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Economy
4:00 pm
Mon February 20, 2012

Table Games Revenue Up At Commonwealth Casinos

Gross revenue from table games in January was nearly $9.7 million higher than last year, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

962 tables at 10 casinos generated $52,980,494 last month compared to $43,310,753 in January 2011.

Spokesman Doug Harbach said the casinos are still in a stage of growth.

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Science & Technology
8:00 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Track Crime In Your Area Online

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Deliquency (PCCD) has launched a new website that will give the public better access to crime-related data.

The website is a clearinghouse for state and county justice statistics, data trends, and PCCD-funded research and evaluations. The site includes general information about crime in specific communities, including number of arrests, types of offenses, and the number of people incarcerated and paroled. The information is free and open to the public.

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Government
8:00 am
Mon February 20, 2012

New Bill Focuses on Reforming Teacher Hiring

Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia and Delaware) has introduced legislation that would close a "loophole" in the public school code known as "passing the trash."

"Passing the trash" occurs when a school district gives an educator accused of sexual misconduct incentives for resigning such as health benefits, letters of recommendation, and confidentiality agreements.

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Government
8:00 am
Mon February 20, 2012

David Freed Unopposed as GOP State Attorney General Candidate

Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed is the only Republican in the race to become Pennsylvania's next state attorney general. His candidacy was made official last week when he filed more than 7,000 signatures, seven times what he needed to be on the ballot. The deadline to submit nominating petitions passed February 15.

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Local
8:00 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Foster Care Support Could Be Extended In Pennsylvania

A proposal from the governor's office may save Pennsylvania nearly $4.5 million by fully implementing a federal Act that promotes adoption and improves outcomes for foster youth. The Fostering Connections and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 provides federal funding for states that comply with its various programs, which largely center on financial support for adoptive families and extending foster care for youth who need it.

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Local
8:09 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Governor Corbett Tours Calgon Carbon's Ultraviolet Technologies Division in Coraopolis

Governor Tom Corbett said he has been visiting private sector employers around the state in the past two weeks because he believes the role of government is to create an environment where they can be competitive with other companies in the U.S. and the world. To keep and attract companies, the state must help keep their costs, i.e. taxes, down.

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Local
7:10 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Pennsylvania Auditor General Taking a Deeper Look at Department of Welfare

Auditor General Jack Wagner said his office is very concerned about what he called the lack of good management at Torrance State Hospital and now, concerned about the management at various hospitals throughout the state.

"The items that we're most concerned about are potential ethical conflicts, questionable billing practices, and the lack of oversight of management to properly manage contracts," said Wagner.

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Local
6:40 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Public Health Implications of Prisoner Re-Entry Discussed

At a Rand Corporation event on Thursday, those who work with prisoners at different stages in the incarceration process talked about the public health implications and challenges prisoners face as they re-enter society in Allegheny County.

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Government
4:26 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Republican Race for Nomination Kept Close by Super PACs

Former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's underfunded campaign is posing a challenge to Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney and a Pennsylvania political analyst thinks super PACs are proving to be a big benefit for less-resourced candidates.

Shirley Anne Warshaw, a political science professor at Gettysburg College, said the everyone-gets-a-turn surges of presidential candidates in this year's race can be traced back to these new funding sources.

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Economy
3:54 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Commonwealth Foundation Worries State Can't Afford Welfare Spending

A free-market think tank in Pennsylvania fears that public welfare spending is exceeding what the state can afford.

Elizabeth Stelle is a policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation, which compiled a report examining cases of fraud — like using welfare money for luxuries like landscaping or a six-person hot tub — rather than necessities like food. Stelle said she would prefer to see more reform in order to better correlate welfare spending with a drop in the poverty rate.

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Economy
1:59 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Electric Deregulation, Fewer Landlines Cause Drop In Tax Revenue

A little known state tax is seeing a shortfall for the second year in a row. The drop off is due in part to electric deregulation that went into full effect in Pennsylvania a little more than a decade ago.

Deregulation introduced a number of companies to the state's tax rolls, but with their historically narrow profit margins, the amount of taxes they had to pay was low last year and will be low again this year.

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Economy
12:00 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Liquor Control Board Looking For Large Reforms

The Liquor Control Board is asking state lawmakers for help on a slew of reforms.

Among them, bills to allow liquor stores to sell lottery tickets, allow more to pen on Sundays, and change pricing rules to make them more competitive with neighboring states and online retailers.

Senator John Pippy (R-Allegheny) says efforts to modernize the LCB will not interfere with efforts to sell off the state's liquor stores.

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Environment
11:45 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Pennsylvania Remains Plum Pox Free

In 1999, a non-curable plant virus native to Europe was found in Pennsylvania, causing severe economic loss to the state and a potential threat to the rest of the nation's fruit production.

Nicole Bucher, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture says growers in Pennsylvania can "breathe a sigh of relief," because the commonwealth has been declared free of the plum pox virus since October 2009.

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Environment
11:30 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Going Green Even When Being Buried

The movement towards reducing carbon footprints, even in death, has come to the Pittsburgh region. The Penn Forest Natural Burial Park in Verona has been certified by the Green Burial Council, a national nonprofit that encourages environmental sustainability in the burial industry.

