Friday Happy Hour: Painted Cow Edition

Painted cow

We’ll begin our weekly adventure in Washington, which was all abuzz on multiple fronts. President Trump had a busy week, cramming at least five days’ worth of stuff into a holiday-shortened week. The fallout from his orders to separate U.S. troops from their (former?) Kurdish allies climaxed with an overwhelming rebuke by the House, including two-thirds of the chamber’s Republicans. The president did not take it well.

But the foreign policy kerfuffle was merely a sideshow to the main event, as House Democrats continued down the path of the impeachment investigation. That peaked on Thursday when Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney undercut his boss’ assertion that there was no quid pro quo involving Trump’s request that the Ukrainians investigate former VP Biden and his son.

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had another butt-ugly week, what with being fingered as the president’s point man in the shadow foreign policy activities regarding the Ukraine. The man once known as America’s Mayor is having a bad month.

The Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Ohio this week for a three-hour yackfest, with several of the participants homing in on Sen. Elizabeth Warren for a change. We’ll let the NY Times analysis tell you what’s what.

The explosions and fire that destroyed the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in June was most likely caused by the failure of an elbow pipe, according to the U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Investigation Board. The pipe had worn to about half the thickness of a credit card, investigators said. The oil refinery was the largest on the East Coast.

A 23-foot Northumberland County Douglas fir will make the ultimate sacrifice in exchange for the honor of being the White House Christmas tree. The tree’s soon-to-be-former owner called it a “most exciting and humbling experience.” The tree, facing its demise at age 16, was not nearly as excited.

Even though he has scaled it back, business leaders still aren’t happy with Governor Wolf’s plan to extend overtime eligibility to thousands more of Pennsylvania workers. His initial proposal would have eventually extended eligibility to 460,000 workers, and the scaled-back plan would limit eligibility to just 82,000. The Democratic controlled Independent Regulatory Review Commission may consider the plan next month.

Republican Sen. David Argall told a gathering of real estate professionals this week that his bipartisan group looking into taxation issues is likely to recommend cutting or eliminating property taxes by raising the sales and income taxes. He said he wants to get recommendations to lawmakers before year-end to avoid having it get caught in election year festivities.

Why does Pennsylvania lead the nation in average student loan debt per resident, with a figure of $36,000? Freshman State Rep. Jennifer O’Mara, a Delaware County Democrat who at age 29 is still paying off her student debt, intends to find out, and it began with a hearing this week by the House Democratic Policy Committee.

The relatively nascent Harrisburg University aims to boost its brand awareness by becoming the country’s badass at esports. Who needs a football program anyway? A tip of the Triadvocate cap to HU and President Eric Darr for attracting the attention of the Washington Post.

The PA State System for Higher Education is asking for an additional $100 million over the next five years to help retool the 14-member system by merging some services and support, enhancing online learning and improving technology for students. The system’s enrollment of about 100,000 students is 21,000 fewer than a decade ago, and system officials believe that more online courses will attract more students.

Pennsylvania will become one of the last states to take advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow states to collect corporate income taxes from corporations that do business in states, even if they have no offices, employees or property there. Businesses that record at least $500,000 in annual sales will henceforth be required to file tax returns and pony up.

Governor Wolf said thanks, but no thanks to the opportunity to refuse to accept refugees in Pennsylvania. The Trump administration last month issued an order giving state and local governments the authority to turn refugees away, but the governor said they will continue to be welcome here.

A federal tax incentive program passed in 2017 by Republicans in Congress has not proven to be the lifeline for ailing Rust Belt cities such as New Castle, according to a report from Spotlight PA, the new investigative reporting collaboration involving several prominent news organizations.

This week’s installment of We Can’t Make This Up takes us all the way to Japan, where scientists have discovered that painting cows to look like zebras significantly reduced attacks by biting flies and lessened the need to use pesticides. Udderly brilliant.

And that’s what passes for news around here on a suddenly chillier fall Friday. On behalf of your good pals at Triad, have a terrific weekend, and check back in with us next week as lawmakers in both houses return to Harrisburg.


Friday Happy Hour: Guinea Pig Edition

Guinea pig

It was not a good week for America’s favorite crazy uncle, Rudy Giuliani. Two of Rudy’s “associates” got bagged for campaign finance violations by federal authorities, right before they tried to board an international flight to Anywhere but Here. Ensnared with these two totally legitimate businessmen was “Congressman One,” which is an appellation that no member of Congress wants. 

The U.S. Navy will be christening a new ship that honors Pennsylvania’s contributions to our Armed Forces. We have been unable to confirm the rumor that the U.S.S. Harrisburg will be the first incinerator-powered ship in history.   

The Trump Trade War with China continues to kick the soybeans out of Pennsylvania farmers, we learned this week. Our farmers are currently getting 40-50% less for soybeans than a year ago, which is causing many of them to see nothing but red ink where their crops used to be.   

