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September 2019

Friday Happy Hour: Emotional Support Clown Edition

Emotional support clown

There was hardly any news out of Washington this week, so we’ll just go directly to Harrisburg…

On the one hand, the fall legislative session began on a rather collaborative note this week, as Gov. Tom Wolf explained that the executive orders he puttered with over the summer regarding voting machines, charter schools and gun violence were merely “conversation openers,” and that he’s hopeful he can work with lawmakers to advance his second-term agenda “in a legislative way.”

On the other hand, it appears that June’s Senate brouhaha during a debate over a bill to eliminate a program that provided cash to the state’s poorest residents continues to rankle a number of senators. Apparently, chillin’ at the beach during summer recess only does so much. We’ll see how things unfold in the coming weeks.

But there was considerable bipartisanship in the air this week. By a 46-3 vote, the Senate approved and sent to the governor a bill that expands federal immigration status checks to construction workers through a system known as E-Verify, thereby making it harder for employers to hire undocumented workers. It had passed the House by a 170-to-28 tally in June.

A measure that makes registration on the state’s Do Not Call list permanent hightailed it to Governor Wolf’s desk this week following a unanimous vote in both houses. It also prohibits telemarketing calls on legal holidays, allows businesses to register for the list, and requires robocalls to provide an “opt out” option at the beginning of the call.

Another good idea is halfway to enactment following a unanimous Senate vote – a requirement that public schools allow students to apply personal finance class credits toward high school graduation. Next up is consideration in the House.

Advocates for reforming Pennsylvania’s probation system stopped by the Capitol this week, asserting that too many people are being sent back to jail for technical violations and minor infractions. The General Assembly will be looking at bills to cap probation terms at five years for felonies and two for misdemeanors. The measures have bipartisan support.

The Senate, by a 43-6 vote, approved a bill that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco or vaping products to 21. The measure now goes to the House.

We’re not sure how much street cred LendingTree has when it comes to roads and bridges, but the loanmeister plunked down a study this week asserting that PA has the fifth-worst transportation infrastructure in the country. Regardless of whether the ranking is accurate, it’s clear that diverting $700 million per year in highway funds to subsidize State Police operations doesn’t leave enough to get ahead of bridge and highway needs.

This week’s horribly scary icky health threat comes by way of mosquito bites and has been confirmed in Carbon, Erie and Monroe counties. Eastern equine encephalitis, or Triple E, kills three of every 10 people who get it and leaves most survivors with brain damage, according to state officials. Pass us the DEET, please.

Pennsylvania once again capitalized on its prowess in autonomous vehicle technology as the partnership of Carnegie Mellon and Penn State universities, along with PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission, received an $8.4 million federal grant to figure out how driverless vehicles can better navigate through work zones.

Just a week after absentee ballots became available online, more than 4,300 Pennsylvanians have already taken advantage of the program. Previously, voters could only apply on paper for an absentee ballot and wait to receive it via snail mail.

Just in time for Major League Baseball playoffs, Mohegan Sun Pocono opened its new sports betting facility this week. The lounge features seating for 40, six sports betting terminals, a racebook betting terminal, a walk-up food and beverage bar and a 28-foot-wide video wall.

The Senate State Government Committee advanced a measure that would turn the lieutenant governor’s residence over to the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. Although there are no specific plans for the Fort Indiantown Gap property, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, sponsor of the legislation, said it would “be used to maximize the beneficial use of supporting our Pennsylvania veterans and active military.” Lt. Gov John Fetterman has chosen to live elsewhere.

Lieutenant Governor Fetterman selected the earliest date possible – Jan. 14 – to hold a special election to replace former Sen. Mike Folmer, who resigned following his arrest on child pornography charges. Neither party has named a candidate.

Governor Wolf and Lieutenant Governor Fetterman announced they both support legalizing recreational marijuana as they released a report on Fetterman’s “listening tour” regarding the issue. The report said 82 percent of those weighing in supported legalization, although both Wolf and Fetterman acknowledge that lawmakers my be slow to approve such a measure.

