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July 2018

Friday Happy Hour: Pittsburgh Shark Edition

YinzerThis just in: it is not raining in central Pennsylvania as of this writing.  The mid-state made national news this week as torrential rains turned Hershey and Hummelstown into one, giant pond and pushed the Susquehanna River over its banks.  Enough rain fell to fill 3.3 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to the Bureau of Arcane and Mostly Useless Weather Facts.   

President Donald Trump this morning strode into the Rose Garden and informed the nation that the GDP rose by more than 4 percent in the previous quarter, with all economic signs trending up.  Memo to the president: to stave off any mid-term GOP electoral trouble, you may wanna talk about only the economy until November.  We are not kidding.  Literally, don’t say a word about anything else.  

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, members of the so-called “Freedom Caucus” have filed articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for… something.   Their efforts lasted all of 24 hours before House Speaker Paul Ryan tossed a bucket of cold water on them, saying, “Yeah, we aren’t gonna do that.”  

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey was awfully busy this week, first announcing that he will be an emphatic “yes” on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  This will undoubtedly cause Kavanaugh’s opponents to inundate his office with calls asking him to vote no, which is never going to happen.   

Toomey also took some time out of his schedule to blast President Trump’s farm tariff solution, which is apparently to just hand $12 billion in subsidies to farmers hurt by his own tariffs, or as Toomey calls it, “putting a band-aid on a self-inflicted wound.”  It seems that nothing causes Toomey to part ways with Trump faster than trade policy. 

For his part, Trump will travel to Pennsylvania next week to do some rallying and campaigning for Congressman Lou Barletta, who can’t seem to gain any traction in his bid to unseat Sen. Bob Casey Jr.  The clock is not Barletta’s friend at this point, so he could likely use some Trumping.  

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro this week penned a letter to Pope Francis, asking him to intervene in the ongoing grand jury report dispute between Shapiro, the courts, and the Catholic Church.  Nothing like going straight to the top of the food chain. Shapiro does not take “no” for an answer very well. 

The other AG, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, seems to have carved out quite the policy niche as the highest-ranking PA public official in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana.  DePasquale often touts the $500 million in annual tax revenue that legal weed could produce, but this week he sweetened the pot (see what we did there?) by showing how many tourism dollars we are losing to states that have already legalized it.  Pennsylvania: see the Liberty Bell, smoke a bowl. 

A Pennsylvania casino company is having a devil of a time convincing central Pennsylvania residents that building a small casino in their community won’t turn it into a set from the Sopranos.  The same arguments that anti-casino forces made in 2004 (Pennsylvania = Gomorrah) get trotted out each time somebody wants to open one, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.  They are not meth labs, folks.  Just casinos.  

Retiring Congressman Bill Shuster shared some thoughts this week on how to fund the nation’s sorely needed infrastructure repair, the cornerstone of which would be to nearly double the federal gasoline tax, then repeal it eight years later and move to a per-mile fee.  No word on how this plan might go over with his current GOP colleagues, as most of them fainted upon hearing the details.

Gov. Tom Wolf and his challenger, Scott Wagner, continued their “he said, he said” over public school funding.  Wagner maintains that Wolf secretly wants to slash funding for schools, while Wolf said Wagner already supported funding cuts in the past.  Regardless, this race continues to be about a 9 on the 1-10 boredom scale.  Somebody release a negative ad or something. 

Residents of your Capital City came out in droves this week to share their – ahem – unhappiness with a state oversight team’s plan to bring Harrisburg out of Act 47 protection.  At the core of that plan is a three-year, 80 percent increase in property taxes for city residents.  One resident compared that plan to 1972’s Hurricane Agnes, which pretty much wiped the city out. Seriously, on what planet does anyone believe the way to rescue a city is to slap an 80 percent tax hike on it? 

In our Shameless Client Plug this week, our good pals at Pocono Raceway have teamed up with the Pennsylvania Turnpike to host a trucking industry job fair at the raceway tomorrow.  Check out the details here if you’ve ever wanted to be a gear jammer! 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to the North Atlantic, where a 7-foot mako shark by the name of Yinzer roams the waters.  If you happen to run into Yinzer, don’t be too concerned about him devouring you.  He only eats Primanti sandwiches and pierogies.   

