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December 2019

Friday Happy Hour: Duct-Tape Banana Redux

Work of art

America was force-fed a civics lesson this week with the impeachment of President Trump, only the third time the House has taken such an action. At the moment, we don’t know when (or if?) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will deliver the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, as she suggested she will wait until she’s satisfied that the Senate trial will be a fair one. It could be a long wait. Pennsylvania’s 18 members of Congress split along party lines, with the nine Democrats voting to impeach and the nine Republicans voting against it.

The president, for his part, called the impeachment a sham and a witch-hunt and asserted, once again, that he had done nothing wrong. He and his Republican supporters continued to criticize the impeachment process, but didn’t lay a finger on any of the facts.

Two Democrats voted against the abuse of power article, and an additional Dem voted against the obstruction of Congress article. One of them, New Jersey Congressman Jeff Van Drew, announced he would switch to the GOP, and six of his senior aides immediately resigned.

Just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any uglier, they got uglier. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he had no intention to be an open-minded juror and said he would take his cues from the White House in conducting the Senate trial. Despite that, some believe that Pelosi still holds some cards. WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin laid out the various scenarios that the speaker could use to create leverage, although as McConnell noted, “I’m not sure what leverage there is in refraining from sending us something we do not want.”

After winnowing their ranks down to seven, the Democratic presidential candidates held another debate this week. The New York Times offered six takeaways.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a case that would have made it illegal to camp and sleep in public spaces. It upheld a lower court decision that said it was cruel and unusual punishment to enforce rules that stop homeless people from camping in public places when they have no place else to go.

A state court system task force’s recommendation that Pennsylvania stop issuing grand jury reports has drawn opposition. A spokesman for the majority Republican caucus in the state House said leaders are not inclined to do away with grand jury reports because it would diminish the ability of the three branches of government to work together to address public policy issues.

Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Michael Bennet, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer attended a Pittsburgh education forum last weekend. Sen. Cory Booker bailed with the flu. Charter school parents expressed disappointment in not being represented.

New Jersey voters will decide in the 2020 General Election whether to legalize recreational marijuana in that state for anyone 21 or older. In recent polls, 60 percent of voters support legalization.

Governor Wolf and legislative leaders announced that a task force will scrutinize Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system in hopes that it will improve the results it produces. Task force members will be appointed by Wolf, the court system and the General Assembly and will be given a year to complete their work.

Already thinking of how you’re gonna spend that forty bucks that lawmakers want to save you for yearly emission inspections on vehicles less than nine years old? You might want to tap the brakes on that idea while the Department of Environmental Protection figures out whether PA would lose beaucoup federal funding.

PA House members left town this week without acting on Senate-passed legislation that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2022. Governor Wolf had threatened to expand overtime eligibility to 460,000 workers if the House didn’t deliver by the end of the year. Immovable object, say hello to unstoppable force.

As winter slides on in, the PA Public Utility Commission warns electric customers that they could be hit with larger-than-necessary bills unless they shop around among competitive electricity suppliers. A PUC brochure explaining how to do it is available at this link.

As for our We Can’t Make This Up segment… A couple of weeks ago, we brought you an item about the $120,000 “artwork” consisting of a banana duct-taped to a wall. This week, we bring you a couple who shelled out the moola for said artwork. Billy and Beatrice Cox explained that they bought it in the belief that it “will become an iconic historical object.” We say, folks, this is God’s way of saying “you have too much money.”

And that’s what passes for news around here this week! From your friends at Triad World HQ, have a terrific weekend and holidays, and we will see you in 2020!

Not Goodbye, But See You Later

During the fall semester of my senior year at Temple University, I had the opportunity to intern in Harrisburg through the Temple’s Capitol Semester Program.  I thought this program would be an excellent opportunity for me to expand my professional experience as a Political Science student. I chose Harrisburg for my internship experience because I wanted to gain connections that I could maintain and build upon when I return home to Montgomery County.  I could not have gotten any luckier with my placement.  Triad gave me the opportunity to work firsthand with several players in PA politics, including legislators, companies, stakeholders and lobbyists.

Andrew 1

My roles and responsibilities at Triad included tracking legislation, attending committee meetings, and conducting research projects that serve our clients.  I also had the opportunity to attend legislative meetings on behalf of our clients. One of the favorite aspects of my internship with Triad was that every day was different. In the average week, I spent only a fraction of my time at a desk. I traveled to state agencies, saw all corners of the Capitol, and attended political fundraisers. The exposure to politicians and government process was far greater than I could have imagined.

Triad did more than expose me to politics, they also provided me with an encouraging work environment.  Everyone there is so helpful, both to me and to one another.  The comradery within the office is unparalleled. Triad takes a team approach, collaborating across practices to provide their best chance at success.  I appreciated the wide variety of mentors and experiences available through my internship.   

I used this internship to test out if Harrisburg and state government would be a career path I would be interested in pursuing after graduation in 2020.  Thanks to Triad, I have a newfound appreciation for advocacy and business. I hope to build upon my private sector experience by pursuing a work opportunity with constituents in the public sector sometime this Spring. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the Pennsylvania State Government and the politics landscape. I will take home a set of professional skills and expanded network that will help launch my career in politics. I hope this is not “goodbye,” but rather “see you later.”

Andrew 2 Andrew 3

City of McKeesport Receives $3 million through Neighborhood Assistance Program

McKeesportTriad Strategies is always happy when one of our big wins means a big success for others. In a recent case, it means providing positive change for a Pennsylvania community.

Triad helped secure $3 million in improvement funding for the City of McKeesport. We worked with the Wolf administration, Rep. Austin Davis and Sen. Jim Brewster to focus on the challenges facing the city along with the great opportunities there. 

The funding, part of a six-year program through the state’s Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP), will be the most significant investment in the Allegheny County city in more than 30 years. McKeesport already is seeing improvements and this will create even more opportunities.

The project, part of a collaboration between our clients Rebuilding Together-Pittsburgh and McKeesport, focuses on housing, downtown development, tourism and recreation. This project is proud point for Triad because it represents the only fully-funded tax credit in Western Pennsylvania.

Governor Wolf’s office put out a press release about the project saying 20 houses in the city will be renovated increasing energy efficiency, creating jobs and keeping low-income residents in their homes. Another 20 homes also will be renovated and five more will be rehabilitated to sell.

McKeesport already is a city on the rise. This funding, and the collaboration with Rebuilding Together-Pittsburgh, will help by focusing on the demolition of rundown buildings to make room for a fresh start in the downtown and the city will renovate the Penn-McKee Hotel. Through NAP, capital funding will be provided by key corporate partners: Duquesne Light, First Commonwealth Bank, Noble Energy and UPMC.  

Many elected officials and community leaders care deeply about the city and want to see it gain back more of its luster. It was a true honor to work with them on this important project and are confident we will see major improvement in the coming years.

Friday Happy Hour: Fried Meth Edition

Meth fryer

Pennsylvania this week said goodbye to former state Sen. J. Doyle Corman, the father of current Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. The elder Corman was a force of nature when it came to transportation funding and support for higher education. He died at age 87 over the weekend. Godspeed, Senator. 

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee today approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump. For a committee vote that took two days and 14 hours of debate to achieve, it may have been the most anti-climactic vote taken in a House committee this century. Off to the House floor, where a vote to impeach the president is expected next week, right in time for last-minute Christmas shopping ideas! Buy one article, get a second one free!    

Meanwhile, if you’d like to get an early read on how your particular congressman will vote next week, you can check out this article. Or, you can just assume D = yes and R = no. Your call, depending on how much time you have on your hands. 

Unbowed by the looming impeach-a-palooza, the president stopped by Hershey on Tuesday, bringing with him his well-established Greatest Hits repertoire, along with V.P. Mike Pence. If you happen to believe support for the president has waned here in central Pennsylvania, we refer you to the photos of people standing out in the rain for 10 hours just to get inside the arena. There were shorter lines for Beyoncé. 

