Saturday, January 25, 2020

PA Capitol News Report: Biggest Retirement Yet - House Speaker Mike Turzai

Because Everything In Politics Is Connected To Everything Else: The announcement Thursday that Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai (Allegheny County) would not seek re-election caught Harrisburg by surprise last week.
The veteran lawmaker of 19-years served five years as House Speaker, is a tireless fundraiser for the Republican cause who it is sadi raised at least $1 million over the last three years and leader of the conservative members in the House.
While denying he had any job offers in-hand, Turzai said he would like to work in the private sector.
His decision to leave the House, and other retirements, set off a scramble that will re-order Republican leadership in the House, nearly from top to bottom.  Sorting that out will take time, assuming Turzai serves out his term which ends November 30.
Turzai is a staunch proponent of liquor privatization and funding private charter schools and an opponent of Wolf priorities like raising the minimum wage and the severance tax on natural gas production.
However, he wasn’t shy about approving up to $60 million a year in subsidies for the Shell Ethane Plant in Beaver County and proposing millions more to help the natural gas industry.
People will be watching closely for hints on where Turzai will be in the future.  Read more here and Read more here.
More House Retirements
Overshadowed by the Turzai retirement, there were three other member announcements last week -- Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield), Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny) and  Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill)-- all announced they would not seek re-election, bringing the total to 16.
January 28 is the first day to circulate and file nomination petitions for the Senate and House, so if more announcements are going to happen, they need to happen quickly.
Here’s the list of retirements so far--
Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-Delaware)           
Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D-Berks               
Rep. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson)                   
Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming)            
Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield)             
Rep. Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill)        
Rep. Marcia Hahn (R-Northampton)       
Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry)                    
Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny)
Rep. Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery)
Rep. Tom Murt (R-Montgomery)
Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny)
Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Northampton)
Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill)
Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery)
Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny)
Danny DeVito Running For House
“Danny DeVito” is running for the House in Allegheny County, but he’s not who you think he  is. DeVito, a Republican who is strongly pro-life, pro-drilling and pro-industry, hopes his famous name helps him unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Anita Kulik.  Read more here.
House Member Pleads Guilty
Former Philadelphia Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pleaded guilty Thursday to corruption charges and was ordered to repay the money she stole from her own nonprofit group.  Read more here.
AP: Opening Of Campaign Season
On Saturday, Mark Scolforo of the Associated Press did an article introducing the 2020 legislative campaign season making several observations--
-- House: Democrats would have to pick up a net 9 seats to control the House, which many feel is unlikely.  Seats are of little risk of changing hands because of the way districts are drawn. The House now stands at 110-93 (including vacancies traditionally held by each party). 
Democrats are targeting the vacancies opened up in Delaware and Montgomery counties as well as the Lehigh Valley.
Republicans are targeting a dozen seats where President Trump won in 2016, but are now held by Democrats.
-- Senate: there are 15 Republican and 10 Democratic seats up for re-election in this round.  Democrats are targeting Republicans Tom Killion (Delaware County) and Dan Laughlin (Erie County).  To get to a 25-25 with Lt. Gov. Fetterman making the tie-breaking vote, they would have to avoid losing any seats, plus pick up two more. Read more here.
Republicans Endorse Heather Heidelbaugh For Attorney General
The Republican State Committee Saturday endorsed former Allegheny County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh for Attorney General with a voice vote. Turns out, she was the only Republican seeking the nomination.  Read more here.
She will run against incumbent Democrat Attorney General Josh Shapiro.  
Republicans Endorse Tim DeFoor For Auditor General 
State Republicans Saturday overwhelmingly endorsed Dauphin County Controller Tim DeFoor to be their candidate for Auditor General from a field of three potential contenders.  Read more here.
Earlier in the week, retiring conservative Rep. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson) announced he was launching a bid for the Republican nomination. Read more here.
Politics PA said he received only 11 votes compared to DeFoor’s 199. 
The incumbent Democrat Eugene DePasquale is running for Congress.  At last count there are now five Democrats running for the Auditor General nomination.
