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Will Pa. finally raise its minimum wage this year?

Plus, PLCB still pursuing sanctions for Wolf-era COVID-19 offenses.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2023
$15-an-hour, official disaster, COVID-19 rules, party unity, unexplained firing, unemployment fixes, and Rhode Island's 'Philadelphia incident.'

A Republican-sponsored bill that would raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $15-an-hour has Democrats in Harrisburg newly optimistic that the idea’s time has come after years of arguments and a near-deal in 2019.

Pennsylvania’s wage floor is $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal minimum. But state Sen. Dan Laughlin (R., Erie) is the lead sponsor of a bill that would more than double it by 2026.

While there are likely enough votes in the Democratic-controlled state House to approve the hike, the GOP-controlled state Senate would need to agree.

Read Spotlight PA’s full report: Why some lawmakers think this will be the year Pennsylvania raises its minimum wage.

THE CONTEXT: State Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) and Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R., Indiana) voted against raising the wage floor to $9.50 an hour in 2019. That year, the state Senate passed a compromise bill negotiated between Republicans and former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, but it died in the state House.

In an email this spring, state Senate GOP spokesperson Kate Flessner said the caucus is "focused on implementing policies that will create maximum wage jobs" rather than through "artificial minimum wage increases."

Ward said last week that, "Everything is a negotiation."

Republicans have long resisted minimum wage hikes as bad for business, but working-class cost-of-living pressures — the same cited by Laughlin in his memo seeking co-sponsors for the $15-an-hour bill — have had some in the party, broadly speaking, rethinking that opposition.

It's been 14 years since the last minimum wage hike for Pennsylvania workers, and last August the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said inflation meant a worker making $7.25-an-hour today was actually earning 27.4% less than a worker making the same amount in 2009.


"Our sacred right to arm and protect ourselves, our loved ones and our property is non-negotiable, and we will defend it."

State Sen. Cris Dush (R., Jefferson) at Monday's Right to Keep and Bear Arms rally at the state Capitol; the Dem-controlled state House advanced two gun safety measures last month, sending them to the state Senate
» Senate Majority Leader says House Democrats' ~$46B budget bill "an impossible number," via @StephenJ_Caruso

» Pa. House advances bill establishing state earned income tax credit to aid working poor, via PennLive

» Pa. House lawmakers are expected to vote this week on whether to get rid of a pair of taxes on cellphones, via WGAL

» Pa. extends the deadline to apply for property tax rent/rebates from June 30 to Dec. 21, via Capital-Star

» Redistricting reform advocacy groups join forces with new mission-driven Pa. partnership, via Public News Service
Investigative journalism that gets results. Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

A stunning view of the Cast House at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Berks County, via Don N. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A replica of a barn-like building that housed a charcoal blast furnace. The structure is wide and low and surrounded by trees.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.I-95 UPDATE: Gov. Josh Shapiro has signed a proclamation of disaster emergency related to the I-95 bridge collapse. Shapiro said the declaration helps tap federal funds and authorize state agencies to pull more resources to expedite rebuilding the roadway. Officials said they expect demolition to be completed this week. 
  • RELATED: Rescue workers pull a body from the wreckage of the truck fire under the I-95 overpass in Philadelphia, via NBC News.
  • Check out urbanist Alan Fisher's commuter detour tips.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.BUSINESS VIOLATIONS: The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is still cracking down on restaurant and bar owners who defied former Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency COVID-19 orders, LNP (paywall) reports. Eleven liquor licenses were forcibly sold over mitigation measure violations and 50 other licensees have been put on probation.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.IMPROVING UNEMPLOYMENT: The state is working to improve its backlogged unemployment system after years of complaints. The Department of Labor and Industry says it's adding more employees and aims to answer phones in real time or in less than 10 minutes, and respond to emails in less than 24 hours, per WESA.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CONFIRMED TERMINATION: Kevin Myers, the internal affairs investigator for Dauphin County Prison, was fired on May 12, PennLive (paywall) confirms. Myers was hired in February to investigate allegations of misconduct and wrongdoing by jail staff. Then he was suspended with pay before his unexplained termination. 

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.UNITED FRONT: Outgoing Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald extended support to state Rep. Sara Innamorato (D., Allegheny), who's running to be his successor, at a unity picnic on Saturday, WESA reports. The Allegheny County Democrats organized the picnic where former rivals pledged to join efforts in the fall. 
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania. The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now.

POLLUTION DETECTION: Satellites and drones are the latest tools being used to monitor global warming-causing gasses, Bay Journal reports. The Pennsylvania-based FracTracker Alliance purchased a drone that carries infrared cameras over gas wells and petrochemical plants.

RUDE ENCOUNTER: Two Rhode Island officials visited Philadelphia and now both are under investigation by Rhode Island's state police and governor over "bizarre, offensive, and unprofessional" behavior during their time in the city. The Inquirer (paywall) reports related emails were finally revealed.

SUSTAINABLE SUPERHIGHWAY: The Pennsylvania Turnpike is planning to become America's first sustainable superhighway by 2040. Eliminating paper towels at all 17 service plazas is one of the first steps.

FREE AC: Looking for a way to stay cool as summer heats up? Some Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to get a free air conditioner through the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

TRAFFIC CONGESTION: Pennsylvanians could quickly tell you which of our roadways are "the worst," but do you know which one is in fact the most congested? That would be the Schuylkill Expressway

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Recalibrate

Congrats to our daily winners: Kimberly D., Barbara F., Craig W., Don H., David I., Marty M., Tracy S., Benjamin M., Stacy S., Keith W., Jon W., Eric F., Bob C., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Susan D., Kim C., Vicki U., Janice H., Dennis M., Elizabeth W., Dianne K., John P., Becky C., James B., Wendy A., David W., Daniel M., William Z., and Mike Z.
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