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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.

Local
9:26 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

High School Students Rally Against Public Education Cuts

About 300 students from across Pennsylvania rallied against education budget cuts at the State Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday.

A fifty-student delegation from Pittsburgh Public Schools joined others from Chester, Philadelphia, and Reading to protest cuts to the current education budget, and to show their dissatisfaction with Governor Tom Corbett's 2012-2013 education funding proposal.

Three local students from the A+ Schools Teen Bloc program also met with House Education Committee Chair Paul Clymer (R-Bucks) and staffers at the Department of Education.

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Environment
9:13 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Bald Eagle Pair Get A New Home

While most people try to put off home improvement work until the spring, a pair of bald eagles got some help last week from a group of Pennsylvania Game Commission land managers with a very timely construction project.

About two weeks ago on Haldeman Island in Dauphin County, the tree limb supporting the eagles nest collapsed under the weight of the nest. On February 10, three Pennsylvania Game Commission employees went to the eagles' former nest on Haldeman Island to construct a platform to encourage the bald eagle pair to reuse the nest site.

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Economy
9:11 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

January Home Sales Up in Pittsburgh Region – Fourth Straight Month of Growth

The year-over-year increase for January new home sales in southwestern Pennsylvania was 4.6 percent compared to a year ago. This follows three consecutive months of increases, including December's 9 percent increase. That's according to RealSTATs, a firm that tracks real estate information for Allegheny, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland, and Beaver Counties.

Perhaps the best news is that the upward trend is expected to continue.

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Local
8:44 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

AIDS Group Boycotts Hershey

AIDS advocates sounded a call to boycott one of Pennsylvania's best-known companies. Members of the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation asked individuals to buy Valentine's Day and Easter chocolates from anyone but the Hershey Company.

The campaign is a response to the Milton Hershey School's decision to deny admission to a teenage boy who is HIV positive.

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Local
7:53 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Women’s Center and Shelter Reach out to Business Community

One in three women and one in four men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. That's according to a recent survey by the Center for Disease Control.

In Pittsburgh, the Women's Center and Shelter have been trying to raise awareness on the issue through billboards and radio and television ads. At a Valentine's Day luncheon with local business leaders, the center announced the campaign has been successful in raising awareness, though more needs to be done.

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Economy
5:12 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Activists Call for Extension of Unemployment Benefits

An advocacy group gathered in Market Square on Tuesday to drum up support for an extension of federal unemployment benefits, just weeks before the program is set to expire.

Pennsylvania Wants to Work seized the Valentine's Day opportunity to tell Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) to "have a heart," and agree to extend unemployment compensation insurance for laid-off workers. The handful of activists passed out heart-shaped petitions asking GOP legislators to extend the jobless benefits.

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Local
4:02 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Corbett's Human Services Budget Seen as Mixed

When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett revealed his budget last week, he announced the inception of the Human Services Development Block Grant, something those in the field of human services had been requesting for years.

The introduction of the program was seen as an improvement in the ways the funds are allocated. At the same time though, the governor was severely cutting the funds that go towards many human services.

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Local
3:07 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

PSU Spends $3.2 Million on Sandusky Issues

Penn State says it has spent $3.2 million on lawyers, consultants, and public relations firms in response to child sex abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach.

The university posted a breakdown of its related costs yesterday as it unveiled a new website, part of an effort to provide more information to the public.

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Local
9:31 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Lawmakers Unhappy with Governor's Proposal to use Revenue for Horse Racing Industry for Other Things

State lawmakers are taking issue with budget maneuvers that dip into special funds originally meant for a prescribed set of purposes and programs.

The focus is the governor's proposal to siphon money from a special fund earmarked to support the horse racing industry. Dipping into special funds to balance the state's main budget sheet is nothing new. But Democratic state Senator John Yudichak of Carbon County says there's a better way to raid money that would otherwise support horsemen.

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Local
7:25 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

CCAC Increases Fundraising Goal

The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) today officially began the public phase of its Imagine & Achieve Campaign.

The goal is to fund college-wide program and infrastructure initiatives, including the construction of the new K. Leroy Irvis Science Center, which is now underway at the CCAC-Allegheny Campus.

The campaign, which began in June 2009, surpassed its original goal of $30 million in private sector donations and has now revised the total goal to $40 million.

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Local
7:19 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Pittsburgh School Board Gets a B- from Education Advocacy Group

A+ Schools has given the Pittsburgh Public School Board a grade of B- for November, December, and January. The grade is compiled as a result of volunteer observations of school board meetings. A+ Schools Executive Director Carey Harris said that grade is the same as the grade the board received on its August report card. The reason is a lack of focus on its main mission, or what Harris called "role clarity."

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Health
5:08 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

West Penn Hospital ER in Bloomfield to Reopen on Valentine’s Day

The emergency department at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield will reopen on Valentine's Day, after being closed for more than a year. The move comes as part of Highmark's $745 million takeover of the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS). The new facility features 23 patient beds in private rooms, all new medical equipment, and a fast track patient triage system.

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Local
4:27 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Students, Democrats Denounce Corbett Plan for Higher Education Cuts

Students from Penn State and Temple Universities joined with Democrats Monday to criticize Governor Tom Corbett's proposal to cut funding for colleges that depend on state aid.

"With these cuts, we can cut programs, we can cut majors, we can hire fewer faculty, we could reduce our pensions, but it's going to make our schools a much less desirable place to learn, and to teach, and to research," said Penn State student Mallory Reed.

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Arts
3:52 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

City's Museums Collaborate with Warhol's Dogs and Cats Series

Bringing the history of humans and their domesticated animals together, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will display Andy Warhol's Dogs and Cats paintings through the end of June.

The Warhol Museum's director of exhibitions, Jesse Kowalski, said the display is a continued collaboration among the city's museums.

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Economy
8:00 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Pennsylvania Employers' Workers' Comp Premiums Down

Workers compensation premiums paid by companies across the state will be down an average of 5.66 percent from last year, the first time the rates have decreased in two years.

Pennsylvania's Executive Deputy Insurance Commissioner Randy Rohrbaugh said this is good news for state companies.

"They will have hopefully the $160 million to really put back into their business for business expansion and hiring employees, so this is a very positive thing for our employers," Rohrbaugh said.

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