Thursday, May 9, 2013
The state House and Senate redistricting maps were approved by the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Thursday, May 9
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent HARRISBURG – Finally, Pennsylvania will have new legislative districts. In a unanimous decision announced Wednesday, the state Supreme Court upheld a redistricting plan drawn by a commission of legislative leaders and ordered it to be used for the next round of legislative elections in 2014. The plan had been challenged by residents for containing too many legislative districts that unnecessarily divided counties and municipalities, but the court dismissed those appeals. A previous plan prepared by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, or LRC, had been rejected by the Supreme Court in January 2012, largely because the court found it contained too many county and municipality splits. But the commission …
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Pennsylvania lawmakers are in the throes of a discussion on whether or not to increase driver fees and potentially gas prices in order to get more funding for roads.
Wednesday, May 8
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — In 1997 a postage stamp cost 32 cents, a dozen eggs about $1.17, and a gallon of gas about $1.32. It was also the most recent time Pennsylvania lawmakers touched the state gas tax to raise more money for roads and bridges, said Senate Transportation Minority Chair John Wozniak, D-Cambria. As consumer costs have risen, so have the costs for roads. “I challenge anybody to say they’ve stopped at a convenience store and a cup of coffee is the same today as it was 15 years ago,” Wozniak said. “Government isn’t immune to market forces.” As a result, drivers may have to pay more, too. Wozniak was among the lawmakers who voted in favor of a $2.5 billion transportation funding package, which passed …
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has since met with federal officials on the matter but has not made a recommendation to expand Medicaid, much to the chagrin of Obama-care supporters.
Tuesday, May 7
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett has made no secret of his concerns about the Affordable Care Act. He remains steadfast in his uncertainty about the Medicaid expansion piece of the legislation. He’s reiterated costs to the state would be too much to absorb – and he doesn’t trust the federal government to pay for the program. And as one of the state attorneys general who filed a federal lawsuit contesting the act, Corbett played a primary role in the political battle the law inspired. But when Corbett spoke at a recent panel discussion in Washington, D.C., he pointed out another aspect of the legislation he finds troubling – that the many problems it could bring to states and the health care system was the …
Monday, May 6, 2013
A first-of-its-kind report names nine members of Pennsylvania's 18-member U.S. House delegation who have paid, gifted or somehow benefited themselves, family members or associations they have worked with.
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — Call it nepotism, or call it the status quo. A first-of-its-kind report gives voters an in-depth look into just how far political patronage permeates the U.S. House of Representatives. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an accountability watchdog group, released the “Family Affair” report” examining what favors sitting House members have gifted on family members, or themselves. The report examines all sitting House members, compiled using information from research databases and campaign disclosure forms. Nine members of Pennsylvania’s 18-member House delegation are named in the report, which covers 248 representatives of the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. Findings break …
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley received a $375 Waterford bowl at the Irish Society Man of the Year Dinner in 2012, according to recently published state filings.
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — Back in March 2012 when Gov. Tom Corbett traveled Europe on a trade mission, he received a suave souvenir – a $275 fountain pen gifted by a public official at an event in Oyonnax, France. That was while Corbett was touting Pennsylvania as part of trade mission paid for by the Team Pennsylvania Foundation, a trip that cost nearly $11,000. Pennsylvania lawmakers, Corbett included, reported the extent of gifts and travels as part of financial disclosure forms due this week with the State Ethics Commission. The reports give a glimpse into what public officials receive from special interests in their district, across the state or even internationally. But some government watchdogs say gifts for …
Saturday, May 4, 2013
The Corbett administration is backing away from a February projection that expected more tax revenue this year.
Saturday, May 4
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania has an extra $67 million in the bank with two months to go in the fiscal year. But that won’t make the budget process any easier. That’s because the budget proposal put forward by Gov. Tom Corbett in February assumed the state would have about $230 million in extra cash at the end of the fiscal year June 30. The governor planned to use that extra money to plug some of the gaping holes in next year’s budget, mostly the result of $500 million in additional pension costs expected during the 2013-14 budget year. So even though the state is ahead, it is also behind. Make sense? After the official figures for April were released Tuesday, administration officials backed off the higher …
Friday, May 3, 2013
Testimony at Tuesday’s hearing told of liquor privatization as a harbinger of social chaos, but advocates of privatization say the concerns were overblown.
By Eric Boehm| PA Independent HARRISBURG – For most of the last two years, the debate over alcohol privatization in Pennsylvania has focused on the financial aspects of the Republican-backed plan to sell-off the state liquors. But such bottom-line issues took a backseat on Tuesday as the state Senate held the first of three planned hearings on the liquor bill passed by the state House in March. Social issues were front and center in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, with privatization painted as a harbinger of doom by a litany of testifiers who promised everything from an increase in crime and disease to higher rates of unemployment and prostitution. And all, they said, because a private retailer would be allowed to sell a bottle of …
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Data breaches in government agencies are becoming more common and exposing more records, according to a report from Rapid7, an IT security firm.
Thursday, May 2
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — Digitized government data is no stranger to security breaches, but residents may at least be able to count on swift notification when their information is at risk. The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday requiring state agencies to notify affected residents of a data breach within a week. The law now says the state must notify them “as soon as possible.” The legislation, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, comes after several data breaches at state agencies jeopardized the information of thousands of residents. In those cases, thefts of state-owned computers exposed the personal information of as many as 400,000 people, including 17,800 …
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The Senate President Pro Tempore addressed the Pennsylvania Press Club Monday, noting the need to talk about the state budget and not just liquor privatization.
Wednesday, May 1
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — Whether in a fast-food drive-through or with lawmakers in Harrisburg, people want to talk about liquor, said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. “I took my son to the drive-through at McDonald’s last week to get a large French fry. The gal that handed me my bag out the window said, ‘Do you think the state stores are going to be privatized?’” Scarnati said during a speech at the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday. The crowd laughed. But Scarnati got serious when he talked about the attention privatization is getting in Harrisburg. “Everybody wants to talk about liquor and that’s fine, we can talk about liquor,” he said. “But my point is, let’s not forget we have a budget.” …
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Pennsylvania made it through the national recession in better shape than other states, but now it is showing signs of weakness.
Tuesday, April 30
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent HARRISBURG — Beneath an optimistic top line, several bothersome facts lurk inside Pennsylvania’s jobs report for March. The unemployment rate in the Keystone State fell to 7.9 percent, from 8.1 percent in February. While that reduction leaves the state three ticks above the federal mark of 7.6 percent last month, the more worrying aspects of the report are the decline in people working and those looking for work. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people working in Pennsylvania tumbled by about 14,000 in March, following a drop of 6,000 in February. Those reductions in employment were accompanied by a 33,000 reduction in the state’s labor force — the measure of people working …