Friday Happy Hour: Clumsy Devil Edition

NJ Devil

The nation spent the week mourning the horrific events of El Paso and Dayton, and so once again our nation’s elected officials found themselves in the “what-to-do-about-it-all” debate. Up first was our own U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who again pledged to get his background check legislation moving. He was noticeably cooler to the idea of a ban on assault weapons.

At the state level, a powerful GOP state senator signaled she will begin to hold hearings this fall to come to an agreement on what Pennsylvania’s policy makers should or could be doing. Expect gun violence to immediately become the most-discussed topic in Harrisburg this fall.

And while we often focus on big-picture solutions around here, we should note that the recently established anonymous school safety tip line logged 23,000 calls this past year. It is tough to quantify how many lives were or could have been saved with this simple phone line.

But sadly, we also learned this week that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a staunch gun-control advocate, has been the target of death threats in recent weeks. Because nothing says, “I deserve unlimited access to guns” like “and I’ll shoot you if you disagree.”

Last week, we brought to your attention yet another plan to eliminate property taxes in Pennsylvania, this time using a mix of taxes that includes a 4.9% tax on retirement income. As we expected, that idea is going over like a Sarah Silverman speech at a Trump rally.

Of course, we do this property tax dance each and every year because voters continually say that of all the taxes they pay, property taxes are the most hated. We learned this shocking news because somebody paid a pollster to ask the question. Really? We needed a poll? We wonder what people think about being forced to eat glass. All that aside, we will once again remind you that while nobody likes the property tax disease, nobody likes the cure either.

Speaking of taxes, Pennsylvania no longer has the highest gas tax in the nation, thanks to California’s recent bump in theirs. We are contractually obligated to remind everyone that, while Pennsylvania’s ranks second in the nation, we also divert a huge chunk each year to the State Police budget. Thank you for that constant reminder, Senior Triad Consultant George Wolff.

The same poll that showed us how much people loathe property taxes also showed Joe Biden with a lead amongst Pennsylvania primary voters, although Elizabeth (I Have a Plan for That) Warren is pretty close behind. Seems like a direct challenge, Scranton! You gonna let her knock your favorite son off the perch?

Gov. Tom Wolf this week signed legislation into law that will enable foster children in Pennsylvania to go to college for free. Bernie Sanders reportedly called the governor to remind him that EVERYONE should have free tuition, not just foster children. Because Bernie is everywhere and he… hears… everything.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers put everyone’s lives at risk by proposing to deregulate children’s lemonade stands. Seriously? You realize what those kids put in that stuff, right? Oh well, caveat emptor! Don’t call us when you end up drinking a mix of sugar and water from the nearest puddle. NOTE: this is actually an awesome idea. On behalf of all the young entrepreneurs out there, thanks!

This just in: Parx Casino in Bensalem has opened a snazzy new sports book, where all you E-A-G-L-E-S fans can go and bet your mortgage on the next preseason game.

Pennsylvania’s agriculture secretary did a little tour of the Commonwealth to tout his shiny, new PA Preferred Organics program. If you don’t think there is a big future in organic products, you obviously follow ZERO millennials on Twitter.

A group of lawmakers convened a meeting to discuss Pennsylvania’s woeful state of high-speed internet access in rural parts of the state. The meeting was not live-streamed because, well, see the first sentence.

On a totally unrelated note, our friends at Agile Networks announced that the firm been acquired by InSite Wireless, one of the country’s largest private operators of wireless communications infrastructure. Like we said, this is totally unrelated to Pennsylvania’s rural broadband challenges. At the moment.  

Our friends at Comcast this week announced a big expansion of its Internet Essentials program. After starting out offering Internet Essentials to families with children participating in the National School Lunch Program, Comcast expanded eligibility 11 times over the last eight years to include residents of public housing, low-income veterans and pilot programs for low-income seniors and community college students. Next up? All qualified low-income households in Comcast’s service area, literally doubling the number of people eligible to participate in the program. Congrats!

 In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Edison, New Jersey, where a New Jersey Devils mascot ran through a glass window at a child’s birthday party. Pretty sure the kid would have settled for a picture or something. You’d never see Gritty doing anything that crazy.

That’s what passes for news around here as August rolls on, and we start dreaming of the return of the legislature. Ha! Just kidding. Nobody dreams of that, not even the legislature. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Yellow Potatoes Edition

Potatoes

The horde of Democrats running for president got together in Detroit this week to slap the living hell out of each other for two days. Only the Democrats could conceive of a plan that allows 16 people who will never be president to stand on stage and excoriate the four who actually might be.    

In the runup to the 2020 census, it looks like Pennsylvania’s population growth (or lack thereof) will cost us yet another congressional seat. If this trend continues, we are gonna be a much more expansive New Hampshire before long.   

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey this week took some very direct shots at corn-based ethanol subsidies and fuel mandates, which he says (probably correctly) are outdated and cost motorists extra money needlessly.  Iowa, it should be noted, would like to have a word with Mr. Toomey.

Gov. Tom Wolf and four other governors this week pushed all presidential candidates to declare their open support for more money to aid in the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes. This move, in our humble opinion, was genius. If you look at those states (which include good old Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan) and then look at the must-win Electoral College states… well, you get the picture.  

President Trump this week announced a plan to crack down on eligibility for SNAP benefits (the food stamps of yore), which could negatively affect 200,000 Pennsylvanians. The move did not sit well with Governor Wolf. Farmers, it should be noted, would like to have a word with President Trump.  

Amazon this week announced that its emerging love affair with the Pittsburgh area is taking another step by building a million square foot fulfillment warehouse that will employ 800 people. It has been rumored that Heinz will not renew its deal for naming rights at the field where the Steelers currently play, so hey, welcome to Amazon Field, right?  

The state has authorized new speed control cameras on Interstate 78. If you’ve ever driven on that road (and who amongst us has not?) this is probably a pretty solid idea. People seem to treat that road like it’s Pocono Raceway.

We pause for the following public service announcement: A “good Samaritan” is defined as a compassionate person who unselfishly helps others, especially strangers. Few personify the term as well as Ross Willard, president and “chief mechanical officer” of Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide all residents of the greater Harrisburg area – especially those of limited means – with access to safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly transportation in the form of bicycles. The building in which Ross operates has been sold, and he must move within the next 60 days. He’s looking for ample space, in Harrisburg, accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians, and with reasonable rent (you know, free?). PennLive published a feature story about it this week, and here is the organization’s website.

Despite its puzzling insistence on keeping that creepy Gus as a mascot, the Pennsylvania Lottery is on quite the roll, we found out this week. Sales were up 7% last year, with profits coming in at a cool $1.14 billion. Imagine what could happen if Gus “retired.” 

Pennsylvania voters will have a chance this fall to vote on a constitutional amendment that will establish a so-called victim’s bill of rights, also known as Marsy’s Law. Getting this baby on the ballot was one of the best examples of how Pennsylvania is not crippled by the same partisanship that Washington currently is. Good things actually get done around here.    

We hesitate to even mention it, but there has been yet another property tax elimination bill introduced in the General Assembly. This one would backfill the $14 billion in school funding with a local income tax, a higher state sales tax and – TA DA – a new tax on retirement income! For those who may have just moved into Pennsylvania, we will say this once so that you understand it up front: PROPERTY TAXES WILL NEVER BE ELIMINATED IN PENNSYLVANIA. FULL STOP.   

Pennsylvania apparently manufactures a metric crap-ton of potato chips each day. This week we watched in amazement as people got into vicious online arguments, the likes of which we haven’t ever seen, over the ranking of the best chips in Pennsylvania. Wars have started over less.  

This dovetails nicely with our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, which takes us back out to western Pennsylvania, where a woman urinated all over the potatoes in the produce aisle at Wal Mart.  Those places do have bathrooms, as we understand it. And security cameras, as she apparently did not understand.

And that’s what passes for news around here as the dog days of August set it in beautiful central Pennsylvania. If you listen closely, you can actually hear yourself sweat! Tune in next week where we will once again regale you with tales of yore. Until then, from all your friends at team Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Cokehead Edition

Kilo of cocaine

The U.S. economy beat growth expectations again last month, with the GDP growing by 2.1%.  While President Trump was obviously pleased with the news, he couldn’t resist taking to Twitter and punching the Federal Reserve in the snout, blaming it for keeping a lid on growth. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is like the dog that Trump never wanted.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller took his spot in front of Congress this week, and for seven straight hours looked like an exasperated professor, knowing in his heart that not one of his “students” actually read the course materials before class.

The U.S. House did, however, take some time out from the investigation-o-rama to pass a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2025. We really enjoyed the Washington Post coverage declaring that the bill is “not expected” to pass the Senate. We all know that we are more likely to get hit by a meteor while riding a unicorn than see that bill become law.  

On a related note, a report was released this week showing that in Pennsylvania, women are twice as likely to live in poverty than men. Thousands of those women are making minimum wage. Not that there is any sort of connection between the two facts at all. So we will just leave that right there and move along.   

President Trump this week appeared at a young conservative event, and whoever was in charge of putting up the presidential seal has no doubt been fired from his or her job. Instead of the traditional seal, we were treated to a two-headed eagle clutching a set of golf clubs with the phrase, “45 is a puppet” written in Spanish, replacing “E Pluribus Unum.” Gotta give somebody an “A” for creativity.   

We take a moment out from our weekly report to let you know that some racist jagoff put white supremacist stickers on poles outside of a Pittsburgh state representative’s office this week. So we would politely remind said jagoff: Pittsburgh is #StrongerThanHate. Now back to our report. 

Gov. Tom Wolf this week announced that his administration will embark upon a plan to turn your state government into a more customer-friendly organization, with you, dear readers, being the customers. Your state government will soon be right at your fingertips 24/7, so get ready. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Department of Banking is coming at ya!

It was a busy week for our state auditor general, who kicked things off by reminding us that 1) we are old, 2) we are getting older, and 3) we really need to do a better job at overseeing the nursing homes in this state because we are all gonna end up in one eventually. 

The general followed up with a rather startling announcement that a district magistrate in western Pennsylvania has turned 880 would-be civil offenses (overdue library books, parking fines, etc.) into criminal offenses. Judge Dredd has since taken leave of her office, if not her damned senses.   

Ohio lawmakers have approved a legislative package that will keep the Buckeye State’s nuclear plants in business at a cost of $150 million. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania… yeah. Not so much.  

The State System of Higher Education has announced a tuition freeze at California University and some other state system schools, we learned this week. This is great news for Pennsylvania’s college students, who are currently lugging around more debt than most third-world nations.   

Legalized sports betting in Pennsylvania has given a nice little boost to the Commonwealth’s gaming revenue, which topped $3.3 billion last year. Up next is online gaming, which will further fuel those numbers. Ah, sweet sin taxes. Is there anything they can’t do?

Remember way back (about two weeks ago) when our own Todd Brysiak spun you all a yarn about the passage of the state’s first Telepresence Education Act, a law that is kind of near and dear to his heart? You don’t? Well, read this and get back to us. We will wait. 

Finished? Good. Now check this PennLive.com piece out about the state’s new Telepresence Education Act and see if you recognize the girl in the article. Hint: she’s a much more famous Brysiak.   

Shameless Client Plug alert! With the national spotlight fixed on how to secure our elections, here is a handy-dandy primer from our good friends at Elections Systems and Software. Did you know that every single machine that ES&S offers has a paper backup? Well you do now! Vote with confidence!

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you over to Madrid, where a man was arrested when police decided to look under his massive toupee, only to discover he was hiding a kilo of cocaine under it. Walking around with a kilo of blow under your wig while looking like a nervous Mr. Potato Head is never a good idea, kids. 

That’s what passes for news around here on this beautiful Friday in July! Make sure to check in next week from wherever you may be to get a glimpse of all the news you missed while knocking back some cold ones down at the shore. From all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!     


Friday Happy Hour: Surly Reptile Edition

Gator 7.19.19Hot enough for you? Look at the bright side – it’ll make that cold Happy Hour beverage taste that much better, clear through the weekend! And in the event you’re clueless about how to stay cool, please accept these helpful tips from accredited medical professionals.

Or, you could do what our governor and his lieutenant did this week, stopping in at Midtown Harrisburg’s Urban Churn ice cream shop for a couple of chocolate cones. It’s part of something called the “Pursue Your Scoops” passport program, which encourages people to try ice cream from 32 of Pennsylvania’s creameries. Chill out, eat yummy, locally sourced ice cream and support the state’s dairy industry? Sounds like a win-win-win to us.

About 300 PA GOP committee members gathered in Hershey to elect Philadelphia lawyer Lawrence Tabas as committee chair. Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort, the other candidate for the post, will continue in her role as vice chair and work closely with Tabas as part of the deal that averts a GOP family fight that could have hurt President Trump’s re-election effort.

At least seven state legislators became restaurant servers for an hour to call attention to a push to increase the minimum wage. The state minimum wage has remained at $7.25 per hour for a decade, and the tipped minimum wage – the wage that applies to restaurant workers – has been $2.83 per hour for 30 years. The seven are Senators Vince Hughes and Art Haywood and Representatives Jordan Harris, Joanna McClinton, Stephen Kinsey, Chris Rabb and Summer Lee.

In Washington, the U.S. House passed a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. It appears to have about as good a chance in the Senate as a Popsicle in hell.

And Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had a bit of an oopsie moment when a rift surfaced with some staff members over the fact that they are paid less than the $15 per hour rate championed by the candidate.

While the minimum wage issue has a tough road ahead, workers in Pittsburgh got a boost when the PA Supreme Court upheld an ordinance requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. The Paid Sick Days Act, passed in 2015, requires employers to offer employees one hour of sick leave for every 35 hours worked.

Also in the Steel City, Mayor Bill Peduto confirmed on Twitter that he plans to seek a third term. The former City Council member has made no secret of his intention to seek a third mayoral term before hanging up his cleats.

SEIU Local 668, which represents about 10,000 Commonwealth employees, ratified a four-year contract that will boost wages nearly 18 percent. It leaves 13 smaller bargaining units with contracts that expired June 30, who remain in negotiations.

It turns out that closing down the Three Mile Island nuclear plant isn’t as simple as winterizing the ol’ summer beach cottage. Reports this week said it would take some 60 years and a billion dollars to complete the task.

This week’s Groundhog Day moment was spurred by the Turnpike Commission announcing that it will hike tolls by 6% early next year, causing a deluge of at least a million Google news alerts and at least a thousand negative motorist reaction stories. We can look forward to repeating the cycle through 2044.

We’ll concede that Kentucky pretty much perfected whiskey, but its birthplace was actually our very own Commonwealth. So asserts the Whiskey Rebellion Trail, which invites you to regional tours of craft distilleries and other accoutrements in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington.

Governor Wolf held a ceremonial signing event for six bills that will expand protections and support for crime victims. He was joined by Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm, legislators and advocates.

Our Shameless Client Plug props this week go to Associated PA Constructors’ Bob Latham, who explains that while Pennsylvania may have the highest gasoline taxes in the country, more than one-fifth of the gas-tax revenue collected – amounting to the equivalent of 12 cents per gallon – is spent on things other than highways. To view the entire segment on Pennsylvania Newsmakers, click here.

In our We Can’t Make This Up section, police in Tennessee are freaking out – and we don’t blame them – over the prospect of wildlife ingesting illegal substances that drug dealers flush down the toilet when authorities are kicking down the door. One police department posted a picture on Facebook of methamphetamine that a miscreant was trying to flush as a recent bust went down. Just imagine how surly a meth-gator would be. Or even worse, a crack-o-dile.

And that’s what passes for news around here, hot off the presses! Very hot. We’ll be back next week with more of the news, commentary, client plugs and shameless puns you’ve come to expect. Until then, stay classy and stay cool!


Making a difference the Triad way

By Todd Brysiak

I’m the proud parent of a cancer survivor. In June 2016, my then 8-year-old daughter began her battle with leukemia. Almost immediately, my wife and I learned the likelihood of our daughter attending school that fall was slim. Her immune system was going to be so compromised from the cancer treatment that entering a classroom with her friends was going to be a serious health risk.

Her education became one of many immediate problems we needed to consider. We were frustrated and concerned. But then we learned about telepresence education technology.

Ok, I get it. Most reading this are now likely asking, “what the heck is telepresence education?” And to be fair, I probably would be too if I didn’t know the issue intimately. It didn’t exactly grab major headlines, but here’s a quick breakdown for those who are wondering.

Telepresence education is new technology that allows home-bound students – those unable to attend school – the opportunity to continue their full-time education while battling serious medical conditions. Simply put, it’s a robot in the classroom that takes the place of the student – think of an iPad attached to a Segway. They access the device from their own iPad or laptop and manage the robot’s motions all while having a real-time video connection with their friends and teachers. They can ask questions and interact like any other student, but from various places outside the classroom.

Thankfully, our local intermediate unit already had access and a plan to help us use a telepresence robot. Our daughter may Dock-with-doublenot have been able to attend the 3rd grade in-person, but she wasn’t going to miss it either.

Every day, for almost an entire school year, she logged on to her iPad and participated in school like any other student – some days from her bedroom others from her hospital bed during chemo treatments. It was an absolute game changer, and it brought elements of calm to what was then a world of daily chaos.

Now, I’m not naive. I know we were lucky. Not all communities have this technology as an option, which is exactly why the movement and enactment of the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant program is so important. Parents of home-bound children face monumental challenges and worries each day. How to educate their children shouldn’t be one of them.

As you can imagine, this technology isn’t cheap. Nothing of significance is these days. But thanks to the action on Senate Bill 144 (Act 18), the state will now provide up to $300,000 in annual grants to intermediate units so they can secure this technology for local schools and students in the community.

Amid the annual budget-related teeth-gnashing that occurs in the final days of June, lawmakers tossed aside partisan differences and joined in complete unanimity to support an issue that will have a major impact on some Pennsylvania families. Yep, we’re talking zero opposition. Not a single “no” vote.

Team Triad regularly meets to discuss emerging issues and opportunities for our clients or potential clients.  There was instant consensus, last year.  We would pursue this initiative, not because it was financially rewarding, but because it was great public policy, could be an amazing asset for families facing life-changing challenges, and it was important to me. Everyone knew this was worth every bit of the effort needed to help drive it home.  

To give you a sense of how forward-thinking this effort is, Pennsylvania is now only the second known state in the nation with such a program. Maryland was the first to do so last year after the family of a young girl, named Peyton Walton, lobbied to create a telepresence program to support other home-bound kids after seeing how it benefited Peyton during her treatment for cancer.

We, here at Triad, were proud to play a part in helping see the Pennsylvania program cross the finish line last month. On behalf of Double Robotics – a manufacturer of telepresence technology – our team was involved in the development of this program and worked closely with legislative advocates. And while our Triad team always fights to win for our clients, this effort obviously carried with it a very personal connection.

A lot of folks deserve credit for this success – most far more than me. It’s easy for me to say it’s important; I lived it. But to see so many lawmakers take such a personal interest in a new and unique idea and push for it to come together in less than a year was both impressive and gratifying. More importantly, it helped bring about a change that really will make a difference in the lives of a lot of very special kids.

