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April 2016

Friday Happy Hour: Slim and None Edition

If you happened to be living under a rock for the past week, you may not have noticed that we had ourselves an election in Pennsylvania.  If you were not under a rock, you know by Ballot-Box-4x3now that the big Tuesday winners were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, shocking exactly nobody outside of Ted Cruz. Katie McGinty also easily outpaced her two rivals to capture a shot at taking on U.S. Senator Pat Toomey and his $10 million bankroll. If you’d like a deeper dive on all things electoral, you can check it out here.  

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It's time for a blue-ribbon commission to fix Pa's budget mess: George Wolff

Pennsylvania_State_CapitolBy George Wolff

Although hard to imagine in today’s climate of fiscal austerity, 20 years ago the commonwealth was rolling in cash.  Even though we never used the term, the state was running “structural surpluses” – taxes and other revenue exceeded expenses by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  The state’s two primary pension funds – the Public School Employees Retirement System and the State Employees Retirement System – were well funded with annual returns on investments in the double digits.

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Friday Happy Hour: Spring Cleaning Edition

The political world was rocked this week when a Pennsylvania court decided to allow Joe Vodvarka’s name to be placed on the Primary Election ballot for U.S. Senate.  Joe-mentum is Duster2upon us.  Oh, sorry Admiral. Maybe it was already upon us. 

Thursday was a wild day in your Capital City, to say the least.  Bill Clinton kicked off the festivities by doing a tour de force of Harrisburg, stopping at a senior center, a coffee shop and a bookstore before an appearance at a rally in the Keystone Building.  But Billy wasn’t the only game in town!

Donald Trump rode into town shortly after Clinton’s departure and appeared before a packed house at the Farm Show Complex.  In stark contrast to the former President’s more – ahem – subdued visit, Trump supporters and detractors clashed outside the Farm Show, prompting police to set up a human barricade.

After whipping up the college faithful and dear old Penn State this week, Bernie Sanders weighed in on Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny’s proposed sugary drink tax.  If you think the Democratic Socialist would be all in favor, think again.  Just when you think you know someone… 

As an aside, there were also three very loud Bernie Sanders supporters standing on the corner of 2nd and Pine Streets yelling unintelligible things about war, capitalism and “free stuff.”  We are not making this up.

Politico reported this week that some of the GOP’s unpledged delegates have been receiving death threats from Trump supporters, with one such delegate having his cell phone inundated with thousands of calls, many of which ended with instructions on the best way for him to kill himself. Ah, making America great is tireless work.  

A pro-gun group this week urged its supporters to write in a candidate next Tuesday instead of casting a vote for U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.  Apparently, Toomey had the temerity to support tougher background checks, which makes him insufficiently 2nd Amendment-ish for some.  The gall. 

Stepping out of the political arena for a moment (trust us, you will see enough political ads this weekend to make you insane), there was actual state business going on around here.  While all the ink was spilled over Governor Wolf signing the Medical Marijuana bill into law, he also signed the ABLE Act, which will allow Pennsylvania’s people with disabilities to save money tax-free.  This was really big news that got swept up in the all weed chatter.  Consider this a public service announcement

If you still want to know more about medical marijuana, you can check out this handy Q and A.  

To answer the most obvious questions that we have received, in order:

  1. You (still) cannot buy marijuana to smoke in your basement.
  2. The process of setting up the growing, licensing and distribution networks will take up to two years.
  3. No, you still cannot buy marijuana to smoke in your basement.

On a related note, we found out this week that some towns in Pennsylvania have ordinances prohibiting landlords from leasing to people with felony drug convictions. We are certainly not lawyers, but we would be shocked if those types of ordinances would withstand legal scrutiny.  Yeah, if you have a felony drug conviction, you can buy a house in our town, but cannot rent one.  O.K.

Governor Wolf this week signed an Executive Order (he seems to like those things for some reason) that will provide open data on the operation of your state government, right at your fingertips.  This will save hackers the time and energy of doing it themselves, we assume. Government that works, folks. 

While the General Assembly wrestles with legislation to make ride sharing a permanent fixture in Pennsylvania, the state’s PUC came out this week and walloped Uber with an $11 million fine. Maybe someday when Governor Wolf signs ride sharing legislation into law, we will all look back on this and laugh.  Well, maybe not.

Did you know Pennsylvania is building a new prison the size of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia? We assume the hockey played inside of the prison won’t be nearly as exciting as a Flyers game.   

Pennsylvania ranks 43rd in spending on public health, according to a report issued this week. If you think public health dollars only go to things like fighting drug addiction, you’d better hope you don’t get bitten by a mosquito this summer. One word: Zika.

Shameless Client Plug Alert!  SEIU HealthCare PA and Golden Living, one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains, got together this week for a round of Kumbaya after agreeing to a series of contracts that will put nursing home workers firmly on a path to $15.00/hr.  See what happens when we all get along?

