– During state budget hearings this week, Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) questioned several administration officials about COVID-19 mitigation and vaccines, as well as other issues of interest to the people of the Northern Tier.
“As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, it is my responsibility to not only assess the budgetary needs of various state agencies but also to hold those agency heads accountable for their actions,” Owlett said. “To be frank, I am frustrated by many of the responses we have gotten, especially as it relates to the handling of COVID patients in nursing homes and the vaccine rollout. We will continue to push for answers on these fronts.”
Following are some of the highlights of Owlett’s exchanges with agency officials, as well as some notable lines of questioning from fellow legislators:
Owlett questioned Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin about the agency’s handling of its business waiver program during the initial business shutdown. Specifically, he and others were trying to get answers on the criteria used to determine who got waivers and who didn’t. Watch it here
Owlett questioned Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam about the administration’s misleading claims earlier this week about having completed vaccinations in all the state's nursing homes, when in fact they had not. Watch it here
Owlett also questioned Beam about the governor’s glaring omission of vaccine deployment from his 2021-22 state budget address, as well as the need for a nursing home death investigation and more information about how and where vaccines are being distributed in counties across the state. Watch it here
Also during the hearing with the Department of Health, Rep. Natalie Mihalek of Allegheny County pressed for answers about the administration’s policy that required nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients. Watch it here
Rep. Meghan Schroeder of Bucks County asked for an explanation of the administration’s expansion of Phase 1A vaccine eligibility when they knew the state had nowhere near the supply needed to meet the demand. Watch it here
Other issues addressed by Owlett during the week’s hearings:
Asked Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding
to help get politics OUT of the ag budget and posed some pointed questions about the agency’s enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions on the state's struggling restaurant owners.
Asked General Services Secretary Curt Topper
about his agency’s handling of the state’s stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Questioned Secretary of Transportation Yassmin Gramian
about the ongoing difficulty with obtaining documents from PennDOT.
Questioned Gramian about an ATV pilot project
with which PennDOT is being uncooperative and throwing up roadblocks.
Questioned Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell
about the impacts of the administration’s plans to enter the state into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) without legislative approval.
The budget hearings will wrap up next week with the departments of Education, Labor and Industry, and Human Services, as well as the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges and the governor’s budget office.
For video of completed hearings and a schedule of the upcoming sessions, as well as live streams of upcoming hearings, visit PAHouseGOP.com