HARRISBURG – Hunters heading afield in the 2017-18 seasons will be able to carry semiautomatic rifles for hunting small game and furbearers, but not for big game, based on regulatory changes approved today by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners. The commissioners in January preliminarily approved a proposal that would have allowed semiautomatic rifles to be used in any season where manually operated centerfire rifles now can be used. The board today amended that measure, giving final approval to hunting small game and furbearers with semiautomatic rifles beginning in the 2017-18 seasons. It made no changes to the list of lawful sporting arms for hunting big game. The commissioners also gave final approval to creating a pheasant permit that would be required for all adult and senior hunters who pursue or harvest pheasants. The permit would cost $25 for adults and seniors, including senior lifetime license holders. Junior hunters would not need a permit to hunt pheasants.While Pennsylvania once was home to a robust wild pheasant population, in recent decades, pheasant hunting has relied entirely upon the stocking of farm-raised birds.
WEST CHESTER (AP) – Jury selection is finished in the trial of a man accused of fatally shooting a state trooper and wounding another in an ambush outside their rural Pennsylvania barracks. Prosecutors and defense attorneys picked the last two alternate jurors today. The jury will weigh murder charges against 33-year-old Eric Frein (freen). He’s charged with killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and critically wounding Trooper Alex Douglass in a late-night attack outside the Blooming Grove barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania. Frein led authorities on a 48-day manhunt in the Pocono Mountains before his capture by U.S. Marshals. He could face a death sentence if he’s convicted.
Because of heavy pretrial publicity, jury selection took place in West Chester. The trial now switches to Pike County for opening statements.
HARRISBURG – Legislation that legalizes games of chance through video gaming terminals or VGT’s in licensed establishments within Pennsylvania was introduced in Harrisburg by a bipartisan group of state House and Senate lawmakers. Allegheny County Rep. Mark Mustio is prime sponsor of House Bill 1010. The video gaming terminals would be permitted in locations with a liquor license, including bars, bowling centers, clubs, hotels, restaurants, truck stops, and VFW’s. Currently, the PA State Police estimate that over 40,000 illegal machines are in operation in the Commonwealth. Over $50 million in total revenue is estimated from the VGT’s.
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf and PennDOT announced a new Vanpool Incentive Program to create vanpools across the state that would provide a lower-cost alternative for people with disabilities to commute to work. The program will invest up to $1 million annually and is open to government entities, non-profits, and transportation companies. Approved vanpools will be offered an initial 50-percent cost incentive, up to $800 per vanpool per month based on van size, that is phased out over three years for non-ADA accessible vanpools. ADA-accessible vanpools would be eligible for a monthly subsidy up to $1,200 per van, and would be eligible for an ongoing $400-per-month subsidy after the third year. Participants would also be eligible for state investments to cover the cost to convert a van to be ADA-accessible. PennDOT expects to select the first vanpool program participants in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Agencies or providers interested in the program may email BPTVanPool@pa.gov for more information.
CONESTOGA (AP) – Pipeline opponents in our region are temporarily disbanding their protest encampment. Protesters are discontinuing their round-the-clock encampment at a farm in Lancaster County because work on the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline likely won’t start until summer. Organizer Mark Clatterbuck says pipeline opponents will continue to gather at the farm near Conestoga on weekends to train for nonviolent protest and grow the movement. About 100 people have stayed at the encampment since it opened in mid-February. The site has attracted anti-pipeline activists from around the country, including members of an American Indian tribe that tried to stop the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. Federal regulators granted approval to Atlantic Sunrise pipeline builder Williams last month, but the project has been tied up in court.
WYNCOTE (AP) – Authorities in suburban Philadelphia say a Lancaster County construction worker was killed after a safety deposit box fell on him. Cheltenham Township Police say the incident happened at an old Wells Fargo bank in the Cheltenham Mall around 1 p.m. Monday. Officials say three construction workers were trying to move a safe deposit box with a lift when it fell onto one of the workers. Authorities say 35-year-old Jonathan Maust of Elizabethtown was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials say a special unit was called in to lift the fallen safe. OSHA is working with the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office and local police to investigate the incident.
READING (AP) – Dogs are no longer permitted to be tied up all day in the city of Reading. City Council voted unanimously to ban the tethering of dogs outside. Council members say the new law will prevent cruelty inflicted on dogs whose owners tie them up outside during periods of extreme heat and cold. They also want to reduce noise complaints over incessant barking. Councilman Chris Daubert, who sponsored the ordinance, says dogs that are tied up all the time are also more likely to be aggressive.
HARRISBURG (AP) – A state court is dismissing the PAAttorney General’s office lawsuit accusing a nursing home operator of failing to meet residents’ most basic human needs in some homes. A Commonwealth Court panel threw out the case, saying the state’s complaints about Golden Living Centers either lacked specifics or targeted marketing materials that aren’t tantamount to false advertising. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 and sought payback of Medicaid payments to certain Golden Living Centers. The judges say the state Department of Human Services is tasked with settling Medicaid billing disputes. The Attorney General’s office wouldn’t say whether it’ll appeal.
HARRISBURG (AP) – A health care systems consultant from suburban Pittsburgh who is a newcomer to politics is considering running for the Republican nomination for governor. A spokesman said that Paul Mango is hiring veteran campaign staff and is touring the state meeting with GOP officials, business groups, and public officials. On Monday, Mango addressed a county commissioners gathering in Harrisburg. Mango is going through the process of doing what is necessary to decide whether to run. A decision could come in the next couple months. Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf is running for a second four-year term. Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner of York County is also seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Wolf’s re-election bid in 2018.
ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – Maryland lawmakers voted to ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, a process better known as fracking. The Senate voted Monday night for the measure that already was approved by the House. That sends the bill to Gov. Larry Hogan, who supports the ban. Fracking opponents cite health and environmental concerns. Supporters say fracking could create jobs. A 2014 Towson University study found it could create 3,600 jobs over 10 years. Fracking is not being done in Maryland now, but a moratorium on issuing permits ends in October.