September 29, 2014

NE Community Colleges Receive $10M Grant To Provide Training In High Priority Jobs

Three community colleges in Pennsylvania -- Lehigh Carbon Community College, Luzerne County Community College and Northampton Community College will receive a four-year $10 million federal grant to develop new degree, certificate, and diploma programs in high priority career fields.
The announcement was made Monday by Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  The funding is part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) competitive grant program which is co-administered by the two departments.
Under the grant led by Northampton Community College, Lehigh Carbon Community College will receive $1,809,350; Luzerne County Community College will receive $1,836,214; and Northampton Community College will receive $6,354,436 to work with employers to develop affordable degree, certificate and diploma programs in three industry sectors -- advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics/transportation.  
The occupations being targeted will include healthcare office specialist, healthcare office coordinator, pharmacy technician specialist, healthcare billing and coding specialist, machinery repair technician, instrumentation technician, advanced manufacturing/integrated systems technology specialist, welder, and diesel engine specialist.
Some of the programs will be offered at all three colleges while others may be specific to one of the colleges.  Program development is expected to take 12 to 18 months.  Students who enroll will have the benefit of remediation for those who need it and technology-enhanced learning proven to be effective in occupational training. Some students may also qualify for credit for prior learning.
The programs are intended to help to prepare low-wage workers for middle-class jobs and to grow the economy.
Employer partners include Airgas, B. Braun Medical Inc., Blue Mountain Health Systems, Fisher Clinical Services, Fresh Pet Kitchens, Just Born Inc., K-Fab Inc., Lehigh Valley Health Network, Linde Corporation, Machining Technologies, Mack Trucks, Martz Group, Medico Industries, Ocean Spray, Pocono Medical Center, St. Luke’s Hospital Miner’s Campus, St. Luke’s Physician Group, Victaulic, and Waste Management.
Public workforce system partners include the Department of Labor & Industry and their JobGateway and PA CareerCoach programs, the Business Services Teams at the local CareerLinks, and the Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Luzerne/Schuylkill, Northern Tier, and Pocono Counties Workforce Investment Boards.
“The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges (PACCC) is thrilled that the Department of Labor and Department of Education have selected Northampton Community College, together with Lehigh Carbon Community College and Luzerne Community College, as a recipient in the latest round of TAACCCT grants,” says Elizabeth Bolden, President/CEO of PACCC.  “These funds will provide much-needed training and education to the workforce in northeastern PA.  Our community colleges are nimble and responsive to the needs of their local economy -- and this grant is a natural extension of the work our colleges, with strong records of success and cost-effective operations, undertake in their communities every day.”

Pennsylvania Courts Reduce Backlog Of Civil Cases By 19 Percent

A two-year data review by Pennsylvania’s courts has reduced the backlog of civil cases by 19 percent and has required that all civil cases in Pennsylvania courts be addressed and disposed of in a timely manner.
The overall guideline is that most civil cases should be disposed of within two years of filing as recommended by the American Bar Association, unless the case is highly complex or there are extenuating circumstances.
“Too many civil cases had been on the docket for too long,” said Chief Justice Castille. “Some of that was due to certain court rules that made it difficult for inactive cases to be purged, some of it was due to lack of a case management system that could help staff understand the gravity of how many very old cases were lingering on the docket and some was due to local culture that allowed attorneys to dictate the pace of litigation, not the court and its judicial officers.”
“Over the past two years the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts conducted a massive data clean-up so that court administrators and practitioners in the judicial districts have a true understanding of their civil dockets. And we’ve required that each judicial district craft a civil case management plan to control their civil dockets for long-term, not short-term fixes.”
The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that criminal cases be heard in a timely manner, and historically, civil cases that don’t have that same requirement move through the system more slowly or in some instances not tracked.
During this project the courts, by data analysis, found that counties that did not hold attorneys accountable to a timetable or case management plan from the time the case was filed were more likely to have a higher volume of civil cases that languished on the docket for years longer than would be expected. Some were found to be settled without notice to the courts.
“Courts must monitor and control their civil inventory in order to forecast the resources needed to try cases, identify opportunities to avoid wasted time and unnecessary expense for parties, and assure the effective and efficient use of court resources,” said Chief Justice Castille
“A backlog of civil cases means that landlords and tenants are waiting for resolution of cases affecting people’s homes, small businesses are waiting for outcomes that affect their bottom line and those involved in medical malpractice cases and accidents are waiting for decisions that affect their lives. That’s why it is important to keep these cases moving.”
To help courts track civil caseloads, the chief justice also announced that the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts has launched a new dashboard showing county-by-county civil case age data in an easy-to-understand format.
The dashboard data shows that of the more than 150,000 civil cases pending in Pennsylvania courts in 2013:
-- 22 percent, or more than 33,000, were mortgage foreclosure cases;
-- 13 percent, or 19,400 cases, related to personal injury or property damage resulting from auto accidents;
-- 11 percent, or 16,753 cases, where debt collection cases relating to credit cards; and
-- 1 percent, or 1,545 cases, was medical malpractice.
For more information, visit the Court’s Interactive Data Dashboards webpage or view of the Statewide Report on Civil Court Inventory and Case Management Plans.

