February 28, 2011

Budget Secretary- Day Of Reckoning Has Arrived

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby told a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon today, "All the one-time means, all the gimmicks have been utilized. We've kicked the can down the road long enough. The day of reckoning has arrived."
Secretary Zogby said the fiscal challenge facing Pennsylvania was unprecedented and the state faces a $4 billion budget deficit.
$2.6 billion in federal stimulus funds were received by the state for Medical Assistance, basic and higher education, Corrections and human services that will not be available in the coming year.
Other one-time revenues sources totaling $750 million will also not be available, pointing out budget maneuvers like taking Tobacco Settlement Fund monies and giving it to the State Employees Retirement Fund will also not be available.
Secretary Zogby refused to comment on funding specific programs, deferring those questions to Gov. Corbett's budget message next week. But said every line item is being considered for cuts.
He did comment on several issues--
Broadening The Tax Base: The challenge of no new taxes or fees laid down by Gov. Corbett was one he accepted on becoming Budget Secretary. He said Pennsylvania is not in this situation because taxpayers paid too little. The problem is expenditures are outpacing revenue growth.
Privatizing Liquor Stores: It needs to be looked at in terms of what is an appropriate role for State Government, but it will not help solve the General Fund's deficit problem. He noted there are revenues due to the state from the current system that cannot be lost.
Medical Assistance: He recognized this as a growth area, but said one way to control costs is to make sure people receiving benefits are actually eligible.
Pensions: He said Gov. Corbett believes contract obligations must be met and that include pensions for state employees.
Natural Gas Royalties: He said most people do not realize the amount of revenues that come from Marcellus Shale drilling saying workers and businesses hired by the industry are producing local and state tax dollars.
Combining DEP/DCNR: He said there are no plans to combine the agencies. The Governor is trying to find the right person to fill the job of Secretary of DCNR.
Budget Secretary Says Day Of Reckoning Has Arrived
Budget Head Warns Of Sharp Cuts In New Spending Plan
Pledging No Gimmicks Corbett Budget Chief Warns Of Cuts
Budget Secretary Mum On Spending Plan Details
Blog: New Corbett Budget Will Not Have Gimmicks Of The Past
Column: Corbet Might Fight More For Gas Drillers Than Against Unions

House Democrats Set 4 Hearings On Privatizing Liquor Stores

The House Democratic Policy Committee has scheduled a series of four hearings in Erie, McKeesport, Scranton and Harrisburg on the issue of state liquor store privatization. The hearings will be held--
March 17-- Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Erie at 10:00;
March 22-- McKeesport Palisades, McKeesport at 1:00;
March 30 -- University of Scranton, Scranton at 1:00; and
April 14-- Room 418 Main Capitol, Harrisburg at 10:00.
Rep. Mike Stural (D-Lancaster) serves as Chair of the Committee.

Monday NewsClips

Corbett Budget Proposals Not Expected To Bring Smiles
PA Deficit Puts Spotlight On Hollywood Tax Credits
Fayette Prison Cancellation Linked To Higher Inmate Releases
John Bear: Best Solutions To Unions, Budget Cuts, No Affiliation
Editorial: Public Sector No Longer Own Universe
Lawmakers Suggest Changes To School Voucher Bill
Replacing adultBasic Health Plan Will Not Be Affordable For All
Op-Ed: We're Still Waiting For Transportation Funding Solution
PA Veterans Courts To Soon Dot The State
Attempt To Reduce Allegheny County Drink Tax
School Vouchers: What Your Lawmakers Are Saying
Column: While Harrisburg Struggles, York Off To Fast Start
Snow Removal Costs Heavy Burden For Southeast
Transgender Riders Seek Justice From SEPTA
Choosing Arbitration Over Litigation
Birthplace Of Whoopie Pie: PA Or Maine?
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February 25, 2011

Saturday NewsClips

Editorial: Corbett Should Be More Visible
Prosecutors Rest In Orie Corruption Trial
Orie Lawyers Dispute Estimates Of Value Of Campaign Work
Robert Teplitz Attempts Run Against Sen. Piccola
adultBasic Supporters Plan Protests In Harrisburg, Pittsburgh
adultBasic Health Insurance Program Expiring
Op-Ed: Yes, Extend adultBasic Is Possible
State Dems Vow 28,000 Jobs
Editorial: The Case Against The Voucher Bill
PA Film Industry Frets Over Tax Credits
Editorial: Action! On Film Credits
CMU Tuition, Fees Rise This Fall
Harrisburg, State Want To Delay Incinerator Lawsuits
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Feb. 28 PA Environment Digest Now Available

February 28 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.
House Hearing On Severance Tax, Groups Urge Renewal Of Growing Greener
Witnesses testifying at a public hearing this week by Reps. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) and Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery) said they support legislation that would tax Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling to help minimize cuts in next year's budget, fund the Growing Greener program and compensate municipalities impacted by drilling.
"A drilling tax needs to be part of the budget discussion this year because the Commonwealth is facing a $4 billion deficit," said Rep. Vitali. "Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas producing state in the nation that does not have a severance tax or fee in place. It’s time for Pennsylvanians to get some of the benefit." Click here to read more…

