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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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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Flat Medicaid rates concern Pennsylvania nursing homes

Nicole C. Brambila | Thursday, March 7, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

A group that represents about 500 nursing home operators across Pennsylvania expressed concerns about Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget for next fiscal year, saying flat funding threatens the state’s rapidly aging population.

The Medicaid reimbursement rate for Pennsylvania nursing home residents has increased less than $9 a day since July 1, 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. Wolf’s proposed budget does not include a rate increase.

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Ripple effects of raising Pa.’s minimum teacher salary concern House GOP lawmakers

Jan Murphy | Monday, March 4, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

The ripple effects of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to raise the state’s minimum public school teacher salary by 143 percent to $45,000 a year could be what costs it the support of some House Republicans.

At Monday’s House budget hearing with state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, GOP members voiced several concerns about the impact it could have on such things as teacher contracts, salaries of more experienced teachers, and school property tax rates.

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Gov. Tom Wolf wants to offer first-of-its-kind college tuition benefit to Pa. National Guard member families

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

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to break new ground with a new incentive program to entice members of the Pennsylvania National Guard to re-enlist for six years by offering them a tuition assistance plan for their spouses or children.

The Pennsylvania National Guard Military Family Education Program, or Pennsylvania GI Bill of Rights as Wolf refers to it, would provide up to 10 semesters of tuition-free education for the service member’s spouse or family to attend most of Pennsylvania’s higher education institutions.

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Pennsylvania GOP lawmaker opens door to minimum wage deal

Marc Levy | Monday, February 25, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker is opening the door to raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, but he’s also insisting that Democrats lower their sights.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Monday that Gov. Tom Wolf’s latest proposal isn’t reasonable and not worth discussing.

Corman wouldn’t define what he views as a reasonable increase. But he suggests there’s enough Senate Republican support for a more modest increase to bring a bill to the floor.

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Your View: Why Pennsylvania should join neighboring states and raise the minimum wage

David Fillman | Thursday, February 21, 2019, The Morning Call

As lawmakers begin to debate Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019-20 budget proposal, I would urge them to consider the headlines from some of our neighboring states regarding one of the governor’s top priorities — raising our state’s shameful $7.25 an hour minimum wage:

$15 minimum wage is now coming to New Jersey

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Gov. Wolf again proposes for local communities to pay for state police coverage

Megan Tomasic | Wednesday, February 13, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Hempfield could pay almost $7 million for state police coverage under Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal — yet another attempt to collect from municipalities that rely on troopers rather than their own police department.

Hempfield is one of nearly 2,500 municipalities across Pennsylvania without a local police department.

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Tom Wolf the pragmatist: Governor kicks off second term with a budget that forsakes bold policy strokes for doing things better

Charles Thompson | Tuesday, February 5,2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

You know your governor has gone all-in on political pragmatism when one of the talking points in his budget proposal is insisting that children attend first grade.

Look it up. Gov. Tom Wolf called Tuesday for lowering the age of compulsory school attendance in Pennsylvania to six.

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Gov. Wolf set to unveil budget plan with focus on severance tax for gas drillers

Liz Navratil and Angela Couloumbis | Monday, February 4, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG — When Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address Tuesday, he is expected to call for more money for public schools, a higher minimum wage for Pennsylvania workers, and a new tax on natural gas drillers.

In doing so, the Democratic governor who is now unfettered by re-election concerns — and has been openly showcasing his progressive roots — will have to persuade a more conservative, Republican-controlled Legislature to buy into his plan.

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Gov. Wolf again pitches plan for taxing Marcellus gas drillers

Liz Navratil | Thursday, January 31, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday announced plans to once again seek a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, promising to use the money for disaster recovery, infrastructure and the expansion of broadband internet, among other projects.

The Democratic governor plans to approach state lawmakers with a proposal to borrow $4.5 billion over four years by selling bonds. The money would be paid back over 20 years using revenue from a severance tax, which would vary depending on the price of gas and the amount of it extracted.

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Gov. Wolf renews bid to put Pennsylvania’s minimum wage among highest

Wednesday, January 20, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf is rolling out a second-term proposal to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage after similar first-term proposals by the Democrat fell flat in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Wolf said Wednesday he wants to raise Pennsylvania’s hourly minimum to $12 this year, making it one of the highest in the nation, with annual 50-cent increases to bring it to $15 an hour in 2025. He says it would boost pay for a million workers and provide savings in programs for the poor.

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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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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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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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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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