Pa. Lawmakers report $43 million increase in unspent cash reserves

Mark Scolforo | Thursday, December 27, 2018, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania legislative branch saw its budget reserve jump by nearly $43 million last year, with most of the additional surplus attributed to House and Senate accounts.

The Legislative Audit Advisory Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the annual financial report for the legislative branch.

The commission said the legislative surplus was $138 million when the year ended in June. A year ago, the commission pegged the surplus at $95 million.

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10 reasons why marijuana could be legal in Pennsylvania (eventually)

Ron Southwick | Thursday, December 27, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

When Gov. Tom Wolf said last week it’s time to explore the possibility of legalizing pot in Pennsylvania, he brought a fresh wave of attention to the controversial issue.

After addressing the topic in a question-and-answer session on Twitter, Wolf said he wasn’t immediately throwing support behind any legislation. But citing other states that have allowed the sale of marijuana, Wolf said it’s worth examining their experiences and assessing whether or not Pennsylvania should follow suit.

To be clear, recreational marijuana isn’t coming any time soon.

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Gov. Wolf reshuffles cabinet ahead of second term

Wednesday, December 26, 2018, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf is reshuffling his cabinet as he prepares for a second term.

Wolf said Wednesday that he is replacing the people atop his departments of state and aging, the latest changes the Pennsylvania Democrat has announced ahead of his inauguration on Jan. 15.

Wolf’s office said the move will take effect Jan. 7.

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Why not Pittsburgh for drug development? LifeX portfolio company founder says the time and place are right

Kris B. Mamula | Monday, December 24, 2018, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A LifeX startup company is taking aim at antibiotic-resistant infections in artificial joints, which have few good treatment options for doctors and consequences for the patient that can be painful and costly.

Oakland-based Peptilogics Inc. has received approval from Australia’s Therapeutics Goods Administration to begin the first in-human study of its PLG0206 product, which targets prosthetic joint infections. The clinical trial received ethics approval from the Bellberry Human Research Ethics Committee.

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Pa. made at least $1M on medical marijuana this year. Could recreational bring a lot more?

Wallace McKelvey | Thursday, December 20, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

Gov. Tom Wolf’s change of heart on recreational marijuana could open the door to a rapidly growing new industry — and a potential revenue windfall worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Medical marijuana companies are currently subject to a 5 percent gross receipts tax, in addition to licensing fees and income taxes. Through November, the state brought in just over $1 million from the gross receipts tax alone, according to state Department of Revenue data. That’s up from $291,000 last year, when the industry was still in its infancy.

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Pa. governor calls for ‘serious’ look at legalizing recreational pot

Wednesday, December 19, 2018, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s governor says it’s time for the state to consider whether to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf made the comment Wednesday while answering questions from the public on Twitter.

Wolf says “more and more states are successfully implementing marijuana legalization,” and Pennsylvania should learn from their efforts.

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Blue collar worker shortage turns labor market on its head

Rich Miller | Tuesday, December 18, 2018, Bloomberg News

A surprise shortage of blue collar workers is changing the contours of the U.S. labor market, boosting their pay, narrowing wage inequality and drawing more women into those jobs.

The shortfall is being driven by a shrinking supply of manual and low-pay service workers as the labor force becomes more educated and less willing to take on such jobs, according to a recent Conference Board study.

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Low-interest loans available for Pa. homeowners affected by August floods

Paul Vigna | Monday, December 17, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

Harrisburg – Gov. Tom Wolf on Dec. 12 announced that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved his request to declare a disaster in Bradford, Columbia, Delaware, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Susquehanna counties after significant flood damage to homes and businesses was sustained from severe storms between Aug. 10 – 15, 2018.

“Despite the devastating impact of these storms and the hard work of county and state emergency management personnel to document the damage and make the case for providing aid through the Individual Assistance program, the federal government determined that the scope of the damage didn’t warrant such aid,” Wolf said in the release. “In lieu of funding from that program, my office immediately sought support through the SBA. Low-interest loan programs like these have proven to be important financial lifelines for families recovering from catastrophic weather events.”

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Marijuana industry must be socially responsible when pot becomes legal, CMU expert says

Sam Wood | Wednesday, December 12, 2018, The Philadelphia Inquirer

It’s not a matter of whether the United States will legalize cannabis, it’s simply a matter of when, says Jonathan Caulkins, with an air of inevitability.

The important question the Carnegie Mellon University professor wants us to consider is this: What’s the best way of doing it on a national level that will have the fewest unintended and harmful consequences?

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Pa. government’s finances present good-news, bad-news picture at year’s halfway point

Charles Thompson | Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

A heaping helping of expanded gambling, closing loopholes for collection of sales taxes from online purchases and a healthy economy will, all combined, help Pennsylvania’s state government keep its budget in balance for 2018-19.

