June 17, 2022
Election-law reform: A new possibility?

PA House State Government Committee chair Seth Grove (R-York) says he’s open to talks with his Democratic colleagues to negotiate an election-reform bill, and Grove’s committee co-chair Scott Conklin (D-Centre) says he is as well. Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed last year’s election bill because of what he called “unacceptable barriers to voting,” and his spokesperson rebuffed Grove almost immediately this week. So it may be up to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to hammer something out that would make Wolf change his mind—preferably before the November midterms, when the nation’s eyes will once again be on PA. 
  • What needs to be in any voting bill? More time to pre-canvass mail-in ballots before Election Day, adequate funding for county election offices, and the ability to fix “fatal flaws” in mail-in ballots, such as missing dates or the lack of a secrecy envelope.
  • And open primaries: A provision incorporating the bipartisan proposal to enable ~1 million-plus independent voters to cast ballots in either the Democratic or Republican primary elections could be folded into a reform package (or passed separately). Sign the petition to open the primaries to independent voters.
  • Elephants in the room: Courts have yet to rule on a number of lawsuits relating to election law, including undated mail-in ballots and even the legality of no-excuse mail-in voting itself.
Budget season: More money in the coffers means lower taxes in Philly and perhaps statewide

In their state budget overviews, both the AP and the Penn Capital-Star point out the obvious: that the state’s $6B-plus surplus and the $2B-plus in unspent federal Covid-relief funds will grease wheels in Harrisburg. And while Republican legislative leaders promise to be "conservative voices at the table," they say they’ll be open to some increases in school spending, a major component of Gov. Wolf’s $43.7B proposal. Meanwhile, The Inquirer focuses on bipartisan plans to cut corporate taxes. Gov. Wolf is open to a deal, but details have yet to be worked out. In Philly, City Council gave its initial OK to the city’s $5.8B budget following agreement with Mayor Jim Kenney on cuts to business and wage taxes, as well as tax relief for homeowners facing assessment increases this year.
  • Deadlines approaching: The deadline for both budgets is the end of the month, but City Council is expected to give its formal approval next Thursday, June 23.
City Hall Roll Call
C70 proudly sponsors City Hall Roll Call, a weekly summary of City Council’s Stated Meetings by Lauren Vidas, an election lawyer and government relations specialist.
Caught Our Eye
C70 CEO Testifies in J6 Hearing: Veteran Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg, former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak, and C70 CEO Al Schmidt testified in Monday’s U.S. House Jan. 6 Committee hearing. Watch Schmidt’s testimony, and see coverage from The Inquirer and WHYY’s Radio Times.
On our radar
Who's running for mayor? Billy Penn has thumbnail bios of eight potential Democratic candidates. Six are members of City Council.

New Council member: Former State Rep. Mike Driscoll was sworn in last week as District 6’s member of Philadelphia’s City Council after running unopposed in a special election May 17. Driscoll, who was nominated for the office by the ward leaders in District 6, replaces Bobby Henon following his bribery conviction last year.

How Philly’s ward system works: City & State PA explores Philly’s complex and all-too-often opaque and undemocratic political system, and efforts to make it more transparent and inclusive. Learn more at Open Wards Philly.

Prison gerrymandering tweak: City Council revised the population figures in its 2022 redistricting ordinance to reallocate Philadelphians held in prisons during the 2020 Census back to their home address, fulfilling a call made by Seventy and nearly 90 other groups.

Redistricting: The U.S. must do better in 2030. A Five-Thirty-Eight national survey finds that neither party was a clear winner in redistricting, but competition and people of color definitely lost. Draw the Lines will encourage these future mappers to draw better maps several cycles from now!
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