WEATHER: Philadelphia: scattered thunderstorms, high of 84; Harrisburg: p.m. thunderstorms, high of 86; Pittsburgh: scattered thunderstorms, high of 82.
NEW THIS MORNING:
* Democratic lawmakers in Pennsylvania voiced growing outrage Thursday after the belated revelation that one of their Republican colleagues had tested positive for the coronavirus. Allegations of a cover-up prompted calls for the top GOP House leader to resign and even a push for an official investigation, although that prospect was quickly shot down by the state’s top law enforcement official, Spotlight PA reports.
* The most powerful lawmaker in the House said Thursday that he’d back changing the chamber’s rules to force lawmakers to tell their colleagues if they test positive for COVID-19. Addressing the whole chamber, House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said that if he were diagnosed with the disease, he “would immediately self-disclose and would immediately quarantine,” the Capital-Star reports.
* The Pennsylvania legislature has sent a short-term budget with no tax increases to Gov. Tom Wolf, an unusual measure made necessary by the strain put on the state’s finances by the coronavirus. Lawmakers also approved the use of $2.6 billion in federal stimulus money for a variety of purposes, including relief for counties and long-term-care facilities, where thousands of residents have died since the pandemic began, Spotlight PA reports.
* None of the five counties in the Philadelphia region is close to meeting a key goal – a low rate of new infections – that Wolf initially said needed to be met before parts of the economy could be restarted. Additionally, testing in the area still lags some experts’ benchmarks and that of neighboring states. Wolf nonetheless intends to move the region from the “red” to the “yellow” phase of his reopening plan next Friday, in a truncation of his own timeline that has left Philadelphia officials skeptical and suburban counties largely eager to reopen, the Inquirer reports.
* In a high-profile example of a massive unemployment fraud affecting almost 58,000 people in the state, PA Rep. Sheryl Delozier was stunned to receive more than $7,000 in unemployment compensation checks in her mailbox. Delozier, who received checks for two bogus claims at an address where she has never lived, said that it’s especially irritating because many people are still waiting for unemployment assistance from the state, PennLive reports.
* According to data pulled from the Department of State on Wednesday evening, 1.26 million Democrats applied for a mail-in ballot, while 520,000 Republicans applied for a mail-in ballot, Politics PA reports.
* Some county and state officials are warning that a flood of mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania – fueled by fears of in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic – will create a number of problems in Tuesday’s primary election that must be fixed before they cause a disaster in this battleground state in November’s presidential election, the AP reports.
* A competitive grant program created in the wake of a deadly school shooting is set to receive a record-high windfall of state and federal aid this year, which lawmakers say will help schools confront a new kind of threat in the fall: the spread of COVID-19. A series of bills that state lawmakers advanced Thursday will allocate a combined $215 million to Pennsylvania’s School Safety and Security Grant Program, which since 2018 has helped schools finance security equipment upgrades and safety programs, the Capital-Star reports.
* A federal judge ruled late Wednesday that the Pennsylvania Department of State must provide a way for visually impaired voters to fill out an absentee or mail-in ballot online, print it at home and return it to their county elections office, the PA Post reports.
* The Inquirer rightly blasts House Republicans for their devious, dangerous and despicable decision to withhold information about COVID-19-infected Republican state Rep. Andrew Lewis from Democratic members of the chamber.
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9:30 a.m. - the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development & the Homeless will meet remotely. This hearing may be viewed on Xfinity Channel 64, Fios Channel 40 or http://phlcouncil.com/watch-city-council/.
11 a.m. - the PA House will reconvene. Main Capitol, Harrisburg.
1 p.m. - Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will join Health Commissioner Dr. Farley, Managing Director Brian Abernathy, and other officials to provide an update on the City’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus in Philadelphia. Updates will be provided virtually. The 1:00 p.m. press briefings will be offered on the virtual platform Zoom on weekdays, Monday through Friday. Virtual press conferences allow safe social distancing as advised by the CDC and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Members of the media will be able to ask questions through Zoom during the Q&A portion of the briefing.
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KICKER: “No one wants to be in the situation where the U.S. presidential race is coming down to Pennsylvania and there is a week or two delay on us in delivering a victor.” – PA Rep. Kevin Boyle. From the AP.