Archives for October 2019

Judge says state can’t tally victims’ rights amendment votes

A judge ruled Wednesday that votes in a referendum next week about enshrining victims’ rights in Pennsylvania’s constitution will not be tallied or certified while a legal challenge is pending. Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler issued a preliminary injunction that was requested by the voter and the state League of Women Voters who sued over the proposal.

Election reform bill speeds toward approval in Pennsylvania

Legislation headed toward the governor’s desk in Pennsylvania on Tuesday would deliver the biggest changes to state election laws in decades and provide aid to counties for much of the cost of new voting machines in next year’s presidential election. In a compromise package negotiated behind closed doors over the last four months, Gov. Tom Wolf secured some of his priorities to increase voting access, including allowing any voter to mail in a ballot and moving voter-registration deadlines closer to the election. In exchange, Republicans who control the state Legislature dropped their opposition to Wolf’s insistence that counties buy new voting machines and secured their top priority, eliminating the ballot option for straight party-ticket voting.

Pennsylvania to extend security grants to fight hate crimes

Pennsylvania will provide millions of dollars in grants to protect houses of worship and other potentially targeted community organizations from hate crimes, a program inspired by the deadly mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue a year ago. Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said earlier today that he will sign the bill, now that it’s passed the Legislature. The bill creates a five-year, $5 million grant program to be administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The money can be used for anything that enhances an organization’s safety. Mass shootings are spurring similar grant programs in a number of states.

Ballot question, judge races highlight state’s Nov. 5 voting

A victims’ rights constitutional amendment question and a pair of vacancies on an appeals court are the only contested statewide elections in Pennsylvania this year, as voters also sort through thousands of local and county government races.
A legal challenge is ongoing regarding the Marsy’s Law amendment, which would enshrine victims’ rights in the state constitution, and it’s unclear what will happen to the proposal if it’s approved on Nov. 5.

Pennsylvania to get $53M in opioid treatment drug settlement

Pennsylvania is in line to receive more than $53 million as part of a nationwide settlement with a British company that once distributed a drug used to treat opioid addiction. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Thursday that the money is to settle allegations that the company defrauded Medicaid and other state health care programs. The U.S. Department of Justice had accused an ex-Reckitt Benckiser subsidiary of marketing Suboxone Film by saying the drug was safer than other opioid addiction treatments.

Judge to rule soon on victim rights referendum vote counting

Lawyers challenging a ballot question about enshrining victims’ rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution asked a judge Wednesday to stop the votes from being counted while their lawsuit proceeds, while the state argued an injunction would confuse voters and could affect the result. Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler said after the hearing that she plans to issue an order in the next couple days regarding the Nov. 5 voting on the Marsy’s Law ballot question. An opinion that outlines her reasoning will follow in about a week. The proposed amendment endorses a list of rights for victims.

Altoona Street Improvements Studied

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Engineering Diistrict 9 and the Metropolitan Planning Oganization for Blair County are conducting a study to evaluate improvements to 10th Avenue and 12th Avenue in downtown Altoona. Potential imporvements under consideration are intersection upgrades and travel pattern/lane modifications. The study does not include parking improvements.

House votes to exempt fire, rescue agencies from records law

The Pennsylvania House is giving its approval to a bill that would exempt the state’s volunteer fire and rescue companies from the Right-to-Know Law. State representatives voted 166 to 34 on Tuesday to send the proposal to the Senate. Supporters of the legislation argue the 2008 rewrite of the open records law wasn’t meant to apply to volunteer fire, rescue and ambulance entities, and that records requests puts a burden on entities that are stretched thin.

Trump’s PA Visit to Disrupt the Area

President Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh on Wednesday will close roads and a dozen schools. Police Chief Scott Schubert is advising residents and employees to leave early, work from home if they can and expect heavier than normal traffic. The president on Wednesday will speak at an annual natural gas industry conference.
Road closures will begin at midnight tonight and continue throughout the day Wednesday. Trump’s motorcade also is expected to disrupt traffic near Pittsburgh’s airport. Streets will reopen on a staggered basis after Trump leaves.

Altoona Woman Says She Smoked Crack Before an Attack

According to a release, An Altoona woman allegedly told police she smoked crack and was drinking before what police say was a brutal assault that sent another woman to the hospital. Regina Ann Schultz, 57, is accused of punching a woman and then striking her with plates and glasses during an altercation Saturday afternoon at Schultz’s home. Police said the woman’s head and face were covered in blood, and Schultz smelled of alcohol and had difficulty responding to officers’ commands. Schultz was booked on charges that include felony aggravated assault . Bail was set at 10 percent of $75,000