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Senator Jake Corman says he accepts November election results, but wants audit for oversight of Department of State

Amy Sisk
90.5 WESA

On today’s program: Republican State Sen. Jake Corman weighs in on the state’s 2020 general election audit and why it will give the legislative branch oversight of the Department of State; a new report found the Pittsburgh region experienced 57 days of bad air in 2020, a slight improvement from previous data; and we hear how worker shortages are affecting the care available to people with disabilities.

Senator Jake Corman says an 'election audit' is needed to give legislature oversight of the executive branch
(0:00 - 9:15)

Last month, Republican state legislative leaders began what they’re calling a “forensic investigation” into the 2020 election. It began with an attempt to subpoena voter information from Veronica Degraffenreid, acting head of the Department of State, and it was followed quickly by lawsuits to block the release of that information.

“The investigation obviously is on hold until we get through the court process,” says Senate President Pro Tem Jake Corman of Centre County. “We’re following the Commonwealth Court’s process and timeline and hopefully they’ll expedite this soon so we can continue our work of providing oversight to the executive branch, which is a major role of the legislative branch.”

Corman says voters’ information should be kept private, and any vendor who accesses that information for the investigation will sign a non-disclosure agreement and face penalties of law if they break the agreement. The legislature has not yet hired a vendor to investigate; Corman says it is waiting until the court rules on the lawsuit from AG Shapiro.

“This isn’t about changing election results, this isn't about re-litigating results of elections, because we don’t have the authority for that,” says Corman. “This is about looking at our system inside because hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Pennsylvanians, have questions.”

The Department of State has already conducted two audits of the 2020 general election, both were in line with reported results.

Southwest Pennsylvania experienced 57 bad air days last year
(9:21 - 17:18)

Residents of southwestern Pennsylvania experienced 57 bad air quality days in 2020.

That’s according to a new study by the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group entitled “Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathed Polluted Air in 2020.”

“Our report found that across Pennsylvania, millions of Pennsylvanians, even in suburban and rural areas, are experiencing frequent levels of high air pollution,” says Zachary Barber, clean air advocate with PennEnvironment.

The Pittsburgh area is tied with Johnstown for the fifth-worst number of bad air days in the state. Lancaster had nearly twice as many bad air days with a total of 107.

“In Lancaster in particular, according to EPA data, there’s a lot of soot pollution generated in Lancaster County from fuel combustion and other studies that have looked into this more closely have indicated that it was likely as a result of burning oil in homes for heat,” says Barber.

The report focuses on ground-level ozone and fine particulate pollution, which come primarily from burning fossil fuels and from wildfires.

Last year, PennEnvironment put out a similar report, based on data from a few years ago. In 2018, Pittsburgh had 90 days of elevated air pollution. The latest report shows a drop in bad air days, however Barber is hesitant to say the trend is positive.

“There were a number of factors last year that made it an especially good year for air quality here in the Pittsburgh region in particular and we hope that continues,” says Barber. “But we know that as long as some of our industrial polluters continue to break the law with impunity, or we continue to rely on outdated transportation, the risk is that we could always see that number inch back up.”

Labor shortages are getting dire for people with disabilities who need professional care 
(17:25 - 22:30)

We’ve all heard about shortages of workers that are forcing businesses to raise wages or make other changes. That’s especially true for the direct support professionals (DSPs) who care for people with disabilities in-home and community-based settings.

90.5 WESA’s Kate Giammarise sat down with Nancy Murray, senior vice president at Achieva, an organization that provides services to people with disabilities. She started by asking about the work DSPs do every day, sometimes for less than $13 an hour.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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