MISS: The annual audit of Washington County’s Register of Wills office conducted by the county controller’s office showed a number of problems under the leadership of James Roman, who was elected to run the row office in November 2019. Some of them can, perhaps, be credited to staff turnover and the upheaval caused the coronavirus pandemic. But a couple of things stand out. First, as the Observer-Reporter reported Tuesday, fees were waived for certified copies of marriage certificates on at least two occasions, with staffers saying it was not out of the ordinary for this to happen. According to Roman, he is waiving fees for veterans. But should Roman, or any other row officer, be allowed to waive fees based on their own discretion? Then, when faced with the less-than-flattering audit, Roman dismissed its findings as “superficial information trying to discredit me.” Roman also refused to sit for an exit interview with the controller’s office unless it was recorded. Rather than assuming a defensive crouch, Roman should look at the audit as a way to improve his office’s performance, not as a personal attack. He is a public official, and scrutiny comes with the territory.
HIT: Out Leadership, a national LGBTQ business network, has released its rankings of the states that have the best climate for LGBTQ business owners, and Pennsylvania finished 22nd out of the 50 states. Not spectacular, to be sure, but at least in the top half of states. Most of the top ranking states were in the Northeast, with New York topping the list. The factors that the organization looked at were health, safety, youth and family support, and whether the elected officials had put forward legislation protecting the rights of LGBTQ people. States that were considering or had approved laws marginalizing or discriminating against LGBTQ people were given lower scores. Pennsylvania has received a passing score, but let’s hope it does better next year.
HIT: It’s estimated that about 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every year, enough to fill Heinz Field more than seven times over. There’s no cure, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a treatment this week that offers a sliver of hope to patients and their families. The drug aducanumab, manufactured by Biogen, is thought to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s by reducing the clumps of amyloid beta in the brain that are believed to be an indication of Alzheimer’s. This would allow those with Alzheimer’s to retain their cognitive function longer. The drug has its critics, and the FDA has said it would withdraw approval if it’s shown to be ineffective. Nevertheless, Clay Jacobs, executive director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association told Greensburg’s Tribune-Review, “It’s not a cure, but it’s a significant advancement in the science.” And that’s something to be encouraged by.
HIT: Republican-controlled states around the country have been passing laws curtailing the voting rights of their citizens following baseless claims by former President Trump and his allies that the 2020 election was stolen. But one Republican governor is supporting an effort to expand opportunities to cast a ballot. Earlier this week, Vermont’s Phil Scott signed off on a measure that would require all active registered voters in that state receive a mail-in ballot for general elections, and it could be expanded to primary and local elections. The New York Times reported that more than 75% of voters in Vermont cast ballots early or by mail last year, and 68% of Vermont voters approved of having ballots sent to them. Scott said he supports the law “because I believe making sure voting is easy and accessible, and increasing voter participation, is important.”