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Government Outreach -September 19, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
September 19, 2023

1. Special election in Allegheny County today determines majority in state House. Voters in the 21st Legislative District head to the polls today to determine which party will hold the majority in the state House. The chamber has been evenly divided with 101 Democrats and 101 Republicans since Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, resigned in July to focus on her campaign for county executive. The Democratic nominee is Lindsay Powell, director of Workforce Strategies for InnovatePGH, an economic development nonprofit, and a former aide to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and former Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. She faces GOP nominee Erin Connolly Autenreith, a real estate agent and chairwoman of the Shaler Township Republican Committee. Her father, Thomas Connolly, served as mayor of nearby McKees Rocks in the 1980s. The winner will complete the remainder of Innamorato's two-year term and be up for reelection next year. When Innamorato was re-elected last year, she received almost 63.6% of the vote.

2. Senate approves legislation that would allow Lottery winners to remain anonymous. The state Senate on Monday unanimously approved legislation, SB 373, that would allow Lottery winners to remain anonymous. "Under my proposal, a prizewinner's municipality and county of residence would remain public information, but individuals would be given a choice as to whether they would like to publicly disclose their name and other identifying information, or keep it confidential," Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, said in a cosponsor memo. Sixteen states - including Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey - allow Lottery winners to keep their identities hidden. Baker noted that under the 2017 gaming expansion, winners of iLottery games are allowed to remain anonymous, creating separate rules depending on which game the gambler plays. The Senate passed similar legislation last year, but the measure didn't move in the House.

3. Senate panel examines automated traffic enforcement as expiration dates for speed camera laws loom. With pilot programs expiring in coming months, a Senate committee heard testimony Monday about extending two automated traffic speed law enforcement mechanisms. The Transportation Committee heard testimony from PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll and others about renewing the automated active work zone speed enforcement program due to sunset this February and the automated designated speed enforcement program on Philadelphia's Roosevelt Boulevard or U.S. Route 1 due to sunset this December. The legal basis for the two existing speed camera enforcement programs is Act 86 of 2018. That law established the two five-year pilot programs. Under consideration is a proposed automated designated school zone speed enforcement program starting as a five-year pilot. This would add to an existing program under Act 159 of 2018 giving schools the ability to place an automated stop arm on school buses to enforce the requirement that motorists stop for a school bus with flashing red lights. PennDOT's temporary regulations for those automated stop arms are due to expire on Oct. 23, but there is legislation to extend the temporary regulations until Oct. 23, 2024 while changes are further considered. The House and Senate are advancing various bills dealing with these topics.

4. Former governors back proposal to allow independent voters to participate in primaries in bid to de-fang extreme partisans. Five former governors on Monday jointly released a letter supporting the concept of allowing independents to vote in primary elections. "Pennsylvania is one of only seven states to completely exclude independent voters from voting in primary elections. That means nearly 1.2 million voters who are registered as unaffiliated with a political party or independent are denied the right to vote, even though their taxes pay for the primary election, which costs $50 million to run," according to the letter signed by former Govs. Tom Wolf, Tom Corbett, Ed Rendell, Mark Schweiker and Tom Ridge. "When we were elected Governor, we pledged to govern on behalf of all Pennsylvanians - Democrats, Republicans, independents, those who voted for us, and those who voted against us. But our political system has changed over the last decade or two. Primary elections are often decided by a few more extreme voters. Candidates elected by those more extreme voters don't have as much incentive to engage in the compromise and give and take that is so essential to effective governing. Adding independent voters to the primary mix will help," they wrote. Legislation that would allow independents to vote in primary elections have been introduced in both chambers of the General Assembly but none of those bills have been put up for a committee vote.

5. Pa. receives $500M investment from Australia company Gov. Josh Shapiro and Pratt Industries announced a commitment Monday to invest $500 million and create hundreds of jobs in Pennsylvania over the next 10 years. Pratt Industries Executive Global Chairman Anthony Pratt joined with Shapiro and Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Rick Siger to announce the investment at the corrugated packaging company’s plant in Carlisle. “I want to plant a flag and make it clear to companies across the country and around the world that Pennsylvania is open for business,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Having Pratt Industries invest a total of $1 billion in Pennsylvania and create hundreds of new jobs is a clear sign that the commonwealth is a place where global businesses can grow and succeed. “Whether they’re based in Australia or Allegheny County, we are showing the private sector that an investment in our Commonwealth is a worthwhile one – and companies that commit to moving and growing here know that the Commonwealth will be an active partner, and that we’ll work as hard for them as they work for their customers and employees.” As part of its new commitment, Pratt Industries will invest in recycling, remanufacturing, and clean energy infrastructure. The company has invested $500 million in Pennsylvania and employs more than 800 total workers at its facilities in Carlisle (Cumberland County), Reading (Berks County), East Greenville (Montgomery County) and Macungie and Emmaus (both in Lehigh County). Read More

6. Pa. innovation is focused in Pittsburgh, State College, Philadelphia as other areas miss out Pennsylvania could become a national leader in innovation — if the support is there and state leaders embrace reform. “Innovation matters so much to economic performance, yet the state’s innovation drift is resulting in a broader economic drift,” Brookings Metro Senior Fellow Mark Muro told legislators Friday at a Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing on innovation. “We’re really challenging the state to, above all, commit to innovation … the state needs to try harder on this front. We think you could win — if you actually tried harder.” Experts argued that the commonwealth is falling short of its potential, squandering the opportunity it has now and failing to leverage its current assets. One problem is a hyper-concentration in a few locations, limiting growth in small metros and rural areas. “Roughly 99% of Pennsylvania’s higher education R&D takes place in the Philadelphia, State College, and Pittsburgh metro areas,” Brooking Metro Senior Research Associate Robert Maxim said. “Firms in smaller communities across the state, whether they be in advanced manufacturing, energy production, agriculture, or some other industry, have less access to the cutting-edge advancements being discovered in Pennsylvania universities.” The key to growth, Muro and Maxim argued, was to find ways to connect new tech and ideas to the overlooked parts of Pennsylvania. Read More

7. Philadelphia's median income rises, Pennsylvania's falls Philadelphia households saw modest gains in median income last year, new census data shows. While incomes fell nationally and statewide, Philly bucked that trend as the city's poverty rate ticked downward. Philly maintains its status as the poorest big city in the country. Its 21.7 percent poverty rate last year, down almost 1 percentage point from 2021, still ranks well above the national average of 11.5 percent. Median household incomes rose to more than $56,500 last year, up 7 percent compared to 2021, per the U.S. Census Bureau's 2022 American Community Survey (ACS). That's up from nearly $47,500 in 2019, per census data. Soaring inflation erased income gains in the city. The purchasing power for the median household actually fell in 2022 compared to the previous year by about 1 percent due to record-high prices, per census data. Nationwide median household income fell 0.8 percent between 2021-2022, to $74,755, writes Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick. Meanwhile, median household incomes for both the Philadelphia metro and state fell by more than 2 percent. Because this release is based on 2022 data, it's capturing what some call the "late pandemic era," when many elements of normal life returned but the health emergency loomed in the background. Read More

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