Mary Wilson en Senator: Loan Bank For Flood Zone Homes Faces Long Odds <p>The one idea state lawmakers heard to help homeowners facing rising flood insurance rates may have been a dud.<br /><br />A Lycoming County floodplain manager told lawmakers in January: If you want a long-term way to help flood zone property owners, set up a loan bank.<br /><br />Fran McJunkin said the state was in the perfect position to provide low-cost loans to people trying to flood-proof their homes.<br /> Mon, 21 Apr 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 27891 at Wolf Says Loan For Millions Backed By Personal Money, Not Company’s <p>The front-runner in the Democratic race for governor is acutely feeling the target on his back. Tom Wolf continues to receive demands from opponent Allyson Schwartz for more details of his campaign’s financing.<br /><br />Wolf, who said he gave $10 million of his own money to his campaign, has released a summary of a $4.45 million loan he took out as part of that self-financing effort.<br /> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:05:29 +0000 Mary Wilson 27708 at From House Democrat, A Call For Divorce Equality <p>It turns out that legally ending a same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania is just as impossible as legally entering one.<br /><br />In a co-sponsorship memo floated last week, Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) said he plans to fix what he called “the marriage trap” — a limbo land reserved for same-sex couples who, after marrying in one of the 17 states (or the District of Columbia), move to Pennsylvania, decide to split up, and can’t legally end the union.<br /> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:45:57 +0000 Mary Wilson 27650 at Guzzardi Wins Ballot Challenge; Appeal Expected <p>A Commonwealth Court judge has ruled Bob Guzzardi will remain on the Republican gubernatorial primary ballot as Gov. Tom Corbett’s only challenger.<br /><br />The state GOP’s general counsel, Lawrence Tabas, who argued against Guzzardi’s nominating petitions, said he’ll “absolutely” file an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.<br /><br />“I’ll be prompt,” Tabas said.<br /> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:40:17 +0000 Mary Wilson 27649 at Tavern Gaming Glitch May Have Cooled Expansion Efforts <p>State lawmakers may be skittish about bridging budget gaps with any more expansions of gambling, due to a so-far failed attempt to bring in big bucks from tavern gambling.<br /><br />Late last year, as state coffers were looking empty, lawmakers floated ideas of expanding gambling to fill shortfalls.<br /> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:02:09 +0000 Mary Wilson 27598 at Groups Mobilize Against Senate Proposal To Eliminate School Property Taxes <p>Groups opposed to a plan to eliminate school property taxes are mobilizing in an effort to neutralize a looming threat.<br /><br />The spokesman for the Republican Senator Majority Leader says some kind of response to property tax concerns is planned for this spring.<br /><br />One plan would replace the property tax levied by school districts with higher sales and personal income taxes.<br /><br />Sharon Ward, head of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said that would do more harm than good in the eyes of businesses, schools, and advocates for the poor.<br /> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 27515 at Group Scores Dems For Governor On Gun Control Issues <p>It’s the one survey in the past two months that Tom Wolf isn’t winning: CeaseFirePA’s “voter guide,” a report of the gubernatorial candidates positions on nearly 20 different gun safety measures and an accompanying assessment.<br /><br />Democratic candidates Katie McGinty and Allyson Schwartz are 100 percent aligned with CeaseFirePA’s positions. Rob McCord scored 84 percent, and Wolf scored 79 percent.<br /><br />The two Republican candidates didn’t respond to the survey.<br /> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 11:39:18 +0000 Mary Wilson 27192 at Senate To Consider Cash Gift Ban As A 'First Step' <p>The state Senate will vote on a proposal to restrict cash gifts to public officials, a measure that aims to change state law, not just the rules that govern the Senate or the House.<br /> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:26:12 +0000 Mary Wilson 27168 at Legislature Expected To Clarify Who Must Report Child Abuse <p>Proposals to change how suspected child abuse must be reported in Pennsylvania are nearing the finish line after stalling for several months.<br /><br />Two measures are awaiting final votes in the House and Senate to clarify who must report child abuse and how they should do it. But a plan that originated in the state Senate would now exclude lawyers from the list of people who will be mandated reporters, after House lawmakers voiced concerns about breaching attorney-client privilege: should lawyers be mandated reporters if filing a complaint could violate the trust of their client? Sun, 06 Apr 2014 21:18:10 +0000 Mary Wilson 27114 at Poll Shows Plenty Of Democratic Voters Still Undecided On Gubernatorial Candidates <p>A new poll of Democratic voters in Pennsylvania shows a big chunk of the electorate still hasn't made up their minds about their party’s candidates for governor.<br /><br />“Locked in place” is how Franklin and Marshall Poll Director Terry Madonna describes the Democratic field less than two months from the primary.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br />Forty-six percent of surveyed Democrats remain undecided, a small drop from the 48 percent who didn’t pick a favorite when asked in a poll in late February.<br /> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:53:11 +0000 Mary Wilson 26953 at Petitions Challenge Of Corbett’s Only Primary Opponent Ongoing <p>Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s only primary opponent has faced a second day in court over a challenge to get him thrown off the ballot.<br /><br />GOP-backed voters say Bob Guzzardi, a Montgomery County activist and lawyer, should not be a candidate in the May 20 primary because he failed to file a statement of financial interest on time to the State Ethics Commission.<br /><br />Lawyer Lawrence Tabas quotes the state Ethics Act in calling the oversight a “fatal defect.”<br /> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:44:37 +0000 Mary Wilson 26948 at Softened Changes For Union Exemption On 'Fast Track' <p>A state proposal to change rules for unions involved in a labor dispute is on the fast track to becoming law.<br /><br />Under state law, unions in Pennsylvania are allowed to harass, stalk, and threaten to use weapons of mass destruction if they’re involved in a labor dispute.<br /><br />Legislation that started as an effort to end that exemption now just kind of massages it.<br /><br />A Senate committee on Tuesday approved changes to allow stalking and harassment if it is used in the pursuit of constitutionally-protected or legally-protected activity.<br /> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 11:41:44 +0000 Mary Wilson 26884 at Bill Would Bolster Training For Indigent Defense Lawyers <p>Advocates Tuesday urged state Senate lawmakers to support better training for lawyers tasked with defending adult criminal defendants and juvenile delinquents who can’t afford to hire a lawyer.<br /><br />A measure before state lawmakers would create such a program with $1 million in the next fiscal year.<br /><br />Access to such free counsel is required under the U.S. Constitution and federal case law, but Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t help fund county offices providing indigent defense.<br /> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 22:00:26 +0000 Mary Wilson 26864 at Corbett Administration Refutes Higher Education Criticism <p>The Corbett administration is pushing back against claims it let recommendations on higher education gather dust.<br /><br />State Senator Andy Dinniman of Chester County, ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, says a 2012 report from the governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education hasn’t prompted action.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /> Sun, 30 Mar 2014 16:30:11 +0000 Mary Wilson 26729 at Hue And Cry, And Hope, For A Ban On Cash Gifts <p>That sound you hear is the stampede of lawmakers rushing to propose a ban on cash gifts. The calls for reform are following revelations that four Philadelphia House Democrats accepted money from an undercover lobbyist working with state prosecutors in a quashed sting.<br /><br />Pennsylvania’s ethics act is one of the weakest in the country, letting public officials accept gifts as long as they report those valued at $250 or more. The reporting trigger is $650 dollars if the gift is transportation, lodging, or hospitality.<br /> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 19:25:40 +0000 Mary Wilson 26590 at Marijuana Decriminalization Bills Come From Senate Dem With Eyes On Higher Office <p>State Sen. Mike Stack, a Philadelphia Democrat and candidate for lieutenant governor, is proposing to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.<br /> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 21:19:21 +0000 Mary Wilson 26535 at U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Local Challenge of Federal Contraception Mandate <p>A Lancaster County-based company is one of two family-owned businesses taking on the so-called “contraception mandate” in the federal Affordable Care Act. Oral arguments are set to begin Tuesday morning in the U.S. Supreme Court.<br /><br />One of the central questions in this case is whether for-profit corporations exercise religious beliefs, and can therefore claim a religious exemption to a law.<br /> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 21:18:22 +0000 Mary Wilson 26403 at Calls Mount For Further Investigation Of Sting Dropped By AG's Office <p>A non-partisan government reform group says investigations into a sting operation dropped by the attorney general’s office shouldn’t stop with the state House Ethics Committee.