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Fetterman Still Absent From State Senate Duties

Where is the big guy when you need him?

That’s what state senators on the State Government Committee are asking about Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

Committee members seeking to rewrite the 1974 law detailing what happens when the governor or lieutenant governor is disabled hoped to hear from him. Fetterman, who is also the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, did not respond to a letter from that committee asking for his input. Fetterman went on leave after suffering a stroke in April.

Fetterman originally notified the General Assembly he was disabled and unable to perform his duties when he had surgery to implant a defibrillator and pacemaker. He has since sent notification that he was no longer disabled after the statutory six days, said state Sen. David Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill).

The committee, chaired by Argall, held a hearing on the topic on July 14. But Fetterman was a no-show.

In a letter, Argall asked Fetterman to give his input by Aug. 1, allowing the committee to move forward with possible changes to the law, which is so antiquated that it mentions telegrams.

“Your perspective on this issue would be very instructive to our committee’s review of this issue,” Argall wrote. “Specifically, we would like to know more about what procedures your office followed in terms of notifying the Governor’s Office in the immediate aftermath of your hospitalization on May 13, including the timing and means of notification. This information is subject to the state’s Right to Know Law, but I hope you would provide this information voluntarily in the interest of full transparency in advance of any testimony you may provide.

“We would also be interested to learn whether your condition during your period of hospitalization warranted the disability procedures being invoked at that time. You were quoted in news reports as saying you almost died, which speaks to the gravity of the situation. In addition, given your unique perspective on this matter, your recommendations on how the law could be improved would be welcomed and appreciated,” Argall wrote.

In a recent interview, Argall told DVJ he had not heard back from Fetterman.

Although he offered Fetterman the option of talking to the committee over Zoom instead of in person and they asked Fetterman to pick the date or place. Still no response.

“We were being very, very accommodating,” said Argall.

Fetterman’s chief of staff, Christina Kauffman, did not respond to a DVJ request for comment or explanation. And as of this writing, Fetterman has not returned to his duties as state Senate president, “as is his constitutional duty,” Argall said.

Fetterman was “missing for 18 days of voting at the height of our budget season,” said Argall.

It was unclear if Fetterman had attended the June Board of Pardons meeting, which he chairs as part of his responsibility as lieutenant governor. Argall said those meetings are no longer on video, which is “a serious concern.”

But the Senate committee did hear from former Acting Gov. Mark Singel, who took over for then Gov. Robert Casey Sr. in June 1993 when Casey underwent a heart and liver transplant.

“My recollection of that moment in Pennsylvania history is that there was a reasonable amount of good faith and bipartisanship in both the executive and legislative branches that made the transition possible,” Singel wrote.

He believes the statute does not need to be changed.

“The language in the constitution and in the statutes is, in my opinion, sufficient to ensure a peaceful transition of power should either the governor or lieutenant governor become disabled. Additional requirements like establishing reporting timelines on notifications or other alterations would only add to the stress of what is, by definition, a challenging time for the public officials involved and for the Commonwealth itself.

“I would caution against ‘fixing’ a process that does not seem to be broken,” Singel said.

Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), the committee’s co-chair, said Fetterman gave notice of his absence and “the process is working.”

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Nat Gas Fees Generate $234M as GOP Targets Dems Over Energy Policy

Pennsylvania’s tax on natural gas development generated $234 million in 2021, marking the second-largest amount ever returned to communities across the commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) said Friday.

The natural gas impact fee has generated $2.2 billion in the last decade.

Most of the money goes to county and local governments, however some state agencies also receive funds. The money funds infrastructure, emergency response and environmental programs.

“Generating $2.3 billion in essential funding for state and local governments across all 67 counties, Pennsylvania’s unique natural gas tax is an effective policy that yields impactful results,” Marcellus Shale Coalition president David Callahan said.

Some $234.4 million will be distributed to the state and counties in 2022, with all 67 counties receiving an allotment.

“The nearly 60 percent increase in this year’s distribution is directly related to heightened activity levels and the commodity price environment, underscoring the importance of policies that encourage domestic natural gas development, transportation and use. Our members continue to be focused on responsibly developing clean, abundant Pennsylvania natural gas, which is even more important today in keeping America and our allies’ energy secure,” Callahan said.

American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania (API PA) Executive Director Stephanie Catarino Wissman said, “Every corner of the commonwealth has directly benefitted from Pennsylvania’s impact fee. This tax on natural gas wells has generated new revenue – totaling more than $2.2 billion over the past decade – for a wide variety of environmental, conservation, infrastructure, public safety and recreation projects. The report shows how natural gas production in Pennsylvania provides hundreds of millions annually in essential revenue while strengthening our economy.”

