April 29, 2011

May 2 PA Environment Digest Now Available

May 2 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Gov. Corbett Announces 2011 Environmental Excellence Award Winners

Gov. Tom Corbett this week announced 13 environmental projects from across the state will be awarded the 2011 Environmental Excellence Award.
The projects include abandoned mine drainage reclamation, solar panel installation, and reducing the environmental impact of glass processing.
“These businesses, schools and organizations have demonstrated a commitment to finding new approaches to reduce our impact on the environment,” Corbett said. “I commend them for their efforts, as these projects certainly raise the bar for all citizens, businesses, and organizations to be more environmentally conscious.” Click Here to read more…

Friday NewsClips

Corbett's First 100 Days No Honeymoon
School Choice Bill Back On Track
Philly Council Resolution Urges Continued Kindergarten Funding
Editorial: Corbett's Cuts Will Hurt Middle Class, Poor Students
Sen. Bob Mensch Cited For Disorderly Conduct
Poll: PA Voters Back Protection For Gun Owners
Obama's Approval Rating Sinks In PA
Santorum: Obama Sided With Evil
Hotel And Restaurants Planned Near Mohegan Casino
Senate Bill Would Place Impact Fee On Gas Drilling
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 28, 2011

Poll: Obama Down, Guns Good, Casey-Toomey Twins


President Barack Obama's job approval rating in Pennsylvania is a negative 42 - 53 percent, an all-time low and a major drop from his 51 - 44 percent approval February 17, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
            Pennsylvania voters say 52 - 42 percent he does not deserve a second term, his worst showing on that measure also. In a mythical matchup, he gets 40 percent to an unnamed Republican challenger's 41 percent in the 2012 presidential race. 
            Independent voters say 56 - 37 percent that Obama does not deserve a second term and back an unnamed Republican challenger over the president by a smaller 36 - 29 percent margin. 
            "President Barack Obama's re-election team has work to do in the Keystone State," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Although Pennsylvania has traditionally been a swing state, the size of his 2008 margin gave many observers the idea that it would not be a heavily contested state." 
"It's still 18 months until Election Day 2012, but these numbers are not going to make the White House happy," Brown said.
            Castle Doctrine
            Pennsylvania voters support 53 - 39 percent a proposed law giving citizens the ability to use lethal force in self-defense in any public place if they feel their life is in danger, the poll finds. 
            The overall majority support for expanding the "castle doctrine" of self-defense hides a large gender gap, with 63 percent of men and only 45 percent of women backing the change. The political division is also substantial, with 68 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of independent voters in favor, and 54 percent of Democrats opposed. 
            Gun-owners support the measure 68 - 24 percent. 
            Pennsylvania voters are split as 48 percent say it is more important to protect the rights of citizens to own guns, while 47 percent say it is more important to control gun ownership. The gender split shows 58 percent of men saying protecting gun rights is more important while 56 percent of women say controlling gun ownership is more important. All voters say 64 - 28 percent that if more people carry guns, streets would be more dangerous.
            Gun-owners split 45 - 46 percent on whether streets would be safer or more dangerous. 
            Casey-Toomey
            Pennsylvania's two U.S. senators have almost identical approval ratings: 44 - 26 percent for Sen. Bob Casey Jr., the Democrat, and 43 - 25 percent for Sen. Pat Toomey, the Republican.

Thursday NewsClips

Corbett's Job Disapproval Rating Triples Since February
More Voters Now Think Corbett's Failing
Corbett's Disapproval Rating Climbs To 37 Percent
Poll Shows Erosion Of Corbett's Approval Ratings
Corbett Marks 100th Day As Governor
Private Colleges Brace For Possible Funds Cut
Blog: Senate Rs, Corbett Reach Agreement On Voucher Bill
Op-Ed: SB 1 Would Help Lower Income Kids
Op-Ed: Corbett Works To Enhance Business Climate
Mundy Pushes To Stop Corporate Tax Loophole
Comcast Tax Strategy Draws Protesters
House Passes Welfare Drug Testing Bill
Editorial: Best Of Luck To Transportation Commission
PA Bar Panel Hears Reapportionment Concerns
Lawmaker Proposes Sexual Orientation Anti-Discrimination Bill
Editorial: Ready, Fire, Aim On Castle Doctrine
Santorum: Prescription Drug Program A Mistake
Act 47 Team Says Incinerator Debt Is More Than $300 Million
SEC Continues Probe Of Harrisburg Authority Debt Crisis
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 27, 2011

