Friday Happy Hour: Snakes on a Plane Edition

ThFrom the looks of things the past week or so, Iran seems to be campaigning for some sort of beat down.  They were about ten minutes away from winning that particular election this morning before President Trump hit the pause button.  Here is to hoping cooler heads continue to prevail. 

The largest oil refinery on the east coast was rocked by an explosion and fire early this morning.  Miraculously, only minor injuries have so far been reported. We send our thanks to the brave first responders who dealt with that massive conflagration.   

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Triad Strategies welcomes new associate, Daena Ortenzio

Daena Blog

Triad Strategies LLC welcomes its newest associate, Daena Ortenzio.  She will support the expanding communications practice for the Harrisburg-based public affairs firm. 

“I’m excited to take the next step in my career working for a firm who has such a proven record of success,” she said. “I look forward to using my experience in the legislature to support Triad’s diverse group of clients.”

Daena began her career working in House Majority Leader Dave Reed’s office as a research analyst.  She then transitioned to the Senate as executive director for the Urban Affairs and Housing Committee for Sen. Tom McGarrigle.  

Most recently, she served as a policy and correspondence coordinator for Sen. Dave Argall, focusing on communications and legislative messaging.

“We are pleased to welcome Daena, who brings a fresh perspective and approach to achieving results for our clients,” said Roy Wells, Triad president and managing partner. “She is a great addition to our team.”

“Daena’s legislative background, coupled with her communications skills, will help us deliver the most effective strategy to achieve our client’s goals at the local, state, and federal level,” said Doug Rohanna, vice president of public affairs. 

Daena is a graduate of Lock Haven University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.


Friday Happy Hour: Alligator Edition

Gator

Did you know that Pennsylvania was the first state to officially celebrate Flag Day? Well, you do now. We led the charge to honor Old Glory way back in 1938, so fly it high and proud, today and every day!

If you find yourself wondering why the nation observes June as Pride Month, or why there is a Pride Month at all, we direct your attention to Tennessee, where a Baptist preacher this week gave an old-fashioned fire and brimstone speech in which he asserted that gays should be executed. Yes, in 2019, this guy still exists. So fly that flag high and proud, too. 

Oh, and special thanks to our own Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for decking out the balcony of his office with pride flags. We would pay awfully good money to see the aforementioned “preacher” go toe-to-toe on this issue with Fetterman. 

If you were anywhere in or around Juniata County Wednesday, you probably felt the earth move under your feet. A 3.4 magnitude quake rattled the Midstate, prompting speculation (from us, to be fair) that it may have been caused by jubilant St. Louis Blues fans celebrating the Stanley Cup finals. 

Lawmakers this week renewed their push to allow cell providers to attach so-called “small cell antennas” to pretty much anything they want. This will allow for faster deployment of 5G service in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, while rural Pennsylvanians can still use their dial-ups. 

Governor Wolf announced he will veto a bill that would provide another $100 million in educational tax credits used for private and parochial schools. The bill also contained an automatic escalator of 10 percent per year. Interestingly, there has been no movement on a minimum wage bill that contains a cost-of-living index. Or any minimum wage bill, for that matter. Nonetheless, expect that the EITC bill will live on in different form during budget talks.   

The state Senate advanced a bill that would expand the role of nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania. This bill has been kicked around for years as the state looks for innovative ways to ensure medical care for underserved areas. When you get out into the hinterlands, finding a doctor can be about as easy as finding 5G cell service.

Alarm bells are starting to ring in the world of mass transit, where policymakers are looking at a looming loss of $400 million that transit systems currently wring out of the Turnpike. The question will become how loud do those bells have to get before anyone starts talking about a solution? Big things in Harrisburg typically get done when there is a full-blown crisis. Well folks, that crisis is only a few stops down the track from here. 

Governor Wolf is tiring of municipalities who rely on the State Police for protection instead of funding their own local forces. The push is on again to make these communities cough up some loot to cover the PSP budget, which also has the added bonus of allowing highway and bridge money to be used for its intended purpose. Got that? Confusing, we know – try to keep up. 

Lawmakers who have a hankering for some prison reform are turning their gaze to how we get formerly incarcerated people back into productive society. Pennsylvania’s recidivism rates are off the charts, and it is costing the system boatloads of cash while ruining lives and communities. 

Like swallows returning to Capistrano, the annual “I have a bill to eliminate property taxes” story hit a local newspaper this week. Got it. You go ahead and wake us when that happens.

Lawmakers are also kicking the tires on a new plan that would split Pennsylvania’s interscholastic sports (and their championships) into two new entities, one for public schools and one for non-publics. The argument is that non-public schools can actively recruit the best athletes, and they therefore have an unfair advantage. If you’ve ever had the honor of watching your public school football team get absolutely dismantled by the team from Our Lady of Sacred Football at the championships in Hershey, you get it.   

