January 17th Ups & Downs
Voters in the state Senate’s 48th District elected a new state Senator, Google offers an apology to Pittsburgh, plus the SDCC hires a new Executive Director. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
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John Yudichak. It looks like Gov. Tom Wolf’s plans of shuttering a pair of state centers for the intellectually disabled may not happen until at least 2025. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports that the state House and Senate both voted for legislation sponsored by the former Democrat turned Independent state Senator from Luzerne County to block the measure of closing Polk Center in Venango County and White Haven in Luzerne County. Yudichak said the vote is a “significant victory for people with intellectual disabilities, the families that love them and the dedicated employees who provide loving care to them at our state centers.” The vote split both Democrats and Republicans, but still reached the two-thirds majorities needed to overcome Wolf’s veto promise. Supports of Yudichak’s legislation include lawmakers near all four state centers and public sector unions representing their employees, while some disability rights advocates oppose it describing the centers as “vestiges of a paternalistic past that didn’t take into account people with disabilities are able to live full lives,” according to the Capital-Star. The bill will require one last Senate vote before it reaches the governor’s desk.
Dave Arnold. It was an expected Republican hold, but Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold comfortably won the special election for the state Senate’s 48th District over Democrat Michael Schroeder, a Lebanon Valley College associate professor. According to WGAL, Arnold captured 64% of the vote, while Schroeder received 35%. This is a larger margin of victory for the Republican than former state Sen. Mike Folmer’s (R-Lebanon) most recent successful 25 point reelection victory in 2018. Arnold will fill the seat vacated by Folmer, who resigned from office on Sept. 18 after Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Folmer was charged with possession of child pornography.
Drilling Fee Revenue. While Pennsylvania remains the nation’s number 2 natural gas state, only behind Texas, revenues from gas drilling fell from the previous year. The AP reports that lower prices for natural gas last year led to a 21% drop in drilling fee revenue for state programs and county and municipal governments even though production grew, according to new state estimates. The Independent Fiscal Office projected that impact fee collections for 2019 will be $198 million, which is close to a $54 million drop from 2018. Despite the drop in 2019, it is still higher than it’s low point of $173 million in 2016.
Michael Lamb. Most of the endorsements in the crowded Democratic primary for Auditor General have fallen along regional lines, but the Pittsburgh City Controller received an endorsement from the mayor of the state’s largest city this week. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced his support for Lamb’s bid for Auditor General this week. Lamb, the lone Democratic candidate from western Pennsylvania, has racked up a number of endorsements in his backyard, but receiving the support from Kenney, who decided to not endorse any of the candidates from the Philadelphia region, is an unexpected development in the race to replace Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
Google. Even if you have employed people in the region for nearly 15 years, it is not exactly endearing when an employee encourages other workers to avoid your city due to air quality. Dennis Towne, an engineer at Google, criticized Pittsburgh in a story from the Public Source saying that he thought living there would be great, until he started breathing the air there. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that Google management reached out to apologize for the comments of their own employee and assured him that they intend to hire a lot more workers in Pittsburgh.
Lisa Hughes. A first for the Philadelphia Inquirer. On Tuesday, the Inquirer announced that Lisa Hughes will be the paper’s next publisher. Hughes will become the first woman publisher in the 190-year history of the paper. She previously worked in magazine publishing for decades and served as vice president/publisher of the New Yorker until 2017. She will take over the role with the Inquirer on February 3.
American Bridge 21st Century. PoliticsPA doesn’t often award belated down arrows, but we believe it is justified for this liberal super PAC. The PAC, who plans to play a big role in the state in the upcoming election, ran television ads in the Erie market about a voter who claimed to vote for President Donald Trump in 2016, but said the change brought by the new president wasn’t good and pledged to vote against him. A local news outlet in the Erie market, JET 24, uncovered that the man in the ad, Mark Graham, didn’t actually vote in the 2016 election according to county voting records. The Pennsylvania Republican Party called for the ad to be taken down once this was known, but according to PennLive as of December 27, the ad was still running.
Melanie Rose. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee has a new Executive Director. Rose, a Bucks County native, was hired to lead their effort of regaining control of the state Senate in the upcoming election. Some of her previous political work in the state includes Sec. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in the state, while also working on a number of other Democratic officials.
Eric J. White. From primary defeat, back to council president. Wrightsville Borough Council reelected White for another two year term as council president at a recent meeting, according to LNP | LancasterOnline. White was bested in the Republican primary by former Councilman Edward E. Sipes, but defeated Sipes in a write-in campaign in November 71-68.
Legacy of Heshimu Jaramogi. The longtime Philadelphia journalist, who the Philadelphia Tribune described as a “forefather of multimedia journalism in Philadelphia,” died Tuesday at the age of 67 after a brief battle with colon cancer. Jaramogi was a publisher, journalist, and adjunct professor. He held a number of roles throughout the city and was a former president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) and received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Let’s check in on how former Congressman Bob Brady is enjoying retirement….
Guys, I’m catching up w @BobBradyPhilly tomorrow. He texted asking if I’m bringing a joint… Think he’s ready?! RE: https://t.co/S7tUlZJagl
Also made me wonder if he’s already tried “the laughing bag” hahah #neverforget. Will report back. pic.twitter.com/xMARc6W9Mq
— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) January 14, 2020
Bonus tweet courtesy of WESA’s Chris Potter on the news that Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb received the endorsement of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney in his bid for Auditor General.
Just filed a brief on-air story about this endorsement, and I slugged it “Lamb Curries Favor.” Feeling pretty good about the career choices that brought me to this pinnacle.
— Chris Potter (@CPotterPgh) January 15, 2020