September 22, 2023

We’ll start this week’s missive in our nation’s capital, where House Republicans set a new standard for dysfunction, failing for a second time to pass a procedural measure that would have allowed discussion and debate on a defense bill. So, what did those lawmakers do, with only nine days left before government shuts down for lack of funding? They went home for the weekend, leaving only six days to head off a government shutdown with some, you know, legislative action.

Ukrainian President Zelensky dropped by to ask for more military muscle, but there seems to be a growing sentiment in some quarters not to help the Ukrainians any longer. Well, let’s see… some people might say that spending only around 6% of the U.S. defense budget to help the Ukrainians fend off the Russian aggressors and dismantle their military while not needing to dispatch our own troops sounds like a pretty good bargain.

It was a big week for election and voting news… In a letter published this week, former Govs. Tom Corbett, Ed Rendell, Tom Ridge, Mark Schweiker and Tom Wolf announced their support for open primaries, allowing unaffiliated voters to help choose partisan candidates. They noted that primary elections are now decided by fewer, more extreme voters, and allowing independents and third-party voters to participate would help tamp down extremism and polarization. Pennsylvania is one of nine states with a closed primary system.

Governor Shapiro kicked off National Voter Registration Day by announcing that Pennsylvania will now have automatic registration for eligible voters when they renew or receive their driver’s license or ID at a PennDOT or photo license center. Residents will need to provide proof of identity, residency, age and citizenship when renewing their licenses – the typical personal information required to register to vote. House and Senate Republicans said Shapiro should have consulted them rather than issuing an executive order.

On Tuesday, Democrat Lindsay Powell defeated Republican Erin Connolly Autenreith in a special election in the 21st House District, keeping Democrats in charge of the House with a 102-101 majority. Powell succeeds Democrat Sara Innamorato, who resigned to run for Allegheny County executive.

A Delaware County judge has ruled that the county should count ballots cast in person by voters whose mail ballots were rejected during the primary. The board of elections decided not to accept provisional ballots cast in person by voters who had already been told their mail ballots were rejected due to technical defects. While county election officials believed the ballots should be counted on principle, they originally felt their hands were tied by their reading of the law. They said they welcomed the judge’s ruling, which applies only to Delaware County.

David McCormick, who lost a bid for Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate nomination in 2022, will again seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, this time to challenge incumbent Democrat Bob Casey in 2024. Casey is seeking reelection to a fourth term.

Democrat Cherelle Parker has agreed to debate Republican David Oh next month during the final days of the Philadelphia mayoral campaign. The debate is slated for Thursday, Oct. 26, at 8 a.m. on KYW Newsradio. It is presently the only debate scheduled between the candidates.

And finally in election news, the PA Senate voted 45 to 2 to move the 2024 primary election up to March 19, where the state would join Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio in holding their primaries. Under existing law, Pennsylvania’s 2024 primary election would take place on April 23, which conflicts with the first day of Passover. The bill now goes to the House.

Governor Shapiro signed an executive order on Wednesday creating an artificial intelligence governing board to guide the Commonwealth’s use of generative artificial intelligence, including developing training programs for state employees. Shapiro and other state officials at the announcement stressed that the state’s use of AI won’t replace human workers.

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill that would allow all of the state’s medical marijuana growers and processors to sell their products directly to patients, with several senators speculating that the bill could – and should – become a vehicle for further opening up the Commonwealth’s marijuana laws. The bill now heads to the House.

Team Triad sends sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Temple University acting President JoAnne Epps, who died suddenly on Tuesday after collapsing at an event on campus. She was 72.

A state Senate committee on Tuesday unanimously voted to advance a bill that would add restrictions to children’s social media use. Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), one of the prime co-sponsors of SB 22 along with Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), said during the Communications and Technology Committee hearing that the goal of the legislation was to “empower” parents and safeguard teenagers’ mental health. The American Civil Liberties Union said that while the bill was well-intentioned, it threatens First Amendment rights and could have unintended consequences. The bill now goes before the full Senate.

In this week’s We Can’t Make This Up segment, we welcome back the infamous Florida Man, who was rescued (apparently against his wishes) while attempting to cross the Atlantic (or so he said) in a giant homemade hamster wheel (for the fourth time). Ray Baluchi threatened to stab himself or blow himself up if anyone intervened, but he eventually surrendered near Georgetown, South Carolina. He faces felony charges.

And that’s what passes for news around here this week as we plunge into fall! We wish you a happy weekend (and hope you avoid felony charges). Meet us back here again next week for more news and entertainment!