Gov. Tom Wolf is defending his firing of his predecessor’s appointee as director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records. Wolf also defends the legality of Arneson’s firing, citing a 2008 letter hiring the office’s original director, Terry Mutchler, that advised her she served at the will of the governor and could be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Arneson contends that the director cannot be fired without cause and that his appointment will ultimately be upheld.
HARRISBURG – State officials are urging the public to pay attention to forecasts calling for two storms to impact Pennsylvania over the weekend. Acting PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said they and other emergency officials are ready to handle this storm, and urge motorists to be sure that they’re prepared as well. In areas where forecasts are calling for significant snow and possible icy
conditions, motorists should postpone travel whenever possible. Those who travel in adverse conditions should ensure that their vehicle has a full tank of gas and an emergency kit packed. The kit should include warm clothing, blankets, non-perishable food and water, and any needed items such as
medications and baby and pet supplies. To help make decisions as to whether to travel during winter weather, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than
40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania’s jobless rate fell by three-tenths of a percentage point in December for the third straight month, as payrolls crept higher. The state Department of Labor and Industry said the seasonally adjusted rate in December was 4.8%. That’s down from 5.1% in November and 5.7% in September. The U.S. rate is currently 5.6%. In a survey of households, the department estimates that the labor force, or the number of people working or looking for work, fell by 1,000. Employment rose by 13,000, climbing closer to 6.1 million, while unemployment fell by 14,000 to 309,000. A separate survey of employers found non-farm payrolls grew by 8,000.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The man who calls himself the executive director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records is on the job – and so is the agency’s acting executive director. Erik Arneson, a former state Senate aide appointed director by Gov. Tom Corbett in his final days in office, showed up for work today, one day after being fired by Gov. Tom Wolf. Arneson, who’s not being paid and has been stripped of his keys and parking permit, and Nathan Byerly, the deputy whom Wolf named as acting director, are operating under an unusual power-sharing agreement. Arneson says he anticipates litigation over the conflicting actions, but no lawsuits have been filed yet. Byerly says he’s overseeing the agency’s staff and its busy workload. Arneson is focusing on protecting the agency’s independence.
HARRISBURG – Sen. Larry Farnese of Philadelphia has reintroduced legislation to protect PA’s LGBT residents under the state’s hate crimes law. Senate Bill 96 looks to re-enact Title 18 language that would extend the definition of a hate crime to extend protection under the ethnic intimidation clause if discrimination is because of someone’s “sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.” The law currently defines ethnic intimidation as “malicious intention toward the race, color, religion or national origin of another individual.”
HARRISBURG – Legislation will be reintroduced requiring the removal of snow and ice from tractor-trailer trucks before driving. Sen. Lisa Boscola of Lehigh & Northampton Counties says under her bill, drivers would be required to make “all reasonable efforts” to remove accumulated snow or ice from their trucks before driving. If police determine that accumulated ice or snow “may pose a threat to persons or property,” a driver could be fined from $25 to $75. Current law only applies if ice debris causes serious bodily injury or death with fines ranging from $200 to $1000 for each offense. The legislation was prompted by the death of a local woman killed by an 8-inch chunk of flying ice while driving to visit her family on Christmas Day of 2005. Boscola expressed optimism about the bill’s passage this session with Gov. Tom Wolf and many new lawmakers in office.
LANCASTER – Saturday afternoon’s Spotlight focuses on the life saving efforts of pregnancy care centers. Cathy Hendrixson is Executive Director of A Woman’s Concern, a pregnancy care center located in Lancaster. She talks of the mission, work, and services offered by a pregnancy care center. She also tells of the need of churches being connected to their local pregnancy center. Hear more about the life saving work of pregnancy care centers with Cathy Hendrixson on Saturday afternoon’s Spotlight at 12:30 on WDAC and at 2 p.m. on 1075Alive.fm. You can listen to the program online right now at wdac.com under our blog.
FLORHAM PARK, NJ – The 2015 Gerber “Spokesbaby” is baby Grace from East Petersburg, Lancaster County. The photo that featured the charming 7-month-old was selected as the Grand Prize winner from more than 180,000 entries. Grace’s parents will receive a $50,000 prize, one year of baby food, and the opportunity to appear in a future Gerber advertisement. On how she captured the winning photo, Gabrielle, Grace’s mother said, ” She must have taken her hands out of her mouth and posed them like that for a split second because I didn’t even realize how cute she was posing until after I was completely done taking pictures and looking back at what I had just taken.” A panel of judges reviewed the entries to find children whose photos displayed expressiveness and consistency with Gerber’s heritage.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Gov. Tom Wolf is removing the man just appointed to direct the state Office of Open Records. Wolf said Erik Arneson’s appointment by Gov. Tom Corbett lacks transparency and that he’ll conduct a search to fill the position. The job carries a six-year term. The Office of Open Records handles appeals involving a wide section of government for people who have been denied access to records. A top Senate Republican aide, Drew Crompton, questions whether Wolf has the authority to remove the office’s director. Crompton calls it “partisan politics through and through.” Wolf is also trying to stop more than two dozen nominations posted by Corbett in his final days.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The PA Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a prosecutor from taking action on a grand jury recommendation that state Attorney General Kathleen Kane be charged criminally in an investigation of alleged leaks of secret investigative material by her office. A Supreme Court spokesman said the halt is effective “until further order of the court.” Matters in the case are otherwise under seal. Kane says she’s done nothing wrong. The court will hear her challenge in March to the legality of the special prosecutor involved in the investigation. A grand jury last month recommended that Kane be charged with perjury, false swearing, official oppression, and obstruction. The case had been sent to Montgomery County’s district attorney to decide whether to charge Kane.