President Barack Obama came to Scranton this week, where he was not hosted by U.S. Senator Bob Casey, who instead was in Washington, D.C., thereby robbing priceless photo opportunities from the campaign operatives for the 38 declared GOP candidates for Casey’s seat, who were itching to get some good pictures and video of Obama and Casey together on stage. Maybe next time, gang, keep those cameras ready! We have a feeling this won’t be the last time the POTUS graces our fair Commonwealth in the next 12 months.
As the Penn State abuse scandal unfolds, it was heartening to see the New York Times this week do a shout-out to our hometown newspaper, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, for its dogged and outstanding coverage. If you haven’t followed @saraganim, @bobbyflo7 and the rest of the P-N team on Twitter, you should do so. When the old, gray lady calls you her “most formidable competition” you know you’ve done a pretty good job.
As long as we have the praise vault open, our other U.S. Senator Pat Toomey is garnering nationwide attention for his role on the now-defunct Congressional Supercommittee. Although a debt deal was never struck, Toomey’s work earned some words of praise from none other than former Governor Ed Rendell, words which we are sure the Senator will put on the Toomey family Christmas card. Nevertheless, whispers of “Veep Toomey” are making their way around the Hill.
The Environmental Protection Agency is readying a new round of regulations that would require, among other things, full disclosure of chemicals used in fracking. This new announcement means that the only regulatory agencies that haven’t yet tried to regulate fracking are, to our knowledge, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Refugee Resettlement Office.
Departed former Philadelphia public school honcho Arlene Ackerman has filed for unemployment compensation benefits, despite receiving a buyout package worth just shy of a million clams. To say that Ms. Ackerman has quite a bit of chutzpah is probably not adequate; we’re not sure there is a Yiddish word to adequately describe this move.
The Liquor Control Board this week quietly unveiled a new policy that will allow consumers to have specialty wine and spirits shipped directly to their humble abodes. Key word here? Specialty. If you are looking for a case of Jim Beam, you still have to shlep your cookies down to the nearest State Store. Wonder if this move had anything to do with our next story…
…and cue another round of House hearings on liquor privatization! This time around, retailers and Auditor General Jack Wagner got a chance to weigh in on the topic. Say what you want about this plan, but don’t say it wasn’t vetted properly. It has had more hearings than Watergate. The only person who hasn’t had a chance to weigh in publicly is Stan from Zelienople.
Of course, none of this might matter in the end, since late Thursday Governor Corbett signaled that the Great Liquor Debate might have to wait until 2012, since shale, Congressional reapportionment and vouchers are his top three priorities this year.
Pennsylvania may have a stubbornly high unemployment rate, but don’t blame the casino industry. According to news reports this week, casinos are having a difficult time filling jobs for dealers. So if you know someone who has been out of work for a while, you might suggest they learn how to rip through a 5-deck shoe of Blackjack cards. You know, if that job in the Marcellus Shale drilling industry doesn’t work out.
Another place that jobs are being created in Pennsylvania is in the filmmaking industry. We remember way back in the roaring 20’s (or maybe it was three years ago) when critics of the new Film Tax Credit were seven sorts of cranky about the program. Now, it seems the tax credit is reaping economic benefits for the state that far outpace the $60 million annual investment. Which is why we have no doubt someone will take a shot at repealing it again next year. Remember, Tom Cruise didn’t camp out in Pittsburgh for a month because he’s a Steeler fan.
And if anyone is looking for physical proof that the tax credit is creating jobs, note that within 40 days of receiving their occupancy permit, Sun Studios in Aston is already hosting its first feature film production.
UPMC and Highmark found themselves in front of a legislative oversight committee this week as a result of their ongoing divorce saga out in western Pennsylvania. The mutual disdain was so thick in the air that it probably couldn’t have been cut with a chainsaw. Both parties were given that old warning about legislative action being on the horizon if the two health care giants don’t play nice. Kinda like when Dr. David Banner told the meddlesome reporter: “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
In the sequel to “Health Insurers Behaving Badly”, we find that Academic Urology, the largest urology specialty medical group in Pennsylvania, has been kicked out of Independence Blue Cross’ provider network. IBC, it seems , was looking to take a 38% chunk out of AU’s reimbursement levels, which is a great example of how monopolies negotiate; kind of like Michael Corleone. “My offer is this: nothing.”
As Harrisburg braces for a future under the control of a state-appointed receiver, we find this week that three intrepid souls have filed a federal lawsuit to stop the entire process. Of course, no word from any of the three on what kind of carnage awaits the Capitol City if control reverts to city council and the mayor, but why spoil a good lawsuit?
In related news, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is offering the City of Harrisburg some amount of cash to plaster a pro-vegan ad on the smokestack of the debt-riddled incinerator. When you get to the point where this actually sounds like a good idea, you know your finances are in the commode. We would at least suggest that PETA make the same offer to the state and put the ad on the side of that creepy State Archives Building.
In today’s Triad economic lesson, we learn of “supply and demand,” thanks to our friends at US Airways. This week, after Southwest Airlines abandoned the Pittsburgh-to-Philadelphia route, US Airways found itself the only carrier left servicing that route. That means US Airways gets to “supply” all of the “demand.” This also allows them to radically re-jigger (complex economic term) the price of said Pittsburgh-to-Philly flight from $118 to $698. Alas, this particular exercise of supply and demand has caught the attention of the aforementioned Senator Casey, who fired off a letter to US Airways demanding that they supply some answers about a 500% price hike.
Congress, fresh off of declaring cafeteria pizza as a vegetable, has now lifted the ban on funding horse meat inspections, which means that the morning line favorite that ended up running dead last at Pimlico could – theoretically -- be part of your cheeseburger at some point in the near future. What is this all about? Are we running out of cows or something?
Finally this week, State Senator John Rafferty formally announced his intention to seek the GOP nomination for Attorney General. Nabbing the nomination is usually tantamount to winning the whole enchilada, as the Democrats have not held the elected office of Attorney General since…never. When it comes to AG, the Dems usually play the role of the Washington Generals.
That’s all from your seat of state government, where everyone is bracing for the return of the General Assembly for the 2011 dénouement. Look for the brand new Congressional maps next week, as well as more shale tax action. In the meantime, check out the newest installment of crisis communications advice from Triad’s own Rick Kelly here. He has a few choice words for Jerry Sandusky’s lawyer. And as usual: Facebook and Twitter. Rinse; repeat.
From all you friends at Triad, have a great weekend!