Archives for December 2018

Gov Wolf’s Big Plans

Gov. Tom Wolf, who introduced himself at his first inauguration as an unconventional governor and then unveiled an ambitious blueprint to transform Pennsylvania’s tax structure, is returning for a second term with big plans. He is frank about his prospects for success in persuading lawmakers to increase the minimum wage, expand background checks on firearms purchases, overhaul how public schools are funded and impose a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production.

PA Tolls to go Up in the New Year

If a new year is beckoning, Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls must be about to go up.
For the 11th year in a row, motorists will pay more to drive the 359-mile roadway that stretches from the Delaware River to Ohio. Tolls will rise 6 percent for all motorists beginning Sunday. For passenger vehicles traveling the length of the Turnpike, that means an increase from $55 to $58.30 for cash payers and $39.25 to $41.60 for E-ZPass tag holders.

PA High Court Rules on Child Abuse

Pennsylvania’s highest court says mothers who use illegal drugs while pregnant can’t be considered perpetrators of child abuse against their newly born children under the state’s child protection law. The court’s main opinion issued earlier today says the law’s definition of a child doesn’t include fetuses or unborn children, and it says victims of perpetrators must be children.

PA Craft Brewers Looking at New Sales Tax

For Pennsylvania residents, a glass of craft beer at the local brewpub could soon get a little more expensive. Beginning in June, the state will start collecting 6 percent sales tax from brewers. That has some worrying that passing the cost on to customers could hurt business. The tax initially was supposed to be collected starting on Jan. 1, but opposition from brewers helped delay it until June. They are expected to continue to seek changes. The state revenue department says the tax isn’t new, but that it’s merely a clarification of existing liquor laws that require breweries to collect sales tax.

Gov Wolf Changes Cabinet

Gov. Tom Wolf is reshuffling his cabinet as he prepares for a second term.
Wolf said Wednesday that he is replacing the people atop his departments of state and aging, the latest changes ahead of his inauguration on Jan. 15. Wolf’s office said the move will take effect Jan. 7. The shakeup comes as Wolf’s Office of State Inspector General wraps up a report on the Department of Aging’s oversight of elder-abuse investigations by 52 county-level agencies tasked with fielding and responding to complaints that can involve physical abuse, self-neglect or financial exploitation. Wolf’s office said the forthcoming inspector general’s report has nothing to do with the personnel change.

Top PA Stories of the Year

And the top PA stories of 2018 include…An anti-Semite with a cache of weapons unleading terror upon a Pittsburgh synagogue. Grand jurors savage the Catholic Church, rekindling a global crisis over clergy abuse. In the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, Bill Cosby is convicted of sexual assault and, a few months later, enters prison. These were the headlines in a hugely consequential 2018, a year that saw Pennsylvania play host to some of the nation’s biggest stories.

PA Unemployment Rate Up Slightly

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose slightly in November after steadily dropping to a nearly two-decade low, as the pool of job-seekers grew and payrolls shrank.
The state Department of Labor and Industry said today that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate ticked up by one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.2 percent last month. It was the first month-to-month increase since mid-2016.

PA Majority Leader Says No to Pot Legalization

The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania Senate says he’s opposed to legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes and is criticizing the governor for saying it should be considered. Majority Leader Jake Corman calls Gov. Tom Wolf’s openness to taking a look at the idea “reckless and irresponsible.” Corman says marijuana harms young people as a depressant and leads them to other illegal substances. He describes legalization of recreational marijuana as “the makings of a catastrophe.”
Wolf on Wednesday posted on Twitter that “it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana.”

Gov Wolf Commutes Drug Dealers Sentence

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has issued his first act of clemency in more than two years, commuting a drug dealer’s life sentence. Sixty-year-old Benny Ortega had already served 22 years in prison for selling marijuana and cocaine. He now must serve a year in a state halfway house before being released into the community.
A spokesman for the governor says Ortega had taken steps toward rehabilitating himself and that the governor viewed his sentence as “egregious and inhumane.”
The commutation is Wolf’s first since 2016 and only the governor’s third since taking office in 2015. For inmates sentenced to life in prison in Pennsylvania, there is no parole. Commutation is the only path to release.

Gov Wolf Wants New Voting Machines Across the State

It’s the “right thing” for every Pennsylvania county to buy new voting machines in time for the 2020 presidential election to give voters confidence in the balloting, according to Gov. Tom Wolf , although he acknowledged that it is a costly proposition. The governor, said one of the biggest challenges his administration faces in the matter is helping counties afford an estimated tab of $125 million.
With a large number of voting machines that do not create an auditable paper trail, Pennsylvania is viewed as one of the most vulnerable states after federal authorities say Russian hackers targeted it and at least 20 others during the 2016 presidential election.