Corbett's Disapproval Numbers Jump In New Poll


While 39 percent of Pennsylvania voters approve of the job Gov. Tom Corbett is doing, 37 percent disapprove, a statistical tie, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. This is a big jump in his negative ratings from a 39 - 11 percent job approval rating in a February 16 survey. 
            Pennsylvania voters say 50 - 39 percent that Gov. Corbett's budget-cutting proposals are unfair to people like them, the independent Quinnipiac University survey finds. There is a large gender gap as men say the cuts are fair 45 - 43 percent, a tie, while women say unfair 55 - 34 percent. Republicans say 59 - 27 percent the cuts are fair, but Democrats say unfair 69 - 22 percent and independent voters say unfair 47 - 41 percent. 
            Still, voters say 55 - 39 percent that balancing the state budget should be done by spending cuts only and not by a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts. 
            Although 97 percent say Pennsylvania's budget problems are "very serious" or "somewhat serious," and a majority want only cuts to meet the budget gap, 35 percent say Corbett's budget cuts go too far, while 20 percent say not far enough and 31 percent say they are about right. 
            "Although Gov. Tom Corbett's numbers are not impressive by traditional standards, they are a good deal better than many of the new Republican governors around the country who are offering a similar approach of no new taxes and large spending cuts," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Voters express some conflicting views about Gov. Corbett and his program, saying they agree on the need not to raise taxes, yet they are not happy with some of the spending reductions that he has proposed." 
            Corbett gets a thumbs up on job approval from Republicans 64 - 18 percent and independents 40 - 31 percent, but gets a 55 - 20 percent negative rating from Democrats. Like many of his fellow Republican governors around the country, he has a gender gap. Men approve 43 - 30 percent while women disapprove 43 - 36 percent. 
            "Gov. Corbett has a problem with women: He has a gender gap on his job approval and a gender gap on his proposed budget cuts," Brown said. "Women find the cuts unfair while men are divided on whether they are fair." 
            Pennsylvania voters disapprove 52 - 35 percent of the way Corbett is handling the state budget, but by 55 - 40 percent voters agree with his position that a tax hike is not necessary to balance the budget. 
            Despite this view, by 57 - 33 percent they don't think Corbett will be able keep his campaign promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. 
            On a variety of budget-cutting steps, Pennsylvania voters:
-- Oppose 50 - 43 percent state worker layoffs;
-- Oppose 53 - 36 percent selling or leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike;
-- Support 64 - 28 percent selling state liquor stores;
-- Oppose 64 - 32 percent cutting state funding for state and state-related universities;
-- Support 68 - 27 percent freezing the wages of state employees;
-- Support 69 - 22 percent instituting a new tax on companies drilling for natural gas in the state's Marcellus Shale region.
            Detailed results of the poll are available online.

Wednesday NewsClips

Corbett's Popularity Plummets During 100 Rough Days
John Baer: Corbett Promised Cuts And Delivered
PA Undercut Pensions, Study Finds
Legislator Renews Effort To Purge Illegal Workers
Education Rally Against Budget Cuts
School Choice Tax Credit Bill Advances
Op-Ed: Corbett's Priority: Prison Funding, Not Education
Chief Justice Warns Of Flat Budget's Impact
adultBasic, Smoking Cessation Supporters Share Woes
Editorial: A Careless Statute On Driving And Calling
Casey, Toomey Team Up To Fill Judge Vacancies
Act 47 Team: No Magic Bullets For Harrisburg
Allegheny County Controller Warns Of Potential Deficit
Flaherty Blasts Onorato On Allegheny County Debt
Editorial: Rising Gasoline Prices, Who's To Blame?
Study: Drillers Avoid PA Corporate Tax
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 26, 2011

Senate Confirms 4 Cabinet Nominees

The Senate today voted 50 to 0 to confirm four of Gov. Corbett's cabinet nominees: Ronald Tomalis, Secretary of Education, Michael Krancer, Secretary of Environmental Protection, Michael Consedine, Insurance Commissioner and Carol Aichele, Secretary of the Commonwealth.

