5 Reasons Fall Could Be Great for Politics in Philly

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All hail the end of summer.

Sure, that means it’s time to stop being lazy and get back to work. But for journalists, that means the dog days are over — actual news will start to happen again, and we can find new things to write and opine about. Hallelujah.

In fact, this stands to be a very newsy fall. And if everything breaks right, it might even be a really good fall, with city and state government finally making some breakthroughs on issues that have needed breakthroughs for a long time.

Here are five things that could make this a very good political fall in Philadelphia:

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Pa. Bill Would Decriminalize Transporting Booze Across State Lines

Arthur Goldman may get a bit of redemption after all.

You remember Goldman: He’s the Chester County attorney who was accused of bootlegging after he had rare fine wines shipped to his home from out of state — in violation of Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board rules — and selling some bottles to friends. Authorities say the nearly 2,500 bottles of wine seized from Goldman will be destroyed, per state law.

Now there’s a move afoot in the Pennsylvania House to decriminalize the importation of liquor and spirits from across state lines.

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Embattled Education Advisor to Governor Corbett Resigns

Ron Tomalis, Governor Tom Corbett’s special advisor on higher education, announced today that he will step down from his position on August 26th. It’s unclear if his $139,542-a-year job will be filled.

Tomalis has been under fire ever since a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigation revealed little work coming from his office. Records obtained by the paper revealed weeks where Tomalis had little or no work activity. He averaged about a phone call a day.

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No Cig Tax, But State Leaders Promise School Support

Another day on the brink for Philly schools: Activists and officials headed to Harrisburg on Monday — the day the Pennsylvania House was supposed to approve a cigarette tax to fund city schools — to rally and lobby state officials for the funding authority.

They didn’t get what they were looking for.

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Anger Follows Cancellation of School Funding Vote

School District of Philadelphia

If you are involved in Philadelphia Public Schools — an administrator, a teacher, a parent, a city official trying to find funding — you are most likely angry this morning. Thursday’s decision by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to cancel a vote on a cigarette tax that would help fund city schools has left the community reeling.

School may not open on time. And activists are planning protests.

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How Philly Families Will Pay for Harrisburg’s Sins

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Here’s something I’m not sure members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have considered as they goof around on vacation and play games with the future of Philly schools: They’re about to hurt a lot of families in very tangible ways.

The equation goes like this:

• The House’s decision to stay on vacation next week instead of coming back to Harrisburg for a vote on a cigarette tax proposal makes it increasingly likely that Philly schools won’t start on time.

• If schools don’t open on time, tens of thousands of schoolchildren are going to need something to do.

•  Parents of many of those kids will pay to put their children in child care for the duration. But child care isn’t cheap — it can cost upward of hundreds of dollars a week, and thousands of dollars a month, to keep kids somewhere safe and occupied. This is no small concern.

• So there’s that huge expense for families that didn’t expect to bear it. But it’s also true that many of those tens of thousands of family can’t afford the daycare, or can barely afford it. Those that can’t might rely on families … or they’ll make unorthodox arrangements that please no one.

Which is to say nothing of the thousands of teachers, administrators, and classified staffers who will sit home without getting paid. Or the impact on the education of every student stuck in limbo. Philly is about to pay a terrible price.

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UPDATE: Cigarette Tax Vote Canceled

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[Update 2:30 pm] The Inquirer reports that next week’s Pennsylvania House session to approve the cigarette tax has been canceled.

Instead, the chamber will return at the end of its summer break, or September 15. In the interim, House leaders are apparently attempting to work out an alternative solution to infuse cash into the schools, including possibly advancing money to the city.

Left unexplained: How they’d implement that alternative solution if they’re not back until September 15.

Still: The good news? Even the Republican House doesn’t want to see Philly public schools fail completely on their watch. The bad news? They don’t seem to think it’s especially urgent to find a solution to the problems at hand.

[Original 5:23 am] This is why nothing in Harrisburg is done until it’s done.

Members of the Pennsylvania House were expected to reconvene next week with one purpose really in mind: Pass a bill giving Philadelphia the authority to raise the cigarette tax and give the resulting revenues to a city school district that says it can’t open without the funding.

But the Inquirer today reports that anti-tax Republicans in the House are getting cold feet. Some are even saying they won’t call off vacations to come back to Harrisburg for the vote. There are questions about whether the tax can even be passed now.

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