The Democratic Party will endorse a candidate for the Auditor General race at their upcoming state committee meeting next weekend.  Read more here.
And For State Treasurer Stacy Garrity
State Republicans Saturday endorsed Stacy Garrity, a business executive and Army reservist who ran a detention center in Iraq for State Treasurer. She was the only Republican seeking the nomination.  Read more here.
She is running against incumbent Democrat Joe Tosella seeking his second term as State Treasurer.
Poll Position
A Baldwin Wallace University Poll released last week had President Trump trailing in key battleground states, including Pennsylvania.  37.3 percent said they would vote for Trump in Pennsylvania and 46.3 percent said they would vote for any Democrat nominated against him.  Read more here.
The same poll said former Vice President Joe Biden would beat U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders 31.3 percent to 20.5 percent.  Read more here.
Delay In Voting Machine Challenge
A federal judge ordered a 30-day delay in a case that seeks to bar the use of a specific voting machine used in Philadelphia, Cumberland and Northampton counties during 2020 elections.
The Department of State argued shifting voting systems so close to the election would cause chaos.  So, the judge moved the hearing to February 18, closer to the April 28 Primary election. Read more here.
Games Of Skill Enforcement
Tuesday Commonwealth Court lifted a month-old ban on the State Police taking enforcement action against a particular brand of cash-paying video gaming machines they believe are illegal under Pennsylvania’s gaming laws.  Read more here.
Human Trafficking Bills
The House passed a series of bills to deal with various aspects of the human trafficking issue, including changes to do more to prevent the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or purchase of persons for exploitation.  Read more here.
Lower Prescription Costs
There was another call to lower prescription drug costs, this time by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  He called on the Senate to pass legislation designed to regulate pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen between drug manufacturers and pharmacists in state-funded prescription drug programs.  Read more here.
State Universities Reform
House Education Committee Majority Chair Curt Sonney (R-Erie) and Reps. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford) and Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks) joined together with Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor Daniel Greenstein and chair of PASSHE’s Board of Governors Cynthia Shapira to unveil a package of bills designed to update, improve and reform PASSHE. 
The three bill package reforms the powers of the PASSHE board, makes needed financial and legal accountability reforms and streamlines reporting and other functions.  Read more here.
PA Chamber Priorities
The PA Chamber of Business and Industry announced its 2020 Legislative Priorities on workforce development, accountability in government spending, “bringing balance to labor laws,” stopping new energy taxes and more legal “reforms.”  Read more here.
Jobless Rate Rises
The Department of Labor and Industry reported Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was up two-tenths of a percentage point over the month to 4.5 percent in December. The national rate was unchanged from November at 3.5 percent.  Read more here.
Fmr Lt. Gov. Turns Comedian
Gov. Wolf’s first Lt. Governor Mike Stack has a new job, he’s trying his hand at being a standup comedian in Hollywood. He goes by the aliases “Michael J Stack” aka “Honorable Governor Stack” aka “Mikey Stacks.”  BTW, he has blond hair now. Read more here. [Warning: language will be offensive to many.]
Mr. Peanut RIP
The 104-year old Mr. Peanut will apparently reach a fiery end after falling off a cliff and saving his buddies in a new commercial.
What folks may not know is Planters Nut and Chocolate Company was founded in Wilkes-Barre in 1906 by an Italian immigrant named Amadeo Obici and his brother-in-law.  Read more here.
But, will that be the end of Mr. Peanut?
What’s Next?
The Senate returns for voting session the next two weeks starting January 27.  The House is off until it returns February 3 during budget week.
The Senate Republican Policy Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing January 27 on the rollout of election law reforms passed last year.
The Senate’s newest member-- David Arnold-- will be sworn into office on January 29.  He represents Dauphin, Lebanon and York counties.
Click Here for full Senate Committee Schedule    
Click Here for full Senate Bill Calendar
Click Here for full House Committee Schedule     
Click Here for full House Bill Calendar
Other News Last Week:
[Posted: January 26, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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