Gov. Tom Wolf is sworn in for second term

Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil | Tuesday, January 15, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf took the oath of office Tuesday for a second term as Pennsylvania government’s chief executive, urging “faith” in the state’s ability to rise above ideological divides to fix problems together while embracing tolerance and diversity.

In his speech outside the state Capitol, the mild-mannered Democrat noted that his administration, working with a Republican-led legislature, was able to achieve major policy changes in the last four years, including legalizing medical marijuana, relaxing the state’s iron grip over alcohol sales, and beginning to rein in public pension costs.

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Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf, at halftime of an 8-year tenure, says he’ll focus on achievable goals

Charles Thompson | Monday, January 14, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

If you are hoping for sweeping policy changes or some kind of political adventure as Thomas Westerman Wolf begins his second term as Pennsylvania’s 47th governor Tuesday, you may be disappointed.

Pennsylvania’s manager governor, by most accounts and his own words, isn’t consumed right now with crafting a legacy for the history books, or positioning himself on the hot list of 2020 Democratic Party VP picks.

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What agencies and services are affected by government shutdown? An updated look

Staff and Wire Reports | Thursday, January 10, 2019, The Morning Call

As the partial federal government shutdown drags on, its impact is starting to make itself known in big ways — and has led to adjustments meant to lessen the fallout until a deal can be made.

Nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments, including Agriculture, Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Interior and Justice, have been closed since Dec. 22.

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Pennsylvania criticized for how it handles elder abuse cases

Wednesday, January 9, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania state watchdog agency is criticizing how county-level agencies investigate thousands of complaints they receive about elder abuse and how the state ensures complaints are investigated adequately.

Among the shortcomings identified by the Office of State Inspector General were failures to properly investigate complaints under timelines required by state law. A six-page summary of the report says investigative practices aren’t standardized across counties and it criticizes training requirements for caseworkers who are fielding a fast-growing number of complaints.

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Governor sets goals for Pennsylvania to cut greenhouse gases

Marc Levy | Tuesday, January 8, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf is stepping up the fight against climate change and setting targets to slash Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades in a heavily populated and fossil fuel-rich state that has long been one of the nation’s biggest polluters.

Wolf, a Democrat, on Tuesday issued an executive order that commits his administration to meeting certain targets, putting the state in a league with what the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions says are 20 other states that already set targets.

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Federal shutdown to pinch state in about two weeks, Gov. Tom Wolf says

Ed Blazina | Monday, January 7, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania will begin to have problems as a result of the partial federal government shutdown in the next two weeks, especially in the area of human services, Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday.

Speaking after a Strip District event at Iron Workers Local Union No. 3 training center to promote workforce development, the governor said he expects employees whose salaries are paid with federal funds will be laid off if the shutdown doesn’t end soon. His office is still gathering information on how many people could be furloughed, but it likely would be several thousand.

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19 for ’19: From Gritty to Fetterman, Pennsylvanians you’ll be talking about in 2019

Charles Thompson | Wednesday, January 2, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Happy New Year, PennLive readers.

We spent a good part of our Christmas break gazing in to our crystal ball to come up with a forward-looking list of Pennsylvanians we think you’ll be interested in keeping an eye on as 2019 unfolds.

Our list is predictive, and subjective; only time will tell how well it holds up.

But we can say that is has been culled through conversation with some of the brightest minds in the state. As you peruse, we hope it helps you learn a little more about Pennsylvania, what’s been going on here, and what lies ahead in 2019.

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More Democrats, more women – but the GOP still rules in Pa. Legislature

Angela Couloumbis | January 1, 2019, The Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s Legislature kicked off its two-year session Tuesday with celebratory receptions and swearing-in ceremonies, all devoid of the tension that could quickly settle over its dealings with the Wolf administration.

The “new” Legislature will include more women and more Democrats. But Republicans will still hold firm majorities in both chambers — and their ranks will be more conservative, as the “blue wave” in this past November’s election wiped out many of the more moderate GOP lawmakers from the Philadelphia suburbs.

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Wanting to get things done, Gov. Tom Wolf prepares for a 2nd term

Monday, December 31, 2018, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf, who introduced himself at his first inauguration as an unconventional governor and then unveiled an ambitious blueprint to transform Pennsylvania’s tax structure, is returning for a second term with big plans, although with perhaps a more sober view of what is possible.

Wolf, a Democrat, faced huge Republican legislative majorities throughout his first term, and will again face substantial Republican majorities as he hopes to nail down second-term achievements, including on stalled first-term priorities.

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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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