I admit, when the advocacy opportunity on this issue arose, I was tentative. I initially felt it was a little too close to home. But when considering the potential impact on kids who didn’t have access to the technology my daughter had, it just made sense to do it. And seeing the result, I’m glad I did.


2019-2020 Budget Successes

Triad logo

Following a hectic budget season, our team here at Triad believes it’s important to highlight some of the “wins” we helped secure on behalf of our clients. Each budget season comes with its own unique set of challenges, and this year was no different. But through the negotiations and compromises, we were able to help bring several key issues across the finish line. Here’s a breakdown of our clients’ 2019-2020 budget wins:

  • Expansion of the Qualified Manufacturing Innovation and Reinvestment Deduction (QMIRD) tax credit, which encourages investments and job creation efforts for manufacturers with a capital investment of at least $100 million in Pennsylvania. 
  • Continued long-term funding to support reduced-fee AP exams for underprivileged students. This will contribute to the overall effort of creating greater access to higher education opportunities, regardless of a family’s economic status.
  • The Keystone Telepresence Education Grant program, which was signed into law along with the budget. This new program will provide access to education for children who, for medical reasons, are unable to physically attend school. This legislation is life-changing for children and families undergoing medical treatments, such as pediatric cancer. 
  • Extension of the sunset provisions for Transportation Network Company (TNC) services law. This new one-year extension will allow TNCs to continue operating around the Commonwealth as the state continues to embrace these popular transportation services. 
  • Additional funding for small water and sewer projects in the form of grant allotments, making $40 million available for water and sewer projects that range between $30,000 and $500,000.
  • Additional funding for residential natural gas infrastructure expansion. Specifically, this broadens the pool of eligible grant recipients and increases the maximum grant amount to $1.5 million. It will provide natural gas companies with greater opportunities to expand their operations in the Commonwealth.
  • Establishment of the governor’s PA Preferred Organics program. This program will help make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic farming state by further enhancing the growth of the industry. 
  • Establishing a pilot program for an increased enrollment in Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE) programs, beginning Sept. 1.  LIFE is a managed-care program that provides a comprehensive, all-inclusive package of medical and supportive services for those under the age of 55. The enrollment expansion in the pilot program will allow more individuals who meet the requirements to live independently while receiving the necessary services and supports they require.

The Triad team is proud that so many issues included as part of this year’s budget proved to benefit many of its clients, and just as importantly so many citizens of the Commonwealth. We’re looking forward to a busy fall, where we expect lawmakers will continue to debate a host of tier-one issues. Our goal is to continue the momentum we realized in June and bring about more wins for our team of clients.


Wednesday Happy Hour: Forever Roll Edition

Forever Roll

Welcome to your truncated Happy Hour as we prepare to lock the doors at Triad World Headquarters for the long Independence Day weekend. We are sure that, like us, you are getting ready to decamp for Washington, D.C. to be part of President Trump’s salute to the military. Or perhaps you are just gonna do some grilling out and consume a few adult beverages. Either way, happy birthday, America!

And what would an Independence Day celebration be without we ungrateful colonials kicking England’s butt again? Thanks, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team!

Before we dive too deeply into the weeds of this week’s events, we direct your attention to this painstakingly crafted 2019-2020 state budget recap. Triad’s public affairs team spent days locked in the basement producing it, and jeepers, did it pay off. We respectfully submit you will find no better handbook on what your legislature passed last week. 

Of course, every budget season ends with a few issues being left on the sidelines until the fall. The legislature will return in September and, notwithstanding some other very important business, we are fairly certain that the governor’s RestorePA plan will be front and center

On Monday, Governor Wolf gave his pen a workout, signing a flurry of bills that did make it across the finish line. First up was the Farm Bill, a truly bipartisan package of bills that will inject $23 million into the industry that feeds us. A special shout-out goes to our good friends at Pocono Organics on that one!

Governor Wolf also affixed his signature to Pennsylvania’s new GI Bill, making us the first state in the country to provide college tuition assistance to spouses and children of active duty military members. This was perhaps one of the most overlooked achievement of the budget season. Because as usual, there is always some sort of distraction that captures the attention of the media and…

Oh, hey there, Mr. Distraction of 2019, didn’t see you standing there. During debate on a bill to end the state’s General Assistance cash grant program, the usually-stodgy Senate went screaming off the rails. If you haven’t seen the kerfuffle a million times on social media, you’ve obviously been living in a cave somewhere. Our suggestion? Go back to the cave until the fall. 

Pennsylvania will also have a new state-based exchange for health insurance, thanks to yet another bipartisan effort (see how often we do that bipartisan thing here? Hello D.C.?). Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle came together to pass the law with the type of speed and alacrity you typically only see in the General Assembly when it comes to animal cruelty legislation. Cuz, you know, puppies and kitties. 

And every year there is a little policy nugget stuffed into one of the budget bills that few see coming. This year’s prize goes to the pre-emption of taxes or local bans on single-use plastic bags for the next year until a study is completed. This little gem will probably not sit too well with council members in a certain large city in the eastern end of the state. 

Foes of public-sector unions spent this time last year celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s so-called Janus decision, which effectively outlawed fair share for workers who do not want to be part of a union.  The decision was hailed by said foes as essentially the end of public sector unions. Narrator: It was not the end of public-sector unions.

On Monday, 30 million criminal records in Pennsylvania were permanently sealed, thanks to the state’s Clean Slate Law, passed one year ago. These low-level offenders who have done clean time can now feel free to get their lives back on track. The list of people who made this possible is too lengthy, so just hop on Twitter since every elected official in the Commonwealth tweeted about it on Monday.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale made it official this week, announcing he will run for Congress next year. DePasquale detractors responded by criticizing him for, essentially, doing his job too well. Or running for higher office. Or something. 

Harrisburg School District has a new state-appointed receiver, who spent exactly 20 seconds on the job before sacking everyone in sight. It is gonna be a fun few months for those formerly in charge of Harrisburg’s schools, trust us. Editor’s note: “sacking” is the preferred English word for “firing.” So why did we use it? Because FREEDOM, BABY!   

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to our friends at Energy Transfer Partners, who just ponied up $300,000 to the Township of Aston for an all-inclusive, handicap-accessible playground. Great job!  

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week takes us to Wisconsin, where a man was given jail time for repeatedly clogging women’s room toilets with weird objects.   

In related WCMTU news, Charmin has now unveiled the Forever Roll of toilet paper, which can last a single person up to two months and is roughly the size of a Volkswagen. 

That’s what passes for news around here as we put the 2019-2020 state budget in the rearview mirror and head off to the grill! From all your friends at Triad, have a safe and joyous July 4th weekend!


2019-2020 Budget Recap

2019-20 Budget Recap

Governor-Wolf-Signs-Bill

The Governor signed the 2019-2020 General Appropriations budget. Our friends at the House Republican and Democratic Appropriations Committees offer their perspectives on key elements of the budget.

Some highlights of the 2019-2020 General Appropriations budget:

  • The budget spends $33.997 billion for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, a 1.8% increase.
  • Contains no new broad-based taxes or fees.
  • Maintains and expands several workforce development initiatives.
  • Agriculture investments increase, this is to couple with the Pennsylvania Farming First Initiative, which was recently voted on in the legislature.
    •    New line items include:
      • $4.5 million for Agriculture Business and Workforce Investment
      • $1 million for Livestock and Consumer Protection
      • $2 million for Animal Health and Diagnostics Commission
    • Overall Agriculture received a $19.5 million increase
  • Includes historic levels of school funding:
    • $160 million increase in Basic Education Funding
    • $50 million in special education funding
    • Overall increase of $432 million for pre-k-12 education
  • The Department of Human Services, receives a $97.3 million increase from the 2018-19 budget:
    • Additional $26.3 million for mental health services.
    • $12 million, a 5% increase, for homecare workers who care for seniors and those with physical disabilities.
    • $5 million for community-based family centers, providing access to home visiting services to 800 more Pennsylvania families.
    • Supports individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism services, and enhanced care for seniors.
  • Approximately $300 million invested for the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

FY 2019 / 2020 Code Bill Summaries

The State General Assembly also passed several budget-related bills on topics including Education, Agriculture, Elections, Taxes, Healthcare, and government operations. Highlights include:

Budget Implementation (Fiscal Code)

  • Nearly $500 million for debt service for Tobacco Settlement Fund, Tobacco Revenue Bond Debt Service Account, Race Horse Development Fund, and Farm Show Complex Restricted Revenue Account.
  • No monies from the Oil & Gas Lease Fund shall be transferred this year. In the previous year, $20 million was transferred from the Oil & Gas Lease Fund to the Environmental Stewardship Fund. Approx. $16 million will be appropriated from the General Fund to the Environmental Stewardship Fund. A $10 million decrease from FY 2018/2019.
  • Philadelphia Parking Authority received an extension until Dec. 31, 2020 for the 1.4% gross receipts fee to be paid by Transportation Network Companies.
  • The Secretary of the Budget will be required to deposit 100% of any FY 18-19 surplus to the Budget Stabilization Reserve Fund, adding nearly $300 million into the fund.
  • Small water and sewer projects received a boost in grant allotments, making $40 million available for water and sewer projects that range between $30,000 and $500,000.
  • No ordinance or tax on Plastic bags, single-use plastics, and other plastic container use may be enacted until impact studies are issued.  
  • Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund
    • Amendments were made to broaden the pool of eligible grant recipients to include large residential conversion projects and combined heat and power applicants.
    • The maximum grant amount increased by $500,000 to $1,500,000.
    • The CFA has been directed to develop streamlined guidelines for applicants submitting for grants of $75,000 or less.
  • Commonwealth Finance Authority (CAN) transfers:
    • $5 million shall be transferred from the CFA First Industries Program account to a new CFA account for research and development; organic transition, value-added processing and marketing grants in support of PA’s dairy industry.
    • $12 million shall be transferred from the CFA Building Pennsylvania Program account to a new CFA account established for blight remediation.
    • $24 million shall be transferred from the CFA New Venture PA Venture Capital Program account to be made available for distribution under the H2O PA Act.
  • Provisions were included that impact new and existing programs:
      • Dept. of Agriculture was granted legislative approval to develop PA Preferred Organics, hiring staff and communicating research to the USDA and General Assembly.
      • Dept. of Community and Economic Development received increased funds for Main Street, Elm Street and Enterprise Programs. The Dept also received a new line of funding for a broadband expansion pilot program.
      • Dept. of Education received historic funding, notably increasing appropriations to adult learning, mental health, pre-K and trauma-informed programming.
      • Dept. of Labor & Industry received funds to enhance Workforce Development and Training Programs, under guidance of the Governor to create new industry partnerships.

Election Code

SB 48 makes changes to the absentee ballot deadlines, process, and counting along with: elimination of straight-party voting.

  • Counties may apply for assistance to pay for new voting machines, up to $90 million in bonds may be issued.

Healthcare and Human Services

The General Assembly passed legislation that includes: General Cash Assistance program for single, eligible persons has not been funded for five years, but the program would be eliminated through HB 33. Re- reauthorizes the Philadelphia hospital assessment for an additional five years through June 30, 2024.


Senate Bill 695 provides for an analysis of non-emergency medical transportation and other human services transportation programs; provide for an analysis of a uniform Statewide preferred drug list; and extend the Nursing Facility assessment and the Intermediate Care Facilities for Persons with an Intellectual Disability.


Education

Several education bills were passed by the General Assembly. Highlights include historic levels of school funding, new career and technical education programs, reevaluated formulas for school repair & reimbursement, and measures to increase school safety.

  • $25 million increase in EITC for businesses and private school families.
  • Creation of “Innovation Schools”, groups of private, specialized and/or non-profit schools that provide alternatives to a public-school education.
  • New formula to assess school construction and repair reimbursements, likely to decrease reimbursements unless the facility is LEED certified.
  • Establishment of college scholarship program for foster or adopted children to state or state-related universities.
  • Students are now entitled to trauma-informed education, including: professional trauma training for teachers, funding for security infrastructure up to $3.2 million per project, and requirement of at least one professionally trained, mental health staff member.
  • Establishment of the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant, which provides funding for real-time telepresence equipment for students who must take a leave of absence from school due to serious medical conditions.
  • Students in need of financial assistance will receive funding support from PDE to help ensure all have access to Advanced Placement exams in preparation for college.

The legislation establishing “School-to-Work” and technical education funding did not make it to the finish-line and will be considered in the fall.


Taxes

Changes to the Sales Tax

  • Retail sales from large, online, out-of-state retailers, such as Amazon.com are now subject to PA sales tax. Revenues are estimated to $5 million in the upcoming Fiscal Year.
  • Clarification of applicability of sales tax at Brew Pubs
  • Elimination of the inheritance tax for those who inherit real estate under the age of 21.

Changes to the Personal Income Tax

  • Conformity with Federal Opportunity Zones for treatment of capital gains, where investors in Opportunity Funds can receive federal tax deferrals/eliminations and other tax benefits on unrealized capital gains associated with these investments.
  • Income Tax Returns will now provide an option to donate to the Veterans’ Trust Fund.

Corporate Net Income Tax

  • Expansions to the existing Manufacturing Innovation and Reinvestment Deduction program within the corporate net income tax (CNIT) to create two tiers of private investment levels, supporting businesses that make investments in the state and create new jobs.

Realty Transfer Tax

  • Raises the $25 million limit on RTT funds deposited into the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund PHARE Fund to $40 million annually.
  • Exempts sales of preserved agricultural lands to first time farmers.

Tax Credit Programs impacted include:

  • PA Film Tax Credit Program
  • Entertainment Economic Enhancement Program (Concert Rehearsal and Tour Tax Credit)
  • Tax Credit for New Jobs (Job Creation Tax Credit)
    • Repealed
  • Rural Jobs and Investment Act
    • Increases tax credit cap from $1 million per year over four years o $6 million per year over five years, to provide time to raise these funds.
    • Defined job creation metrics and goals requirements.
    • Businesses with 150 or fewer employees are eligible, down from 250 or fewer.
  • Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit:
    • Adds “youth and adolescent development services” to the list of policy goals that are eligible for the credit.
      Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Fund: DCED shall institute an application processing fee based on the amount of tax credits applied for, not to exceed $2,000. Proceeds will be distributed to the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Administration Account and allocated to Historic Rehabilitation Projects under its jurisdiction.
  • Keystone Opportunity Zones
    • Cambria, Clearfield and Lancaster Counties are now eligible to apply for KOZ tax credits.

Agriculture
Components of Governor Wolf’s Farm Bill were passed by the General Assembly, specifically:

Tax Credits

  • New tax credits for landowners who lease or sell farmland to first time farmers.
  • Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP)
    • Increases the cap of the REAP tax credit from $10 million per fiscal year to $13 million per fiscal year, beginning with FY 2019-20.
    • The $3 million cap increase is targeted for geographic areas and best management practices for nutrient and sediment reductions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed area.
    • Raises and expands the existing cap per eligible applicant from $150,000 per lifetime to $250,000 in tax credits in any consecutive seven-year period.
  • Sediment Health and crop revitalization tax credits, including up to 90% of eligible costs to recoup riparian forest buffers, livestock stream support, stream crossings, cover crops, soil health, and best management practices and nutrient management.

Dairy-Related Programs and Reforms

  • Creation of the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission, reviewing agriculture education and dairy production for young or entering dairy farmers, then making recommendations to the Dept. of Agriculture and General Assembly.
  • Dairy Investment Program is established to support R & D, transition to organic, and marketing.
  • Milk Haulers now exempt from “State of Emergency” highway closures.

Farmer Education and Support

  • Several new programs to promote collaboration and education across the agricultural industry at a local level, including:
    • Agricultural Business Development Center
    • Agriculture and Youth Development Grants
    • Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant
    • Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
  • “Healthy Farms Healthy Schools” program enhanced and renamed to “Farm-to-School” program.
  • Soil conservation research funding.
  • Farm equipment transportation regulation rollback to allow tractors and other wide equipment onto certain roads and highways.

PA Preferred Organics Program. The Department is expected to hire staff, market the program and communicate with the USDA.

Administrative Code: House Bill 1461


Triad Driven by Team Approach

By: Roy Wells 

The lobbying community in Pennsylvania is comprised of many sole proprietors, small and medium-sized partnerships, law firms, and large lobbying and public affairs firms. In some cases, the largest firms can be organized as a collection of sole proprietors each of whom has their own book of business, while others work collaboratively with each other’s clients, while still other’s might build a team based on the needs of the client. Triad Strategies is the latter.

Team

Given the infinite number of potential issues that can come before government decision-makers, the number of recommended strategies is vast. In some cases, a single lobbyist based on their strengths and the issue, may be the one who can put forward the best strategy.  At Triad, we believe that a firm that can take the combined experiences and strengths of a dozen highly skilled individuals, should be able to put forward a better strategy on a consistent basis. A true team approach affords our client’s with just such an opportunity.

Like building any major league sports team, you try to draft (hire) the best talent available based on your perceptions of their talent and your needs, hope that you can put the best lineup on the field, and manage them in such a way that you continually have winning seasons. Sometimes you draft a utility player, sometimes a future hall of famer, sometimes you pick up free agents, and sometimes other teams pick up your free agents. 

One thing you always recognize is that a team is comprised of a unique set of skilled individuals, and in the right combination, barring injury (someone quitting or being let go), you put the best team on the field to compete day in and day out.

Triad is fortunate to have picked up some great talent during the off season. In case you missed the announcements over the past few months, we added five new team members to our lineup:

 

Megan Dapp – Senior Associate

Quick Stats: 14-year public affairs veteran, nonprofit experience

Hometown: Camp Hill, PA

Drafted: February 2019

Position: Utility player  

 

Rob Ghormoz – Senior Associate

Quick Stats: Veteran Wolf staffer, campaign staffer

Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, PA

Drafted: April 2019

Position: Lobbyist

 

Jennifer Mann – Owner, JL Mann Strategies

Quick Stats: Former PA State Representative, business owner

Hometown: Allentown, PA

Drafted: February 2019

Position: Consultant

 

Daena Ortenzio

Quick Stats: Former PA House & Senate Staffer

Hometown: Camp Hill, PA

Drafted: June 2019

Position: Communicator  

 

Jan Webb

Quick Stats: Veteran executive assistant

Hometown: Klingerstown, PA

Drafted: April 2019

Position: Operations

Today, we are proud to say, that we have the best team we have ever assembled, working with some of the very best clients we have had the pleasure of representing. Triad is fortunate to be working on issues that are being debated daily and making a difference for our clients within those debates. Each client gets a dedicated team working with them, and since we can freely make substitutions depending upon the need, always has a dozen individuals working on their behalf. 

Speaking of our clients, we would like to take the opportunity to thank all of them for giving us the opportunity to assist them in achieving their objectives. All our clients have been wonderful fans of Triad, and we look forward to our continuing our partnership as we complete another year’s legislative budget season.

Drop by our website and take the opportunity to learn more about the entire Triad team and the clients we represent. If you are seeking government affairs, strategic communications and/or business development services in Pennsylvania, we are the team for you!


Friday Happy Hour: Snakes on a Plane Edition

ThFrom the looks of things the past week or so, Iran seems to be campaigning for some sort of beat down.  They were about ten minutes away from winning that particular election this morning before President Trump hit the pause button.  Here is to hoping cooler heads continue to prevail. 