Friday NewsClips

Orie Defense Questions Key Witness On Politicking, Immunity Deal
Orie Prosecution Nearly Completed
Toomey: Federal Shutdown No Way To Run The Government
Toomey Hopes Shutdown Averted
Toomey Talks To PA Business Owners
Hempfield Native Bob Bozzuto Named To State GOP Post
Wisconsin Awakens Western PA Unionists
House Democrats Resist Push To Privatize Liquor, Wine
Payouts At Casinos Drop Statewide
City Official Says Philadelphia Could Still Add Casino
Efforts To Rescue adultBasic Seem Futile
adultBasic Subscribers Hope For Miracle
State To Hold Hearing On Armstrong School Renovation Projects
Coalition In Philly Lobby To Spare Schools From Funding Cuts
Snow, Ice Busting Budget In Scranton
State Resumes Film Tax Credit Projects In PA
Taxes Could Be Worse, You Could Live In New Jersey
Pittsburgh Drivers' Tempers Rising With Pump Prices
Middle East Protests Impact Gas Prices
Health Information Exchanges Coordinate Medical Records
Hospital-Acquired Germs Cause Thousands Of Re-Admissions
Hospital Infections Still A Problem In PA
Op-Ed: Castle Doctrine Gun Policy Would Save PA Lives
Harrisburg Mayor Declines Comment On Recent Poll
Vapors Blamed In Avella Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Site Fire
Editorial: Corbett- Acres Of Drilling
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

February 24, 2011

PA Revenue Agency Adopts New Approach To Corporate Tax Bonus Depreciation

The Department of Revenue today announced it has adopted a business-friendly interpretation of tax law that will benefit as many as 117,000 corporate taxpayers.
            By conforming to recently enacted federal tax benefits with regard to 100 percent bonus depreciation, corporate taxpayers in the state will benefit from lower tax burdens this year, allowing for greater capital investment and encouraging further economic growth. 
            The federal Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 provides for greater corporate tax depreciation benefits in the last quarter of 2010 and all of calendar year 2011.
            Prior to the federal law’s enactment, businesses were required to depreciate – or deduct the cost of, from taxable income for federal tax purposes – qualified business expenses over the course of a number of years.  The new law allows businesses to depreciate 100 percent of the expense up front.
            State tax law is ambiguous in relation to federal tax law on this point, allowing for different interpretations of how 100 percent bonus depreciation would be treated. In this case, the Department of Revenue determined it will allow 100 percent bonus depreciation for the last quarter of 2010 through 2011 on qualified business expenses.
            This policy will not directly affect state revenues in the long run, as lower tax collections in immediate years due to 100 percent bonus depreciation will be balanced or offset by higher collections in later years.
            The new policy can be found in PA Corporate Tax Bulletin 2011-01.

Gov. Corbett Appoints Robert F. Powelson As Public Utility Commission Chair

Gov. Tom Corbett today appointed Robert F. Powelson of Chester County to serve as chairman of the Public Utility Commission, or PUC. Powelson has served as a PUC commissioner since June 2008.
            Commissioner James H. Cawley had served as Chair since August of 2008.
            “As a commissioner, Robert Powelson has provided an active voice for Pennsylvania ratepayers on issues such as nuclear power production, competitive markets, renewable investment, broadband deployment, infrastructure development and other critical concerns,” Gov. Corbett said. “I am confident consumers and businesses will continue to be well-served by the PUC under Powelson’s leadership.”
            Powelson was first nominated by former Governor Rendell to a one-year term on the PUC and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on June 30, 2008. He was renominated for a five-year term on Feb. 12, 2009, and was again unanimously confirmed on April 22, 2009. His term expires on April 1, 2014.
            Powelson was recently appointed as co-vice chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, or NARUC, Committee on Water. In addition, he has been appointed to represent that committee on NARUC’s Task Force on Climate Policy. He is also a member of the NARUC Committee on Critical Infrastructure and a member of the NARUC Subcommittee on Nuclear Issues-Waste Disposal.
            Powelson previously served as the president of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry, where he also held other job titles and helped to develop the county’s economic development strategy. In 2005, he was selected by the Eisenhower Presidential Fellows to be a U.S. fellow in Singapore and Australia.
            From 1990-91, Powelson served as a staff assistant to U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon.
            Powelson earned a Bachelor of Administration degree from St. Joseph’s University and a Master of Governmental Administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in public finance.
            A Delaware County native, Powelson and his wife, Lauren, and their two sons live in Kennett Square.

