Eight Pennsylvania Congressmen Call for Investigation into COVID-19 Deaths in Nursing Homes
Last week, eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including local Congressman Dan Meuser, sent a letter to Attorney General Josh Shapiro calling for an investigation into COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in Pennsylvania. The nursing home policies implemented by the Wolf Administration at the beginning of the pandemic have faced bipartisan criticism for months, and estimates indicate that over half of all COVID-related deaths in Pennsylvania are tied to nursing homes.
We need to better protect our elderly populations both throughout the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic, and during any future pandemics that may affect our state. I echo the calls to investigate nursing home deaths so we can reflect on what mistakes were made and ensure that our most vulnerable populations are better protected going forward.
View the full letter here.
COVID-19 Community Vaccine Event in Pottsville
Walmart has begun administering Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines at a clinic set up inside the Fairlane Village Mall. The first round of appointments is full, but Walmart anticipates more events will take place in the coming weeks as they receive more shipments of the vaccine. Vaccines will be available to those eligible under the 1A phase of the Department of Health’s vaccine distribution plan. Insurance is not required, there is no cost to receive the vaccine, and appointments for the second vaccination will be made while at the first appointment.
To schedule a vaccine appointment, call 1-800-753-8827. The Fairlane Village Mall is located at 7211 Pottsville St. Clair Highway, Pottsville, PA 17901. Visit this link to learn more about Walmart’s vaccination efforts.
Senate Poised to Approve Constitutional Amendment Reforming Lieutenant Governor Selection
A constitutional amendment reforming the selection of the lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania is now poised to be approved by the Senate after the legislation was passed by a bipartisan vote of 23-1 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Once this amendment is voted on by the Senate, it would need to be approved by the House of Representatives before being placed on the ballot for approval by Pennsylvania voters.
This amendment is widely supported on both sides of the aisle, as evidenced by the above picture from 2017 where I was joined by a bipartisan group of 3 former Lieutenant Governors, Jim Cawley, Robert Jubelirer, and Mark Singel, and 2 former Chairmen of the State Party Committees, Alan Novak and T.J. Rooney, in support of this amendment.
As I stated in a recent interview with KDKA, this constitutional amendment would be a step forward for good government to eliminate future conflicts between governors and their lieutenant governors, as we have seen too often here in the past. Read more here.
State Lawmakers Push Back against Emergency Powers
One of my constant refrains throughout the pandemic has been the need for collaboration between the legislature and the Governor. As this article from the New York Times states, many lawmakers from around the country agree with me!
One example cited is a proposal from Democratic leaders in the New York State Senate to strip some emergency powers from Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo after he admitted to withholding data on nursing home deaths. The piece also references examples in Ohio and Idaho where Republican-majority legislatures have moved to check the power of Republican governors.
This is not a partisan issue, but an issue of check and balances. No one person should be able to wield sweeping powers for months on end with no checks and balances in place, as Governor Wolf has for almost a full year during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why I voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to limit the length of any future emergency declarations without approval from the legislature.
Joint Hearing on the Impact of the Census Delay
The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, held a joint hearing with the House State Government Committee this week exploring the potential impacts that could arise from the delay of the delivery of 2020 census data. The Census Bureau recently announced that this decade’s census data, which would typically be available in March, will not be available until the end of September. Legislative redistricting has constitutional timelines that begin with the official reporting of census data. Any delay in receipt of this data will impact the process of drawing voting district lines for both the General Assembly and Congress.
We heard from officials who had insight into the delay from both a national and a state perspective. Watch the hearing below.