‘Roadmap’ puts DEP squarely behind greater use of electric vehicles

Stephen Huba | Thursday, February 14, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

It may not be the Green New Deal, but a new report by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection tries to nudge the state toward greater use of electric vehicles.

The Pennsylvania Electric Vehicle Roadmap, developed over two years by the Drive Electric Pennsylvania Coalition, attempts to lay out strategies for overcoming barriers to electric vehicle use by motorists and municipalities.

Read More

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.

Read More

Pennsylvania university system pledges to transform amid struggles

Tuesday, February 12, 2019, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Leaders of Pennsylvania’s state-owned university system are promising a transformation amid declining enrollments, rising costs and lackluster state support.

Tuesday’s hearing before the House Appropriations Committee comes after enrollment at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education fell below 100,000 for the first time since 2001.

Read More

Legalize it? Marijuana talk has been going on for decades. It’s what they’re saying and who’s listening that’s changed

Charles Thompson | Monday, February 11, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Pennsylvania has come a long way in the last 15 years.

With bipartisan support, policy-makers have legalized casino gambling; pushed beer and wine into grocery stores; allowed the sales of certain forms of marijuana for medicinal use, and given the green light for sports betting.

Read More

Tax on violent video games to pay for school safety? That’s one lawmaker’s suggestion

Jan Murphy | Friday, February 8, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

A state lawmaker wants to make gamers pay more to feed their appetite for video games that involve blood, gore, death and destruction.

Under the legislation offered by Rep. Christopher Quinn, R-Delaware County, the cost of video games rated as suitable for mature or adult audiences sold in Pennsylvania would be subject to a new 10 percent tax. The revenue raised from this tax on “M” or “AO” rated video games would go toward supporting school safety measures.

Read More-

Pittsburgh water agency to spend $50M to replace lead pipes

Michael Rubinkham | Thursday, February 7, 2019, The Associated Press

Pittsburgh’s beleaguered water authority will spend $50 million to replace lead service lines, give filters to low-income residents and take other steps to address the city’s lead crisis under a settlement approved Thursday by state utility regulators.

It comes a week after the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office filed criminal charges against the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, alleging it mishandled a lead pipe replacement program in 2016 and 2017 and put more than 150 households at elevated risk of lead poisoning. The authority, which had previously admitted civil liability in the case and was fined $2.4 million by state environmental regulators, is fighting the charges.

Read More

Pa. lawmaker seeks co-sponsors for ‘any willing insurer’ legislation to push Highmark, UPMC together

Steve Twedt | Wednesday, February 6, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, is seeking co-sponsors on legislation which “would require UPMC and Highmark to either contract with each other for services or enter mandatory arbitration,” according to a release circulated Wednesday.

While not even in bill form yet, the move is another sign of growing interest from Harrisburg as the Pittsburgh region moves into the final months of a five-year agreement that has allowed some Highmark Medicare Advantage members and others continued in-network access to UPMC hospitals.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Truck stop or convenience store? The answer will affect Pa.’s gambling expansion

Charles Thompson | Friday, February 1, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

When Karyn Kelly bought her lunch one day this week at a Rutter’s store in northern York County, it never occurred to her she was shopping at a truck stop.

“I think of this as a convenience store,” said Kelly, a 66-year-old from the Dillsburg area. Kelly said she hits the business three or four times a week because it is convenient to her place of work, the nearby Capital City Airport in Fairview Township.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Reformers offer ways to make a rank-and-file Pennsylvania lawmaker more powerful

Charles Thompson | Tuesday, January 29, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

It has been said that you can count on two hands – and most days probably one – the number of state lawmakers who really call the shots at the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

It is a place where partisanship really matters, because its whole structure is built around the five families of the governor’s office, and the Republican and Democratic caucuses of the state House and Senate, respectively.

Read More

State conducting criminal investigation of shale gas production

David Templeton and Don Hopey | Monday, January 28, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is pursuing criminal investigations of “environmental crimes” committed by the oil and gas industry in Washington County and possibly throughout the state.

In an Aug. 16, 2018, letter to attorneys in a civil case before the Washington County Court of Common Pleas, Mr. Shapiro and his office said they already had accepted a referral and “assumed jurisdiction over several criminal investigations involving environmental crimes in Washington County.”

Read More

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s first official assignment: Take Pa. residents’ pulse on legalizing pot

Jan Murphy | Wednesday, January 24, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Pennsylvania’s new Lt. Gov. John Fetterman received his first assignment: Take the pulse of Pennsylvanians about where they stand on the issue of legalizing marijuana.

At their first news conference since their Jan. 15 inauguration, Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday joined with Fetterman in announcing he is sending the lieutenant governor on a 67-county listening tour. Fetterman will gather input on the pros and cons of Pennsylvania allowing adults to use marijuana for recreational purposes.

Read More

Pennsylvania drivers can bring documents to PennDOT to pre-verify for ‘REAL ID’

Brian C. Rittmeyer | Wednesday, January 23, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Pennsylvania drivers are getting information in the mail about pre-verifying for “REAL ID.”

The identifications, in the form of a new driver’s license or photo identification card, will be available this spring, according to the postcard PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said the agency is sending to all customers.

REAL ID-compliant identification will be needed as of Oct. 1, 2020, to enter federal buildings and to board commercial airline flights, even if those flights to do not leave the country.

Read More

In a surprise reversal, Pennsylvania throws door wide open for industrial hemp production

Anthony Salamone | Tuesday, January 22, 2019, The Morning Call

In a surprising turn, Pennsylvania is throwing the door wide open for industrial hemp production — something the state, or the U.S. for that matter, has not seen since before World War II.

State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said Tuesday that Pennsylvania submitted a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows for the full commercial production of industrial hemp.

Read More

New gambling money poured into state in 2018. Now more new games will begin

Gary Rotstein | Monday, January 21, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sports betting and internet-based lottery games are here, casino games on your phone will likely be available within months and new mini-casino options closer to home for many Pennsylvania should be open a year from now.

Such new forms of gambling — even though many are yet to get started — are on pace to give the state a $300 million-plus cash infusion through new fees assisting its general fund. And that’s not even taking into account the prospects still ahead for playing devices similar to slot machines at certain truckstops and casino-style games on computer tablets at airports.

Read More

Costa calls for state no-interest loan fund for federal workers

Deb Erdley | Thursday, January 17, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Pennsylvania’s top Democrat in the state Senate could get support from a Westmoreland County Republican in setting up a no-interest loan fund for federal employees and contractors in the state affected by the partial government shutdown.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, on Thursday began circulating a memo seeking co-sponsors for a bill as the federal government shutdown edged toward day 28, his spokeswoman said. The shutdown began Dec. 22 and was triggered by a stalemate over funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Read More

Fragmented local government a challenge in addressing pockets of high child poverty in Allegheny County

Kate Giammarise | Wednesday, January 16, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Allegheny County’s patchwork of highly fragmented municipal governments, combined with a reliance on local property taxes for services, is an obstacle to tackling concentrated pockets of high child poverty and need, officials said this week.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week launched a series, Growing up through the Cracks, focused on how poverty impacts children, families and communities. There are seven Allegheny County municipalities in which half or more of the children live in poverty: North Braddock, Mount Oliver, Rankin, Duquesne, McKeesport, Clairton and Wilmerding.

“You’ve got real haves and have nots in this county,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in a December interview, after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette presented him with the data used as the basis for Growing up through the Cracks, a series which started this week.

Read More