HARRISBURG – The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Wednesday approved a bill introduced by Rep. Mark Gillen of Berks & Lancaster Counties, that would help raise awareness about a provision in state law aimed at helping veterans acquire civil service jobs in Pennsylvania. The state has what is known as a “veterans preference, ” which is a reward for their service which is applied when they pass the Civil Service exam. Gillen’s bill would require the state Civil Service Commission to advertise the veterans preference on all the Commission’s examination materials, announcements and advertisements, and on the Commission’s website. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Governor Tom Wolf is restoring a moratorium on new drilling leases involving Pennsylvania’s public lands. By signing the order today at Philadelphia’s Benjamin Rush State Park, Wolf ended a short-lived effort by former Gov. Tom Corbett to expand the extraction of natural gas from rock buried deep beneath Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests. It supersedes an order that Republican Corbett signed in May and reinstates the ban that Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell instituted in 2010. Wolf says the issue is about striking a balance between economic growth and environmental protection.
HARRISBURG (AP) – PA Treasurer Rob McCord is stepping down from the job after six years. McCord’s office said his last day will be Feb. 12. The 55-year-old Democrat was elected to two four-year terms in the office and ran unsuccessfully for governor last year, losing in the primary to Gov. Tom Wolf. The Montgomery County resident leaves with two years left in his final term. It’ll be up to Wolf to nominate a successor to fill the job through the 2016 election.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office wants more time before a hearing about who should serve as director of the state Office of Open Records. The filing today said lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, the open records agency and a state department want to interview Erik Arneson, who was fired from the position last week by the newly sworn-in governor. Wolf’s lawyers are asking Commonwealth Court to delay a hearing on the matter that’s currently scheduled for next week. Arneson’s attorney, Joel Frank, says he’s against a postponement of the hearing and hasn’t determined whether he’ll oppose any effort to depose Arneson. Wolf removed Arneson from the job a week after outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett appointed him. Arneson and the Senate Republicans want a judge to return him to the position.
HARRISBURG – Legislation has been reintroduced that would require elected officials to provide receipts in order to receive reimbursement from the state. Currently, House and Senate members can submit for an unvouchered per diem of up to $159 daily for performing legislative duties outside of their districts and while in Harrisburg, without submitting receipts. Allegheny County Sen. Randy Vulakovich says this has to change. Senate Bill 335 has been referred to the Senate State Government Committee for consideration.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Gov. Tom Wolf plans to nominate fill-ins to take two vacant state Supreme Court seats until new justices are elected in November and sworn in. However, Wolf’s press secretary Jeffrey Sheridan said the governor has made no decisions on who he will nominate or when. A nominee will need two-thirds approval from the state Senate, and Republicans and Democrats say they’ve given Wolf suggestions as to whom they would accept. Two seats are open because Justice Seamus McCaffery retired in October amid a pornographic email scandal and Chief Justice Ronald Castille retired in December after turning 70, the state’s mandatory retirement age for judges.
HARRISBURG – Beginning next week, Gov. Tom Wolf will be posting his full work calendar online. The first release of data will include the schedule from January 21 to February 6th. In the weeks following, the release of calendar information will encompass the previous week. In addition, Gov. Wolf has begun to release “Day Ahead” public appearance advisories, which will also be posted online. Regarding his decision, the governor said by taking this step towards openness and transparency, he has shown his dedication to being accountable to the people of this Commonwealth.
HARRISBURG – Lancaster County Rep. Keith Greiner has introduced legislation that would make ignition interlocks mandatory for certain first-time DUI offenders and, in those cases where the interlock program is applied, reduce driver’s license suspension requirements. An ignition interlock is a device installed on the steering column of a motor vehicle to prohibit individuals under the influence of alcohol from operating the vehicle. Individuals are required to blow into the device, and if it detects alcohol, the vehicle will not start. Pennsylvania law currently makes ignition interlocks mandatory for repeat offenders. Greiner’s House Bill 278 would extend the program to include first-time offenders. More than 30% of traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania are alcohol related. One such tragedy occurred in Lancaster County last year involving Meredith Demko, an 18-year-old high school student who was killed by a drunk driver. Greiner said that that incident inspired him to introduce the legislation.
HARRISBURG – The state House Education Committee passed legislation which provides the state Secretary of Education with the authority to issue weather related, safety related, and health related emergency declarations on a school district, county, or statewide basis under which a school entity may satisfy the 180 instructional days per school year requirement. House Bill 158 would give school districts flexibility in addressing days lost to bad weather. School boards would have two options within the existing school calendar. One is a school year with a minimum of 900 hours of instruction at the elementary level and 990 hours of instruction at the secondary level in lieu of 180 days. The other is scheduling school on not more than one Saturday per month to complete 180 instructional days or 900 hours at the elementary level and 990 hours at the secondary level.
STATE COLLEGE (AP) – A Penn State task force is recommending the university change how it handles sexual misconduct, suggesting the school devote an investigator and other staff to the cases. The Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment made its report public today, saying all campuses should move away from the traditional hearing process and instead have a group of faculty and staff review an investigator’s work. The panel also suggests Penn State release more detailed data including student conduct sanctions and that it replace a hotline with a better way for people to make reports and complaints. The group also endorses improving staff training and expanding victim services at campuses outside University Park. The recommendations are in the hands of Penn State President Eric Barron, who convened the task force.