Remaining $1.3 billion in coronavirus cash to prop up Pa. state budget rather than help ailing industries

By: Ed Mahon

HARRISBURG — Against the pleas of restaurant owners, service providers, and other industries, Republican leaders in the legislature are moving forward with a plan to use all $1.3 billion in remaining coronavirus relief aid to pay for the state budget.

In order to avoid raising taxes or borrowing, the legislature intends to use the federal stimulus money to pay the salaries of state-employed public health and safety frontline workers, according to summary materials provided to House Republican members.

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Beyond bridge tolls, PennDOT considering a variety of ways to supplement revenue for road fixes

By: Ed Blazina

Faced with an $8.1 billion annual shortfall in funding for roads and bridges, the state Department of Transportation will work with federal officials to identify new sources of funding.

In addition to last week’s announcement that it will consider tolls on major bridges to fund repairs, PennDOT said Wednesday it will consider items such as rush-hour fees to encourage drivers to use transit systems; tolls to pay for extra lanes to ease congestion; fees to enter particularly busy locations; and systemwide tolling of interstate highways, which would require a change in federal policy.

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Pennsylvania expands mask mandate as coronavirus cases rise

By: Megan Guza

New orders from Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health expand on an April order mandating masks be worn in public, extending the conditions under which one must be worn to include indoors when with anyone outside their household.

The orders, which also give further guidance to hospitals and colleges, are meant to curb rapidly increasing cases of covid-19 and resulting hospitalizations.

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Pa. Treasury releases COVID-19 debt reduction review, offers policy recommendations

By: Paul Vigna

Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella on Monday released the COVID-19 Debt Cost Reduction Review, pursuant to Act 37 of 2020.

In preparing this report, Treasury reviewed more than 30 commonwealth authorities that either issue or hold debt, and identified seven possible opportunities for refinancing $2.4 billion in outstanding bonds that could potentially reduce costs by as much as $179.5 million., according to a press release.

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Republican Kim Ward named state Senate’s first female majority leader

By: Julian Routh

Facing a pandemic that’s surging and an economy that’s struggling, Republicans in the state Senate have elected Western Pennsylvania’s Kim Ward to guide their caucus’ policy agenda in the coming session.

Ms. Ward, whose district includes most of Westmoreland County, was named Thursday as Senate majority leader. She will become the first female majority leader in the history of either chamber when she takes over Dec. 1.

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Republicans in state Senate plan to review Pa. election results

By: Julian Routh

Continuing their push to use the official levers of state government to scrutinize and review last Tuesday’s election, Republicans in Harrisburg said Wednesday they now plan to use the Senate State Government Committee to review the results.

A day after its counterpart in the House said it would hold hearings of its own on the election, the Senate committee said it would “immediately undertake a thorough review of the state’s election in order to instill confidence in the results.”

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Pa. medical marijuana advisory board nixes new qualifying conditions as industry booms

By: Jacob Tierney

Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is more popular than ever, this month surpassing $1 billion in all-time sales from dispensaries to patients.

The state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board noted the landmark at its quarterly meeting Tuesday before debating whether to add new medical conditions to the list of reasons Pennsylvanians can buy legal pot.

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