That’s what passes for news around here from soggy Harrisburg!  Come back next week where we will once again regale you with tales of yore. Or something.  From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!    


Friday Happy Hour: Dogs in Food Edition

Dogs in FoodFollowing his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Trump this week initially said "I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia that interfered in the 2016 election.  Twenty-seven hours later, after all hell had rained down, and breaking with his usual practice of claiming not to have said things he said, Trump explained that he misspoke, and that what he really meant to say was "I don't see any reason why it wouldn’t be" Russia that interfered with the 2016 election.  Got it?

In stating (at least initially) that he believed the word of President Putin over his own intelligence agencies, President Trump induced a somewhat rare occurrence of U.S. Senators Bob Casey Jr. and Pat Toomey agreeing on something.

Monday was the deadline for applying for online gambling licenses.  Despite the grumbling in some quarters that the 54 percent tax rate would deter some prospective licensees, nine of the 13 licensed PA casinos said “deal me in.”

As for when Pennsylvanians will be able to place legal bets on sporting events, it’ll probably be during the upcoming football season, but maybe not at the very beginning, according to PA Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole.

Following are this week’s highlights of the slowly awakening PA gubernatorial battle: Republican challenger Scott Wagner said Governor Wolf wants to drastically cut funding for education in rural school districts.  Wolf said “nuh-uh.”  Look for things to heat up a bit more as we approach Labor Day.

The governor unveiled new guidelines for how opioids should be prescribed in workers’ comp cases.  Critics said the guidelines were weaker than ones he vetoed a while back.

The consequences of the new law that permits Pennsylvanians to purchase (and more to the point, set off) commercial-grade fireworks continues to rankle early shift workers, pets, pet owners, editorial writers and folks who tend to think of nighttime as a sleeping opportunity.  This week’s condemnation comes from Williamsport.

Over yonder in Philadelphia, the city prevailed in its defense of its tax on sweetened beverages.  Mayor Jim Kenney lauded the state Supreme Court decision, while others – city grocers and other retailers who are losing business to the ‘burbs – were naturally disappointed.

The PA Interscholastic Athletic Association passed a couple of policies this week that could have a significant impact on high school sports.  Effective Aug. 6, athletes in 10th grade or later who transfer to another school during the season will be barred from participating in post-season competition for a year unless granted a waiver.  The other policy is aimed at maintaining competitive balance by taking several new factors into account in determining whether a school should be bumped up to a higher classification.

State officials revealed that they had to shut down online access to birth and death records recently after someone hacked into them and made some unauthorized “cosmetic modifications.”  They added that no data breach occurred, and they are working with law enforcement to get to the bottom of it.

A new report claims that several hundred thousand additional Pennsylvanians could vote if the Commonwealth implemented automatic voter registration and offered early voting. A total of 92 million eligible Americans did not vote in the last presidential election, according to the Center for American Progress.

Speaking of voting, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he would expand the scope of his audit of the state’s voter registration system in the wake of the federal indictments of 12 Russians for hacking in the 2016 election.

Speaking of the auditor general, he released an analysis concluding that legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania and taxing it at 35 percent could yield nearly $600 million annually for the state coffers. 

And, speaking of marijuana (this is what we call a “segue hat-trick”), Lackawanna County officials complained that state officials moved too quickly on advancing the medical cannabis program, and that they’d like a bit more guidance on what the law means for local programs.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) took his show on the road (see what we did there?) to Monroeville this week to remind the fine folks in western PA of the benefits they’re receiving from passage of the transportation funding act in 2013.  We gin up this week’s Shameless Client Plug by reporting that Jason Wagner, of Associated PA Constructors, was on hand to provide the industry’s perspective.

This week’s We Can’t Make This Up segment whisks us off to the internet, where some dude named Max has found a use for Instagram that could truly change our world for the better.  He photoshops images of dogs and food and posts the mashups to an account called Dogs in Food.  The account has nearly a half-million followers.  And you thought Instagram was just a waste of time…

So, that’s what passes for news around here this week as we move toward the dog days of summer!  From your pals here at Triad World HQ, have a great weekend, and join us back here again next week for another batch of nebulous news nuggets and pet pix!

Friday Happy Hour: Hot Tub Bear Edition

Hot tub bear

President Trump this week hopped across the pond to attend the annual NATO summit, pausing to excoriate our allies for their lack of financial commitment to the alliance before having very nice dinner. Upon his exit, Trump announced he had secured a larger financial commitment from the allies in attendance, something that was definitely news to them.   Trump is now off the Helsinki, where he will attend a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  We are sure there will be nothing controversial AT ALL happening at that little soiree.

Congress this week continued its investigation-o-rama by dragging Trump-loathing FBI agent Peter Strzok over the coals for his intemperate text messages.  Congress can’t seem to pass immigration reform or infrastructure funding but, man alive, can they put on a sideshow.  And for the record, “Strzok” is obviously too hard of a name to pronounce for most of our sitting members of Congress.

After 10 lean years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now has a little cabbage in its savings account, thanks to Gov. Tom Wolf’s $22 million transfer of loot into the Rainy-Day Fund.  Critics of the governor were quick to be, um, critical, but Moody’s seems to believe it’s a pretty big deal.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has told county officials across the state that they have to replace their voting machines by the 2020 elections.  The cost of that little endeavor could be north of $125 million.  This year’s state budget contained $14 million to address the problem.  Now, we are not mathematicians here at Triad, but those two numbers aren’t even in the same zip code.  Democracy, it turns out, is not free.

Protestors once again gathered outside Governor Wolf’s residence this week to complain that the governor won’t call a legislative special session to force lawmakers to undertake redistricting reform. If Governor Wolf could “make” the General Assembly do anything, we can assure you the last three budgets would have looked quite different. So again, dear protestors, maybe get some sort of primer on how special sessions work before wasting your time out on the sidewalks of York County. It is hot out there, and you could get dehydrated.   

A top Wolf Administration official this week slammed the federal government for proposed cuts to a program that helps Americans sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, a program that President Trump apparently doesn’t even believe still exists.  Which, to be fair, may explain his administration’s hesitance to fund it.  Trust us, he’s not funding Planned Parenthood either.     

Governor Wolf also launched his PA SMART initiative, a $50 million program to help train Pennsylvania kids for the jobs that actually exist in the state, instead of the jobs we kinda wished were here.  The program will focus on career and technical training and STEM skills, among other areas, and was a bipartisan product of this year’s budget agreement.  Hey Congress, see what can be accomplished when you work in a bipartisan fashion?

Speaking of STEM skills, a robot cat has come to Pittsburgh to teach those very skills to the wee ones.  We assume it does not need a robot litter box, but it will still probably bite you if you touch its robot tummy. 

A state overseer has laid out a plan to get Harrisburg out of Act 47 status, detailing ways to fill a projected $12 million annual budget hole. With no more parking garages to lease, it looks like the answers are taxes, and then maybe some taxes. 

The late, great state Rep. Bud George was once quoted on the House Floor as saying, “Talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy whiskey.” Well if that is the case, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s bar is stocked quite a bit better than that of his challenger, Congressman Lou Barletta.  Casey rolls into August with a 10-1 fundraising advantage over Barletta, with the midterms getting larger in the windshield. 

Over in the gubernatorial race sandbox, Governor Wolf’s challenger, Scott Wagner, has seized upon Wolf’s comment about the basic education funding formula, suggesting that if Wolf had his druthers, about 250 school districts would have few dollars next year. We are not sure if this line of attack will stick, but at least this race is showing somewhat of a pulse. 

In another installment of our Shameless Client Plug segment, check out our good pal Bob Latham from the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (the people who build your roads and bridges), talking about how important it is for the General Assembly to pass a bill to legalize automated speed enforcement in construction zones.  A bill to do just that has, somewhat inexplicably, bounced around the House and Senate like a volleyball, never actually making it to Governor Wolf’s desk.  

In our We Can’t Make This up segment this week, we take you to California, where a man discovered that a bear had slurped up his margarita and then decided to lounge around in his hot tub.  The bear reportedly then grabbed the man’s iPhone and ordered some guacamole and chips from a local restaurant.

