Governor Wolf Extends Declaration, Governor Candidates React

PA Headlines 6/12/21

March 2020 File Photo provided by Gov. Wolf

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Friday, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation to extend components of the COVID-19 disaster declaration emergency, and to expand the Family Caregiver Support Program.  “Over the last few weeks, my administration has worked hard to educate and inform the General Assembly of the importance of the temporary rule suspensions associated with the COVID-19 disaster declaration,” Gov. Wolf said about the COVID-19 Emergency Regulation bill. “I appreciate the General Assembly’s adoption of my administration’s recommendations on the significance of keeping the important regulatory suspensions associated in place for a few more months.”

House Bill 854 will extend the emergency regulation suspensions under the COVID-19 emergency until Sept. 30. It also requires an executive agency to preserve all records in their possession relating to the disaster emergency in accordance with the existing record retention policy.  House Bill 464 will amend the Family Caregiver Support Act to reflect current federal eligibility standards, remove provisions that limit available support for home modifications and assistive devices, and prohibit primary caregivers from receiving benefits if they perpetrate in a case of abuse.  “Caregivers deserve to know that they have the proper supports in place to be able to provide the best care possible for their loved one and this legislation will provide important protections and assistance to caregivers,” Gov. Wolf said.

State Sen. Dan Laughlin, an Erie County Republican, is moving toward a run for governor, presenting himself as a “center-right” conservative who can appeal to swing voters and avoid divisive cultural feuds — and drawing an implicit contrast with other Republicans trying to follow in the footsteps of former President Donald Trump.  “If Republicans are to restore commonsense conservatism to the governor’s office,” the party needs “a candidate capable of reaching across party lines with an agenda focused on practical solutions and fiscal sanity,” Laughlin said in a statement Friday as he announced the formation of an advisory group to explore a 2022 run for governor.

He emphasized his record of winning a broad swath of voters in a swing district in one of Pennsylvania’s bellwether counties. Laughlin won almost 60% of the vote last year in a district that otherwise supported Democrats up and down the ballot — including President Joe Biden, who captured around 52% of the vote there.  Laughlin’s announcement cited his admiration for two old-guard Pennsylvania Republican governors.

“Leaders like Bill Scranton and Dick Thornburgh showed us that Pennsylvanians are less concerned about strident ideology than about policies that work for people,” Laughlin said. “My conservatism guides me, but I’m less interested in fighting the culture wars than fixing the roads and building an economy for our children.” That approach is a sharp contrast to other Republican hopefuls in the race, such as former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta and State Sen. Doug Mastriano, who have touted their ties to Trump, a president who relished conflict.

Some Republicans argue the party needs a nominee whose appeal is less polarizing and broader, particularly in Pennsylvania’s growing and increasingly Democratic suburbs. But others hope to tap into the same energy that Trump fueled, and the former president remains a dominant figure. Laughlin’s approach could face a stiff test in next spring’s primary, a contest often dominated by the most fervent voters in each party.  If you’re a Pennsylvania voter, the only time you have to show identification at the polls is if it’s your first time casting a ballot at that location. Two state senators want to change that.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal judge on Friday threw out a lawsuit by Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania that sought to overturn a ban on gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River basin, ruling they lacked standing to sue.  Senate Republicans led by Sens. Gene Yaw and Lisa Baker claimed the Delaware River Basin Commission overstepped its authority and usurped the Legislature with its moratorium on natural gas development near the river and its tributaries.  Judge Paul Diamond in Philadelphia ruled the GOP had no legal right to sue, writing the dispute “is primarily partisan and is best resolved through the political process.”

Diamond said the suit’s four municipal plaintiffs — Carbon and Wayne counties and Damascus and Dyberry Townships — also lacked standing, but gave them permission to refile the suit by July 1 to give them a chance to “articulate how the moratorium has actually injured them.”  A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Matt Haverstick, said the ruling was under review.  “For now, I can just say that we’re disappointed,” he said.  The moratorium had been in place since 2010. In February, one month after the Republicans filed suit, the basin commission voted to permanently ban natural gas drilling and fracking near the Delaware, asserting that gas development poses an unacceptable risk.

The ban applies to the entire watershed but, practically speaking, impacts Wayne and Pike counties in Pennsylvania’s northeastern tip. Both are part of the nation’s largest gas field, the Marcellus Shale. Nearly 13,000 wells have been drilled elsewhere in the vast Marcellus formation, turning Pennsylvania into the nation’s No. 2 gas-producing state.  A Pennsylvania landowners group is also challenging the basin commission’s right to regulate gas development. Baker and Yaw sought to intervene in that 2016 case — which is still being litigated — but a court ruled they lacked standing.  The commission oversees the water supply of more than 13 million people in four Northeastern states.


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