The largest oil refinery on the east coast was rocked by an explosion and fire early this morning.  Miraculously, only minor injuries have so far been reported. We send our thanks to the brave first responders who dealt with that massive conflagration.   

Continue reading "Friday Happy Hour: Snakes on a Plane Edition" »


Triad Strategies welcomes new associate, Daena Ortenzio

Daena Blog

Triad Strategies LLC welcomes its newest associate, Daena Ortenzio.  She will support the expanding communications practice for the Harrisburg-based public affairs firm. 

“I’m excited to take the next step in my career working for a firm who has such a proven record of success,” she said. “I look forward to using my experience in the legislature to support Triad’s diverse group of clients.”

Daena began her career working in House Majority Leader Dave Reed’s office as a research analyst.  She then transitioned to the Senate as executive director for the Urban Affairs and Housing Committee for Sen. Tom McGarrigle.  

Most recently, she served as a policy and correspondence coordinator for Sen. Dave Argall, focusing on communications and legislative messaging.

“We are pleased to welcome Daena, who brings a fresh perspective and approach to achieving results for our clients,” said Roy Wells, Triad president and managing partner. “She is a great addition to our team.”

“Daena’s legislative background, coupled with her communications skills, will help us deliver the most effective strategy to achieve our client’s goals at the local, state, and federal level,” said Doug Rohanna, vice president of public affairs. 

Daena is a graduate of Lock Haven University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.


Friday Happy Hour: Alligator Edition

Gator

Did you know that Pennsylvania was the first state to officially celebrate Flag Day? Well, you do now. We led the charge to honor Old Glory way back in 1938, so fly it high and proud, today and every day!

If you find yourself wondering why the nation observes June as Pride Month, or why there is a Pride Month at all, we direct your attention to Tennessee, where a Baptist preacher this week gave an old-fashioned fire and brimstone speech in which he asserted that gays should be executed. Yes, in 2019, this guy still exists. So fly that flag high and proud, too. 

Oh, and special thanks to our own Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for decking out the balcony of his office with pride flags. We would pay awfully good money to see the aforementioned “preacher” go toe-to-toe on this issue with Fetterman. 

If you were anywhere in or around Juniata County Wednesday, you probably felt the earth move under your feet. A 3.4 magnitude quake rattled the Midstate, prompting speculation (from us, to be fair) that it may have been caused by jubilant St. Louis Blues fans celebrating the Stanley Cup finals. 

Lawmakers this week renewed their push to allow cell providers to attach so-called “small cell antennas” to pretty much anything they want. This will allow for faster deployment of 5G service in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, while rural Pennsylvanians can still use their dial-ups. 

Governor Wolf announced he will veto a bill that would provide another $100 million in educational tax credits used for private and parochial schools. The bill also contained an automatic escalator of 10 percent per year. Interestingly, there has been no movement on a minimum wage bill that contains a cost-of-living index. Or any minimum wage bill, for that matter. Nonetheless, expect that the EITC bill will live on in different form during budget talks.   

The state Senate advanced a bill that would expand the role of nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania. This bill has been kicked around for years as the state looks for innovative ways to ensure medical care for underserved areas. When you get out into the hinterlands, finding a doctor can be about as easy as finding 5G cell service.

Alarm bells are starting to ring in the world of mass transit, where policymakers are looking at a looming loss of $400 million that transit systems currently wring out of the Turnpike. The question will become how loud do those bells have to get before anyone starts talking about a solution? Big things in Harrisburg typically get done when there is a full-blown crisis. Well folks, that crisis is only a few stops down the track from here. 

Governor Wolf is tiring of municipalities who rely on the State Police for protection instead of funding their own local forces. The push is on again to make these communities cough up some loot to cover the PSP budget, which also has the added bonus of allowing highway and bridge money to be used for its intended purpose. Got that? Confusing, we know – try to keep up. 

Lawmakers who have a hankering for some prison reform are turning their gaze to how we get formerly incarcerated people back into productive society. Pennsylvania’s recidivism rates are off the charts, and it is costing the system boatloads of cash while ruining lives and communities. 

Like swallows returning to Capistrano, the annual “I have a bill to eliminate property taxes” story hit a local newspaper this week. Got it. You go ahead and wake us when that happens.

Lawmakers are also kicking the tires on a new plan that would split Pennsylvania’s interscholastic sports (and their championships) into two new entities, one for public schools and one for non-publics. The argument is that non-public schools can actively recruit the best athletes, and they therefore have an unfair advantage. If you’ve ever had the honor of watching your public school football team get absolutely dismantled by the team from Our Lady of Sacred Football at the championships in Hershey, you get it.   

We pause for a moment to ask if anyone knows why Pittsburgh currently has so many alligators on the loose? Hit us up if you know why the South Side is starting to look like a Louisiana swamp. 

Every time U.S. Sen. Bob Casey runs for re-election, his opponents complain that he doesn’t do big things. Here is your periodic reminder that to be effective, sometimes you need to focus on a lot of smaller things. This week, Casey announced he will tackle the “food gap” for poorer 6-year-olds who are too old for public assistance but not yet in school and receiving free or reduced lunches. Not flashy, not headline-grabbing, but quietly effective.  

Our Shameless Client Plug goes out this week to Tom and Trevor and the staff at Yards Brewing for announcing they will begin to brew beer for Cape May Brewing, probably because half the City of Philadelphia is in New jersey all summer anyway. Cheers!  

Also this week, our partner Dennis Troy was busy making the dirt fly on the new Strip District Produce Terminal redevelopment in Pittsburgh! Great job by Dennis and his team! Hey DT, what’s the deal on the alligators?   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we take you to (where else?) Louisiana, where an eight-foot alligator got pretty incensed at local police for bothering his sunbathing and took a bite out of the sheriff’s car. Pittsburgh police, take note!

That’s what passes for news around here as summer, and the state budget, are on the horizon! From all of us at Triad, have a Happy Flag Day and a great Father’s Day!


Friday Happy Hour: Freedom Gas Edition

Freedom gas

This week, we honor the selfless soldiers who 75 years ago participated in the allied invasion of western Europe through the beaches of Normandy – ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Although there are fewer people to recount the battles, their stories are compelling, and humbling to those of us who reap the benefits of their courage 7½ decades later. The Greatest Generation, indeed.

Pennsylvania lawmakers returned to Harrisburg this week to put the finishing touches on the Commonwealth’s budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. One order of business is to decide what to do with the $800 million surplus identified by the Independent Fiscal Office. A mostly Democratic camp would like to use much of it to boost education funding, while a mostly Republican camp longs to save it for a rainy day.

Also intertwined in the budget discussion is the idea of raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage. Republican lawmakers are saying they could possibly maybe sorta think about entertaining an increase, but not the $15 per hour Governor Wolf has proposed to phase in by 2025. So, still to be sorted out are the questions of how much, when, and what they would seek in return.

President Trump took his reality show to Europe this week. As we have come to expect, the festivities caromed from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, but the internet seemed to get the biggest kick out of Duchess Camilla’s suggestive wink to the paparazzi.

The president poked a hornets’ nest when he ordered tariffs on a variety of Mexican goods unless the Mexican government does something about those danged Central American immigrants that keep traipsing through their country to enter the U.S. The hornets now include Sen. Pat Toomey and quite a few other Republicans who don’t much like the idea of messing with the free market.

Back in PA, VP Mike Pence dropped in for a visit on Thursday, stopping by a York County manufacturing plant to promote the proposed trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and speaking at the state Republican Party dinner.

PA Education Secretary Pedro Rivera launched a state takeover of the Harrisburg School District, apparently not satisfied to wait until December for the board to turn over. Rivera cited the board’s failure to meet academic and financial goals set in the school recovery plan, a series of human resource snafus, failure to execute a contract with the superintendent as required by law, and the existence of a “toxic” culture. But otherwise, things are in pretty good shape. Voters ousted all four incumbents who ran in last month’s primary, decimating the majority that has dominated the board for several years, but those current members serve until December.

While we’re on the topic of takeovers, a bipartisan initiative that would lead to the state taking over the online health insurance exchange currently operated by the federal government has emerged in the PA House. Advocates say the move would cut costs for about 400,000 people who buy individual Affordable Care Act policies. Gov. Tom Wolf says he’s on board.

The Tribune-Review suggests there’s a bipartisan move afoot to repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Twenty-one states prohibit the death penalty, including PA neighbors Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and West Virginia.

On Monday, former state legislator Fred Keller was sworn in as a member of Congress, replacing former U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, who resigned for health reasons earlier this year. Keller won the seat in a special election last month.

U.S. House Democrats and the White House went at it hammer and tongs over whether former high-ranking presidential aides should be required to testify before various committees and cough up certain documents. The Morning Call reported that four of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation – all Dems – now support initiating articles of impeachment. The four are Reps. Dwight Evans, Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon and Brendan Boyle.

Our Shameless Client Plug section is an embarrassment of riches this week, starting with the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, which launched a $25 million capital campaign that will double the size of the 5,000-square-foot institution.

SCP#2 goes to the Franklin Institute, which will undertake a $6 million renovation of its train room, making space for a rotating display of artifacts that have been tucked away in storage, out of public view.

Finally, a tip of our NASCAR-themed cap to Pocono Raceway, which on Sunday hosted the Pocono 400, where Kyle Busch notched his 55th win to tie Rusty Wallace on the all-time list. A good time was had by all.

As it often has, this week’s We Can’t Make This Up segment takes us down the Potomac, where the U.S. Department of Energy was inspired to rebrand natural gas as “molecules of freedom” or “freedom gas.” The rebranding spawned a predictable volume of flatulence quips, but of course, we at Triad would never stoop that low.

And that’s what passes (get it?) for news around here this week! Stay gassy classy, Harrisburg, have a wonderful weekend, and check back in with us again next week!


Friday Happy Hour: Mighty Writers Edition

Mighty Writers

Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday made a surprise appearance in front of a microphone, something he had not done for more than two years. The nine-minute speech sent the Beltway into a full-blown tizzy, and President Trump into a full-blown fit. During it all, Mueller looked like an exasperated college professor who knows that none of his students actually read the course material but were writing reports on it, regardless.

A report came out this week stating that CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are “birthing centers for polarizing rhetoric.” Alabama elected officials immediately banned all three networks out of fear that these so-called “birthing centers” might also provide abortion counseling. 

Speaking of abortions, Gov. Tom Wolf sent a message out to all those who fear that Pennsylvania could follow Alabama, Missouri and Louisiana in passing strict new abortion laws: ain’t happenin’, captain. As long as Wolf is behind the wheel of the blue Jeep, abortion is not a lane he will be entering.  

The Washington Post this week reminded all of us that the 2020 presidential primary race can officially kick off now that Memorial Day is behind us. Meanwhile, the same newspaper has already devoted roughly 38 million column inches over the past year to the 24 Democrats who have announced they are running. 

We also learned this week that when it comes to protecting the Chesapeake Bay, Pennsylvania is in the rear with the gear, with our efforts lagging way behind our neighboring states. So if you happen to enjoy a good blue crab or an oyster from time to time, y’all may wanna pay attention here.  

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has wrapped up his 67-county listening tour on the potential legalization of marijuana. Fear not friends and foe alike, you can still go on the Interwebs and vent your respective spleens about the issue right here. 

Governor Wolf is tossing around some scratch to 38 municipalities to clamp down on dangerous intersections where scofflaws have been running red lights. So stop scoffing at the law, people.

Bethlehem hit the jackpot this week as Sands Casino officially changed owners, with the new owners bringing along a cool $190 million for a new hotel and waterpark adjacent to the casino. Once again, we are reminded that there is no need to schlep down to Atlantic City when you can go to the sunny Lehigh Valley!

In other gambling news, Sugarhouse Casino this week became the first casino in the state to offer online sports betting. Sugarhouse estimates that of the first 100 online bets it logged, 90 of them were on the Phillies to win the World Series. 

It was not a good week at UPMC, a small mom-and-pop health care outfit you may have heard about somewhere. Elected officials and UPMC employees took to the streets and the UPMC boardroom this week to talk about lack of patient access, crushing medical debt and low wages, with a former U.S. treasury secretary referring to the CEO as “evil.” Nothing to see here, move along!  

Senate Republicans this week released their counteroffer to Governor Wolf’s RestorePA plan. The GOP plan would scale down the spending portion of the governor’s plan and replace the shale tax with increased drilling on state forests to fund the whole thing. Wolf thought about it for almost thirty-five minutes before saying, “No thanks.”  

Pennsylvania will end the year with a pretty healthy surplus, according to most estimates, something we have not seen around these parts since the halcyon days of the Ridge administration. If you were wondering what lawmakers and the governor intend to do with this largesse, go online to Sugarhouse Casino’s betting app and put your next mortgage payment on “save it.”

In the past two decades, Pennsylvania’s suicide rate has jumped an alarming 34 percent. This spike has prompted a set of lawmakers to establish a suicide task force to search for solutions. It is usually at this point in our paragraph construction where we make some snarky comment, but there is decidedly nothing funny about suicide so we will just say “Bravo!” and move along.

Shameless Client Plug Time! First, we bring you this article about our friends at Johnson Controls, who are building an HVAC workforce by training formerly incarcerated people. Note to criminal justice reform folks: this is the type of corporate partnership that will help make your efforts successful.

Shameless Client Plug 2 goes to our friends at Pocono Raceway, who are once again teaming up with Attorney General Josh Shapiro to offer a ride around the Tricky Triangle in exchange for you coughing up some old prescription drugs.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we give a hat tip to Billy Penn (the online site, not the founder of the Commonwealth) for uncovering this gem. Upon turning 10 years old, a Philly nonprofit named Mighty Writers decided to Tweet out the great natal news, only to have Twitter shut down its page immediately due to terms-of-use violations. Confused? The organization was only 10, and you must be at least 13 to have a Twitter account. Those Twitter cops are brutal, man!  

That’s what passes for news around here as we anxiously await the return of the General Assembly. We haven’t been this excited since Avengers: Endgame came out! Until then, from all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend! 


Friday Happy Hour: Backflip Edition

Backflip

Thursday was “1-4-3 Day” in PA, as our fine Keystone State citizenry performed acts of kindness in honor of the late Fred Rogers. Wouldn’t it be cool if every day were 143 Day? Check Twitter today as we all resume dumping all over everything and everybody, all day long.  

Tuesday was the start (and end) of Infrastructure Week in Washington, where President Trump met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for 180 whole seconds. If a week now equals three minutes, Anthony Scaramucci was White House spokesman for three years. 

Tuesday was Primary Election Day in the Commonwealth and tens of Pennsylvanians trekked to the polls to select their November candidates. Turnout almost reached a staggering 20 percent! Congratulations to the 80 percent of registered voters who allowed the rest of us to choose who will or won’t tax you for the next two years, at a minimum. 

There were also several state-level special elections Tuesday, with three seats in the General Assembly up for grabs, as well a congressional race in the expansive 12th District, won by state Rep. Fred Keller. In short, Republican seats remained Republican seats. For the first time since Reconstruction, the General Assembly now has its full complement of 253 members.  

President Trump rallied the faithful in the days before the Keller victory, crediting himself with pulling Keller across the finish line in, according to the president, a “50/50 seat.” If the POTUS believes the 12th is a 50/50 seat, his 2020 Pennsylvania campaign team is gonna have to seriously recalibrate their performance numbers. They are off about 25 points.

Philly Mayor Jim Kenney finished off the quietest mayoral primary campaign in the city’s history by walking to victory. Outside of a handful of incumbents losing their nominations, the city government will remain fairly static. Revolutions typically don’t start with 17 percent voter turnout.   

A 2024 mayoral prognosticators alert: check out the vote totals for City Councilwoman Helen Gym. That is all. 

The positively craptastic turnout numbers across Pennsylvania Tuesday will no doubt add fuel to the calls to open up the primaries to non-affiliated voters. A Senate bill that would do just that is on the move in the Upper Chamber, and since it happens to be authored by that chamber’s presiding officer, we give it some pretty good odds.   

In Harrisburg, the city’s voters made their feelings about the city school board abundantly clear by bouncing five incumbents to the curb. Apparently, there is still a price to pay for breathtaking levels of ineptitude. 

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced this week that the city will not begin enforcing the new gun legislation until all court cases have been decided. Based upon historical precedent, that essentially means the city is never going to get around to enforcing the new gun bills.

Pennsylvania’s April jobs report was a pleasant read, as the state’s workforce is now the largest ever, and unemployment has plunged to 3.8 percent. Let the war between the “Trump economy” and the “Wolf economy” commence.

The next stop on the highway to criminal justice reform was unveiled this week, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a plan to end the practice of denying state professional licenses to formerly incarcerated Pennsylvanians. This is the type of bipartisan work that Governor Wolf was referring to when he said that Pennsylvania is not Washington, D.C. For if it were, the press event would have lasted 180 seconds, and the bipartisan group of lawmakers would have started pummeling each other onstage.     

Bethlehem saw a piece of its storied past laid to rest this week as the historic Martin Tower, formerly the headquarters of Bethlehem Steel, came down in a loud boom and a plume of dust. While the moment was bittersweet for many Lehigh Valley residents, there really is nothing like a good implosion. Except for maybe bacon.

As we head off into Memorial Day weekend, we will leave you with some good news. According to Governor Wolf’s office, overdose deaths in Pennsylvania seem to be declining. Given the amount of focus that the governor and both chambers of the General Assembly have given the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania, we give a bipartisan shout-out to all of them.  Happy #143DayInPA! 

While Triad is always proud of the work our team does, we also take pride in the achievements of the spouses of our corporate partners and former team members. To that end, a hearty congratulations to Shelly Capozzi (Lou Capozzi’s better half), Haley Welch (Dave Kralle’s way better half) and Sean Crampsie (Brittany Crampsie’s lesser half) for securing primary victories in races for supervisor, school board, and borough council, respectively. On to November!

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you down to the West Texas town of El Paso, where a college graduate decided to celebrate the end of his matriculation by trying (and spectacularly failing) to execute a backflip onstage. The student reportedly got a “D-” in Common Sense 101.

That’s what passes for news around here as summer appears in the windshield and the General Assembly gets ready for the stretch run in June. We will be back next week for more verbal (if not physical) acrobatics. Until then, from all of us at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Flying Snake Edition

Flying snake

The trade war between the United States and China jumped up a notch this week, as the Chinese announced a new round of tariffs in response to President Trump’s round of tariffs and round and round we go until, we presume, Wall Street gets dizzy, falls off the ride and throws up.   

Jumpin’ Joe Biden this week announced his campaign for president will be headquartered in Philadelphia, as the former Veep makes it pretty damned clear what state he values the most in 2020.  Did you know Biden originally hails from Scranton? Of course you did, because you’ve heard it 78 million times. 

But the truly earth-shattering, game-changing announcements on the Democratic race for the presidential nomination came this week, with BOTH Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announcing they are in it to win it. The response from registered Democrats was “Who?” and “For what God-awful reason?” respectively. 

Not to be outdone in the Great Courtship of the Keystone State, both President Trump and current Veep Mike Pence plan to visit Pennsylvania in the next few weeks. Get used to it, people. By the time it’s all over you may wish to consider moving to Steve Bullock’s Montana.   

