If you could unsee the Senate GOP majority’s Anschluss of the House’s Trumpcare legislation, or lalala your way past Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s best Tom Price impression or even look past the fact that there is no one with a clear, viable path forward to passing a state budget … then it was a pretty good week for Pennsylvanians who care about both flora and fauna.
First, in a landmark decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that any royalties from oil and gas leases on public land must be channeled to protecting the commonwealth’s natural resources – and not, as had been the case, for other purposes like, you know, using it as a way to help balance the budget.
Next, the General Assembly sent an immeasurably strengthened animal-cruelty law to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk to be signed into law. The bill, named after an abused Lancaster County puppy named Libre, provides comprehensive protection for animals across the board, from being tethered outdoors in extreme weather to physical abuse and death – and clearly defined punishments for the humans who mistreat them.
Philadelphia schoolteachers: After four years without a contract – and five years without a raise – the city’s public school educators overwhelmingly approved a new deal. Sure, there’s no real plan yet for how to pay for the $395 million three-year tab, but hey, details, right? There’s certainly plenty of precedent for that sort of thing in the commonwealth.
H. F. “Gerry” and Marguerite Lenfest: The philanthropic couple from Philadelphia – with charitable donations totaling some $1.2 billion since 2000 – was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, a biennial national honor previously given to the likes of Michael Bloomberg and the Gates and Rockefeller families.
Bob Casey: In what has become something of a regular occurrence, the senior US senator from Pennsylvania is back again, this time for providing a full-throttle response to the Senate GOP rollout of its version of Trumpcare, a significant portion of which was crafted by the junior senator, Pat Toomey (see below). Casey also put forth an eminently reasonable – and, therefore, likely doomed – bill to prevent anyone previously convicted of committing a hate crime from buying firearms.
Pat Toomey: Proving that Newton’s third law of motion also applies to politics, the senator finds himself leading off here thanks to his being the tip of the spear on the Senate GOP’s focus on deep cuts to Medicaid, which currently insures 20 percent of Americans. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Toomey disingenuously claimed had “gotten lots of outside input” during the secretive negotiations – despite the complete absence of anything remotely resembling a public hearing.
Renee Tartaglione: A federal jury found the sister of state Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione and daughter of former Philly elections chief Marge Tartaglione guilty on all 53 counts of conspiracy, theft, fraud, and tax evasion for her machinations with a medical clinic in the Fairhill section of Philadelphia.
Medical marijuana license applicants: Well, most of them, anyway. The vast majority of those gunning for licenses to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state failed to receive one – only 12 were awarded in the first round, and only two of those went to firms in southeastern PA, both of which are in Berks County.