But you can get an argument – and we all probably will as early as Gov. Tom Wolf’s February budget address for 2019-20 – about how solid this newfound fiscal stability is.

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Pennsylvania bans tobacco, vapes at 6 state hospitals

Jeff Himler | Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Tobacco products and vape devices have been banned at Pennsylvania’s six state mental health hospitals, including Torrance State Hospital in Derry Township.

“Smoking is a contributing factor to the shortened life expectancy of individuals with a mental illness,” Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said Monday in a statement announcing the ban. “This initiative will further support health, wellness and recovery within these communities.”

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Pa. throws out all 8 marijuana research applications, so what’s next?

Sam Wood | Thursday, December 6, 2018, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania’s ambitious plan to become the national center for medical marijuana research just can’t get off the ground.

In the latest setback for the program, the state Department of Health on Wednesday rejected the applications of all eight marijuana growers who had planned to partner with the state’s medical schools. Regulators said the applications were riddled with mistakes and missing information.

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After series of setbacks, CEO of Pittsburgh International Airport isn’t panicking

Mark Belko | Wednesday, December 5, 2018, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After a series of big wins over the past few years, recent months have not been as kind to Pittsburgh International Airport.

Delta Air Lines dumped its seasonal flight to Paris in September. OneJet has stopped flying altogether. Frontier will end its twice-weekly flight to San Diego in January, with plans to resume it on a seasonal basis — at some point.

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Pennsylvania to consider more conditions that should qualify for medical marijuana

Natasha Lindstrom | Tuesday, December 4, 2018, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Pennsylvania could soon make more conditions eligible for medical marijuana treatment.

The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board approved a new process for amending and expanding the state’s list of 21 serious conditions for which patients may use cannabis as treatment, Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle said.

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Does Pa. really need new voting machines? County commissioners question funding, timing

Jan Murphy | Monday, December 3, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

If Gov. Tom Wolf thinks county commissioners’ concerns about his directive to buy new voting machines will go away with last week’s promise to try to get the state to help pay for them, he’s got another thing coming.

Commissioners interviewed late last week offered a litany of other reasons beyond funding – and that’s a major concern –why they think this mandate to replace their machines with ones that create a paper trail by 2020 is unnecessary and being done hastily.

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Gov. Tom Wolf commits to push for the state to pick up at least half the cost of new voting machines

Jan Murphy | Thursday, November 29, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

Gov. Tom Wolf is committed to seeking to have the state to pick up at least half of the cost county governments face in replacing their voting machines.

In an email distributed to the county commissioners on Thursday evening, the Wolf Administration indicated the governor will be asking the General Assembly to kick in money to help defray the approximate $110 million cost to replace voting machines statewide.

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Gov. Tom Wolf: Rising cost of turnpike tolls ‘driving business away’ from Pa.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The rising cost of tolls on the turnpike is “driving business away” from Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday morning.

“People using the turnpike are paying too much,” Wolf said during an appearance on KDKA Radio . “The turnpike really is driving business away.”

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has raised tolls 11 consecutive years . Motorists will pay about 6 percent more to drive the turnpike next year, whether they pay cash or use the E-ZPass system.

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Pa. lawmakers getting pay raise, base salary will rise to $88,610

Jan Murphy | Tuesday, November 20, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

Starting on Dec. 1, Pennsylvania lawmakers – the second-highest paid in the nation – will see their paychecks grow with a raise of 1.6 percent, boosting the base salary that most legislators get paid to $88,610.

It means rank-and-file lawmakers will get an annual raise of $1,430. Currently, the base pay for lawmakers is $87,180.

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Two planned Western Pa. mini-casinos will provide hundreds of jobs

Gary Rotstein | Monday, November 19, 2018, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Little information has been released publicly thus far about two planned mini-casinos in Western Pennsylvania, but their applications to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board have begun giving hints of the hundreds of jobs, thousands of patrons and millions in revenue that are anticipated.

No projected opening date has been made available for either of the small casinos, which can have up to 750 slot machines and 30 to 40 table games. One is planned by Mount Airy Casino Resort in Big Beaver, near the intersection of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Beaver Valley Expressway, and the other is by Stadium Casino LLC at Westmoreland Mall’s former Bon-Ton store in Hempfield.

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Pa. Senate returns leadership teams for 2019-20 session

Charles Thompson | Wednesday, November 14, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

The Republican and Democratic caucuses in the Pennsylvania Senate both voted to return their current leadership teams for the 2019-20 legislative session in closed-door votes Tuesday.

The action means Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, will likely return as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate for the 13th straight year. Scarnati has led the majority caucus in tandem with Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, since 2015.

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