While Alabama dominated the national headlines this week over its shiny new abortion law, Pennsylvania wasn’t far behind in the rearview mirror. Lawmakers this week again passed a Down syndrome abortion ban that has zero chance of ever becoming law as long as Gov. Tom Wolf happens to sit in the big office at 225 Main Capitol. So yeah, message received, let’s get back to business.   

One lawmaker this week let his colleagues in the House know that the battle to save the state’s nuclear industry ain’t over ‘til its over, Jack. Despite a lack of legislative action that doomed Three Mile Island, said lawmaker pointed out that there are still eight other reactors in the state, pumping out zero-carbon electricity. 

Governor Wolf summoned municipal leaders from hither, thither and yon this week to tout his RestorePA plan, which if enacted would hypercharge infrastructure spending in Pennsylvania. The municipal officials reminded all of us that infrastructure needs don’t see party affiliation; they just continue to destroy local budgets until somebody does something.   

Thursday was the opening battle scene in the war between state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and UPMC over the general’s lawsuit, with the Supreme Court hearing arguments for and against. It may not have been Game of Thrones, but the stakes are pretty high for the future of health care in western Pennsylvania. There were also no dragons, which was disappointing.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pumped a million bucks into the re-election effort of Philly Mayor Jim Kenney, we learned this week. There goes that damned soda industry again, trying to buy elections! Oh, wait…

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman this week brought his legal weed listening tour to Allegheny County, where an informal poll of the room showed the following score: anti-legalization: one, pro-legalization: the entire rest of the room.

If you enjoy speeding on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philly, we hope you also enjoy costly speeding tickets.  A recent change in state law allows for enforcement cameras on that often-deadly road, so scofflaws take note: stop scoffing at the law.   

A bipartisan pair of state lawmakers this week unveiled a new plan to jump-start manufacturing in the Age of Shale. The tax incentive plan looks a lot like the one that lured Royal Dutch Shell to southwestern Pennsylvania, so who knows? Maybe there is a whole box of crackers in our future. 

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to our friends at Pocono Raceway, who once again brought NASCAR’s best and brightest drivers to the streets of Philadelphia for the annual Philly Takeover!  If you were in Center City on Wednesday, we are quite sure you heard it! 

In Triad Strategies news this week, our own Yvonne Roberts was honored by our friends at the Philadelphia Tribune at their annual Women of Achievement lunch. Congratulations to Yvonne on a well-deserved honor! 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Oklahoma, where a man who simply tried to open his front door was bitten in the face by a flying snake. In totally unrelated news, we have removed our front door, covered it with bricks and can now enter our house only through the garage where our pet mongoose now lives. 

That’s what passes for news around here as we anxiously await the Primary Election next Tuesday.  We will be back with a wrap-up of everything notable next week, shot through our usual prism of weirdness.  Until then, have a great weekend!  


Spring Intern Alexis S. Anderson Reflects on Her Time at Triad

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I had the opportunity to intern at Triad Strategies full-time for the spring semester of my junior year at Temple University through its Capitol Semester Program. I knew that I wanted to see lobbying firsthand, but I got to see so much more during my time here. I knew very little about Pennsylvania state politics when I first arrived in Harrisburg (as I hail from our fair New Jersey), but thanks to the wide range of clients Triad works with, I was able to familiarize myself with the full gamut of policy issues affecting the state.

My daily tasks included bill tracking, attending committee hearings, joining client meetings, conducting research projects, and even attending a few political fundraisers. My colleagues at Triad introduced me to countless politicos and made sure I was as involved in the political process as possible. Roy Wells, on top of being Triad’s president and managing partner, is an instructor for the Capitol Semester Program, so I was able to learn even more about state politics and political culture from his course.

020D11E1-BAD0-40D4-ABE1-48B7C29E73A4-2699-000000A6D550C5C2My time here wasn’t all work and no play, though. My very first week, Olivia Edwards took me to Rep.Gene DiGirolamo’s office to watch Governor Wolf’s inauguration with a handful of other representatives, then she and I went to the inaugural reception that night! The team allowed me to experience as much as I could while I was here, including giving me time off to attend the state-related universities’ Appropriations Committee hearing with some of my classmates, where we met Temple President Richard Englert and Sen. Sharif Street. The other program interns and I ate with President Englert and Temple’s government affairs team afterward, thanks to Olivia encouraging me to ask the president to lunch.

Later in the semester, we interns had the opportunity to sit down with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. He was incredibly down-to-earth, and we discussed a range of issues from marijuana legalization to criminal justice reform. And just when I thought I’d met all the political stars I could, Roy introduced me to Gov. Tom Wolf himself before this year’s Gridiron dinner! With that, I officially checked off the last box on my Harrisburg bucket list.

IMG_7788This was such an incredible experience, and everyone at Triad was endlessly supportive and trusted me with serious work. I’ve certainly grown as a professional because of this internship. I’m more confident, a stronger networker and a more strategic thinker. I’ll be returning to Philadelphia for my senior year this fall and plan on attending law school once I graduate. What I learned about advocating a policy position, client objective, and winning political message will stick with me for years to come.

I could not be more grateful to my Triad family for supporting me and for all that the family helped me achieve. On today, my last day with the team, I just have to say that I miss you already, and I’ll make certain we meet again soon!

 

 


Friday Happy Hour: Gator-Aid Edition

Baby gatorLet’s do this in chronological order this week. Monday was a busy day at the Capitol. Second Amendment aficionados descended upon our seat of government for their annual rally, reminding lawmakers that there’s a sizeable chunk of the PA population that supports the right to bear arms. In case they had forgotten since last year’s rally, and the one before, and the one before that…

Then, government reform activists disrupted a House session, chanting “stop taking bribes” and showering the House floor with actual dollar bills from the gallery several stories above. No immediate word on whether the demonstration must be reported as a gift.

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati revived his beef about ideological extremes driving primary elections, asserting that allowing independent voters to participate in nominating candidates in the party of their choice just might change that. His bill has received a hearing in the Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer, who also thinks it could be a good idea. Hey, at this point, we’ll try anything.

There was good news this week for members of the PA National Guard, who would be entitled to scholarships to attend any of the 14 schools in the State System of Higher Education under legislation moving forward in both legislative chambers and supported by Gov. Tom Wolf. The measure would cost $2.7 million per year and is believed to be the first program of its kind. Now that’s what we call a cool way to thank soldiers for their service.

Also receiving some good news were PA public transportation agencies, who got word that the bond market from which the Turnpike borrows money to give to public transportation appears to be “favorable” following the dismissal of a lawsuit by independent truckers. This would enable the Turnpike to resume borrowing and making its annual public transportation payments of $450 million to PennDOT, although as regular readers are aware (on account of we repeat it just about every week), said payments will drop to only $50 million in 2022, creating the fiscal cliff we keep yammering on about.

The Anthracite Coal Region became the latest venue for Governor Wolf to tout his Restore Pennsylvania plan to help address critical infrastructure issues, such as blight, flooding, brownfields and the heartbreak of psoriasis. OK, we were just kidding about that last thing.

Pew Charitable Trusts, digging through U.S. Census data, posits that loosening voter access laws and passion-inducing issues such as marijuana and Medicaid expansion combined to ratchet up voter turnout in last year’s mid-term elections. Nationally, turnout jumped 12 points from 2014. Here’s more for that small but respected reader demo that likes to get down into the weeds on this stuff.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman got a bit of a surprise this week when he took his legal adult marijuana listening tour to Tunkhannock and, asking for the customary show of hands on where people stood on the issue, found that a majority of those present were against it. Until then, he noted, 65 to 70 percent of those coming to these events have said they support legalization.

Crab cake lovers are happy this week, as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved thousands of additional H-2B visas for foreign workers who support the crab industry. And there will be plenty of work to go around, as the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population appears to be rebounding.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro and 41 of his counterparts are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to do something about the proliferation of those darn robocalls that use fake phone numbers as their caller ID. The latest scam? The one-ring-and-hang-up call in the middle of the night, inducing the resident to call the number back in case it was a friend or family member in trouble.

Exelon announced it will close the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in September, since sponsors of industry-saving legislation have not yet been able to muster enough support. That will leave six other generating units in Pennsylvania, which will eventually face the same kind of financial challenges unless there are public policy changes that set a market value for carbon-free electricity.

Leaders in both parties of the House came together in a rare and welcome bipartisan attempt to dial down the recent episodes of partisan outrage. There have been multiple instances lately of demanding apologies, resignations and criminal investigations. Can’t we all just get along?

And in that vein, Governor Wolf has declared May 23 to be “143 Day” in Pennsylvania, a nod to the late Fred Rogers, who used the 143 reference as code for “I love you” on his iconic TV show. The digits correspond with the number of letters in each word of that three-word phrase.

This week’s Shameless Client Plug goes out to the PA Highway Information Association, whose president, Jamie Van Buren, penned an op-ed article suggesting how Pennsylvania might go about providing sufficient funding for transportation without raising taxes.

This week’s We Can’t Make This Up feature takes us to Punta Gorda, FL, where a man and his female passenger were stopped by county sheriff’s deputies for running a stop sign. They were found to possess a bag of turtles, and when asked whether they had anything else authorities needed to know about, the woman proceeded to pull a baby alligator out of her yoga pants, thus avoiding a potentially disastrous pat down. Fish and Wildlife authorities were summoned and cited the couple for violating reptile bag limits.

And that’s what passes for news around these parts, boys and girls! We’ll be back next week with more of the same! Until then, be sure to obey those traffic laws when tooling around Punta Gorda with a gator in your drawers!


Friday Happy Hour: Schools Out Edition

Schools out

 

We pause this morning to remember actor Peter Mayhew, who died today at the age of 74. Mayhew played the role of the most famous Wookie in the galaxy, Chewbacca. Rest easy, Chewie. You saved the princess. 

President Trump, this week, donned his deal-making hat and agreed in principle (that’s a big caveat, people) to a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The problem is, he did the deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, which immediately threw his GOP base into a state of abject panic. The folks who think you pave roads with fairy dust and good thoughts are gonna have something to say about all this.  

This just in: a bucket of chicken testified in front of the U.S. Congress this week. This is a microcosm of today’s politics, folks. Grab a drumstick and follow along. 

The economy continued to roar in April with 263,000 jobs being created, pushing the nation’s unemployment rate down to levels not seen since Neil Armstrong tap-danced on the Moon. If it feels like we have been writing similar sentences for a hundred straight months or so, it is because we have. 

But even as our nation’s economy thrives, some people are still not happy about the general state of things, so our good friends at Burger King decided to dive into that malaise with their newest creation, the Unhappy Meals. These meals consist of a Whopper, soft drink and a sense of impending doom, which you can super-size for just a dollar more.  

Speaking of food, Pittsburgh is now the proud home to the best pizza in all the land, according to a recent survey. Get on down to one of the five Caliente Pizza Houses in the ‘Burgh. Two words: shaved porchetta. 

There was plenty of other big news out of Pittsburgh this week, as U.S. Steel announced they will pour a billion clams worth of upgrades into two plants in the Mon Valley. If you don’t think President Trump is gonna find his way there over the next eighteen months, you have obviously started the Cinco de Mayo celebrations a bit early.  

Twenty-four hours later, a pair of environmental groups announced they are suing said steel company for violating air pollution laws. We are sure the timing of that announcement was totally coincidental. 

The Pennsylvania State Police turned 114 yesterday, and the occasion was marked by a new report that troopers are now spending more time patrolling houses of worship than ever before. How far we’ve come since 1905.   

The state’s district attorneys are throwing a bucket of cold bong water on the idea of legalizing marijuana, we found out this week. They will, however, support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, which some cities have already done. Have a few joints? All good. Have a kilo of pot in your trunk? Not so much.  

This week, Governor Wolf rolled out some updates to his climate action plan (which sounds like a new Avengers movie), including for the first time a nod to efforts to preserve nuclear energy. We foresee a very interesting June in the halls of government. 

The uptick in the number of landslides in Pennsylvania is wreaking havoc on PennDOT’s budget, it was announced this week.  The department usually spends around $30 million annually on repairing landslide-induced road damage. In 2018, that number jumped to $127 million, adding yet another funding headache that lawmakers will eventually have to confront.  Sometime. Someday.  

Four new cases of measles were reported in western Pennsylvania this week, because people are very strange. Hey, maybe we can bring back polio next? Maybe we shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about climate change since we look perfectly capable of wiping ourselves out for no good reason.  

Lawmakers advanced a plan to add a cool $100 million to the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit, bringing the total to over a quarter billion dollars a year. It is gonna take more than a teaspoon of Castor Oil to get the front office to swallow that one.   

Governor Wolf spent some time in Beaver County this week, where Royal Dutch Shell has partnered with the local community college to launch a training program for all the workers they will eventually need at their shiny new ethane cracker plant.  Workforce development is currently the absolute sexiest topic in Harrisburg, which tells you everything you need to know about your state government. 

The 17-year cicadas are getting ready to emerge from their slumber and cover western Pennsylvania. When they see what is happening in Washington, D.C. they might just burrow underground again and call it a day.  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to – where else – Florida! Road workers in Doral this week painted some new school crossing signs, spelling “school” as “scohol.”  Obviously, there are few people who could use some educational improvement tax credits down there in Florida.  

That’s what passes for news around here as we celebrate the start of May and the sixty-day stretch to the state budget deadline. Yes, we celebrate weird things around here. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Triad Strategies Supports Business Community at PA Reception

Last evening, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual PA Reception. Triad Strategies was a co-sponsor of the event.

This year’s event kicked off with a seminar featuring Governor Tom Wolf as the keynote speaker. The focus of the seminar was topics relevant to Grow PA, a statewide initiative to grow Pennsylvania’s population, jobs and economy. The Governor’s remarks focused on workforce development and addressing critical infrastructure needs in the near term.

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Immediately following the seminar, Triad joined several of our clients, including Aqua, Columbia Gas, the Franklin Institute, ICON Development, and Independence Blue Cross at a reception that included legislators, representatives from various state agencies and business leaders from across the commonwealth. Pennsylvania’s business community was in full force showcasing diverse industries including energy, healthcare, education, and manufacturing among others.

PA Reception (2) PA Reception (2)

The event was a great opportunity to catch up with our colleagues, policymakers and clients. We look forward to next year’s event.


Friday Happy Hour: Fighting Bunny Edition

Fighting Easter Bunny

The U.S. economy grew by 3.2 percent in the first quarter of the year, shattering expectations and putting to rest fears of a slowdown. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times trumpeted the news this morning, while Fox News announced the growth number as a measly 3.1 percent, proving once again that Fox News is biased against President Trump.  

Thursday was the start of Joe-mentum time, as former Vice President Joe Biden made it official that he is running for president. The news spawned dozens of stories about Joe being “the most electable,” so it is probably a good time to remind everyone that over the past three presidential campaigns, the national popular vote was won by an African-American male, an African-American male, and a white woman, respectively.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week pumped the brakes on all the talk of impeaching President Trump in the wake of the Mueller report release, preferring instead to hold some hearings and see what’s what. Once again, we remind our dear readers that the speaker prefers chess to checkers. 

Pennsylvania was awash in good news this week, with by far the most important event of the year occurring on Wednesday. At long last, the Eastern Hellbender is now the official amphibian of the Commonwealth. Lay down your arms, people.   

The Pennsylvania economy is also rolling right along, as the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent, the lowest on record. If you think those numbers won’t matter as we careen towards the next presidential election, you might be in for a shock in November of 2020. 

As central Pennsylvania celebrates the start of Beer Week, we thought it would be a good idea to point out that Pennsylvania is now the top craft beer-brewing state in the country, pumping out 3.7 million barrels of beer every year. Cheers to all the Pennsylvania brewers out there.  You done good. 

The mayor of Harrisburg this week called on the state to take over the city’s beleaguered school district as the state yanked $10 million away from the district for not cooperating with an audit. No word yet from the Department of Education on whether they are ready to give themselves that kind of unending migraine. 

A new law took effect this week that will end the practice of the state confiscating your drivers license for non-traffic-related crimes. For a while there, we were a little out-of-control with the whole “we will take your license!” thing. Somebody has to pay gas taxes around here.   

Pennsylvania fishing license applications have hit a 50-year low in Pennsylvania. Here’s an idea: put down the iPhones, take your kids’ Xbox controllers and go find a nice, quiet stream.

A change in the way Pennsylvania collects sales tax for online purchases is on track to net the state a cool $300 million this year, far and away more than the estimated $50 million that was expected. The news just might make June a bit easier around these parts. 

New York City is considering banning processed meats in its latest bout of insanity, although we are eager to see the reaction of Bronx Zoo denizens at Yankee Stadium when they are informed that hot dogs are now verboten.  Meanwhile, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, you can get a kielbasa sandwich topped with pierogis.  

Attorney General Josh Shapiro won his latest bout with UPMC over his actions to prevent the health care giant’s consent decree with Highmark from expiring.  A federal judge threw out a UPMC suit this week, and the whole issue is likely to land in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court very soon. In the words of Joe Biden, this is a “big fu***ng deal.”  

During debate on a bill to establish mandatory work breaks for nurses, a Washington state senator this week said that she is quite sure that nurses sit around and play cards during the day, prompting over 1,700 nurses to mail her decks of cards.  Here’s to hoping one of those decks conked her upside her silly noggin. 

We have four, count ‘em, FOUR Shameless Client Plugs this week.  So without further ado, we bring you #1.  Congratulations to our friends at Immaculata University for breaking ground on their new athletic track, with a little funding help from the Commonwealth!

SCP #2 takes us to Philly, where nobody does a science festival like our good friends at The Franklin Institute!

We stay in Philly for SCP #3, where we bring you this piece about the work that our friends at the World Affairs Council have been doing since 1949.  In a democracy, agreement is not essential; participation is. 

And for our final SCP, Gov. Tom Wolf joined our good friends at Johnson Controls to open a new vocational lab in north Philly, designed to help folks train for the green jobs of the future!  Thank you, governor! 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Orlando, where a man wearing an Easter Bunny outfit got into a brawl in the middle of a city sidewalk. The bunny was attempting to break up a fight, and quickly began firing off rabbit punches, making him an Instagram legend. You keep doing you, Florida!

If you have a moment this week, help us welcome our newest employee, Jan Webb, who joined our funhouse on Monday of this week. Welcome, Jan!

That’s what passes for news around here as we wait for the General Assembly to assemble once again next week.  Until then, from all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Stolen Scooter Edition

Walmart scooters

It was a bad week for agent provocateurs this week, to say the very least. First, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was pulled from his Ecuadorian Embassy rabbit hole in Great Britain and thrown in jail, where he now awaits extradition to the U.S. Also, Assange appears to have aged roughly 70 years in the past 18 months.

And let us not forget the self-proclaimed “Trump’s Greatest Threat,” lawyer Michael Avenatti, who found himself staring down the barrel of a 36-count indictment that could land him in the pokey for the next three centuries. It is tough to run for president from prison, as we all know. 

Soon-to-be Cal Tech Assistant Professor Katie Bouman made international headlines as her algorithm provided our first-ever picture of a black hole. Thank you, Professor Bouman, for scrambling our brain and forcing us to ponder the nature of the universe for much longer than we had intended when we woke up Wednesday morning. And for getting “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden stuck in our heads all day. 