Despite throwing around subpoenas like they are nerf footballs, congressional Democrats may – and we say this with an abundance of caution – be closer to voting on President Trump’s USMCA trade deal after Mexico agreed to come up with some better labor standards (better being something more than the current none.) The Son of NAFTA is coming!

The Trump 2020 team is reportedly targeting Amish voters in Pennsylvania. We can assume a robust digital media strategy is not part of that effort. 

The American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters have launched a legal assault on the crime victims’ bill of rights ballot question this fall, for some odd reason. The groups are contending that the Marsy’s Law ballot question passed by the General Assembly in two separate legislative sessions was done so improperly. Nothing like questioning the rules of the game in the ninth inning. 

Pennsylvania’s state parks are an integral part of our Commonwealth’s tourism industry, hosting 10 million visitors a year. Despite adding 81,000 additional acres over the past decade, those parks also operate with fewer staff and need about $500 million in facility upgrades. So we either pony up or lease it all to Bass Pro Shops and be done with it. 

Volunteer fire departments across the state are about to partake in about $60 million in new grant funding, we learned this week. This is great news for our first responders, who would much prefer responding to fires and rescuing cats from trees than selling hoagies.   

Governor Wolf’s decision to enter into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative last week was met with some skepticism by the House GOP. This week that skepticism tuned into some loud murmurs. Next week we expect the murmurs will become abject rage.   

Lawmakers and the Wolf administration are getting serious about finding some real solutions to the state’s suicide epidemic. House members heard testimony in central Pennsylvania this week and it was very hard, but very necessary, to watch.

If you are ready to grab your hunting license, be sure to do it through the state and not through some online broker. Scammers and online thieves have infiltrated the world of hunters and anglers in Pennsylvania, which we are not sure is a very bright idea since those people tend to be armed.   

The Department of State is urging folks to get their absentee ballots early this year to avoid the huge, last-minute rush that comes with off-year, municipal elections. The good news is that for the first time ever, you can apply online! Welcome to the Internet, dear voters!  

A bill that will levy fees on electric vehicles (which pay zero in gas taxes) has hit a snag in the General Assembly, as lawmakers haggle over the Porridge Question, as we like to call it. Some say the fee is too high, some say it is too low. We will let you know when they get it just right. 

Governor Wolf this week signed a bill that will make it tougher for telemarketers to interrupt your dinner or your nightly game of Fortnite. This is very good news, because the current law leaks like a sieve.   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to lovely (and presumably very hot) Ecuador, where a local company has started making guinea pig-flavored ice cream. Shocking absolutely no one, Turkey Hill currently has no plans to offer this delicacy in Pennsylvania.

That’s what passes for news around here on board the U.S.S. Triad! Come back next week and we will have a boatload more to share with you! Until then, have a great weekend!


Brandi Hunter-Davenport Joins Triad Strategies

Brandi's head shot

HARRISBURG – Triad Strategies is pleased to announce that Brandi Hunter-Davenport is the latest public affairs associate to join the firm.

With nearly 20 years of experience of under her belt, Brandi is excited to bring her talents to the bi-partisan public relations firm.

“From the moment I entered Triad’s doors, I felt a collaborative energy and spirit among the already established team,” said Hunter-Davenport. “I knew that was a dynamic I connected with. Triad knows the power in bringing diverse individuals together to work toward common interests. I’m honored to join the team and look forward to working together on behalf of Triad’s clients.”   

Prior to joining Triad, Brandi oversaw PA Forward, an outreach and training initiative, for the Pennsylvania Library Association. In that role, she provided training and facilitation, media, marketing and public relations guidance along with strategic planning skills to the association’s membership.

Additionally, she cultivated a series of partnership opportunities for the organization, leveraging educational resources, materials and support for libraries. In this role, she also oversaw the association’s Star Library Program, an achievement-based program that recognized libraries for their application of literacy-aligned programming for patrons throughout Pennsylvania. The program has grown to more than 200 actively participating libraries.

“Brandi brings the right combination of association management and communications experience with her,” said Roy Wells, Triad president and managing partnering. “Her extensive understanding in state government communications, nonprofit associations, and higher education will lend itself well to Triad’s clients. We are excited to have her on the team.”

Brandi has previously served as the director of communications for the state Department of Agriculture, working on communication platforms that focused on areas such as the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, the potential of the High Path Avian influenza virus and racing reform.

She was also the director of public affairs and education with the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts and handled press, marketing and communications with the state departments of Environmental Protection and Health and was as a member of Governor Rendell's press and communications team. Before that, she was program manager for the American Lung Association, servicing a 15-county area in the south-central region of Pennsylvania.

