Want to vote in November? The deadline is approaching quickly

Ron Southwick | October 3, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

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

The deadline to register to vote in the fall election is Oct. 7. Next month, voters will cast ballots in judicial, county, municipal and school board races. It may be an “off-year” since the presidential election is a year away, but these races determine who will set local property tax rates, oversee schools and protect the public.

Voters will also be asked if they want to amend the constitution to clarify the rights of crime victims.

Read More

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.

Read More

Bill would allow Pa. local officials to get pay increases of up to 68%

Jan Murphy | Tuesday, October 1, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

The maximum pay for certain local government officials, which hasn’t risen in nearly a quarter of a century, could go up by as much as 68% under legislation moving in Pennsylvania’s Capitol.

That proposed increase in the maximum salary that could be paid to township supervisors, mayors and borough council members under this package of bills, sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster County, reflects the regional percentage change in the Consumer Price Index since 1995, the last time the local municipal officials’ salary cap was set.

Read More

Rivers Casino unveils $5M lounge with 360 degrees of TV screens for sports gambling

Natasha Lindstrom | Monday, September 30, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

While tailgaters sweated outside Heinz Field in the muggy weather, another black-and-gold-clad crowd gathered hours before Monday night’s Steelers game in the air-conditioned comfort of River Casino’s latest addition — a 5,500-square-foot lounge for sports gambling.

People placing bets or simply checking out the new sportsbook digs relaxed in plush recliners while drink servers took their orders.

Read More

$2 million study looks at hyperloop – 700 mph transit – that would cross Pennsylvania

Jana Benscoter | Thursday, September 26, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Will a hyperloop work in Pennsylvania?

That’s the question officials from legislative and executive branches, statewide agencies, organizations and departments, as well as a handful of private business leaders are trying to answer.

Fifty people, invited to a workshop at Dixon University in Harrisburg on Wednesday, met to talk about the possibility of building a hyperloop system in the commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has until April 2020 to complete a $2 million state-legislative commissioned study on its viability.

Read More

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.

Read More

State study: Arnold Palmer Regional Airport boosts economy by $226M

Jeff Himler | Tuesday, September 24, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Arnold Palmer Regional Airport boosts the local economy by $226 million annually, according to a state study.

The 2019 state Bureau of Aviation update of its similar 2011 report shows the Unity airport’s impact has more than doubled since 2010 — when it pumped $97.5 million into the area, a year before Spirit Airlines began regular commercial flights from the airport to Southern destinations.

Read More

Pa. Capitol Rotunda crowd control policy tweaked to allow for easier pedestrian traffic flow

Jan Murphy | Monday, September 23, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Visitors to the Pennsylvania Capitol will now see fewer stanchions in the Rotunda to carve out a pathway for people to navigate around large rallies in this popular gathering spot.

Just one week after putting a new policy in place to control Rotunda crowds and limit their size, the Wolf Administration has tweaked its policy to reduce the number of stanchions that will be set up. That should allow for freer pedestrian traffic flow in the Rotunda on days when the General Assembly is in session and more people are in the Capitol.

Read More

Pennsylvania set for big expansion of utility assistance for low-income consumers — at a cost of $102 million

Andrew Maykuth | Thursday, September 19, 2019, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, split along party lines, voted Thursday to dramatically expand low-income utility assistance programs, making them more forgiving and more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

The PUC’s action could significantly lower energy costs for the poorest families — a household with a $10,000 annual income could see a $1,000 decrease in electric and gas bills. But the new policy will shift the estimated $102 million cost of the expanded low-income subsidies to other customers, including, for the first time, commercial and industrial customers. Utility consumers in Philadelphia, the poorest large city in the country, will likely bear a significant part of the cost burden.

Read More

Hospital admissions for opioid overdoses decline in Pennsylvania

Deb Erdley and Emily Balser | Wednesday, September 18, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

A significant decrease in hospital admissions for opioid overdoses across Pennsylvania may have more to do with evolving treatment and the widespread availability of a lifesaving antidote than any major drop in drug abuse, experts said following the release of a report on overdose hospitalizations.

Researchers at the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council tracked overdose hospitalizations in the state between 2016 and 2018 and found that admissions for opioid overdoses dropped from 3,500 to 2,667 — or nearly 24%.

Read More

Pa. Liquor Control Board’s refusal to share records with state lawmaker sparks court battle

Jan Murphy | Tuesday, September 17, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

A state lawmaker is finding his quest for records to help him decide whether to support a bill that would increase the number of restaurant liquor licenses has led him into a court battle with a state agency.

Using the state’s Right to Know Law process, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria County, asked the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for the number of out-of-service or revoked restaurant liquor licenses in each county that are able to be auctioned.

Read More

Rallies in the Pa. Capitol Rotunda are in for a change with crowd size now limited

Jan Murphy | Monday, September 16, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Some changes are in store for the state Capitol Rotunda that will impact the size of rallies held there and the people trying to move around them.

Starting Monday, the state Department of General Services is instituting a policy that will limit the maximum occupancy for events that get scheduled on that date and thereafter for this popular gathering spot inside the Capitol to 450 people. That includes the attendees who stand on the marble staircase, on the floor as well as on the balconies above.

Read More

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.

Read More

Pa. to launch review of its science standards that may include emphasis on helping students think like scientists

Jan Murphy | Thursday, September 12, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

Pennsylvania education officials will begin the process of reviewing the framework around how science is to be taught to students and consider whether to incorporate a set of standards embraced by most other states that encourage students to think like scientists.

The State Board of Education directed the state Department of Education to begin preparing to modernize the state’s 17-year-old science standards to bring them into alignment with current research and best practices, including a look at the Next Generation Science Standards.

Read More

Pa. House of Representatives to spend $1 million to create more meeting room space

Jan Murphy | Wednesday, September 11, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News

The state House of Representatives is on the brink of launching a remodeling project to create two new meeting rooms at a cost estimated at around $1 million.

The meeting rooms will be located on the fifth floor of the K. LeRoy Irvis Office Building in the Capitol Complex in space that once housed two Commonwealth Court courtrooms. The court vacated those rooms in 2009 when they moved into the Pennsylvania Judicial Center a short distance away.

Read More

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.

Read More

Pennsylvania royalty owners share the pain of low natural gas prices

Laura Legere | Monday, September 9, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Stubbornly low natural gas prices are leaving Pennsylvania property owners, big and small, with diminished royalty checks even as record amounts of gas are pulled from the commonwealth’s shales.

The price slump has left shareholders angry and companies promising to slow new development. Royalty owners — those who have leases with drilling companies and share a stake in the gas sold from their property — have few options but to hope for prices to rebound.

Read More

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.

Read More

Auction for new Pennsylvania mini-casino licenses goes begging

Andrew Maykuth | Wednesday, September 4, 2019, Philadelphia Inquirer

When presented with a long-shot bet, Pennsylvania’s casinos apparently know what to do with their money.

At a legislatively-mandated auction for a new mini-casino license on Wednesday, none of the state’s 13 casinos stepped forward to pay a minimum of $7.5 million for a satellite gambling outlet, also known as a Category 4 casino.

Read More

Foundation funds will help PA 2020 Census efforts

Kate Giammarise | Tuesday, September 3, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The William Penn Foundation has awarded $1 million toward 2020 Census outreach efforts in Pennsylvania.

The money is to help the Keystone Counts coalition, a nonpartisan group of organizations working across the state, to ensure a complete count in next year’s census, the Philadelphia-based foundation announced Tuesday.

Read More