Archives for November 2017

Former Altoona Bus Driver Wins Court Battle

A fired Pennsylvania school bus driver who believed being fingerprinted would leave “the mark of the devil” on her has won a court battle to receive unemployment benefits. Bonnie Kaite lost her job with Altoona Student Transportation Inc. in 2015 after telling the company being fingerprinted for a background check could bar her from heaven. The state unemployment board denied her benefits last year, saying the belief was personal, not religious. It said her belief was based on her father’s interpretation of the Bible, not the teachings of a religious organization. A Commonwealth Court panel overturned that decision Wednesday. The panel found Kaite’s beliefs were sincerely held religious convictions, even if she practiced them only at home.

PA Holiday Crash Totals

There were fewer fatal crashes and more alcohol-related arrests on Pennsylvania’s highways over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. State troopers investigated 981 crashes between Nov. 22 and Nov. 26. That’s up from 931 during the holiday last year. Four of the crashes were fatal, down from six in 2016. Police made 629 driving under the influence arrests compared to 610 last year. They say 85 of the 981 crashes were alcohol-related. Police also issued nearly 16,000 speeding tickets.

PA State Officials get Salary Bump

The salaries of Pennsylvania state lawmakers, judges and top executive branch officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf, will rise in 2018. The increase is 0.8 percent, a figure tied by law to the year-over-year change in the consumer price index for urban consumers in the mid-Atlantic region. The bump takes effect Dec. 1 for lawmakers and Jan. 1 for judicial and executive branch officials. Highest-paid is state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Saylor. His salary will rise by about $1,600 to $213,750. Wolf’s salary will rise about $1,500 to $194,850, although his office says he donates the money.

PA Deer Hunting Update

Pennsylvania’s Game Commission estimates about 550,000 hunters with rifles are expected to take to the woods in search of white-tailed deer. The rifle season opened just before sunrise on today and continues through Dec. 9. Hunters are allowed to harvest one buck, as well as an antlerless deer for each antlerless permit they hold. Experts believe the deer population is up due to last year’s milder temperatures. As a result, there has been more food for the deer. However, it also means the deer are not moving as much so hunters are being asked to be patient. In terms of total deer harvest numbers, Pennsylvania ranked third in the country in 2016. Only Texas and Michigan had higher harvest totals.

Judge Blocks effort to Shutdown PA Medical Malpractice Insurer

A federal judge is temporarily blocking an effort by Pennsylvania’s cash-strapped state government to shut down a state-created medical malpractice insurer of last resort if it doesn’t hand over $200 million from its reserves. U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner this week granted an injunction sought by the Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association. Conner’s order suspends the Dec. 1 deadline to provide the cash until the association’s lawsuit can go to trial. State officials wanted the money to help resolve a massive deficit, but the association says the move is an unconstitutional nationalization of a non-profit organization.

United Way of Blair Co. Partners with Local Small Businesses

United Way of Blair County reminds everyone to shop local this holiday season and give back to your community especially as we’re rolling into Black Friday. United Way has partnered with local small businesses during this season of giving for the Small Businesss Checkout for Charity Campaign. For two weeks begiinning on Black Friday small businesses are offering customers the option to add a donation of $1-dollar or more to their purchase. The monday raised will be donated to United Way of Blair County.

McGinnis Update on Facebook Page

Representative John McGinnis of Blair County, was released from UPMC Altoona on Tuesday, after being admitted to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms last Saturday. Subsequent tests confirmed, McGinnis had suffered a moderate stroke. On his faceboo page today McGinnis said, “I am overwhelmed and so very dearly appreciative of all the well wishes and prayers that have been sent to me from across the state. I was able to get home from the hospital last night and now will work to make the doctors’ prediction of a full recovery come true. Thank you everyone for your kindness. his family and staff say while he appreciates the concerns of his constituants, they ask at this time for privacy as he recovers. During his recovery, McGinnis’ district office in Altoona, will remain open.

Update on State Rep. John Mcginnis

The latest on State Representative John Mcginnis, he is scheduled to be released from UPMC Altoona today after being admitted to the hospital on Saturday after suffering a moderate stroke. According to his doctors, the Blair County Republican is in good spirits and is expected to make a full recovery. The 63-year-old McGinnis is a retired finance professor at Penn State Altoona. He’s serving in his third term in the state House of Representatives. In the meantime Mcginnis’ district office in Altoona will remain open to assist constituents in the 79th District with any state-related matters.

PA Open Enrollment Half Over

The open enrollment period is half over for Pennsylvanians who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace. The enrollment period, which is shorter this year, opened Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15. As the future of and online insurance marketplaces remains uncertain, premiums for 2018 in Pennsylvania jumped on average an alarming 30.6 percent. The state’s acting insurance commissioner in October lamented President Donald Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing reductions, which she blamed for the increase. Acting Commissioner Jessica Altman originally expected rates to increase on average only 7.6 percent. But as premiums rise, so do tax credits that help customers pay for insurance, said Pennsylvania Health Access Network Director Antoinette Kraus.
“Folks should not be deterred because they saw news that maybe there were higher rate increases than expected,” she said.

PA Unemployment Rate Drops

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped in October to a new post-recession low, although the labor force, employment and payrolls all shrank during the month. The state Department of Labor and Industry said today that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent last month, down one-tenth of a percentage point. The national rate was 4.1 percent in October.
A survey of households found that Pennsylvania’s civilian labor force shrank for the fifth straight month, this time by 16,000, after hitting a record high in May. Employment and unemployment were both down, as well.