Pennsylvania state universities offer retirement incentive

The 14 Pennsylvania state universities hope to reduce the size of their faculties by offering an incentive for professors eligible for retirement.The State System of Higher Education’s governing board on Thursday approved the plan to align staffing with the decrease in student enrollment. The incentive increases the maximum number of unused sick days retirees can be paid out to 125; previously, the maximum was 50 days. Faculty has to decide by March 2 to take the incentive. If it does not reach 200 members, those who signed up may rescind their decision by April 10.

State House votes to stop drivers’ use of hand-held phones

A divided Pennsylvania House voted Wednesday to ban the use of hand-held phones for all drivers to make calls, although police would not be allowed to stop motorists for that reason alone. Representatives voted 120-74 for the proposal that would expand current law, which bans any texting and prohibits the use of hand-held devices to make phone calls for truckers and other commercial drivers. Officials were disappointed that this would only be a secondary offense.

ArtsAltoona Gifted Buildings

In a near unanimous vote, the congregation at Simpson Temple United Parish decided to gift its buildings and contents, except for religious artifacts, to ArtsAltoona. The gift became effective January 1. As one of its core strategies, ArtsAltoona has been exploring building opportunities in the community where it could establish an arts center that would offer studio space for artists, office space for arts organizations, exhibit and performance space, administrative offices and a hub for its After School Arts Program.

PA Orders Gas Well Plugged in Fight Over Methane

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration on Monday told Range Resources that it must fix a Marcellus Shale natural gas well “once and for all” that it maintains has leaked methane since 2011 and contaminated groundwater and streams in north-central Pennsylvania. Wolf’s Department of Environmental Protection in 2015 issued — and then later rescinded — $8.9 million in fines over the well to its Fort Worth, Texas-based owner, which contends that the well is not the source of the methane contamination. The department insisted Monday that the Harman Lewis well’s cement casing is defective and that Range Resources’ cooperation is sporadic.

Fight over cash-paying video games hits crucial stretch

Just across the mall lobby from the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office sits a cash-paying electronic game terminal that the office is fighting to outlaw, like thousands of other devices like it around the state. In an unfolding court battle, the state’s top law enforcement office is representing Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, which accuses the proliferating machines of siphoning more than $200 million in revenue last year from the Pennsylvania Lottery. An ally is Pennsylvania’s competition-wary casino industry in the nation’s No. 2 commercial casino state. Arguments are scheduled for Wednesday before the state’s Commonwealth Court in a case given momentum by recent police seizures of the machines.

Josh Shapiro Campaign Chest

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will report that he headed into his 2020 reelection year with more than $3 million in his campaign bank account, about 40% of what he spent to get elected in 2016 to his first four-year term. In a preliminary report , Shapiro, a Democrat, will report to the state that he raised $3.3 million in 2019 and had $3.1 million left over as of Jan. 1. He spent $523,000 last year, partially offset by the $365,000 that he had left over from 2018, according to the report. His biggest individual cash donor at $250,000 was the Democratic Attorneys General Association, a national fundraising organization.

Judge says parents can sue diocese over abuse reporting

A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that parents of children in the Roman Catholic Church and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy members can move forward with a lawsuit against the Diocese of Pittsburgh alleging that it has not fulfilled its obligations under state law to report child sexual abusers. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the lawsuit is the first time a private citizen has been allowed to challenge an institution to prove it is complying with a reporting law.

Conklin Looking to Replace DePasquale

A seven-term state lawmaker from central Pennsylvania said Monday that he will seek the Democratic nomination to run for the open state auditor general’s office this year. Scott Conklin enters a crowded field ahead of Pennsylvania’s Feb. 18 deadline to submit nomination petitions to the state elections bureau to get on the April primary ballot. Conklin, of Centre County, was also the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010 on that year’s failed Democratic gubernatorial ticket. Pennsylvania’s current auditor general, Democrat Eugene DePasquale, is completing a second four-year term and is constitutionally barred from seeking another.

African American Read-In at Penn State Altoona

The annual African American Read-In at Penn State Altoona will take place Feb. 16–17. This year’s theme is Black Theatre through a Black Lens, celebrating the African American dramatic literary tradition—its themes, forms, and playwrights—from slavery times through the first two decades of the 21st century. Events begin Sunday, Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m. in the Port-Sky Café with a community gathering featuring short performances and a special program component for children. A dinner will also be served. Attendees are invited to share a short reading from a work by an African American author or just listen and enjoy. Advanced reservations are required. RSVP to mbs12@psu.edu, call 814-949-5288.

NTSB is Looking Into PA Turnpike Crash

Federal investigators said Monday a packed bus passed a truck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike shortly before losing control and causing a chain-reaction wreck that killed five and injured dozens. An initial report about the facts should be out in about 10 days, but it could be up to two years before the 3:30 a.m. Sunday crash is fully analysed, according to Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board .