Editorial Roundup: Pennsylvania

LNP/LancasterOnline. January 18, 2023.

Editorial: The Shapiro transition team failed the transparency test. Let’s hope the Shapiro administration does better.

We congratulate Gov. Shapiro on his inauguration as Pennsylvania’s 48th governor. We hope that with Lt. Gov. Austin Davis — the commonwealth’s first Black lieutenant governor — Shapiro will work diligently to ensure the well-being and prosperity of Pennsylvanians young and old.

And we hope that what Spotlight PA described as Shapiro’s “tight grip on information” during his transition was a lapse and not a harbinger of how his administration will conduct the people’s business.

Shapiro spokesperson Manuel Bonder told Spotlight PA in an email that transition teams typically handle sensitive information. “Like past transitions, we believe it is critically important to protect the confidential information we receive — like sensitive personal information — and the privacy of those applying for jobs.”

As Spotlight PA noted, “previous incoming administrations have also restricted the release of transition-related information” — but the scope of the Shapiro nondisclosure agreement was “more expansive than the paragraph-long clause to not disclose information used by Wolf.”

We understand the need for discretion when vetting and hiring Cabinet officials and agency executives. But, worryingly, the Shapiro nondisclosure agreement threatened legal action as a consequence of noncompliance. Why appoint anyone you couldn’t fully trust to a gubernatorial transition team?

And why shield the names of the donors funding the inaugural events, which culminated Tuesday night at Rock Lititz?

We also were dismayed that Bonder did not address Spotlight PA’s questions about whether Shapiro considered limiting the nondisclosure agreement to certain aspects of the transition team’s work. And, crucially, Bonder would not say whether such secrecy clauses would carry over into Shapiro’s administration.

Nondisclosure agreements serve the interests of people in power, as Shapiro surely knows as a champion of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. NDAs are obstacles to telling truths and building trust.

Now that the transition has ended, and the administration is beginning its work, let’s hope that Shapiro commits to the high level of transparency that is needed to gain the trust of Pennsylvanians.

His expressed dedication to bipartisanship will surely help in gaining that trust. He has, for instance, nominated a Philadelphia Republican, Al Schmidt, to be secretary of state, the official who oversees elections in the commonwealth. But transparency is key.

Shapiro’s predecessor, Wolf, had pledged to make transparency a priority. And while Wolf’s administration did not always meet his own standards — in the business waiver program during the pandemic shutdown, for instance — Wolf took some admirable steps that we hope Shapiro continues.

Like posting his public schedule online. And forbidding executive office and agency employees — and the governor himself — from accepting gifts.

Shapiro aides told The Associated Press that the new governor will sign ethics orders this week. We hope that a gift ban is among them. Bonder told Spotlight PA that Shapiro would adopt ethics standards that “will establish high standards for integrity and accountability among Commonwealth employees.” We hope this proves to be true.

We appreciated Shapiro’s pledge, in his inaugural address, to work to keep our democracy strong. He noted how, over the last several years, “we have been reminded of the fragility of our democracy. How we have to keep working at it, keep fighting to protect it.”

And he said: “Here in Pennsylvania, we didn’t allow the extremists who peddle lies to drown out the truth. We showed that our system works and that our elections are free and fair, safe and secure.”

We have repeatedly decried such lies and the extremists who traffic in them, and we always will champion the sanctity of elections. So we found Shapiro’s defense of democracy to be invigorating.

The new governor was correct in saying the work is not finished, that we are obligated “to defend democracy not merely to honor the work of our ancestors but rather to build on a foundation so we can make progress for our children.”

We strongly agree. We’d just add that transparency is a critical building block for democracy. It is critical for the defense of democracy. We hope to see a lot of it from the Shapiro administration.


Philadelphia Daily News/Inquirer. January 20, 2023.

Editorial: For the newly inaugurated Gov. Shapiro, now comes the hard part

As Shapiro works to deliver what he called “real freedom” for all Pennsylvanians — including access to a good education, a living-wage job, and safe communities — significant challenges lie ahead.

Josh Shapiro, who took the oath of office as Pennsylvania’s 48th governor on Tuesday, gave an inaugural address that emphasized the themes of his campaign: the need for all Pennsylvanians to unite, the urgency of securing critical rights, and the necessity of continued progress on such vital kitchen table issues as jobs, infrastructure, and education.

While his opponent in last year’s election, Doug Mastriano, flogged false claims of voter fraud and pushed for an abortion ban, Shapiro pledged to give every Pennsylvanian the tools and opportunities they need to live the lives they deserve, without interfering in their medical decisions or telling them what to believe.

