Current Affairs

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: 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!

Digital Advocacy at Triad Strategies

Socialmedia_0.jpg.pagespeed.ce.hUA6ltIAdxIn the Washington Post last week, you may have seen an article entitled “K Street says social media are growing faster than traditional lobbying as a way to influence Washington.” We were excited to read about the trend at the federal level, because it’s something we’ve been seeing in Harrisburg for years.

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Time To Get Your Gridiron Tickets: Steve Esack

Mc-bio-steve-esackGuest blog by Steve Esack, Harrisburg correspondent - Allentown Morning Call

The national news and political muckety–mucks have their annual comedy night, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in Washington, D.C.

But did you know that the same type of comedy extravaganza – minus the red carpet and Hollywood star power – goes on in Harrisburg each year?

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Addressing the addiction crisis in Pennsylvania

Magellan logoOur client Magellan Healthcare of Pennsylvania will be hosting a conference later this week featuring best practices in fighting the addiction epidemic in Pennsylvania. Keynote speakers include:

  • Wilson M. Compton, MD, MPE, Deputy Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health
  • Carlton Hall, Deputy Director of Training and Technical Assistance, National Coalition Institute, Community Anti-drug Coalitions of America
  • Hon. David J. Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Ken Lavelle, MD,EMS, Medical Director, Emergency Training and Consulting
  • Jason Snyder, Policy and Communications Director, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Program

Registration is still open for this event, to be held June 9-10 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg. 

Magellan works on the front lines of this crisis and has amassed an impressive list of presenters for the conference. Below is an editorial co-written by Gary Henschen, the Chief Behavioral Health Officer, Magellan Healthcare; and J. Layne Turner, the administrator of Lehigh County's Drug and Alcohol Program.

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