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment whisks us halfway ‘round the world, to New Zealand, where an ad agency employee who suspected he was about to be terminated hired an emotional support clown to accompany him to the HR office. The clown created balloon animals and mimed a good cry as the soon-to-be-ex-employee was handed his termination papers. That’s probably more emotional support than he would have received from Bozo, Krusty or even Ronald McDonald.

And that’s what passes for news around here this week! From all your pals here at Triad, have a terrific weekend, and we’ll see you back here at the same time next week!


Friday Happy Hour: Warren Zevon Edition

Rattler

By far the biggest news since our last missive was that Penn State defeated Pitt 17-10 last Saturday, giving certain Team Triad staff members bragging rights over certain other (ahem, Brendan Schubert and Sydney Kockler) staff members. #WeAre 

Note to President Donald Trump: when you find yourself in a bit of a bind, DO NOT send Rudy Giuliani on television to clean it up. Unless by “clean it up” you really mean “dump gasoline all over it, set it on fire and throw it in a dumpster.” 

From Hong Kong to Berlin, from Dublin to New York and beyond, millions of earthlings are participating in a worldwide climate strike today to raise awareness of climate change. Suffice to say this issue has now gone from policy discussion to movement.  

Today, will mark the final day of power generation at storied Three Mile Island, as natural gas and a volatile energy market finally achieved what anti-nuke protesters could not over the past forty years.  As the final droplets of steam evaporate at the giant cooling towers, so goes the carbon-free power that lit up over 800,000 Pennsylvania households since 1974. 

A report was released this week showing Pennsylvania college students are currently lugging around the 2nd-highest average student debt load in the nation.  #WeAre #NotDoingSomethingRight.  

Relief from that debt may be on its way, however, for folks who become first responders, as a bill to forgive their debt is moving through the General Assembly. Baby steps (doo doo doo-doo doo-doo) baby steps (doo doo doo-doo doo-doo).  You’re welcome.   

This week in Rather Astounding Statistics, we bring you the unbelievable 12%: the number of Pennsylvanians who currently do not have enough food to eat.  Seeing as how we are in the longest economic expansion in the nation’s history, that number seems jaw-dropping to us. If you read that number and thought “we should definitely cut SNAP benefits”, you are misreading this entire paragraph. Start over.   

Speaking of stats, since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, Pennsylvania’s uninsured population has shrunk by 5%, holding steady at around 6%.  If you read that number and thought “we should definitely blow up the system and start over”, see the preceding paragraph.   

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden got a bit feisty with each other in Philly this week, battling over who is a bigger friend of organized labor.  It was sort of an “I know you are, but what am I?” moment between septuagenarians.  It ended with Biden telling Bernie his dad could definitely beat up Bernie’s dad.  

Environmental groups are all kinds of salty that, in their judgment, the Wolf Administration is not using the proceeds from the nationwide Volkswagen settlement to push electric vehicles more aggressively.  Considering the fact that only 10% of the entire fund has been awarded, maybe we all need to pump the brakes, so to speak, on the criticism.  

Next week, both the House and Senate will start hearings on what should be done to curtail gun violence.  It is against that backdrop that a bipartisan group of lawmakers held a press conference this week to push for a Red Flag Law in Pennsylvania to help curtail gun-related suicides. Seems reasonable, which means its likely to be mired in arguments about completely unrelated issues for the foreseeable future.   

Our friends at APSCUF this week announced an agreement on a four-year contract with the State System of Higher Education, thereby freeing the faculty up to keep educating the next generation of amazing Pennsylvania graduates.  Judging by the ages of many of the Climate Strikers today, reversing climate change looks to be Job One for them.  

We also send a shout-out this week to our friends at Aqua PA for consummating a rather sizable merger with the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority. Nicely done! 

