Wolf To Choose Fill-Ins for Open Court Seats

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.

GOV.  TOM WOLF

                     GOV. TOM WOLF

PA Gov’s Work Calendar To Be Posted

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.

Ignition Interlock Bill Proposed

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.

REP. KEITH GREINER

REP. KEITH GREINER

Satisfying Instructional Time For PA Schools

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.

Penn State Eyes Changes To Sexual Misconduct Case Handling

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.

Wolf To Sign Order Restoring Ban On New Drilling Leases

HARRISBURG (AP) – Gov. Tom Wolf is poised to sign an executive order restoring a moratorium on new natural-gas drilling leases on Pennsylvania’s parks and forests. It will supersede an order former Gov. Tom Corbett signed in May and restore the ban on new drilling leases. Corbett’s order allowed the negotiation of new leases for gas extraction through horizontal wells drilled from adjacent, private lands or areas previously leased for drilling in state forests. Environmentalists praised the action, but the Marcellus Shale Coalition called it a political move that unnecessarily bans the safe extraction of gas that could provide enormous revenue for the state government.

GOV. TOM WOLF

GOV. TOM WOLF

Resistance To Allow Lawmakers Decide Tax Exempt Charities

HARRISBURG (AP) – The effort to put Pennsylvania lawmakers back in control of granting tax-exempt status to charities is meeting resistance. The Senate’s scheduled vote Wednesday fizzled after some Republicans requested a hearing first and Democrats signaled they would all oppose the bill. A hearing could happen next week. Public-sector labor unions and local government officials are lobbying against it. The charities include hospitals, social service providers, universities, and houses of worship. Senate Bill 4 is a resolution to change the state Constitution. It was spurred by a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that put the courts, not lawmakers, in charge of granting tax-exempt status.

PA House Committee Passes “Eileen’s Law”

HARRISBURG – The PA House Education Committee approved a bill known as “Eileen’s Law” that would give judges more flexibility in penalizing parents convicted in school truancy cases. Rep. Mark Gillen of Berks & Lancaster Counties introduced House Bill 141 following the June 2014 death of Eileen DiNino of Reading. The 55-year-old mother of seven died while serving a two-day sentence in the Berks County jail. The sentence was imposed as a way to erase DiNino’s approximately $2,000 in fines and court costs related to her children’s absences from school. Current law allows the parent or guardian of a truant child to be sentenced to pay a fine of $300 and court costs or attend parental education classes. Gillen’s bill would allow a judge to sentence the parent or guardian to community service instead of paying the fine or attending the classes. House Bill 141 now goes to the full House for consideration.

REP. MARK GILLEN

REP. MARK GILLEN

Legislative Package Raises PA Minimum Wage

HARRISBURG – A five bill package from Sen. Tina Tartaglione of Philadelphia would impact Pennsylvania’s minimum wage. Her Senate Bill 195 would increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.67 an hour by July 1 and $10.10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2016. The tipped minimum wage, covered by Senate Bill 196, would jump from $2.83 to $3.95 an hour on July 1, and would equal 70% of the regular minimum at the start of 2016. Senate Bill 197 provides annual cost-of-living increases to the minimum wage based on the Consumer Price Index. Senate Bill 198 would modernize the state wage payment and collection law to increase record-keeping requirements for employers and enforcement duties of the state Labor Department. It would also allow employees to receive back wages and two times those wages in damages. Senate Bill 199 would prohibit employers from deducting bank fees or charges from employee tips when a customer pays their bill with a credit card.

SEN. TINA TARTAGLIONE

SEN. TINA TARTAGLIONE