Unlike his predecessor, former Gov. Tom Wolf, Shapiro’s ascent surprised few political observers. Shapiro skillfully navigated the cursus honorum of Pennsylvania politics, serving as a state representative, county commissioner, and attorney general, en route to the governor’s mansion. His known interest in the race cleared the Democratic primary field. His record of achievement and electoral success has some of his most ardent backers already thinking about a White House run.

Before Shapiro even entertains making that kind of move, however, he needs to successfully fulfill the central promise of his campaign: delivering what he called “real freedom” for all Pennsylvanians — the kind of freedom that comes with having access to a good education, a living-wage job, and a safe community.

It won’t be easy. The state Senate’s Republican majority has already begun pushing their own agenda, which includes a constitutional amendment to require voter ID. The success or failure of a years-long effort to change the state’s fair funding formula for public education is expected to receive a ruling in the near future, providing an early leadership test.

It won’t be easy. The state Senate’s Republican majority has already begun pushing their own agenda, which includes a constitutional amendment to require voter ID. The success or failure of a years-long effort to change the state’s fair funding formula for public education is expected to receive a ruling in the near future, providing an early leadership test.

He’s also made good on his promise to reinforce Pennsylvania’s democracy. With Philadelphia’s own Al Schmidt serving as secretary of the commonwealth, Shapiro has someone who has already proven willing to defend the state’s democracy despite the personal cost: Schmidt, a Republican, drew the ire of election deniers after he stood up for the city’s secure electoral process during the 2020 presidential election.

Shapiro’s early decisions aren’t just good policy, they are also good politics. The governor’s emphasis on reaching out across the political spectrum may frustrate some progressives in his party, but it is a smart and necessary part of governing in a swing state. While Shapiro rightly credited Wolf with leaving behind a significant surplus, left unsaid was how difficult it was for Wolf to direct state funds to many of his priorities, with partisan budget stalemates often frustrating his agenda.

In addition to finding a way to corral the General Assembly, Shapiro will also need to reform some of the state’s problem agencies. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has long requested significant additional funding in order to maintain the state’s roads and bridges, some of which are literally collapsing. At the same time, PennDot has pursued expensive highway expansion projects, even when local governments are opposed or its plans have received national scrutiny for wastefulness.

The state also lags behind on job growth. While the quite literally gilded halls of the state Capitol speak to Pennsylvania’s history as a center of industry and the prodigious wealth produced in our textile mills, coal mines, steelworks, and railroads, the commonwealth has struggled to adapt to industrial decline.

Reversing decades of economic stagnation will not be an easy task, but it is one Shapiro will have to work toward if he is to deliver on his campaign promises.

Throughout his career, Shapiro has made taking on entrenched interests on behalf of the public good a key part of his appeal. From fighting for victims of sexual abuse to intervening to ensure Pennsylvanians can access medical care, the state’s new governor has prioritized being on the right side of history.

He is going to need to continue doing so to meet the challenges ahead.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 21, 2023.

Editorial: State must act on nursing shortage crisis

Nursing shortages in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the country have reached crisis proportions, disrupting and undermining the quality of the entire health care system.

Owing to staff shortages and insufficient beds, hospital emergency rooms are overflowing, with some patients spending days in them. Overworked, stressed-out and burned-out staff are more likely to make errors.

Jackie Strange, a UPMC Registered Nurse, said at an American Economic Liberties Project hearing in September that staffing shortages are the worst she’s seen in seven years of nursing. “Our patients don’t deserve this,” she said. “We work at one of the biggest and best hospitals in the city. We should have the resources we need to care for our patients.”

In a recent survey, nine out of ten Pittsburgh hospital workers also said they do not have enough staff to cover their workloads. More than 90% of them have, at least once a month, considered quitting.

Western Pennsylvania’s nursing shortage reflects a national nursing shortage. The strains from the severe health care demands created by the deadly COVID pandemic have pushed many medical workers into new industries and early retirement. UPMC alone has more than 3,000 openings for nurses. Small institutions with less ability to recruit face even more severe shortages.

Meeting the demands for nurses won’t be easy. For starters, colleges and nursing schools must train more Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), using aggressive and innovative recruitment and retention strategies.

Texas and many other states have recruited more nurses from outside the country, granting them special visas to work in the United States. Immigrants already play an enormous role at every level of the nation’s health care system: 28% of doctors are immigrants, as are nearly 20% of nurses. Immigrants also make up 20% of lab techs and nearly 40% of home health aides.

In another innovative step, a nursing school in Nevada is targeting more male students for recruitment. In 2011, only 8.9% of Registered Nurses were male; by 2021, that number had climbed to 13%. An essential cultural pivot would funnel more men from traditionally male-oriented jobs to health care jobs typically filled by women, as more health care workers are needed to meet the needs of an increasingly aging population.

But the high demand for nurses will also call for higher, more competitive wages and better working conditions to attract nurses back into the workforce. Nurses around the country are protesting long shifts and a lack of resources. More than 7,000 unionized nurses went on strike last week in New York City.

