Gov. Wolf launches push for mandatory lead testing in children statewide

Jill Daly | Thursday, August 29, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gov. Tom Wolf came to Pittsburgh Thursday to shine light on his statewide initiative to tackle the serious health problem of lead exposure in young children, starting with a call for mandated blood testing throughout Pennsylvania.

Even low levels of lead have been linked to a child’s IQ and ability to pay attention, how well he or she does in school and other behavioral issues. Mr. Wolf said about 30% of children are tested in the state.

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UPMC doctors ready to meet ‘pent-up demand’ after inking 10-year contract with Highmark

Natasha Lindstrom | Wednesday, August 28, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

UPMC facilities are preparing to meet the “pent-up demand” among Highmark-insured patients who now can choose to go to UPMC doctors and hospitals, particularly when it comes to specialty care, UPMC’s chief financial officer said Tuesday.

“We’re seeing (patient) volume increases,” said Robert DeMichiei, CFO of UPMC, a nonprofit health system based in Downtown Pittsburgh’s U.S. Steel Tower that, like its rival Highmark, controls both provider and insurer arms. “We have plans with physicians to accommodate that demand.”

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Pitt researchers develop marijuana breathalyzer

Deb Erdley | Tuesday, August 27, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

With more and more states legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana, sooner or later some bright scientist had to invent a marijuana breathalyzer.

Now it appears researchers at the University of Pittsburgh may have just walked to the head of the class.

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Cannabis research: Mississippi ‘ditch weed’ supplier could soon have Pennsylvania competitor

Sam Wood | Monday, August 26, 2019, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday that it plans to expand the number of marijuana growers authorized to supply institutions conducting federally approved cannabis research.

The move could benefit leading cannabis companies with sizable footprints in the region, such as Columbia Care and Pharmacann. But whichever firm might win a federal contract, it will be producing marijuana for researchers, not the general public.

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Meadows Racetrack & Casino adding sportsbook, undergoing transformation

Michael A. Fuoco | Thursday, August 22, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hidden from the view of patrons, major changes are taking place at several locations inside the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County, including preparations for its first sportsbook.

Vibe lounge closed several weeks ago for construction of a new sports-betting area at the facility. The Food Court was closed in July for the installation of a new four-restaurant concept by celebrity chef Fabio Viviani.

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Lawmaker aims to tax retirement income and food as a way to eliminate school property taxes; ‘This is not going to be an easy sell’

Jan Murphy | Tuesday, August 20, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Rep. Frank Ryan is looking to move Pennsylvania in a direction it has resisted for decades in order to eliminate school property taxes. He wants to tax retirement income and he wants to make food and clothing subject to a sales tax.

The Lebanon County Republican discussed his proposal at a Capitol news conference on Tuesday. It calls for replacing the $15 billion that was raised from school property taxes this year – a tax deemed the most hated in Pennsylvania by far – with an assortment of new taxes.

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More-secure hand-marked ballots are also cheaper for Pa. counties

Christopher Huffaker | Thursday, August 15, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Election security experts told the Allegheny County Board of Elections in June that the best choice for secure elections is a voting system where most voters make their selections with a pen on paper — while those who need them have access to ballot-marking devices.

A new analysis shows that for Pennsylvania counties that have already selected new systems, that is also the cheaper option.

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Lawmakers might bring back license plate stickers with a new twist

Ed Blazina | Wednesday, August 14, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The state House Transportation Committee is considering a bill to reinstate those little vehicle registration stickers on Pennsylvania license plates.

But the bill proposed by state Rep. Barry Jozwiak, R-Reading, would do more than reinstate the registration sticker. Critics say it would completely overhaul the system by establishing a combination inspection-registration sticker that would be placed on license plates, requiring owners to have an inspection before they can register their vehicles rather than keeping them separate transactions.

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Gov. Wolf calls for sweeping reforms for charter schools in Pennsylvania

Deb Erdley | Tuesday, August 13, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday vowed to level the playing field between Pennsylvania’s traditional public schools and charter and cyber charter schools.

He said the latter lack accountability and transparency and are draining millions of dollars from struggling school districts.

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The state will hand out millions of dollars for redevelopment; Which central Pa. projects were awarded grant money?

Daniel Urie | Monday, August 12, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

The state recently awarded millions of dollars in grant money for redevelopment projects though the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. The grant program is administered by the State of Pennsylvania’s Office of the Budget and is for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects.