2013-14 Annual Report By The Gaming Control Board Released

The Gaming Control Board’s 2013-2014 Annual Report is now available online and includes statistical charts on gaming revenue and employment statewide along with similar statistics for each of the twelve casinos in operation.  
The report also lists a log of all Board meetings and Executive Session meetings held during the fiscal year, revenue and expenditures for the agency, reports  from all of the PGCB’s key bureaus, and messages from Chairman William H. Ryan, Jr. and Executive Director Kevin O’Toole.

Monday NewsClips

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September 26, 2014

Sept. 29 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Sept. 29 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here To Print Entire Digest

PEC Urges Senate To Pass Water Well Standards Bill To Protect Rural Water Supplies
The PA Environmental Council Friday urged members of the Pennsylvania Senate to pass House Bill 343 (Miller-R-York) designed to help protect rural water supplies by requiring the adoption of construction and decommissioning standards for private water wells.

CBF-PA: House Passes Bill Rolling Back Protection For Clean Water 119 To 79
Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued the following statement Monday in response to House passage of House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) eliminating the nearly 4 year old requirement for stream buffers in High Quality and Exceptional Value streams.

Damaging Environmental Bills May Be Headed To Governor In Last 5 Days Of Session
With just five voting days left this session for the House and Senate-- October 6, 7, 8, 14, 15-- the General Assembly is poised to end the year by putting damaging legislation on the Governor’s desk when they return October 6.

DEP Releases Draft Conventional, Unconventional Oil & Gas Well Regulation Split
The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday released revised Chapter 78 drilling regulations which split conventional well standards in a new Chapter 78 and unconventional (Marcellus Shale) well requirements in Chapter 78a during the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board meeting.

PG PowerSource: Day In The Life Of DEP Oil & Gas Inspector
The Post-Gazette PowerSource Tuesday published an article on the day in the life of a longtime Pennsylvania DEP oil and gas inspector John Sengle.  The story provides a glimpse into the day-to-day job of enforcing DEP’s oil and gas regulations.

Friday NewsClips

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September 24, 2014

Senate Approves Bill Strengthening Open Records Law

The Senate Wednesday passed Senate Bill 444 (Pileggi-R-Delaware) designed to strengthen the state’s Open Records law by dramatically expands the information available from state-related universities, improves the appeals process for requestors, establishes a new fee structure for commercial requests, and makes other important changes.
“Six years ago, the General Assembly enacted a completely rewritten Open Records Law for Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Dominic Pileggi, the author of Act 3 of 2008. “That law has provided the public with access to tens of thousands of government documents that would not have been available under the previous law.
“The new law has been widely praised. Senate Bill 444 seeks to improve the Open Records Law by building on what we’ve learned over the past six years, responding to decisions by the courts and the Office of Open Records, and with input from both those who request records and the agencies who respond to those requests.”
Senate Bill 444 provides unprecedented access to budget information from Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities: Temple University, Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University. The schools will be required to create searchable, sortable and downloadable online databases including extensive budget, revenue and expenditure data; the number of employees and aggregated, non-personal employee data; and the number of students and aggregated, non-personal student data.
The state-related universities will be required to post information about contracts valued at $5,000 or more on their websites annually. Most of the universities will be required to report the top 200 employee salaries. A state-related university with fewer than 2,500 employees will continue to report the top 25 salaries, as required by the existing law.
Senate Bill 444 makes it easier for requesters to file an appeal when a government agency denies access to records and giving the Office of Open Records better tools to manage its caseload. It also clarifies that the Office of Open Records is an independent agency and can conduct in-camera record reviews when necessary.
Because appeals from inmates represent 40 percent of the work at the Office of Open Records, Senate Bill 444 narrows the categories of records available to inmates – but ensures that inmates can continue to access their own personal records and records related to their incarceration.
Many agencies, especially local governments, have been burdened by commercial requests since the new law was enacted. Senate Bill 444 establishes a new fee structure that allows agencies to recoup actual costs for commercial requests.
This bill also clarifies how the law applies to third-party contracts, provides a new notification process for requests which involve the home addresses of agency employees, and limits requests to residents of Pennsylvania, a change sought by local government agencies and authorized by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Senate Bill 444 was introduced in April 2013. In May 2013 and October 2013, the Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Senator Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), held extensive public hearings on the bill. Senator Pileggi also thanked Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny), the Democratic Chairman of the State Government Committee; Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna), who offered the amendment adding provisions related to state-related universities; and Terry Mutchler, Executive Director of the Office of Open Records.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration.