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June 2013

Friday Happy Hour: Battle Royale Edition

GettysburgThe foxholes have been dug. The soldiers are prepped for battle. A legion of onlookers will be on hand. Harrisburg as we approach the final 48 hours of the current fiscal year, you say? No, silly, we’re talking about Gettysburg, which will feature a bunch of neat activities this weekend to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s most famous battle.

Harrisburg will host its own Battle Royale this weekend, and people may still be sorting it out 150 years later as well. There is little to say definitively at this point about the important budget and policy issues that are in play as the fiscal year ticks down. The budget seems to be teed up and ready for final action. Transportation funding, liquor privatization and pension reform, not so much. Several of these issues could coalesce on Sunday for final disposition. Or not.

The House Transportation Committee produced an amended funding bill that lops a half-billion off the Senate’s original $2.5 billion package. It passed with a bipartisan 16-9 vote in committee, but whether $2 billion is the magic number for attracting enough Democrats and keeping enough Republicans in the fold remains to be seen. The difference between the original and pared-down versions represents a swing of less than 50 cents per week for a typical driver.

Continue reading "Friday Happy Hour: Battle Royale Edition" »

PA voters support transportation plan

Panm_logo_small_hoverPublic opinion polling shows growing recognition and support for addressing Pennsylvania’s transportation funding needs, according to Bob Latham of Associated Pennsylvania Constructors.

On this week’s edition of Pennsylvania Newsmakers, hosted by Terry Madonna, Latham discussed the results of a poll that was fielded last month. Despite the “conventional wisdom” that transportation funding is a risky issue for legislators, Latham noted that 59 percent of Pennsylvania voters are willing to invest at least an additional $2.50 per week for a safer, less congested transportation system.

It’s the same amount represented by Senate Bill 1, the funding measure currently being considered by the General Assembly.

The poll results can be viewed here.


Research organization tabulates traffic congestion costs

A national transportation research organization says congested traffic corridors in five regions of Pennsylvania cost some drivers as much as $2,900 per year in wasted time and fuel.

TRIP, based in Washington, has visited Pennsylvania twice within the last few weeks to shine some light on how much money is being wasted as a result of underfunding the transportation system. Whether the cause is poor roadways or traffic congestion, TRIP’s inescapable conclusion is that the cost for continuing to underfund the transportation system is significantly more than the cost of addressing the issue.

As regular Triadvocate readers know, the General Assembly is considering a proposal that would plug part of Pennsylvania’s transportation funding gap, now estimated at around $4.5 billion for all modes of transportation.


The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

Obama energy strategy falls short of rhetoric, coal industry spokesman says


HARRISBURG (June 25) – The head of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance (PCA) today said President Obama needs some major retooling of the environmental strategy he announced in a policy address today if he wants the United States to continue to be the world’s standard setter on clean energy solutions.

“In recent decades, the coal industry has made major strides in reducing pollution,” said John Pippy, CEO of the Coal Alliance, said today in the wake of the President’s policy speech at Georgetown University. He noted that advances in technology have enabled new, coal-fueled power plants to be substantially more efficient, with the typical new plant producing 70 to 80 percent fewer conventional emissions than the older plant it replaces.

Pippy said global coal usage trends will make it the world’s No. 1 energy source within the next three to four years. He called the proposed Obama policy to decimate coal usage “shortsighted and destructive to the nation’s fragile economic recovery.”

Continue reading "Obama energy strategy falls short of rhetoric, coal industry spokesman says " »

Penn Vet: Leading Food Safety in Pennsylvania

Penn Vet Fairs

More than 5.5 million people will attend a county fair in Pennsylvania this year. These festive gatherings highlight the Commonwealth and its top industry - agriculture. Most attendees will not think of veterinarians as they take part in the traditions of the fair, but they can be assured that the products they serve, eat, and send to market are safe because of the important role vets play in agriculture and research. In Pennsylvania, the overwhelming majority of those vets are trained by the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine. This op-ed by Penn Vet Dean Joan Hendricks explores the many ways Penn Vet ensures the safety and security of our food supply. 