Grant money has been awarded from the state through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program since 1986.

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Tackling property tax relief on Pa. lawmakers’ minds again; work group formed to find a solution

Jan Murphy | Thursday, August 8, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Pennsylvania state lawmakers are making overtures once again about attempting to address the intractable issue of school property tax relief this fall.

A bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers along with administration officials are meeting behind closed doors later today to informally discuss possible pathways to lead to a new way to fund public schools.

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Only in Pennsylvania: Legal quirk for wineries – discounts are fine, just don’t advertise it

Harold Brubaker | Tuesday, August 6, 2019, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Here’s another dispatch from the weird world of Pennsylvania liquor law: The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has explicitly barred the state’s wineries from promoting volume discounts — such as 25 percent off a case of Cabernet Franc — because that amounts to an inducement.

Wineries are, on the other hand, allowed to offer a list price for a case of wine that is lower than the per bottle price, as long as they don’t promote the discount, according to an advisory opinion published last week.

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Gov. Tom Wolf calls charter schools ‘private,’ draws heated response from their largest advocacy group

Jan Murphy | Monday, August 5, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

To say Gov. Tom Wolf struck a nerve with the charter school community when he recently referred to their schools as “private” is putting it mildly, but his administration is not backing away from that description.

An organization representing those schools sent Wolf a letter on Thursday voicing their “grave concerns” about his comments as well as his perception of charters, which are public schools that operate independently of school districts.

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Pennsylvania Lottery reports record sales after adding online, bar games

Diana Nelson Jones | Thursday, August 1, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pennsylvania Lottery announced Thursday that this year’s $4.5 billion revenue from Pennsylvania Lottery games hit a record, topping last year’s record $4.2 billion.

A record $2.9 billion was paid out to winners, and 70 people won $1 million or more.

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These states have the largest amount of student loan debt. Where does Pa. rank?

Linda Hasco | Wednesday, July 31, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Student loan debt has become a hot-button issue for Democrats hoping to nab the party’s nomination for president in 2020. Some have suggested offering refinancing options, larger grants and free community college educations. Others have proposed debt-free college. And a few candidates are even calling for forgiveness of student debt.

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V-tolls: What they are and why you might be paying them if you travel the Pa. Turnpike

Jan Murphy | Tuesday, July 30, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Mysterious charges appeared on E-ZPass statements of Pennsylvania Turnpike customers at least 350,000 times over the course of a year.

Called V-tolls, these are $10 charges incurred by E-ZPass users when an E-ZPass transponder doesn’t get read as a vehicle exits the turnpike.

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Pennsylvania Turnpike using technology to clear accident scenes quicker

Ed Blazina | Monday, July 29, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As a senior traffic operations manager for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, John Parker knew that tons of information is available about conditions on the toll road from a variety of sources: public safety reports, mobile apps such as Waze, even social media.

But at the turnpike’s control center in Harrisburg, it was a cumbersome process, at best, for the Traffic, Engineering and Operations personnel to monitor and use that information in the best ways possible.

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Pa. legislation aims to build on low number of roads, bridges named to honor women

Alyssa Biederman | Wednesday, July 24, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Take a road trip through the Capital Region and you’ll see John Harris Memorial Bridge, the Sen. John D. Hopper Memorial Bypass, the Army Major Richard D. Winters Bridge, the Cpl. Paul Walters Memorial Bridge and more.

It’s a great way to open your eyes to important figures in local history – so long as you’re OK with forgetting about the women.

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Groups go to court to try to keep Pa.’s cash assistance for state’s poorest residents from ending on Aug. 1

Jan Murphy | Tuesday, July 23, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Organizations that assist poor and disabled individuals have turned to the courts to try to salvage the state’s cash assistance program scheduled to end next week.

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and the Disability Rights Pennsylvania filed paperwork in Commonwealth Court on Monday asking for a preliminary injunction to keep the program alive for the 11,844 poor and disabled people who came to depend on it.

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Could Pa. be the next state to raise the age to buy tobacco products to 21?

Alyssa Biederman | Monday, July 22, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

When Sen. Mario Scavello was growing up, his house was filled with smoke from his father’s cigarette habit. His wife, Mary Ann, knew the same familiar acrid scent.

But that’s how it was “back in those days,” Scavello said – an easy argument to make until both his father and his father-in-law died from lung cancer.

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