State Of the Courts: 6 Years Of Underfunding Threaten PA's Judiciary


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its annual State of the Commonwealth’s Courts report today which highlights the judiciary’s challenges and successes, this year focusing on the strain of six straight years of inadequate funding.
            “The judiciary projects a $47 million deficit in fiscal year (FY) 2011-12 after a current year deficit of $12 million,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Castille said. “Without immediate increases in state court funding, our ability to cover those deficits depends on borrowing funds from a dedicated computer projects account that would end 2012 in near bankruptcy.
            “Pennsylvania’s judiciary did not create these serial, structural deficits and Pennsylvania’s judiciary cannot save its way out of them. If we cannot pay judges and fund court operations – including our successful computerization efforts – those who depend on the judiciary for resolution of issues in civil, family and problem-solving courts may soon face this crisis as well.”
            The judiciary receives about one-half of one percent of the total state budget, about the 
same as the legislature. More than 83 percent of the budget request for 2011-12 would cover personnel costs, another 13 percent flows directly to the counties for court-related costs and less than 4 percent goes to operating costs.
            The current budget proposal for the judiciary in 2011-2012 does not include funding for 70 current Common Pleas judges, 2,347 Common Please senior judge days, 87 magisterial district judges and 42 district court administrators. It also does not include funds to fully cover grants to counties to help them pay for their court operations.
            Cost-cutting measures by the judiciary have saved approximately $17 million over the past three years. Savings resulted from not filling vacant judge positions; suspending staff merit and cost of living salary increases for periods of time; implementing a targeted hiring freeze and out-of-state travel ban; and, historically, beginning a process to “right size” the number of magisterial district and Common Pleas judges across the state.
            Despite these savings, the judiciary’s gross deficit in the past six years has been $94 million. Shortfalls have been covered in part by loans from a dedicated Judicial Computer System fund that is used to build, expand and maintain an information technology system supporting the judiciary and numerous other state and local agencies. Future transfers from that fund to cover general government operating shortfalls will quickly jeopardize the computer system’s long-term operations.
            Traditionally, the Supreme Court has used the occasion of Law Day, which is commemorated annually on May 1, to issue the State of the Commonwealth’s Courts to give people a better understanding of the judicial branch.
            “Naturally, I would prefer that this report focused only on achievements of the judiciary, but that is impossible when we face increasingly overwhelming deficits,” Castille said.   “Nevertheless, despite the challenges caused by under-funding, the judiciary has thus far been able to continue programs that serve justice, save money and make a difference in peoples’ lives.” 
            Among such programs:
-- Pennsylvania’s problem-solving courts -- drug, mental illness, DUI and veterans’ courts, among others -- have increased by 40 percent over the past two years. For every dollar invested in these courts, $4.74 can be saved in costs to the criminal justice system and the community.
-- The Judiciary’s Office of Children and Families in the Courts helps at-risk children find safe and permanent homes. As a result of its work, there are 5,500 fewer children in foster care home, saving millions of taxpayer dollars and, most importantly, improving kids’ lives.
-- In 2010, 32 million judicial case records were accessed through the court’s website without charge, saving citizens, the media, the government and those with commercial interests and staff countless hours in travel and copying time.
-- In addition, automation and a convenient new online payment application improved the collection and processing of defendants’ penalties, helping to make possible the record $480 million that the judiciary secured in 2010.
            A complete copy of the report is available online.

Tuesday NewsClips

Parents Hold Bake Sale To Protest School Funding Cuts
Panel Discusses Transportation Funding Crisis
adultBasic Health Insurance Re-Examined
Editorial: PA, The State Of Welfare
Editorial: Savings Hiding In Plain Sight, Pensions
Editorial: Now Not Time For Hiking State Worker Pay
Editorial: Scarnati Legislative Surplus Bill Right Step
Corbett Signs Repeal Of Sprinkler Requirement For New Homes
Corbett Signs His First Bill Into Law
Home Fire Sprinkler Mandate Repealed
Corbett Undoes Sprinkler Requirement For New Homes
Bill Would Require Monthly Statements To Gamblers
Quest For More Table Games Could Cut Tax Revenue
Wagner Sets Tobacco Money Hearing In Erie
Bar Panel To Discuss Amending Constitution
Op-Ed: Schools Make Exercise A Priority To Fight Obesity
Letter: Judges' Merit Selection Isn't Necessarily Best Way
PA Wine Kiosks Now Will Sell Hard Liquor
Study: PA Gets It Right In Preventing Foreclosures
Western PA Jobless Rate Falls To 6.8 Percent
NE Unemployment Rate Down To 8.7 Percent
Erie, Crawford Unemployment Rates Improve- 7.7 Percent
Midstate Unemployment Rate Dips Below 7 Percent
Barletta, Lemmond Highlight GOP Dinner
Pittsburgh Area Gas Stations Could Face Shortage
Click Here for today's Environmental NewClips