State lawmakers held a rare joint session of the House and Senate to honor the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. The last time the General Assembly convened such a session was shortly after 9/11. For at least one day last week, we were all #StrongerThanHate.

We pause for a moment to bring you this truly bizarre story of a Pennsylvania woman who had four bees living in her eye, drinking from her tear ducts. Between deer ticks, cicadas and stink bugs, it looks like insects in Pennsylvania are plotting a coup.   

The ink was barely dry on the City of Pittsburgh’s shiny new gun-control ordinances when Mayor Bill Peduto was slapped with a bevy of lawsuits by Second Amendment supporters. Peduto remains defiant, even as one member of the General Assembly called for his impeachment, a move that would result in Council President Bruce Kraus (who voted for the ordinances) becoming mayor. Which we would presume cause another impeachment, which would elevate… you get the idea.  

A controversial new bill aimed at saving the state’s nuclear power plants got its first public hearing this week, and lawmakers wasted no time digging themselves firmly into position on both sides of the issue.  As this plan moves down the legislative tracks, expect a ton of heat and very little light to be shed, right up until that moment when a game-changing (or more aptly, a vote-changing) move is made.   

And what would that game-changer be, you ask? Well, inquisitive readers, it very well could be the entrance of the Green Dog Caucus (their name, not ours), a group of environmentally-conscious lawmakers who could very well hold the keys to the kingdom. If those folks decide to throw some votes into the final tally, 102 and 26 seems within reach.

Over in the state Senate, a new effort was launched to change the way congressional maps are drawn. Within moments, the perfect became the enemy of the good, as groups who supported last year’s bill walked away, citing changes that were made to garner more support, ironically. It is gonna take a whole lot to work to get this porridge just right.

If you were on the Hill this week (you likely saw us), you may have noticed a few hundred nurses milling around advocating for increasing support for home-based care for seniors and the disabled. As Pennsylvania strives to re-balance its long-term care system, these nurses are at the tip of the spear. So yeah, let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?  

The first day of deer hunting season is, as we all know, a sacred holiday in Pennsylvania. Next year, we will get to celebrate a little earlier than usual, as the opening of rifle season moves to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The downside is, of course, that we now will have to endure three extra days of people complaining to the Game Commission that there are “not enough deer.”  

Despite the fact that there are roughly six hundred Democrats running for president in 2020, it looks like the deal might be wrapped up long before Pennsylvania’s voters schlep to the polls. States across the country are furiously jockeying to get to the front of the line, so much so that we fully expect New Hampshire to just move its primary election date to late 2019.

And when those voters go to the polls, they are likely gonna be in a pretty foul mood, we learned this week. A recent Pew research poll found that a majority of Americans believe the country is on a bullet train to hell on everything from foreign policy to race relations to the economy. Man, lighten up people. Imagine if we were in a recession.  

If you want to know all about who is funding the race for mayor in Philadelphia, feel free to check out this piece. Spoiler alert: whoever you guessed is funding the campaigns probably is.

We send a special shout-out to friend and former client Brandon Flood, who this week took over as secretary of the state Board of Pardons. All the best, Brandon!    

With sadness we note the passing of former state Rep. Eugene “Snuffy” Smith. For those familiar with Pennsylvania politics, Smith’s son Sam also served in the General Assembly, eventually becoming speaker of the House. Our deepest condolences go out to the Smith family.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Tennessee, where a woman borrowed (OK, stole) a Walmart motorized scooter and drove it on down the highway to grab a cup of Joe at the local Waffle House. Walmart, scooters and Waffle House: ‘Merica, baby.

That’s what passes for news around here as we drive off into the weekend here at Triad World Headquarters. Come on back and hang with us next week as the General Assembly assembles again on the banks of the mighty Susquehanna. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!  


Friday Happy Hour: Bulletproof Edition

Bulletproof

After sputtering to a near halt in February, the economy lurched back to life in March, as the country added 196,000 new jobs, ticking the unemployment rate down to 3.8 percent. This is the type of news that only the 29 Democrats currently running for president can’t love.  

President Trump, obviously tiring of illegal immigration or drugs or gangs or something, announced this week he would close the southern border “very soon.” He clarified the next day that “very soon” means “next year.” Our own president, Roy Wells, is currently in Mexico and is quite relieved that he will be able to return home Monday.

Trump also backed off his claim from last week that the GOP would have a replacement for Obamacare “very soon” by clarifying that “very soon” means after the 2020 elections, a decision he most likely made because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went to the White House and hit him on the head repeatedly with a tack hammer. In related news, we intend to do our taxes “very soon.” 

Over in Congress, the House Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for the entire, unredacted Mueller Report. If you thought the Barr memo was the end of this saga, you are indeed a silly, silly human being. 

Pittsburgh City Council made nationwide news this week by passing an ordinance banning military-style assault rifles and other firearms bric-a-brac. Supporters of gun control were obviously thrilled by the 6-3 council vote, while Second Amendment supporters immediately said, “We will see the whole, fat lot of you in court!” 

Ah yes, about that court thing. Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act (it is aptly named, by the way) will probably be a major sticking point when the judiciary kicks the tires on the new ordinances. We would suggest that everyone put away the champagne for now.

Tuesday was Equal Pay Day, with elected officials advocating for different ways to close the gender pay gap. Among the most novel ideas presented was to just pay women the same damned thing men get paid for the same damned work. Should be enough to cancel next year’s Equal Pay Day, or at the very least, move it to Jan. 1.  

If you happened to hear a massive sigh of relief in the mid-state on Thursday, it likely came from Turnpike headquarters in Middletown. The Commonwealth Court has tossed out a lawsuit by the independent trucking industry over what it claims was misuse of tolls. Had the truckers prevailed, mass transit would have seen a tidy, little $450 million hole blown in its collective budget. The bad news is that the clock is still ticking on an overall transportation fix, so don’t get lazy. 

As transit folks ponder such a solution, some eyes have turned to New York City’s new “congestion pricing” fee, a levy on vehicles heading into congested areas. Between the Schuylkill Expressway (we always got a kick out of the term “expressway”) and the Parkway outside of Pittsburgh, you could congestion-price yourself into a few gazillion dollars annually if you really wanted to. 

Pennsylvania has now issued more than 100,000 medical marijuana cards to eager patients, with no end in sight. This news will undoubtedly dump more fuel on the “legalize it” fire, where politicians have now spent the imaginary legal marijuana money thirty times over on everything from education to transit funding to the damned hyperloop. 

The lower courts weighed in this week on Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s suit that would force UPMC and Highmark to stay married and get some counseling. The judge ruled that the courts cannot force someone to stay married, even if the divorce is gonna be really hard on the 700,000 or so children – er, consumers – they have together.  

While Royal Dutch Shell continues to build its massive ethane cracker plant on the banks of the Ohio River, the parent company announced that it is withdrawing from a major trade association due to that group’s stance on climate change. All this leads us to wonder how many multi-billion-dollar energy companies it will take to say climate change is real before Congress agrees that it not a Deep State hoax.

In some overtly political news, we take a moment this week to send congratulations out to state Senator-elect Pam Iovino, who won a special election Tuesday out in the tony suburbs of Pittsburgh.  Two more special elections are on the horizon before the upper chamber gets back to its normal 50-member complement.   

In more political news, we at Triad like to check in from time to time with our friends at Public Policy Polling to see what the latest national trends are on everything from health care, to congressional approval ratings, to the Deep State climate hoax. And boy did PPP light a fire this week.  According to a recent poll, Americans overwhelmingly (58 percent to 31 percent) agree that Michael Jordan was better than LeBron James. Way to start an internet riot, PPP.

In Triad Strategies news, please take a moment to say hello to our newest Triadian, Rob Ghormoz, who leaves the employ of Gov. Tom Wolf to hang out with us.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Arkansas, where two pals (we use that term loosely) took turns shooting each other in the chest to see if their bulletproof vests worked. Yeah, about that Pittsburgh gun ban…

That’s what passes for news around here as we brace ourselves for latest Marvel movie, the Return of the General Assembly. We will be here to cover it all, whether you like it or not. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Veteran Wolf Staffer Joins Triad Strategies

Ghormoz photoHARRISBURG – Triad Strategies welcomes Rob Ghormoz to its team as a senior associate. He joins the growing Harrisburg-based public affairs firm as a member of the government affairs practice.

“I look forward to taking the next step in my career with Triad Strategies,” said Ghormoz. “Triad has a strong reputation as a bipartisan public affairs firm working on a broad array of issues. I believe that with my background, I can help our clients move forward with their goals.”

Rob joins Triad following several years as a senior member of Gov. Tom Wolf’s staff. During Governor Wolf’s first term, Rob served as deputy chief of staff and chief speechwriter. Following that, he was tapped to serve as a senior adviser to the governor’s re-election campaign and then to lead his 2019 inauguration.

Rob brings a comprehensive understanding of both campaigns and the legislative process to Triad, and knowledge of the functions and operations of the governor’s office and executive agencies. As deputy chief of staff, he was tasked with oversight of public safety and energy and environmental issues.

“We are thrilled to have Rob joining our team,” said Roy Wells, Triad president and managing partner. “We have a diverse staff of government affairs and strategic communications professionals, and Rob’s experience makes our team even stronger.”

“We are always looking for talented people,” said Michael Manzo, Triad’s senior VP of government affairs. “Rob’s deep knowledge of public policy and campaigns makes him a fantastic addition to our team.”

Rob is a native of Wilkes-Barre and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Penn State University.


Friday Happy Hour: Wall of Cheese Edition

Abundance-batch-business-162788Forty years ago yesterday, the residents of central Pennsylvania were in peaceful slumber while some seriously bad business was going down at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. After a few tense days and a visit from President Jimmy Carter, order was restored, but the damage done to the nuclear industry was incalculable right up until the 90's, when The Simpsons debuted, and all was well again. 

President Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent her week in front of Congress getting her brains beat in over the Administration’s plan to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics (who’s incredibly dumb idea was that, by the way?), only to have her boss change his mind during a press conference on Thursday. Being a cabinet official looks like scads of fun. 

The battle over the release of the full Mueller Report raged on this week, with accusations of bias, calls for resignations and a very Trump-like victory lap by POTUS. This thing is never going away folks. It has become the Hotel California of news stories. We can never leave. 

Fresh off his Mueller vindication, President Trump immediately turned his Justice Department guns on Obamacare, arguing that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional in its entirety and calling for the Supreme Court to strike it down. This is known in the public relations business as “stomping on one’s own message.” Congressional Republicans want a pre-2020 health care fight like they want the measles.

Back here in always-contentious Pennsylvania, we have now learned how to make the House invocation a controversial event. Mad props to us. 

And speaking of controversy, if you were not living under a rock last year, you surely remember the battle over reforming child sex abuse laws in the wake of the Catholic Church scandal. Well, that little legislative disagreement is back and coming to a General Assembly near you.

Rounding out the Trifecta of controversy, the House this week passed a measure that would de-fund a cash assistance program that GOP leaders say is not currently in statute. And while their stance may be correct (depending on your read of the state budget) the cash assistance largely goes to the disabled, veterans, single mothers and those unable to work, making the optics on the vote rather unseemly, to be kind. 

A report this week was released showing the Pennsylvania’s large and growing senior population is a real drain on the state’s economy. If we were the purveyors of such a report, we would make damned sure we didn’t wander into any senior centers anytime soon, lest we get a few well-deserved canes upside our heads. If your state economy depends on seniors being an economic driver, maybe you need to get a new plan. 

Pennsylvania’s college graduates are lugging around a truly astounding amount of debt, and it is having a direct effect on the state’s teachers, many of whom need second jobs to make ends meet. If you were in the State Capital this week and did not hear the words “college affordability” you need to turn down the volume on your Air Pods. 

A group called the Pennsylvania Influencer Project is seeking feedback on the lousy access that rural residents have to high-speed internet and broadband service. We hope it does not include an online survey for obvious reasons. 

A hospital trade group has weighed in on the brewing fight between Attorney General Josh Shapiro and UPMC. Highmark’s CEO this week made his feeling about the group’s position crystal clear, probably also reminding said group that Highmark owns hospitals, too. Its time for the Family Feud! 

A central Pennsylvania GOP lawmaker this week introduced a bill that calls for the merger of eight state agencies. Governor Wolf, astute readers will recall, proposed a similar plan a few years back. The fact that this legislation will likely not pass is a stark reminder that folks who advocate for “smaller government” often disappear into the bushes when the time comes to actually shrink government. 

Despite the vicissitudes being visited upon the nuclear industry right now, Penn State continues to expand the number of nuclear engineers it churns out, we learned this week. Perhaps Big Blue understands that, despite the challenges, Pennsylvania is not going to forgo a boatload of carbon-free energy anytime soon. 

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to our pals at Lyft, who this morning jumped into the deep end of the pool by filing its very own IPO. Not IPA, mind you, although there are probably a few of those being quaffed by Team Lyft over on Wall Street right about now. Congrats to all! 

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Tecate, California, where an artist is assisting President Trump in his quest for a border wall by constructing one made entirely of cheese. At least when hungry refugees come to the border, they will have something nice to snack on. Perhaps he can add a moat filled with a good Cabernet. 

That’s what passes for news around here as we careen towards April! Be sure to check back next week when we announce a new member of Team Triad, and immediately make that person’s life a living hell. Until then, from all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Hot Sauce Edition

Hot sauce

On Thursday, 94-year-old former President Jimmy Carter officially became the oldest living president, besting now-deceased President George H.W. Bush for the title. Congratulations to the most famous peanut farmer from Georgia! Have a nice, cold Billy Beer Mr. President! 

Also this week, the current occupant of the White House continued his unrelenting attack on John McCain, accusing him of sabotaging the Senate’s Repeal and Replace legislation, as well as attempting to sabotage the Trump campaign entirely. If this continues, we fully expect Meghan McCain to leave The View and run for president.     

California Congressman Devin Nunes sued some Twitter parody accounts for $250 million, citing defamation of character. One of the targets of Nunes’ lawsuit, the Twitter account @DevinCow, now has double the followers of Nunes’ real account, likely because Nunes himself seems to not have a very good idea of what social media actually is and how it works.  

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke became the first in his party to stump in Pennsylvania, hanging out with a few thousand students at Penn State. This will not sit well with Joe Biden, who as we all know (and will be told 65,000 more times) is from Scranton. Get off his lawn, Beto!   

The looming transit and transportation funding crisis has now caught the attention of the House and Senate Transportation chairs, Democrats and Republicans alike. The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one, people. And whoa doggies, do we have one.   

But hey, no worries! Shiny object over here! Hyperloop! This whole saga is reminding us of the monorail episode from the Simpsons. The Hyperloop is more of a Shelbyville idea.

Gov. Tom Wolf extended his opioid crisis disaster declaration for the sixth time in 15 months, saying that while it appears the state is making headway, there is much more to be done. Not sure anyone can quibble with that assessment, nor is there anything about the announcement we can make lighthearted fun of (like everything else we do around here), so we are just gonna leave that news here and move along. 

The state’s Gaming Control Board announced that sports wagering was on the rise in Pennsylvania in February. We have a sneaking suspicion that some basketball tournament that is happening right now will boost March’s numbers even further.   

One of the godfathers of legal medicinal marijuana is throwing a bucket of cold bong water on the idea of legalizing recreational pot, essentially saying we need to get the medical part right first. GOP state Sen. Mike Folmer will be one lawmaker who holds the keys to that particular kingdom as this debate heats up.  

What would Pennsylvania’s energy landscape look like without Three Mile Island and the Beaver Valley nuclear plants? Well, that would be a complex question, learned this week. While electric rates may not rise dramatically in the short run, there will be a definite impact on Pennsylvania’s efforts to cut back on carbon emissions. This will be the conundrum that lawmakers of all political stripes will face.

And because it was forty years ago this week, let’s revisit that time TMI almost accidentally closed itself.   

The PA State Lottery turns 47 years old this week, which once again allows us to renew our call to put Gus the Groundhog into permanent retirement. He can probably qualify for lottery-funded PACE benefits at this point. 

Senate GOP leaders have jumped into the ongoing UPMC/Highmark fight, specifically coming after Attorney General Josh Shapiro for his lawsuit against UPMC. The Upper Chamber’s leaders argued in court this week that if there is any fancy health care legislating to be done, they will do it, not Shapiro.   

From our “walking the talk” file, we bring you House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris and Caucus Secretary Joanna McClinton, each of whom logged a shift in the Capitol cafeteria on Thursday to highlight the need to raise the state’s minimum wage. Nothing like that mile-long walk in someone else’s shoes!  

A bill that would establish nurse-to-patient staffing ratios resurfaced this week, reminding us all once again that it is bad business to have dead-tired, overworked nurses sticking any sort of needle into you.  Someday, there will be a compromise on this perennial piece of legislation, probably right about the time a hospitalized lawmaker ends up getting 50 ccs of something they weren’t supposed to get.   

In Our We Can’t Make This Up feature, we take you to Oregon, where a man and his dog survived being trapped by snow in their vehicle for five days by eating hot sauce packets from Taco Bell. After five days, we suspect that the interior of that car smelled… interesting.

That’s what passes for news around here as spring has sprung and Mother Nature apparently didn’t notice. We will be back next week to bring you all the news we care about! Until then, from all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Sober Edition

Irishman

This week was not the greatest of weeks for President Trump, as his normally supportive Senate GOP team went south on him twice in a matter of days. First, the Senate voted to stop all U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia’s brutal campaign in Yemen despite objections from Team Trump.

The Senate then proceeded to put the kibosh on Trump’s national emergency declaration, with a full dozen GOP senators breaking ranks with their president, including our own Pat Toomey. The lesson here is that Congress really, really doesn’t like having its turf stepped on by anyone, Republican or Democrat. Trump wasted no time tweeting out his veto intentions.   

The president also this week signed an order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 airplanes, inciting howls of protest that he waited too long, and also acted too hastily. The whole thing makes us wonder why 38 Democrats have already announced they are running for president. Looks like a pretty thankless gig. 

Oops, Beto is in. Make that 39.   

A bunch of rich folks are going to jail for bribing colleges to accept their otherwise dim children. Aside from the sheer amount of schadenfreude contained in this story, we would like to point out that WE got into Harvard the old-fashioned way: by not getting into Harvard.

Back here in good old Pennsylvania, a group of bipartisan lawmakers have once again come out with a plan to enact term limits (in a sense) for lawmakers, prohibiting them from serving more than 12 years without first sitting out one term. Given the turnover in Harrisburg these last few election cycles, it seems the voters themselves have already begun to enact term limits. Thanks anyways, lawmakers, we got this.  

Legislation aimed at rescuing the state’s nuclear industry finally landed this week, and the bill’s opponents wasted no time excoriating it. There have been back-ally cat fights that will seem more civil in comparison to what is to come on this issue, we can assure you.  

The beleaguered Mariner 2 pipeline project is now squarely in the crosshairs of the state’s attorney general, we learned this week. Our simple and elegant solution would be to rename the pipeline the Bryce Harper 2, which would ensure that everyone in southeastern PA will be begging for it to be built in their backyards.     

