Pa. churches, nonprofits can get grants to improve security

Stephen Huba | Wednesday, January 15, 2020, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Religious organizations such as churches and synagogues looking to improve security can now get help from the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday announced that $5 million in security grants is being made available to religious organizations and other nonprofits that serve communities deemed vulnerable to hate crimes.

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20 (plus one) for 2020: Pennsylvanians worth watching in the year ahead

Charles Thompson | Thursday, January 2, 2020, Harrisburg Patriot News

Welcome to the Roaring ’20s, PennLive readers.

We once again 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 2020 unfolds.

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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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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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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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Pa. moves a step closer to first major overhaul of election rules in more than 80 years

Jan Murphy | Tuesday, October 19, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Pennsylvania’s election rules could be in for their first major overhaul in more than 80 years if bipartisan-backed legislation approved by the state House of Representatives on Tuesday reaches Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.

The House voted 138-61 to approve an election reform legislation that has Wolf’s support as well as the Senate’s majority Republicans that not only provides a new voting option starting with next year’s elections but also provides counties with $90 million to help cover the cost of replacing their voting machines with ones that have a paper trail.

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Gov. Wolf aims to raise Pa.’s profile in climate change fight by joining multi-state carbon tax program

Charles Thompson | October 2, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Gov. Tom Wolf is about to take his biggest step yet in the fight against climate change by entering Pennsylvania into the Northeast’s multi-state system that promotes cleaner air by placing a tax on future carbon emissions.

Wolf, by an administrative action that may trigger future court challenges, is expected to announce Thursday the first steps to commit Pennsylvania to enter into full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

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Gov. Tom Wolf now supports legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, September 25, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is now in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, saying Wednesday that most of the state’s residents support it and that the state has a wealth of knowledge from the experience in other states to guide it.

Wolf, a second-term Democrat, packaged his announcement with a call to the Republican-controlled Legislature to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and allow the expungement of past convictions of nonviolent and small marijuana-related crimes.

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Pa. lawmakers are among the highest paid in U.S., but they’re doing less and less actual lawmaking

Liz Navratil & Jonathan Lai| Friday, September 13, 2019, Spotlight PA

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the nation and its lawmakers are among the highest-paid in the country, yet, increasingly, they’re doing less and less actual lawmaking.

The number of bills introduced in the legislature has fallen by more than 20% from its peak in the early 1990s, and the number of bills actually passed into law has fallen even more dramatically in the years since, according to an analysis of four decades of legislative data by The Inquirer and Spotlight PA.

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Pennsylvania voters can apply for absentee ballots online

Nicole Brambila | Tuesday, September 10, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Pennsylvanians seeking to vote by absentee ballot can apply online starting next week, rather than making the request by mail or in person.

Absentee voters can apply for a ballot starting Monday, Sept. 16, at votesPA.com/ApplyAbsentee. After approval by the voter’s county election office, the absentee ballot is delivered by mail to the voter.

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Gov. Wolf announces fees for Pennsylvania Department of Education charter school services

Elizabeth Behrman | Thursday, September 5, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pennsylvania Department of Education now will charge service fees in an attempt to “recoup the costs of thousands of hours of staff time” incurred as the agency implements the state’s Charter School Law.

Gov. Tom Wolf discussed the new fee-for-service model Wednesday during a stop at Twin Rivers Elementary School in McKeesport. The change is part of a larger plan he announced last month to use a combination of executive action and new legislation to overhaul Pennsylvania’s more than 20-year-old charter school law and hold charter schools to the same accountability, “ethical and transparency” standards as traditional public schools.

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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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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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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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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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Gov. Wolf again pushes statewide broadband expansion and gas severance tax to fund it

Bennett Leckrone | Thursday, July 18, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Despite pushback from the legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf still says that a gas severance tax is the best way to fund his proposed $4.5 billion infrastructure plan.

Flanked by business and government leaders from rural Pennsylvania, Wolf said at a Thursday press conference that he’s “all ears” to any other way the state can come up with $4.5 billion for his Restore Pennsylvania initiative, but added state funding was the only way to ensure the initiative’s broadband expansion.

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‘All hands on deck’: Pennsylvania ramps up battle against the spotted lanternfly

Tuesday, July 16, 2019, The (Allentown) Morning Call

Pennsylvania has allocated an additional $3 million in its budget toward the containment of the spotted lanternfly, bringing the total to more than $10 million to protect businesses and agriculture in the state.

The funding was announced Tuesday at a joint press conference held by Gov. Tom Wolf, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Penn State University, and U.S. Department of Agriculture at a Harrisburg site populated with spotted lanternflies.

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Pa. Legislature approves $90M for new voting machines; bill would end straight party voting

Charles Thompson | June 27, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

In a flurry of pre-summer recess action, the General Assembly gave final approval Thursday to a bill that calls for the state to borrow up to $90 million to help counties defray the cost of buying new voting machines.

But that bill also would end the time-honored option of casting a straight-party vote.

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