Pennsylvanians have some reasons to be suffering from vaccine envy right now. In Michigan, residents aged 16 and older will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine starting April 5. Ohio residents aged 50 and older are already eligible, and Gov. Mike DeWine says Ohioans aged 40 and up might soon get their turn. Meanwhile, we’re left with just a promise that everyone who is aged 65 and older or who have pre-existing conditions will be able to register for an appointment by the end of the month. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week that even Democratic allies of Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration are becoming disenchanted with the pace of the vaccine rollout, with one calling it “inefficient, inadequate and inequitable.” In order for everyone’s lives to get back to normal in the commonwealth, the Wolf administration simply needs to improve its performance when it comes to getting people vaccinated.
In the wake of former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and ongoing efforts to curtail voting rights in the name of “election integrity,” we’ve come to see just how fragile American democracy is. It’s been around for almost 250 years, and it will continue to take work to ensure that it survives. A new exhibit at the Senator John Heinz History Center, “American Democracy,” looks at how it came to be, Pennsylvania’s role in its birth and how it’s been strengthened through efforts like the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. A traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, “American Democracy” will be in Pittsburgh through October. “American Democracy” can serve as a reminder of what we have, and what we could so easily lose if we’re not careful.
Pennsylvania legislators have long had a sweet deal when it comes to per diems. They are paid a flat rate for expenses when they travel more than 50 miles from their homes on legislative business, with meals and lodging covered at a flat rate. The flat rate is in the range of $200 per day, and if legislators spend less than that, they can pocket the rest. According to Spotlight PA, legislators claimed more than $700,000 in per diem expenses from last March to the end of 2020, with state Rep. Mark Longietti, a Democrat from Mercer County, and state Rep. Chris Sainato, a Democrat from Lawrence County, both leading the per diem parade. They both received a little more than $24,000 in reimbursements in that 10-month period. We have no problem with lawmakers getting reimbursed for their expenses, but they should submit receipts, as lawmakers do in other states and as people do in the private sector.
Viola Gregg Liuzzo was just a few weeks shy of her 40th birthday in March 1965 when she was gunned down by Klansmen as she was driving Black civil rights activists to the airport in Montgomery, Ala. Liuzzo was living in Detroit at the end of her life, but hailed from California, Pa., where she felt the sting of poverty and discrimination at a young age. There is no formal marker in California honoring Liuzzo, but a newly formed organization, California Area re: Generations, is hoping to change that, and also distribute grants from community improvement projects within the California Area School District. We hope both endeavors prove successful.