WASHINGTON, DC – Attorneys filed a brief today that responds to the Obama Administration’s defense of its abortion mandate in one of two major legal challenges the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on March 25. Alliance Defending Freedom and allied attorneys represent the Hahn family, a Lancaster County Christian family and their woodworking business, Conestoga Wood Specialties, in one of those cases. The mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy financial penalties if the mandate’s requirements aren’t met. The abortion mandate could cost the Hahns $95,000 per day if they don’t agree to live contrary to their Christian convictions. In January, numerous third parties filed briefs in both the Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby cases, which challenges the mandate. The briefs filed in support of Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby outnumbered the briefs filed in favor of the Obama Administration by nearly three to one. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are lead counsel in the case together with co-counsel Randall Wenger of the Harrisburg based Independence Law Center and Charles Proctor III of the Pennsylvania firm Proctor, Lindsay, & Dixon.
HARRISBURG – PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane today announced has filed criminal charges against Montgomery County Sen. LeAnna Washington for allegedly using her elected office for political and financial gain. Kane said agents and prosecutors presented evidence of Washington’s criminal activities before a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the charges being filed today. Kane said the evidence showed that the Democrat lawmaker pressured her staff through intimidation and verbal abuse into performing political activities using taxpayer dollars for her own personal benefit. The monetary loss to the Commonwealth is believed to range from at least $30,000 to in excess of $100,000. If convicted of all counts, Washington faces a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $25,000.
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says his agency will audit the state Department of Health’s management of tobacco settlement money that helps finance health research in the state. He says the audit will focus on nearly $800 million in grants that the department has awarded to five research hospitals over the past 12 years. They are the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Geisinger Clinic in Danville, and Magee-Womens Research Institute in Pittsburgh. DePasquale says he wants to ensure Pennsylvania’s share of the national tobacco settlement is being spent wisely. Meanwhile, the state attorney general’s office is challenging an arbitration panel’s ruling that could cut the state’s $340 million annual payment in half.
HARRISBURG -The PA Senate has adopted a resolution recognizing the work of the PA Developmental Disabilities Council. The Council is made up of people with disabilities, family members, advocates, and state department representatives who work to create favorable conditions for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Cumberland County Sen. Pat Vance, who chairs the state Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee, sponsored the resolution to provide the recognition. The Council also funds proposals from groups and organizations through a competitive bid process to achieve the goals of a five year plan to create a better future for Pennsylvanians with developmental disabilities.
STATE COLLEGE (AP) – The wife of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky says she “definitely” believes her husband is innocent despite his conviction of the sexual abuse. Dottie Sandusky said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show that she would have heard abuse had it occurred in their small house in State College. She denied being a “weak spouse” and said she believes her husband’s accusers had been manipulated “once the lawyers came into the case.” She believed that her husband showered with children, but “that’s the generation that Jerry grew up in.” Jerry Sandusky is serving a 30 to 60-year sentence. He said he is innocent and has appealed to the state Supreme Court.
STATE COLLEGE – Our region is in line for another blast of cold as the long winter is preparing to deliver another blow. Warm temperatures today will eventually be pushed out by cold air from the north and moisture from the southwest. Some stormy weather including thunderstorms and maybe even a tornado will move through the area according to meteorologist Joe Lundberg. Temperatures are also going to drop quickly, feeling more like January with wind gusts in the 20 to 30 mph range. Any precipitation may freeze causing challenging driving conditions later on. The first day of spring is next week.
HARRISBURG – Bipartisan legislation has been proposed that would enable state universities that meet certain criteria to transfer out of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Senate Bill 1275 would give universities in the system greater independence and flexibility in meeting financial challenges and academic and enrollment needs. Chester County Sen. Andy Dinniman, one of the bill’s sponsors, says the system has experienced a decline in enrollment, and many are struggling financially. Lancaster County Sen. Lloyd Smucker supports the measure, saying the system has not been a failure, rather change is needed at this time. Lawmakers said that transferring eligible schools out of the state system will bring millions of dollars back through the sale of buildings and lands, ultimately providing an infusion of much-needed funds. The university’s chancellor would be required to put together a time line in agreement with the institution’s council of trustees on the transfer process. Collective bargaining agreements in place at the time of the transfer will remain in force for the term of the contract. New collective bargaining contracts would be negotiated by the university.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Jo Ellen Litz has dropped out of the Democratic race for Pennsylvania governor. The Lebanon Daily News reported that the Lebanon County commissioner said in an e-mail that she abandoned her campaign because the signature requirements for getting on the May 20 primary ballot are too rigorous. The 62-year-old Litz thanked her supporters. Candidates for governor must collect at least 2,000 voters’ signatures, including at least 100 in each of at least 10 counties. State officials said the other six Democratic candidates met the requirements. Tuesday was the deadline for major-party candidates to submit their petitions.
BART TOWNSHIP – Firefighters battled a blaze at a woodworking business in Lancaster County. Crews responded Tuesday around 8:30 p.m. to the 5200 block of White Oak Road in Bart Township. Units found heavy smoke and flames coming from the building. No injuries were reported. A State Police Fire Marshal is investigating the cause.
SOUTH LEBANON TOWNSHIP – Two people are behind bars and a third remains at large in connection with a Lebanon County shooting. South Lebanon Township Police said 34-year-old Rick Cannon of Harrisburg and 29-year-old Akeita Harden of Lebanon are jailed on charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, and related charges. Cannon also is facing a drug charge. Police received a 911 call around 10 a.m. Monday reporting gunshots coming from a home. They arrived to find Marcus Ortiz and Keith Crawford Jr. mortally wounded. They later died at a hospital. Cannon and Harden were arrested after a foot chase. Authorities are still looking for a third suspect, identified as 36-year-old Eddie Lee Williams Jr. Police say he should be considered armed and dangerous.