May 25, 2012

May 28 PA Environment Digest Now Available

May 28 PA Environment Digest now available.  Click Here to print this entire Digest.

Luzerne County High School Wins 2012 PA State Envirothon

MMI Preparatory School located in Luzerne County was the winner of the 2012 PA State Envirothon held at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown on May 22 and 23.  The school scored  537 points of a possible 600.
            Rounding out the top 10 winners' spots were:
-- Second Place – Penncrest High School, Delaware County, with a score of 535;
-- Third Place – Homeschoolers, York County, with a score of 527;
-- Fourth Place – Blue Mountain High School, Schuylkill County, with a score of 520.6;
-- Fifth Place – Carmichaels Area High School, Greene County, with a score of 497.3;
-- Sixth Place – Bald Eagle Area High School, Centre County, with a score of 486.6;
-- Seventh Place – United Jr. Sr. High School, Indiana County, with a score of 444.3;
-- Eighth Place – Northern Cambria County High School, Cambria County, with a score of 442.6;
-- Ninth Place – Eastern Lebanon County High School, Lebanon County, with a score of 441.6; and
-- Tenth Place – Downingtown East High School, Chester County, with a score of 438.
            The Pennsylvania Envirothon awarded scholarships to the first, second, and third place teams.  The scholarships were sponsored by EXCO Resources (PA), PPL Corporation and Pennsylvania Envirothon.  Each of the top ten teams received a plaque and other prizes.
            High school students from 62 Pennsylvania counties participated in this year’s event.
            At the Envirothon, five-member teams participate in a series of field-oriented tests that focus on five topic areas – soils and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and environmental issues.  The 2012 current environmental issue focused on Nonpoint Source Pollution and Low Impact Technology.  
            The teams also prepare and deliver oral presentations to panels of judges who evaluate each team on its problem-solving capabilities, oral presentation skills and recommendations to help solve the specific environmental challenge, which relates to the current environmental issue.
            Teams participating represent the best and the brightest of the thousands of high school teens who have competed in county Envirothon competitions sponsored by conservation districts across the state. 
            At the state level, the Envirothon is sponsored by Pennsylvania’s sixty-six conservation districts, the State Conservation Commission and the PA Association of Conservation Districts.  
            The program is managed by a board of directors representing those sponsors.  Technical expertise is provided by the following agency partners: Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commission and the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service.  
            Sponsors of the 2012 Envirothon are EXCO Resources (PA), The Hershey Company, American Honda Foundation, PPL Corporation, Air Products Foundation, Bayer HealthCare, Canon Envirothon, PA Trappers Association, PA Outdoor Writers Association, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, State Conservation Commission and the PA Growing Greener Program. 
            The Hershey Company, Dwight Lewis Lumber, Lewis Lumber Products and Cargill are “Corporate Station Sponsors.”
            The 2021 PA Envirothon champions will represent the Commonwealth at the 25th Canon Envirothon North American competition planned for July 22 – 27 at Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. 
            Pennsylvania has won the North American event in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2009.
            More than 45 states, eight Canadian provinces, and one Canadian territory have initiated Envirothon contests based on the program that was originally developed by Pennsylvania’s conservation districts.
            For more information, visit the PA Envirothon website program, contact your county conservation district or contact the Pennsylvania Envirothon by phone 814-623-7900 ext. 111 or send email to:

Friday NewsClips

Corbett Names Aichele New Chief Of Staff
Corbett Replaces His Chief Of Staff
Corbett Taps Aide For Judge, Says It's Not A Shakeup
Corbett Names Chief Of Staff To County Court
Wagner's Rebuke Of Governor's Funding Cuts Irks GOP
Controller Tells Corbett: Fix Funding For PA Courts
In AG's Race, Freed Starts With Fundraising Edge
Editorial: File Election Finances Online
Sen. Orie's Attorney Argues She Shouldn't Pay Restitution
Sen. Orie Objects To Repaying Senate
Column: Prison, Parole Solutions Will Take Courage
Pensions, Health Care Costs Force School Furloughs
PA School Officials find A Perfect Storm Of Financial Challenges
What's Next For PA's Public Schools?
Western PA Casino Officials Optimistic
Gasoline Prices Far Below Predictions For Holiday
Judge Appoints William Lynch As HBG Receiver
DCED Secretary Claims No Ties To Lynch In Land Deal
Former HBG Receiver Expected To Be Fired
Click Here for today's Environmental News

May 24, 2012

Report: Governor's Chief Of Staff Leaving

The Associated Press is reporting Gov. Tom Corbett's top aide apparently is leaving the job as the first-term Republican battles criticism over his cost-cutting agenda and his ability to wage political battles.  Two people told The Associated Press that they each were told by separate senior administration officials that chief of staff Bill Ward is leaving the job.  Click Here for full story.

