ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says he’ll veto a bill he contends would limit the state’s options for implementing a federal law to make schools more accountable for student performance. The Republican governor said the measure would prohibit the state board of education from taking substantial actions to make improvements to consistently failing schools. The Maryland State Education Association says the bill protects schools from privatization. The union also supports the bill for including qualities other than test scores on determining how well schools are doing. Hogan criticizes the bill for making academic performance only 55% of the model. He also says it could end up costing Maryland $250 million in federal funding. The bill passed the House by a veto-proof margin. It is pending in the Maryland Senate.
LANCASTER – Saturday afternoon’s Spotlight is in two parts. Part one features Randy Wenger, Chief Counsel of the Independence Law Center in Harrisburg, discussing a lawsuit filed this week against the Boyertown Area School District after a boy found a biological girl changing in the boy’s locker room with him. The boy brought a complaint to school officials, who informed him that they now allow students who identify themselves as the opposite sex to choose whichever locker room they wish to use. School officials told the boy that he must “tolerate” it and make changing with students of the opposite sex as “natural” as he can. Part two of Spotlight looks at elder financial abuse and ways to protect oneself from it. Robin Wiessmann, the Secretary for the PA Department of Banking & Securities, says such exploitation is a national problem. Saturday afternoon’s Spotlight airs at 12:30 on WDAC and at 2 p.m. on WBYN. You can listen to the program online right now at wdac.com under “WDAC Podcasts.”
HARRISBURG (AP) – A new study suggests that over $200 million a year in highway construction funds are being diverted unconstitutionally to subsidize the State Police. A Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report calculated the “appropriate and justifiable” level of highway funding for the State Police at $532.8 million. That’s based on last fiscal year, when Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers approved $755 million in highway funds for the State Police. Under the state constitution, motorist fees and fuel taxes are strictly for highway construction, repair, and safety. Those dollars help underwrite the estimated $600 million a year it costs for free, full-time state police coverage to 2.5 million residents in municipalities that don’t pay for a local police force. Wolf wants to charge those municipalities a fee.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped in February for the third straight month, hitting a post-recession low of 5% as payrolls climbed to a record high. The state Department of Labor and Industry says the unemployment rate is down two-tenths of a percentage point from January. The national rate was 4.7% in February. A survey of employers found that seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls rose by 12,500 in February to a record high above 5.9 million. A household survey found that the civilian labor force shrank by 6,000 in February. Employment rose by 7,000 to a record high above 6.1 million while unemployment dropped by 12,000 to 321,000, the lowest since 2008. Today’s figures are preliminary and could change.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The jury in former Penn State President Graham Spanier’s criminal trial went home after more than six hours of deliberations without reaching a verdict. Spanier’s defense rested on Thursday without calling any witnesses. It says there’s no evidence against him. Spanier is accused of conspiracy and child endangerment for how he handled sex abuse complaints about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky more than 15 years ago. Jurors twice returned to the courtroom with questions, but gave no indication how long it may take to produce a verdict.
HARRISBURG – A seven bill package of legislation designed to protect the rights and freedoms of employees in Pennsylvania was introduced in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania Open Workforce Initiative would give employees the right to opt in or out of union membership and would prevent compulsory or “fair-share” union dues by employees who may not support the political activities of their industry’s union. According to a 2016 Forbes report, eight of the top 10 best states to do business are right-to-work states while seven of the top 10 worst states to do business are forced unionism states. Pennsylvania has plummeted to 38th on the Forbes list of the best states to do business.
HARRISBURG – Some PA lawmakers announced a plan to generate additional revenue to address the state’s deficit. The “Fair Share Tax” plan would divide the state’s Personal Income Tax into two parts: a tax on wages and interest, which would be reduced from 3.07 to 2.8% and a tax on income from wealth, which would increase from 3.07 to 6.5%. Income from wealth would include dividends or net income from a business, profession, or farm; capital gains; net income from rents, royalties, patents, and copyrights; gambling and lottery winnings: and income from estates or trusts. Under the plan, 58% of taxpayers will see their taxes go down and another 26% will see no change in their taxes. It is expected to bring in $2 billion in new revenue to balance the budget.
DOVER, DE (AP) – Delaware Gov. John Carney is proposing a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to balance a budget for the next fiscal year. His proposal includes reducing non-personnel discretionary spending among state agencies by about 4.5%. He also wants raise the state employee cost share for health insurance, eliminate 200 vacant positions, and reduce spending for public schools, higher education, energy efficiency programs, and open space and farmland preservation. On the revenue side, Carney is proposing to raise corporate franchise taxes, personal income taxes, and tobacco taxes to generate about $193 million in additional revenue.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Four PA Republican congressmen are now saying they’re opposed to the House GOP’s health care legislation that’s headed toward a vote. Congressmen Charlie Dent, Brian Fitzpatrick, Scott Perry, and Glenn Thompson say they are opposed to the bill. Five PA Republicans say they’re inclined to vote for it. They are Lou Barletta, Mike Kelly, Tim Murphy, Bill Shuster, and Lloyd Smucker. Four more – Ryan Costello, Tom Marino, Patrick Meehan and Keith Rothfus – aren’t saying how they’ll vote.
WASHINGTON, DC – PA U.S. Sen. Bob Casey says he will not support Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court. The Democrat says, “I do not believe Judge Gorsuch’s judicial approach will ensure fairness for workers and families in Pennsylvania. We cannot demand perfection from Supreme Court justices. But we can demand a constant commitment to fairness, to protecting all Americans regardless of power or wealth, to that guiding creed: equal justice under law. I have concluded that Judge Gorsuch is not the right choice to fulfill this commitment. I will not support his nomination.”