Here’s a look at the legislative developments Tuesday in Harrisburg:
Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 emergency declaration officially ends
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration certified the May primary election results on Tuesday, officially ending the declaration of disaster emergency the Democrat first issued at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic .
Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid signed the certification on Tuesday afternoon, her agency said.
The certification formalizes the results of the May 18 primary election, in which voters approved constitutional amendments supported by Republicans, giving lawmakers extended new power to extend and end disaster emergency declarations.
The Republican-controlled legislature voted last week to end the declaration of disaster emergency, but to extend the lifespan of hundreds of regulatory waivers that the Wolf administration has approved in the past 15 months under the authority of the declaration.
The bill, signed by Wolf on Friday, allows waivers to last until September 30, unless the Wolf administration ends them sooner.
Republican Elections Bill furthered Dems’ objections
Republicans on a legislative committee on Tuesday presented a multi-faceted proposal to overhaul Pennsylvania’s electoral law, a bill that supporters say would make necessary improvements and standardize procedures.
Democrats were strongly opposed to the measure, House Bill 1300, insisting that many of its alleged improvements were impractical or would, in practice, make voting more difficult. The vote to advance him to the floor of the House was on the party lines.
“Even the provisions meant to increase access to the ballot box don’t actually do it,” said Delaware County Representative Margo Davidson, the leading Democrat on the State Government Committee, saying the legislation contained ” unfunded mandates all over the world. place. “
She said that “presumes that every voter comes to commit fraud. There is already an investigator in place before any vote.
The House Republican majority has called a series of 10 committee hearings this year to consider changes to the state’s electoral law, a process prompted in large part by former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his short loss of the state in November and its unfounded claims about the result. was sort of because of the fraud.
Representative Seth Grove, R-York, chairman of the committee, introduced the 149-page bill last week that would change time limits, adopt new rules for early voting, change postal voting procedures and mandate identifiers for voters in person.
Grove said on Tuesday his proposal would ensure security around the election and restore confidence, as well as modernizing procedures.
The party line votes were a worrying sign to supporters, as anything the GOP majority General Assembly passes will need the support of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf. Wolf’s press secretary called the bill an extremist and retaliation against voters.
Davidson said some of the election security measures, including a slew of post-vote reviews and audits, would encourage “all the fools in the world to demand that the election be investigated.”
“Some of the so-called audit functions outlined in this bill will create an Arizona-like circus atmosphere,” where a troubled post-election review ordered by that state’s legislative Republicans is continuing, said Davidson. “It makes it easier for Republicans to cheat and voters to vote harder. “
The registration deadline would be reduced from 15 days to 30 days before an election, and mail-in ballots should be requested 15 days before the vote. Mail-in ballot boxes would be limited to seven days before an election and would have to be monitored by election inspectors from major political parties.
The bill calls for new rules to fix problems on mail-in ballot envelopes, such as missing signatures or dates, and counties should issue registration cards that voters in person should show.
Several Republicans on the committee said they wanted uniform election procedures to address inconsistent practices across counties regarding ballot boxes and whether technical errors on mail-in ballot envelopes needed to be corrected.
“Basically the uniform is not uniform,” said Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Bradford. “That’s one thing we’re trying to do here, is create consistency. “
Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Lycoming, praised the elements that would make it easier for people with disabilities to vote.
But Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, called the bill “150 pages of garbage and nothing more than the hand-crafted voter suppression.” He criticized Republicans for not crafting a much narrower bill that addressed the commonly supported changes.
“It’s not what someone was asking,” Kenyatta said. “But that’s what happens when you lie. Because once you start lying, you can’t stop lying.
Counties in the state have said they want time to start counting mail-in ballots before election day and an earlier deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot.
Also on Tuesday, Republicans on the state government Senate committee approved a proposed constitutional amendment to expand the identification requirement for voters who voted in person or by mail.
Democrats said voter identification laws were used to deny voters the right to vote and the provision applying to postal voting – requiring the voter to insert a photocopy of their ID in the envelope of his ballot – would compromise the secrecy of someone’s vote.
Pennsylvania’s take-out mixed drink law at risk
Gov. Tom Wolf suggested on Tuesday he would veto a bill that would allow thousands of licensed beer and wine retailers to start selling take-out cans of mixed alcoholic beverages, including convenience stores and grocery stores.
Wolf’s office said it supports the bill’s original intention: to allow hotels, restaurants and bars to continue to make mixed strong alcoholic beverages and sell them in take-out containers.
Legislation Wolf signed last year legalized these drinks as a way for establishments hard hit by COVID-19 restrictions to earn extra cash. Authorization to sell the drinks ended on Tuesday, when Wolf’s declaration of emergency for a pandemic disaster officially ended.
But on Tuesday, Republicans on a Senate committee inserted provisions that Wolf opposes and which Democrats called an attempt to further privatize alcohol sales in Pennsylvania.
Bars and restaurants are now “collateral damage in a larger debate,” said Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association.
The new provisions would significantly expand the availability of hard liquor products, allowing beer and wine licensees such as grocery stores, bars, restaurants, convenience stores and beer distributors to sell mixed drinks in cans. .
Private wholesalers would sell the products to retailers, not to the state-controlled liquor store system.
Currently, only state-owned liquor stores are licensed to sell the mixed beverage cans at retail in Pennsylvania.
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