Thursday NewsClips

Corbett To Face GOP's Tough Love
11 Arrested In Pittsburgh Protesting Corbett Budget Cuts
1,000s Demonstrate Against Education Cuts
Corbett Aims To Pass Prison Reform By End Of June
Corbett Backs Changes To State Prisons
Report: Prison System Changes Could Save PA Money
House OKs Mandatory Prison For Felons With Guns
Editorial: Justice Orie Melvin Should Step Down
Editorial: Justice Orie Melvin Should Go
Sen. Orie Could Owe $2 Million In Restitution
Sen. Orie Could Pay Up To $780,000 In Penalties
Ex-Veon Aide Sentenced For Misuse Of State Grant
Sentencing Delayed For Veon
Luzerne Kids For Cash Judge Appeals Conviction
PA Officials Drop Birth Certificate Rule For Voter ID Law
Obama Has Comfortable Lead Over Romney In PA
Beer Wholesalers Against Liquor Privatization
House Bill Would Cut Funding To Planned Parenthood
WCCC To Give 3 Percent Pay Hikes
Op-Ed: Tighten Abuse Reporting, Background Checks On Educators
Editorial: California U Sweet Deals, Bitter Tastes
Editorial: California U, Too Little, Too Late
DeNaples Wants Out Of Casino Business
Hurdle Removed For DeNaples Casino License Exit
Click Here on today's Environmental News

May 23, 2012

Governor: Proposed Criminal Justice Reforms Could Save $351 Million

Pennsylvania’s communities can be safer and its criminal justice system better under a proposed plan that could save taxpayers approximately $351 million while reinvesting nearly $88 million in public safety over a five-year period.
            Results of a five-month analysis, as well as key policy suggestions for improving the state’s criminal justice system, were presented today to the Justice Reinvestment Initiative work group. The bipartisan group, composed of judges, lawmakers, state cabinet members and other state and local leaders, met Wednesday at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in Harrisburg.
            Gov. Tom Corbett thanked the group for its efforts as it began reviewing possible solutions for a better criminal justice system.
            “Our system must not only assure justice for victims and protection for society, it must do so efficiently. The best measure of justice is not only what it accomplishes, but how effectively it does so,’’ Corbett said.
            The plan identified $9.5 million in savings during the first year and calls for a reinvestment of $8.5 million to strengthen law enforcement, probation, parole, and victim services. The savings increase dramatically as efficiencies are implemented in the system, allowing the state to reinvest tens of millions in proven public safety methods.
            “We look forward to sending these policies to the General Assembly and working with them to get system-changing legislation passed with this budget,’’ Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said.
Led by Wetzel and Mark Zimmer, chairman of the PCCD, the group has been meeting regularly to hear from local government representatives, prosecutors and public defenders, victim advocates, treatment providers and others.
            “The members of the work group have all recognized the need for reform and have focused their attention on the future of the entire criminal justice system, its costs in terms of dollars and human lives, and public safety,” Zimmer said. “Moving forward with the policy proposals will be just as challenging but ultimately rewarding if implemented wisely."
            The Council of State Governments Justice Center, which has helped policymakers in 15 other states using a justice reinvestment approach, conducted the research in partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice.
            The goal is to reinvest savings back into the community to strengthen law enforcement as well as to deter and reduce crime and recidivism.
            The results of the study targeted four main areas for improvement in Pennsylvania:
-- Help law enforcement deter crime by providing funding for training and equipment, as well as financing for problem-oriented policing and partnerships with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. In addition, the plan calls for support of statewide and community-based victim services.
-- Expand local resources to reduce recidivism by increasing funds to counties that maximize probation and other options besides state prison. Such alternative sentences could include electronic monitoring, day reporting, intensive supervision and treatment, in addition to several months in county jails versus state prison. Currently, incarcerating offenders with short minimum sentences costs the state $100 million.
-- Improve efficiencies in the parole process, which would generate savings by reducing the state prison population. The analysis found that one-third of the people sentenced to Pennsylvania’s state prisons remain incarcerated an average of 200 days beyond their minimum sentence date in order to complete programming.
For example, as of January 2012, a total of 2,339 individuals who had been approved for parole remained in prison. Most remained in prison because they had incomplete post-release housing plans, while others had yet to pay into the crime victims’ fund. The annual cost of keeping this group of people in prison is $77 million. 
-- Increase accountability and improve the use of community correction centers, for people who are either transitioning from prison to the community, or for those who fail to comply with the conditions of parole. Only 15 percent of the bed space at community corrections centers is used by parole violators. Consequently, the cost of sanctioning most parole violators is shifted to prison, which cost the state $78 million in 2011.
            After reviewing today’s proposals, the work group will decide which suggestions to adopt and then take the necessary steps to change policy or enact legislation.
            A copy of the recommendations is available online.

