Pennsylvania Perspective for Monday, January 23, 2023

January 23, 2023


An Analysis of What State Representative Rozzi’s Speakership Has Looked Like Thus Far

Months after the 2022 midterm election results were recorded, the Pennsylvania state House is still somewhat in turmoil. What originally was seen as a sincere effort toward bipartisanship in what has in recent years been a highly partisan chamber, the nomination and election of Representative Mark Rozzi of Berks County to the speakership — on House Republicans’ condition that he switch his political affiliation to Independent — in reality has to date made going about business as usual much more complicated. City & State Pennsylvania has put together an analysis of Speaker Rozzi’s brief tenure so far.

Pennsylvania Recorded Its Lowest-Ever Unemployment Rate in December

According to preliminary data released by federal officials last Friday, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania dropped by about a tenth of a percent to 3.9% in December from the month previous. This is the lowest unemployment rate recorded in the commonwealth since 1976, which is when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics first began tracking the metric. City & State Pennsylvania has more.

Governor Shapiro Slightly Modifies Wolf-Era Gift Ban for Executive-Branch Employees

During his term, Governor Tom Wolf outright banned certain gift-giving practices for executive-branch employees including soliciting or accepting anything above minimal value from anyone who may be seeking to influence them, making the administration’s policy stricter than state law. On Friday, Governor Josh Shapiro announced that his administration would be following through with a similar ban, though it would relax some of his predecessor’s provisions, allowing for small gestures of hospitality such as infrequent meals, a bottle of water, or cup of coffee. Shapiro’s policy on the matter remains stricter than state law. The Associated Press has more.

Pennsylvania Boy Scout Campground to Be Sold Off, Transformed Into Housing Development

Camp Trexler, a 755-acre campground in the Poconos long owned by the Minsi Trails Council of the Boy Scouts, is expected to be put up for sale soon to be transformed into a housing development. The news comes in the wake of the national organizations’ bankruptcy following years of sex-abuse allegations and scandal. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more.



Working Families Party Looks to Expand Reach in Upcoming Elections

On only five candidates per political party may be elected to Philadelphia City Council’s seven at-large seats. For years, this meant that Republicans could rest assured that they would hold at least two of them. In 2019, now-Councilmember Kendra Brooks won one of those two coveted minority-held at-large seats — putting the Working Families Party on the map in the process. Four years later, Working Families Party candidate Nicholas O’Rourke has his eyes on the second of the two minority-held at-large seats for this upcoming election — as do three Republican contenders. City Council is not the only office where the Working Families Party is looking to expand its influence, as Jarrett Smith has announced his campaign for City Commissioner.

2023 Mayoral Race Watch: More Mayoral Forums; Helen Gym Wins API PA and PFT Endorsements

There are 113 days until the May 16 mayoral primary. On Thursday, Councilmembers Curtis Jones (District 4) and Kenyatta Johnson (District 2) hosted a Democratic mayoral candidate forum on the topic of gun violence. While all nine candidates who participated have identified gun violence as one of the city’s most pressing issues, not all agree on what policies should be enacted to combat it — making the issue a likely distinguishing factor for voters. The next mayoral candidate forum on the calendar will be hosted this evening by the William Way LGBT Center on the topic of LGBTQ+ issues.

Meanwhile, API PA, Pennsylvania’s statewide Asian American civil rights and advocacy group, announced Monday that it would be endorsing Helen Gym for mayor, one of its founding members and the only Asian American candidate currently in the race. In addition to the endorsement, the organization announced that it will be providing the campaign with critical support in the form of $400,000 for multi-language get out the vote initiatives. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers also announced that it would endorse Gym.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Aims to Strengthen Community Connections to Combat Health Concerns

In an interview last week, Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole voiced her commitment to helping the city create more people-centered relationships in order to build trust with and better serve communities across Philadelphia. Commissioner Bettigole views this as fundamental for helping the city mitigate the effects of widespread health concerns, such as COVID-19 and mpox. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more.

Increasingly Popular Drug Xylazine Wreaks Havoc on the Streets of Kensington

Outreach specialists in Kensington have noticed an uptick in injuries related to the injection of xylazine, an animal tranquilizer not approved for human use. The substance, known colloquially as “tranq,” is often used to cut fentanyl, and does not respond to traditional withdrawal treatments, making substance use disorders even more difficult to treat. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more.



UPMC Expanded Too Quickly, Owns Too Much of the Market Share According to Antitrust Advocacy Nonprofit

On Thursday, the American Economic Liberties Project released a report accusing Pittsburgh-based UPMC of having gained too much power too quickly. While the health system has yet to formally respond, U.S. Representative Summer Lee and state Representative Sara Innamorato held a virtual news conference, where they detailed the impact that UPMC’s rapid expansion has had on the local workforce. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has more.

Recent Closure of Pittsburgh Tent Encampment May Necessitate Revaluation of City’s, Allegheny County’s Policies Surrounding Homelessness

In December, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County shut down an established tent encampment  along Stockton Avenue, where many people experiencing homelessness resided on a more or less permanent basis. Now, the Community Justice Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania are pursuing legal action, claiming that the decommissioning of the encampment was done using unconstitutional methods, marking a shift in the city’s own homelessness policies. Public Source has more.



Jeff Zients to Be Announced as President Biden’s Next Chief of Staff

Over the weekend, sources close to President Joe Biden revealed that he is expected to announce Jeff Zients as his next chief of staff. Zients has held a variety of high-level positions in both the Obama and Biden administrations. Politico has more.

In Move From Pennsylvania to D.C., Gisele Fetterman Expands Platform for Change 

Gisele Fetterman, the wife of U.S. Senator John Fetterman, has long been a fixture in the Pennsylvania advocacy scene, from her commitment to sustainability through thrifting and defense of immigrants’ rights to the launching of several food security-related nonprofits in the Pittsburgh area. Now, she is bringing the same zest for meaningful change to the nation’s capital. PennLive has more.

Beltway Briefing: The Santos Controversy

Public Strategies’ Howard Schweitzer, Mark Alderman, Patrick Martin, Towner French, and Kaitlyn Martin discuss the impact of the Santos controversy, as well as the effects of the “extraordinary measures” instituted by the U.S. Treasury in response to the federal government having hit the statutory debt ceiling. Listen to the latest episode here.


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