Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court has ruled that the state's mask mandate for teachers, school students and staff to guard against COVID-19 is invalid because the official who issued it lacked authority to do so. Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam issued the order in August, but Commonwealth Court ruled she had no standing to do so because there was no disaster emergency proclamation in effect, which was needed to make the order enforceable. The court also determined Beam’s order is void because it did not comply with the terms of an amendment voters approved to the state constitution in May that gives the Legislature authority to override an emergency proclamation by the governor.
Before the Commonwealth Court ruling on his mask mandate was announced, Gov. Tom Wolf explained why the mandate was put in place back in August. "We put the mask mandate in because when school started kids 5-11 were not able to get the vaccine and that's our strategy," Wolf said. His administration appealed the Commonwealth Court ruling within hours of its announcement.
There are numerous Veterans Day ceremonies planned today in and around the Lehigh Valley. At 10 this morning, the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem will feature music, comments from a pair of retired Marines and the making of Christmas cards for active-duty military members. Upper Hackett Park in Easton hosts a 10:30 ceremony and the Veterans Memorial on the Williams Township municipal campus will be the site of an 11am program. Also at 11 this morning, DeSales University honors veterans at its Veterans Memorial Plaza near Dooling Hall. Many other events are planned throughout the day into this evening around the Lehigh Valley.
Residents of the Bush House Hotel in Quakertown were evicted Wednesday morning after the borough condemned the building due to multiple safety and health violations. Those inspections discovered bed bug and roach infestation throughout the entire building and Quakertown Borough determined the hotel to be unfit for human occupancy and condemned it, effective immediately.
State police say a 12-year-old girl brought a bullet to Eyer Middle School in Lower Macungie Township. State troopers were sent to the school Tuesday for a report of a .22 caliber bullet found in the school. Investigators determined the 12-year-old student possessed the bullet, there were no firearms involved in the incident and it was determined that there was no credible threat to the school.
The owner of the A-Treat soda brand is introducing a program to support Lehigh Valley's homeless veterans. The Jaindl Companies is introducing new patriotic-themed packaging specific to two of its cream and cola flavors. Jaindl will subsequently donate 20% of the sales of the new patriot flavors to the Lehigh Valley Homeless Veteran Fund from now through the end of the year.
Pennsylvania's acting Secretary of State is ordering a required-by-law, statewide recount for one of two open seats on the Commonwealth Court. Vote totals in that race have less than a one-half of one percent margin and that status triggers a mandatory recount under state law. As of yesterday, Republican Stacy Wallace held just over 26-percent of the total vote and will get one of the open seats. However, the second seat to be decided between Democrat Lori Dumas and Republican Drew Crompton will need to be recounted. The secretary of state's office says the recount will cost more than $1 million.
Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity is warning residents that scammers are using fraudulent text messages to target people's unemployment compensation benefits. She says that includes people who are receiving regular unemployment benefits as well as state pandemic unemployment compensation. The scammers are e-mailing recipients with notices that claim their unemployment debit cards have been frozen and that they need to click a link to verify it. Garrity says the state never embeds a link in a message and you shouldn't ever follow a link like that. You can contact the unemployment office if you believe you've been scammed.
With more money for infrastructure soon heading to Pennsylvania state lawmakers are looking to change up the way the funding is used by PennDOT. St. Sen. Lisa Baker says she'd like to see smaller roads given a higher priority. "When the maintenance money must be prioritized to those interstates, it diverts the money from the roads in the smaller communities," Baker says. PennDOT officials also point out that much of the money collected from the gas tax gets sent to agencies that have nothing to do with building and maintaining roads and bridges.
PennDOT is continuing to discuss tolling nine Pennsylvania bridges to help pay for the upkeep of those bridges. PennDOT's Chris Durda says there's a proposal to offer lower income residents a way to cross one of those bridges for free. "They will get a free pass across one bridge. There are nine across the state so you have to choose the one in your area. That's based on income and they will not be charged a toll," Durda says.
Will there be a turkey shortage this Thanksgiving? Pennsylvania Ag Secretary Russell Redding says smaller birds may be a bit harder to come by but larger turkeys will likely be in good supply. "Food systems are experiencing those pinch points in the supply chain just like every other sector. There's just no hiding that. We are also experiencing the work force shortage that other sectors are experiencing as well," Redding says.
Investigators say they're starting to get a better sense about why a mother allegedly killed her two young daughters and kept their deaths a secret for six years. Lycoming County District Attorney Ryan Gardner says they're continuing with interviews and a motive is being developed, but he didn't reveal any more information than that. No one has been charged with the deaths but the girls' mother, Marie Snyder, Michele Butler and her daughter Echo Butler have been jailed in the case. All three have been charged with endangering the welfare of children and obstruction in child abuse cases. The girls' remains were found over the weekend on property north of Williamsport.
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is conceding to a virtually unknown Republican challenger. Sweeney says, "All votes have been fairly counted. 12,000 more people came out. I lost by 2000 votes," Sweeney said. Sweeney, who was New Jersey's second-most powerful elected state official, lost to Edward Durr, a little-known truck driver.