Deadline nears to register to vote in Pa. primary election

Ron Southwick | Thursday, April 18, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

If you haven’t registered to vote and want to cast a ballot in the primary election, time is running out.

The deadline to register to vote for the primary is Monday, April 22. The primary elections take place on May 21, but you must be registered by April 22 to cast a ballot.

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Governor backs Shapiro’s efforts in UPMC-Highmark dispute, even as key departments stay on sidelines

Steve Twedt | Wednesday, April 17, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Last week, an attorney in Gov. Tom Wolf’s office informed Pennsylvania’s highest court that two departments that were instrumental in creating the UPMC-Highmark consent decrees would not take a position for or against Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s petition to modify those agreements.

The three-sentence letter gave no reason why state Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine and Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman are sitting this one out.

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Eastern hellbender voted Pennsylvania’s official amphibian

Tuesday, April 16, 2019, Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania is getting an official amphibian, a nocturnal salamander that can grow to be more than two feet long.

The House voted 191-6 on Tuesday to grant the honor to the Eastern hellbender, and Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said he plans to sign it.

The path to legislative recognition was not smooth, as the Eastern hellbender faced a stiff challenge from Wehrle’s salamander.

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Original midfield terminal architect: Airport’s $1.1 billion modernization ‘doesn’t make sense’

Mark Belko | Monday, April 15, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The architect behind the midfield terminal is urging Pittsburgh International Airport leadership to abandon a $1.1 billion modernization plan, arguing that the project is unnecessary and could end up costing even more than expected.

In an open letter to the Allegheny County Airport Authority, Tasso Katselas has raised a series of concerns about the project, which would involve closing the existing landside building and erecting a new one to handle ticketing, security, and baggage claim.

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Judge rejects lawsuit over Pa. Turnpike toll hikes

Marc Levy | Thursday, April 4, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

HARRISBURG — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit over Pennsylvania Turnpike toll increases to help fund the state’s transit agencies, saying Thursday that a truckers’ organization didn’t show the scheme violates constitutional protections over commerce and travel between states.

The 56-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane elicited a sign of relief from a number of quarters in Pennsylvania state government, as well as from transit agencies whose payments had been held up during the lawsuit.

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Pa. Court rules UPMC-Highmark consent decrees end June 30

Steve Twedt and Kris B. Mamula | Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Will Highmark Medicare Advantage members still have in-network access to UPMC hospitals in Pittsburgh and Erie after June 30?

The answer, it appears, will likely rest with Pennsylvania’s seven Supreme Court justices.

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Pittsburgh jobless rate hits lowest point since the early 1970s

Daniel Moore | Tuesday, April 2, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bell-bottoms were the height of style the last time the Pittsburgh region saw unemployment dip as low as it was in February.

The jobless rate edged down to 3.6 percent, down two-tenths of a percent from January and the lowest since at least the early 1970s, according to the monthly workforce report released on Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

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Another report calls state levies on Pennsylvania Turnpike unsustainable

Deb Erdley | Monday April 1, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

A coalition of transportation agencies Monday issued the latest alert on a looming transportation crisis, driven in part by the law that ordered the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to send $450 million a year to PennDOT.

The Southeast Partnership for Mobility, which includes the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA), the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and PennDOT, weighed in with a report labeling the state’s transportation funding system unsustainable.

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Majority in Pa. say marijuana should be legal: F&M Poll

Ron Southwick | Thursday, March 28, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

A majority of Pennsylvanians say it should be legal to buy marijuana for recreational purposes, according to the new Franklin & Marshall College poll.

The poll, which was released this morning, found 59 percent of voters said pot should be legal in Pennsylvania. The findings underscore a remarkable shift in public opinion on marijuana in a little more than a decade. In 2006, only 22 percent of registered voters supported legalizing marijuana, said G. Terry Madonna, the F&M poll’s director.

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Efforts to salvage cash assistance for Pa.’s poorest citizens fail in the House

Jan Murphy | Wednesday, March 27, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Legislation that seeks to end permanently a program that provides $200 in monthly general cash assistance to low-income Pennsylvanians starting on July 1 withstood six attempts to give the program at least a partial lease on life.

After a House debate on Wednesday, the bill is teed up for a vote by the full House when members return to legislative session the week of April 8.

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Advocates call for passage of Pa. law requiring lead water testing in schools

Bob Bauder | Tuesday, March 26, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Officials in Pittsburgh on Wednesday called for the passage of state legislation that would require school districts to test their drinking water for lead.

Legislation from state Rep. Karen Boback, R-Luzerne, introduced Wednesday would also drastically reduce a statewide threshold for lead levels in water at schools and require districts to disclose test results to the public.

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Pennsylvania’s 2020 Democratic primary could be competitive

Monday, March 25, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Beto O’Rourke’s splashy campaign event in Pennsylvania this week appeared to herald the start of the state’s presidential primary season.

But if Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party faithful are searching for a favorite from among the crowded 2020 primary field, it may be in vain. Early-voting states typically make that choice.

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Pennsylvania lawmakers attempt to head off transportation funding problems

Nicole Brambila | Thursday, March 21, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

A state lawmaker announced Wednesday that she would lead the effort to address Pennsylvania’s looming transportation crisis and the possible $50 million annual revenue loss for the next three decades.

Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee Chair Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, said during a press conference at the capitol that the funding challenges threaten public transportation. She specifically mentioned the pending litigation against the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

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Pa. House votes for tougher public pension forfeiture rules

Tuesday, March 19, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania state lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to make it harder for officials and government employees convicted of crimes related to their jobs to retain their public pensions.

The state House voted 194 to 1 to approve legislation that applies the pension forfeiture law to state and federal felonies and other crimes that could result in at least five years behind bars.

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What will become of Three Mile Island’s nuclear waste if the plant closes?

Wallace McKelvey | Monday, March 18, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

THREE MILE ISLAND’s short-term survival currently rests with Harrisburg lawmakers and lobbyists but the storied nuclear power plant’s ultimate fate is already known:

It will eventually be decommissioned and, for now at least, its radioactive waste will be stored on site for years to come.

The specifics are still murky but the outcomes of other shuttered reactors illustrate a long and often fraught process. In decades past, spent fuel and other contaminated materials were shipped to federal compounds where they were warehoused or buried underground. Growing health and environmental concerns put a stop to that practice, resulting in radioactive elements being stored at dozens of reactors across the country.

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Pa. may raise legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21

Jan Murphy | Friday, March 15, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

In a quest to try to make the next generation tobacco-free, states are beginning to raise their minimum legal sales for all tobacco products – including vaping products – to 21.

Pennsylvania could soon be joining them.

The legal age now is 18. State Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe County, is looking at proposing legislation that would make it illegal to sell all forms of tobacco products to anyone under 21.

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Term limits: Proposal would end career politicians serving in Pa. Legislature

Jan Murphy | Thursday, March 14, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

A freshman lawmaker is leading the charge on a government reform effort to let voters decide whether to bring an end to politicians making a career out of serving in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin County, is proposing a constitutional amendment that would limit lawmakers to serving in their elective office for no more than 12 consecutive years.

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Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful removes 7.2 million pounds of trash

Paul Guggenheimer | Wednesday, March 13, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Talk about taking out the trash.

The Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful program resulted in 7.2 million pounds of trash being disposed of in 2018, thanks to the work of nearly 130,000 volunteers, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.

In addition, 2.3 million pounds of electronics waste and over 43,000 tires were either recycled or properly disposed of.

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Pennsylvania’s attorney general opens investigation into gas liquids pipeline

Andrew Maykuth | Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Delaware County district attorney’s office announced they are conducting a joint investigation into Sunoco Pipeline LP and its parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, over allegations of criminal misconduct related to its Mariner East pipeline project.

The announcement Monday night by DA Katayoun M. Copeland follows a similar announcement in December by Thomas P. Hogan, the district attorney in neighboring Chester County.

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Allegheny County lacks resources to scrutinize tax breaks for ‘Big 4’ charities

Natasha Lindstrom | Monday, March 11, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Allegheny County says it lacks the resources to scrutinize hundreds of tax-exempt properties owned by the region’s so-called “Big 4” charities, further delaying an oversight probe that was supposed to be completed years ago, the Tribune-Review has learned.

Four massive nonprofit organizations with billion-dollar portfolios control the county’s most valuable, tax-free real estate: UPMC, Highmark/Allegheny Health Network, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

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