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June 2018

Friday Happy Hour: Ugly Dog Edition

Cornelia Wolf, mother of Gov. Tom Wolf, was laid to rest this week after passing away at age 94.  Triad joins all Pennsylvanians in sending our most sincere condolences to the governor and his family. 

Those crazy kids on the U.S. Supreme Court had themselves quite a week as they struck Lebron Jamesdown fair-share laws in the long-awaited Janus v. AFSCME decision, which will seriously hamper the ability of public sector unions to engage in political activity.  While most of organized labor had already anticipated this outcome, they now have themselves quite the rallying cry for this November. 

Hours after handing that decision down, Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to hang up his spikes at the tender age of 81.  His retirement will open up a second slot for President Donald Trump, who must have felt a bit like Barron Trump on Christmas morning. Look for the GOP-controlled Senate to move with alacrity in seating the crucial ninth justice. 

For his part, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. feels that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should postpone any SCOTUS confirmation votes until after November.  McConnell’s response to such calls has thus far been “Yeah, that’s cute.  No.”  

With the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget safely in place, the state looks to be in pretty decent financial shape for the near future, we were told this week.  Before y’all get too comfy and complacent, it won’t be too long before storm clouds gather around the Commonwealth’s checkbook. If you are in the government business, maybe don’t make vacation plans for next July.  Or August.  Or September. 

Anti-gerrymandering groups decided to camp out in Governor Wolf’s reception room this week in an attempt to get him to call a special session on redistricting reform before July 6, the deadline for any plan to get onto the November ballot for voter approval. We are not exactly sure why they believe the governor can force the legislature to come back to Harrisburg for any reason, let alone for a bill that will not even require his signature.  But whatever, make yourselves comfy.  Try not to interrupt the tour groups while you are there.  

Redistricting was not the only issue left hanging when the legislature left town this week.  Anti-hazing legislation, a bill to address gun violence and a bill to shrink the size of the legislature all got pushed off until the fall session.  The addition of these three bills to the fall agenda brings the grand total of things that will be accomplished in the fall to zero.  There are exactly nine session days scheduled for the rest of the year, folks.  Lower your expectations accordingly.

Cases of elder abuse jumped 13 percent in the last year in Pennsylvania, a worrisome number to be sure.  It would be nice to see policymakers act swiftly to address this issue, given that our elderly population is one of the largest in the country.  If we perhaps changed the phrase “elder abuse” to “Libre abuse” it will be addressed by the end of next week.

Speaking of Libre, Pennsylvania’s favorite canine lobbyist was back in the news this week as he celebrated the one-year anniversary of his law with lawmakers, the governor and some doggie cake.  He will now begin teaching classes on how to effectively lobby the General Assembly. 

With one stroke of his mighty pen, Governor Wolf this week made Pennsylvania the first state in the country to have a clean-slate law that will automatically seal records of low-level offenders after a decade of clean livin’.  It is not often we are first in the nation in anything other than trash imports, so this is a big deal.

All 13 of Pennsylvania’s casinos have now joined forces to stop the Wolf administration from rolling out I-Lottery games that, in their view, look a little too much like slot machines.  The mere fact that all thirteen casinos agree to anything is a minor miracle, but we are gonna bet the Wolf team is a bit nonplussed by the whole thing.  And hey, anything beats Gus the Groundhog.   

Speaking of casinos, as the state continues to finalize regulations on sports betting, along come the owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who want a piece of that gambling pie from the state to finance upgrades to their taxpayer-funded stadium.  Editor’s note: It was hard to type that sentence without laughing hysterically.  Really, Pirates?  Maybe you should use gambling money to buy a bullpen or a corner infielder who can hit his way out of a wet paper bag. 

The City of Harrisburg will be locked in state oversight for at least another three years, we learned this week.  The state-appointed overlord wants some time to ensure the city has its fiscal legs under it and apparently is working on a plan to do just that.  Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Papenfuse says the city is on fire and headed off a cliff.  Glad everyone is on the same page. 

Some shameless love goes out this week to our friends at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia for once again offering free admission on July 4.  If you wanna spend some time honoring our country on Independence Day, we cannot think of a better way to do it.

Because we love to end June on a high note, we bring to you this report that the nation’s surplus supply of cheese is at an all-time high.  Fire up those grills, people, and don’t skimp on the cheddar.  These are the days we will tell our grandkids about. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Petaluma, California, where the annual World’s Ugliest Dog contest just concluded.  English Bulldog Zsa Zsa took home the crown this year, and from the looks of it, could probably repeat the feat for the next ten years.  This dog is the LeBron James of ugly.  Welcome to the true dog days of summer!  

That’s what passes for news around here on a scorching Friday in your capitol city. From all your friends at Triad, have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July!

