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Ups and Downs

Looney Tunes

What a week … and it’s not over yet. From the U.S. Supreme Court to the halls of Harrisburg, here are our Ups and Downs for June 26-30.

Gerald Groff. The Lancaster County mail carrier had a split decision in his religious accommodations case before the Supreme Court. Groff objected to being required to work Sundays, citing his religious conviction that Sunday should be a day of rest. In a 9-0 decision, the Court clarified a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that states employers must accommodate workers’ religious needs, unless doing so would result in an “undue hardship” on the employer. Despite the unanimous ruling, it was not a clear victory for Groff, as his case will now return to lower courts for further litigation.

Up arrowRep. Susan Wild. Along with Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Wild announced new Special Financial Assistance (SFA) protecting union workers’ and retirees’ pensions in Pennsylvania, made possible by the American Rescue Plan. This investment totals over $860 million in Special Financial Assistance to the National Integrated Group Pension Plan (NIGPP), benefitting more than 48,000 workers and retirees in the manufacturing industry, including approximately 6,700 in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Josh Shapiro. The first-year governor is facing a challenge even bigger than repairing I-95 – bringing home a state budget. Shapiro has met with leaders from both sides – even gathering at the governor’s mansion for talks – in trying to meet the mandated June 30 deadline. Shapiro is also facing fire from public education proponents over his ‘support’ of school vouchers.

Up arrowAl Schmidt. The former elections official in Philadelphia officially became the top elections official in the state, as the Senate let his nomination for Secretary of the Commonwealth become official without a vote.

Up arrowRep. Joe Ciresi. The Montgomery County Democrat nearly broke out in song to make his case for a House resolution calling for a commission for a new state tune. The current state song was adopted in 1990 by a similar committee tasked with the same job. The song “Pennsylvania” by Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner was selected.

Up arrowRep. Craig Williams. The Delaware County Republican hit the right note during the same debate over the state song, saying his first hearing of the tune was at the Shapiro inauguration. “It was a great performance of a bad piece of music,” he said. “I think we can do better.”

Silas Russell. The executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania was nominated by Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey to the City Planning Commission. City Council blocked him from being considered and requested for an opinion from the State Ethics Commission over a possible conflict of interest. The Commission turned down the request, stating Council does not have legal standing to seek an opinion from the group.

Up arrowBrooke Goren. The 30-year-old Media native was tabbed as Deputy Communications Director for the Biden campaign. She previously served as deputy communications director for the DNC. “Media is such a tight-knit community and it’s continued to shape how I think about politics,” Goren said. “When I think about the work that I do now, how critical Pennsylvania will be in this next election, I’m thinking about the people back home.”

Down arrowPA Mail Voters. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvania ballots will be thrown out in next year’s presidential election as mail voting continues to evolve. Voting behaviors have begun to settle since the mass expansion of mail voting in 2020, and data from recent elections are clear: Ballots of thousands of voters continue to be rejected in every election because of errors such as not properly signing and dating the envelope.

Up arrowBob Casey. The senior U.S. Senator from the Keystone State had a plus-12 job approval rating in a Quinnipiac poll. Forty-four percent of the respondents had a favorable opinion of the 63-year-old Senator, while 32 percent felt otherwise. Casey has announced that he will run for another term in 2024.

Down arrowJohn Fetterman. In the same poll, Pennsylvania’s junior Senator had a minus-11 job approval rating with 39 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving of his performance to date.

Down arrowDebra Bogen. The former director of the Allegheny County Department of Health had her nomination for state health secretary recalled by Gov. Josh Shapiro. No reason was provided for the recall, but a letter from Shapiro came shortly after Bogen appeared before a Senate committee to answer questions related to her nomination.

Up arrowKaroline Mehalchick. The Chief Magistrate Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District, Mehalchick was nominated by President Joe Biden to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. She has served in the position since 2013.

Up arrowCabinet Appointments. It was a good week for Rich Negrin, Khalid Mumin, Mike Humphreys and Tom Cook as they were confirmed for their respective positions in the Shapiro administration. Negrin and Mumin will head the DEP and Education Department, respectively. Humphreys and Cook will serve as Commissioners for Insurance and Fire, respectively.

 





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