Growing Industrial Hemp is Now Legal in Pennsylvania


Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation on Wednesday that legalized the growth and production of industrial hemp – for some.

Hemp can now be grown for research purposes, meaning the law mostly applies to the Agriculture Department and colleges and universities. Through a pilot program, those who are registered can grow and market the product. The law’s newly created Hemp Research Board will oversee operations and monitor regulations and guidelines.

The legislation‘s sponsor, Representative Russ Diamond, said Pennsylvania was once a leading producer of industrial hemp. Hemp can be used for many purposes, including medicine, clothing, food and building materials.

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Wolf to Sign Revenue Bills With Tax Increases on Cigarettes, Downloads

Pennsylvania Budget

Courtesy of Governor Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to sign revenue bills passed last night by the Pennsylvania legislature that include additional tobacco taxes and apply the state sales tax to digital downloads. The legislature approved a $31.5 billion spending plan last month that became law Monday night.

The bills meet Wolf’s goals for funding public schools and programs that counter opioid and heroin addiction.

Last year saw the longest budget delay in modern state history, with the legislature taking nine months the June 2015 deadline to reach a deal. This year, the deal was struck in less than two weeks after the July 1st deadline. Read more »

State Will Spend $20 Million More to Fight Opiate Addiction Next Year / backpack555 / backpack555

The epidemic of opiate addiction has gotten so bad over the last few years that finding better ways to treat addicts — and to stop the steady increase in overdose deaths — has become a rare point of bipartisan agreement.

The uptick in addiction to heroin and prescription opiates has spread to rural and suburban communities, including those in Pennsylvania. Overdose deaths in the commonwealth increased 14-fold between 1979 and 2014, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. And researchers said there’s no reason to expect that those numbers won’t rise for 2015 and beyond. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States — surpassing both traffic fatalities and gun deaths. In Pennsylvania, 2,500 people died of drug overdose in 2014. That number rose to 3,300 in 2015. Read more »

Wolf: Pennsylvania Budget Will Become Law Without My Signature


Governor Tom Wolf announced on Sunday night that an appropriations bill approved by the state House and Senate would become law without his signature.

Late last month, the legislature agreed to a $31.6 billion spending plan. Wolf said at the time that he supported the plan, which provides additional funding for basic education and programs aimed at battling opiate addiction, but wouldn’t sign it until the legislature specified how the plan will be funded.

Throughout this year’s budget process, Wolf has identified investments in education and addiction programs as his priorities, along with approving a balanced budget that matches all spending with stable revenue. So far, the legislature has not agreed on a revenue package.  Read more »

After Dallas, Kenney Asks Philadelphians to “Be Willing to Hear One Another”

A Dallas police officer, who did not which to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection in the early morning after a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. At least two snipers opened fire on police officers during protests in Dallas on Thursday night; some of the officers were killed, police said. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

A Dallas police officer, who did not which to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection in the early morning after a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. Photo by LM Otero/AP

Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement Friday asking the citizens of Philadelphia to “listen and be willing to hear one another” after a violent and tense week in which several shootings across the country have gained international attention, frustration and anguish.

His statement comes on the heels of last night’s shooting in Dallas, which occurred during a Black Lives Matter protest and claimed the lives of five police officers and wounded seven others. Two civilians were injured. Read more »

State House and Senate Send Spending Bill to Wolf

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf's hopes of ending Pennsylvania's 99-day-old state budget impasse were dashed Wednesday when nine of his fellow Democrats joined all House Republicans to vote against his revised plan to raise billions in income and gas drilling taxes.

Tom Wolf | Photo: Matt Rourke, AP

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted Thursday evening to adopt a spending bill for the next fiscal year, with hours to spare before the midnight deadline. The bill was approved by the state Senate on Wednesday. Governor Tom Wolf said he will sign the bill, but only after lawmakers finalize a plan on how to finance it.  Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide to the 2016 Pennsylvania Budget Battle

Clockwise: House Speaker Mike Turzai, Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. | PUT PHOTO CREDIT HERE

Clockwise: House Speaker Mike Turzai, Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. | Photos by Matt Rourke and Chris Knight/AP

It’s budget season once again in Harrisburg. Or more accurately, it’s still budget season. Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican leaders in the state House and Senate have been negotiating—and failing to negotiate—over taxes and spending since Wolf laid out his first budget proposal in early 2015.

It took more than a year after the governor gave his first budget address for an actual spending plan to become law, and that only happened without Wolf’s signature. Lawmakers passed last year’s budget nine months after the June 2015 deadline, the longest budget delay in modern Pennsylvania history. And by the time it was settled, Wolf had already proposed his budget for the next year.

Now the due date for a new financial plan is fast approaching. Will state lawmakers meet the deadline? Or will they blow it like last year, leaving school districts and nonprofits across the state in the lurch? Here’s everything you need to know: Read more »

Why a Special Election to Replace Chaka Fattah Could Get Messy


L: U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (Photo by Matt Rourke/AP) R: State Rep. Dwight Evans (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Philadelphia U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah resigned Thursday after apparently realizing that Republicans (and, hell, even some Democrats) weren’t cool with his plan to stick around for an extra three months after being convicted of corruption.

Soon, Gov. Tom Wolf might schedule a special election to fill Fattah’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District — and if he does, things could get messy.

During special elections, a/k/a/ elections held to replace officials who quit or die or are sent to prison before the end of their term, ward leaders choose the nominees. In Philadelphia, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-to-1, that means Democratic ward leaders essentially handpick the winners of every special election. (That’s how we do it in the birthplace of American democracy, everybody!) You might think Democratic state Rep. Dwight Evans would be the natural pick for ward leaders here: Evans defeated Fattah in the April primary, and is expected to win the general election against Republican James Jones.

But don’t be so sure: I asked Philadelphia Democratic Party boss Bob Brady if Evans would have enough support among leaders to be nominated if a special election were held. “I don’t know if there’s enough support,” he said, “but there will be [some] support for him.”
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Wolf Nominates Republican Judge to Fill Eakin’s Supreme Court Seat

L: Courtesy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, R: Courtesy Governor Tom Wolf via Wikimedia Commons

L: Courtesy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania; R: Courtesy Governor Tom Wolf via Wikimedia Commons

Governor Tom Wolf nominated Superior Court Judge Sallie Updyke Mundy to fill a vacant seat on the Pa. Supreme Court.

Mundy would fill the seat formerly held by Justice J. Michael Eakin, a Republican from Cumberland County who resigned earlier this year in the wake of the Porngate email scandal. Eakin was the second Supreme Court justice to resign over the emails, following Seamus McCaffery, a Democrat who left office in 2014.

Wolf announced the news — along with a slate of other judicial nominees — Monday alongside Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa.

Mundy, 53, is a Republican. If Senate members confirm the nomination, she’ll hold the seat until the start of the next 10-year term, which begins in January 2018. Elections for the term will be held next year.

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Yes, You Will Soon Buy Wine at Grocery Stores


It’s official.

Governor Tom Wolf signed a historic PA liquor reform bill Wednesday afternoon that will make wine more easily accessible: Soon you’ll be able to grab bottles on-the-go from restaurants, hotels and grocery stores that already sell beer. Read more »

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