April 25, 2011

Corbett Signs Bill Repealing Sprinkler Requirement


Gov. Tom Corbett – signing into law the first bill to reach his desk – today affixed his signature to House Bill 377 (Everett-R-Lycoming) a measure repealing a mandate to require automatic sprinkler systems in most new homes.
            Gov. Corbett called it a "common sense" measure that will help to keep new home prices within the reach of Pennsylvania's working families.
            "Whether or not new homes are equipped with sprinklers should be a decision left to individual consumers and not the government," Corbett said. "While there are arguments on both sides of this issue, I believe the sprinkler mandate is wrong-headed and I'm glad the General Assembly sent this bill to my desk."
            According to industry groups, the mandate would have boosted home construction costs by thousands of dollars. They also note that the construction code already requires hard-wired smoke detectors.
            The bill relieves builders of one-family and two-family dwellings of the automatic fire sprinkler system requirement of the International Residential Code of 2009. However, builders must still:
-- Offer buyers the option to install an automatic fire sprinkler system;
-- Provide buyers with information that explains the initial and ongoing costs of such a system; and
-- Furnish buyers with information on the possible benefits of installing an automatic sprinkler system.
            The measure also makes technical changes to Pennsylvania's Uniform Construction Code.

Monday NewsClips

PA Legislature's Size, Cost Are Criticized
House GOP Passes Many Bills, Only One Goes To Governor
Voucher Opponents, Proponents Donated Heavily To Candidates
Op-Ed: Corbett Budget Cuts Foundation
Op-Ed: Cuts To Higher Education Would Be A Step Backward
PA Liquor Prices More Competitive Than You Think
Deloitte's $250 Million DPW Contract Object Of Court Fight
Freshmen Congressmen Feel Heat Back Home
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 22, 2011

April 25 PA Environment Digest Now Available

April 25 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Winners Of Governor's Award For Environmental Excellence, Awards Gala April 28

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has announced the award ceremonies for this year’s recipients of the 2011 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence will take place at an awards gala on April 28 in Harrisburg.
           The Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence are presented each year by the Department of Environmental Protection to highlight the best in environmental innovation and expertise throughout the Commonwealth.
           The awards are the highest statewide honor bestowed upon businesses and organizations for environmental performance and innovation from cleaning up watersheds, saving energy, and eliminating pollution, to reducing waste and more.
           The recipients will be honored at a dinner on April 28 at the Hilton Harrisburg located on One North Second Street in Harrisburg. Click Here to read more…

Friday NewsClips

Scarnati Calls For Limits On Legislative Reserve Funds
Blog: Scarnati Bill Would Direct Legislative Surplus Back To General Fund
Gaming Board Reacts To House Creation Of Whistleblower Website
Op-Ed: One Way To Discourage Compulsive Gambling
PA To Test Liquor Sales In Wine Vending Machines
Wine Kiosks To Sell Hard Liquor
Op-Ed: Voucher Program Fails The Accountability Test
Editorial: Distracted Lawmaking (Tobacco)
PA Townships Talk Transportation Funding
Op-Ed: PA Should Bolster Abortion Clinic Oversight
Chesapeake Energy Suspends Fracking In PA Wells
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 19, 2011

Court Appoints Judge Stephen McEwen Chair Of Legislative Reapportionment Commission

President Judge Emeritus Stephen J McEwen, Jr., of Pennsylvania's Superior Court has been appointed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to chair the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, the Court announced today.
            Judge McEwen began service on Superior Court in 1981 and served a five-year term as that court's President Judge. He was named President Judge Emeritus in 2001 and has been a Superior Court senior judge since 2003.
           "My colleagues and I have acted with expedition in making this appointment so that the reapportionment process may move forward," said Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille. "Judge McEwen is widely respected throughout Pennsylvania and the United States and has served the Commonwealth with high distinction throughout his career. This Court has full confidence in his ability to lead the reapportionment commission with fairness, lending to the forthcoming task his superb problem-solving skills and keen ability to mediate differences."
           The Supreme Court's appointment authority is derived from Article II, Section 17(b), of the Pennsylvania Constitution which vests with the Court the responsibility to appoint a chair should the four other Commission members be unable to reach consensus in naming a chair.
           During his period of service as Commission Chair, Judge McEwen's service as a senior judge will be suspended.
           Chief Justice Castille noted that this is the second, consecutive time that a jurist from the Superior Court has been appointed to chair the Reapportionment Commission. In 1991, Superior Court Senior Judge Frank J. Montemuro, Jr., was appointed to that post by the Supreme Court.

