HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation into law that reduces the waiting time to obtain a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania. Act 102 shortens the length of the separation period required for a no-fault divorce from two years to one year, making Pennsylvania’s law similar to other neighboring states. Luzerne County Rep. Tarah Toohil, the prime sponsor of measure, said the change will allow families with children to finalize their new living situations in a more efficient and less turbulent manner. The new law, which goes into effect in 60 days,was supported by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
HERSHEY – The newest employee at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey loves playing with children – and chasing a tennis ball. Kaia, a golden retriever, is the first full-time facility dog at a children’s hospital in Pennsylvania. Nationwide, approximately 30 children’s hospitals have facility dogs. Though Kaia will be a presence throughout the hospital, she will help mostly with radiology and radiation oncology. She will provide assistance in the patient setting, such as demonstrating to a child how to be still on a CT scan table. Kaia will work for 40 hours per week, with time allowed for downtime, naps and walks. She will work directly with her primary handler, Ashley Kane, manager of the Child Life Program. Kaia lives with Kane and goes home with her at the end of each day.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The Latest on strike at 14 state universities in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s state university system is not in formal contract talks with its union but says it’s still looking for “a path forward” while professors continue strikes for the second day at 14 state universities. System spokesman Kenn Marshall says: “Even though there are no formal negotiating sessions underway, the State System is working hard to find a path forward.” Marshall did not provide specifics on any steps the state’s negotiators are taking. Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties went on strike Wednesday after contract negotiations with the state stalled. The union represents more than 5,000 faculty and coaches. It says campus strikes will continue until a deal is reached.
HARRISBURG – Legislation protecting pets left unattended in a vehicle has passed the PA House. House Bill 1516 prohibits confinement of a pet in an unattended motor vehicle in a manner that would endanger the pet’s health and well-being. The violation would be a summary offense. Under the bill, a police officer, public safety professional or humane officer would have the authority to remove the pet after a reasonable search for the owner or operator, if the officer believes the pet is suffering and endangered. The officer would not be held liable for any damages. The officer would be required to take the pet to a veterinary hospital or animal care clinic for a health screening and treatment. The officer who removed the pet must leave a note stating how to contact the officer and where to pick up the animal. The bill now goes to the state Senate.
PROVIDENCE TOWNSHIP – Last night’s three alarm sawmill fire in Lancaster County has been ruled accidental by a State Police Fire Marshal. It happened around 9:30 at Beiler’s Sawmill in the 900 block of Lancaster Pike in Providence Township. Investigators say a smoldering spark from a welding project that was finished right before the business closed ignited some flammable materials. Damage was set at about $500,000.
HANOVER (AP) – A private equity firm has invested more than $146 million in Pennsylvania snack food company Utz. The Wall Street Journal reports Metropoulos and Company announced their investment. The Rice family, which owns and operates 95-year-old Utz, will remain majority shareholders. Utz, based in Hanover, York County, has made a number of acquisitions in the past five years. Utz says it will use the new investment to fund its recent acquisition of Alabama-based snack food maker Golden Enterprises.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Professors at 14 Pennsylvania state universities are expected to hit the picket lines again today as their strike enters its second day. Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties went on strike at 5 a.m. Wednesday after contract negotiations with the state stalled. The union represents more than 5,000 faculty and coaches. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education says it made concessions and gave the union its best offer Tuesday night. Late Wednesday night, the union said that “the strike will end when negotiators reach a contract.” Negotiations have not resumed. The state has instructed more than 100,000 students to attend classes unless the university indicates otherwise. But many students said Wednesday their teachers had joined the walkout, leaving classrooms empty.
HARRISBURG – Legislation to prohibit Pennsylvania courts and state judges from applying foreign legal systems, including sharia law, when doing so would conflict with the federal or state constitutions and infringe upon constitutional rights, was advanced by the House State Government Committee. If enacted, House Bill 1288would ensure that sharia law and all other foreign legal systems are forever banished from Pennsylvania courtrooms and that the Constitution remains supreme in the fair and equal dispensation of the rule of law. The fundamental liberties protected under the bill include due process, right to bear arms, freedom of religion and speech, freedom of the press, and any right of privacy that is defined in the PA and U.S.Constitution. The bill now advances to the full House forconsideration.
HARRISBURG – Legislation that would let police departments refuse public requests for copies of audio or video recordings by officers, unless a court orders its release has passed the PA Senate. The bill covers recordings from body cameras and dashboard cameras. It is supported by law enforcement organizations, but opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Bill sponsor, Montgomery County Sen. Stewart Greenleaf says it’ll encourage more police agencies to outfit officers with cameras. But the ACLU says it’ll be nearly impossible to obtain video that’s in the public interest, even if the requester is in the video. Senate Bill 976 now goes to the House for consideration.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Approval for Uber and Lyft to operate statewide is nearing final approval in the Pennsylvania Legislature before temporary regulatory authority to operate in most counties runs out early next year. The state House voted Wednesday to send legislation back to the Senate, which approved an earlier version last year. The bumpy ride for Uber and Lyft in Pennsylvania has included clashing with Philadelphia regulators and a record-setting $11.4 million state fine imposed on Uber. Under the bill, Uber’s fine would be limited to $250,000 while the companies would pay 1.4% of gross receipts in Philadelphia to the city and school district. Companies and drivers would be subject to licensing and safety standards and requirements to carry insurance and report accidents in a timely manner. Criminal background checks would also required for drivers.