That’s what passes for news around here on a gorgeous Friday the 13th!  We hope to see you back here next week with all the news you can bear to read!  From all of us at Triad, have a great weekend!

Friday Happy Hour: Pride of Lions Edition

Pride of lionsEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is out of a job just two days after munching on hot dogs at the White House Fourth of July picnic.  We have since been marveling at the sheer joy being shared online by environmentalists and progressives over his resignation.  Memo: Nothing we have seen to this point leads us to believe that President Trump is looking for the next Rachel Carson to fill the position. 

While the World Cup marches on, the eyes of the world remain fixed on another soccer team consisting of twelve Taiwanese boys and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand.  Incredibly, they were all found alive this week after a nine-day search.  Now comes the tricky part: getting them out.  Maybe give former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker a call?

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has gone from being disappointed over Trump’s trade policy (i.e. tariff the crap out of everyone) to being downright miffed, saying we have crossed the Rubicon. Kudos to Toomey for throwing out a reference to a 1983 Journey album. 

Meanwhile, Trump’s Canadian newsprint tariffs have really started to anger the U.S newspaper industry, pretty much ensuring that those particular tariffs will remain in place forever, or at least until Trump leaves office.  Another memo: If the newspaper industry were smart, they would tell Trump they love the tariffs.  They would be lifted before sundown.  

Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. this week sent a letter to the feds asking how many children separated from their parents at the border have made their way to Pennsylvania, and where they might be.  Given how well the federal government has tracked those children thus far, we suspect the answers are 1) between zero and 3,000 and 2) your guess is as good as ours. 

Protestors camping out in front of the ICE offices in Philadelphia were removed this week, sparking outrage in some quarters.  The odd thing is that Philly is, in fact, a sanctuary city and does not cooperate with ICE unless ordered to by a judge, so there is more than a smidge of irony there. 

Governor Wolf this week casually mentioned that he would like to see all school funding in Pennsylvania driven out by a bipartisan new formula that lawmakers agreed on several years ago.  For some reason, this touched off a mini-firestorm.  It would seem that some lawmakers only want to see the so-called “new money” driven through the new formula, leaving the vast majority of dollars to be driven out by an admittedly terrible system.  This sounds suspiciously like buying a brand-new car and only driving it every other Wednesday. However, moving all school funding through the new formula would create a whole new list of “losing” school districts, which isn’t a whole lot of fun when you are on the ballot.  

Wolf also this week called on lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage, a plea he has made 800 or so times since taking office.  We know how this song ends. 

Pennsylvania’s new law that expanded to types of fireworks that can be legally purchased went over with a literal bang this week, with one York police official describing the Fourth of July in his town as “sounding like a war zone.”  Super!  Remember, don’t let children light fireworks.  It should always be done by the crazy uncle at the picnic who’s already had twelve Coors Lights, and strangely enough only has eight fingers.

The infamous Southern Beltway highway project in western Pennsylvania looks like it will suffer its 3,794th setback, as flooding caused by construction happens every time it rains more than three drops.  At this rate, Trump’s border wall will be constructed before the beltway opens.  

Also in western PA this week, a judge is hearing arguments over the state Office of Open Records ruling that all information from Pittsburgh’s bid for the Amazon HQ2 project be made public.  Admittedly, city and county officials really don’t want to share the info while a bidding war is happening.  That’s like being forced to play the World Series of Poker with your hole cards face-up.  

As is often the case when major problems confront our nation, the business community steps in to help lead the charge.  In the fight against opioid addiction, companies are putting their dollars to work to treat folks because it is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes economic sense.  We give you Altoona as Exhibit A.

Exhibit B is in Pittsburgh, where Allegheny General and UPMC are no longer separating mothers from newborns who come into the world with opioid addiction. Sometimes holding-your-new-baby therapy can be just as powerful as drug therapy. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to South Africa, where karma played out in rather gruesome fashion this week.  Several poachers broke into a nature preserve to illegally shoot rhinos, but instead were greeted by a pride of lions.  Spoiler alert: the lions won.  Quickly. 

That’s what passes for news around here this holiday week!  Come back next week because, frankly, we would be awfully lonely without you.  From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!