The impact fee revenue depends on the average annual price of natural gas on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), which increased in 2021 compared to 2020, when the demand for natural gas declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a mild winter. Impact tax revenue reached $234 million in 2021, nearly 60 percent more than 2020, one of the highest collections since the impact tax was imposed ten years ago.

“As the demand for energy rebounds, policy certainty and long-term energy solutions are needed to help ensure that Americans have access to affordable and reliable energy,” said Wissman. “Pennsylvania’s abundant shale gas presents a unique opportunity to bolster domestic supply while funding critical infrastructure and environmental programs across the state, even in areas without natural gas development.”

This announcement comes when energy companies are under attack by the Biden administration over “excess” profits, a charge that economists dismiss.

Biden took steps to hamstring the energy companies at the onset of his administration, blocking the Keystone XL pipeline and signed executive orders to halt new oil and gas leases on public land, favoring green energy alternatives.

“Getting on a plane right now to go meet with a murderer to talk about the Saudis picking up their production, or writing a letter to the CEOs of Chevron and Exxon to say ‘super-duper large profits won’t be tolerated’ is simply inexcusable,” said economist David L. Bahnsen about Biden’s energy policy.

And while Biden has blamed high gasoline prices on Russian President Putin and the war in Ukraine, he recently pivoted to blame oil companies. But gasoline prices were at an average of $2.27 a gallon nationwide on Jan. 20, 2021 when Biden took office. On Jan. 3, a month before Putin invaded Ukraine, the national average gas price stood at $3.28 a gallon and as of Friday, the average price was $5 a gallon.

And it’s not just Biden.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) tweeted in March: “The price of crude oil is falling, and that should be reflected at the pump. We must be certain that energy companies are not using an unjust war to profit and price gouge.”

And in a let them eat cake moment, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said families who buy electric vehicles “never have to worry about gas prices again.”

Meanwhile, the sale price for an EV, on average, was $60,054 in February. That compared to $45,596 on average for all new vehicles, including electric ones, according to data from Edmonds.

Also, there’s the convenience factor. On a recent road trip, a Wall Street Journal reporter said she spent more time charging her rented EV than sleeping.

In a tweet that sums the situation up, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said, “The United States is blowing through its strategic oil reserves faster than expected. Gas is $5 a gallon nationally. And Joe Biden STILL refuses to drill domestically.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is making political hay for the 2022 midterms out of the high gas prices. They’re airing a new commercial targeting Democratic Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Democrat John Fetterman, who is running for the Senate, linking them to Biden and the high gas prices.

The ad says Fetterman backs Biden and the Green New Deal.

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PA Pols Respond to Pain at the Pump

Average gasoline prices in Pennsylvania hit $4.42/gallon last week, an all-time high. That is $1.40 a gallon higher than a year ago, according to GasBuddy. It is not, however, the most costly gas per gallon when adjusted for inflation. That happened when gas hit $4.11 on July 17, 2008 — or about $5.25 in today’s dollars.

The highest nominal price today is under Democratic President Joe Biden. The highest in real dollars was under Republican Presidents George W. Bush. And there were wild swings in gas prices during the terms of Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Fairly or unfairly, presidents tend to get blamed when gas prices rise. According to energy reporter Robert Rapier at, “The macro factors involving oil prices are far greater than the impacts from the decisions a president makes. A president can try to move the markets but those impacts are fleeting.”

But that gives little solace to Delaware Valley residents, who have taken to Facebook to express their feelings about pain at the pump.

“My corner Wawa just went up .26 cents overnight. It is now $4.459 per gallon. Home heating oil is up over $2 per gallon since August 2021. And the president wants everyone to go back (to) working at their office building instead of working at home? He is a joke!” said Philadelphia resident Andy Grant.

Elyse Fels, a Cheltenham resident, said, “It is what it is – I’ll handle it – hopefully it’s not forever!”

“If everyone drove a hybrid we wouldn’t need foreign oil,” said Radnor resident John Fisher.

And Sara Pilling of Bryn Mawr said, “I’m gloating, as I bought a Toyota Prius plug-in, get 125 mpg, yet continue to conserve in my driving!”

Not surprisingly, Pennsylvania’s political candidates are promising to act.

In a recent interview with ABC27, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democratic candidate for governor said, “Energy prices are up this year and will likely keep rising. “I want Pennsylvanians to know that there is help available for everyone and that we are going to do all we can to make sure that these resources remain available to Pennsylvanians over the spring and summer.”

