A dozen ways lawmakers changed the rules on Pennsylvanians in 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

ou bring 253 state lawmakers to the Capitol for more than 20 weeks a year and you are sure to get a few new laws that make living in Pennsylvania a little different somehow.

In that regard, 2017 didn’t disappoint.

From buying fireworks to visiting loved ones’ gravesites, new laws were enacted that change the way many Pennsylvanians will go about their daily lives in 2018 and/or after.

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More than 10,000 patients register for medical marijuana in Pa.

Jan Murphy | Wednesday, December 27, 2017, Harrisburg Patriot News

Some 10,135 patients have registered to participate in Pennsylvania’s nascent medical marijuana program so far with 1,188 of them certified by physicians to participate in the program, according to the state Department of Health.

“Patients have started to receive their medical marijuana identification cards, bringing us one step closer to getting medication to patients in the next four months,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a news release.

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Medicare cutting payments to dozen Western Pa. hospitals

Kris B. Mamula | Tuesday, December 26, 2017, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Medicare is cutting payments to a dozen hospitals in Western Pennsylvania in the coming year for excessive infections and other patient safety issues, including five Allegheny Health Network facilities in the Pittsburgh area.

Of Allegheny Health Network facilities, Allegheny General, Allegheny Valley, Forbes, Jefferson and West Penn hospitals were among those cited for having too many catheter-related urinary tract and surgical infections from hysterectomy and colon operations, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Medicare.

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Pa.’s unemployment compensation system now on the clock to find way to live on federal dollars alone

Jan Murphy | Wednesday, December 20, 2017, Harrisburg Patriot News

A funding bill that will provide $115.2 million over four years to help operate the state’s Office of Unemployment Compensation and pay for a technology upgrade is now law.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed the legislation that the General Assembly intends to be the last infusion of state dollars that is put into the system, which it believes should eventually be able to operate only on the federal dollars it receives.

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New app helps state conduct 2,000 more oil and gas inspections in 2017

Mary Ann Thomas | Tuesday, December 19, 2017, The Tribune Review

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced this week that it will complete 2,000 more inspections for its oil and gas program in 2017 because of a new iPad app.

The innovation is timely as DEP oil and gas compliance inspections have jumped by more than 300 percent in the past decade, from 10,566 in 2007 to almost 35,000 in 2016, according to a DEP press release.

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Pennsylvania pushes counties to improve elder-abuse casework

Marc Levy | Saturday, December 16, 2017, Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Frustrated by shortcomings it has identified in elder-abuse investigations, Pennsylvania is trying to take a harder line with county agencies that were tasked with fielding nearly 30,000 complaints last year.

The Department of Aging is starting to grade counties on a more aggressive compliance schedule after telling some they had failed, sometimes repeatedly, to meet regulations and expectations on how complaints must be handled.

Among the shortcomings identified by state inspectors were failures to show investigations had started within the timeframe dictated by state law and inadequately investigating a complaint and logging the casework, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

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Pennsylvania to auction off casino licenses

Rich Cholodofsky | Thursday, December 14, 2017, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

The first of 10 satellite casino licenses to be built in Pennsylvania will be auctioned off next month.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has announced a series of nine dates throughout the first half of 2018 in which it will receive sealed bids to purchase licenses for facilities to operate casinos with up to 750 slot machines and eventually as many as 40 table games.

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Pa. Legislature exits 2017 with flurry of votes, defeats

Wednesday, December 13, 2017, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Legislature finished for the year on Wednesday after passing veto-bound abortion restrictions, while anti-union legislation sought by top Republicans failed and legislation to tax Marcellus shale natural gas production remained in limbo.

The GOP-controlled House and Senate each adjourned until January after a flurry of votes and a relatively spectacular showdown on the House floor between 25 rank-and-file Republicans and House GOP leaders over a Marcellus shale bill that has been effectively filibustered for weeks by opponents.

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Allegheny County finding few takers for free lead removal program

Theresa Clift | Tuesday, December 12, 2017, The Tribune Review

Only 25 homes in Allegheny County have been approved to receive free lead remediation services during the first eight months of a federal grant intended to help low-income residents of 175 homes.

The Allegheny Lead Safe Homes Program, which the county launched in April, is funded mostly by a $3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Expert sees partisanship in Pennsylvania congressional maps

Johnathan Lai | Monday, December 11, 2017, The Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s congressional map is so skewed toward Republicans that computer software tasked with randomly drawing maps produced hundreds of drawings that were more politically neutral, according to testimony Monday on the opening day of a state gerrymandering trial.

“Partisan intent predominated the drawing” of the current congressional map, said University of Michigan political science professor Jowei Chen, an expert witness testifying for the group of Pennsylvania voters bringing the challenge.

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Podcast – C&G’s “The Public Forum” – An inside look at Interphase Materials, a startup spun out of the University of Pittsburgh – December 11, 2017

In case you missed the talk, here is the December 11, 2017 podcast.