Penn Vet is a global leader in research that links animal science to human welfare, advances food safety, and provides vital defense from global pandemics. Their contributions to public health and safety are made possible by the support they receive from the Commonwealth's Department of Agriculture

The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

Friday Happy Hour: Slim Whitman Edition

DSCF2354 (800x600)This week we vacillate between Nostradamus, the 16th Century seer with an uncanny ability to make predictions, and Yogi Berra, who famously said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Yes, friends, the Budget Crunch brings that out in us – one minute, we’re sure there will be a solution to the pension, transportation and liquor crises, as well as an on-time budget. The next, everything is plummeting to hell in a hand basket, victims of the petulance that populates the palace these waning days of June.

The only thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain. The rumor mill has put on a third shift, and the odds of nailing down where things really stand on any issue is about the same as a blind squirrel securing an acorn. OK, it can happen.

So here’s where we are: there’s a pension proposal is on the table that some say would not only fail to address the unfunded liability problem, but make it worse.

The Senate has crafted a liquor privatization scheme that either will or will not pass, and either will or will not appease House Republicans.

Continue reading "Friday Happy Hour: Slim Whitman Edition" »

Surra racing team picks up its third checkered flag

#3 Car
The Triad Strategies #3 Surra racing machine got its third win on the year Saturday night.  Doug Surra started the night with a good run in the heat race finishing in second place.  Mike Anderson’s #76  held Doug off in the heat and took the checkered flag.   But after a lucky pill draw, the #3 racing machine won the pole position for the feature event.  There were only a couple yellow flags during the race, but from the green flag to the checkered flag, Doug didn’t look back and led every lap of the race. Colton Joiner’s #1 had a great run as well, despite recovering from a wreck during his heat race.  Colton started 8th and worked his way up to the second position.  He was able to get within a car length of the #3, but couldn’t get his nose under the leader to challenge him in the final lap.

Continue reading "Surra racing team picks up its third checkered flag" »

Friday Happy Hour: Party On Edition

Poison dart frogWe begin this week’s festivities with our obligatory update on the Big Four: the state budget, transportation funding, liquor privatization and pension reform. Now that we have you trembling with anticipation, let’s get this party started! 

With a party-line vote, the House approved a $28.3 billion budget and kicked it over to the Senate. The spending plan represents a 2.1 percent increase over the current budget. Republicans called it a responsible plan, while Democrats complained that it should include more for education and provide for Medicaid expansion. 

The House Transportation Committee held two hearings on transpo funding, with a third scheduled for Monday. Majority Chairman Dick Hess said he’s committed to moving the bill to the full House, but probably without the $100 surcharge on traffic violations in Sen. John Rafferty’s Senate Bill 1. 

In a move that left some caucus members scratching their heads, SOMEONE brought in political lightning rod Dick Morris to warn House Republicans that voting for any transportation funding plan would cause it to rain poison frogs and, worse, cost the Grand Old Party control of both houses and the guv’s office. “This is the same man who said Mitt Romney was taking 48 out of 50 states up until Election Day, and now he doesn’t have his contract with Fox News anymore. So that tells you all you need to know about his credibility,” Rafferty told Capitolwire.

Continue reading "Friday Happy Hour: Party On Edition" »

GIANT Unveils 100 Percent Pennsylvania-Produced Milk During 'Dairy Month'


PA Preferred™ Milk at 200 Retail Locations in Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic States

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 10, 2013 -- A major Pennsylvania grocery chain is now offering its customers milk produced entirely in Pennsylvania, keeping dollars in local communities and supporting local jobs.

GIANT Food Stores, based in Carlisle, Cumberland County, is the first national retailer to qualify its store brand milk as PA Preferred™, meaning 100 percent of the milk is produced in Pennsylvania.

Click here to view the press conference.

"I applaud GIANT for giving customers what they want – fresh, locally produced food," Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley said during the milk's launch at GIANT Food Store in Harrisburg, Dauphin County.