There was big news on the transportation front, as a feasibility study is about to begin for a hyperloop that could shrink the commute from Philly to Pittsburgh to about 30 minutes. First of all, kiddies, we can’t even properly fund the infrastructure repairs for what we already have, let alone the world’s largest suction tube. And perhaps most importantly, we are not sure you want the denizens of those two cities so close to each other. Nothing good is gonna come of that. Pump the brakes.

Speaking of infrastructure, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has a message for lawmakers: fund infrastructure or give local government the taxing authority to fund it themselves. This is a refreshing bit of candor, and if you think he is joking, you clearly have not met him.

Governor Wolf this week touted a letter signed by 38 economists stating that raising the state’s minimum wage will not cause the Commonwealth to perish in an economic hellfire. The letter was met with derision by 39 Professors of Economic Hellfire, who vehemently disagreed, once again proving the adage that if you took all the economists on the planet and laid them end-to-end, they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion. We will check back on the Great Duel of Economists as space permits.

One state lawmaker is proposing raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco and vaping products to 21.  Yes, you can die in a foreign land defending our country at age 18, but you’d better not have a pack of Marlboros on you when it happens.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly added two new lawmakers this week as special elections were held in Lackawanna and Philadelphia. Congrats to the state’s first-ever Muslim woman in the Statehouse, Movita Johnson-Harrell, and the coal region’s Bridget Malloy Kosierowski, on their victories. 

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to the team at Pocono Raceway, as track founder Dr. Joseph “Doc” Mattioli was nominated to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Well-deserved and long overdue congratulations go out to Doc’s family!  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to lovely Butler County, Pennsylvania, where a man named Sober was pulled over and arrested for being not sober. Daniel Sober got tagged with a D.U.I. despite having a name that should prove otherwise. We are pretty sure that, if this were the 1940s, we would have a great Abbott and Costello routine in the making here.

That’s what passes for news around here as spring makes its arrival in central Pennsylvania. Remember folks, St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday, so celebrate responsibly and don’t be Sober. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Hungry Hungry Hippo Edition

Hippos

The U.S economy coughed up a hairball in February with new 20,000 new jobs being created, far below the 180,000 estimated by the U.S. Department of Labor. Is it us, or do we really suck at estimating job numbers around here? Our economists make local meteorologists look like Nostradamus.  

President Trump’s spokesperson this week lashed out at GOP senators who do not support Trump’s national emergency declaration, saying “Do your job.” Yup, that’ll get them in line. You’re new around here, aren’t you?

The outburst from said spokesperson was likely a result of the news that there are now enough Senate GOP members on board with disapproving the declaration and dropping it squarely on the Resolute desk.

Hillary Clinton announced she will not be running for president in 2020, thereby leaving the door wide open for people to chant “Lock her up!” about Kamala Harris.

This week in the Keystone State, there was some good news on the opioid addiction front, as the state announced that opioid use is finally on the wane. The bad news? Cocaine and methamphetamine use are going up, which means we are back in the 1980s again.   

A report was released this week showing that the Turnpike is lugging around $11 billion worth of debt, which means, we assume, the interest rate on its credit card is astronomical. A lawsuit over the use of Turnpike tolls for mass transit (per a 2007 law) is at the root of the problem, and whoa Nellie, will there be trouble if this whole kerfuffle isn’t rectified soon.

As Penn National looks to build its first mini-casino in Berks County, we got our first taste of the public outcry that potential casinos can elicit. Residents of Berks County this week warned of the increase in drugs, crime, human trafficking, organized crime activity and chronic gout that can be expected if a casino lands in their county, which is the exact opposite of what happened when Penn National came to Dauphin County. This isn’t 1950s Las Vegas, people.

A midstate lawmaker this week proposed a bill to abolish Daylight Savings Time in Pennsylvania, presumably because he, like the rest of us, doesn’t like to shovel snow in the dark. 

Speaking of casinos, the state’s Gaming Control Board awarded the eighth sports betting-license since betting on sports became legal in July. It is never too early to wager on the Bryce Harper-led Phils to win the World Series!

Dr. Rachel Levine, secretary of the state’s Department of Health, had to spend her week defending the use of vaccines because, well, people are goofballs. Anyone out there find it interesting that the person defending vaccines has a last name that rhymes with vaccine? In any case, people need to spend more time vaccinating their children and less time circulating debunked any-vaxxer “studies” from www.healthnewsthingy.com on Facebook.  

We interrupt this update to bring you the news that somebody named Kylie Jenner is now the country’s youngest billionaire. Let that sink it for a minute while you prepare for the End Times. 

Do you wanna know which areas of Pennsylvania are more prosperous than others? Our friends at penncapitalstar.com have an interactive map for you so that you can make fun of friends in other counties. 

The final section of the Southern Beltway project in western Pennsylvania is finally underway, we learned this week. The original Southern Beltway project was announced, coincidentally enough, on the exact same day that the Great Pyramid of Giza was commissioned.

Governor Wolf was crisscrossing the Commonwealth this week, drumming up support for another ambitious infrastructure plan, his “Restore PA” initiative. If anyone believed he wasn’t serious about making this plan a reality this year, think again. 

Triad Strategies in thrilled to welcome yet another new addition to our Public Affairs practice, as Mya Varno joins the team! Stop by and say hello, won’t you?

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Columbia, and specifically, the hometown of the infamous Pablo Escobar. It seems that when Mr. Escobar went to meet his dead relatives, nobody knew what to do with the African hippos he imported and kept in his private zoo. Well, those hippos have now created a lot more hippos, and the town is being overrun by them. If you think that’s not a big deal, remember that hippos kill more humans than any other large animal on earth.  Take that, #SharkWeek.   

That’s what passes for news around here, as state budget hearings wind to a close and the real, fancy legislatin’ begins in Harrisburg! Join us next week for all the fun! Until then, from all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Triad Strategies Hires Mya Varno

TriadTeam-MyaVHARRISBURG – Triad Strategies’ public affairs team is excited to welcome Mya Varno. She joins the team in a newly-created position, public affairs associate, to support the expanding public affairs practice at Triad. Mya brings expertise in strategic communications and project management to advance client objectives.

“It’s exciting to join a team who has such a reputation for success across diverse, public policy issues.” She said. “I’m grateful to support Triad’s efforts to move the needle for our clients.”

Previously, she led multi-faceted client teams that executed award-winning, digital advocacy campaigns for a Harrisburg-based public affairs firm. The campaigns were recognized by both Modern Healthcare and Central PA PRSA for evoking action from target audiences. Mya has also worked with several nonprofit organizations supervising communications, grant management and fund development.

“Triad has always focused on delivering the most effective strategy to achieve our clients’ goals,” said Doug Rohanna, VP of Public Affairs. “We’re excited to add Mya to our growing public affairs team to continue providing the competitive edge that our clients expect from us.”

"Triad's approach is built on our ability to understand our clients' business and leverage the decades of experience our team possesses to achieve the local, state and federal goals for each project," said Roy Wells, Triad president and managing partner. "We are confident that Mya will be a great addition to our work at Triad."

Mya graduated magna cum laude from Messiah College with a B.S. in marketing and a minor in psychology.

***

About Triad Strategies:

Triad Strategies LLC is a bipartisan public affairs firm headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. We provide government relations services, relationship management, economic development strategies and strategic communications services to organizations seeking to influence and create opportunities in the public and private sectors.


Friday Happy Hour: Crab Legs Edition

Crab legs

Triad sends its most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Robert “Buster” Keaton, our former colleague, who passed away unexpectedly this week. Our hearts go out to all of them in this difficult time.

Yesterday, the Philadelphia sports scene was rocked by the announcement that Bryce Harper is about to become a Phillie-for-life by inking a 13-year, $330 million contract. Harper will be expected to hit a home run every other at-bat for the next 13 years.

The nation’s eyes were fixed on Washington this week as President Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, testified before Congress. We learned that every, single thing Cohen said under oath was a lie, except for his claim that there was no Russian collusion by Team Trump in 2016. Or maybe it was the exact opposite.  

Lost in all the drama was that the president was in Vietnam trying to negotiate a denuclearization deal with good old, fun-loving Kim Jong Un.  The meeting came to a swift conclusion when both sides walked away without so much as a good bowl of pho, let alone a historic deal. 

The U.S House of Representatives found time to pass a bill to require universal background checks for any gun purchaser, a bill that is currently number 1,001 on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s list of his top 1,000 priorities.

The Democrat-led chamber also voted to deauthorize the president’s national emergency declaration, setting up a very interesting few weeks in the Senate, where some top GOP senators are already acting like the House just threw a dead skunk into their chamber.   

Things were comparatively much calmer back here in the Keystone State this week, where we learned that PA will end the fiscal year with a few extra million in hand, while the unemployment rate here continues to be lower than in many of our neighboring states. In fact, estimates say there are roughly 239,000 jobs currently open in Pennsylvania, so if you don’t happen to have one, you probably need to look a little harder.  

Governor Wolf this week unveiled the first-ever Pennsylvania G.I. Bill, which will provide free tuition for spouses and children of National Guard members. Expect swift passage of this one, like maybe before you are done reading this memo. 

Pennsylvania’s House Democrats, meanwhile, kept up the minimum-wage drumbeat by pointing to a potential $140 million savings to the Commonwealth should the wage be raised to $12 per hour. The theory is that by lifting folks above the poverty line, fewer would be availing themselves of public assistance that costs the state a metric crap-ton of money every year. 

Pennsylvania’s Liquor Control Board is well on its way to dramatically expanding online sales. If we get to the point where same-day home delivery of liquor becomes a thing, it probably marks the high point of civilization and we can all just coast downhill to Gomorrah from here on out. 

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has been barnstorming the state on his marijuana legalization listening tour, which will hit all 67 Pennsylvania counties before it’s all said and done. Legal pot advocates haven’t been this giddy since, well, the last time they smoked pot, we assume.   

Meanwhile, as the big guy traipses from county to county, a new report came out showing that Colorado has topped $1.5 billion in annual marijuana sales. Those are some eye-popping numbers, to be sure. Denver, coincidentally, is now being renamed the Two-Mile-High City.

A group of state lawmakers is pushing a new plan that will dramatically slash the amount of money school districts must pay cyber charters. If we told you that schools in Philadelphia and the five-county region in southeastern Pennsylvania coughed up $134 million to cybers last year, would you believe it?  Well, you should, because there isn’t any fake news up in here. 

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to the World Affairs Council, as it honored Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko with its International Statesman Award. Check out WAC’s Craig Snyder doing the honors!

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to a buffet restaurant in Alabama, where patrons got into a brawl over crab legs, wielding tongs like swords while beating the tar out of each other. America, baby.  

That’s what passes for news around here on yet another snowy Friday in central PA! We will be back next week to spin a few yarns and share some tales of valor, so from all you friends at Triad, have a great weekend!  


Friday Happy Hour: Cowboy Pinball Edition

Cowboy pinball

This week, we learned that our own U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey seems a bit vexed by President Trump’s recent declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. We will all find out exactly how vexed when the House of Representatives sends the Senate a resolution disallowing the declaration, likely in early March.

Meanwhile, protesters descended upon the Capitol in Harrisburg this week to make their anger about the national emergency declaration clear, obviously confusing Harrisburg with Washington. Y’all might wanna head due south with your fancy protestin’.

Meanwhile, if there is a national emergency going on, nobody told the Dow, which jumped above 26,000 this week on renewed hopes that the trade war with China is about to wind down. Talks between Trump and Beijing seem to be back on the rails.

Pennsylvania is forging ahead with new safe drinking water standards after the federal EPA declined to give any sort of timeline on its efforts to establish minimum toxicity standards for substances that are appearing in some areas of Pennsylvania. The EPA’s stance was “Hey, that looks like a problem. We should definitely do something at some point. Someday.”

Workforce development continues to be this year’s sexy topic in Harrisburg, as Governor Wolf kicked off the grand opening of the Workforce Command Center, which we hope looks like the flight deck of the Millennium Falcon.

We learned this week that despite the passage of last year’s Clean Slate Law, it is still next to impossible to get licensed in Pennsylvania if you have a criminal offense in your background. Why someone cannot practice cosmetology if they had an alcohol-related misdemeanor 10 years ago is well beyond our capability to grasp.

Perhaps this issue will be a topic of discussion at the National Governor’s Association meeting, where our own Governor Wolf will give the keynote address on, you guessed it, criminal justice reform!

Nursing homes are banging the drum for more state funding this week, as years of flatlined state support are starting to put a real strain on the system. When the nursing home owners and the state’s largest health care union are on the same page, it is worth taking note. Those two don’t always peacefully coexist.

UPMC went to court this week to send a very strong signal that it fully intends to divorce Highmark, despite what Attorney General Josh Shapiro says. The “you-and-what-army” stance from UPMC is nothing new, to be sure, but don’t expect the general to just pack it in and call it a day. 

The PA State Lottery is having a banner year, with revenues running about $50 million higher than at this point last year. The only real trouble on the horizon seems to be what the lottery is losing in revenue due to those “games of skill” in taverns across the state. We all know (because we’ve heard it a million times) that these machines are only there to help mom-and-pop bar owners stay in business in these terrible economic times. That sound you heard was our eyes rolling into the back of our collective heads.  

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing a bill that would allow homeowners to buy-in to solar projects if their own properties are not conducive to solar panels (damned trees.) This plan will be the baby step before the big battle over alternative energy comes to a General Assembly near you.

Lawmakers are also kicking the tires on the State System of Higher Education this week, signaling that it might just be time for the House and Senate to push for some transformative change in the system. Just don’t expect that change to come with any loot, because we don’t wanna get too transformative around here.  

The state House this week passed a bill that will allow first-time homebuyers to avail themselves of some serious tax credits to get them into the American Dream of home ownership, where they will immediately know the joy of fixing everything under the roof of home ownership.   

And like swallows returning to Capistrano, advocates of redistricting reform are back in the ring to take another swing. Hope springs eternal around here as there are a few new players at the table, including Governor Wolf, who convened a task force to study said reform just this week.  

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to Election Systems and Software, who won a competitive bid to provide Philadelphia with new voting machines. Great work by team ES&S! 

If you are a Triad weekly report follower, you probably have some vague idea of what we do for a living around here. In the event you do not, our President Roy Wells lays it all out rather nicely in his new piece, which you can find here.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Kentucky, where for some insane reason a bunch of people got into a ring with a bull to try to remove a one-hundred-dollar bill that was attached to the obviously less-than-pleased animal. The event is called “Cowboy Pinball,” which, in retrospect, turned out to be the perfect name.

That’s what passes for news around here at Triad World Headquarters! Make sure to come back and join us next week where we will share with you all the stories you never knew you wanted. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Is it government relations, public affairs, or public relations?

TriadTeam-Roy2By Roy Wells

People I meet are sometimes confused about what I do for a living. Am I a lobbyist, public relations professional, business consultant, or just someone who is well connected? As president and managing director of a firm whose value proposition is providing clients with advice and services that allow them to navigate successfully through federal, state and local governments, I am never surprised by their confusion. 

In fact, it’s that confusion that inevitably leads them to ask me questions about what I do. During the last 30 years, I have been asked that question hundreds of times. Some might find answering the same question exhausting, but I find it exciting. To me, it’s an opportunity to educate someone about a profession I love, and many times, it’s an entrée into developing a new client.

There is no easy answer. The reason is simple; each client’s interaction with government is unique. Although the strategies we develop for them may have similarities, the tactics we deploy on their behalf make each engagement different.

Consequently, the answer to the question depends on who is asking it. It creates an opportunity to ask them questions about what they do, and whether they or their company ever interact with government. By listening to their answers, I can frame my response about what I do in a way that’s more meaningful to them.

Because their answers are always unique, my answer could sound more like that of a traditional lobbyist (securing passage or defeat of legislation); a business consultant (how to develop a property in order to maximize the use of public funding); a public relations professional (how to develop and deliver a message to a targeted population); or a sales consultant (how to win government contracts). 

In my world, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, or one basic price that covers all costs. In my world, you need to have the tools (people) in your toolbox (firm) that can assist in solving a client’s issues. Though adjustable pliers may be able to remove a nut, a standard or metric ratchet set can remove that nut more carefully and far more efficiently.

Unless you are working around government every day, it is easy to confuse the terms government relations, public affairs and public relations. The confusion centers more on the fact that they are not mutually exclusive. Many government relations activities can be what one might view as traditional lobbying (direct conversations with decision-makers advocating for the passage or defeat of legislation or regulation). 

In some instances, advocacy takes the form of a public affairs engagement because of the need to expand the conversation with communities outside of government, to persuade stakeholders of the importance or consequences of a pending government action for their organization or business (grassroots coalition building). 

In other cases, advocacy can take the form of a public relations engagement that includes earned and paid media to educate the public (opinion and editorial pieces, television and radio interviews and traditional advertising). Depending upon the prospective client’s needs, a firm’s ability to tailor an engagement around a strategy that utilizes the most appropriate mix of tactics can provide that client with an enhanced chance of success. 

As with the purchase of any professional service, budget will affect what tactics can be implemented to reach a goal. A small nonprofit organization may engage in traditional lobbying because it lacks the resources to build coalitions or use the media to deliver its message. A group of nonprofits may have the means and the collective membership to engage in both lobbying and public affairs, but still lack the resources to employ a full-scale media campaign. A nonprofit or group of nonprofits with the support of a wealthy donor or supportive foundation may be able to utilize all the tools in a firm’s toolbox to achieve success. 

A firm that possesses all the tools can provide an array of tactics to a prospective client to craft a successful strategy within its budgetary constraints, or be honest enough to inform it that without being able to employ certain tactics, the chance of success is diminished. So, whether I am a lobbyist, public relations professional or business consultant depends entirely on what you need.

Roy Wells is president and managing director of Triad Strategies LLC. For more information about the firm, please visit www.triadstrategies.com


Friday Happy Hour: Uber Bank Robbers Edition

Uber app

President Trump followed through on his threat to bypass Congress by declaring a national emergency in an attempt to commandeer federal money to build a wall at the southern border. What can we look for as this seemingly never-ending squabble continues? The New York Times breaks it down.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s statewide “listening tour” on the topic of legalizing adult use of marijuana got off to a rousing start this week as he packed the house at events in Dauphin and Cumberland counties, and most attendees appeared to support legalization. Tuesday’s snow/ice/rain storm was a buzz kill for the scheduled Perry County event, which had to be rescheduled for Feb. 20.

Newly selected House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris got some well-earned favorable ink from the new Pennsylvania Capital-Star this week. The youngest-ever House Democratic whip at 34, he has shown an uncanny knack for finding common ground and enlisting bipartisan support on several important issues, including criminal justice reform and education funding.

Stuck in neutral for 15 years due to a lack of funding, the unfinished 13-mile piece of U.S. 322 between Seven Mountains and State College will move forward, Governor Wolf announced. It will cost $670 million and take three or four years, beginning in 2027, to transform that last piece from two lanes to four.

A move last June aimed at securing an additional $15 million in federal funding for Medical Assistance transportation has drawn the concerns of a bipartisan group of legislators. The Department of Human Services’ plan to divide the state into three regions with one manager for each could mean increased costs and poorer service, say critics, including the PA Public Transportation Association.