“I first met Brandi several years ago and watched how she expertly navigated the state government and nonprofit arenas,” said Doug Rohanna, Triad’s vice-president of public affairs. “As Triad continues growing and expanding our client offerings, we knew Brandi would be the right addition to the team. Together, we will work together to put Triad’s clients first.”

Brandi is a graduate of Bennett College as well as Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, earning an undergraduate degree in mass communications and a Master of Science in journalism, respectively. She is an adjunct professor in the Communications Department at Messiah College and resides in Harrisburg with her family.

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About Triad Strategies:

Triad Strategies LLC is a bipartisan public affairs firm headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The firm provides government relations services, relationship management, economic development strategies and strategic communications services to organizations seeking to influence and create opportunities in the public and private sectors.


Friday Happy Hour: Burning Love Edition

Fearing that the Ukraine government did not have adequate resources to really investigate the Bidens, President Trump this week asked that China do so as well.  A country that still has not admitted that anything of note ever happened in Tiananmen Square might not be the best place to get additional investigatory help.  Burning love

Governor Wolf this week announced that Pennsylvania will join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), setting into motion
the first real debate in Pennsylvania over climate change. Before that debate can commence, however, the House GOP would like to have a word with a few lawyers about whether Wolf can act unilaterally. Nevertheless, elected officials from coal-producing regions are, shall we say, less than thrilled with Wolf’s actions.  

A public service announcement from your friends at Triad Strategies.  This November when you saunter into your voting booth (because you WILL be voting this November), be sure to pay special attention to the ballot question about Marsy’s Law.  For all you need to know about this crime victim rights amendment, check out this handy primer from our friends at the venerable Reading Eagle.     

Due to what state officials are calling “unprecedented demand,” Pennsylvania is staring at a significant shortage of the Shingles vaccine, which is not good news.  From what we understand, Shingles are painful as hell, perhaps even more painful than having actual roofing shingles nailed to your skin. So get the vaccine today if you can find one.  

Governor Wolf is turning up the volume on his quest to change the way the state regulates charter schools.  This week, he announced he is shuttering a cyber charter in Philadelphia, which we are sure caught the attention of a certain high-profile lawmaker from Allegheny County. We will let you guess which one. 

Several weeks ago, Governor Wolf went to southeast Pennsylvania to inform pipeline protesters that he will not be shutting down construction on the Mariner East pipeline.  Not content with that rather direct answer, those protesters will now come to Harrisburg to, presumably, get the same answer.  

Attorney General Josh Shapiro took a break from suing the tar out of the Trump Administration this week to announce he is on board the adult-use cannabis legalization train. The momentum grows with each passing puff-puff-pass. 

The state’s two pension systems (yes, we have two of those for some reason) are split on whether or not they should invest in funds that have private prison company interests.  With tens of billions of dollars invested, it can be a little tough to keep track of who is invested in what around here, but one thing is for certain: there will be NO investing in funds controlled by Hunter Biden. 

In Pennsylvania, we treat our teachers very nicely, we learned this week. When it comes to salary, benefits and overall respect for their daily plight, Pennsylvania’s teachers rank near the top of those nationwide lists.  And given what they have to endure day in and day out, whatever they make is probably not enough.   

Now that fall is here, winter is right around the corner.  That means, of course, Pennsylvania cars will soon be covered in snow and ice.  And should you decide not to remove said snow and ice from your vehicle before departing, you are 1. a certified chuckle-head and 2. a scofflaw, if the General Assembly has its way.  A bill to penalize drivers who don’t clean their cars is winding its way through the legislature after failing to get to the finish line last Session.   

This is your reminder that in the richest country in the world, we still have maternal and infant mortality rates that are an absolute tragedy.  Health officials in western PA are again ringing the alarm bell this week.  Are we crazy or does it seem like some legislative action might be warranted? Anyone?  Bueller?  

The invasive Northern Snakehead fish has been spotted in the Monongahela River.  Despite the incredibly badass name (and the fact that it is reportedly pretty damned tasty), this thing is bad news, as it eats pretty much everything in sight. It is the Spotted Lanternfly of the deep, so to speak.    

A proposal to establish a so-called “Bottle Bill” law in Pennsylvania has been introduced, which caused us to immediately relive our childhood, where we used our Red Flyer to lug Pepsi bottles back to the corner store to get enough change to buy candy. Yes, we stole that dream directly from a Norman Rockwell painting.   

This week’s Shameless Client Plug goes out to our good friends at IUPAT District Council 21 in Philadelphia for shining a little sunshine on an otherwise tragic event. Those union members will provide free home repairs for any homeowner whose house was damaged in that horrific shootout last month.  Nice job!   

Shameless Client Plug #2 goes out to our friends in the building trades, who will see their top legislative priority become law tomorrow.  E-Verify use in the construction industry will help prevent unscrupulous contractors from evading state taxes and paying poverty wages. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Nebraska, where a 19-year-old woman decided to burn love letters from her ex-boyfriend and ended up setting her house on fire when she left them on the floor and napped.  We were stunned that the 19-year-old had anything to burn in the first place, except for old Snapchats and texts, which don’t really burn all that well.