Readers of Pennlive.com and political nerds everywhere are in for a treat, as the venerable John Baer announced this week that he is joining the Pennlive stable of top-notch journalists. Congratulations John, you may now resume beating elected officials about the head and shoulders. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week we take you to Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.  Local officials in Guthrie this week stopped a man and woman for driving a stolen car and also found a rattlesnake, a canister of Uranium, an open bottle of whiskey and a handgun, which coincidentally is also a lyric from a Warren Zevon song. Send lawyers, guns, whiskey, uranium, a snake and money, the shit has hit the fan.

That’s what passes for news around there on a simply resplendent Friday in the heart of your state government.  Come back and join us next week!  You bring the rattlesnake; we will bring the whiskey! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend. 


Friday Happy Hour: Mockingbird Edition

Mockingbird

The nation paused Wednesday to remember the more than 3,000 Americans who lost their lives on 9/11, the deadliest attack ever on American soil. Vice President Mike Pence came to Shanksville to visit the Flight 93 memorial, where the words “Let’s Roll!” still ring today. Remarkably, this year’s high school graduating class will be the first one whose students were not yet born when the terror attack happened.  #NeverForget.

Before we roll on any further, we would like to point out that a full moon will rise tonight. Today is also Friday the 13th. What’s the worst that could possibly happen, right? Moving right along…

Ten Democrats took to the stage Thursday night in the 58th presidential debate of 2019, or as we now call it “another night where everyone beats the snot out of Joe Biden.” Preceding the festivities, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell took a whack at Elizabeth Warren in the pages of the Washington Post, calling her a hypocrite for her Road-to-Damascus-like conversion on campaign contributions. The man still knows how to grab some headlines!  

Coming on the heels of a potential multi-billion-dollar nationwide settlement over the marketing of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma may have thought it was out of the woods. Not… quite… yet. Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced yesterday that he is suing Purdue’s owners, the Sackler family, on behalf of the Commonwealth. Quite a large domino you knocked over, Mr. AG.   

The Commonwealth Court has ruled that a lawsuit filed by gun owners over some new Harrisburg gun ordinances can proceed. While gun-control advocates spend a whole lot of time worrying about what is (or in most cases, isn’t) happening on the federal and state levels, the real battleground seems to be local governments and the courts. Lots of elected officials love local control until the locals actually try and control something.   

On that note, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spent some time in Washington this week banging his head against the pavement, trying to convince the Senate GOP leadership to act on gun control measures.   

The continuing uncertainty over trade with China is starting to smack the Pennsylvania manufacturing industry around, as that sector has shed more than 8,000 jobs since January. If ever there was a giant red flag in the windshield for Team Trump 2020, this would be it. 

Lawmakers are rallying for the passage of a bill that would extend the same health and safety regulation currently enjoyed in the private sector to Pennsylvania’s public sector workers. You might ask why those workers don’t currently have those protections, to which we would answer, “We haven’t the foggiest idea.”  

Speaking of state employees, if you are one of them and you were expecting an early retirement buyout offer in the near future, you may wanna rethink those plans. Ain’t happenin’, Captain. Prepare to go to work Monday.   

If you really wanna watch some legislative fireworks, attend the next public hearing on the legalization of Sunday hunting. Man, the people on either side of that issue are quite entrenched! At this point, we predict that the General Assembly will legalize marijuana long before Sunday hunting.

Speaking of marijuana, despite the fact that the medical version of it is quite legal in Pennsylvania, one county judge has decreed that parolees cannot partake of it. This seems, well, weird. If you are on parole, you can’t take medicine? Does this prohibition also apply to opioids and painkillers?

The Commonwealth Court this week ruled that one state lawmaker’s lawsuit again the Mariner East pipeline construction cannot proceed because said lawmaker has no standing to bring the suit. The court’s written decision was not what one would call ambiguous, to be kind.

One does not usually equate Emlenton, Pennsylvania, with Las Vegas, but hey! Here we are! A truck stop in Emlenton is the first in the Commonwealth to have legal video gaming terminals to help weary travels kill some time and maybe win some loot. And, of course, grab a good meatloaf sandwich while they are there. 