Friday Happy Hour: Flying Tube Steak Edition

PhanaticWe pause this week to join all Pennsylvanians in expressing our sorrow to Gov. Tom Wolf over the death of his mother, Cornelia.  She was 94.  Our prayers are with the governor and his family. 

We also take a moment to send our good wishes to former Gov. Ed Rendell, who this week announced he is battling Parkinson’s disease.  Good thing sports betting is now legal in Pennsylvania, because we have all of our money on Rendell in this fight. 

President Trump this week signed an executive order designed to stop immigration agents from separating children from their parent at the U.S. border, after more than 2,000 such wee ones experienced exactly that over the last two months.  The order seemed to stir even more uncertainty, which is why Congress moved swiftly this week to pass a new… just kidding.  Congress didn’t really do anything. 

PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro is no fan of Trump’s border policy and has joined 10 of his colleagues in filing suit against the administration, marking the 490th time he has sued the president since taking office. 

Trump also spent part of the week stepping up his tariff game, announcing he will slap an additional 10 percent tax on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.  Or basically all of China’s imports.  At some point, we are gonna run out of things to tax. 

Vice President Mike Pence made a stop in the City of Brotherly Love this week to endorse former state Sen. Scott Wagner’s bid for governor.  One state lawmaker in attendance was, shall we say, less than cordial to the veep, throwing him a finger gesture that is usually reserved for the Dallas Cowboys when they enter the Linc. 

For his part, Wagner made news this week when he came out and supported a hike in the state’s minimum wage, albeit a much smaller hike that Governor Wolf has proposed.  Wagner also said he would then like the “conversation to be over.”  Since it is abundantly clear that the legislature is leaving town without taking up the issue, the end of that conversation is pretty far away, we can assure you.    

The state’s top GOP lawmakers have filed suit in the U.S. Supreme Court over a state high court decision that threw out – and ultimately re-drew – Pennsylvania’s Congressional maps.  While it is unclear whether the SCOTUS would even hear the case, the outcome would not affect the maps for the November elections.  If history is any indication, this suit is likely D.O.A. in D.C.

Governor Wolf has a completed state budget on his desk as we speak, after overwhelming majorities in each chamber voted in favor of the $32.7 billion bar tab.  This news is nothing short of astounding in this toddlin’ town. The 2018-2019 spending plan contains no new taxes, a small boatload of cash for schools, and some new funding for school safety.  Contentious election years tend to encourage people to sharpen their collective focus. 

There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle brewing between Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse and House Speaker Mike Turzai, as Papenfuse continues his push to get the state to lift the city’s distressed designation.  The speaker essentially told the mayor that it ain’t happenin’, captain.    

Penn State students will get an early Christmas gift in the form of a tuition freeze after Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman engineered an increase in state higher education funding.  #WeAre   

As of this writing, the House and Senate’s top GOP leaders are engaged in a bit of a staredown unrelated to the budget.  At issue are bills that would ban Down syndrome abortions and one that would crack down on hazing at college campuses.  Let’s just call this a “Love and Marriage” showdown: you can’t have one without the other, according to one of the combatants.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney got some great news this week, as his city is on the very short list to host a few World Cup soccer matches in 2026.  Only soccer can generate that much anticipation for an event that will be held eight years from now. 

And speaking of mayors, our good friend, strategic partner and Mayor of Brentwood Dennis Troy scored a big victory this week, as Allegheny Health Network announced plans for a $25 million neighborhood hospital in his little slice of western Pennsylvania heaven.  Great job, mayor!   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we go to the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.  On Monday, a fan by the name of Kathy McVay was struck in the face by duct-tape-wrapped hot dog fired into the crowd by the Phillie Phanatic.  McVay sustained a black eye but says she won't seek damages.  No word yet on the Phanatic facing an assault-with-a-deadly-wiener rap. 

That’s what passes for news around here as lawmakers and the governor get ready to depart for the summer.  We, however, will not be departing because we have lots of other stuff to do.  From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!

Friday Happy Hour: Port-a-Potty Edition

The big news of the week was the historic Trump/Kim (no, the other Kim) summit, which produced what can be described as an agreement-in-principle.  You drop your nukes Basic-restroom program and we will drop our stranglehold on your already-crappy economy.  Considering the fact that any deal with North Korea typically has the shelf life of a banana, much remains to be seen.  

This morning, President Trump announced $50 billion in new tariffs on Chinese products, prompting the Chinese to announce their in-kind retaliation on soybeans and beef, which is a not-so-subtle shot at Trump’s heartland supporters.  The Chinese have obviously studied up on this trade war stuff.  