Governor Wolf’s proposed $4.5 billion “Restore Pennsylvania” infrastructure program, announced just last week, quickly got the City of Chester’s attention. Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said the initiative, which would be funded with a severance tax on natural gas, is just the ticket for addressing the city’s blight issues and infrastructure needs.

Republican Congressman John Joyce of Blair County said he will co-sponsor legislation that would spark a federal study of chronic wasting disease, which is taking a toll on the Commonwealth’s deer herd. The hunting community supports development of a vaccine as an alternative to culling the deer population, which may not prove to be as effective.

The idea of arming teachers is back, as many people ponder the issue of response time by law enforcement in rural communities. A bill from the last legislative session that would have enabled the arming of teachers received no hearings or floor votes and would need to be reintroduced in the current session.

Governor Wolf’s proposal to raise Pennsylvania’s $7.25-per-hour minimum wage to $12 this year, and eventually to $15, took a Republican beat-down in a House Appropriations Committee meeting this week. Triad’s Todd Brysiak has some thoughts on that issue, along with several others associated with the governor’s budget address, in this analysis over on Triadvocate.

A court-sealed rebuttal to the ever-controversial Freeh Report on the Sandusky sexual assault scandal at Penn State was leaked to several media outlets this week. The rebuttal said Freeh’s findings were “unreliable and misleading” and that the Freeh team seemed more interested in leveraging the report to become the NCAA’s preferred firm for athletic department investigations than in producing a balanced and fair report. OK, everybody back to neutral corners.

After asking, urging, directing and ordering pipeline builder Energy Transfer LP to clean up problems with its Revolution Pipeline in Beaver County, the PA Department of Environmental Protection dropped the hammer on the Texas company, freezing approvals of permits until the problems are corrected. A pipeline explosion last September destroyed one home.

It appears the idea of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania is gaining momentum, and a bill that would allow it has been advanced by a Senate committee and awaits a floor vote. It would strengthen trespassing regulations and increase penalties, and Sunday hunting is allowed in most other states and is proven to work well.

Before we run out of space, we will list the current candidates to replace Congressman Tom Marino in the 12th Congressional District. The GOP candidates are state Reps. Fred Keller and Jeff Wheeland, Iraq War veteran and local businesswoman Stacy Garrity, PA Farm Bureau Vice President Chris Hoffman and nursing agency executive Joseph Moralez. The nominee will be chosen on March 2 and will face Democrat/Penn State professor Marc Friedenberg, who lost to Marino in the recent General Election. The faceoff will occur on May 21.

Former Wolf for Governor campaign finance director Giancarlo Stefanoni was hired by Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign. He will be directing the Mid-Atlantic finance operation.

This week’s installment of We Can’t Make This Up takes us to Oklahoma City, where three teenagers thought it would be a good idea to hail Uber to take them to a bank they planned to rob. Their driver overheard their plans and alerted police. Credit the teens for thoroughness, however – as the trio was being arrested, police encountered another Uber ride that had been summoned to provide the getaway.

And that’s what passes for news ‘round these parts! From your friends at Triad, have a terrific weekend, and we’ll all be back at it next week!


Wolf’s budget plan: Which issues will stick; which will hit the floor?

Todd Brysiak

By Todd Brysiak

When Gov. Tom Wolf was first elected in 2014, the halls of the capitol were buzzing with speculation for weeks leading up to his first budget proposal. What would he propose? How would lawmakers react? What kind of governor would he be?

It was an interesting time in Harrisburg, as it was the first experiment in divided government the state had seen in years. And to be blunt, nobody really knew what that meant for the overall environment. That, of course, changed on March 3, 2015 – and boy, did it change in a big way.

Laid out in the governor’s first budget address was a policy agenda that included just about every major issue discussed over the last decade. Ambitious was a gross understatement. The plan set off a chain reaction of events that led to a brutal gnashing of political teeth and a crushing, nine-month budget impasse. Even the most hardened vets of the Harrisburg scene were dizzied by the events.

But as bad as that period was, a lot of lessons were learned. The experience facilitated a much more cooperative and pragmatic close to the Wolf administration’s first term. While not always pretty, the governor and Republican leaders in the House and Senate found a way to make divided government work, and it led to some historic policy changes and the first “early” budget the state had seen in years.

So, as the governor coasted to victory in the November election, and his Democrat allies in the House and Senate picked up seats, many wondered if the political momentum would prompt his first budget of term two to be a repeat of 2015. To his credit, as we saw last week, he opted more for pragmatism.

Now, let’s be clear: the presentation wasn’t devoid of all angst. Republicans in both chambers expressed concern with aspects of the plan, specifically the proposed spike in the minimum wage and near-billion-dollar increase in spending. But there certainly seemed to be more cautious optimism than tossing of political hand grenades.

With a template to begin working from, we’ll have several months now to see what ideas come together and which hit the cutting room floor. The process for those decisions began this week as budget hearings kicked off in the House. And in a town where opinions and prognostication are plentiful, it seems like this is a good time to add to the glut with a little Triad-centered read on issues we anticipate will garner some chatter before the Appropriations Committees in the coming weeks.

Workforce

No issue has built up more momentum in the last several years than that of Pennsylvania’s workforce. The dreaded “skills gap” has gone from a loose term used in talking points to a legitimate problem that’s impacting our economy. Cited by the governor as one of the primary reasons Pennsylvania missed out on the Amazon HQ2 deal, workforce is a now a Tier 1 concern.  

The governor laid out an ambitious plan to revamp our system, and it was generally well received. Republican or Democrat, House or Senate, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s not focused on closing this skills gap and strengthening our pipeline of quality and qualified workers. While we shouldn’t assume a verbatim acceptance of the Wolf plan, odds are pretty good this issue is well funded and broadly supported when the governor signs his name to the 2019-20 budget bill. But make no mistake, legislative leaders in all four caucuses are going to want some say in how all of this is laid out.

Minimum Wage

It has been a decade since Pennsylvania last bumped its minimum wage to the current rate of $7.25. That’s not been sitting well with most Democrats, including the governor. Proposing to spike the rate to $12 this year and then gradually increase it $15 by 2025, Wolf followed the adage of “go big or go home” on this one.

After years of debate, broader circles are beginning to wonder if the environment in the halls of the capitol is ripe for a deal on minimum wage. But, let’s not jump to conclusions. If the governor is going to draw a line in the sand on $15, then a stalemate is more likely than not. Even the most ardent supporters of the increase would probably have to admit that more than doubling the minimum would affect the labor market. Both the Independent Fiscal Office and the Congressional Budget Office have issued reports in recent years highlighting the adverse effect major rate increases can have on low-wage workers. But what about a lower rate or a more modest increase?

Republicans have generally opposed or been very skeptical of minimum wage increases because of the market effects. But the opposition hasn’t been universal. Even former Sen. Scott Wagner, who opposed Wolf in last November’s election, sponsored a bill increasing the minimum wage. When you’re talking minimum wage support from a guy with Wagner’s conservative credentials and business acumen, it’s a potential sign that a deal could be on the horizon. But at what rate and in exchange for what? Only time will tell, but this is an issue folks should follow closely.

Local Education

There are few certainties when it comes to the state budget each year. One, however, is that education dollars will go up if funds allow. By how much? Well, that’s always up for debate. The governor is asking again for some significant increases for schools, including a $50 million boost for special ed and a $200 million bump in the Basic Ed subsidy.

The newest twist is the governor’s proposal to increase the minimum salary for school teachers to $45,000. In his address, Wolf referred to this as a fully funded mandate, as his budget accounts for the $13 million price tag under the Department of Education (PDE). There’s already legitimate speculation that costs will be higher when other factors are considered. We’ll let the upcoming budget hearings sort that out.

But if you like some good intrigue, consider looking at the PDE district funding assessment for this concept. A quick look presents an interesting dynamic. Many of the counties with teachers seeing the greatest benefit under this plan are in rural areas represented by legislative Republicans. No doubt, this fact could make for an interesting discussion on this issue.

Calling the odds on this proposal’s fate is tough. There are simply too many sidebar considerations that need to be assessed before bets can be placed. But rest assured, this one is going to get a lot of attention.

Taxes and Business Climate

So, the governor didn’t go so far as to invoke the late President George H.W. Bush with his “read my lips” line, but his opening pronouncement that this budget would be free of tax hikes was welcomed by many. Now, this excludes his call for a severance tax to fund state infrastructure needs, but since that idea is outside this budget proposal, we’ll put that aside for now. Lord knows it’s going to generate enough discussion on its own.

The tax-free budget is the first proposed by Wolf since serving as the state’s chief executive, and it shows a few things: the administration is confident on incoming revenues, and the more recent effort to control spending growth has helped right-size balance sheets. Kudos to all parties on the latter.

But even with this bit of good news, there is a still some solid debate to be had. Once again, the governor has called for cutting the state’s nearly 10 percent Corporate Net Income Tax (CNI) rate. While this is almost universally supported, it’s his plan to trade the rate cut with combined reporting that, once again, has feathers ruffled.

Combined reporting is the gift that keeps on giving for tax policy wonks. Albeit complicated to explain, the short of it is that this new tax-filing method would theoretically prevent businesses from shifting taxable income to subsidiaries in other states. Now, most in the business community will argue this shifting doesn’t occur; and even if it did occur, the practice was jammed up years ago when the state enacted its “expense add-back” policy. Clearly, that point hasn’t gained traction with Wolf’s team.

There are a billion talking points attributed to this issue, so let’s not get too far into the weeds here. But to keep with the theme, it seems unlikely that a deal would come on the rate cut without combined reporting, if for no other reason than it would have a significant impact on the budget’s balance sheet. Now, if the state came into a surge of unforeseen revenue between now and June 30, then maybe there would be a chance. But on this issue alone and the proposed trade of a rate cut for combined reporting, it seems unlikely to occur without some other factor being thrown into the mix.

State Police Service Fee

This isn’t the first go-round for this idea, but each previous effort has fallen short for a host of reasons. There’s a real concern about how thin state police services are stretched, and this local fee would help provide funding for new cadet classes. This would be a much-needed addition.

The administration says 67 percent of all municipalities in the state rely on state police service. That’s not an insignificant number, and the impact on the troopers’ workload is significant. At the end of the day, this is very much a public safety issue. So why hasn’t this local-fee concept hit the books in the past?

Lawmakers have yet to light on this idea for many reasons, none more impactful than local effect. It’s no secret that small municipalities throughout Pennsylvania are fighting to maintain firm tax bases and struggling financially. The men and women who represent these areas in Harrisburg are keenly focused on this fact, so the idea of levying a new local fee to be paid to the state isn’t exactly a well-received concept. And when it comes to counting votes, when you have 67 percent of the state’s communities looking at a potential fee hike, it’s plain to see why this concept hasn’t mustered the support needed.

It’s hard to argue against the “fairness” principle upon which this concept was built. But with local budgets so fragile and lawmakers in Harrisburg generally being averse to new taxes and fees, this idea still seems to be taking on water. Could this change? Absolutely. But experience suggests this will be a tough one to close out. 

Combating Opioids

Rarely is there ever universal support for an issue in Harrisburg. Fighting the opioid epidemic, however, is one where practically everyone is on the same page – and for good reason. No issue has been so broad in its impact and tragic in its effect. This crisis has infiltrated every community in Pennsylvania.

To their credit, lawmakers and the administration have aggressively worked to combat the opioid epidemic with precision and cooperative force. They have backed the fight with dollars and expanded policies to help those on the front lines. With new funds lined up as part of the governor’s budget proposal, it’s fair to expect some form of added financial support will make it across the finish line.

It’s also a safe bet that members of the House and Senate touting their own plans will want something included in a final push come June. Whether that is another pot of newly directed funding or strengthened policies, the fight against overdoses will almost certainly include something beyond what the governor has requested – and that’s good for everyone.

Agriculture

Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry has been an integral segment of its economy since the Commonwealth’s inception. Unfortunately, struggles have become more commonplace and concerns are growing.

Efforts to provide budgetary support for ag-centric programs has grown in recent years. The governor’s proposal builds on those recent efforts. Adding new money for a host of new programs and ideas, the state’s farming community could be looking at a slate of new and much-needed support.

Highlights include an increase of $2.6 million to promote and expand the state’s organics market, $5 million to combat agricultural disasters and the continuation of $5 million for the PA Dairy Investment Program. The latter, which was new in 2018, is being viewed as a catalyst to bolster the state’s dairy market – a market that has run into rough times across America.

Nothing says the governor’s requested dollars here will be accepted entirely, but this is one area where lawmakers have historically been very supportive. Those representing rural communities will always make a play for added ag support to protect local farmers, and those in our cities and suburban communities respect and appreciate the industry’s impact. It’s fair to believe some added support will be there for this industry, assuming of course the funds are available to do so.

The Outlook

With Appropriations Committee hearings now on the docket in both chambers for the next month, we can all expect some good political theater. There’s always one hearing that includes some fireworks. But unlike the administration’s first two budget (2015 and 2016), we’re not looking at a minefield of contentious ideas.

Whereas previous budget proposals have looked to rewrite the tax code and included “turn-the-world-on-its-axis policy changes,” this year’s plan was more middle-ground. Now, nobody’s calling for popping champagne in February; there’s still a lot of work to be done and battles to be waged between the negotiating parties.

We’ll all take the next few weeks to weigh the pros and the cons of these and other issues addressed during the budget hearings. Once all is said and done, maybe our crew here at Triad will take up another assessment on the issues mentioned here today. Odds can change as debates grow, you know? Stay tuned.

There are still a lot of questions that need answers. But one thing is for sure: overall, it seems safe to say that the atmosphere is far less toxic than it was four years ago. Let’s hope that continues into June, because that’s good news for everyone.

Todd Brysiak, Triad's VP of Government Affairs, is a former chief of staff for the state House majority leader.


Friday Happy Hour: Cougar Edition

Meow

President Trump emerged from a few weeks in Pelosi Purgatory on Tuesday to deliver his annual State of the Union Address. It was… long.  The speech got generally good reviews from viewers across the country, but like most SOTUs, it plowed little new ground, save for the ambitious plan to eradicate pediatric cancer within the next decade. 

Meanwhile in Virginia… wow. Just wow. No word yet on when the Virginia Tourism Board will change the Commonwealth’s motto from “Virginia is for Lovers” to “Virginia is for Idiots.”

Back here in the Keystone State, Gov. Tom Wolf also took the stage Tuesday to deliver his annual budget address, and once again, not a whole lot of new ground was covered. You can read about Wolf’s tidy little, no-new-taxes budget plans here. Perhaps all you need to know about the budget address is that top GOP leaders did not dismiss it out of hand. One GOP leader kinda, sorta said he liked it, which means it will pass sometime in August.   

One of the more eye-popping proposals in the Wolf plan was one that would raise the floor on teacher pay from the current (and laughable) $18,000 a year to $45,000 a year. The plan would be a boon to teachers in rural Pennsylvania, or perhaps more aptly, teachers residing in GOP-held House districts. We are sure that was a total coincidence.

Wolf also doubled down on last year’s successful, bipartisan work to beef up state support for career and technical education, a key cog in his goal of making Pennsylvania’s workforce the best in all the land.  Other states will one day cower in fear of our mighty workforce. 

House and Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are making it clear that raising the state minimum wage is the top priority of their collective agenda moving forward. From public hearings to press releases to incessant social media posts, #RaiseTheWage appears to be the hill that they have chosen to live or die on in 2019.  

Apparently tiring of watching UPMC and Highmark fight like two cats in a burlap sack out in western Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro decamped for Pittsburgh this week and summarily kicked UPMC right in its charitable mission.  

Between Shapiro’s legal maneuver and a top leader in the General Assembly introducing a mandatory arbitration bill, it was not a great week for that little mom-and-pop health system on Grant Street.

Sticking around the western part of the state for a moment, a Pittsburgh-area lawmaker has introduced legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana in Pennsylvania, predicting that the legalize-and-tax strategy will generate somewhere in the neighborhood of a bazillion dollars, give or take a billion.

A Lehigh Valley woman is suing Dorney Park for $150,000 in damages because the Halloween haunted attraction she took her children to was “too scary.” Just throwing that out there if you’ve ever wondered why some policy makers constantly argue for caps on damages.

New Jersey is mad at Pennsylvania because our landfills, in their words, are making the Garden State stink. Really, Jersey? You sure you didn’t have a certain odor about you pre-landfill? In any case, it has probably not yet dawned on New Jersey that the state exports a lot of its municipal waste to… wait for it… Pennsylvania landfills!    

The Great Nuclear Plant Showdown of 2019 (and likely 2020) was launched this week as legislation was unveiled to boost the struggling industry and keep power plants open.  If you thought the battle over pension reform was nasty, wait until you watch this baby unfold.

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to our friends at Pocono Raceway, who added yet more firepower to the airshow to end all airshows, slated for late August. Check it out here!  

Triad World Headquarters was also a very busy place this week as we welcomed Megan Dapp to our team! Pop on over and meet Megan here!

Not content to rest on our laurels, the very next day we announced a partnership with former state lawmaker Jennifer Mann! Read all about it!  

In our We Can’t Make This Up section this week, we take you to the mountains of Colorado, where this absolute badass of a human killed a cougar with his bare hands after being attacked while on a run. This makes our inability to get our cat off the bed in the morning all that much more embarrassing.   

That’s what passes for news around here at Triad, where we are thrilled to add more talent to the already-talented team. Put them to work for you, we are cool with it! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Triad Strategies, former Rep. Jennifer Mann form strategic partnership

Network-Mann

HARRISBURG – Former state Rep. Jennifer L. Mann and Triad Strategies LLC will begin a strategic partnership that will bring together one of Pennsylvania’s top public affairs firm with Lehigh Valley-based business consulting firm, Triad Managing Partner Roy Wells announced today.

Mann, founder and president of JL Mann Consulting LLC, served in the House from 1998 to 2012. In 2008, her colleagues elected her to the post of Caucus Secretary, making her only the third woman to serve in a House Democratic leadership position since the Pennsylvania legislature was formed in 1682.

As a member of the national Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) Leadership Team, she served as chairwoman of the DLC’s State Legislative Advisory Board and was named to the DLC’s “100 to Watch” list in 2000.

Before that, Mann launched and managed a successful wireless telecommunications business in Allentown. That experience, combined with her legislative focus on business-friendly economic policies, gives her a unique understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with entrepreneurship and business leadership.

Today, Mann uses her vast national network to serve her clients as well as her community. She is currently on the board of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, the executive board of the Minsi Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the board of associates for the Allentown Art Museum, Muhlenberg College and Cedar Crest College. She is a member of the Honorary Board for the YWCA of Bethlehem and holds an elected position on the St. Luke’s Hospital – Allentown Campus Board of Governors, and a Director of QNB Bank.

Previously, she served on the board for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and as chairwoman of the Finance Committee for the Team Pennsylvania Foundation, an organization that helps bridge the gap between the private sector and government to help businesses expand and create jobs. She also acted as a government liaison for the Program for Women and Families, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence.

A lifelong resident of Allentown, Mann earned degrees in government and economics from Lehigh University.