Our host guest host was David Kalson, Chair of the Emerging Business and Technology group at Cohen & Grigsby, with guest Dr. Noah Snyder, President and CEO of Interphase Materials.

Listen and hear local, state and federal perspectives.

*     *     *     *     *

If you have questions please contact Michelle Vezzani at MVezzani@cohenlaw.com or the public affairs professional with whom you work.

Tonight on “The Public Forum”- An inside look at Interphase Materials, a startup spun out of the University of Pittsburgh

The Public Forum is a bi‑monthly KQV Radio Talk Show where Cohen & Grigsby Lobbyists and various guests discuss hot issues impacting Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC and the business community.

Our host for tonight’s show is guest host David Kalson, Chair of the Emerging Business and Technology group at Cohen & Grigsby, with guest Dr. Noah Snyder, President and CEO of Interphase Materials.

We hope you will listen tonight at 7:00 PM at 1410 AM, KQV.

*     *     *     *     *

If you have questions please contact Michelle Vezzani at MVezzani@cohenlaw.com or the public affairs professional with whom you work.

Inside the gerrymandering data top Pa. Republicans fought to keep private

Jonathan Lai | Friday, December 8, 2017, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Republican lawmakers used detailed data on the partisan leanings of voters when they created the current Pennsylvania congressional map, according to documents federal judges had ordered them to turn over in a trial that began this week.

Lawyers for House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati had fought to keep private a trove of documents as they prepared for the trial, which began Monday in Philadelphia. They also sought to block the documents in a separate, state gerrymandering trial that begins next week in Harrisburg.

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf touts the choices under new long-term care initiative

Gary Rotstein | Thursday, December 7, 2017, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gov. Tom Wolf says he believes all Pennsylvanians in their later years should have the ability to continue living at home like his 94-year-old mother, even if they become frail and develop disabilities.

In touting his Community HealthChoices initiative in Lawrenceville Thursday, he mentioned his mother’s options late in life as an example of what the program is intended to provide starting Jan. 1 for those older or disabled adults who rely on government-subsidized health and long-term care services.

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Pennsylvania official warns CHIP program could end by late March without federal funding

Wes Venteicher | Wednesday, December 6, 2017, The Tribune Review

About 180,000 Pennsylvania children could lose health insurance early next year if Congress doesn’t reauthorize spending for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller.

The state-administered program, known as CHIP, covers children whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but who might not be able to obtain or afford private insurance.

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Funding fix for unemployment compensation system heads to Senate

Jan Murphy | Tuesday, December 5, 2017, Harrisburg Patriot News

Legislation to provide a four-year exit ramp leading to an end of state funding to cover the cost of operating the state’s unemployment compensation system won House approval on Tuesday.

By a 193-4 vote, the chamber approved the compromise plan that provides $115.2 million over four years before it cuts off state subsidies that now supplement the federal dollars to operate the system.

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Report: U.S. natural gas boom largely due to Marcellus Shale

Stephen Huba | Monday, December 4, 2017, The Tribune Review

The shale gas boom in Pennsylvania and other Appalachian states has been the chief driver of growth in U.S. natural gas production since 2012, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Monday.

According to the EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report, natural gas production in the Appalachia region — namely the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays — has increased by more than 14 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) since 2012.

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Pennsylvania lurches from one software boondoggle to another

Joseph N. DiStefano | Friday, December 1, 2017, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The phones stopped working again at Pennsylvania’s unemployment-compensation offices Tuesday. “Due to vendor-related technical issues,” the Department of Labor and Industry said.

The same department has had to rely on what state auditors in May called “antiquated” software, written in the COBOL language used by punch-card programmers in the 1970s, since spending more than $160 million on a replacement system that failed.

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The pink pig returns to the Capitol to protest legislative pay raise, per diems

Jan Murphy | Thursday, November 30, 2017, Harrisburg Patriot News

Protesting the automatic pay raise that takes effect on Friday for state lawmakers, citizen activist Gene Stilp brought his giant inflatable pink pig to the Capitol steps on Thursday to protest what he considers legislative abuse.

While inflating the 25-foot-long pig that wore a “Taxpayers Abused Again” sign, Stilp said the .81 percent automatic legislative pay raise may not sound like much “but it’s still a pay raise while Pennsylvanians are suffering.”

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Start gathering your identifying documents now for 2019 REAL ID rollout, PennDOT says

Matthew Santoni | Wednesday, November 29, 2017, The Tribune Review

If you thought the wait at the DMV was bad now, imagine what it will be like with 10.7 million Pennsylvanians in line.

As PennDOT brings its driver-licensing systems in line with the federal REAL ID standards, the agency is urging residents to start gathering the required identifying documents or check with the state in a few months to see if they’re already on file. The state anticipates being able to issue licenses compliant with the 2005 anti-terrorism identification program starting in spring 2019, said PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell.

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