HARRISBURG (AP) – Gov. Tom Wolf issued another reprieve for a Pennsylvania murder convict scheduled to die. The governor issued a temporary reprieve of the execution of 42-year-old Michael Ballard, whowas scheduled for execution Oct. 19 after he pleaded guilty in Northampton County to the murder of four people in 2010. Wolf says he’s concerned about the fairness of the death penalty. He says the reprieves will remain in effect until he reviews a forthcoming report of a capital punishment task force and its recommendations are addressed. Fifteen executions have been scheduled since Wolf took office January 20th. Wolf has blocked four with temporary reprieves and judges have issued stays for 11 other condemned prisoners.
HARRISBURG – The state House approved a measure legislation that would require unannounced inspections of Pennsylvania child care centers. Currently, the Department of Human Services performs one announced inspection per year. The bill’s sponsor, Montgomery County Rep. Robert Godshall said unannounced inspections will keep operators of child care centers on their toes and children will be safer. He said many businesses licensed and regulated by the state are already subject to unannounced inspections on an annual basis and the same scrutiny should be expected of those entrusted to care for children. House Bill 46 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
HARRISBURG – The House State Government Committee advanced legislation that would prevent future employees of the PSBA, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, from enrolling in the Public School Employees Retirement System called PSERS. PSBA is a private sector non-profit group that has been viewed as an extension of the school districts they serve. Bill sponsor, York County Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill said they have employees participating in our state’s public pension system even though they are not public sector employees. House Bill 1084 would change the definition of the phrase “government entity” which currently requires PSBA employees to enroll in PSERS. Phillips-Hill says her bill is common sense reform. Only PSBA employees hired after the bill is signed into law would be ineligible to join PSERS. The bill is now before the full House for consideration.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Gov. Tom Wolf’s tax hike proposal is being debated in the state House in an effort to break Pennsylvania’s 3-month-old budget impasse. Lawmakers began consideration of the plan this morning, less than a day after Wolf laid out a revised plan to raise billions to close a budget gap and boost aid to education and human services. Wolf wants a 16% increase in the state’s personal income tax rate from 3.07 to 3.57% and imposing a new severance tax on natural gas drilling. This is on top of the current impact fee imposed on natural gas drilling. Wolf wants to raise $1.4 billion for the fiscal year that began July 1, and $2.4 billion the year after. The governor needs at least 18 votes for passage from a Republican majority that’s generally resistant to tax increases.
ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to have his sixth and final round of chemotherapy this weekend. The Republican governor says he’s “looking forward to beating this disease and continuing to work hard on behalf of the people of Maryland.” He’s asking people who are praying for him to also pray for other cancer patients “who are fighting battles that are often much more difficult than my own.” Hogan was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma in June. He has remained active during his treatment at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
CHICAGO – This Saturday, a second round of public protests of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics and facilities will take place across the United States. The first round of protests took place on August 22 when over 78,000 people turned out at 354 sites. Protests are planned for this Saturday from 9 – 11 a.m. at Planned Parenthood facilities in Reading and West Chester. Protests are also planned in Delaware and Maryland. You can find more information at www.protestpp.com/locations.
LANCASTER – Units responded to an apartment building fire in Lancaster. Crews responded around 9 a.m. to the first block of East Farnum Street after smoke was reported. The fire went to two alarms as crews battled the blaze in a third floor unit. A cause is under investigation. No injuries have been reported.
STATE COLLEGE (AP) – Be on the alert for a Canadian caterpillar that is now found in Pennsylvania and causing a nasty rash. The white hickory tussock moth caterpillar is to blame.The caterpillar’s fuzzy black spines contain venom they use to ward off predators. But it can also irritate human skin causing a rash that is only temporary. The good news is that most cases can be treated at home with lotion and ice, though it’ll cause several hours of discomfort. There have been many recently reported cases around central Pennsylvania.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The latest push to resolve Pennsylvania’s 3-month-old budget impasse is going before state lawmakers in the form of a proposal by Gov. Tom Wolf to raise billions in new taxes. The state House plans to take up Wolf’s tax proposal today with an initial vote that will test support for the proposal. Wolf wants to increase spending on education and human services by increasing the personal income tax rate by 16% from 3.07 to 3.57% and imposing a new severance tax on natural gas drilling. This is on top of the current impact fee imposed on natural gas. The governor’s goal is to raise $1.4 billion for the current fiscal year and $2.4 billion next year. There’s considerable Republican opposition to imposing new broad-based taxes. The governor has been working to secure the dozens of GOP votes he’d need for passage.
HARRISBURG (AP) – An audit of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education shows that its “master plan” that’s supposed to be a road map for statewide education policy has not been updated for 16 years. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released the audit today. The Democrat is blaming “misguided leadership” on the department’s board for failing to update the plan since 1999 and says that’s left the state without a strategic plan for dealing with the difficult issues facing public schools. In a written response, Board of Education Chairman Larry Wittig acknowledged the need for an updated plan, but said the board has strived to meet its obligations despite limited resources and the Legislature’s imposition of many new responsibilities. Wittig says DePasquale’s charge of “misguided leadership” seems to be an opinion, not a fact supported by objective evidence. State Education Secretary Pedro Rivera says the department generally agrees with the audit’s findings and recommendations. He said education resources were inadequate during most of the five-year period covered by the audit, which was primarily during former Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration.