No More Half-Measures: Let’s Ban Smoking in Pennsylvania


Dom Costa is a wimp.

The state representative from Allegheny has introduced a bill that would ban Pennsylvanians from smoking while driving — as long as a child under the age of 12 is in the car with them. Get caught? You’re fined $250.

“Second-hand smoke poses a series of serious health risks to individuals,” Costa says, “and children are among the most vulnerable because they are still developing physically, have higher breathing rates than adults, and have little control over their indoor environments.”

He’s right. It’s unfair — evil, even — to poison children as the byproduct of a hobby. So it’s time to go a few steps further than Costa is proposing.

It’s time to ban tobacco smoking in Pennsylvania, now and forever.

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Republicans Restart Liquor Privatization Efforts


Republicans in Harrisburg have restarted their efforts to privatize the state’s liquor system.

AP reports:

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, announced Tuesday a privatization bill will be voted in the last week in February, nearly two years after a passing similar measure that subsequently died in the Senate.

Reed said the legislation could generate about $1 billion to help balance the 2015-16 state budget. The final product, he said, will need to be something that compares favorably with consumer convenience available in other states.

“We view this as a starting point,” Reed said. “We understand it’s not an ending point.”

But it’ll be a battle. Tribune-Review:
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New Push for Minimum Wage Hike in Pa.

A new effort to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania got underway Monday. Lawmakers filed a bill and advocates rallied in Harrisburg.

“State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, announced she is reintroducing her legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage, which would help struggling families pay their bills and reduce their reliance on government assistance programs,” reports. “Kim’s bill would increase the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour and then to $10.10 per hour a year later.”

Several other bills have also been introduced this session.

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Victory Fund Endorses Out Candidate Paul Steinke for City Council

Paul Steinke

Steinke when he announced his run for City Council in January.

This week, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund (GLVF), an organization that provides financial support to LGBT people in politics, announced that it would be getting behind out City Council At-Large candidate Paul Steinke. GLVF Senior Vice President Denis Dison explains the organization’s choice in a release sent out today:

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State Senators Art Haywood, Vincent Hughes Propose 8 Percent Shale Tax


Two Philadelphia-area Democrats have unveiled their plan to tax natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale.

Sens. Art Haywood and Vincent Hughes announced their proposal at a Thursday afternoon press conference. Their plan would impose an 8 percent severance tax and a 1.9 percent “impact fee.” 

The 8 percent tax would be expected to bring more than $1 billion in new state revenues just during the first year — of that, $100 million would be set aside for the “Growing Greener” environmental protection program, after which 60 percent would be distributed to public schools and the other 40 percent to shore up the state’s underfunded pension fund for public workers.

“It has become increasingly clear that our public education system is woefully underfunded and our unfunded pension liability continues to grow,” Haywood said in a memorandum seeking cosponsors for the bill. “These financial challenges are needless in light of the natural richness of our commonwealth. We cannot afford to continue to ignore the resources in our own backyard.”
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Kane to Defend Wolf in Open Records Case

Kathleen Kane may be in a fight for her political life, but there’s still business to be done.

Her office said Tuesday it will defend new Gov. Tom Wolf from a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Senate Republicans after Wolf fired Erik Arneson, the state’s new open records chief who was given a last-second appointment by then-Gov. Tom Corbett as he left office.

“Our office is representing the Governor’s Office,” Kane spokesman Aaron Sadler told PennLive.

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Medical Marijuana Back in Play in Pennsylvania?

State Sens. Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer are try, trying again.

The bipartisan duo — Leach is a Democrat, Folmer a Republican — have reintroduced a bill (below) that would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. A similar bill passed the State Senate last year, but stalled when sent to the House.

“This bill needs to get done,” Folmer said in a statement. “There are so many ill and suffering in Pennsylvania that could benefit from medical cannabis – reducing prescriptions of narcotic cocktails of highly addictive and dangerous drugs. Medical cannabis is a much safer and more effective solution.”

“Medical cannabis is a safe and effective alternative to the powerful, addictive, and often ineffective narcotics that doctors already prescribe to cancer patients, children with seizure disorders, veterans suffering from PTSD, and others Pennsylvanians who suffer from terminal health problems,” Leach said in a separate statement emailed to reporters. “It is cruel to continue denying these people the medicine they need.”
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In Pa. House, a Fresh Push for Liquor Privatization


A fresh push to privatize the state’s liquor store system is brewing in the Pennsylvania House, NewsWorks reports.

Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed told NewsWorks that his chamber may revive a privatization bill that passed the House and failed the Senate two years ago.  The Senate’s Republican majority has gotten larger and more conservative since then.

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Study: In Pennsylvania, Very Rich Getting Richer, Everybody Else Getting Poorer

Updated with comment from the governor’s office.

In Pennsylvania, it really is true that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Actually, strike that: The very rich are getting richer — and everybody else is is getting poorer.

A new study shows that the average income of the state’s families grew between 2009 and 2013, but only because the top 1 percent earned so much more than the other 99 percent of Pennsylvania residents: Everybody else — the bottom 99 percent of Pennsylvania families — saw their collective income decline by 1.1 percent.

The widening income gap was found across the country, but was particularly pronounced in Pennsylvania.

“The pattern is the same across all the states, which is the income is increasingly flowing up,” said Mark Price, an analyst with Pennsylvania’s Keystone Research Center. “It’s worse some places than others.”

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