And as today is Earth Day, we have another Shameless Client Plug Alert for you, this time from our pals at Pocono Raceway.  What could Earth Day and a raceway have in common, you ask?  Glad you asked.  Check out this story about NASCAR Green, and how our family-owned racetrack in Long Pond is leading the way!

In our We Can’t Make This Up section this week, we take you to jolly old England, where one man built a commemorative shrine to a bag of cookies that fell onto the street.  We may have a staffer here at Triad who would do the same thing if she found cookies on the ground on Pine Street.  Just sayin’.

That’s what passes for news round here on this pre-election Friday! Come back next week and we will regale you with more tales from the sea, or something! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!

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: Meltdown Edition

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders staged a shout-fest last night in Brooklyn.  The debate was so cantankerous that at one point the CNN moderator had to ask the crowd to stop BLM-US-NUCLEAR heckling.  Yeah, good luck with that in Brooklyn.  Fuggedaboutit.  

If you missed the debate, we have distilled the action down to one, handy clip

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who never was running for President, held a news conference this week to announce that he is still not running for President.  This is what we have come to, folks. After saying “no” about 15 times, reporters all raced off to file their obligatory “What did Ryan REALLY mean?” stories.  

Donald Trump was in the Steel City this week to announce that, as Commander-in-Chief, he will be bringing back the steel industry.  He also intends to bring back Isaly’s chip-chopped ham, Mr. Rogers, Chuck Tanner and Joe Paterno.

In two short days, Governor Tom Wolf will slap his signature on Senate Bill 3 and medical marijuana will indeed be legal in the Keystone State.  Hopefully one of our trusted friends in the media is getting ready to write a book on how this issue went from “deader than Dillinger” to final passage.  It was truly a remarkable journey. 

Against the backdrop of yet another coal company bankruptcy, Democrats in Harrisburg held a confab to discuss the future of clean energy jobs in the Commonwealth just in case Donald Trump is not successful in bringing back coal. It would be nice to have a Plan B, for sure.

After the state budget became the law of the land without the signature of Governor Wolf, there was much rejoicing over at the Public Employees Retirement Commission, as funding for that agency began to flow again.  Many will remember that the governor unilaterally shuttered that office, so this action was truly a victory for Big Government.  

With the next state budget due in just over two months (we had a hard time typing that without laughing hysterically), lawmakers and the governor are already trading barbs and predicting a long, hot summer.  We can’t, people.  We just can’t.

Against this backdrop, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack are calling for reform to the budget process by moving Pennsylvania’s budget cycle to two years.  Probably worth considering, as the old way of doing business surely isn’t working.  Heck, let’s go for three. 

The House and Senate this week sent the governor yet another version of the Fiscal Code, and now all eyes are on Wolf to see if he signs, vetoes or punts. As we have mentioned before, the Fiscal Code is sort of the operating manual for the budget, so it’s kind of important. The bone of contention is once again the Basic Education Funding Formula, which all sides agree upon but can’t agree when it should go into effect. We wish we were making that up.

A pair of midstate lawmakers is working to enhance Pennsylvania’s distracted driving law by making it illegal to talk on a hand-held device while driving.  Now if we could only make Justin Bieber music illegal in cars, none of us will ever be distracted again.

Speaking of the midstate, plans are afoot to film a new movie called “Meltdown” in the Harrisburg area, and the casting calls have already gone out for extras.  We will let you guess what the topic of “Meltdown” will be.

With eighteen members of the General Assembly retiring this year, one would think there would be a mad scramble and tons of candidates jockeying for those open seats.  Well, one would be wrong.  Perhaps the people of Pennsylvania really were paying attention for the past year and have collectively decided that the job just ain’t worth the hassle.  Or maybe they were watching Dancing with the Stars and didn’t realize there was an election this year.

Our Shameless Client Plug of the week goes to our good friends at McCaffery Interests, who are moving forward with plans to redevelop the historic produce terminal in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.  The $65 million plan will include “foodcentric” retail and office space, as well as a complete upgrade to Smallman Street.  Triad is proud to be a partner with DTI Development on what will be the highest profile redevelopment in downtown Pittsburgh.

Our other Shameless Client Plug goes to our friends at Pocono Raceway, who this week announced they are constructing the first-ever dog park (Bark Park, for the uninformed) at a national motorsports facility.  No word on how Tricky the Fox will react to a few dozen canine visitors in the track’s infield.

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment takes us to Asbury Park, New Jersey, where a man filled his home with so many insecticide fumes that he inadvertently blew it up.  Thankfully, nobody was injured in the blast, including all the cockroaches he was trying to kill in the first place.

That’s what passes for news around here in what we lovingly referred to as Weed Week in Harrisburg.  We will be back next week with all the news we care to comment on, so join us for the fun!  From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!

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: Shining Moments Edition

It was a big week in the Keystone State, as the Villanova Wildcats captured the NCAA Men’s basketball championship in heart-stopping fashion. A big shout-out to our good friends at StarsVersant Strategies on winning the Triad basketball pool (which was, you know, solely for entertainment purposes.)

