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April 2018

Friday Happy Hour: Uranus Alignment Edition

As the May primary election draws near, we’ll begin with the three Republican gubernatorial candidates, who held a debate this week. As has been the case in their TV ads, Paul Green-moonjpg-e4d8ed70dd47d603 Mango and Scott Wagner went at each other, hammer and tongs, while Laura Ellsworth asserted that their behavior could potentially sink either of their chances for defeating Governor Wolf in November.

Is this the most bizarre gubernatorial race ever, or is that just us? Our friends Terry Madonna and Michael Young suggest it’s not just us. “So we have this baffling incongruity: two conservative Republican candidates, both trying to destroy the other for a chance to run against an incumbent neither is likely to beat,” they opine.

Meanwhile, Democrat/Braddock Mayor John Fetterman picked up a key endorsement in the lieutenant governor primary, while Republican lt. guv. candidate Jeff Bartos launched his first TV ad.

Recent events at a Philly Starbucks and a York County golf course that attracted negative national attention prompted Governor Wolf to remind folks that, as places of public accommodations, businesses are subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. C’mon, it’s 2018. We can do better than this. Do unto others, right?

Stop us if you’ve heard this one… state Sen. Mario Scavello has introduced legislation that would essentially scrap those nasty ol’ PA property taxes. The proposal would make primary residences exempt from property taxes and replace the revenue with increased personal income taxes. We’ll see if that dog hunts.

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Is state tax reform finally beginning to take shape?

The month of April is upon us, which means two things: rain and tax season. Todd brysiak

The former is barely a blip on the radar. We’re all just hoping it’s not more snow. The latter, as we know, is vexing at best — a necessary evil. But as accountants finally clear through mounds of tax returns, those of us who monitor the bills moving through the General Assembly are noticing an interesting trend. These days, there sure is a lot of focus on the tax-reform front.
It’s not unusual for taxes to be a prime discussion point in Harrisburg. Debates over the state’s finances swirl every spring as lawmakers prep for the annual budget haul. Nonetheless, as anyone with a finger on the pulse of the Capitol will tell you, major tax changes are very unlikely in election years — especially gubernatorial election years. That’s not likely to change in 2018.
This, however, shouldn’t downplay the tax reform issue. In fact, given what we are seeing, it’s likely a primer for what may be around the corner.
A review of bills in the House and Senate shows a wide array of tax-reform ideas on the table. Considering the changes presented in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address and the calls for notable tax reforms from all three Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, there’s solid evidence the issue is gaining steam. But what’s really at the core of this recent attention?

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Friday Happy Hour: 4/20 Edition

The nation and the world this week mourned the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush, who lived a life of class and service to her nation that we would all be well to try and Marijuana micereplicate.  Godspeed, Mrs. Bush

In a break with tradition, we begin this week’s screed with a Shameless Client Plug for our friends at Lyft, as they help the country celebrate 4/20 by offering free and reduced-cost rides to marijuana enthusiasts in states that have legalized the bud.  Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.  

Former F.B.I. director James Comey went on book tour of the nation’s news stations this week, blathering on about higher loyalty and God and country while concurrently trashing President Trump like Regina from Mean Girls.  The Tweeter-in-Chief was not amused. 

With their feet planted firmly in 1972, the Democratic National Committee this morning sued the Trump campaign and Wikileaks for conspiring with the Russkies to interfere in the 2016 elections.  Good thing the President is adding Rudy Giuliani to his defense team, those suits are starting to pile up.

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Friday Happy Hour: Mayochup Edition

As you read this week’s wrap-up, please keep in mind that we may only have weeks left to live, as Planet X is (or isn’t) hurtling toward the earth to destroy us all by late April.  So, if you have anything to say to us, maybe say it now.   Mayochup

Former FBI Director James Comey has written a book, y’all.  Apparently, the president isn’t a fan of the tome, as he took to the Twitterverse this morning to call Mr. Comey a slimeball.  We are sensing some tension there.  Maybe it’s just us.   

Facebook gazillionaire Mark Zuckerberg spent some time on Capitol Hill this week being grilled by U.S. senators on what this newfangled Facethingy is all about, and why their moms’ apple pie recipes might have been sold to the Russians to help Donald Trump win Candy Crush.  