The growing popularity of natural burial is a sign that people may be starting to prefer forests over graveyards and existing trees instead of tombstones. But Joe Sehee, director and founder of the Green Burial Council, said natural burial isn't a new idea.

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Health
11:30 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Hospital Compare Will Publish Occurence of Infection at Hospitals

A web service that helps patients view hospital quality will begin publishing data on the occurrence of infection associated with central line-associated bloodstream infections.

Hospital Compare, which provides information about the quality of care in more than 4,700 hospitals across the country, plans to publish data on the occurrence of infection at specific hospitals.

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Local
10:43 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Pittsburgh Officer Charged with Soliciting Sex

A Pittsburgh police officer is charged with offering to provide assistance to several women in exchange for sexual favors.

Officials say 35-year-old police Officer Adam Skweres (squires) was charged Thursday with bribery, coercion, indecent assault and related charges. He is suspended without pay.

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Economy
6:37 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Pittsburgh Business Leaders Meet with Obama Administration in D.C.

Small business leaders from the Pittsburgh region traveled to the nation's capital this week to meet with President Obama and members of his administration. Among the Pittsburgh contingent was the director of the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham University. Rebecca Harris said one of the main takeaways from the day was that there are actually jobs out there, even as the unemployed continue to struggle.

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Economy
2:25 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Sixty Jobs To Be Cut At State Homes For Disabled Veterans

The head of the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs says budget cuts will mean about 60 layoffs, but a decision at the national level could lead to more.

Major General Wesley Craig says his agency can deal with the roughly $6 million funding cut proposed by Governor Tom Corbett. But, he says the U.S. Air Force is looking to downsize a National Guard air refueling wing in Pittsburgh by 25 percent and close another air wing entirely.

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Economy
2:09 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Housing Advocates Want Pennsylvania's Cut of a National Settlement to Revive Foreclosure Prevention

Top state administrators say it's a bit too early to tell whether the commonwealth's cut of a nationwide mortgage services settlement could breathe life into a program meant to help Pennsylvanians avoid foreclosure.

This is not the first attempt to resurrect the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP). The program closed last July after its state funding was nearly eliminated.

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Local
9:33 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

ACLU Scrutinizes Pennsylvania Jail Policies on Reproductive Health

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union calls the reproductive health policies of Pennsylvania's county jails an "uneven patchwork" that fails to address basic health issues.

The study pointed out holes in the county jails' policies on abortion, pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and contraception.

"In some cases, these policies fail to meet basic constitutional standards, leaving counties legally vulnerable," said ACLU-PA Executive Director Reggie Shuford.

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Local
8:00 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Pennsylvania Leads Nation in “Missing” Guns

Pennsylvania gun shops lost track of more than 6,000 guns between 2008 and 2010 — 10 percent of the nation's "missing gun" total, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

48 cities and towns in Pennsylvania have passed ordinances that require reporting lost, missing, or stolen firearms to law enforcement because they are often used in crimes and are untraceable. The National Rifle Association has unsuccessfully challenged such ordinances six times, maintaining that local laws cannot supersede state law, which does not require such reporting.

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Local
6:32 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Charter Advocates Discuss Cyber School Funding

Cyber charter school advocates testified before the Pennsylvania House Education Committee today, hoping to help lawmakers amend a bill that would overhaul the state's system of chartering non-district schools.

The committee was interested in the funding of internet-based charter schools, said Bob Fayfich, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.

From a taxpayer's perspective, Fayfich said it costs the same amount to send a child to a cyber charter school as a district. The difference is in how the tax dollars are spent.

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Local
5:33 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

All Clear at Ross Park Mall

Ross Park mall opened an hour late Wednesday after police searched for a bomb.

A mall employee found the threat written on a bathroom wall around 5:30 AM.

Authorities closed the mall, evacuated most employees, and restricted nearby traffic during the search that began around 7:30 AM. Bomb sniffing dogs were used in the search.

A spokesman for the mall said "every precaution was taken. The situation was addressed, and Ross Township Police have determined there was never any danger or device at the mall."

The mall opened at 11:00 AM.

Local
5:27 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

PUC: Neutral on Shale Drilling

As part of Pennsylvania's new Marcellus Shale drilling laws, the state Public Utility Commission will soon assume new regulatory duties. Members of the state Public Utility Commission said they won't be advocating for or against impact fees in any of the counties that host natural gas wells. But in some cases, they may have to come down on one side of the issue or the other.

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Local
1:59 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

What’s Next For Pennsylvania’s Impact Fee?

Ear­lier this week, Gov­er­nor Tom Cor­bett signed a bill over­haul­ing the state's nat­ural gas drilling reg­u­la­tions into law.

The mea­sure imposes a $50,000 fee on every well drilling for gas in the Mar­cel­lus Shale for­ma­tion. But the fee is con­di­tional, and won't go into effect unless coun­ties approve it.

State law­mak­ers spent years debat­ing the new reg­u­la­tions, and Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Tom Corbett's admin­is­tra­tion worked with top Sen­ate and House Repub­li­cans for months to hash out a final agreement.

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