Trump may also face some headwinds in trying to “bring back coal,” we learned this week.  The proliferation of solar, wind and other renewable sources have already caused 15 gigawatts of coal-fired power to go off the grid just in the last year.  Which is more than the 1.21 gigawatts that Marty McFly needed to go Back to the Future.   

The president also this week had a small falling out with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the trade imbalance that doesn’t actually exist.  To be fair, we are sure Trudeau is still cheesed off at us because a Canadian team once again failed to win the Stanley Cup.  You guys stink, eh?

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Friday Happy Hour: Mad Peacock Edition

The U.S House this week passed a measure that will cut $15 billion in unspent money from the federal budget.  There was quite a bit of pearl-clutching going on, which we found to bePeacock_02 

odd considering the federal budget deficit for the year is around $800 billion, so $15 billion is pretty much a rounding error in that context.

As the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Ruler Kim Jong Un approaches, Trump this week floated the idea that Kim might one day visit the White House.  The Secret Service will have a devil of a time keeping Dennis Rodman from jumping over the White House fence.

Trump today suggested it might be time to allow Russia back into the G-7, making it the G-8 once again, presumably because Russia hasn’t forcibly annexed any sovereign nations in the past few days.   

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey this week had a rather public break with Trump over tariffs, which we can only guess will result in Sen. Bob Casey having lunch with Trump sometime very soon. 

There will be no property tax hike in Philadelphia this year (and probably next year as well), as City Council agreed on a budget without Mayor Jim Kenney’s centerpiece revenue
generator.  This development did not make the mayor very happy, as one might guess.  

While there will be no property tax increase, there will be a new construction tax levied to fund affordable housing in the city. While this was good news in the fight for affordable housing, the plan was absolutely lambasted by a certain electrician who maintains that the tax will cause construction to grind to a halt. 

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Many reasons to vote yes on HB 2241

Please take a moment to review this message from Jeff Brown, a fourth generation Philadelphia grocer who operates Shop-Rite stores. 

Click here to learn about Tyrone Page's second chance and what Brown’s ShopRite stores are doing to serve the Philadelphia community.

Brown’s ShopRite stores in Philadelphia has been a national leader in reducing the food desert crisis in Philadelphia. He and his company has invested millions of dollars to be more than the local grocery store that provides access to affordable and fresh foods – a huge need in the city’s most underserved and poorest neighborhoods. Brown’s ShopRite has invested in providing health centers, nutritionists and other critical community needs in its stores to better meet the need of its neighborhood shoppers. This impact is more than just about food – it is about building and providing the resources the community needs.

HB 2241 will help stores like Jeff Brown’s continue to serve the community and invest in eliminating food deserts while creating second chance opportunities for the people of Philadelphia.

Brown’s ShopRite is also a leading employer of previously incarcerated community members – providing them the training and career opportunities for them to grow when they return to their neighborhood. He is providing them a chance. Of his 3,000 employees, 500 of them have been previously incarcerated. 

HB2241 is about more than just the Philadelphia beverage tax. It is about protecting stores like ShopRite who have used state grants and a significant amount of their own private dollars to fix Philadelphia’s food deserts and to provide critical services like health clinics and nutritional advice to its shoppers. 

It is time that the state legislature fixes this horrendous policy. Please vote YES on HB 2241. 

Friday Happy Hour: Crystal Edition

The U.S. economy continued to roar last month, adding 223,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate dipped to a 17-year low of 3.8 percent. The tide just keeps on rising, folks.    Quartz _Tibet

President Trump is making good on his promise to slap steep tariffs on steel and aluminum, signaling this week that the European Union, Canada and Mexico are next in line.  Predictably, those countries were pretty cheesed off, and it looks like we have a good, old-fashioned trade war on the horizon.  Mexico, in particular, threatened to impose tariffs on pork, which we bacon lovers do not find amusing in the least. 

It is with a heavy heart that we violate our longstanding rule against ever mentioning a Kardashian for any reason whatsoever to tell you that President Trump hosted Kim K. West this week to discuss prison reform.  2018 has really been weird.  If you told us in 2016 that we would be writing that sentence, we might have had you committed.

Editor’s note: If you are waiting for us to comment on either Roseanne Barr or Samantha Bee, you can stop reading now.  Ain’t happenin’, captain. 

We resume our screed by alerting our readers that there will not be an infrastructure funding bill coming to a theater near you anytime soon.  Apparently, Congress has many other pressing needs to attend to and cannot be bothered to rescue our nation’s infrastructure. We will jut keep using bubble gum and duct tape for now. 

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle seem to be in agreement that the state budget will be done on time this year, which is a welcome change from the past three budgets.  With no tax increase necessary and a bloody midterm election in the windshield, nobody is looking for a street fight.  Of course, we have heard this song before, so if things go flying off the rails on June 30, don’t be too shocked. 

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