Pa. push for higher minimum wage getting maximum attention, little movement

Jan Murphy | Friday, December 20, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Lawmakers who have been pushing for an increase in the state’s minimum wage left Harrisburg this week disappointed that their hard push to assist the lowest paid workers will now have to continue into the new year.

The House left town without acting on a Senate-passed bill that would have increased the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2022, which would have been the first increase in the minimum wage since 2009 when the federal government set it at its current rate of $7.25.

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Canceled meetings and finger-pointing plague top Pa. economic development agency

Charlotte Keith | Thursday, December 19, 2019, Spotlight PA (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PennLive/The Patriot-News.

In a half hour meeting, the Commonwealth Financing Authority — Pennsylvania’s mammoth economic development engine — can approve millions of dollars for projects ranging from local sewer systems and parking lots to dairy farms and downtown facelifts.

But recently, long delays between meetings have held up funding for projects. And the resulting finger-pointing over who is to blame provides a glimpse into the politics surrounding the hundreds of millions of dollars the authority doles out each year.

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House votes to amend constitution to pick judges by district

Thursday, December 18, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Majority Republicans in the state House on Wednesday took the first step to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution so that appeals court judges would be elected by district rather than statewide.

The House voted 102-95 for the proposal that would have lawmakers draw the district lines for Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts.

In order to be enacted, the bill must still pass the Senate, then be approved by both chambers in the 2021-22 legislative session, before going to voters for final approval as a referendum.

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Study: Proposed Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Chicago hyperloop would be highly profitable

Tuesday, December 17, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Development of a proposed hyperloop transportation system linking Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago would not only be a boon to communities along the travel corridors but also would be a strong business investment.

That’s the conclusion of a 157-page feasibility study released Monday in Cleveland by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc., a California-based company developing the technology to move passengers and freight at more than 500 mph through low-pressure tubes. Consultant Transportation Economics and Management Systems performed the $1.3 million study of the proposed Great Lakes Hyperloop System.

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Before scrapping Pa.’s annual auto emissions inspections, lawmakers call for a study first

Jan Murphy | Monday, December 16, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

State lawmakers remain interested in enabling most Pennsylvanians to avoid spending about $40 annually on auto emission inspections, but they are tapping the brakes a bit.

The reason? Lawmakers want to be sure they don’t risk millions in federal aid.

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Pa. state universities’ faculty get 12% raises over next 3 years in new contract

Jan Murphy | Wednesday, December 11, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Faculty at Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities are accepting a pay freeze this year with a guarantee of receiving pay increases of at least 12% over the next three years under the terms of a four-year contract that the State System of Higher Education’s governing board approved on Wednesday.

The contract, which covers about 5,000 instructors and professors, won overwhelming support of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties during its ratification vote last month.

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Feds’ rules threaten Pennsylvanians’ food stamps, state claims

Tuesday, December 10, 2019, Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians stand to lose food stamps or see their benefits reduced under three sets of changes to the program being advanced by the Trump administration, state officials said Tuesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration opposes all three changes, saying that the federal government is simply taking away benefits without helping people improve their circumstances.

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PA Society: ‘It’s an annual tradition and a must-attend event’ for politicians and power brokers

Jan Murphy | Friday, December 6, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

It’s that time of year again when Pennsylvanians by the thousands flock to New York City for a whirlwind weekend of parties, dinners, and other festivities filled with chatter about all things politics at Pennsylvania Society weekend.

This annual event has roots going back more than a century to Pennsylvania’s industrial era. It has grown into a tradition that movers and shakers in the state’s political circles – and those looking to become one – mark on the calendar as soon as a new year rolls around.

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Apple buys first batch of aluminum using Alcoa’s breakthrough, pollution-free technology

Thursday, December, 5, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Alcoa Corp. said Thursday that it has produced the first commercial batch of aluminum using a breakthrough smelting process that emits pure oxygen, eliminating direct greenhouse gas emissions.

The metal — produced at Alcoa’s technical center in Westmoreland County through a joint venture with aluminum maker Rio Tinto — will be shipped and sold to Apple this month for use in its products. The joint venture, based in Montreal, is named Elysis.

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Feds tighten food stamp rules, meaning 688,000 adults must work or lose benefits

Wednesday, December 4, 2019, Tribune News Service

CHICAGO — Some 688,000 food stamp recipients will have to find work by April or risk losing benefits as the Trump administration issues a final rule making it harder for states to get exemptions from work requirements.