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he will not be running for reelection, adding yet another open congressional seat to mix for the 2018 elections.  At some point in 2019 it will dawn upon Ryan that he no longer has to deal with the House Freedom Caucus, and his blood pressure will drop 50 points.    

Simply announcing his retirement isn’t enough for some House GOP members, who apparently want Ryan out of the speaker’s office by sometime yesterday morning.  Amazing how quickly they can all turn the page on a guy who almost single-handedly raised enough money to keep them in the majority (read: keep them relevant) for the past half-decade. Thanks for all your help, Paul!  Don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!    

Out in the west Texas town of El Paso…with all apologies to Marty Robbins, the place where he fell in love with a Mexican girl is now the place where the Trump border wall construction has begun.  Ah, the irony.    

Work zone safety took center stage at the PA Capitol this week, as our pals at Associated Pennsylvania Constructors gathered in support of a bill that would allow for automated speed enforcement in construction zones.  Supporters of the bill continue to push for consideration of the plan, which sailed through the state Senate last year, only to be tabled by the House.  

On a TOTALLY UNRELATED NOTE, three PennDOT workers were injured on Interstate 80 that very same day in a construction zone crash.   

Pennsylvania’s wee ones are still slightly better than the national average when it comes to math and reading proficiency, according to a new report.  Of course, this news will fuel the “schools need more money” argument, as well as the “schools have enough money” counterargument.  Because there is not a report in the world that cannot be artfully spun to your partisan advantage, we have learned for lo these many years.  

A bill that would repeal the sugary drink tax in Philadelphia was introduced this week, and all sides are ramping up the rhetoric for the coming battle over the Kenney administration’s signature achievement. As the state budget starts coming into focus, expect this bill to be a topic of serious discussion.    

In other Philly news, City Council unveiled a new package of bills to jump-start the construction of affordable housing in the city, including a 1 percent tax on construction.  As we all know, there is plenty of housing being built in Philly these days, not much of it being affordable to 90 percent of the city’s residents.  

The House State Government Committee gave the OK to a new version of a redistricting reform bill, replacing a proposed citizen-dominated panel with a legislatively-controlled one that looks a bit different from the current legislatively-controlled one.  The bill passed on a party line vote over howls of protest by minority party Democrats, who in the event the bill would ever become law, should probably just change their name to the Permanent Minority Democrats.    

As the House kicked the tires on ideas to combat school violence, the Keystone State continued to be a part of the national “discussion,” as one school plans to arm its teachers with those commemorative mini baseball bats you get at minor league games on random Wednesday nights in August.  Protect YOUR students with these neat bats, brought to you by your friends at Joe’s Quality Meats!    

The House also took a bit of time to advance a bill that would limit abortions based upon Down Syndrome diagnoses. Yeah, nothing like an abortion debate to, um, amplify an otherwise mundane Wednesday in the Capitol.  Hey, who wants to talk about gun control next??   

Pennsylvania may be poised to shed its abysmal national ranking (49th) when it comes to electing women to office, thanks to a flood of qualified women from the southeastern part of the state. Here is a list of some who could be headed to Washington in 2019.    

In other campaign news, the race for the GOP nomination for governor is a red-hot mess of accusations and counter-accusations, smears and other unpleasantries.  If anyone out there has a copy of Ronald Reagan’s Commandments, now might be a good time to post it on your Facethingy page.  

One day, we will all figure out how the makers of Necco wafers stayed in business all these years, selling what is essentially dirt-flavored chalk.  In any case, it looks like Necco wafers may be going the way of all flesh. Oddly, some mid-state PA residents seem to be sad about this terrible “candy” going away and shared their angst with PennLive. No matter.  Now, we get to work on ridding the nation of candy corn, which is neither candy nor corn.   

For our We Can’t Make This Up section, we reluctantly turn to our friends at Heinz headquarters in Pittsburgh and simply ask “Why?”  The maker of the best ketchup in all the land is now offering something called “mayochup,” which is mayonnaise and ketchup mixed together for GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT REASON!  What, are the R&D folks bored or something? Hey, how’d that green ketchup thing work out for you?  

