Archives for September 2017

PA School Funding Ruling Reversed by High Court

Pennsylvania’s highest court on Thursday revived a lawsuit that claims the state is failing in its obligation to students, a case that could eventually have a dramatic effect on the shape of public education in the state. The Supreme Court’s 5-2 ruling reversed a decision by a lower court that in 2015 had thrown out the challenge to how schools are funded.
The case now returns to Commonwealth Court, which had dismissed it unanimously on grounds the litigation raised political questions that were not appropriate for the judiciary to settle. The majority opinion by Justice David Wecht said courts should not duck their responsibility to monitor the General Assembly’s decisions, both concerning the state constitution’s requirement of a through and efficient education and the lawsuit’s allegations that poorer districts are being discriminated against.

Wagner gets Bannon Endorsement for PA Gov. Race

President Donald Trump hasn’t endorsed a candidate in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial election next year, but Scott Wagner might have something close to it: Steve Bannon’s stamp of approval. Bannon, the ex-Trump strategist, urged a conservative gathering at a St. Louis hotel on Sunday to support the Republican state senator from York County. Wagner, a Trump supporter who runs the municipal waste-hauling company he founded, spoke right before Bannon at the gathering and criticized not only Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf but also his fellow Republican lawmakers. Wagner told the crowd that his two-hour trip flying to St. Louis with Bannon left him “500 percent more emboldened.”

PA Boy Scout earns all 137 Merit Badges!

A good news story as a Pennsylvania Boy Scout earns every merit badge: All 137. High school junior Auden Block is a textbook example of how the Boy Scouts’ merit badge program can shape a boy’s life: By exploring a range of hobbies, outdoor activities and professional skills, Block built confidence, became self-reliant and discovered a potential career. The East Lampeter Township teenager just completed the requirements for his 137th badge, putting him in the rare company of fewer than 350 Scouts who have earned each badge available to them during the organization’s 107-year history.

Analysts warn of Health Care Changes in Pa.

Independent analysts say Pennsylvania would be one of the hardest-hit states under Senate legislation that would take federal health care subsidies provided under President Obama’s 2010 law and redistribute it among states. Today Gov. Tom Wolf urged Pennsylvania’s U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to reject the bill that’s scheduled for a vote next week. Analysts including the Kaiser Family Foundation and Avalere Health say Pennsylvania would lose billions of federal health care dollars, while some other states would get billions in new federal dollars. Toomey, a Republican, hasn’t said yet whether he supports it. Casey, a Democrat, opposes it. Pennsylvania is one of 31 states that expanded Medicaid’s income guidelines under Obama’s 2010 law and received a more generous federal subsidy to help pay for the new coverage.

PA Credit Rating Downgraded Again

Pennsylvania’s credit rating is taking a hit, another black eye in the nearly three-month budget stalemate between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s today lowered its rating on Pennsylvania’s debt. That’s the second downgrade it has slapped on Pennsylvania in three years as budget makers have struggled to pull the state out of a stubborn post-recession deficit. Pennsylvania is now rated even lower among states, sliding to the bottom five rated by Standard and Poor’s.
The downgrade means Pennsylvania will pay more to borrow money, potentially tens of millions of dollars a year. The House and Senate are divided over whether to raise taxes as lawmakers look to borrow $1 billion or more to help bail the state out of a $2.2 billion projected deficit.

Congressman Shuster tries to prevent SNAP cuts

Wednesday from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at Congressman Bill Shuster’s Hollidaysburg office
they’ll be holding a peaceful rally to express opposition to federal budget cuts to SNAP. District 9 constituents, including members of Indivisible Blair County are invited. The current administration’s 2018 budget proposes to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by more than $193 billion over the next ten years. This cut of more than 25 percent shifts costs to the states, cutting eligibility for millions of households and greatly impacting low-income working families and the elderly. Over 40,000 households in Congressman Shuster’s district rely on SNAP Food Collection: Additionally, they will be accepting donations of non-perishable food items at the rally to be donated to a local food pantry. for more info, email info@IndivisibleBlairCounty.org.

Altoona Zoning Changes

The Altoona City Council rezones two parcels in town…Jim O’Reilly…

The plots, near Beckman Drive are now changed from suburban to multi-family residential parcels, this at the request of area developer, Custom Homes & Development. Custom’s Drew Swope plans to build two or three one-story duplexes along a driveway connecting Beckman Drive with Penn Circle.

Altoona recovers from “financially distressed” status.

Altoona has become the fastest municipality to financially recover and exit “financially distressed” status under a Pennsylvania law. Act 47 enables municipalities to raise their earned income taxes and sometimes freeze wages of workers even when a union contract might otherwise have prohibited that, among other measures. Altoona filed for distressed status on April 1, 2012, and exited Wednesday, making it the fastest to do so under the Department of Community and Economic Development program. The department’s deputy secretary says residents thought the move would be a “black eye” for the city, but it wound up rescuing the town from insolvency. Workers’ wages were frozen and the wage tax was applied to nonresident workers, among other changes. Sixteen other Pennsylvania municipalities remain on the list.

Local Fatal Accident

A woman is killed in a major crash…Jim O’Reilly…

The victim was driving east on Admiral Peary Highway, when she crosses into oncoming traffic, colliding head-on with a pickup truck. The woman, in her 70s, was pronounced dead at the scene. The truck’s driver, a man, was transported to the hospital in Johnstown as a precaution…he was OK. State police troopers are investigating, as officials wait for the coroner’s report.

PA Amtrak Case

The engineer in a deadly Amtrak derailment is due in court for a preliminary hearing to determine if he’ll face trial on criminal charges that were filed only after a victim’s family intervened and a judge overruled city prosecutors. Engineer Brandon Bostian’s lawyers want the case dismissed. They argued in court papers ahead of today’s hearing that the unusual circumstances leading to Bostian’s May arrest, as the statute of limitations loomed, had violated his due process rights. Judge Marsha Neifield ordered the charges based on a private criminal complaint that lawyers for victim Rachel Jacobs’ family filed after the Philadelphia district attorney’s office declined to press charges. Bostian’s lawyers argued the judge’s decision to approve the charges, including involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, “unilaterally infringed” on the district attorney’s prosecutorial discretion. Bostian’s lawyers includes Brian McMonagle, who recently left Bill Cosby’s defense team after reaching a deadlock in his June sex assault trial.