Those affected are able-bodied adults under 50 without children or other dependents, who represent about 8% of the 36 million people using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called SNAP. Children, the elderly and people with disabilities — who make up the vast majority of SNAP participants — are not affected.

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Survey: Pa. greenhouse gas emissions dropped 19% from 2005 to ’16

Stephen Huba | Tuesday, December 3, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Pennsylvania’s net greenhouse gas emissions dropped nearly 19% from 2005 to 2016, according to a new inventory prepared by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Pennsylvania was responsible for 235 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2016, which represented an 18.8% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from the baseline year of 2005, according to the inventory.

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Gov. Tom Wolf warns of harm from changes to minor league baseball

Monday, December 2, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf wants Major League Baseball to rethink a restructuring plan that would affect three minor league teams in his state.

Wolf on Monday wrote to baseball commissioner Robert Manfred to express concern about the impact on the Erie SeaWolves, the Williamsport Crosscutters and the State College Spikes.

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In polls we trust? Do you believe the latest polls predicting the 2020 election? | Battleground Pa. podcast

Salim Michel Makhlouf | Wednesday, November 27, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Listen to the latest episode below or on your favorite app including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Podcasts. Be sure to subscribe/follow and rate us in the app to make sure to get the latest episodes as soon as they are published.

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‘Tis the season: Pa. alcohol sales spike as holidays approach

Patrick Varne | Tuesday, November 26, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

It’s the holiday season, and everyone is getting into the spirit — or at the very least, into the spirits store.

November and December are far and away the busiest times of the year at Pennsylvania’s Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores. The top single sales day in each of the past five years has come in the run-up to Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day.

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The census isn’t always right. Here’s what cities can do when they think it’s wrong.

Michaelle Bond | Monday, November 25, 2019, The Philadelphia Inquirer

In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau came up against Pennsylvania’s often confusing boundaries for local governments. And at the border of Chester and Delaware Counties, the census got it wrong.

Census Bureau officials, responsible for the comprehensive decennial counting of the nation’s population, determined later that they had incorrectly counted some residents of Thornbury Township, Chester County, as living in a neighboring Delaware County township of the same name.

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Pennsylvania moves to raise cigarettes, e-cigs, other tobacco products to age to 21

Thursday, November 2, 2019, The Patriot-News

The General Assembly Thursday put Pennsylvania on a track to become the 19th state in America to raise the minimum age for purchase of tobacco products to age 21, effective next July 1.

The bill passed both the House, 135-49, and Senate, 44-5, and now heads to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for an expected signature.

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Minimum wage increase passes in Pa. Senate; bigger test will come in House

Charles Thompson | Wednesday, November 20, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

The Pennsylvania Senate easily passed a compromise bill Wednesday that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 per hour over the next two years.

Under the terms of Senate Bill 79, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage would move from $7.25 to $8 per hour on July 1, 2020. It would rise to $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2021; $9 on July 1, 2021; and then take the final step to $9.50 on Jan. 1, 2022.

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Shale gas stymies efforts to combat climate change

November 19, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Continued development of shale oil and gas is a bridge fuel gone too far, according to Dr. Brian Schwartz, senior investigator at the Geisinger Health Research Center.

Dr. Schwartz, part of a Tuesday afternoon “Science and Policy” panel at the seventh annual League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania “Shale & Public Health” conference, said the planned build-out of the shale gas industry will make it more difficult, if not impossible, to meet fossil fuel use reduction goals needed to mitigate climate change.

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Imperfect progress: Cashless tolls carry an array of questions, concerns

The Editorial Board | Thursday, November 14, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pennsylvania Turnpike’s announcement that it will move to a completely cashless toll system by 2021 is being heralded as a mark of progress, an advance in technology that will reduce traffic and idling on the turnpike. But this progress comes at a cost that should not be overlooked — specifically, the loss of 600 jobs.

Automation has made the elimination of toll booth attendant positions something of an inevitability. In fact, Pennsylvania is late to the party. Dozens of toll agencies throughout the country already have gone cashless, and the resulting data indicates improved safety and mobility on toll roads.

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Pennsylvania medical marijuana sales top $500M in first 2 years

Wednesday, November 13, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program has passed a half-billion dollars in sales since it began dispensing the drug nearly two years ago.

John Collins, director of the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana, said at an advisory board meeting Wednesday that about 147,000 people are currently certified to purchase medical marijuana at one of the 72 dispensaries now in operation.

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