"By offering PA Preferred milk, GIANT is helping support farmers and area businesses that produce quality products, while making investments in local economies and keeping Pennsylvania growing," Cawley said.

PA Preferred™ is the official brand of agriculture products made or grown in Pennsylvania. The program's trademark is a gold checkmark inside a blue keystone that can be found on products year-round at farmers markets, restaurants, food processors, grocery chains, craft breweries and wineries.

"Our dairy farm families spend nearly 85 percent of their income close to home and recognize the importance of supplying quality products," George Greig, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture said. "They are making a difference in their communities, and they're making a difference for Pennsylvania."

The GIANT brand PA Preferred™ milk is available in whole, 2 percent, 1 percent and skim in gallon and quart sizes. The milk is available at 156 retail locations in Pennsylvania and 44 locations in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

"GIANT embraces our commitment to being a responsible retailer by offering our customers the widest selection of locally grown and produced products possible," Rick Herring, GIANT Food Stores president said. "Now when customers purchase milk in our stores, they can feel good about the role they are playing in helping to keep Pennsylvania agribusiness strong and supporting our local dairy farmers."

Dairy is the largest segment of Pennsylvania's agriculture industry, with milk contributing $2.3 billion to the state's economy. More than 7,200 dairy farm families manage 541,000 cows.

Pennsylvania produces 1.2 billion gallons, or 5.4 percent, of the nation's total supply of milk annually, ranking fifth nationally in milk production.

The Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program and dairy princesses will promote the industry at 90 GIANT Food Stores throughout Pennsylvania during June, which is Dairy Month.

"Pennsylvania milk comes from a good place," said Harold Shaulis, a Somerset County dairy producer and chair of the Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program. "When you drink this milk, you know it was produced by farmers who care for their cows and care about producing healthy, nutritious dairy foods for our friends and neighbors to enjoy."

GIANT offers a variety of PA Preferred™ products, including produce and dry goods and has been twice recognized for its leadership through the first-ever 2006 PA Preferred "Retailer of the Year" and 2008 Excellence in Agriculture Award presented by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

Where to hear straight talk on Common Core State Standards

Whenever people get together these days to talk about improving education in Pennsylvania, a discussion of Common Core State Standards is sure to follow.  Adopted by the Commonwealth in 2010, Common Core State Standards for language and math are in the process of fine tuning to meet state specific needs.  But, like any innovation or improvement, the Common Core process is making changes to the status quo and change always upsets some people.  So where could you turn for a common sense discussion about Common Core and what it really means?

You probably won’t find a better, more balanced forum than the Pennsylvania Education Summit being held at the Harrisburg Hilton on Thursday (June 13).  A panel headed by Pennsylvania Senate Education Chair Mike Folmer will discuss the question, “Are Pennsylvania Schools Ready for Common Core and Keystones?”

Joining Folmer will be Dr. Mark D. DiRocco, superintendent of Lewisburg Area School District, ranked 16th in the state out of 498 school districts based on student educational and test performance, and W. Gerard Oleksiak, a special education teacher from Upper Merion School District with more than 35 years of experience. Oleksiak is also vice president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.  Rounding out the panel are  Thomas Gluck, executive director of the Association of Pennsylvania Intermediate Units and a past acting state secretary of education, and Larry Wittig, a Tamaqua school director and certified public account who currently chairs the State Board of Education.

The common core discussion is slated to begin at 1:45 p.m. but it’s certain to be a topic throughout the day since the overall theme of the summit is “building a pathway to college and career success.”  Backers of common core standards among the states agree that the driving force behind trying to establish common standards among the states is to improve the college and career readiness of high school graduates.

The education summit, which features more than 20 leaders from business, education and government, is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Business Council Education Foundation, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and the Team Pennsylvania Foundation.

The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

Friday Happy Hour: Key to the Highway (Funding) Edition

Road work aheadYes, friends, this week’s Happy Hour features items about the state budget (snore), the pension crisis (zzzzzz), the liquor privatization crisis (yawn) and the transportation funding crisis (snore), because those are the Big Four Public Policy Issues of June, as verified by high-ranking administration officials, the news media, pundits and some guy named Irv. 

