The Brief: Philly’s Hotel Occupancy Rates Explode to a Modern High

Convention-Center

The Pennsylvania Convention Center | Photo by Jeff Fusco

1. Philadelphia’s hotels were more booked last month than during any other June since 1993.

The gist: The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Center City’s hotel occupancy rates “reached 89.4 percent in June, the highest June rate since 1993″ and that hotels were “booked nearly to full capacity on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, at 97.9 percent and 96.4 percent, respectively.” The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau attributes the hotel industry’s success partly to three big conventions that took place here last month.

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The Brief: Every Philly School May Soon Have a Counselor

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

1. An arbitrator has decided that Philadelphia must have at least one full-time counselor per school.

The gist: That’s because the school district’s contract with the teachers union stipulates that all schools must have one. NewsWorks reports that arbitrator Ralph Colflesh also ruled in the union’s favor on other matter:

An independent arbitrator has ruled against the Philadelphia School District for not taking seniority into account when rehiring laid-off school counselors in 2013.

Facing a large budget shortfall in the summer of 2013, the school district furloughed all guidance counselors.

As school began, and additional funding came through, many were hired back, but without regard for seniority.

Following a union complaint, arbitrator Ralph Colflesh has now ruled against that action — saying that the district must provide back pay for those more senior counselors bypassed by the district.

The district, however, says it is going to appeal the decision.

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GOP Budget Falls Short of Philly Schools Request

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the GOP-led legislature’s state budget Tuesday night, in part, he said, because it would set aside far less education funding than he believes is fair.

How much less?

Earlier this year, the Philadelphia School District asked state lawmakers for an extra $206 million. The Republican bill would have provided only an additional $21.8 million to the school district, according to data from Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher. That’s about 11 percent of the surplus funding that district officials said they need. Read more »

Your Phone Bill Is About to Go Up

If you think your phone bill is too high right now, wait until August.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law on Monday a bill that will increase the cost of calling 911 for emergencies, in an effort to raise additional funds to operate the call centers, PennLive reported yesterday.

The new law, PennLive says, will put into effect a uniform $1.65 911 fee irrespective of the type of phone service a customer uses. Cell phone and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) users currently pay one dollar a month per line for 911 service, while landlines are charged between $1 – $1.50 depending on location.  Read more »

The Brief: Why No One in Philly Smokes Anymore

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

1. Philly’s smoking rate has fallen to a record low.

The gist: CBS3 reports that “the percentage of adult Philadelphians who smoke has dropped from 27.3 percent in 2008 to 22.4 percent in 2014-15, according to data from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.” Even more impressive: A drop took place among all ethnicities and socioeconomic groups in the city, and it happened after smoking rates went up in 2000 and 2008. Also, the recent smoking rate doesn’t factor in the full impact of Philly’s new cigarette tax, which has likely caused smoking to become even less common. Read more »

BizFeed: Gas Drillers Are Not Happy With Tom Wolf

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

1. Wolf, Frackers in Heated Dispute

The News: On the campaign trail, Gov. Tom Wolf promised to tax natural gas drilling in an effort to fund education. It was one of the key platforms that got him elected.

Now that Wolf is in office, members of Pennsylvania’s natural gas sector are questioning the governor’s commitment to the booming industry. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that they’re not too pleased with Wolf’s recent actions to propose stricter drilling rules to curb wastewater contamination and heavily fine companies for wrongdoing. In fact, Wolf’s regulators just imposed an $8.9 million fine against a gas operator, the largest ever in the state. Read more »

Wolf Expected to Veto GOP Budget

tom-wolf-budget-940x540

Gov. Wolf, center, during happier times at the Legislature.

Looks like Harrisburg may blow past Tuesday’s June 30 deadline for a state budget.

The GOP-controlled legislature worked through the weekend with the House passing its own $30.1 budget on Saturday and a Senate committee giving its approval Sunday night. But Gov. Wolf sent signals he would veto the bill, which includes none of his ideas for education funding or taxing the Marcellus shale, two of his big priorities. Read more »

The Brief: Police Shootings Plummet 62% in Philadelphia

A Philadelphia Police Department promotion ceremony. | Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photo by Mitchell Leff.

A Philadelphia Police Department promotion ceremony. | Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photo by Mitchell Leff.

1. Police shootings fell 62 percent between 2012 and 2014.

The gist: 2012 marked a modern high for police shootings: City cops fired at civilians 104 times that year, killing 16 and injuring 32. Last year, the number of shootings dropped significantly. Philly.com reports that police fired at civilians 40 times in 2014, killing four and injuring 21; so far this year, they killed one person and wounded seven. “This is exactly what we want to see,” Kelvyn Anderson, the director of the watchdog group Police Advisory Commission, told Philly.com. “Whatever the department is doing, this is exactly where we want it to go.”
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