An organization representing long-haul truckers is preparing to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls are being illegally diverted for other, non-Turnpike-ish uses. The move comes after two courts swatted a similar challenge aside earlier this year. Keep on truckin’, we suppose.

Eight of the remaining Democratic candidates for president will descend upon the Steel City next week for an open forum on the future of public education, where several of them will have to answer questions as to why their kids went to private schools if they are so darned concerned about public ones. Public education for thee, not me!

The state auditor general this week called on the federal government to close the controversial Berks Detention Center. This a much better option than calling on, say, Governor Wolf to do so, since he can’t. The governor is good, but he’s not Czar Thomas the Wolf.  

Speaking of governors named Tom, this week former Gov. Tom Ridge called out his fellow GOP party members to get serious about environmental issues, as a wide swath of the population really cares about stuff like that. We assume he didn’t mean “start by mocking a 16-year-old climate activist,” but sometimes the message gets lost in translation.   

The state House next week is slated to take up the next big criminal justice enchilada, probation reform, although during the committee process, the enchilada came out looking more like a quesadilla. All eyes will be on House amendments, as the struggle to get to a fair compromise is sometimes a messy one. We will be there with the salsa and guacamole, so hit us up if you need a rundown. 

Did you know that 172,000 or so Pennsylvanians have had their drivers licenses indefinitely suspended? Well, you do now and so do a group of lawmakers who want to seriously curtail this practice. Indefinite suspensions inevitably lead to people breaking the law by driving under suspension to get to work so they can pay their fines so they can get their license back. See what we did there? It is called a “vicious circle.” Lawmaker are looking for alternatives, to which we would offer: suspending people’s social media accounts is a great option! 

Dauphin County is being warned by the state that two county commissioners’ threat to postpone the purchase of new voting machines might be met with consequences that rhyme with “lawsuit.” It seems that the state’s mandate that counties purchase new machines wasn’t as much of a request as it was a, you know, mandate.

Governor Wolf this week let the House know that there is a deadline when it comes to his patience on passing a minimum wage increase that was ratified by the Senate last month. Should the House choose not to act next week, the governor will move forward with a new regulatory rule on overtime pay that will, in the eyes of business community, be way more costly than a wage hike. That regulatory meeting is scheduled for Jan. 30, although we would be willing to bet a set of brand-new Triad Strategies coffee mugs that it happens sooner than that if the House punts. DM us if you wanna make that bet. 

Five Pennsylvanians have already died this year due to the flu. If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, hurry up. We don’t want you people rattling around out there unvaccinated. Chop, chop.   

While the Harrisburg chattering class has long agreed that a certain attorney general will be running for governor in 2022, a new name has been floated recently, and that is current U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Of course, long before that happens, Toomey will have to vote on that pesky impeachment thingy, which we are sure will be on voters’ minds for a while after the ink dries.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Kentucky, where a man was arrested for trying to ship twenty pounds of meth through the mail by hiding it in an air fryer. Apparently, fried meth is quite the Christmas delicacy in some parts of Kentucky.    

That’s what passes for news around here on a cold, damp (did we mention it is both cold AND damp?) Friday in Harrisburg. Join us next week when we simultaneously lobby and shop for Christmas gifts on our phones in the Rotunda! Until then, from everyone at Team Triad, have a great weekend!

Friday Happy Hour: Duct-Taped Banana Edition

Work of art

It was a fairly brutal week in presidential politics, as the U.S. House Intelligence Committee handed the impeachment baton to the House Judiciary Committee, accompanied by a report outlining what they see as President Trump’s transgressions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi then directed the Judiciary Committee to prepare articles of impeachment on which the House is expected to vote shortly.

The president, for his part, flew to London for a NATO pow-wow, complaining that House Republicans had a lot of gall to proceed with the impeachment witch hunt while he was traveling abroad to tend to the people’s foreign and military interests. The event ended with Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau getting into a bit of a tiff.