Shapiro proposed elimination of the cell phone tax, expanding real estate and rent tax rebates, and sending gasoline tax rebates to Pennsylvania drivers.

Former U.S. Attorney and Republican candidate for governor, Bill McSwain, agreed the solution is to increase domestic manufacturing, though he blamed the Biden administration for much of our current predicament.

“Sky-rocketing gas prices are a direct result of President Biden’s weak leadership and disastrous energy policies. We should not be dependent on countries that hate us, and it is wrong and immoral for Biden to beg foreign nations to produce more oil rather than increasing production domestically,” McSwain said.

“As governor, I will harness the full potential of Pennsylvania’s energy resgources to eliminate our reliance on foreign oil and create thousands of jobs for hard-working Pennsylvanians. I will also call for a permanent and drastic reduction of the crippling state gas tax put in place by Harrisburg career politicians and supported by many of my opponents in this race.”

Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf has agreed with McSwain that the gas tax should be removed. The question is what should replace it.

Democratic senatorial candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, speaking live from the pump while he was filling his truck said, “People are getting squeezed whether folks want to call it inflation or not…but there is a solution, and it would solve more than gas prices…. We need to use American energy to make American energy cheaper for American workers…We should do more manufacturing right here in America and create more jobs here to drive down prices… It should be common sense that we can lower prices if we make more sh*t in America and here in Pennsylvania. We don’t need to be outsourcing any more jobs to China.”

Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick blamed the Biden administration.

“The record-high gas prices we’re seeing today have been a year in the making thanks to Joe Biden’s terrible energy policies,” said McCormick. “From killing the Keystone XL pipeline to banning new federal natural gas and oil leases to the regulatory blanket he placed across our energy sector that’s chilled capital investment, Joe Biden has hamstrung American energy production which has invited Putin’s aggression and skyrocketed prices at the pump for all Pennsylvanians.”

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UPDATE: As Biden’s Polls Sag, Top PA Dems Dodge His Pittsburgh Visit

He may be the top Democrat in Washington, D.C., but he’s having a tough time drawing a crowd in Pittsburgh. Two of the state’s top Democratic candidates will be no-shows when President Joe Biden appears in western Pennsylvania on Friday.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the presumed Democratic nominee for governor, were invited by the Biden team to appear with the president. Both declined the invitation citing scheduling problems, the AP reports.

But after running into the president when he rushed to the scene of a Pittsburgh bridge that collapsed, Fetterman then appeared with Biden on the stage after all.

However, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, who is also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), will stand with Biden. Lamb is viewed as a more mainstream Democrat from the Biden wing of the party.

Skipping a presidential appearance, particularly in his native state, is quite a snub, political insiders say. And it is an indication the November midterms are being viewed by Democrats as a referendum on an unpopular incumbent.

Biden’s poll numbers have gone from bad to worse over recent weeks, with his approval plunging to 39 percent. That is more than 10 points lower than President Barack Obama’s in 2010, when Republicans picked up a whopping 63 seats — and a majority — in the House of Representatives.

“It’s no wonder why even the most extreme members of the Democrat Party are staying far, far away from Joe Biden – with approval numbers in the tank, Biden’s political toxicity is inescapable. Democrats can cite ‘scheduling conflicts’ all they want, but voters know the truth: Joe Biden is already destroying his party’s hopes for November,” said RNC spokesperson Allie Carroll.

While some Democrats appear to be dodging Biden, at least one Delaware Valley Senate candidate said he would definitely stand with the president. “Absolutely,” said state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia). “He is my friend,” said Kenyatta. “I would welcome him here any time in the 181st District.”

“Last week I was on a zoom with the President marking his 1 year anniversary in office alongside Governor Rendell, and a small group of early supporters of his campaign,” he said.

Kenyatta noted he was an early Biden supporter and went across the country to rural Iowa and other areas to campaign for him.

“I think the more the president talks about restoring the basic bargain with America the better,” said Kenyatta, saying that is what Biden’s Build Back Better plan is about. It is making sure people have a good education, good jobs, and a retirement where they can “live with dignity,” Kenyatta said.

Montgomery County Commission Chairwoman Val Arkoosh, a Democrat who is also running for the Senate, did not respond to a request for comment.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell had tough words for Democrats who are avoiding Biden.

“They’re stupid because things can turn around in politics pretty dramatically,” Rendell told The Associated Press. “You can’t hide. People end up thinking less of you for not showing up.”


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