Wednesday NewsClips

Legislative Leaders Vow No Post-Election Lawmaking
PA's Jobless Fund Owes Feds $3.87 Billion
DeWeese Denied Bail, Returns To Prison
Justice Orie Melvin Preliminary Hearing Moved To June 8
Court Of Judicial Discipline To Decide On Orie Melvin's Pay
Juvenile Shackling Bill Goes To Governor
Bill Advances On State Takeover Of Struggling School Districts
PSU's Joe Paterno Pension $13.4 Million
Editorial: Hard Truth On Pension Crisis
Obama Leads PA By 8 Points New Poll Finds
Senate Panel OKs Act 47 Arbitration Settlement Cap Bill
HBG Mayor Talks To Patriot Editorial Board
HBG Council Hires Chief Operating Officer
Judge Key Player In Resolving HBG's Debt Crisis
Click Here for today's Environmental News

May 21, 2012

Sen. Orie Announces Resignation

Sen. Jane Orie (R-Allegheny) issued this statement today: "It is with utmost humility and regret that I must announce my resignation as Senator, representing the 40th Senatorial District, effective May 21, 2012.  It has been my honor to have served the constituents of Northern Allegheny County and Southern Butler County for the past 11 years in the Senate of Pennsylvania.   For those of you who have reached out to my office over the years, thank you for being involved in the legislative process and for voicing your opinion.  Also, I am grateful for all the support I have received over the years and for the opportunity to represent the 40th Senatorial District and the wonderful people and communities that make it one of the best places to live."

Monday NewsClips

Legislative Surplus A Target
Capitol Rallies Not Persuasive Lawmakers Say
Corbett Adds Pension Reform To Budget Agenda
House To Vote On Unemployment Claim Benefit Dipping
Editorial: Casino Saturation?
Editorial: Make Obesity Medical Focus
$500 Million Malpractice Claim Filed Against K&L
Medical Malpractice Reform Credits For Lower Caseload
Click Here for today's Environmental News

May 18, 2012

May 21 PA Environment Digest Now Available

May 21 PA Environment Digest now available.  Click Here to print this entire Digest.

State Budget Deadline Less Than 20 Voting Days Away

The House has 19 and the Senate 17 voting days scheduled between now and the July 1 deadline to have a state budget and we have already seen lots of discussion in the media between Senate and House Republicans and the Governor on spending levels.
            With a bipartisan vote on their budget last week, Senate Republicans staked out the higher ground on rolling back a little more than $500 million in spending cuts Gov. Corbett had suggested, including $19 million for the Keystone Fund.
            Both Gov. Corbett and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) have called the Senate $27.6 billion General Fund budget number the ceiling and Gov. Corbett's proposed $27.1 billion budget from February the floor on spending.
            Gov. Corbett this week was sticking to his no-tax, austerity message in appearances in Philadelphia and Allentown, but hinted he would consider higher spending than his own budget proposed.
            In Philadelphia he asked a Chamber of Commerce crowd to raise their hands if they thought the economy was turning around and none did, making his point obviously that he continues to feel state revenues will be shaky.
            Even with current state revenues not as bad as projected, Gov. Corbett again raised the issue of  how the state was going to deal with state worker and school employee unfunded pension liabilities.  Legislators are also pushing the Administration to do something serious on highway and transit funding.
            House Republicans have said they want to get the state budget done by June 15, but so far they  are behind where they were last year in moving budget bills.  In 2011 the House passed its version of the budget by May 9.  This year the Senate took the early honors.
            With more than $500 million separating the floor and ceiling of negotiations, there's lots more to talk about.
            2002 Environmental High Water Mark
            Funding for environmental programs in the last 10 years through each of the 8 years of the Rendell and the now two year old Corbett Administrations has been cut by over $1.8 billion from the high water mark achieved during the Ridge-Schweiker Administrations.
            DEP's authorized complement is now 2,759, down from 2,770 last year and 3,211 in FY 2002-03, and DCNR's is now 1,375, down from 1,389 last year and 1,391 in FY 2002-03.

Justice Orie Melvin Charged With Campaign Corruption

Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin illegally used her state-funded staff in her campaigns for a seat on the state's highest court in a scheme that also involved the judge's sister, a senator awaiting sentencing on similar charges, prosecutors said Friday.
           Orie Melvin "actively condoned and even promoted" campaign-related activity by state-paid workers while she was a Superior Court judge, according to a grand jury presentment, which described a "tale of corruption" involving her two sisters — state Sen. Jane Orie and Janine Orie. Jane Orie was convicted in March of 14 similar criminal counts.
           Orie Melvin was scheduled to surrender to authorities later Friday to face nine criminal counts.  Click Here for the full article.

Justice Orie Melvin To Step Away From Court Duties To Fight Charges

State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin this morning informed the court that she will voluntarily recuse from all duties because nine criminal counts will be filed against her today.  Those charges are to be announced at 2:00 today by the grand jury.  Click Here for the story.

Friday NewsClips

No Charges Filed Yet Against Justice Melvin
Justice Melvin Expected To Be Charged Today
Op-Ed: Restoring Unemployment Fund On Backs Of Workers
Record Number Of PA Taxpayers File Electronically
Two Nominees Named To Fill Federal Court Vacancies
Panel Discuss Future Of Higher Education System
California University President Firing, Audit Stun Campus
PA Jobless Rate Keeps Dropping As More Find Work
Click Here for today's Environmental News