Tuesday NewsClips, Capitol, Capitol Complex Closed For Second Day

Capitol Complex Closed For 2nd Day, Another Water Line Break
Table Game Revenue Reaches New High For March
Orie Retrial Postponed Until October
Appeal Delays Orie Retrial Until October
Orie Wants Jury Pool Expanded For Second Trial In October
Prosecutors Say Musto Received Gifts From Mericle
Feds Back Witness In Case Against Ex-Sen. Musto
PA Trial Lawyers, Business Groups Square Off Over Tort Reform
Pippy Wants To Make State Stores More Consumer-Friendly
Senate Dems Meet With Schools About State Budget Cuts
Rising Tuition A Threat To PA College Savings Plans
State System Chief Defends Raises
Higher Ed Boss Touts State Universities As Best Value
Edinboro University Names Interim President
Disabled Sue State Over Delays In In-Home Care Determinations
Foreclosure Numbers Falling
Corbett Doesn't Waiver In Anti-Drilling Tax Stance
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 18, 2011

Table Games Revenue Increases $11 Million In March

The Gaming Control Board today posted revenue figures for March table games play at the ten operating casinos.
           Table games produced $54,606,617 gross revenue in March, $11 million more than in February, resulting in $8,737,059 in tax revenue. Pennsylvania has a 16 percent tax rate on gross table game revenue with 14 percent going to the Commonwealth's General Fund and 2 percent to the local host county and municipality.
           March's total revenue was the highest to date since table games were introduced at Pennsylvania casinos last July, and significantly eclipsed the previous high month of December 2010 when gross revenue totaled $44,080,346.
           "We continue to see greater play of table games as casinos enhance their customer base and refine the mix of games that patrons seek," says PGCB Executive Director Kevin O'Toole. "Certainly as we move into the warmer months where patron visits increase, it would be likely that we will see a continued upward trend of these revenue numbers." Click Here for complete report.

Water Main Break Closes State Capitol Building, Capitol Complex Offices

The House of Representatives and Senate will close their offices at 10:30 due to a water main break cutting water supplies to the Capitol Building.
The Governor's Office announced all state offices in the Capitol Complex, which is offices in the buildings between Seventh and Front streets, and Chestnut and Reily streets in Harrisburg.

Monday NewsClips

Corbett Sells Budget Proposals To Friendly Audiences
So Far, The Pace Is Not Frantic In Harrisburg
Republicans Make Advances On Issues In Harrisburg
Editorial: Legislators, Staff Should Share Budget Sacrifice
Lawsuit Abuse Headed For Senate Showdown
Op-Ed: Change Necessary to Limit Lawsuit Abuse
Op-Ed: Bill Punishes Victims, Protects Wrongdoers
Column: Corbett Misses Opportunity To Chip Away Education's Fortress
Op-Ed: Not Enough Cookies In PA To Save Education
Editorial: Time For Higher Education To Embrace Online Degrees
LCB Cuts Service At Unprofitable Liquor Stores
Editorial: Neither CDC Nor LCB Should Halt Privatization
Editorial: Preservation Survives Roll Of Casino Dice
Editorial: Who's Looking At Campaign Finance Reports?
Rail Upgrades Will Aid Marcellus Gas Project
Steel Interstate Would Run From Harrisburg To TN
Editorial: Mayor Thompson, Sounds Of Silence
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 15, 2011

April 18 PA Environment Digest Now Available

April 18 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Sen. Scarnati Supports Conservation Districts In Marcellus Shale Impact Fee Proposal

The PA Association of Conservation Districts this week applauded Senate President Pro Tempore Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) for his support of conservation districts by dedicating a portion of his proposed impact fee legislation to help fund them.
Sen. Scarnati recently reported his intent to introduce legislation creating an impact fee for Marcellus shale activities at a Tioga County Conservation District legislative meeting. Click Here to read more…

