Capitol Beat

Five for Friday: Harrisburg storylines you may have missed

City & State breaks down five moves that shaped policy discussion this week

A view of the Pennsylvania Capitol from State Street in Harrisburg.

A view of the Pennsylvania Capitol from State Street in Harrisburg. Wikimedia Commons

Another busy session week in Harrisburg means a bevy of bills and business, which can often lead to some legislation or stories getting lost in the shuffle. Both the House and Senate made moves on campaign finance, public safety and transportation funding. Meanwhile, Gov. Josh Shapiro made statements on national issues and took part in a growing tradition among politicians to share their March Madness picks.

For this week’s Five For Friday, City & State examines five storylines you may have missed in Harrisburg this week. 

PA Senate urges Shapiro to send the National Guard to Texas

The Pennsylvania Senate voted 27-22 this week to pass a resolution urging Gov. Josh Shapiro to send Pennsylvania’s National Guard to Texas to assist with Operation Lone Star – the Texas immigration initiative that has sent the state’s National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety to the southern border. However, a spokesperson for Shapiro told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that the issue of immigration “requires leaders in both parties to step up and deliver real, comprehensive solutions – not more of the failed talking points and political grandstanding that have brought us decades without immigration reform.” 

House committee advances campaign finance reforms

Lawmakers on the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee advanced several campaign finance reform bills this week, including a measure that would require civic leagues and 501(c)(4) nonprofits to file campaign finance reports if they advocate for or against a political candidate. The committee also advanced a resolution from state Rep. Ben Waxman that calls on the U.S. Congress to pursue a constitutional amendment that gives states more flexibility to regulate political money. Both measures await a vote from the full state House.

Republican roadblock to cap-and-trade

Shapiro looked to write a new chapter in Pennsylvania’s energy policy history with the announcement of his new plan to cap carbon emissions from power plants and increase the use of alternative energy sources, which he revealed on March 13. But the energy plan has already been met with a cold reception from House GOP lawmakers. While Democrats narrowly control the state House, Republicans pushed back on the plan in Harrisburg this week. House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler called Shapiro’s two-pronged plan “a mixed bag of half-measures that will ultimately continue the pattern of increasing energy costs,” while House GOP whip Tim O’Neal said the plan would be “dead on arrival” as far as Republicans are concerned. 

Next stop for transit funding: a skeptical Senate

One of Shapiro’s budget proposals, a boost in funding for public transportation systems, passed through one barrier this week, getting approval in the Democratic-controlled House by a 106-95 vote. The bill, which would deliver a 20% increase in state aid to public transit systems statewide, faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Senate, with Republicans protesting the amount of the funding increase and objecting to procedures that House Democrats used to pass the bill. But calls for public transportation funding continue in areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as systems try to recover pre-pandemic ridership and anticipate a drop-off in funding with federal COVID dollars running out. 

Shapiro’s Sports Schtick 

The governor also stepped into the sports world this week, with football and basketball bids taking shape, or falling apart, in the western part of the state. Shapiro sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell supporting Pittsburgh’s bid to host the NFL Draft in 2026 or 2027, stating the city has “established itself as one of the most dynamic cities on the East Coast.”

And while he boasted about one team in Pittsburgh, another team playing in the Steel City didn’t fare too well. Shapiro’s pick to win it all in his March Madness bracket, the Kentucky Wildcats, were upset by 14-seed Oakland in PPG Paints Arena, on the first day of the tournament. The shocking loss for Kentucky also ruined the homecoming of Pittsburgh native John Calipari, who grew up in Moon Township.