In other brutal developments, three Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination called it quits this week, all in a 48-hour period. Say bye-bye to U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former PA Congressman Joe Sestak. Somewhat amazingly, nobody new jumped in, so at Happy Hour press time, the list of all candidates stood at 15 D’s and three R’s.

Senator Harris’ departure pared the number of candidates set to attend a Pittsburgh education forum next weekend down to six, although it’s possible that some of the other candidates will sign on. The event is Dec. 14 and is not open to the public, although it will be televised on MSNBC.

For the first time in 56 years, deer rifle season began on a Saturday. Those eager to hunt on Sundays will need to wait until next year. In other huntin’ news, Governor Wolf signed into law a measure that enables landowners to notify hunters that they’re trespassing by painting purple stripes on trees or posts instead of posting “no trespassing” signs.

Governor Wolf nominated PennDOT Executive Deputy Secretary Yassmin Gramian, P.E., to succeed Leslie Richards as department secretary. Our friends at Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (Shameless Client Plug) commended the nomination, asserting that the secretary-designee’s experience in the public and private sectors has given her considerable insight into the Commonwealth’s transportation challenges.

Governor Wolf went to bat for three of PA’s minor league baseball teams (see what we did there?), asking Major League Baseball to rethink a restructuring plan that could reduce the number of lower-level minor league teams by 42 across the country. Possibly at risk are teams in Erie, Williamsport and State College.

In addition to getting on the good side of baseball fans, the governor got on the good side of beer fans, announcing the availability of $1.2 million in grants for 18 projects to increase the production of Pennsylvania-made malt and brewed beverages and enhance the Pennsylvania beer industry. We toast the governor with a hoppy Pennsylvania IPA (Victory Dirt Wolf, anyone?)

The PA Department of Environmental Protection joined major oil and gas companies, environmental groups and lawmakers from both parties in urging the Trump administration not to roll back methane regulations at oil and gas sites.

Three PA members of Congress – two Democrats and one Republican, all freshmen – sit on the House Judiciary Committee, which began impeachment hearings this week. You can find out who they are at this here link.

Cheyney University, the oldest historically Black university in the country, is on a much welcome hot streak. Last week, a regional panel reaffirmed its accreditation. This week, it entered into a partnership with a biopharma company that will bring the firm’s research and development operation to Cheyney's Science Center. Let’s keep that good news coming!

Residents of The Sweetest Place on Earth (aka, “Hershey”) are perturbed about the unreimbursed expense of hosting a Trump political rally at the Giant Center. Hosting a political rally at the 10,500-seat venue costs Derry Township about $15,000 to provide police security, and hundreds of residents have signed an online petition urging officials to seek recovery of the tax dollars from political campaigns instead of giving them a free ride. The rally will be Dec. 10 and apparently will also include Vice President Pence.

PennLive columnist John Baer believes it’s high time to bring the annual Pennsylvania Society gala to PA instead of New York City. The society’s 121st soiree is this weekend at the New York Hilton Midtown, and Baer said that after attending for 25 years, he’s no longer interested, and that the money spent on it each year should benefit Pennsylvania.

Worried about a weakening global economy? Nah. The U.S. economy added 266,000 jobs, and unemployment returned to a half-century low at 3.5 percent in November. The return to work of striking GM workers helped blow through the job-gain expectations of 180,000.

UPMC Susquehanna Sunbury officials announced Thursday that they plan to shut down the hospital on March 31. According to the Center for Health Research at the University of North Carolina, 18 rural hospitals across the country have closed their doors this year alone, reflecting a worsening rural health care crisis across the country.

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment features the artwork of Maurizio Cattelan, who appears to have sold three of his pieces of, um, art through an art fair called Art Basel Miami. The artwork? A banana duct-taped to a wall. The price? $120,000. Times three. Is there anything duct tape can’t make better?

And that’s what passes for news around these parts! From your pals at Triad World HQ, have a terrific weekend, and check back in with us next week!