To maintain decent health care in Pennsylvania, state government will need to help attract, train and retain nurses. West Virginia provides a good model.

In December 2021, Gov. Jim Justice, R., earmarked $48 million to ease the state’s nursing shortage through a range of initiatives. They include cash incentives for nurses to relocate, a state nursing scholarship program for nurses who work in the state after graduation, education and regulations to ease the burden on nurses by eliminating non-nursing tasks, and rewarding nursing schools that reduce the time needed to complete degrees.

Attracting young people to nursing programs is essential. An aging nursing population means that, as people retire, the crisis will only worsen. The number of nurses that are 65 and older has peaked, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics, posing even greater challenges for increasing the number of U.S. nurses.

In a survey done before the pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services predicted that, by 2030, the nation would need 3.6 million more registered nurses. With the Great Resignation, that number has only increased.

Pennsylvania cannot afford to lose more people like UPMC Registered Nurse Jackie Strange; in fact, it needs tens of thousands more of them.

Nothing is more important to Pennsylvania’s future than easing the nursing shortage crisis. It can’t be done without the help of state government.

State governments in West Virginia and other states have enacted multi-pronged programs to increase the number of nurses in their states. Pennsylvania’s new governor, Josh Shapiro, should take note.


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. January 21, 2023.

Editorial: PennDOT should enforce right-of-way sign rules

When is taking a sign out of the ground a crime and when is it not?

That was the question a Westmoreland County jury had to decide. Did former Franklin Regional School Board member Gary English, 66, of Murrysville steal someone’s property by pulling out the signs that pop up everywhere like weeds along roads? Or was he just cleaning up a public — and itself illegal — mess?

The election-time argument about sign tampering is frequent. Political signs often are targets of vandalism and theft. But that wasn’t really what happened here.

For one thing, those theft cases generally are in reference to signs on private property, like the yards of supporters. That wasn’t what English did. He pulled the signs from PennDOT right-of-ways adjacent to Hempfield roads in April 2021.

The issue there is that state law doesn’t allow campaign signs — or other temporary advertising signs for businesses or events — to be in that right-of-way. PennDOT periodically sends out press releases reminding people that it is illegal, as is attaching them to traffic light poles, stop sign posts or guide rails.

It took a jury less than 30 minutes to decide that English didn’t commit misdemeanor theft.

“It’s not that I took signs. I merely transported signs to where they belong, to PennDOT,” he said.

He’s got a point — although so did Assistant District Attorney Jackie Knupp when she called him a vigilante. It wasn’t English’s job to do this, and that’s why, despite being found not guilty, he wasn’t exactly in the right, either.

The question really is: Where is PennDOT in this?

A random retiree in Murrysville shouldn’t be waging a war against the signs the state has designated off limits for reasons such as visibility, worker safety and wildlife health. They also can become litter. Pennsylvania roads have more than enough of that — and that’s also illegal.

What if PennDOT just enforced the rules it has regarding these signs?

Maybe English was not guilty of a crime. But this might be a case of the state being guilty of not doing its job.


Scranton Times-Tribune. January 21, 2023.

Editorial: Job edict more about perception

Gov. Josh Shapiro quickly fulfilled one of his campaign promises Wednesday, just a day after his inauguration. His first executive order decrees that a four-year college degree is not a prerequisite for 92% of the 72,000 jobs under the executive branch of the state government.

The order widely was portrayed as “opening” thousands of those jobs to Pennsylvanians without degrees — 70% of the working-age population.

But the vast majority of state jobs already did not require, and never required, a college degree. According to the state government’s data, only 135 of the 2,600 job titles within the executive branch include a bachelor’s degree as a basic requirement. And for 101 of those 135 job titles, managers are allowed to accept an equivalent amount of experience and training in lieu of a degree.

That reduces to just 34 the number of job titles for which applicants must have degrees. And those often require professional licenses, as for engineers, lawyers, physicians, nurses and counselors, that in turn require degrees.

Pennsylvania’s government is, in effect, a giant service business. The workers who deliver those valuable services, from PennDOT equipment operators to clerks, have skills that do not depend upon college educations.

The order could further diminish the number of state positions that require degrees, because it mandates a review of job qualifications for all of those posts.

And, it directs managers to give greater consideration to work experience than to education alone.

Perhaps the greatest impact that the order will have is in public perception of the state’s job requirements. As Lt. Gov. Austin Davis pointed out, many Pennsylvanians may perceive that they need a college degree to apply successfully for a state job, even when a degree isn’t necessary.

That’s important not only for applicants but for the state government. Like other major employers, it has hundreds of vacant positions.

People interested in working for the state government — regardless of whether they have a degree — can search available jobs at www.employment.pa.gov.