Thursday NewsClips

When Sen. Orie's Intern Turned, Panic Ensued
Defense Questions Top Orie Aide
Emails Show Orie's Efforts To Set Up Fake Campaign Site
Senate Democrats Unveil Plan To Bolster Job Creation
Plan Aims To Create PA Jobs
Senate Proposal Targets Jobs
Blog: Senate Dems Meet With Blues To Try To Save adultBasic
Sen. Piccola Favors Raising Gasoline Tax To Pay For Road, Bridge Repairs
Editorial: State Can Fund adultBasic
Editorial: Give Up Surplus, Fund adultBasic
Lawmakers Hear About Privatizing Liquor Stores
State Discontinuing 400 Wine, Spirit Products Amid Move To Privatize
PA Labor Groups Vow To Fight Right To Work Bill
Op-Ed: Wisconsin Offers Example Of Why Unions Are Needed
Juvenile Court Scandal Could Lead To New Laws
PA Widens Search Function On Megan's Law Website
Editorial: It's Not Worth Getting Anxious Over Phone Numbers
Letter: Anti-Sprinkler Group Is Safe At Home?
Poll: 70% Unfavorable Rating For Harrisburg Mayor
Editorial: Poll Concurs That Harrisburg Mayor Must Change
Op-Ed: City Of Harrisburg Isn't Only PA Community In Distress
Forest Drilling Issue Sensitive For Corbett
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February 23, 2011

Sen. Mary Jo White Applauds Corbett's Repeal Of Rendell State Lands Drilling Permit Policy

Sen. Mary Jo White (R-Venango), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, applauded Gov. Corbett for repealing the policy of imposing additional restrictions on oil and gas drilling on State Park and Forest Land as part of the Department of Environmental Protection's standard well-permitting process.
"The Governor took the appropriate action in repealing the policy," said Sen. White. "As I outlined in my letter to Gov. Rendell last November, the policy was irresponsible, and could potentially cost Pennsylvania taxpayers tens of millions of dollars from the impairment of existing contracts."
Sen. White added by repealing the policy, Gov. Corbett properly upheld a legal precedent set in the case of Belden & Blake Corporation v. DCNR, where the courts prohibited the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources from imposing surface use agreements and drilling conditions on permit applicants who owned the subsurface mineral rights underlying state park land.
"DEP has done a good job of working to ensure that natural gas is developed responsibly, and DCNR has negotiated and executed lease agreements which contain meaningful added protections for publicly-owned lands," said Sen. White. "However, if there is justification for general conditions on natural gas production on all state lands, these should be adopted by statute or regulation, and must adhere to settled case law."

Corbett Administration Puts $364.3 Million In Budgetary Reserve

In a January 28 letter released today by Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, the Corbett Administration announced it has put an additional $364.3 million in budgetary reserve.  The letter was to the Chairs of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees.
            The $364.3 million would come from a $337.8 million cut in Basic Education Funding, $25.7 million cut in several programs in the Department of Community and Economic Development and $669,000 from the DEP Safe Water line item for legislative projects.
            The letter explained the reduction in the Basic Education Funding appropriation would be offset by federal Education Jobs Fund monies that have not yet been appropriated by the General Assembly.  The federal government made these funds available to states in August 2010 to be awarded to school districts during the 2010-11 school year.
            The General Assembly will have to act to appropriate the additional federal funds, Secretary Zogby said.
            The letter notes, "no school district will receive less funding than was originally included in the enacted budget signed by Gov. Rendell on July 6, 2010, including restoring $50 million in funding that was placed in budgetary reserve in August 2010."
            Secretary Zogby said the other monies put in budgetary reserve were for discretionary grants and have not yet been expended.
            In the letter the Budget Office projects a deficit of over $4 billion for fiscal year 2011-12 based on current projections.
            A copy of the letter and answers to frequently asked questions on the letter are available online.

Senate Democrats Detail Plan To Save adultBasic Health Insurance

Senate Democrats detailed an extensive plan to save the adultBasic health insurance program at a meeting with insurance industry representatives today.
Without quick legislative action and $54 million in new revenue, adultBasic coverage will be discontinued for 42,000 Pennsylvanians on March 1. Senate Democrats said that their plan would generate the funds necessary to continue adultBasic for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“The proposal is simple. Everyone who is impacted by the plan will give a little and those contributions will form a bridge that gets the program to the next budget year,” Democratic Floor Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said after the meeting. “We must call for non-profit and for-profit health insurers to join and continue their social mission to the community.”
The plan calls for the state to contribute $25 million for this year; plan subscribers would have their premiums increased enough to produce $4 million; and, state health insurers were asked to contribute a total of $25 million among the nine providers.
“The plan gives lawmakers and the governor time to work through the problem, while insurance coverage is continued,” Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) ranking Democratic on the Senate Appropriations Committee said. “Plus, the program is reasonable and it gives us a chance to devise a comprehensive multi-year solution as a part of this year’s budget agreement.”
“It is very important to bring together all groups who have an interest in adultBasic and talk about how the program can be continued” said Sen. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia), Democratic Chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. “The program is way too important to not make the extra effort to keep it operational until the next fiscal year. We’re going to need to make both cost-sharing and administrative changes to the program and use new sources of revenue to fund the program.”
The meeting, involving Senators Costa, Hughes, Stack, House Democratic Leadership staff, and industry representatives in Sen. Costa’s Harrisburg office, was the most extensive effort thus far to find a solution to the revenue shortfall that imperils the health insurance program.
Previously, Sen. Costa – in a letter to all four caucus leaders — asked Republicans and Democrats to come together to determine whether a funding solution was possible.
Also, Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration cobbled together a plan that would cost subscribers significantly more and reduce coverage.
Sen. Hughes said the Senate Democratic plan requires each health-care insurer to donate a modest contribution to help provide coverage in the short term. The West Philadelphia lawmaker pointed out that the state’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurers have an estimated $5.6 billion in reserves and that they do not pay taxes on their premiums.
Sen. Costa said that he also unveiled a legislative strategy and timeline to industry representatives that could put the adultBasic funding bill on the governor’s desk by March 8th when the governor gives his budget address. He said he would talk with his Senate Republican colleagues and would call on them to advance the plan without delay.
“If we move quickly and all give a little, the first bill that Gov. Corbett signs into law could be the one that saves health insurance coverage for more than 40,000 Pennsylvanians,” Sen. Costa said. “That would be quite an accomplishment.”

