News

Home Care Workers Vote in Favor of Representation

Apr 24, 2015

An executive order from Gov. Tom Wolf to create a representative organization for Pennsylvania’s home care workers lost a key provision Thursday when a Commonwealth Court judge barred the organization from making any written policy agreements with the governor’s office.

The executive order, which Wolf signed Feb. 27, gave home care workers the ability to vote for an organization to represent them in monthly talks with an advisory group in the governor’s office. The order also allowed the representative organization to make formal written agreements with the advisory group, but that portion of the order was blocked by Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini’s injunction.

As of Monday Pennsylvania, will no longer have an asset test for those wanting to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits, which are sometimes referred to as food stamps.

The requirement was put in place by the Corbett administration and Governor Tom Wolf came out against the test early in his campaign. Acting Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said the state spent roughly $3.5 million a year keeping tract of the requirement.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is disputing an independent report finding his budget proposal would amount to a net tax increase for Pennsylvanians of all income levels.

John Hanger, a top aide, told reporters Friday that the Independent Fiscal Office is relying on shaky data, and overlooking the potential for economic growth under the governor’s proposed reductions in business taxes.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Started in the 1870s, Arbor Day is the nation’s oldest environmental holiday, and it’s now celebrated around the world. In Pittsburgh, groups of volunteers gathered at West Penn Park in Polish Hill Friday to plant new trees in honor of Arbor Day.

Gov. Tom Wolf has said he just wants to give in-home care workers a voice.

Under a partial injunction issued Thursday, that voice would be somewhat muted.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini has ruled that direct care workers can still elect a representative, who can still meet with state officials about things like standards, training, working conditions. But Pellegrini barred the parties from putting any agreement in writing.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Don’t be fooled by Buffalo Drive just outside South Park; there are no buffalo there. Instead, you’ll find the park’s 11 resident bison on a small turnoff marked “Game Preserve.”

You have your usual suburbs, and then here you got a park with great big animals in it,” said South Park’s naturalist, John Doyle. He and Gregory Hecker care for the herd. 

Brock Fleeger / flickr

Former Pirates pitcher Kent Tekulve was known as a workhorse out of the bullpen during his 16 year Major League Baseball career. He led the majors in games pitched four times, appearing in 90 or more in three different seasons. Tekulve saved three games in the 1979 World Series including the winner, as the Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles. But the biggest save of his life came last fall when he received a life-saving heart transplant. Teke, as he is known, joins us to talk about his recovery and return to the airwaves as a member of the Pirates broadcast team.

Kent Tekulve (starting at 28:10) remains humble despite all of his successes:

I never thought of myself as a Hall of Famer. I think I'm just very proud to be able to do what I was able to do and to compete against a whole lot of Hall of Famers and have some success against them while I was playing.

Also in today's show: Pittsburgh design firm MAYA and StoryCorps team up to create a mobile version of the StoryCorps recording and archiving experience, and the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds begin their season, giving the sport of Ultimate Disc a firm foothold in the Pittsburgh area. 

Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday he would veto a state proposal to eradicate local sick-leave laws in Pennsylvania if it reaches his desk.

The measure, which passed the Republican-controlled state Senate with bipartisan support last week, aims to preempt a Philadelphia law requiring businesses with 10 or more employees to give workers an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

Richard Borean / Tax Foundation

In 2015, Americans as a whole will spend less on food, clothing and housing combined than they will on taxes.

That’s according to the Tax Foundation, which announced Saturday marks Pennsylvania’s Tax Freedom Day.

Economist Kyle Pomerleau said this day shows when Pennsylvania residents have earned enough money to pay their total tax bill for the year.  The nonpartisan organization collects this information for all of the states as well as the U.S. as a whole.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

In the wake of several incidents of violence in Monroeville, including a shooting and 100-plus person fight, municipal leaders and local law enforcement have announced they are working together to stop the violence.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said part of the problem is drugs. When law enforcement cracked down on drug sales in Homewood, he said operations began to move out of the city into areas such as Monroeville.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Spring Gallery Crawl will look a little more like a pub crawl this season.

The Trust has partnered with Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week to bring 11 taste-testing stations to the Cultural District’s quarterly arts festival.

Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week may be ending, but there’s still fun to be had in town this weekend.    

On Friday, Star Wars fans should make their way to the Carnegie Science Center faster than the Millennium Falcon doing the Kessel Run for 21+ SciFri.

For artistically-inclined night owls, Art All Night 18 will take over the Willow Street Warehouse in Lawrenceville Saturday through Sunday (a full 24 hours of free fun!)

On Saturday evening, Ka-Blam! A  Fundraiser for Toonseum will be treating guests to caricature drawings, DJ-spun tunes, refreshments and more while raising funds for Toonseum.  

The Urbanist Release Party & PGH Spring Thing will give guests a preview of food and drink from the newest restaurants in town (hint: The Vandal, The Ballroom, Bread &  Salt, etc.)  

Julie Sokolow

Independent filmmaker and Pittsburgher Julie Sokolow first met David Matthews hanging out in coffee shops and around town. Eventually he found her on Facebook and messaged her, suggesting she make a movie about him.

Lawrence Jackson / Wikipedia

Mayor Peduto recently announced his support for Natalia Rudiak's call for a Will of Council in regards to an international trade deal that might go straight to Congress without input from state and city representatives. Rudiak, along with other local and national legislators, worries that "fast-tracking" the trade agreement with Asian nations will give multinational corporations new, sweeping offshore profits and limit sovereign governments from regulating environmental quality, land use, food safety and telecommunications. Rudiak joins us to explain her reservations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Asked to discuss critics' concerns regarding the trade deal, Rudiak explains that one of the biggest fears is loss of employment:

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs being potentially lost. That's what we saw from NAFTA, that's what we saw from CAFTA, that's what we saw from the U.S./Korea trade deal. ... What's scary about this is that we're talking about 21 countries that represent 40% of the country's GDP, so it's sort of like NAFTA on steroids." -- Natalia Rudiak

Also in the program, 1960s pop star and native Pittsburgher Lou Christie looks back on his musical career as he his honored by the Pittsburgh Rock 'n Roll Legends Award, and travel contributor Elaine Labalme warns us to not wait and to start planning for the beach.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced the results of a five month investigation into the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI)’s enforcement of Act 102, a 2008 law to limit excessive overtime work for health care professionals.

According to DePasquale, the department failed to implement the law quickly and effectively. He called Labor and Industry “negligent” for its failure to respond to health care workers’ complaints and develop regulations in a timely manner.

A recent study by the Rand Corp. found high school students in technology-enhanced learning (TEL) algebra courses were able to learn twice as much as students enrolled in traditional courses.

Carnegie Mellon University has received a two-year, $1 million grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York to support the school’s Simon Initiative, which looks to study and improve learning outcomes through technology in everything from computer science to ancient history classes.

The man picked to run the commonwealth's Department of State for the second time is facing criticism from lawmakers who didn't like how he performed the first time on the job.

But Gov. Tom Wolf is defending his nominee, saying the concerns being voiced about Acting Secretary of State Pedro Cortés are baseless.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania legislators are again trying to reduce the size of the state House of Representatives and Senate, with a pair of bills that would be the first steps toward amending the state constitution.

House Bill 153 proposed to reduce the House of Representatives from 203 members to 153, while House Bill 384 would shrink the Senate from 50 to 37 seats.

theatlantic.com

As part of the EverPower Earth Day Festival today in Market Square, Robert Swan is appearing in Pittsburgh. Swan is the first man ever to walk to both the North and South poles. He is currently an advocate for the protection of Antarctica and renewable energy.

Swan explains how traveling through wilderness changes a person's perception of the world:

"You realize that actually we, the human race, tend to feel that we can dominate the wilderness...dominate our planet. When you have walked the South pole or the North pole you know how small we really are, how insignificant we really are and how our world is a hell of a lot more powerful and if we carry on as we are it'll just spit us out."

Also in the program, Chatham is in the process of building the first campus in the world to be built solely for the study of sustainability, and Joylette Portlock of Communitopia helps us to see the positive side of a historically negative topic: climate change and our evolving environment.

