Pennsylvania State Capitol. Pennsylvania State Capitol.

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for Nov. 3 and the week of Nov. 6. Both houses of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session on Monday.

OFF-YEAR ELECTIONS

Pennsylvania’s “off-year” elections brought good news for Democrats ahead of a big election in 2018 that is set to feature contests for governor and U.S. Senate, The Associated Press reported. Democrats scored big victories in county and municipal races across Philadelphia’s suburbs, advancing a decades-long shift in those one-time Republican bastions where President Donald Trump lost heavily last year. Democrats also won elections to take control in Northampton County, which was won by Trump last year. Democrats won two seats on Delaware County council, seating their first county lawmakers since 1980. They also flipped control of Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania’s sixth-most populated municipality. Democrats in the Philadelphia suburbs absorbed a wave of volunteers starting just after last year’s election, when Pennsylvania backed a Republican for president for the first time since 1988 and helped Trump capture the White House, Delaware County Democratic Party chairman David Landau said. Pennsylvania Republican Party chairman Val DiGiorgio said he knew it would be a tough night in the Philadelphia suburbs, but he also did not anticipate what he called a “tidal wave” of Democratic voters frustrated with national politics. “It wasn’t because of the local candidates,” DiGiorgio said of the GOP setbacks. Northampton County Democrats distributed flyers reminding voters it was a chance to send a message to Washington. Anti-Trump groups that formed in the wake of last year’s presidential election brought a heightened interest in volunteering and voting, local political leaders said.

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

House Bill 178, a wide-ranging series of amendments to the Public School Code that included an end to the practice of teacher layoffs based solely on seniority, became law Nov. 6 without Wolf’s signature after 10 days on his desk. The law, now Act 55 of 2017, requires performance to be included among the criteria for furloughs and reinstatement decisions. It also adds $10 million to subsidize parent choice of private schools, expanding the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program to $185 million annually. Another portion of the new law provides for the consolidation of charter schools under common boards of trustees. State Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, the speaker of the state House of Representatives, hailed the new law as “exceptional education reform legislation” that would reward teachers for good performance, allow parents greater choices when public schools are inadequate, and remove regulatory red tape for charter schools. Act 55 also includes a provision permitting Pennsylvania public schools to conduct annual security drills in each school building. That measure, which drew bipartisan sponsorship, was aimed at increasing school security and preparedness. The annual security drill could replace one of the mandatory monthly fire drills. The law urges schools to practice emergency procedures to address acts of terrorism, armed intrusion or other violent threats. “Some schools are already practicing these safety measures,” said state Rep. Craig Staats, R-Bucks, a prime sponsor of the measure. “My bill aims to encourage all schools to be proactive and be prepared.” The act also ensured that Pennsylvania schools include opioid prevention strategies in school districts’ drug abuse curriculum.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Wolf announced on Nov. 8 that in its first week of operation, more than 3,800 patients and 200 caregivers have signed up with Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Patient and Caregiver Registry. “Since I signed medical marijuana into law in 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been laser-focused on implementation,” Wolf said in a press statement. “The success of the patient registry one week since it was announced is another indicator of the need for this vital medication, and a testament to the department’s commitment to making medical marijuana available to patients in 2018.” Patients and caregivers can sign up for the program at medicalmarijuana.pa.gov. Their next step is to visit an approved doctor to become certified with the program, said Rachel Levine, the acting secretary of Health and Physician General of Pennsylvania. On Nov. 3, the Department of Health approved Terrapin Investment Fund 1 LLC, in Jersey Shore, Clinton County, to grow and process medical marijuana, becoming the third facility to be operational.

BIRTH CERTIFICATES Capping an eight-year effort, Nov. 3 was the first day for Pennsylvania adult adoptees to have the right of access to their original birth certificates. State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, sponsored the measure to reinstate that right, which became law on Nov. 3, 2016. One year later, the state Department of Health has begun processing those requests for the first time since 1984, Benninghoff said in a statement on the state House Republican caucus website. “This fight has always been about fairness and the fundamental right of Pennsylvania adoptees to have the same access to the one legal document that legitimizes their existence here on this earth,” Benninghoff said. “Today, that fight is over.” •