Wednesday NewsClips

Corbett Favors Right To Work Legislation
Corbett Would Sign Right To Work Bill, If It Comes To His Desk
Film, TV Tax Credits Await Corbett Budget
No Repeat Of Wisconsin Labor Fight In PA Corbett Says
Group Plans We Are Wisconsin Event In Harrisburg Saturday
PSSHE Faculty Condemn Wisconsin Governor
Top Aide: Orie Hands-On Manager, Directed Political Work
Ex-Aide: Orie Staff Worked On Campaign
Corbett Honors New Pittsburgh Courier Publisher, Others
Casino License Vote Not Likely This Month
Proposal Made To Save State Health Insurance Program
Religious Leaders Beg For Action On adultBasic
John Baer: Corbett- Read Your Mail, Save The Health Plan
New State Agency On Drug, Alcohol Forming
Editorial: State Keeps Shipyard Afloat
Editorial: School District Spend More Than They Take In
Editorial: Liquor Sales Belong In Private Sector
Poll: Philly Mayor Nutter Isn't Wildly Popular
Knox Won't Challenge Nutter For Philly Mayor
Victims Seeks Bevilacqua Inquiry In Western PA
G.W. Bush To Speak At PA Chamber Dinner In September
PA Loosens Rule On Gas Drilling
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February 22, 2011

Afternoon NewsClips

Top Aide: Orie Hands-On Manager, Directed Political Work
Casino License Vote Not Likely This Month
Corbett Would Sign Right To Work Bill, If It Comes To His Desk
PSSHE Faculty Condemn Wisconsin Governor
New State Agency On Drug, Alcohol Forming

Tuesday NewsClips

Corbett: Pennsylvania Is Not Wisconsin
Labor Plans Rally Against Attack On Collective Bargaining
PA Unions Keeping Eye On Wisconsin
Editorial: Wisconsin On The Susquehanna?
Editorial: Scuttling Prison A Prudent Move
Editorial: Fayette County Project Victim Of Budget Cuts
Lawmakers Rack Up Resolutions
Ex-Staffer For Orie Says Campaign Work Kept Him Busy
Staffer Describes Frantic Orie Office As Probe Started
Political High Jinks Are Norm In NE PA
Editorial: Ethics Conflicts Not By Cash Alone
Santorum Visiting South Carolina Again
Editorial: PA's Archaic Liquor Laws Cannot Be Fixed Piecemeal
More Tables And Jobs At Sands
Op-Ed: Education Vouchers Would Violate State Constitution
Op-Ed: Generous Unemployment Benefits Put PA In A Bind
Editorial: The Aker Navy Yard Deal
House Sales Climb 8.2 Percent In Western PA
State Court Tosses Debt Collector's Suit
PA Court To Hear Challenge To DNA Collection
State Leasing Towers To Strengthen Wireless Communications
Expiration Of Rate Caps Brought Smaller Than Expected Increase
Group Continues Pressure On Harrisburg Mayor Thompson
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February 18, 2011

Feb. 21 PA Environment Digest Now Available

February 21 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Federal Appeals Court Overturns Judgment Against DEP Employees

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania this week overturned a federal jury’s verdict that held four employees of the Department of Environmental Protection liable for $6.5 million in damages for alleged regulatory misconduct.
The case, MFS, Inc. v Thomas A. Dilazaro, et al., was decided by a jury on February 17, 2010. DEP appealed the decision.
The four employees, which were sued as individuals, were Michael Bedin, Director of the Northeast Regional Office; Thomas DiLazaro, former Air Quality Program Manager; Mark Wejksner, current Air Quality Program Manager; and Sean Robbins, an attorney with the agency. Click here to read more…

Friday NewsClips

Corbett Cancels New Prison In Fayette County
State Scraps Anticipated Fayette Prison Project
Corbett Cancels Plans For Fayette Prison
2 More Projects In Scranton Under Review By Governor
Fundraiser Testifies For Prosecutors In Orie Trial
Focus In Jane Orie Trial Moves To Sister Janine
Orie's Lawyer Might Subpoena Zappala
Orie's Lawyer Evokes Zappala
Senate Won't Say If Taxpayers Funding Mellow, Musto Defense
Court: Mellow Target Of Extortion, Money Laundering Probe
Grand Jury Looking At Former Senator Mellow
Opinion Indicates Investigation Of Mellow
Column: Influence Peddling Hurdles Party Lines
Speaker Smith's Bill Would Shrink House
Wagner Urges Changes In Charter School Funding
Editorial: Kids Need Help Offered By Vouchers
Casey: No Pay For Lawmakers If Federal Government Shuts Down
Barletta Backs Democrat On Budget Vote
Liquor Stores To Drop Some Brands March 1
Op-Ed: PA Shouldn't Privatize Liquor Stores, Rep. Murphy
Editorial: CCAC Science Center Bids
State Newspapers Seek To Unseal Abortion Case Documents
Editorial: Corbett Acts In Abortion Clinic Case
Teen Rights To Abortion In Dispute
Editorial: Cost Of Immigration Enforcement
Sprinkler Requirement Puts Contractors, Home Buyers In Bind
Judge Reverses Jury's $6.5 Million Verdict Against DEP Employees
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

