Wolf Reiterates Fracking Support

Tom Wolf

Governor-elect Tom Wolf won’t be following the lead of fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who on Wednesday banned the practice of fracking in New York state.

Cuomo’s camp cited health and environmental concerns in deciding on a ban, but those issues won’t deter drilling in Pennsylvania, which like New York sits atop vast deposits of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
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The Best Thing That Happened This Week

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Tom Wolf at a Philadelphia campaign rally. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Last night the 116th annual dinner of the Pennsylvania Society — or, as the society’s website has it, The One Hundred Sixteenth Annual Dinner of The Pennsylvania Society — was held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, and we weren’t among the muckety-mucks meeting in Manhattan for cocktails and comestibles.

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Pot Advocate to Guide Policy in Wolf Administration

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One of Pennsylvania’s highest-profile voices for marijuana legalization will guide policy in the administration of Governor-Elect Tom Wolf.

Wolf’s transition team on Wednesday afternoon announced that John Hanger will be the Secretary of Planning and Policy in the new administration. Hanger served under Governor Ed Rendell as leader of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, but he’s possibly better-known for his short-lived run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year — a campaign in which he put up billboards in Erie and Scranton urging voters to legalize and tax marijuana. He dropped out before the primary election, however.

“We are spending $300 million, approximately, chasing down and arresting people who are possessing small amounts of marijuana,” Hanger told Philly Mag last spring. “If we get it out of the underground economy and start taxing it, instead of spending that $300 million we will raise $200 million dollars of new revenue. That’s a big deal for taxpayers.”

And it may be a big deal that Hanger is now in such a prominent position. Aside from it being ground-breaking — could an official with such a plainly pro-pot agenda have ascended to the governor’s cabinet a decade ago? — the appointment could signal an opportunity for progress, at least, on passage of a medical marijuana bill, which has passed the State Senate but made little headway otherwise.

The transition team announced two other appointments on Wednesday: Mary Isenhour as Secretary of Legislative Affairs, and Obra S. Kernodle IV as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director, Office of Public Liaison.

Tom Wolf: State’s Financial Situation “Unacceptable”

Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf won’t start his term until next month, but he’s already facing challenges. Wolf is calling the state’s financial situation “unacceptable.”

Wolf made the comments about the state’s fiscal state at a news conference at the Yorktowne Hotel in York. He takes office January 20th. Then, he’ll inherit a budget deficit expected to be $1.9 billion or more.

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Wolf Seeks Statewide Paid Sick Leave Law

Tom Wolf

The Pennsylvania Independent, a right-leaning website, reports that Gov.-elect Tom Wolf wants to pursue a law guaranteeing paid sick  leave to workers across the state — similar to bills that have been twice vetoed in Philadelphia, but which appear to be closer to passage on third try.

A similar law passed in Connecticut has the support of three-quarters of business owners, the Independent report — but probably because it includes exceptions for small businesses and manufacturers. But Wolf may have a hard time getting that far with the proposal:

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Tom Wolf’s Honeymoon is Over

Tom Wolf

Photo | Jeff Fusco

We’re barely a week past the election, and already it looks — sorry to say — like the honeymoon is over for Governor-elect Tom Wolf.

The first clue, assuming you want to skip past the fact that he was already going to be dealing with a Republican-controlled legislature, was when the Pennsylvania Senate Republicans dumped good ol’ Dom Pileggi as their leader this week and replaced him with the fierier, more conservative Jake Corman.

That would be enough, on its own, to make the state’s Democrats a little sick to their stomachs — worse yet is that Comran probably owes his ascendancy, in part, to Wolf’s election. “We don’t want a moderate majority leader who’s going to allow Wolf to get things done that are contrary to the overwhelming majority of our caucus,” an unnamed caucus member told The Patriot News.

So: Goodbye to any easy solutions on the Philly education front. Goodbye, most likely, to a bipartisan fracking tax. And goodbye, really, to any era of good feelings that might get the Wolf Administration off to an auspicious beginning.

That was just the start.

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Tom Wolf’s Ethics Code Is a Good Start

Tom Wolf

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s transition team unveiled a “code of ethical conduct” for team members on Tuesday, and for the life of me, I couldn’t initially figure out what the big deal was. After all, the the requirements outlined in the code seemed pretty basic for anybody legitimately seeking to enter public service.

I will not use my position with the Governor-Elect’s Transition Team for personal gain or take any substantial action affecting any matter, for personal gain or that of my immediate family or organization with which I have a substantial financial interest.

We’re not getting rich off of government service? Big surprise.

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Lawsuit: School Funding in Pennsylvania is Unconstitutional

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Seventeen years ago, the city and School District of Philadelphia filed suit against Pennsylvania, accusing it of failing to provide sufficient education funding in violation of the state Constitution, which obligates the state legislature to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education.”

It didn’t work. Commonwealth Court rejected the suit, and the state Supreme Court in 1999 refused to hear an appeal.

Now school funding advocates are looking for a rematch. A potentially momentous lawsuit was filed in Commonwealth Court this morning, claiming that the state has “adopted an irrational and inequitable school financing arrangement that drastically underfunds school districts across the Commonwealth and discriminates against children on the basis of the taxable property and household incomes in their districts.”

One of many striking elements of this suit is that the School District of Philadelphia — which would be among the greatest beneficiaries of a successful lawsuit — is not among the plaintiffs.

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