We will begin with transportation funding, because it was the issue that rose to the top this week as the Senate, by an impressive 45-5 vote, approved a plan that would eventually add $2.5 billion per year for all modes of transportation and whipped it on over to the House.

How important is the transportation initiative? PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch, speaking at the International Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh, said failure to pass a transportation funding measure would result in asurge in weight-restricted bridges in PA. The number currently stands at about 600, Schoch said, but would quickly grow to 1,400, lengthening routes for commercial shippers, school districts, commuters, moms, dads, cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. Bummer. 

Is transpo funding, as “conventional wisdom” posits, really a heavy lift for legislators? Not so much, according to a Terry Madonna Opinion Research poll, which said 59 percent of PA voters are willing to spend an additional $2.50 per week to improve safety and relieve congestion on Pennsylvania’s transportation system. Coincidentally, the amount is in line with what the recommendations of the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission would cost, and what Senate Bill 1 contains.

Continue reading "Friday Happy Hour: Key to the Highway (Funding) Edition" »

Penn Vet Working Dogs Center: Detection Dog Development

Detection Dog
The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's Working Dog Center (WDC) is a unique national research and development center for detection dogs. With a mission to prepare for the future demands of these dogs, WDC integrates a training program with scientific analysis of the genetic and behavioral traits that will lead to the most successful and healthy working dogs possible in the future.

In addition to search and rescue and explosives detection, the WDC is actively engaged in other forms of detection. The Center recently announced participation in an initiative to train dogs to identify the presence of ovarian cancer, an ailment particularly difficult for doctors to diagnose.  

Check out this video to learn how the WDC is training the next generation of working dogs.


The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

Fleck and Goodman Unveil Legislation to Prohibit the Privatization of Mental Health Services at Pennsylvania State Prisons

Opening Graphic
Citing a serious concern that communities and state prison employees would be at risk, state Reps. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon/Blair/Mifflin) and Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill) have sponsored legislation that would prohibit the privatization of mental health services at any Pennsylvania state correctional institution (SCI) or other state corrections facility. Fleck and Goodman were joined by other lawmakers, psychologists and union officials today at a Capitol news conference to discuss their bill.

“I have a hard time understanding why the Department of Corrections (DOC) would seek to disrupt a system of employee selection, training and implementation that functions so well,” said Fleck, who has two state prisons located in his district. “I can understand the need to spend tax dollars in the most frugal and efficient manner, but this is a core function of state government that should stay within the public realm.”

Continue reading "Fleck and Goodman Unveil Legislation to Prohibit the Privatization of Mental Health Services at Pennsylvania State Prisons" »

Team Surra chalks up its 2nd Win at Hummingbird Speedway.

Surra Win #2
Team Surra took its second win of the season at Hummingbird Speedway last Saturday night.  Though Doug did not take the checkered flag, he ended up in victory lane after the winning car was disqualified for being 38lbs underweight.

It was a great run with the #3 starting in 3rd position and working its way up to 2nd.  Doug showed the #73, driven by Devin Lewis, his bumper many times, but unfortunately could not make the pass.  While they are not racing for points, Team Surra’s strong consistent finishes have them a top the Pure Stock point standings.  In the 6 main events, they have collected 2 wins, 4 second place finishes, and numerous qualifying heat victories.

The Surra team pulled together with Dominic Surra playing the role of crew chief, while father Dan Surra was in the hospital recovering from back surgery.  We send our wishes for a fast and quick recovery for the team leader of the Surra racing machine.

The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

Penn Vet: Fighting CWD

The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is playing a critical role in fighting the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania. CWD is an incurable ailment affecting the brains of deer, elk and moose across the nation. In this video, Dr. Perry Habecker of Penn Vet's New Bolton Center describes the disease, its impact and the role of Penn Vet in testing for CWD  as a service provider for the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System (PADLS).