February 17, 2011

Senate Committee To Hold Confirmation Hearing For New Secretary Of DEP March 2

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee meets to consider the nomination of Acting Secretary Michael Krancer for Secretary, Department of Environmental Protection on March 2.
The hearing will be held in the Senate Majority Caucus Room starting at 9:30.
Sen. Mary Jo White (R-Venango) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Majority Chair.
The process for Senate consideration of individuals Gov. Corbett nominated to fill cabinet positions began to roll forward this week with the referral of 13 nominations to their appropriate standing committees for hearings.
Gov. Corbett has yet to name his picks for the departments of Labor and Industry and Conservation and Natural Resources.
The nominees referred include:
-- Acting Secretary of Environmental Protection Michael Krancer to the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee;
-- Acting Secretary of Banking Glenn Moyer and Acting Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine, to the Banking and Insurance Committee;
-- Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele and Acting Secretary of General Services Sheri Phillips to the State Government Committee;
-- Acting Secretary of Community and Economic Development Alan Walker to the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee;
-- Acting Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel to the Judiciary Committee;
-- Acting Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis to the Education Committee;
-- Acting Secretary of Health Eli Avila and Acting Secretary of Public Welfare Gary Alexander to the Public Health and Welfare Committee;
-- Acting Secretary of Revenue Daniel Meuser to the Finance Committee;
-- Acting State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan to the Law and Justice Committee;
-- Acting Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch to the Transportation Committee.
Traditionally, each nominee must meet or offer to meet with each of the Senators before a vote can be taken on his or her nomination. There are also a variety of financial interest and other forms which must be filed with the Senate. Filling these forms is typically what leads to some delay in the referral of nominations.
It is up to the individual committees to now hold hearings or otherwise consider the nomination of each candidate.

Afternoon NewsClips

Corbett Cancels New Prison In Fayette County
State Scraps Anticipated Fayette Prison Project
Fundraiser Testifies For Prosecutors In Orie Trial
Focus In Jane Orie Trial Moves To Sister Janine
Court: Mellow Target Of Extortion, Money Laundering Probe

Poll: Obama's PA Popularity Higher Than Bob Casey

President Barack Obama’s job rating among Pennsylvania voters is 51 – 44 percent, his highest standing in the Commonwealth since July 2009 when it was 56 – 33 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr. has a 44 – 24 percent approval rating, but even after four years in office, 31 percent of the state’s voters are undecided about him. By 46 – 28 percent, voters say Casey deserves another term in office.
But Pennsylvania voters tell the independent Quinnipiac University survey they oppose two of President Obama's key issues:
Voters say 52 - 40 percent that the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan;
Voters say 48 - 42 percent that Congress should repeal Obama's health care reform.
Click Here for more details.

Thursday NewsClips

Poll: Pennsylvanians Warming To Gov. Corbett
Corbett Gets Good Marks In State Poll
Consol Paid For Super Bowl Trip For Sen. Solobay
Pressure Builds To Disclose Lobbyists' Gifts
Editorial: Pols And Conflicts
Campaign Office Separate, Ex-Orie Staffer Says
Juror Replaced For Sleeping During Orie Trial
Mellow Is Focus Of Feds' Probe, Court Says
Deliberations Begin In Luzerne Judge's Corruption Trial
Lawmaker Eyes Cap On Supe Salaries
Corbett Taps PA Pension Critic For State Pension Board
Toomey Wants Borrowing Tied To Cuts
Sen. Toomey Proposes Hard Line Debt Cap Legislation
Barletta Opposes Some Spending Cuts
Casinos Net $43.3 Million In January
Weather Blamed For Lower Casino Take
Senate In Heated Debate Over School Vouchers
Heated Debate In Senate Hearing On School Vouchers
Corbett Nominee Advocates Broad School Choice
Corbett Administration Supports School Vouchers
Sanofi Makes $20 Billion Buy
Knox Says He May Run For Philly Mayor, Street Running
Dauphin County Again Sues Over Missed Incinerator Debt Payment
Act 47 Coordinator To Harrisburg: Save Your Pennies
Former Harrisburg Mayor Reed Silent On City's Woes
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

February 16, 2011

Poll: PA Voters Waiting To Decide On New Governor

Although the largest share of Pennsylvania registered voters, 50 percent, don't yet have an opinion of Gov. Tom Corbett's job performance, the new governor gets a 39 - 11 percent approval rating from those who do have an opinion, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
But by a 53 - 33 percent margin, voters don't believe Gov. Corbett can keep his promise to balance the budget without raising taxes, similar to a 55 - 31 percent finding in a December survey by the independent Quinnipiac University.
Voters agree overwhelmingly, 69 - 26 percent, with former Gov. Ed Rendell that the Commonwealth is better off that gambling addicts spend their money in Pennsylvania rather than elsewhere. By a narrow 51 - 46 percent margin, voters support increasing legalized gambling in the state to help meet the budget deficit.
"Gov. Corbett is off to a good start. Although half the electorate doesn't have an opinion of him, among those who have an opinion more than three times as many approve of what he has done so far than who disapprove," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "His challenge will be to keep that ratio of support as he gets more detailed about how he'll deal with the state government's shortfall when he releases his budget next month."
Not surprisingly, Corbett's strongest support is among Republicans who approve of his performance 57 - 4 percent, while independent voters approve 40 - 13 percent. Although 57 percent of Democrats don't have an opinion about him, he has a 27 - 16 percent approval rating among those who do. Corbett has a small gender gap as men approve 41 - 11 percent while women approve 37 - 12 percent.
Corbett does not need to convince voters that the state's budget problems are real: 61 percent say the state's budget woes are "very serious," while 34 percent say "somewhat serious," an unusually large percentage.
"You probably can't get 95 percent of people to agree that motherhood and apple pie are good things," said Brown.
But when it gets to potential solutions, voters are much less supportive. The one idea they strongly favor is selling state liquor stores, an idea they support 65 - 26 percent. But they oppose or are divided on other budget-cutting ideas under discussion in Harrisburg:
-- Voters oppose 51 - 36 percent selling or leasing the Pennsylvania turnpike to raise cash;
-- They oppose raising taxes 63 - 33 percent;
-- They support 52 - 40 percent laying off state workers.
"Pennsylvania voters may agree on the severity of the problem, but there is nowhere near that kind of agreement about the solutions," said Brown. "They like the idea of selling the liquor stores the most and raising taxes the least."
The narrow 51 - 46 percent voter support for increasing legalized gambling as a way to reduce the red ink reflects a strong majority, 64 - 29 percent, who call gambling a "good thing."
"While voters say 54 - 39 percent that legalized slot machine gambling in Pennsylvania is creating new gamblers, they agree with Gov. Ed Rendell, who defended the expansion of legal gambling on his watch, that gambling addicts might as well lose their money in the Commonwealth," Brown said.
Voters are optimistic, 65 - 23 percent, including 51 - 32 percent among Democrats, of the next four years with the Republican as governor.
A total of 47 percent of Pennsylvania voters are "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the way things are going in the state, up from a 37 percent "satisfaction" December 15.
Click Here for more details.

Wednesday NewsClips

New Quinnipiac Poll Shows Public Doesn't Have Opinion On Corbett
Editorial: Super Bowl Trip Shows Weakness In Ethics Rules
Editorial: Just Because It's Legal Doesn't Make Super Bowl Trips Right
Habay Case Didn't Deter Orie Work, Staffers Say
At Orie Trial, Witnesses Testify Campaign Work Done On State Time
Editorial: No Time To End State Film Tax Incentive
House Speaker Seeks To Trim Chamber
Six Workers Dismissed Over Abortion Clinic
Abortion Clinic Scandal Fallout Costs 6 Jobs
6 State Employees Fired Or Resign Over Abortion Clinic
Corbett Announces Abortion Clinic Oversight Changes
Baer: Legislature Shows Disrespect For The Poor
College Group Rallies In Capital Over Money
Pittsburgh Promise Increases Tuition Award
CCAC Reissues Bids In Science Center Project
A College That's Pleased With Its Drop In Applicants
Sides In School Voucher Debate Are Forming
Op-Ed: Give Pittsburgh Students More Options With Vouchers
Blog: New Anti-Voucher Groups Emerge
County Commissioners Call For Mandate Relief
Groups Argue Over Lower Taxes, Less Regulatory Burden
Op-Ed: Passage Of Castle Doctrine Glorifies Shoot First Mentality
State's Manufactures Adapt, Study Finds
Winning The War On Fake Drugs
Lawmakers Want Corbett To Hold Up Funding For Barnes Move
Editorial: Santorum Among CPAC Losers
Harrisburg City Council Election Forum On Mayor Thompson
Harrisburg City Businesses Want Stability
Click Here for today's Environmental NewsClips

February 15, 2011

House Passes Gaming Integrity, Veterans, Restaurant Bills

The state House took action today to strengthen the integrity of the state's gaming law, delineate state office building restaurant inspection authority, and ensure veteran representation on the state Civil Service Commission, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) said today.
"Pennsylvanians must believe their government is effective, efficient, and accountable, and we think these bills will help bring that about," Turzai said. "These government reform bills are part of a larger package that is the strongest set of reforms in more than 25 years."
Gaming it Right -- Background Investigations and Commissioner Integrity
For the past two legislative sessions, starting with the House Republican Policy Committee, House Republicans have been working to reform the state law that legalized casino gambling in the Commonwealth. Today, the House debated and voted bills aimed at fixing two clearly identified problems with the state's Race Horse Development and Gaming Act.
"Our aim is to restore integrity to the state's gaming industry. These bills are about the public's interest versus various individual interests... and these bills protect the public's interest," Turzai said.
Some of the investigatory problems under the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) include:
-- Licensing several vendors who were convicted felons.
-- Granting a license to an operator who did not have the financial means to hold a license.
-- Licensing the owner of the proposed Foxwoods Casino in Philadelphia who was being sued in Connecticut for alleged non-payment on a $5.2 million loan for the casino he operated in that state. The owner, in countering the charge, has reportedly called (in court papers) the loan a bribe.
-- Ordering the investigators at BIE to change a background report of a licensee ultimately indicted by a grand jury.
The first gaming reform bill adopted by the House removes the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement (BIE) from the PGCB and transfers it to the Office of Attorney General. This is a move that was supported by former Gov. Ed Rendell and is now supported by Gov. Tom Corbett, the auditor general, district attorneys, law enforcement and numerous editorial writers across the state.
The second gaming reform bill to pass today is the Gaming Control Board Membership Restriction Act. HB-391 prohibits a legislator or executive-level public employee from being appointed to the PGCB during their term or time of employment and for a period of one year after.
"Our goal is simply to ensure integrity in the gaming industry and make certain the public trusts the state's oversight of the gaming industry," Turzai said. "We believe appointments should be made based on the person's abilities as a regulator, not based on their personal political connections."
Capitol Standards, Better and Consistent Inspections
The House passed a bill to clarify the licensing and inspection authority for restaurants in the state Capitol and other state office buildings. For years, the Capitol cafeteria served thousands of patrons daily, yet apparently went uninspected. In 2009, during a courtesy inspection by the state Department of Agriculture, 54 violations were discovered, including numerous instances of mouse droppings. HB-303 ensures restaurants operating in state facilities are complying with the same standards as other restaurants.
Veteran Perspective
Past court cases and an auditor general report have shown a need for a veterans' advocate within the Civil Service system. HB-378 requires at least one member of the three-member Civil Service Commission be a veteran.
"The Pennsylvania House is under new management and debating bills which are important to the integrity of government and to the people of Pennsylvania," Turzai said.
The following bills were adopted by the state House this week:

House Bill 38 (Caltagirone-D-Berks) Makes technical corrections to a law addressing filing fees for cases before Magisterial District Judges and the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Vote: 197-0

House Bill 67 (Schroder-R-Chester) Prohibits simulcasting of greyhound races. Vote: 200-0

House Bill 143 (Major-R-Susquehanna) Changes the state's Clean and Green initiative by rolling back preferential assessments on small non-coal surface mines. Vote: 148-52

House Bill 262 (Vereb-R-Montgomery) Moves the Gaming Control Board's Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement to the Attorney General's office. Vote: 126-72

House Bill 303 (Brooks-R-Crawford) Clarifies licensing and inspection authority for restaurants in state office buildings. This issue was brought to light due to the mouse droppings at the Capitol cafeteria last year. Vote: 197-0

House Bill 345 (Petri-R-Bucks) Provides for Honor Guard burial details at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery. Vote: 200-0

House Bill 378 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) Requires at least one member of the Civil Service Commission to be a veteran. Vote: 199-1

House Bill 391 (Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Cumberland/Franklin counties): Restricts the appointment of legislators and executive level public employees to the Gaming Control Board during their term of office/employment and one year thereafter. Vote: 189-8

