PCCJR Update – May 18, 2018

Primary Election in Review

This week’s primary election was a roller coaster ride worthy of a five-star rating for political intrigue and a page-turner that has politicos wondering if it is time to rewrite the traditional PA fall playbook.

Probably the least surprising of the night was York businessman and state Sen. Scott Wagner’s win to become the Republican challenger to Governor Tom Wolf. Wagner had led in the polls throughout the race and will be joined by Montgomery County businessman Jeff Bartos on the ticket as the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor.

Three special elections were held to fill State House district vacancies. In House District 48 (Washington County), Republicans flipped a long-time Democratic seat, while in House District 178 (Bucks County), Democrats won a long time Republican seat. Republicans held on to a long-time Republican seat in the 68th District (Tioga, Bradford, and Potter Counties). These results maintain the status quo in the House but continue the trend of Republicans picking up seats in the western part of Pennsylvania and Democrats picking up seats in the southeast portion of the state.

It is also noteworthy that four candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America won Democratic primaries, ousting two long time incumbents in Allegheny County districts along the way. Three of the socialist candidates do not have Republican opposition in the fall and will presumably be elected and take office in 2019.

Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R – Allegheny County) was defeated in his primary by a more conservative challenger while in Philadelphia, incumbent state Rep. Emilio Vazquez finished third in a three-person field.

For the first time, an incumbent Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor was defeated when Braddock Mayor John Fetterman defeated scandal-worn Lt. Gov. Mike Stack

In the U.S. Senate race, two northeastern Pennsylvanians will face each other after Republican Congressman Lou Barletta earned his place on the ballot to challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Casey.

Now that the primary is behind us, the legislators will be back in Harrisburg next week where the focus between now and the end of June will be to pass the 2018-2019 state budget.

Opinion Editorial: Don’t bring lawyers into the fight against opioid epidemic

Gene Barr| For the LancasterOnline|LPN|May 15, 2018

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania had the fourth-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country in 2016. More than 4,300 people died of an overdose in the state that year and thousands more died in 2017.

The opioid epidemic is so bad in Pennsylvania that earlier this year Gov. Tom Wolf declared a first-of-its-kind statewide disaster emergency — a declaration that he has since renewed. Normally reserved for natural disasters, this action freed the governor to issue a series of extraordinary orders. The orders enhanced the coordination of efforts among various state agencies, eliminated some of the roadblocks to addiction treatment, and established a command center to, among other things, monitor the flow of prescription drugs throughout the state.

In addition to the governor’s efforts, diverse stakeholders, including health professionals, elected officials, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and other interest groups, have joined in voluntary efforts to reduce opioid addiction.

Unfortunately, while most Pennsylvanians are looking for solutions to the state’s opioid disaster, there is another group looking to make a buck — or millions of bucks — in legal fees from lawsuits. Contingency-fee plaintiffs’ lawyers in the state and from around the country have been lining up in cities and counties here and elsewhere to file a wave of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Even drugstores that fill legitimate prescriptions for painkillers are in their cross-hairs. Read more.

PCCJR Talks Lawsuits on SmartTalk Radio

PCCJR Executive Director Curt Schroder appeared on WITF Radio’s SmartTalk earlier this month to discuss the impact of lawsuits on institutions. Front and center of the discussion was Penn State University’s recent decision to discontinue the school’s outing club, caving club, and scuba club because of risk and liability concerns. You can hear the full discussion with SmartTalk Radio host Scott Lamar on this podcast.

NY Times Exposes Something New in the Old Slip and Fall Scheme

In an article written on May 11, the New York Times pulled the curtain back on the world of litigation finance firms, which underwrite the cost of lawsuits, hoping for a substantial return. The questionable practices, which include high-interest loans to plaintiffs to pay for medical procedures, are under a federal microscope. A federal indictment which the NYT described as reading like “a sort of insurance fraud on steroids” cost insurers and property owners $32 million over five years.

Read the full story here.

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