HARRISBURG (AP) – An advisory panel appointed in the wake of a grand jury presentment alleging criminal activity at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is recommending changes at the agency. Commission CEO Mark Compton said the panel urges enhanced ethics training for employees and vendors, the appointment of an independent professional to review major project bids, and greater transparency in procurement of turnpike services and contracts. Last year, state prosecutors charged six people in an alleged pay-to-play scheme in which former state officials wielded control over turnpike contracts to rig bids, profit financially, and influence political campaigns. Two others pleaded guilty to separate, minor charges.
HARRISBURG – As the legislative session comes to an end, Lancaster County Rep. Ryan Aument applauded the PA General Assembly’s undertaking of some key policy issues and expressed disappointment with lack of meaningful action on others. Aument says they had a very busy and productive session with movement on several key items and valuable discussions on others. He feels that many times, it’s the small and technical bills, that often make the biggest difference to PA residents. However, he states that those actions do not overshadow his disappointment in their inability to reach consensus on fundamental statewide issues like pension reform, property tax relief and liquor privatization. Aument concluded with his remaining commitment to moving legislation to address those key issues and many others forward.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates are disagreeing over National Rifle Association-backed legislation that could launch court challenges to local gun-control laws in Pennsylvania. The bill that Gov. Tom Corbett’s office said today he will sign would allow “membership organizations” to stand in for any member who is “adversely affected” by a gun-control ordinance. The challenger also could seek damages. Corbett’s office says courts have been clear that local ordinances cannot exceed state firearms laws. Democrat Tom Wolf opposes the bill. His campaign says Wolf understands the need to curb gun violence while preserving the rights of responsible gun owners, but he opposes allowing outside organizations to sue over gun ordinances. The NRA complains that dozens of illegal ordinances go unchallenged in court by residents who can prove it harmed them.
LIMERICK (AP) – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the operating licenses of both units at a suburban Philadelphia nuclear plant for an additional 20 years. The new licenses for the Limerick Generating Station in Montgomery County will now run until October 2044 for Unit One and until June 2049 for Unit Two. Exelon says the plant generates 2,345 megawatts of electricity, enough power for roughly two million homes. Donna and Lewis Cuthbert of the Alliance for a Clean Environment, which has fought Limerick’s licensing renewal, questioned the need to renew the license when a decade or more remains on the existing license. The license renewal is the 75th issued by the commission for commercial nuclear power reactors. Another 17 nuclear plant license renewal applications are currently under review.
BALTIMORE (AP) – Maryland corrections officials say they accidentally released a man awaiting trial on murder and other charges. The state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said in a Monday news release that 30-year-old Rodriquez Purnell was released Friday from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center in Baltimore. Corrections officials did not release details of how the accidental release happened but say they didn’t realize it until Sunday. Purnell was awaiting trial in the shooting death of 27-year-old Terrance Rheubottom on St. Patrick’s Day last year in Baltimore. He’s also been convicted of assaulting a corrections worker. Jacqueline Davis, Rheubottom’s mother, says whoever is responsible for Purnell’s release needs to be fired and that Purnell needs to be found and put back where he belongs.
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is suspending one of its own members over his participation in a state government pornographic email scandal that involved employees of the attorney general’s office. The justices issued an order late Monday that says Justice Seamus McCaffery can’t perform any judicial or administrative duties while the matter is reviewed by the Judicial Conduct Board. The action follows disclosures by Chief Justice Ron Castille last week that McCaffery sent or received 234 emails with sexually explicit content or pornography. McCaffery apologized, calling it a lapse in judgment, but he blasted Castille for what McCaffery called “a vindictive pattern of attacks” against him. Messages left seeking comment from McCaffery and his lawyer were not immediately returned.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Sears is closing five Pennsylvania stores in January. A spokesman for Sears Holdings Corp. said Monday that Sears stores in Bloomsburg, Chambersburg, Frackville, Lebanon and Pittsburgh Mills are slated to close. The spokesman, Howard Reifs, says the stores will begin liquidation sales on Oct. 31 and close to the public in mid-January. Reifs says the closing are part the company’s efforts to reduce expenses, adjust its asset base and accelerate the transformation of its business model. The closings are expected to affect 351 employees. Reifs says eligible employees will receive severance payments and be given an opportunity to apply for openings in other Sears or Kmart stores.
HARRISBURG (AP) – A bill to give groups like the NRA the legal standing to launch court challenges to local gun laws is on its way to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk. The House voted by a comfortable margin Monday to approve the legislation to let membership organizations sue if any of its members is adversely affected by an illegal local gun ordinance. Opponents say its main targets are the dozens of local laws that require people to report to law enforcement whenever a gun is lost or stolen. The NRA supports the proposal. Another section of the bill requires the state police to send existing mental-health data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within 90 days so it can be used to check the background of people nationwide who are trying to acquire a firearm.
LANCASTER (AP) – A Lancaster County man who pleaded guilty in a drive-by shooting that killed a horse pulling a buggy with a family inside has been sentenced to one to two years behind bars. Last November, Timothy Diggs Jr. apologized for his behavior and attributed it to cough medicine abuse. LNP newspapers reports that the 21-year-old from Ronks pleaded guilty to cruelty to animals and reckless endangerment and also entered pleas in several unrelated cases.
STEVENS (AP) – Coroner has ruled the death of a Lancaster Co. man in a mobile home fire, a suicide. Fire crews were called to the East Cocalico Township mobile home park at about 8:15 p.m. Friday. An official with Reamstown Fire Company said flames were coming from all four sides of the home by the time crews arrived. Authorities said 66-year-old Natalio Delgado was found dead in the bedroom. Dr. Stephen Diamantoni told LNP newspapers following an autopsy Monday that he died of smoke inhalation and burns, and the “preponderance of evidence” led him to conclude that Delgado committed suicide. He declined to specify the evidence, referring questions to police. A firefighter injured in a flashover was treated and released.