We pause for a moment to ask if anyone knows why Pittsburgh currently has so many alligators on the loose? Hit us up if you know why the South Side is starting to look like a Louisiana swamp. 

Every time U.S. Sen. Bob Casey runs for re-election, his opponents complain that he doesn’t do big things. Here is your periodic reminder that to be effective, sometimes you need to focus on a lot of smaller things. This week, Casey announced he will tackle the “food gap” for poorer 6-year-olds who are too old for public assistance but not yet in school and receiving free or reduced lunches. Not flashy, not headline-grabbing, but quietly effective.  

Our Shameless Client Plug goes out this week to Tom and Trevor and the staff at Yards Brewing for announcing they will begin to brew beer for Cape May Brewing, probably because half the City of Philadelphia is in New jersey all summer anyway. Cheers!  

Also this week, our partner Dennis Troy was busy making the dirt fly on the new Strip District Produce Terminal redevelopment in Pittsburgh! Great job by Dennis and his team! Hey DT, what’s the deal on the alligators?   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we take you to (where else?) Louisiana, where an eight-foot alligator got pretty incensed at local police for bothering his sunbathing and took a bite out of the sheriff’s car. Pittsburgh police, take note!

That’s what passes for news around here as summer, and the state budget, are on the horizon! From all of us at Triad, have a Happy Flag Day and a great Father’s Day!


Friday Happy Hour: Freedom Gas Edition

Freedom gas

This week, we honor the selfless soldiers who 75 years ago participated in the allied invasion of western Europe through the beaches of Normandy – ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Although there are fewer people to recount the battles, their stories are compelling, and humbling to those of us who reap the benefits of their courage 7½ decades later. The Greatest Generation, indeed.

Pennsylvania lawmakers returned to Harrisburg this week to put the finishing touches on the Commonwealth’s budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. One order of business is to decide what to do with the $800 million surplus identified by the Independent Fiscal Office. A mostly Democratic camp would like to use much of it to boost education funding, while a mostly Republican camp longs to save it for a rainy day.

Also intertwined in the budget discussion is the idea of raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage. Republican lawmakers are saying they could possibly maybe sorta think about entertaining an increase, but not the $15 per hour Governor Wolf has proposed to phase in by 2025. So, still to be sorted out are the questions of how much, when, and what they would seek in return.

President Trump took his reality show to Europe this week. As we have come to expect, the festivities caromed from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, but the internet seemed to get the biggest kick out of Duchess Camilla’s suggestive wink to the paparazzi.

The president poked a hornets’ nest when he ordered tariffs on a variety of Mexican goods unless the Mexican government does something about those danged Central American immigrants that keep traipsing through their country to enter the U.S. The hornets now include Sen. Pat Toomey and quite a few other Republicans who don’t much like the idea of messing with the free market.

Back in PA, VP Mike Pence dropped in for a visit on Thursday, stopping by a York County manufacturing plant to promote the proposed trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and speaking at the state Republican Party dinner.

PA Education Secretary Pedro Rivera launched a state takeover of the Harrisburg School District, apparently not satisfied to wait until December for the board to turn over. Rivera cited the board’s failure to meet academic and financial goals set in the school recovery plan, a series of human resource snafus, failure to execute a contract with the superintendent as required by law, and the existence of a “toxic” culture. But otherwise, things are in pretty good shape. Voters ousted all four incumbents who ran in last month’s primary, decimating the majority that has dominated the board for several years, but those current members serve until December.

While we’re on the topic of takeovers, a bipartisan initiative that would lead to the state taking over the online health insurance exchange currently operated by the federal government has emerged in the PA House. Advocates say the move would cut costs for about 400,000 people who buy individual Affordable Care Act policies. Gov. Tom Wolf says he’s on board.

The Tribune-Review suggests there’s a bipartisan move afoot to repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Twenty-one states prohibit the death penalty, including PA neighbors Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and West Virginia.

On Monday, former state legislator Fred Keller was sworn in as a member of Congress, replacing former U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, who resigned for health reasons earlier this year. Keller won the seat in a special election last month.

U.S. House Democrats and the White House went at it hammer and tongs over whether former high-ranking presidential aides should be required to testify before various committees and cough up certain documents. The Morning Call reported that four of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation – all Dems – now support initiating articles of impeachment. The four are Reps. Dwight Evans, Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon and Brendan Boyle.

Our Shameless Client Plug section is an embarrassment of riches this week, starting with the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, which launched a $25 million capital campaign that will double the size of the 5,000-square-foot institution.

SCP#2 goes to the Franklin Institute, which will undertake a $6 million renovation of its train room, making space for a rotating display of artifacts that have been tucked away in storage, out of public view.

Finally, a tip of our NASCAR-themed cap to Pocono Raceway, which on Sunday hosted the Pocono 400, where Kyle Busch notched his 55th win to tie Rusty Wallace on the all-time list. A good time was had by all.