That’s what passes for news around here as we mercifully exit winter and go straight to summer.  We will be back next week with a basketful of news, so be prepared and check in with us often.  From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend

Friday Happy Hour: Flock of Seagulls Edition

We begin this week – of course – by saluting the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball champion Villanova Wildcats, who last Monday night dismantled Michigan to capture their second crown in three years. Parades are becoming common in Philly. Paging the Flyers and Sixers… Flock-of-seagulls-jive-records

President Trump this week escalated his trade war rhetoric by announcing he will seek up to $100 billion in tariffs on China, his personal whipping boy from the 2016 campaigns.  Trump also reiterated that trade wars are “easy to win.”  That sound you heard was new White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow hitting the floor after passing out. 

After enacting tax cuts and a spending plan that would make a Kardashian blush, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan this week announced that his chamber would vote on a bill to require balanced budgets.  That is not just closing the barn door after the horse runs out.  This horse actually ran out, did a few laps at Pimlico, retired, and sired 15 horses before the barn door was closed.

The U.S. economy added 214,000 private-sector jobs last month, we learned earlier this week.  Then today we learned that the U.S. economy added 103,000 new jobs, which means that nobody really has any idea how many jobs were added. 

A Pennsylvania appeals court this week threw a doozy of a decision at the shale gas industry, ruling that it will be considered trespassing to extract gas from under property adjacent to a drilling operation.  For those who remember Daniel Day Lewis in “There Will Be Blood,” there will be no more drinking others’ milkshakes.  We expect a very vigorous response from the shale folks. 

Meet the nine inaugural members of the new Philadelphia School Board!  Mayor Jim Kenney tapped these fine public servants this week, and they now will set about the daunting task of finding the loot to keep the schools afloat this year.  Oh, the fun they will have.

The race for the GOP nomination for governor went to DEFCON 5 this week, as longshot Paul Mango launched an absolute broadside against presumptive frontrunner Scott Wagner.  Remember when Pittsburgh Steeler JuJu Smith-Shuster blindsided Cincinnati Bengal linebacker Vontaze Burfict and knocked him out cold?  Yeah, Mango’s ad was like that, only more violent. 

The increasingly nasty tone of that race may have something to do with the fact that soothsayer Larry Sabato has moved the PA governor’s race into the “likely Democratic” category

Before we leave this raging GOP conflagration, we will also note that Mango seems to be working to capture the space to the right of Wagner on social issues such as same-sex marriage.  While this strategy may help in May, it probably won’t be a great place to be standing in November. 

In other campaign news, liberal activist and billionaire Tom Steyer will be pouring his cabbage into the Keystone State to help turn a few congressional seats blue in November.  We do not expect his largesse to go unnoticed by the venerable Brothers Koch. 

Before we leave the campaign trail, U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta this week unveiled his newest endorsement in his race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey: his dog.  Scoff if you must, but we have lived through the media coverage and political attention that was paid to a dog named “Libre” last year.  Lou might be on to something. Perhaps the senator should at least get a cat. 

We are compelled to share with you this story about longtime PA Senate Judiciary Chairman and former prosecutor Stewart Greenleaf.  As he heads toward retirement, his views on how to combat crime have certainly begun to shift.  For aspiring politicos, this is a must-read.  In short, have the courage of your convictions, but also the wisdom to know when to change course.  Bravo, Senator.  You will be sorely missed.

The PA House this week held a hearing on allowing local police to use radar.  This hearing marked the 7,000th time a legislative committee has discussed this idea in the past 20 years. For some reason, local police can be entrusted with weapons, but cannot be trusted to wield a radar gun.  We remain mystified. 

If you live in Harrisburg’s Sixth Street corridor (and we know some folks who do), you had to be pleased with the results of a planning meeting that was held this week.  We know our client Vartan Enterprises was!  Apparently, the long-awaited construction of a new federal courthouse in that area is expected to launch tens of millions of dollars worth of redevelopment.  Welcome to the northern gateway!  

This is a public service announcement from the Triad Strategic communications team:  The annual Gridiron Dinner is once again upon us.  It benefits a great cause (training young journalists) and is generally a damned good time.  Click here for details and tickets.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to the Great White North, where after an 18-year ban, a Nova Scotia man is once again allowed to stay in a certain hotel.  His original crime?  It involves a massive suitcase full of pepperoni and about 40 seagulls.  We will just let you read it from there

That’s what passes for news around here as we continually curse the Winter That Will Not End.  Come back and visit us again next week, where we will continue to regale you with tales of cured meats and voracious seagoing fowl.  From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!