HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania may not have a state budget, but tax revenues are pouring in by the billions. The Revenue Department reported that the state collected $2.2 billion in July, the first month of the fiscal year. That’s about the same amount that was collected in July 2014. The budget that was supposed to be in place by July 1 remains in limbo because of policy differences between Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republicans who control the Legislature. Although many essential services are largely unaffected, state payments to counties and nonprofit social-services providers are expected to be held up until a budget is approved. The state ended the last fiscal year with a surplus of more than $400 million after more than $30 billion in spending.
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf is nominating a retired Pennsylvania State Police major to lead the agency. Wolf said Tyree Blocker worked his way up through the ranks over a 30-year career and possesses broad knowledge about law enforcement. He retired in 2005. The 62-year-old Blocker, a Chester County resident who also has served as a consultant and currently owns a fitness company, is the second nominee the governor has put forth for the post of commissioner. The Republican-controlled Senate rejected Wolf’s nomination of Marcus Brown along nearly straight party lines in June. Brown, a former Maryland State Police superintendent, continues to serve as acting commissioner.
LANCASTER TOWNSHIP – Crews responded to a two-alarm fire that broke out in an apartment building in Lancaster Township. It happened around 9:30 p.m. Monday in the 900 block of East King Street. The fire was seen on a third story deck. A cause of the fire is under investigation. One firefighter was taken to the hospital for observation.
CAMPBELLTOWN (AP) – Police shot and killed a man who opened fire on officers after he stole guns from a Lebanon County gun shop. District Attorney David Arnold says the officers exchanged gunfire with the man Monday morning in a soybean field near the Horseshoe Pike Gun Shop in Campbelltown. Arnold says the South Londonderry officers responded to the burglary in progress and chased the man into the field. Arnold says the man was heavily armed with stolen guns. The officers were not hurt. Officials did not release the suspect’s name.
WASHINGTON, DC – There’s likely to be a showdown in the U.S. Senate over stopping taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood. A vote is planned today on Senate Bill 1881. The measure would stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood, protect federal funding for women’s health services such as prenatal and postnatal care, cancer screenings, and well-child care, and ensures there is no reduction in the overall federal funding available to support women’s health. Pennsylvania’s two U.S. Senators differ on defunding Planned Parenthood. Sen. Pat Toomey, a co-sponsor of the measure, said, “Recently, we have seen horrific videos further demonstrating that Planned Parenthood has an appalling disregard for human life. While I support women’s health, there is no reason why taxpayers should be providing hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies each year to this organization.” Sen. Bob Casey has told the Associated Press he would oppose legislation to end government funding for Planned Parenthood because “they provide all kinds of primary health care” for women and because of the federal ban on using federal money for nearly all abortions. Pro life groups are urging citizens to contact their U.S. senators to garner their support of Senate Bill 1881.
PHILADELPHIA – Legislation has been introduced that would ban discrimination in Pennsylvania’s transplant system on the basis of disability. House Bill 585 and Senate Bill 902 have been dubbed “Paul’s Law, inspired by Paul Corby, a 24-year-old autistic patient from Pottsville, Schuylkill County, who was denied a life-preserving heart transplant by the University of Pennsylvania hospital in 2011. Philadelphia Sen. John Sabatina drafted the bills which would prohibit organ transplant organizations from discriminating on the basis of physical or mental disability. Amelia Rivera, the inspiration behind New Jersey’s “Amelia’s Law,” received a kidney transplant two years ago after being initially denied the operation because of her intellectual disability. An on-line petition started by her mother eventually convinced doctors to change their decision about the transplant and prompted the passage of legislation in New Jersey ending discrimination by disability in the transplant system.
HARRISBURG – Republican Reps. Seth Grove of York County and Keith Greiner of Lancaster County are commending PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto for highlighting the need for municipal pension reform. Grove said even though the auditor general and mayor are both prominent Democrats, there has been little bipartisan work in Harrisburg to address the crisis. Greiner applauded the advocacy of Democrat mayors from York, Lancaster, and Erie. Grove and Greiner co-authored House Bill 316 which would apply to all townships and boroughs with full-time public safety personnel and all cities, except Philadelphia. After a defined date, new hires would be placed in a defined benefit plan with a balance made up of mandatory employer and employee contributions and an employer-guaranteed interest credit. Current employees would maintain all existing rights and benefits; however, these benefits would be frozen at current levels. Each municipality would maintain two plans until there are no more beneficiaries in the old defined benefit plan. The measure would also remove pension benefits from the collective bargaining process. It is currently before the House Rules Committee.
WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – Republican presidential hopeful and former PA U.S. Senator Rick Santorum says the GOP should not overlook candidates’ backing in early voting states in favor of national polls heading into this week’s key debate. Santorum won several primaries in 2012, but now ranks around 1% in most polls. He tells ABC that come February he expects to be in the thick of the campaign hunt.
HARRISBURG (AP) – It’s been more than a month since Gov. Tom Wolf announced he’ll submit a new nominee to head the State Police, and his office says that choice will be made soon. A Wolf spokesman said that the first-term Democrat has received recommendations from a diverse group and that he’s spoken with several strong candidates. In the meantime, the man Wolf chose earlier this year, Marcus Brown, remains on the job in the role of acting commissioner. Senate Republicans voted down Brown last month. Brown had been opposed by the troopers’ union and was targeted for criticism for deciding to wear a state police uniform despite not having gone through the state police academy.
HARRISBURG (AP) – For the third time in a dozen years, counties and nonprofit agencies that make up Pennsylvania’s social services safety net are girding for budget deadlock in Harrisburg. State government is in its fifth week of a budget stalemate, and the governor’s office is halting reimbursements for July’s invoices. That means agencies are deciding which services must stop or whether workers must be laid off. To keep things going, some counties may front the money and some workers may go unpaid.