PA Welfare Agency To Become Human Services Dept.

HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania’s public welfare secretary is about to unveil the agency’s new name and logo. Secretary Bev Mackereth will preside over an event today that enacts a new state law changing the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services. Supporters say they hope the new name will help reduce a stigma sometimes associated with welfare and public assistance. Proponents say it also more accurately describes the massive agency’s mission. Mackereth is expected to be joined by lawmakers and people associated with the agency during the event at the Health and Welfare Building adjacent to the state Capitol.

Monthly Jobless Rates Drop

HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania’s jobless rate dropped to a six-year low in October. The state Department of Labor and Industry said today the seasonally adjusted rate last month was 5.4 percent. That’s down three-tenths of a percentage point from September. It was also below the national rate of 5.8 percent. One year ago, the state’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent.

Rep. Denlinger Reflections Spotlighted

LANCASTER – Saturday afternoon’s Spotlight features Lancaster County Rep. Gordon Denlinger as he reflects on his years of office in the PA House, what’s next in the private sector, and his continuing efforts to repeal Common Core educational standards in Pennsylvania. Hear more from Lancaster County Rep. Gordon Denlinger on Saturday afternoon’s Spotlight at 12:30 on WDAC and 2 p.m. on 1075Alive.fm. You can listen to the program online right now at wdac.com under our blog.

REP. GORDON DENLINGER

REP. GORDON DENLINGER

 

Final Two PA Turnpike Case Defendants Plead Guilty

HARRISBURG (AP) – A prosecution of “pay-to-play” allegations within the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is ending with two former high-ranking officials pleading guilty and getting probation. Former chief executive Joe Brimmeier and former chief operating officer George Hatalowich pleaded guilty to a single count of conflict of interest. Both were sentenced to five years of probation. The state attorney general’s office says both pleas involved accepting hospitality from engineering firms. In Brimmeier’s case, he solicited campaign donations for former Governor Ed Rendell. Hatalowich admitted he influenced how turnpike contracts were awarded to help a firm. Former turnpike chairman Mitch Rubin pleaded guilty to commercial bribery last week and received a similar sentence.

Wolf To Have Cabinet In Place By Jan. 20

HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf hopes to have his cabinet picked before his Jan. 20 inauguration. The Democrat said his transition team is still in its formative stages, but that two months should be enough time to choose his top advisers. Wolf says he hasn’t ruled out keeping some of Gov. Tom Corbett’s cabinet members and that the party affiliation doesn’t matter as much as their competence and integrity. Wolf says the transition team’s budget task force is analyzing the fiscal challenges he’ll face once he’s sworn in as governor. The state’s Independent Fiscal Office projects a nearly $2 billion deficit. Wolf says he wants to have some good answers by inauguration day.

Salary Increases For PA Officials

HARRISBURG (AP) – Salaries of Pennsylvania’s elected and appointed officials will increase due to their annual cost-of-living adjustment. The 1.6% increase will boost the governor’s salary by more than $3,000 a year to nearly $191,000. The state attorney general, treasurer, and auditor general will see their salaries increase by $2,500 to nearly $159,000. State Supreme Court justices will see a hike of more than $3,000. Legislators’ base pay will rise by $1,300 to more than $85,000. The increases take effect in December for the Legislature and in January for the executive and judicial branches.

Court Sides With Union Over PA Health Centers

HARRISBURG (AP) – The PA Supreme Court is siding with the nurses’ union and stopping plans by the Corbett Administration to close more than a third of the county-based state health centers. The court ordered the administration to stop eliminating the centers, reopen those that have already been closed, and restore the level of public health services to 1995 levels. The ruling says officials can’t ignore a 1996 state law that requires the state to maintain the 60 health centers it operated as of July 1995. The Corbett Administration sought to close 26 centers and reorganize public health services as a cost-saving budget change last year.

No Ruling Yet On Prosecution In Porn E-Mail Scandal

HARRISBURG (AP) – PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she hasn’t decided whether to prosecute anyone in a scandal over the email exchange of pornography by state government employees. Kane’s spokeswoman, Renee Martin, now says she misspoke when she said Wednesday that Kane had decided not to prosecute. Martin says Kane can’t elaborate on the scandal because of a court order in a separate case. Kane’s office is being investigated over whether it breached grand jury secrecy.

Local Reaction To President’s Immigration Announcement

WASHINGTON, DC – Local lawmakers reacted to President Obama’s executive order on immigration policy. Area Congressman Joe Pitts said, “The President said repeatedly in the last few years that he was not a ‘king.’ However, tonight he took action outside the laws Congress set to govern immigration policy. This isn’t just going around Congress, it’s going around the American people, who just spoke in the 2014 elections. This isn’t a long-term solution and it puts up a substantial barrier to getting such an agreement during the President’s remaining years in office.”

Area Congressman Scott Perry said, “I do not support amnesty, which is blatantly unfair to the millions of individuals and families who waited – often for many years – to come here legally. I’ll continue to work towards a new legal immigration system that establishes verifiable enforcement measures that ensure visitors leave our country when they’re supposed to; provides our agricultural industries with the workers they need; requires immigrants to understand and speak basic English; and revises visa programs to attract and keep more entrepreneurs, investors and highly skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.”

Area Congressman Patrick Meehan said, Our immigration system is broken-but by ignoring the laws on the books, the President is not moving toward solution. He’s compounding the problem. The Constitution’s separation of powers is clear. Congress passes the laws, and it’s the President’s job to execute them faithfully. No President, Republican or Democrat, can ignore Congress simply because they disagree with it. Today’s order is a total about-face from the President’s own views on the limits on his power.”

PA U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said, “I strongly oppose the President’s latest overreach of his legal authority and his decision to dictate sweeping immigration policy changes without legislation. Regrettably, President Obama’s unilateral and legally unauthorized actions will do nothing to fix our broken system.”

Conowingo Dam Renewal Application To Be Denied

ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – The Maryland Department of the Environment says it plans to deny a water-quality permit renewal application for the Conowingo hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River. The agency says owner Exelon Corp. hasn’t fully supported its contention that the dam’s reduced ability to trap sediment is harming the Chesapeake Bay, about 10 miles downstream. The agency will hold a hearing Jan. 7 before making a decision. Exelon said today it is working to address the agency’s concerns. During the recent election, Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan largely blamed the dam for bay pollution. He belittled state and federal efforts to reduce pollution by controlling runoff. The Army Corps of Engineers concluded last week that dredging the river upstream could cost billions of dollars and have relatively little effect on the bay.