January 27, 2023

Let’s begin this week’s festivities with a show-of-hands question: how many of you have recently discovered a stash of classified intelligence documents in your basement? Aha! All of you. That’s what we thought. So, we start with the biggest story churning things up in our nation’s capital, where FBI agents are tearing through homes, offices, basements, and luxury hotels in several states, like a thundering herd of children trolling for treasure at an Easter egg hunt. We predict this will continue until they exhaust the supply of special counsels. And probably way beyond Easter.

After several days of furious finagling, the NATO allies agreed to step up the arming of Ukraine, with the U.S. joining other countries in anticipation of a possible Russian spring offensive. In the coming months, Ukraine will have at its disposal a significant increase in fire power, by way of advanced tanks from the U.S. and Germany. The Russians responded by bombing the crap out of everything within reach.

As it turns out, persuading Congress to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change may have been the easy part. Persuading Americans to buy millions of heat pumps, solar panels, efficient appliances and electric vehicles may be the heavier lift. Especially electric vehicles, as it appears many people are wary of battery-life issues, charging availability and general reliability.

Back here at home, Governor Shapiro signed an executive order creating the Office of Transformation and Opportunity to operate within the governor’s office and the Economic Development Strategy Group, which is composed of cabinet members and state agency heads and chaired by Shapiro. The group will advise the governor on economic development projects and ways to attract and retain employers.

While the day is not over as we write this, it seems safe to project that the General Assembly will miss today’s deadline for placing constitutional amendments on the ballot for the May 16 primary election. Three proposed amendments were teed up for the House to approve, but alas, while the Senate had granted approval of the measures, the House was not able to muster the votes. The amendments would open a special two-year window for survivors of childhood sex abuse to file civil claims in court beyond the expiration of the statute of limitations, require all voters to show ID at all elections, and remove the governor’s veto from the legislative process to disapprove of executive agency regulations. The next opportunity to offer the proposed amendments to voters would be the general election in November.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9% in December, the lowest rate since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the rate in 1976. In what might have been her first public comment since her nomination as secretary of PA Labor and Industry, Nancy Walker pronounced the report as good news.

And, while we’re doing this good-news thing, the Federal Reserve reported that inflation continued to ease again in December, coming in at 5% for the previous 12 months, and compared with 5.5% in last month’s report. It led to growing optimism that interest rate increases may also ease or even disappear by March.

And now for some bad news… the American Lung Association gave Pennsylvania a dismal report card this week as it relates to smoking. The association released a nationwide report on state-level efforts to combat tobacco use. On the bright side, the organization had some constructive suggestions on steps PA could take to improve its tobacco cessation performance.

While the state House and Senate are in recess until Feb. 27, the House R’s got busy selecting committee chairs. Both caucuses in the Senate had already done that, leaving the House Dems as the last caucus to select chairs because… oh, never mind, we’ll spare you the details. For a list of the Republican chairs, follow this link.

Over in the Steel City, Mayor Ed Gainey signed an executive order directing the city’s law and finance department to begin a review of parcels owned by organizations claiming tax exemption based on their charitable status. Nonprofit behemoth UPMC, which has a boatload of tax-exempt property in Pittsburgh, pledged to cooperate with the city in the review.

And the announcement we’ve all been waiting for came this week, as Facebook parent Meta said it will restore former President Trump ’s personal account in the coming weeks, ending a two-year suspension it imposed in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The company said it is adding “new guardrails” to ensure there are no “repeat offenders” who violate its rules, even if they are political candidates or world leaders.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we travel to Michigan, where a K-9 police officer named “Ice” set off a furry fury by allegedly scarfing down a fellow officer’s lunch when the officer was called away briefly from the lunchroom. Wyandotte Police immediately lunched – ooops, *launched* – an investigation, reaching out to the public through the department’s Facebook page and inviting folks to recommend how to proceed. The responses poured in, including from at least one lawyer, who offered to represent Ice pro-bone-o.

And that wraps up what we carefully culled and chronicled this week from the interwebs. We’ll be right back here next week with our usual mix of news and nonsense. Until then, from your friends at Team Triad, have a terrific weekend! Oh yeah, and GO BIRDS!!