Pa. Legislature Mulls Lead Crackdown

Joe Mabel | Wikimedia Commons

Joe Mabel | Wikimedia Commons

Philadelphia officials may be promising that city water is safe from lead, but legislators in Harrisburg want to renew he state’s efforts to prevent a Flint-style disaster.

In recent days, proposals have emerged at both the House and Senate levels to test for and mitigate lead in places where Pennsylvanians — especially children — live, work, and play. Read more »

Proposal Would Automatically Seal Minor Criminal Records

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf - criminal record sealing bill signing

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signs the bill expanding criminal record sealing in February . (Photo: Wolf’s Twitter)

Hot on the heels of a new state law that makes it easier to seal old, minor criminal records — as well as new Philly rules expanding “ban the box” legislation — comes a new proposal aimed at making it easier yet for people with criminal convictions to find employment.

The proposal — floated last week by Sen. Scott Wagner, a York County Republican, and Sen. Anthony Williams, a Philly Democrat — would automatically seal low-level criminal records. The law last month requires such folks to go to court and petition to have the record sealed; the new proposal would remove even that hurdle to removing such records from public view.

Wagner and Williams’ proposal would seal the following records automatically: Read more »

Could This Be the Week Pennsylvania Legalizes Medical Marijuana?

Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis shop in Denver, Colorado. | O'Dea, Wikimedia Commons

Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis shop in Denver, Colorado. | O’Dea, Wikimedia Commons

This could — maybe — be the week medical marijuana becomes legal in Pennsylvania.

After percolating for several years, the issue arrives before the House this week — with a full vote to send a legalization bill to Gov. Tom Wolf coming as soon as Tuesday.

The Post-Gazette reports that Wolf on Friday urged passage of the bill, issuing this statement:  “I support the legalization of medical marijuana so we can finally provide much needed relief to families and children. It is time to legalize medical marijuana because we should not deny doctor-recommended treatment that could help people suffering from seizures or cancer patients affected by chemotherapy.” Read more »

Hite: Every School Will Get a Nurse, Counselor If Wolf’s Budget Passes

Philadelphia School District Building

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Superintendent William Hite made a surprise announcement Thursday that every school in Philadelphia will have a full-time nurse and counselor next year — if, that is, the state’s GOP-controlled General Assembly passes Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget.

That’s a very big if. Pennsylvania still lacks a complete budget for this year.

Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the school district, said it will need to hire 61 nurses and 42.5 school counselors (.5 because some are part-time) in order to make up for the current holes. He said this will cost a total of $12.9 million — $5 million for counselors and $7.9 million for nurses. Read more »

Proposal Would Expand “Do Not Call” List

harrisburg diamond

Pennsylvania’s “Do Not Call” registry has existed for 20 years now, yet state residents can still often find themselves on the receiving end of unwanted telemarketer calls — particularly, it seems, once election season starts.

But maybe not much longer.

Rep. Russ Diamond, a Lebanon County Republican, told colleagues this week he will soon propose legislation to remove two types of callers still allowed by law to ignore the registry: Non-profit organizations and politicians. Read more »

Clinton, Trump Lead Among Pa. Voters

Clinton - Trump - Wolf - Obama

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the leading presidential candidates in Pennsylvania, according to a new Franklin & Marshall poll.

Primary election day is still two months away — April 26 — but Clinton holds a sizable lead over opponent Bernie Sanders among likely voters, 51 percent to 29 percent. Trump’s margin is much lower over a still-divided Republican field: He clocks in a 21 percent of likely Republican voters, compared to 18 percent for Marco Rubio, and 16 percent each for John Kasich and Ted Cruz.

Philadelphia is proving to be bulwarks for both front-runners, according to the poll: Clinton attracts 59 percent of the metro area’s Dems, while Trump commands the support of 50 percent of area Republicans — by far his most concentrated pocket of support in the state.

The survey had an error range of plus or minus 3.1 points. Read more »

Will Brian Sims Fight Off Two Ballot Challenges?

State Rep. Brian Sims

State Rep. Brian Sims

When state Rep. Brian Sims dropped out of the 2nd Congressional District race last week, some political observers speculated that it meant he would have a smoother reelection campaign ahead.

Perhaps the race won’t be as uneventful as some thought, though. On Tuesday, Sims’ nominating petitions were challenged by two separate groups of people. Attorney Charles Gibbs filed one challenge on behalf of Walter Spencer and Sunanda Ghosh. Lawyer Lawrence Otter filed another on behalf of Michael Connor and Allison Andrew. Read more »

Proposal: Pa. Legislators Should Serve Longer Terms

Left: Rep. Dave Parker. Right: Pennsylvania state capitol. (Capitol picture: Ron Harper Jr., Wikimedia Commons)

Left: Rep. David Parker. Right: Pennsylvania state capitol. (Capitol picture: Ron Harper Jr., Wikimedia Commons)

Would lengthening the terms of senators and representatives in Harrisburg lower the temperature of politics at in the state capital?

Rep. David Parker thinks so. The Monroe County Republican is circulating a proposal to extend terms in both houses of the Pennsylvania Legislature — to three years from two for representatives, and two six years from four for senators. Read more »

Wolf’s Policy Director, John Hanger, Resigns

Former Pennsylvania environmental protection secretary John Hanger during a gubernatorial candidates forum Tuesday Feb. 4, 2014 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

John Hanger, Gov. Wolf’s secretary of policy and planning. | AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma

Governor Tom Wolf’s secretary of policy and planning, John Hanger, is leaving the administration.

In a statement, Hanger explained that he wants to spend more time with his wife and daughter, who live in Worcester, Mass. His last day will be February 26th. Hanger’s wife is vice provost for faculty affairs at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Read more »

Pa. “Sanctuary Cities” Could Face Crackdown

martina white

Rep. Martina White

A Philadelphia Republican plans to introduce a state bill that would hold “sanctuary cities” liable for damages and crimes caused by undocumented immigrants — and require local law officers to report migrants to the feds, regardless of city policies. Read more »

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