90.5 WESA is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University’s Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, a university-wide research institute leveraging the expertise of more than 100 faculty working on energy, to launch “Energy Bite.” The co-production is a new 90-second weekly program debuting on Earth Day-- Wednesday, April 22, 2015. It will feature a series of interviews with CMU faculty members discussing energy topics of interest to the general public.

 

Public domain, via Pixabay

    

Meat is in demand, and prices are up — 11 percent for beef and pork from 2013-2014. And as people pay more per pound at the counter, they may be more selective and interested in just how their meat gets from the farm to the butcher to the dinner table.

Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera began his remarks to the Senate Education Committee as he would before a classroom.

“Good morning,” Rivera said, to muffled greetings in return.

“Wow, can I try that again?” said Rivera. “I feel like I’m in front of my students.”

The back-and-forth improved from there. Before the panel voted unanimously to advance Rivera’s name for consideration, multiple lawmakers praised him for being responsive to their questions over the past few months.

Antoinette Palmieri / Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority

More than four years after the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s water line service protection program was scrapped, Pittsburgh City Council took the first step last week to create a new program.

This time, said Councilman Dan Gilman, homeowners will have to actively opt-in to the program, rather than opting out.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

A Pennsylvania court says a legal challenge to the state's system of funding public schools involves political questions that don't belong in the courts.

Sweetie187 / Flickr

Good news: Aliens aren’t currently taking over the universe.

That’s according to Brendan Mullan, Carnegie Science Center’s resident astrophysics expert and Buhl Planetarium Director. He and a group of scientists created the Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey, or G-HAT, which attempted to locate extraterrestrial life in 100,000 galaxies.

The number of fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania has increased by 89 percent since 1999, according to the Trust for America’s Health. To help combat drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs has launched a website called “Get Help Now” to improve public access to addiction resources and information.

The website, designed by three Harrisburg Area Community College students, uses maps and search tools to connect site visitors to anti-addiction resources near them. People can use the site to get driving directions to the nearest treatment facility or to learn more about health insurance options.

dfbphotos / flickr

Since 2004, the amount of radon present in Pennsylvania air has steadily increased -- an increase that our guest Dr. Joan Casey notes began the same year that the state's first fracking sites became operational. Dr. Casey recently published her findings that quantify PA radon levels, and she joins us to discuss the possible cause of its decade-long spike as well as what PA residents can do to protect themselves from the toxic gas, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer nationwide. 

Asked about the importance of checking radon levels in the home -- especially homes near hydraulic fracturing sites -- Casey explains:

"Radon is colorless, it's odorless, but it's also this carcinogenic gas. And so, it is important for people in Pennsylvania to be checking their indoor radon levels because we know that historically Pennsylvania has had a lot of radon, and there are potentially new pathways opening up due to this industry." -- Dr. Joan Casey

Also in the program, Illah Nourbakhsh and Bea Dias explain how CMU's CREATE Lab has developed an affordable way for families to test the indoor air quality of their homes, Jody Bell describes a lending program for the devices that is being offered by the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library, Margaret J. Krauss takes us through the saga of the polio vaccine, and Rebecca Harris breaks down mobile businesses.

Retired coal miners will gather around Consol Energy Center Monday to protest the revocation of health benefits for more than 1,200 retired workers.

In December 2013 Consol sold five coal mines to Murry Energy. With the sale Murry acquired $2.1 billion in employee retirement benefits, but only committed to paying for one year of health care. Now both companies are refusing to honor the benefits.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (TIP) has been operated out of Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg since it started in 2009. Now, the program has moved to a new space: the former Westinghouse Electric Building in Homewood.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, the free 10-day music and arts festival that occurs in downtown Pittsburgh every June, will take place June 5-14 this year with the theme "Unseen-Unheard."

Headliners include singers such as Neko Case, Benjamin Booker and Rhiannon Giddens. There are dozens of other musicians performing at the stage set up at Point State Park, as well as visual arts projects. There will also be an artists’ fair and food for sale.

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