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to Lyft, who is rolling out a program that will help residents of low-income housing areas to get low-cost rides to the grocery store. The program begins in Philly but will expand into other areas soon.   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we take you to Mississippi, where a school district has banned the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” because the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable.” You know what else makes people uncomfortable? Mississippi.  

That’s what passes for news around here as we feverishly (and we are not kidding) prepare for the return of the General Assembly next week! If you need us, we will likely be here all weekend, so stop by and maybe bring some lunch? From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!  


Friday Happy Hour: Freddie Mercury Edition

Freddie Mercury

Hurricane Dorian continues to batter the East Coast as it takes what feels like a month-long journey to Greenland (which the United States may or may not own by the time it gets there.) If you are so inclined to help your fellow humans (and we are), may we suggest logging on to Project Hope and making a small donation?

Meanwhile, if you are looking for some must-see TV, turn off Netflix and tune in to coverage of the British Parliament. Gary Busey lookalike Boris Johnson and his Brexiteers are making Congress look like a well-oiled machine.  

The Trump trade war with China is starting to hit Pennsylvania farmers right square in the soybeans, we found out this week. War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing (say it again!)

This is the perfect opportunity to remind our dear readers that our own U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is not a fan of trade wars or tariffs. And by “not a fan” we mean “hates them with the fire of a thousand suns.” 

Two weeks ago, we told you that Governor Wolf was very serious about reforming the charter school system in Pennsylvania. In case you doubted our word, he reiterated that stance this week by imposing a new fee on charters that would be used to resolve payments disputes between charters and school districts. This particular war will most definitely end up in the hallowed halls of the General Assembly, on that you can bet.

Erie was in the news quite a bit this week, as County Council publicly called on the state to say yes or no to its long-sought community college plan, which has been in the works since 2017. A shiny new community college will go a long way toward helping workforce development in the great northwest.  

Meanwhile, national political pundits have listed Erie County as one of the top 10 counties that will decide next year’s presidential election. You hear that, Erie? Prepare to be positively crushed under 6 million TV ads next year! Maybe take some time away from the television and go to Waldameer or something.

A group of lawmakers from southeastern Pennsylvania have launched an effort to require Pennsylvania to derive 30% of its power from solar by 2030, which seems like an entirely more reasonable approach than a $20 trillion climate change plan that will eliminate fossil fuels by next Wednesday. 

Pittsburgh is also looking to shine up its energy efficiency street cred by requiring that all city owned buildings (current and future) be net zero carbon users in the very near future. The Steel City has come a long way since once being described as “hell with the lid off.”

The Wolf administration continues to tour the state touting the benefits of the governor’s RestorePA plan, which would drop a metric crap-ton of new money into repairing the state’s infrastructure. The timing of the latest push coincides with Hurricane Season, which in Pennsylvania often is called “my basement is flooded again” season.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is preparing to roll out a new app that will let you pay your tolls from your phone. Considering you can now buy pretty much everything under the sun from your phone, this seems like a logical next step for America’s Favorite Toll Road.   

Lawmakers continue to tour the state to ascertain the current state of affairs when it comes to access to high-speed internet in rural areas. This just in: it still sucks. Moving right along…

In addition to having Hersheypark, Chocolate World, the Giant Center and myriad other amazing attractions, Hershey also has, at least for this week, Bug-o-Rama, where you can go to see hissing cockroaches, scorpions and all manner of insect. For some ungodly reason.   

There are people in this country who have gone to 30, 40 and even 50 Trump rallies since he took office.  The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating look at what is the political equivalent of the Deadheads, crisscrossing the country, but probably with fewer psychedelic drugs in tow.  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you back to the U.K., where a man found himself staring at a likeness of deceased Queen front man Freddie Mercury in a pork chop that he was frying. Not content to just preserve this modern-day miracle for all of mankind’s enjoyment, the man ate it instead. Rest assured if it were Paul McCartney on that piece of pork, it would be in a museum by now!

That’s what passes for news around here on this gorgeous Friday in September! From all of us here at Triad, have a great weekend, even if you drafted Antonio Brown in your fantasy football league!