislation to hike cost of dog licenses snared in budget impasse. Dog oversight legislation five years in the making will have to wait longer to be enacted with the state budget impasse changing session schedules. The legislation -- Senate Bill 746 -- to increase the dog license fee for the first time in more than 25 years and address other enforcement issues is close to final passage. The Senate approved it 43-7 last month. The bill cleared the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee with no amendments by a 17-3 vote on June 21. SB746 is now in the House Appropriations Committee. The Senate and House aren't scheduled to return until mid-September at this time with a state budget package not finished due to a partisan dispute over school voucher funding. Both chambers can be recalled to break the impasse before those return dates. "We've been working on this bill for five years," said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, majority chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Pashinksi said passing the bill is a top priority.
4. Pennsylvania firm awarded $75.5M contract from DoD - Johnstown, Pa.-based Concurrent Technologies Corporation announced it had been awarded a $75.5 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to provide a comprehensive safety and occupational health program. Concurrent will provide management support, analytical support and technical support for the program, as part of a DOD commitment to safety, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Force Safety and Occupational Health said in awarding the contract. As part of the effort CTC will provide the expertise to “support the reduction of mishaps, injury, and occupational illness risk, enabling an enduring safety culture and improving readiness across the Department of Defense,” officials said. Concurrent is an independent, non-profit, development professional services organization and collaborates with its affiliate, Enterprise Ventures Corporation, to provide full lifecycle solutions to research, test and evaluate work. The company said it offers the ability to design, develop, test, prototype and build solutions for its clients that will result in fewer lost workdays, improve productivity, enhance a culture of safety and integrate safety into all aspects of the organization. Read More