<br /><br />Leaders from both parties in the House have assured the chamber’s Ethics panel it would be given the budget to do an investigation of members implicated in a sting that gave $20,000 to eight people. Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she dropped the case because it couldn’t be successfully prosecuted, despite recordings of public officials accepting money or gifts.<br /> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:00:09 +0000 Mary Wilson 26361 at State Senator: Campaign Spending Could Be More Transparent With Better Software <p>A state senator is calling on the commonwealth to make campaign finance reports more readily available to the public, but some say what’s needed isn’t new software, but new law.<br /><br />Pennsylvanians shouldn’t have to wait days or weeks to see online who’s donating to a political candidate, or how much a candidate is spending, said Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) Wednesday. At a hearing with the Pennsylvania Department of State, he used the example of making a deposit in a bank.<br /> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 14:40:32 +0000 Mary Wilson 26246 at Changes to Prescription Database Bill Puts House and Senate at Odds <p>The state House and Senate may be headed for a standoff over an effort to crack down on prescription drug abuse.<br /><br />A Senate committee approved a measure Wednesday for an expanded state database to track prescription drugs that would also give law enforcement greater access to the information. The amended measure would not require law enforcement to have a search warrant before accessing the system – something the House voted for last fall.<br /> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 16:54:56 +0000 Mary Wilson 26188 at State Senate OKs Rural Community College Plan <p>A rural community college based in western Pennsylvania is one step closer to becoming a reality. The proposal to start setting up a 15th community college passed with just four votes cast against it in the state Senate Wednesday.<br /><br />The bill, proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), aims to provide educational and job-training opportunities in a region that has been historically underserved, according to a <a href="">2011 study by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee</a>.<br /> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 10:45:35 +0000 Mary Wilson 26169 at Bill to Curb Local Gun Restrictions Goes to Full House <p>Gun owners and groups like the National Rifle Association would be able to take municipalities to court over local gun restrictions under a measure that passed a House committee with overwhelming support Tuesday.<br /><br />The bill would give challengers of local gun restrictions the legal standing necessary to ask for court review of an ordinance. Successful challengers could be reimbursed by municipalities for legal costs and other expenses.<br /> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 11:55:44 +0000 Mary Wilson 26109 at Bill Would End PA Background Check System For Guns <p>A proposal to dismantle the state background check system used to determine if someone is eligible to buy a gun or a gun license is set for a committee vote Tuesday.<br /><br />The measure, referred to the House Judiciary Committee, would bypass and defund the state background check in favor of using the national background check system.<br /><br />Supporters say it would reduce redundancy and free up state funding currently going to the state background check system, established in 1998.<br /> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 11:44:44 +0000 Mary Wilson 26044 at Kane Says Despite Crimes Committed on Tape, Case Couldn’t Be Salvaged <p>Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane says despite the fact that her office has audio tapes documenting four state lawmakers and one judge committing crimes, she is defending her decision to drop a case investigating them.<br /><br /><a href="">The Philadelphia Inquirer</a> first reported the abandonment of the case, which allegedly relied on one confidential informant to catch public officials in the act of accepting cash or gifts.<br /> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 07:00:15 +0000 Mary Wilson 26045 at Are PA's Campaign Finance Rules in Need of Reform? Depends Who You Ask <p>If you ask any of the Democratic candidates for governor, Pennsylvania’s campaign finance rules are atrocious. If you ask the sitting governor, Republican Tom Corbett, the wells of donor and financial information are a click away and need no reforming.<br /><br />The field of gubernatorial candidates shrank once more last week with the exit of John Hanger. His parting words included a diatribe on the effect of big spending in political campaigns.<br /> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 25945 at