LANCASTER – Thousands of pro lifers from our region and across America are in Washington, DC today to take a stand for unborn children and against abortion as they participate in the March for Life. 42 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its Roe versus Wade decision which allowed for abortion in the U.S. Micaiah Bilger, Education Director for the Pennsylvania Pro Life Federation, is hopeful that the decision will be overturned in the near future. March for Life attendees will hear from pro life speakers and hear of pro life victories that have been made since the 1973 court decision. Pro life rallies are also planned today from noon to 1 p.m. today at the corner of Eighth and Cumberland Streets in Lebanon hosted by the Lebanon County Pennsylvanians for Human Life. Another is from noon to 12:30 p.m. in front of the Adams County Courthouse in Gettysburg.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – An unlicensed doctor has won a new theft and conspiracy trial because she was tried with Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell. An appeals court says the disturbing evidence about babies being killed at Gosnell’s clinic unfairly prejudiced co-defendant Eileen O’Neill. O’Neill spent nine years at Gosnell’s clinic, but mostly worked with geriatric patients. The theft charges involve her billing as a doctor. She has been serving a 3 to 23-month sentence at home on parole. Gosnell is serving life in prison for killing babies born alive. The Pennsylvania Superior Court says O’Neill should have been granted a separate trial. Philadelphia prosecutors are deciding whether to appeal Tuesday’s ruling or agree to retry the case.
HARRISBURG – Rep. Warren Kampf of Chester & Montgomery Counties plans to reintroduce legislation to reform the state’s two underfunded pension systems. One part of the legislation would create a mandatory Defined Contribution or DC plan for all future state employees. Another part would create a mandatory DC plan for all future school district employees. The new DC plans would include a 4% employer match and a mandatory employee contribution. Both public pension plans are known as defined benefit systems, where retirees are guaranteed a certain benefit calculated based on their years of service, average final pay and a “multiplier.” By comparison, most private-sector employers provide a defined contribution retirement plan, such as a 401(k), where the worker and employer both contribute to the plan and the worker’s benefits are determined based on investment returns. The combined unfunded liability of the two public pension systems is more than $50 billion. The increased contributions needed to pay down the liability each year is a colossal problem for the state and school district budgets. Kampf said we must act now as the pension crisis only deepens as the days go by.
HARRISBURG – Lancaster County Sen. Ryan Aument reintroduced a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution this week that would give the General Assembly the power to determine whether an institution is a “purely public charity” and thus exempt from paying local property taxes. Senate Bill 4 is necessary due to a 2012 PA Supreme Court ruling which returned to a vague standard, previously used from 1985-1997, that charitable organizations must meet in order to qualify as a purely public charity. The controversial ruling created a great deal of confusion and led many municipalities to examine whether they could begin levying real estate taxes on charitable organizations who had previously been deemed exempt. The measure was approved this morning by the state Senate Finance Committee. Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, the proposal must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before being decided by the voters via referendum. The proposal was already approved once by the General Assembly during the 2013-14 session.
HARRISBURG – Legislation making ignition interlock requirements mandatory for certain first time offenders with high blood alcohol levels has passed the Senate Transportation Committee. Sen. John Rafferty of Berks & Chester Counties, the Committee Chairman who sponsored the measure, said Senate Bill 290 would apply an ignition interlock requirement of one year to first time drunk driving offenders with higher blood alcohol levels. Currently, ignition interlocks only apply to second offenses. Individuals who qualify could operate a vehicle during suspension and license restriction provided that they have an approved interlock device and meet other requirements. Similar laws are in place in 15 states and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recidivism rates have dropped by as much as 60%.
HARRISBURG – York County Sen. Scott Wagner is circulating a memo asking his colleagues to sign onto two Constitutional amendments that would end the taxpayer-funded collection of money that is used for politics. Currently, money is collected through taxpayer-funded payroll deductions that ends up being used in political campaigns. The two Constitutional amendments, one covering state payroll systems and the other covering local government payroll systems, would end that practice permanently. Wagner explained that they tried to end the practice last session, but fell short in votes. Constitutional amendments must pass the legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions and do not require the signature of the Governor.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The PA Supreme Court will consider the state attorney general’s claim that a special prosecutor investigating her office over allegations of grand jury leaks was appointed illegally. The justices on Wednesday took up a legal challenge by Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who’s seeking to invalidate a judge’s appointment of special prosecutor Thomas Carluccio. The order comes hours after the court released records indicating a grand jury has recommended perjury and other charges against Kane related to an investigation of grand jury secrecy.
ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled today to discuss the budget proposal he is submitting to Maryland lawmakers this week. Maryland is facing a projected shortfall of roughly $750 million for the next fiscal year. Hogan campaigned mostly on tackling state economic problems and cutting taxes. During his inaugural address on Wednesday, Hogan said it’s time to get state government “off our backs and out of our pockets” to grow the private sector and put people back to work.
LANCASTER – Police arrested a man who allegedly struck a pedestrian in Lancaster Sunday night and fled the scene. 23-year-old Brandon Bleecher of Manheim Township is facing numerous charges after authorities found a vehicle matching that of the one seen in surveillance photos. 68-year-old Charles Leayman was in a crosswalk at the intersection of West Lemon and Mary Streets shortly after 8 p.m. when Bleecher’s vehicle struck him and left the scene. Leayman died yesterday morning at Lancaster General from his injuries. Bleecher was arraigned and released on $20,000 bail.
MANHEIM TOWNSHIP – Police in Lancaster County are looking for a woman who was observed leaving the WalMart at 2030 Fruitville Pike in Manheim Township without paying for merchandise valued at $99. It occurred around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. You can see a picture of the woman below. If you know her identity, contact Manheim Township Police at 717-569-6401, ext 0 or the Manheim Township Police Anonymous Crime Tipline at 717-569-2816.