That’s what passes for news around here as we scamper off to enjoy the fall weather. Come back next week when we will once again choose your news for you, and you’ll like it.  Until then, from Team Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Emotional Support Clown Edition

Emotional support clown

There was hardly any news out of Washington this week, so we’ll just go directly to Harrisburg…

On the one hand, the fall legislative session began on a rather collaborative note this week, as Gov. Tom Wolf explained that the executive orders he puttered with over the summer regarding voting machines, charter schools and gun violence were merely “conversation openers,” and that he’s hopeful he can work with lawmakers to advance his second-term agenda “in a legislative way.”

On the other hand, it appears that June’s Senate brouhaha during a debate over a bill to eliminate a program that provided cash to the state’s poorest residents continues to rankle a number of senators. Apparently, chillin’ at the beach during summer recess only does so much. We’ll see how things unfold in the coming weeks.

But there was considerable bipartisanship in the air this week. By a 46-3 vote, the Senate approved and sent to the governor a bill that expands federal immigration status checks to construction workers through a system known as E-Verify, thereby making it harder for employers to hire undocumented workers. It had passed the House by a 170-to-28 tally in June.

A measure that makes registration on the state’s Do Not Call list permanent hightailed it to Governor Wolf’s desk this week following a unanimous vote in both houses. It also prohibits telemarketing calls on legal holidays, allows businesses to register for the list, and requires robocalls to provide an “opt out” option at the beginning of the call.

Another good idea is halfway to enactment following a unanimous Senate vote – a requirement that public schools allow students to apply personal finance class credits toward high school graduation. Next up is consideration in the House.

Advocates for reforming Pennsylvania’s probation system stopped by the Capitol this week, asserting that too many people are being sent back to jail for technical violations and minor infractions. The General Assembly will be looking at bills to cap probation terms at five years for felonies and two for misdemeanors. The measures have bipartisan support.

The Senate, by a 43-6 vote, approved a bill that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco or vaping products to 21. The measure now goes to the House.

We’re not sure how much street cred LendingTree has when it comes to roads and bridges, but the loanmeister plunked down a study this week asserting that PA has the fifth-worst transportation infrastructure in the country. Regardless of whether the ranking is accurate, it’s clear that diverting $700 million per year in highway funds to subsidize State Police operations doesn’t leave enough to get ahead of bridge and highway needs.

This week’s horribly scary icky health threat comes by way of mosquito bites and has been confirmed in Carbon, Erie and Monroe counties. Eastern equine encephalitis, or Triple E, kills three of every 10 people who get it and leaves most survivors with brain damage, according to state officials. Pass us the DEET, please.

Pennsylvania once again capitalized on its prowess in autonomous vehicle technology as the partnership of Carnegie Mellon and Penn State universities, along with PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission, received an $8.4 million federal grant to figure out how driverless vehicles can better navigate through work zones.

Just a week after absentee ballots became available online, more than 4,300 Pennsylvanians have already taken advantage of the program. Previously, voters could only apply on paper for an absentee ballot and wait to receive it via snail mail.

Just in time for Major League Baseball playoffs, Mohegan Sun Pocono opened its new sports betting facility this week. The lounge features seating for 40, six sports betting terminals, a racebook betting terminal, a walk-up food and beverage bar and a 28-foot-wide video wall.

The Senate State Government Committee advanced a measure that would turn the lieutenant governor’s residence over to the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. Although there are no specific plans for the Fort Indiantown Gap property, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, sponsor of the legislation, said it would “be used to maximize the beneficial use of supporting our Pennsylvania veterans and active military.” Lt. Gov John Fetterman has chosen to live elsewhere.

Lieutenant Governor Fetterman selected the earliest date possible – Jan. 14 – to hold a special election to replace former Sen. Mike Folmer, who resigned following his arrest on child pornography charges. Neither party has named a candidate.

Governor Wolf and Lieutenant Governor Fetterman announced they both support legalizing recreational marijuana as they released a report on Fetterman’s “listening tour” regarding the issue. The report said 82 percent of those weighing in supported legalization, although both Wolf and Fetterman acknowledge that lawmakers my be slow to approve such a measure.

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment whisks us halfway ‘round the world, to New Zealand, where an ad agency employee who suspected he was about to be terminated hired an emotional support clown to accompany him to the HR office. The clown created balloon animals and mimed a good cry as the soon-to-be-ex-employee was handed his termination papers. That’s probably more emotional support than he would have received from Bozo, Krusty or even Ronald McDonald.

And that’s what passes for news around here this week! From all your pals here at Triad, have a terrific weekend, and we’ll see you back here at the same time next week!