A group of reporters are nominated for a national journalism award, the state opens up online liquor sales, plus Gov. Tom Wolf receives high marks for his response to the coronavirus pandemic. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
Every week PoliticsPA sends an exclusive extra Up or Down to Playbook subscribers. See who gets the extra up or down next week: sign up here.
PA’s Investigative Journalism. A group of reporters from The Caucus and Spotlight PA are being recognized for one of the biggest stories out of Harrisburg from the past year. Their year long project “Big Spending, Little Accountability,” exposed how Pennsylvania lawmakers hid nearly $3.5 million in campaign spending over three years under the state’s finance laws, which LNP | LancasterOnline describes as “one of the weakest campaign finance laws in the country.” Caucus reporters Brad Bumsted, Mike Wereschagin, Sam Janesch, Paula Knudsen, and Alyssa Biederman, alongside Spotlight PA’s Angela Couloumbis, were finalists for the Toner Prize, awarded by the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Online Liquor Sales. Good news and bad news for Pennsylvanians who have been seeking a bottle of their favorite liquor since the state’s Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores closed down due to COVID-19. The good news? Online sales are open for business! Bad news? Well….good luck completing an order. The demand was so high on Wednesday when the announcement was official that most users almost immediately were unable to complete a purchase with the website displaying the following message: “Due to overwhelming demand, the online store is not available at this time. Please try again tomorrow or in the coming days.”
Pa. Turnpike Commission. The Pa. Turnpike Commission was named as a finalist for the 2020 Secretary of Defense Freedom Award. PennLive reports that the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) received 2,623 nominations for this award for employers throughout the 50 states, Guan-CNMI, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and District of Columbia. A release described this award as the “highest recognition given by the Department of Defense to employers for their exceptional support of National Guard and Reserve members.” By mid-June the Department of Defense will announce the 15 employers who will receive the award.
Chrissy Houlahan and Mike Kelly. These two Pennsylvania Congressmembers on opposite sides of the aisle are both finalists in different categories for the Democracy Awards. According to a release from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester) is one of six finalists for the “Transparency & Accountability” award, which recognizes the offices that “employ unique or innovative methods to continuously enhance their constituent interactions, and provide clear and relevant information on their work and performance, and publicly acknowledge metrics for that performance.” Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) is one of eight finalists for the “Constituent Service” award which recognizes offices for their “outstand practices or achievements acting as ombudsmen with the federal government or responding to constituent requests/inquiries.”
NEPA Journalism Landscape. The coronavirus pandemic is hitting another significant news outlet in the state. The Times Leader will stop its print editions on Saturdays, Mondays, and Tuesdays beginning this weekend in response to the coronavirus. The Citizens Voice reports that an electronic edition for those days will be made available to subscribers.
Heather Kass. The Democratic state rep hopeful for the 36th House District will remain on the ballot. A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge ruled that 306 signatures for Heather Kass were valid, which is 6 more than the required 300, although more than half of the signatures that she collected were deemed invalid for a variety of reasons. Kass is slated to take on Jessica Benham for the Democratic Party nomination to fill the seat held by state Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny), who is retiring at the end of this term.
Pitt and Temple COVID-19 Responses. A number of institutions have stepped up big time during the ongoing pandemic, but these two warranted special recognition this week. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have developed a “potential” COVID-19 vaccine that has shown “early promise in tests on mice,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Although the report is that they are “very early in the process” of this, it is a promising step in the right direction. Temple University is donating the use of the Liacouras Center to the city of Philadelphia in their fight against COVID-19.
Tom Wolf. While President Donald Trump has received mixed reviews from Pennsylvanians in his response to the coronavirus, the state’s governor has been well above water in approval rating for the pandemic. According to a Baldwin Wallace University Great Lakes Poll, in partnership with Oakland University and Ohio Northern University of self identified registered voters, 69.4% strongly or somewhat approve of Wolf’s handling of the coronavirus, while 21.5% either strongly or somewhat disapprove of the governor’s response, and 9.1% are unsure. A Public Policy Polling poll showed that 62% of Pennsylvanians approve of Wolf’s handling of the virus, while only 20% disapproved.
Sheetz. Pennsylvanians can put aside the Sheetz vs Wawa debate temporarily to applaud Sheetz for their response to the coronavirus. Sheetz announced this week that it is launching its “Kidz Meal Bagz” program to help children and families in need during the pandemic.
Pete Weeks. Blair County officially has a new District Attorney. Weeks was sworn-in this week to complete District Attorney Richard Consiglio’s term, who announced Weeks as his successor when he decided to retire. This term will run through December 2021 until Weeks can decide to seek a four-year term.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Tiger King is to Americans as singing on balconies is to Italians.
This is our act of solidarity.
— Sara Innamorato ???????? (@Innamo) March 29, 2020
I got a really nice(?) message from a reader that made me lol….
“I never realized how much I missed your God damn boring school director stories until the coronavirus.”
— Tom Sofield (@BuxMontNews) April 2, 2020