The other big Pennsylvania winner was Carlisle Borough, which captured the crown in the America’s Strongest Town competition by defeating Hoboken, New Jersey in the title match.  That’s right, Jersey, we are still better than you in every conceivable way.  Congratulations to Mayor Tim Scott and Borough Councilman Sean Crampsie (husband to Triad’s own Brittany Crampsie) for leading Carlisle to the Promised Land.  One shining moment, indeed!  

Presidential hopefuls continued to pour into the Keystone State this week, and the annual AFL-CIO conference in Philadelphia was ground zero, with both Hillary and Bernie addressing the throngs of labor faithful.  Enjoy all this attention while you can, friends, because these people will be outta here like Vladimir on April 26th, and you may not see them again.  Yes, we can tell you are heartbroken.  

And if you are indeed planning to hit the polls in two weeks, you may want to check out this handy primer on what your vote will mean if you are on the GOP side of the field.  In a nutshell?  Your vote probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.  Take heart, Democrats; your delegate-awarding system is just as screwed up, just ask the nearest Sanders supporter.

And in the weeks leading up to the Primary Election, prepare to be bombarded with polls telling you everything you never wanted to know about every candidate who will appear on the ballot.  Quinnipiac weighed in this week with a poll showing that Pennsylvania voters pretty much don’t like anyone, which is no shock given the national mood. 

House and Senate GOP leaders this week threatened to sue Governor Tom Wolf over the manner in which he has decided to disburse school funding under the recently-enacted state budget.  So in case you were functioning under the delusion that the budget enactment would calm everything down around here, snap out of it, Sally.  This is Harrisburg.  

If you have a hankering to find out if your school got more cash or the smelly end of the plunger, has a nice rundown for you.  Bonus: it’s not even one of those annoying click-through slide shows!

Governor Wolf, apparently tired of waiting for LGBT anti-discrimination legislation to find its way to his desk, has signed an Executive Order enacting these protections at the Executive level and for any private entity doing business with state government.  Perhaps when everyone sees that the world will not end next week, the actual bipartisan legislation can start to move through the process.

One issue that does seem to be moving with some level of – ahem – speed is a bill that would ban certain abortion procedures and criminalize abortions after 20 weeks.  It is certainly heartening to see that the General Assembly has taken a break from all the partisan fighting to take up a bill that is not controversial at all.  A vote on the final passage of the measure is expected next week, so you may wanna steer clear of the House side of the building Monday.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has dealt a whack to the noggin’ of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, telling that body that is doesn’t, in fact, have the broad range of powers (think Batman AND Superman, combined) that it apparently believes it does. To say the ruling is a serious setback to the SRC is like saying the Sixers had a below-average year.  

If the big shots at UPMC thought their recent announcement about boosting wages to $15.00/hr would squelch talk of workers organizing, they may have miscalculated, we learned this week.  Given the fact that those wage increases were driven by relentless work from the same people who want to unionize UPMC’s work force, wages are just the start, you can be sure.

The House and Senate this week passed a bill that, if signed by the governor, would subject all potential state and local collective bargaining agreements to an analysis by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office.  Given the sheer volume of contracts they will have to analyze, the IFO will need to increase its own budget by about 4,000%. 

The House and Senate are also trying to put the brakes on their own plan to send a ballot question to the voters in two weeks, one that would potentially change the mandatory retirement age for judges from the current 70 years old to 75 years old.  Apparently, no one can agree on the wording of the ballot question, so everyone now wants to put it off until the November elections. Words do matter, apparently.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Rhode Island, where the state’s tourism chief had to resign after her department’s rollout of a new Rhode Island promotional video that featured skateboarding scenes shot in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Besides the fact that Reykjavik is decidedly NOT Providence, they may also wanna rethink their new slogan: Cooler and Warmer.  Y’all paid real money for that, huh?

That’s what passes for news around here on this snowy (!!!!!) Friday morning in April.  We will be back next week, largely because we are contractually obligated to be back next week! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!

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: Earnest Edition

Yes, it is April Fool’s Day, and no, we are not pulling any cheap jokes out of the hat for this edition of the weekly wrap-up.  You expect more from us, and frankly, we are better than Seriously-face-meme-all-funnythat.  Besides, announcing that Triad President Roy Wells has endorsed Donald Trump would be way too easy.  

The Presidential Primary season has begun in earnest in Pennsylvania with Ted Cruz and John Kasich on the way to central PA, and Bernie Sanders bringing his progressive posse to Pittsburgh.  It was at the Steel City event where U.S. Senate candidate and Bernie-backer John Fetterman inadvertently ended his campaign by proclaiming that The Bern’s rally was “better than a Steelers game.”  Fetterman is now projected to receive six votes in Allegheny County, five of which will come from Fetterman’s family. 

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