TAXPAYER-FUNDED ELECTION INVESTIGATION
A legislative subpoena issued as part of a taxpayer-funded election investigation — specifically its request for the personal information of 9 million Pennsylvania voters — went before Commonwealth Court Wednesday, with arguments surrounding its purpose and intragovernmental sharing of information. A panel of five judges heard arguments in the now-consolidated case brought by legislative Democrats and Attorney General Josh Shapiro to challenge the review of the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections, and prohibit the release of voters’ driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers.
LEGISLATION TO BAN PRIVATE FUNDING OF PENNSYLVANIA ELECTIONS
House Bill 2044, sponsored by Rep. Eric Nelson, R-Westmoreland, would prohibit county and state elections officials from accepting private donations to administer elections.The move was inspired by millions of dollars in grants to local election offices provided by nonprofits controlled by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the last election cycle. Republicans in the House State Government Committee highlighted in November $35 million in grants from nonprofits, including the Center for Tech and Civic Life, controlled by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to help administer elections in 24 of the state’s 67 counties. Centre County was among the recipients. The House sent HB 2044 to the Senate on a vote of 113-90.
COVID-19 LOCAL CASES UPDATED
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday reported new COVID-19 cases. Clinton County reported 34 new cases. In Centre County 90 new cases were recorded. Lycoming County added 63 new cases. 85 new cases in Northumberland County, 34 in Snyder, 15 in Union and five in Montour. Tioga County 31 new cases reported yesterday.
REMOTE LEARNING FOR ANOTHER AREA SCHOOL
COVID-19 is blamed for another school moving to remote learning. Selinsgrove elementary school is moving to remote learning beginning tomorrow until Wednesday December 22. Selinsgrove Elementary Superintendent Frank Jankowski posted to the district’s website, indicating their reasoning was based upon the “current number of positive COVID cases, quarantining of students and staff members, and projected impact on operations.” The move impacts the elementary school only, Jankowski said. According to the district’s COVID update, there are six positive cases at the school.
POLICE ARE ASKING FOR HELP
Police are asking for your help. The investigation into the “violent sexual assault” in Danville Borough on December 6th still has investigators scratching their heads. Reports say the incident happened in the area of East Market and Mill Streets. Although Danville Police report there is no imminent threat to the public, the suspect remains at large and police are asking residents to remain vigilant. According to an online media outlet, the suspect was described as white male, medium build and about six-feet tall. Anyone with information is asked to call Danville Police 570-275-2101.
PENNSYLVANIA ASKS FEMA FOR HELP WITH COVID SURGE
Pennsylvania asked the federal government on Wednesday to send health care workers to hospitals and nursing homes that are increasingly under stress from persistent staffing shortages and the latest COVID-19 surge. The Wolf administration requested Federal Emergency Management Agency “strike teams” for hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and ambulance companies in the hardest-hit areas of the state. Pennsylvania also asked FEMA for 1 million rapid at-home coronavirus tests and for an increase in the state’s allocation of monoclonal antibody treatments, to be targeted to “rural areas, regions with higher social vulnerability, and lower vaccinations rates.”
OVERHAUL PROBATION IN PENNSYLVANIA
Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to overhaul how probation is handled, in an effort to clamp down on people being stuck on an endless probation cycle or being sent back to jail for minor violations. The vote, 46-4, sends the bill to the House of Representatives, where a previous Senate bill died without a vote last year. The bill aims to limit the length of probation sentences and the circumstances under which a non-violent offender on probation can be sent to jail, part of a nationwide reconsideration of probation and parole measures. State law does not limit the length of probation sentences and critics say non-violent offenders are often incarcerated for technical violations that aren’t crimes, disrupting their families and employment. It also disproportionately affects racial minorities, they say.
CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS
The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives voted Wednesday to block the centerpiece of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to fight climate change, a cap-and-trade program to clamp down on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, although the chamber for now lacks the votes to stop it. The vote, 130-70, was on a resolution that Wolf can veto, and the authorizing regulation — which would make Pennsylvania the first major fossil fuel state to adopt carbon pricing — can take effect if both the House and Senate cannot must a two-thirds majority to override the veto. The regulation calls for Pennsylvania to join a multistate consortium, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which sets a price and declining limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
MORE WATER DAMAGE TO WILLIAMSPORT CITY HALL
Williamsport Bureau of Fire responded to an alarm at Williamsport City Hall, where they determined a coil broke in the air handler within the heating system above the second floor ceiling. At 1:30 am yesterday morning, the plumbing to burst releasing extremely hot water. The basement, first floor, and second floor sustained significant water damage. According to Williamsport Mayor Slaughter, the building is being evaluated for structural integrity. The damage is extensive with ceiling tiles fallen on the second and first floors according to Jon Sander, city engineer. According to SUN Gazette, this is a second significant water leak at City Hall. The other, in July, rain came through the leak in the roof.
VOTERS REQUIRED TO PRESENT VALID ID
In an effort to allow the public to have the final say on a series of issues many Pennsylvanians consider to be a priority, the House advanced a package of constitutional amendments, said Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster). One amendment in particular filed by Rep Jeff Wheeland passed in the House would require voters to present valid identification prior to voting, regardless of voting method.
COURT APPEARANCE RESCHEDULED
A New Columbia woman received a rescheduled date for her appearance at Union County Court. Melissa Keister is required to report for sentencing December 21. Keister was convicted in September in a jury trial for one count of endangering the welfare of a child. According to the Daily Item, State Police accused her of intentionally starving a child in her guardianship.
POLICE CRASH DURING PURSUIT IN UNION COUNTY
A Mifflinburg Police officer crashed his cruiser Monday night. There were no injuries and according to Mifflinburg Police Chief Jeffrey Hackenburg, the accident was a result of a pursuit from Monday night around 11:45 p.m. The cruiser suffered major damage, as the cruiser left the roadway, hit a fence and rolled over along Red Ridge Road near the intersection with Wildwood Road. Officer Bremigen was not injured and the accident remains under investigation.