As it often has, this week’s We Can’t Make This Up segment takes us down the Potomac, where the U.S. Department of Energy was inspired to rebrand natural gas as “molecules of freedom” or “freedom gas.” The rebranding spawned a predictable volume of flatulence quips, but of course, we at Triad would never stoop that low.

And that’s what passes (get it?) for news around here this week! Stay gassy classy, Harrisburg, have a wonderful weekend, and check back in with us again next week!


Friday Happy Hour: Mighty Writers Edition

Mighty Writers

Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday made a surprise appearance in front of a microphone, something he had not done for more than two years. The nine-minute speech sent the Beltway into a full-blown tizzy, and President Trump into a full-blown fit. During it all, Mueller looked like an exasperated college professor who knows that none of his students actually read the course material but were writing reports on it, regardless.

A report came out this week stating that CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are “birthing centers for polarizing rhetoric.” Alabama elected officials immediately banned all three networks out of fear that these so-called “birthing centers” might also provide abortion counseling. 

Speaking of abortions, Gov. Tom Wolf sent a message out to all those who fear that Pennsylvania could follow Alabama, Missouri and Louisiana in passing strict new abortion laws: ain’t happenin’, captain. As long as Wolf is behind the wheel of the blue Jeep, abortion is not a lane he will be entering.  

The Washington Post this week reminded all of us that the 2020 presidential primary race can officially kick off now that Memorial Day is behind us. Meanwhile, the same newspaper has already devoted roughly 38 million column inches over the past year to the 24 Democrats who have announced they are running. 

We also learned this week that when it comes to protecting the Chesapeake Bay, Pennsylvania is in the rear with the gear, with our efforts lagging way behind our neighboring states. So if you happen to enjoy a good blue crab or an oyster from time to time, y’all may wanna pay attention here.  

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has wrapped up his 67-county listening tour on the potential legalization of marijuana. Fear not friends and foe alike, you can still go on the Interwebs and vent your respective spleens about the issue right here. 

Governor Wolf is tossing around some scratch to 38 municipalities to clamp down on dangerous intersections where scofflaws have been running red lights. So stop scoffing at the law, people.

Bethlehem hit the jackpot this week as Sands Casino officially changed owners, with the new owners bringing along a cool $190 million for a new hotel and waterpark adjacent to the casino. Once again, we are reminded that there is no need to schlep down to Atlantic City when you can go to the sunny Lehigh Valley!

In other gambling news, Sugarhouse Casino this week became the first casino in the state to offer online sports betting. Sugarhouse estimates that of the first 100 online bets it logged, 90 of them were on the Phillies to win the World Series. 

It was not a good week at UPMC, a small mom-and-pop health care outfit you may have heard about somewhere. Elected officials and UPMC employees took to the streets and the UPMC boardroom this week to talk about lack of patient access, crushing medical debt and low wages, with a former U.S. treasury secretary referring to the CEO as “evil.” Nothing to see here, move along!  

Senate Republicans this week released their counteroffer to Governor Wolf’s RestorePA plan. The GOP plan would scale down the spending portion of the governor’s plan and replace the shale tax with increased drilling on state forests to fund the whole thing. Wolf thought about it for almost thirty-five minutes before saying, “No thanks.”  

Pennsylvania will end the year with a pretty healthy surplus, according to most estimates, something we have not seen around these parts since the halcyon days of the Ridge administration. If you were wondering what lawmakers and the governor intend to do with this largesse, go online to Sugarhouse Casino’s betting app and put your next mortgage payment on “save it.”

In the past two decades, Pennsylvania’s suicide rate has jumped an alarming 34 percent. This spike has prompted a set of lawmakers to establish a suicide task force to search for solutions. It is usually at this point in our paragraph construction where we make some snarky comment, but there is decidedly nothing funny about suicide so we will just say “Bravo!” and move along.

Shameless Client Plug Time! First, we bring you this article about our friends at Johnson Controls, who are building an HVAC workforce by training formerly incarcerated people. Note to criminal justice reform folks: this is the type of corporate partnership that will help make your efforts successful.

Shameless Client Plug 2 goes to our friends at Pocono Raceway, who are once again teaming up with Attorney General Josh Shapiro to offer a ride around the Tricky Triangle in exchange for you coughing up some old prescription drugs.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we give a hat tip to Billy Penn (the online site, not the founder of the Commonwealth) for uncovering this gem. Upon turning 10 years old, a Philly nonprofit named Mighty Writers decided to Tweet out the great natal news, only to have Twitter shut down its page immediately due to terms-of-use violations. Confused? The organization was only 10, and you must be at least 13 to have a Twitter account. Those Twitter cops are brutal, man!  

That’s what passes for news around here as we anxiously await the return of the General Assembly. We haven’t been this excited since Avengers: Endgame came out! Until then, from all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!