Corbett Announces Changes To Abortion Clinic Oversight

Saying the state failed to properly oversee a Philadelphia abortion clinic at which one woman died and others were seriously injured, Governor Tom Corbett today announced sweeping changes in the two departments responsible.
"This doesn't even rise to the level of government run amok. It was government not running at all. To call this unacceptable doesn't say enough. It's despicable,'' Corbett said.
On Corbett's first full day in office, a Philadelphia County grand jury report was released to the public, revealing the horrors found inside the Women's Medical Society, a clinic run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
At least two women died as a result of botched late-term abortions, according to the grand jury report, some babies were born alive and then killed by having their spinal cords snipped by scissors and untrained personnel performed medical procedures, sometimes using unsterilized implements that spread venereal disease from patient to patient.
Gosnell and several employees have been charged with murder and numerous other offenses in the case.
In addition to the gruesome description of the clinic, the grand jury also revealed that complaints about unsafe and unsanitary conditions went unheeded for more than a decade until drug investigators finally put a stop to the business in February 2010.
"It will be up to a jury to decide Dr. Gosnell's guilt or innocence. It is up to me to decide how to stop such horrors from taking place again,'' Corbett said.
After receiving the report, Corbett ordered his nominees for Secretary of Health, Dr. Eli Avila, and Secretary of State, Carole Aichele, to review the grand jury's recommendation, identify the problems and come up with a plan of action to change the system that failed these women.
And, Corbett ordered that the people responsible be held accountable.
Seven individuals - employees from the Department of Health, as well as the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, a branch of the Department of State – are no longer employed by the state, having either resigned or been terminated since the situation came to light, Corbett said. In addition, four other former employees named in the grand jury investigation had previously resigned.
In addition, Corbett today announced changes in the Department of Health and Department of State, including new controls and conditions designed to protect the health and safety of women who use these facilities in the future.
Corbett also outlined some of the specific changes in each department.
At the Department of State:
-- All complaints concerning a person or facility should be assigned to the same attorney. This will ensure proper management of each specific case.
-- All attorneys will cross check all files, opened or closed, with other staff attorneys to ensure that any patterns of misconduct do not go unnoticed.
-- Reports will be more detailed, including history of any prior complaints or violations.
-- Attorneys will receive formal training on investigative procedures and instruction on rules and regulations, including prosecuting complaints.
At the Department of Health:
-- Abortion clinics will now be held to a higher standard. Inspectors will come from the Division of Acute and Ambulatory Care, which is also responsible for inspecting Pennsylvania's hospitals and out-patient surgery facilities. Registered nurses from the Department of Health will be trained to inspect these types of facilities for quality assurance and enforce regulations.
-- All facilities will be inspected annually. Additional random inspections will be done unannounced, including weekends and evenings.
-- Abortion facilities will be added to the same Department of Health computer system used to monitor hospitals and other medical facilities. This will make sure inspections are done in a timely fashion and standards are met. The computerized system will also track complaints, serious events and investigations.
-- Inspection reports will be posted and searchable on the Department of Health website, just like other healthcare facilities.
-- If inspectors find a deficiency, plans of correction will be required within 10 days, submitted online and automatically be made available to the public on the department's website. Failure to comply will result in another on-site inspection. Failure to file a second plan of correction within a second 10-day period will result in an immediate suspension for the facility.
-- Any facility that fails to report a serious incident – either to the state or the patient - will be fined up to $1,000 a day from the time of the serious event until the time the report is made. (A "serious event" is when a patient receives some level of harm, ranging from a minor, temporary injury to death, requiring additional health care treatment.)
-- All serious events at abortion facilities will be reviewed within 48 hours by a physician and an on-site investigation will be conducted within five business days.
-- Abortion clinics will be subject to the same complaint process as hospitals and other medical facilities in Pennsylvania.
-- Abortion clinics will prominently display a poster with a 24-hour toll free number to the complaint line. Posters will be in English and Spanish. Any facility that fails to display the complaint information will be subject to possible suspension.
-- Complaints will be taken from any source, entered into the computer system and assigned to the field office inspector, as they do for hospitals and surgical facilities. All complainants will receive a letter of acknowledgement and a follow-up letter after the investigation.
-- All new abortion providers will be required to attend training on the state's rules and regulations. All hospitals will be trained about reporting complications from abortions.
Together, the two departments will:
-- Establish a set mechanism for sharing monthly data between agencies, including complaints, serious events, complications, deaths and investigations.
-- Establish a process for joint investigations by agencies, including time frames and responsibilities.
-- The Governor's Office will continue, along with the departments of Health and State, to monitor the situation to decide whether additional action, either regulatory or legislative, is necessary.

PANPHA Releases Latest Print, Video Blogs

PANPHA today released its latest print and video blogs discussing the future of senior care in Pennsylvania. The video blog features a one-on-one interview with state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio of Montgomery County and Philadelphia and footage from PANPHA's annual legislative breakfast in Harrisburg. Rep. DeLissio is a former board member of PANPHA.
The print blog is authored by PANPHA President and CEO Ron Barth and discusses the upcoming challenges with the 2011-12 state budget, while offering some guidance on senior care issues.
PANPHA will release the blogs on its Web site, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Links can be found at the following:
-- Website: www.panpha.org
-- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/panpha
-- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/panphatv
-- Facebook: http://facebook.com/PANPHA.FB
PANPHA represents more than 360 nonprofit members that provide the full continuum of long-term living services, including home-based care services, long-term care nursing facilities, personal care homes, housing providers and continuing care retirement communities.

Tuesday NewsClips

Sen. Scarnati To Repay Consol For Super Bowl Tickets
Scarnati Vows To Repay Consol Energy For Trip
Scarnati Vows To Replay Consol For Super Bowl Trip
Blog: Scarnati To Repay Gas Company For Super Bowl Tickets
Editorial: Scarnati Case Shows Need To Ban Gifts
Editorial: Oily Drilling For Influence
Orie Staffer Tells Of Stressful Office
Staffers Pretended To Be Sen. Orie In Campaign Calls
Luzerne Judges' Corruption Trial Implicates Former Legislator
Hazleton Man Testifies Powell Passed Cash To Lawmaker
Senate Panel Serves Up First Round On State Stores Debate
Value Of State Control Of Liquor Sales Debated
Senators Hear Liquor Privatization Arguments
Senators Hear Liquor Privatization Arguments
Senate Looks Into Liquor Store Sell-Off
Op-Ed: Now Is Time To Sell Liquor Stores, Rep. Turzai
Op-Ed: Selling Liquor Stores Won't Benefit State, Rep. Murphy
Federal Budget Cuts, Local Impact
Congress Ready To Cut Budget, Impacts On PA
Casey Criticizes LIHEAP Cuts
School Leaders Tell Lawmaker They Need To Be Effective
Op-Ed: Public-Private Partnerships Can Rebuild Roads
Erie Rally Supports State-Subsidized Health Insurance
Editorial: Working Poor Need Health Insurance
Crowd Gathers Calling On HBG Mayor To Quit
I'm Staying Harrisburg Mayor Tells Crowd
Column: HBG Mayor, Read My Lips, I'm Staying
Many HBG Residents Have Softer Opinion Of Mayor
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