Friday NewsClips

Buyers Remorse?: Gov. Corbett has a 34 percent approval rating in a new poll by Public Policy Polling and 44 percent disapprove of how he's handling state issues, including 22 percent of Republican voters. The poll also asked if voters got a do-over, would they vote for Democrat Dan Onorato or Corbett-- they favored Onorato 49 to 44 percent. (Patriot-News)
Senate Democrats Outline Budget Priorities
Democrats Have Plan To Restore State Budget Cuts
Democrats Offer Alternative To Corbett Budget
Op-Ed: Close The Tax Loopholes
Editorial: Harrisburg's Spending, Tin Ears
Editorial: Costs Imprison PA Taxpayers
Corbett Wins Step In adultBasic Insurance Money Battle
Judge Lets Corbett Use adultBasic Funding
Op-Ed: Corbet Is Right On Higher Education
Casino License Goes To Nemacolin
Nemacolin Wins Resort Casino License
New Casino Awarded To Nemacolin, Not Gettysburg
Nemacolin Woodlands Lands State's Last Casino License
Cumberland County Casino Developer Will Not Appeal
Study's Impact On LCB Sale Doubted
Low-Income Allegheny County Students Get Funds For Private Schools
Judge Also Denies Motion By Orie's Sisterc
Retrial For Ories To Start April 26
Editorial: Falling Under Spell Of Corrupt Capitol
Casey Racks Up Campaign Funds
Casey Raised $1.1 Million In First Quarter
Barletta, Marino Pile Up Election Cash
Santorum Presses Toward 2012 Bid
Blog: Metcalfe Goes All Birther
PA Unemployment Rate Drops To 7.8 Percent
PA Jobless Rate Dips Below 8 Percent In March
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 14, 2011

Senate Democrats Offer $1.1 Billion Budget Savings Plan


Senate Democrats today unveiled a budget plan they said underscores their budget priorities and includes $1.14 billion in total savings, new revenues and efficiencies.
            Speaking at a news conference today at Temple University, Democrats offered these new budget solutions in response to Gov. Tom Corbett’s March budget proposal. The Corbett budget would make deep cuts in basic and higher education, social service funding, hospital funds, health care, job creation and county programs.
            “By looking seriously at ways to make programs more efficient and cost effective, we stand to save the Commonwealth a significant amount of money,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny). “Savings of this magnitude deserve serious consideration.
            “As we move forward in budget discussions, Senate Democrats are serious about finding solutions to bridge our budget shortfalls without cutting critical programs or risking the gains we have made in education.”
            The Democratic plan uses the funding generated from the cost savings, revenues and innovations to restore critical funding for basic and higher education, safety net programs, mortgage assistance and other vital programs.
            Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Minority Appropriations Chair, said Senate Democrats were offering an alternative spending plan that provides real alternatives to the dramatic cuts included in the Corbett budget.
            “When Gov. Corbett announced his budget in March, I said we could do better. The Senate Democratic plan that we are unveiling today proves that we can do better and that we are not stuck with false choices,” Sen. Hughes said. “We don’t have to cut basic and higher education, job creation, human services funding or eliminate key programs like adultBasic.
            “This plan provides real alternatives and offers substantive solutions in an exceptionally difficult budget year. We can find budget savings without cutting services.”
            The Senate Democratic plan includes savings, revenues and efficiencies of $1.14 billion:
-- $750 million in savings from fiscal responsibility initiatives in Public Welfare, Corrections, procurement and maximizing revenues;
-- $290 million in savings generated through a tax fairness plan that includes a Marcellus Shale tax levy but eliminates other tax breaks suggested by the governor; 
-- $100 million from higher state stores revenues.
            Senate Democrats said the new revenue and savings can be used to restore key funding lines that were slashed in the Corbett budget plan. Senate Democrats would use the funds to:
-- Restore basic and higher education funding to fiscal 2010-11 levels; 
-- Restore critical county programs such as the Human Services Development Fund; 
-- Save the HEMAP (Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program) and mortgage foreclosure assistance programs; 
-- Ensure that the Tobacco Settlement funds are used for healthcare; 
-- Fund the adultBasic program with tobacco settlement dollars; and
-- Maintain core programs that create jobs and provide training.
            Senate Democrats also pointed out that the revenue estimates included in the governor’s proposed budget were significantly under Senate Democratic estimates. The governor’s budget indicates that revenue surplus would be $78 million while Senate Democrats estimate year-end revenues at $300 million.
            Democratic leaders also said state revenues would increase if more jobs were created. As a result, Senate Democrats have proposed a sweeping jobs plan called “PA Works” that would create jobs, leverage private funds and generate economic investment.
            Philadelphia Delegation Chair, Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D- Philadelphia) said, “in an unsteady economy and in the face of massive budget cuts, I truly believe PA Works can be a bright spot that will help move Pennsylvania forward. It is short-sighted to simply cut and slash our way to a balanced budget.
            “We need to give people hope and start planning for a better tomorrow. We can do that by creating jobs and investing in our current infrastructure.”
            The news conference announcing the plan was immediately followed by a Senate Democratic Policy Committee roundtable discussion on job training legislation, a key component of PA Works.

Resort Casino License Goes To Nemacolin, Fayette County

The Gaming Control Board this morning voted 6 to 1 to grant the last resort casino license to Nemacolin Resort in Fayette County. The license allows up to 600 slot machines and 50 table games. Developers were trying to put a casino near the Gettysburg battlefield and at a Cumberland County hotel. Click Here for full story.

Thursday NewsClips

Legislature Repeals Sprinkler Mandate
House OKs Building Code Legislation
Senate Amendments Stalls Repeal Of Sprinkler Law
Senate OKs Corbett Nominees For Police, Transportation
Senate Confirms Noonan
DPW Cuts To Follow Welfare Bills
Op-Ed: Setting Record Straight On Lawmaker Work, Pay
Editorial: Pay Increases For Legislative Staff, But Not You
Appeals Court Reject Orie's Bid To Halt Retrial
Superior Court Rejects Orie's Trial Appeal
Editorial: Boost Ethics
Tax Day A Focus For Tea Party
Decision Day Here On Casino License
House Gaming Committee Launches Whistleblower Website
Gaming Abuses Can Soon Be Reported At New Website
Will New Casino Threaten Mount Airy?
LCB Chief Asks Legislators For Flexibility
LCB Asks To Modernize With More Sunday Sales, Pricing Leeway
Study Links Privatization With Rise In Drinking
School Vouchers On Hold For Two More Weeks
Questions Over School Choice
Editorial: Stop Supporting School Lobbying Groups
Sen. Folmer's Reform Bill Advances
Kelly Learning The Ropes In Washington
Santorum Announces Presidential Fundraising Effort
DEP Accused Of Rubber-Stamping Marcellus Well Permits
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 13, 2011

Bill Repealing Residential Sprinkler Requirement First To Go To Governor


The first bill--  House Bill 377 (Everett-R-Lycoming)-- to be passed by both chambers of the General Assembly during the current session, and the first bill sent to Gov. Corbett, will eliminate the requirement to have sprinklers in certain residential construction, Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) said today.
            The measure, which passed the House by a vote of 129-68, repeals a requirement that automatic sprinkler systems must be installed in new home construction.
            "These additional costs discouraged many families from building and stalled the homebuilding industry right when our housing market was trying to recover from the recession," Rep. Turzai said. "The sprinkler mandate is another example of government over-stepping its bounds and taking away personal choices of homeowners to keep things affordable."
            House Bill 377 removes the residential sprinkler requirement for new one- and two-family residential homes. Further, the bill requires the state's Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council to hold public hearings to determine the impact new provisions may have, including financial impact, and vote, with a two-thirds majority, before implementing the requirements in Pennsylvania.
            “This is an issue of public safety versus builder profits and it’s offensive to think that members of the Senate have put a price tag on the life of an individual,” said Sen. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia). “This is bad for Pennsylvania homeowners and first responders alike.”
            Sen. Stack noted about 3,500 Americans die each year in fires and about 18,300 are injured, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, which reports that the combination of working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of death from fire by more than 80 percent.
            “It is amazing how quickly a fire can spread once it’s ignited. Often, people have just seconds to react,” Sen. Stack said. “Sprinklers can dramatically reduce destruction, minimizing damage and greatly improving a homeowner’s chance to get out alive.”
            The Pennsylvania Builders Association opposes the sprinkler requirement. They claim it will add up to $15,000 to the cost of buying a home. The Sprinklerfitters union, sprinkler manufacturers and contractors, and the State Fire Commissioner dispute this figure, saying that a sprinkler system in the average new home will cost an average of $3,200 depending on the size of the home.
            “Is $3,200 dollars worth the life of a Pennsylvanian? How about $7,000 dollars? Is it worth the life of a family? Is it worth the life of a firefighter?” Sen. Stack said. “The answer should be a resounding ‘Yes!’ but today’s vote says otherwise. This is a sad day for Pennsylvania.”

Wednesday NewsClips

House OKs Castle Doctrine Expansion Bill
House Approves Castle Doctrine Self-Defense Policy
State's Self-Defense Bill Advances In House
Corbett Pushes School Vouchers
Corbett Rallies Senate GOP On Vouchers
Vote On School Vouchers Delayed
Senate GOP Needs More Time For School Voucher Bill
Hundreds Of School Children At Capitol Push School Choice
Blog: School Choice Advocates Pack The Capitol
Editorial: Target Choice To Students Most In Need
Op-Ed: And They Have Gladly Taught
Loss Of Education Jobs Will Have Ripple Effect
Editorial: Lawmakers' Fickle Pay Scale For Staff
Senate Considers New Offense For Juvenile Sexting
Senate Panel Approves Juvenile Justice Reforms
Op-Ed: The Case Against Selling State Liquor Stores, Rep. Evans
Op-Ed: The Case For Privatizing State Liquor Stores, Rep. Turzai
DeNaples Grand Jury Leak Probe Inconclusive
SugarHouse Casino Expansion Stirs Lawsuit
Obama's 2012 Chances Of Winning PA Not So Hot
Drivers Apply Brakes At The Pump
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 12, 2011

First Four Corbett Cabinet Nominees Approved By Senate


The Senate today approved the first of Gov. Corbett's nominees for four agencies-- Community and Economic Development, Transportation, General Services and the State Police Commissioner.   
            The Senate voted unanimously for these four nominees in a package:
-- C. Alan Walker, Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development;
-- Barry Schoch as Secretary of Transportation;
-- Sheri Phillips as Secretary of General Services;
-- Frank Noonan as State Police Commissioner.
            These nominees have had Committee hearings or hearings have been scheduled--
-- Dr. Eli Avila as Secretary of Health; 
-- Michael Consedine for Insurance Commissioner;
-- John Wetzel as Secretary of Corrections;
-- Ronald Tomalis as Secretary of Education;
-- Michael Krancer as Secretary of Environmental Protection;
-- Carol Aichele as Secretary of the Commonwealth;
-- Glenn Moyer as Secretary of Banking;
-- Brian Duke as Secretary of Aging;
-- Major General Wesley Craig as Adjutant General of Pennsylvania.
-- George Greig as Secretary of Agriculture; and
-- Daniel Meuser, Secretary of Revenue;
            Nominations yet to come before a Committee--
-- Gary Alexander as Secretary of Public Welfare;
-- Richard Allan as Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources; and
-- Julia Hearthway as secretary of Labor and Industry.
           The only major nomination left is for the new Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs which comes into existence in May.

Tuesday NewsClips

House OKs Bill To Limit Civil Suit Damages
PA Lawsuit Liability Bill Clears House
House Backs Limit On Liability In Lawsuits
Senate To Consider School Voucher Bill Today
Senate Panel Expands School Choice Program
Poll: Pennsylvanians Favor Accountability For School Vouchers
Poll: Private Schools Accepting Vouchers Should Be Held To Same Standards
Corbett Cuts Hurt College Curious
Editorial: Curbing The Right To Know
Unions Blast Right To Work Legislation
Teamsters Rally To Fight PA Right-To-Work Bill
Patriot Debate: Should We Sell State Liquor Stores?
Key Figures Debate Liquor Store Privatization
John Baer: Helpful Hints On Reducing The Legislature
Presidential Straw Poll For 2012 GOP Nomination
Bill To Regulate Abortion Clinics Clears Panel
Letter: Senate Has Opportunity To Back Fire Sprinklers
AG Asks Judge To Throw Out ACORN Suit
Editorial: Ways To Tackle Pittsburgh Port Authority Deficit
Drivers Start To Cut Back On Gas As Prices Rise
Harrisburg Incinerator Talks Will Proceed On Slower Track
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

April 11, 2011

Senate, House Democrats File Amicus Brief In adultBasic Court Case


Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) today announced his caucus and House Democrats have joined together to file an amicus brief on behalf of the 41,000 Pennsylvanians that lost their health coverage when Gov. Tom Corbett unilaterally terminated the state's adultBasic insurance program.
            "By filing this brief, Senate and House Democrats are publicly and legally expressing their support for the countless families that were inexcusably stripped of affordable health coverage," Sen. Costa said. "Throughout its existence adultBasic not only provided working Pennsylvanians access to affordable health care, but it also lowered the costs to the Commonwealth by keeping uninsured people from using our hospitals' emergency rooms for regular care."
            Only one in five of those previously on adultBasic have moved to an alternative insurance plan, leaving thousands uninsured.
            Sen. Costa has introduced a bill in the Senate that proposes to use $25 million from the current year's $232 million budget surplus to continue the adultBasic program. Since being introduced more than a month ago, Senate Bill 729 has not yet been voted out of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.