“Jennifer is a longtime friend of the firm, and her experience and skillset and Triad’s capabilities complement each other very well,” said Wells. “A strategic partnership just made a great deal of sense, and we’re thrilled to have her in the fold.”

“I’m looking forward to capitalizing on the synergism that this strategic partnership will bring,” said Mann.  “We are committed to the success of our clients and our ability provide access to the resources and expertise they need to achieve their public policy objectives.”

For more information about JL Mann Consulting, visit www.jlmannconsulting.com. For more information about Triad Strategies, visit http://triadstrategies.com.


Megan Dapp joins Triad Strategies

TriadTeam-Dapp

HARRISBURG – Triad Strategies welcomes Megan Dapp to its team as a senior associate. She will join the growing communications practice at the Harrisburg-based public affairs firm.

Megan brings with her nearly 15 years of public affairs experience. Prior to joining Triad, she spent 11 years at a Pennsylvania-based public affairs firm, where she developed and executed advocacy campaigns on behalf of a variety of clients in the energy, education and healthcare industries.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the very talented team at Triad” she said. “I look forward to utilizing my expertise to achieve the objectives of our vast client list.”

Megan is also no stranger to the State Capitol. She served as the state advocacy director for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association from 2006-2008, where she advocated for public policy change on a variety of healthcare-related issues.

“We are very excited that Megan has joined our team,” said Roy Wells, Triad president and managing partner. “She brings valuable public affairs experience to the firm that we will leverage to achieve results on behalf of our clients.”

“Triad provides our clients with a competitive edge to achieve their public policy objectives.  We measure the success of public affairs plans differently.  Winning is great, improving our clients’ bottom line is even better,” said Doug Rohanna, VP of Public Affairs.  “Megan and I can show you how, just ask us.”

She joins the diverse team of government affairs, strategic communications and media professionals at Triad who have decades of experience managing public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.

Megan is a native of central Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is a graduate of Dickinson College, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

***

About Triad Strategies:

Triad Strategies LLC is a bipartisan public affairs firm headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. We provide government relations services, relationship management, economic development strategies and strategic communications services to organizations seeking to influence and create opportunities in the public and private sectors.

 


Friday Happy Hour: Hellbender Edition

Eastern Hellbender

The U.S. economy shrugged off the January government shutdown, creating an astounding 304,000 new jobs. The job-growth numbers for last month represented the 100th straight month of expansion. YUGE!  

The nation spent the week in the clutches of a polar vortex, the likes of which we have not seen in decades. How cold was it? Chicago’s commuter train system lit its track on fire. That cold. 

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey publicly (and rather strongly) broke with President Trump this week over the White House’s tariff-the-daylights-out-of-everyone policy, vowing to pursue legislation that would strengthen congressional oversight of trade policy. We assume there will be an incoming Tweet in 3…2…1…

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed the president that he can come on over to the Big House (no, not THAT Big House) and give his State of the Union address on Feb. 5. Shortly thereafter, the Democrats unveiled their choice to give the official response. Even though congressional Democrats have the largest freshman class in recent history, chock full of bright, energetic men and women, they chose a person who lost a gubernatorial race in Georgia. Alrighty, then. We guess Howard Dean was busy. 

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz announced that he may run for president as an independent, setting off a firestorm of criticism from Democrats who view him as a spoiler. Schultz spent the entire week on television and incredibly, not one, single interviewer asked him why the “grande” isn’t the biggest cup of coffee.  

Back here in frozen Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf was omnipresent, rattling off second-term priorities like a hyper-caffeinated auctioneer. First was his call to the General Assembly to enact new gun safety measures, which for a slight majority of the General Assembly means “keeping your guns safely in your own hands.”

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Mayor Bill Peduto was the target of a criminal complaint by a Pittsburgh resident who apparently has only a passing acquaintance with the law. It seems said resident wanted the county district attorney to cuff and stuff the mayor over his advocacy of gun-control measures that haven’t even been voted on yet. Horse first, then cart. The D.A. dismissed the case roughly eight minutes after it was filed. 

Getting back to the Wolfapalooza, the governor then called for an immediate hike in the minimum wage in addition to phasing in a plan to get the wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Wolf has advocated for a higher wage since taking office, let’s see if that dog will hunt this year.

And finally, the governor unveiled a truly massive $4.5 billion (yes, with a “b”) infrastructure investment plan, which would be funded by the proceeds of – wait for it – a Marcellus shale tax! The plan would fund everything from flood protection to broadband connections in rural Pennsylvania. On this one, we give him an “A” for “audacious,” knowing full well we don’t typically do audacious around these parts.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate GOP have a new priority themselves, that being prohibiting so-called “venue shopping” by trial lawyers in malpractice cases. Their interest in the topic was spurred by a Supreme Court rule that seems to pave the way for such shopping. Expect that one to be front-and-center in a General Assembly near you very soon. For everyone who survived the medical malpractice debates of the 90s, this session will be a nice trip down Bad Memory Lane.    

This week, a few dozen lawmakers rolled out a package of rules reforms for the Lower Chamber, fundamentally changing how the House operates. Noticeably absent from the coalition were any current top-level House leaders, leading us to dub this new group the Sisyphean Caucus.

The criminal justice reform train just keeps on rolling, fiery tracks or not. This week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a new probation reform package that would drastically shorten parole and probation time frames for some offenders. It is still rather astounding to see how this issue got such traction from legislators from both urban and rural Pennsylvania. 

Will this year finally be the year that the Eastern Hellbender becomes the official amphibian of the Keystone State? That is the question on everyone’s mind as the new legislative session kicks into gear.  Hope abounds! 

We pause this week to remember the life of David Glancy, a longtime leader of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee and a lobbyist for the University of Pennsylvania. Glancy passed away at the age of 74 this week, and we send our condolences to his family and friends.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Arizona, where a congressman has proposed an online porn tax to fund border wall construction. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the tax would generate $68 trillion in the first year. 

That's what passes for news around here as we anxiously await Governor Wolf’s Tuesday budget address.  We will be there for it, and if you are lucky, we will force one of our associates to live-Tweet it. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Support Alligator Edition

Wallygator

Breaking news alert: If you are in central Pennsylvania, be on the lookout for a very nervous man with shaking hands, talking uncontrollably. Police are searching for him in connection with the theft of $1,700 worth of Red Bull energy drinks.

The beautiful dysfunction of the United States Congress came into sharp focus Thursday, when the Senate decided to vote on two plans to reopen the shuttered federal government. Neither passed. Neither was even close to passing. But hey, lots of speeches were made!  

Meanwhile in the real world, the nation’s air traffic controllers, who already have one of the most stressful jobs outside of the local bomb squad, are starting to not come to work, delaying flights along the east coast. But hey, we have those speeches!

President Trump took a few minutes off from his constant border wall harangue to let everyone know he is considering taking executive action to restrict states’ abilities to stop pipeline construction. This should cause quite a stir down in southeast Pennsylvania, we can assure you. There is quite the pipeline kerfuffle going on down there.

More breaking news: President Trump and congressional leaders have reached a short-term deal to reopen the government through Feb. 15 while negotiations continue over the president's demands for money to build his wall. He hinted that he would again shut down the government if he doesn’t get his wall.

Gov. Tom Wolf this week directed his shotgun rider, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, to conduct a 67-county “listening tour” to take Pennsylvania’s temperature on marijuana legalization. In addition to presiding over the state Senate, Fetterman is now the official Weed Whisperer of Team Wolf. 

In a somewhat related story, Pennsylvania is throwing the door wide open to industrial hemp production. Hemp can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed, making it sort of a “superfood” of cannabis derivatives. If you’ve ever driven the across Route 80, you know the Pennsylvania has a LOT of open space, so have at it, hempers.

If you use an online booking service to grab a place to chill for your next vacation, plan on paying the 6 percent Pennsylvania sales tax, due to a change in law that took effect this year. The change is expected to generate $24 million annually and boost the state’s tourism efforts.  

Sports betting is now legal in Pennsylvania, but you still won’t be able to bet online if you are looking to drop a couple bucks on the Super Bowl. Casinos are still getting their brick-and-mortar sports books operational and haven’t jumped into the online pool just yet. So prepare to drive to Philly, Pittsburgh or Harrisburg. Or call a bookie. 

“Reform” looks to be the word of the year in the Pennsylvania legislature. First up is a central Pennsylvania GOP lawmaker who has created the “Criminal Justice Reform Caucus” to build on last year’s Clean Slate Law. Paging Meek Mill…

On the other side of the chamber, House Democrats are introducing a comprehensive “voting reform” package of bills designed to make it easier to cast a ballot. Forty other states have some form of early voting, so that idea shouldn’t be all that controversial. But it will be. Don’t kid yourself. 

Speaking of voting, Pennsylvania will hold no fewer than five special elections in the coming months due to retirements and resignations, two in the state Senate, two in the state House and one in Congress.  You thought you escaped the 2018 elections unscathed, didn’t you? Ha! Not happenin’, Captain!  Elections never end! 

Out in Pittsburgh, City Council has begun holding public hearings on proposed gun ordinances, and WHOA DOGGIES! Nothing gets the ire of Pittsburghers up like gun rights (except for the Steelers.) For his part, Mayor Bill Peduto welcomed the county district attorney to come and arrest him if he determines that the ordinances are illegal. That would be quite the scene and could even make ‘Burghers forget about Antonio Brown for three minutes.  

The BBC, when not breathlessly covering the Brexit spectacle, took a few minutes to present its top 10 list of best food cities in the entire world, and there was only one U.S. city that made the top ten. That’s right: Pittsburgh! You’ve done it again. 

Pennsylvania said goodbye to former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford this week. Wofford, a civil rights champion who marched in Selma, died Tuesday at age 92. Wofford scored a huge upset victory in a (you guessed it) special election to replace Sen. John Heinz after his untimely death. Ironically, it was Wofford’s stance on expanding health care coverage for all Americans that probably tipped the balance of that race, and here we are almost 30 years later, still having the same debate. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to York Haven, Pennsylvania, where a man has adopted a four-year-old, five-foot-long alligator as a support animal to help him combat depression. Because nothing is warmer and cuddlier then a cold-blooded, scaly reptile that can rip your arm off. 

That’s what passes for news around here at Triad World Headquarters in frosty Harrisburg! Be sure to come back next week when the General Assembly settles in for its two-year odyssey, and we will let you share our bird’s eye view. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Pringles Edition

Wine from a Pringles can

It is with incredible sadness that we at Triad Strategies mourn the passage of Karen Coates and send our deepest condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and to House Speaker Mike Turzai. Rarely will you find the blend of toughness, tenacity, fairness and honesty that was Karen. The Commonwealth has suffered a great loss. Rest in peace, Karen. 

Earlier today, Governor Wolf issued a State of Emergency due to Winter Storm Harper, which is roaring toward the Commonwealth as you read this missive. This looks like it could be a tough one, so get your bread, milk and other necessities and hunker down, people. Don’t imperil our first responders because you feel the need to drive to your local tavern because you’re bored.

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued their Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed impersonations this week, taking turns stealing each other’s thunder over the government shutdown.  “You can’t give your speech!” “Fine, you can’t use the airplane!” 

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is starting to take a hit because of the shutdown, with economists fearing there could be a slowdown in economic growth. This would be the dumbest self-inflicted wound in the nation’s history.

During a House vote on a government funding package, a GOP congressman was caught yelling “Go back to Puerto Rico!” at Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas. He later apologized for the outburst. It should be noted that Cardenas is, in fact, of Mexican descent.

Bob Casey this week put an end to all speculation that he might challenge Trump in 2020 and announced he plans to stay in the U.S. Senate. As such, we can retire our unofficial Casey for President campaign slogan: “Casey: Quiet Competence in 2020.”  

Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino has decided that three weeks of congressional work is enough for him this year and announced he will leave Congress for the private sector. This move will trigger a special election for his seat, which will probably be won by a sitting PA House or Senate member, which will trigger a special election. This may be the Year of the Special Election in Pennsylvania.  

Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown announced this week she will not seek re-election for a sixth term. She will be sorely missed in City Hall. Good luck, Councilwoman!  

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and his running mate, John Fetterman, were sworn in this week with all of the pomp and circumstance one could handle. Wolf sounded both conciliatory and pragmatic in his inaugural address, which shows that Pennsylvania, at least, hasn’t been infected by Washington D.C.-itis. Everyone ate, drank, reveled and danced the night away. Now get back to work. 

The state’s casino industry broke a record in 2018 by generating $3.2 billion in revenue, and that is without the approved mini-casinos and the rollout of online gaming happening now. And with that, it is hard to envision the state ringing any more loot out of that industry when budget shortfalls inevitably happen. Look under some other couch cushions, people.

But wait! We may never see the full impact of online gaming because, once again, the U.S. Justice Department has re-re-reinterpreted the Wire Act and decided that online gaming is illegal. Expect many lawsuits over this issue now that casino mogul and I-gaming hater Sheldon Adelson has his long-awaited victory over those damned kids and their Interwebs!

The Pennsylvania House Democratic whip’s office has unveiled the Whip Squad, which by the looks of this photo is ready to whip it, whip it good! Congrats to Rep. Jordan Harris on assembling an impressive group that will either whip votes or meet you outside, punk!

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has gotten together and formed something known as the “Nuclear Caucus,” with the goal of trying to save the state’s nuclear industry. Which is good thing, because Mr. Burns certainly isn’t coming here with Smithers and a bag of cash. All eyes will be on this group as the Three Mile Island closure looms.  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to (where else?) Wal-Mart, this one in lovely Wichita Falls, where a woman was banned from the store. What could one possibly do to get banned from a Wal-Mart, you ask? How about driving around the parking lot in a motorized cart, drinking wine from a Pringles can? Yup, sounds about right.

That’s what passes for news around here as 2019 kicks into high gear! Make sure you check back with us next week as we bring you more news you never wanted! From all your friends at Triad, have a great (and safe) weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Mac-n-Cheese Edition

Heart attack in a bucket

The federal government shutdown will reach 22 days tomorrow, barring a miracle. By doing so, it will officially become the longest shutdown in the nation’s history. The Coast Guard is telling its employees to hold garage sales to recoup lost income, which would be funny if it were not completely insulting.

Meanwhile, President Trump is readying plans to declare a national emergency, so he can bypass Congress to secure his wall funding. The fake news liberal Wall Street Journal has a sobering piece out today explaining how establishing this precedent may, theoretically, be used by a future Democratic president who decides that climate change or income inequality, for instance, could be a national emergency. Just a cautionary tale, folks.

Former Veep Joe Biden has been telling people that he may run for president in 2020 if he thinks he is the Democrats’ best shot at winning. Spoiler alert: Joe Biden thinks he is the Democrats’ best shot at winning.

Gov. Tom Wolf will be sworn in to his second term next week, and if you happen to be attending the soiree, here is what’s on the menu if you are not too busy watching Philly’s own The Roots blow the lid off the joint. 

Also being sworn in will be Lt. Gov.-elect John Fetterman, who will immediately be tied for the tallest lieutenant governor in the nation. Get your popcorn ready as he begins his four-year tenure of residing over the state Senate.  

Speaking of Wolf, this week he announced the awarding of $1 million for his “It’s on Us” campaign to combat sexual violence on college campuses. Kudos to Team Wolf on moving the ball forward on an important issue. 

Wolf also this week announced that he has signed an executive order establishing goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania, which have fallen quite a bit already since the passage of the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act 14 years ago.  Now comes the fun part: how do we get there?

There are 14,000 Pennsylvanians currently renting their properties through Airbnb, generating around $120 million annually. This is apparently grinding the gears of those in the hotel industry. Kind of reminds us of the arguments we heard when we brought Lyft into Pennsylvania. The times they are a-changin’, Mr. Marriott.  

The killjoys at some outfit called the Volcker Alliance have come out with grades for all 50 states based on how well they budget. Pennsylvania got a D-minus, which we assume means that Pennsylvania will have to go to budget summer school, or perhaps repeat the 2018 budget, God forbid. 

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s plan to regulate firearms in the City of Pittsburgh did not sit well with gun rights activists, who descended on the Steel City this week. Peduto was called, among other things, a “traitor” and a “commie” according to news sources. Because we unfortunately happened to be walking down Grant Street during that rally, we can assure you there were many other, unprintable names that he was called. For his part, Peduto seems nonplussed

The changing of the guard in Congress has radically boosted the fortunes of Philadelphia, we learned this week. Two Philly congressmen, Rep. Brendan Boyle and Rep. Dwight Evans, have landed coveted spots on the House Ways and Means Committee. So if there is a way, Philly now has the means to get there!

The drumbeat against the Philly Soda Tax went national this week, as the aforementioned Wall Street Journal pointed out – yet again – that the levy unfairly targets the poorest citizens. If anyone thought the fight against this tax ended last year, it is likely that they have been adding alcoholic beverages to their soda.

Congratulations – we think -- to our valued client and good friend Ralph Vartan for being named chairman of the new panel that will oversee Harrisburg’s finances! If anyone can untangle that particular Gordian Knot, its Ralph! 

Another Shameless Client Plug goes out to our pals at Pocono Raceway, who are donating proceeds from race day ticket sales this year to the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department’s K-9 program.  Buy a ticket and help feed Creed and Helo!

And we also send a hearty congratulations to Sheryl Lee Ralph, the better half of state Sen. Vince Hughes, for her new television series premier!

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we take you to any Costco in the country, where you can now, for some ungodly reason, buy a 27-pound tub of mac-n-cheese that has a shelf life of 20 years. The tub of death also comes with a do-it-yourself home angioplasty kit.   

That’s what passes for news around here as we roar into 2019 with hopes, dreams and legislative policy goals. We hope you stick around with us all year as we ride this crazy rollercoaster called Pennsylvania government. Tell your friends about us, too! From all your pals at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Bad Banana Edition

Weapon of choiceThe Pennsylvania General Assembly assembled once again on New Year’s Day to officially swear in the class of 2019/2020. There was very little actual swearing, unlike what was happening down in D.C. Spirits were high in Harrisburg, and there was plenty of pomp and circumstance, which will soon be replaced by dread, anger and a general feeling of hopelessness. 
 
The new U.S Congress convened on Thursday for the first time, and Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as speaker of the House, providing Republicans with their dream electoral villain for 2020. The only way Thursday could have gone better for GOP campaign operatives is if Hillary Clinton somehow became speaker.  
 
While conservatives and progressives took turns bashing each other on swearing-in day, we invite everyone to pause and check out this photo of three combat veterans being sworn in under the caption “5 eyes, 5 arms, 4 legs. All American.” Perspective, people. These three guys fought for your right to be a jackwagon on Twitter.  
 
Pelosi’s first act was to shepherd through the House a half-dozen spending bills (sans border wall money) that would re-open the government. President Trump quickly issued a veto threat, and off we go! 
 
The big news of the week, however, was the opening of the 103rd Farm Show in Harrisburg, where tens of thousands of people will come and eat all manner of yumminess. As we often note in this space, the one thing you cannot do at the Farm Show is actually purchase a farm.  
 
The aforementioned government shutdown is starting to seriously grate on the nerves of TSA agents, who are still screaming at people to remove their shoes and belts, but without pay. Yeah, this is the group of people we want to make even more crabby.
 
And if you don’t think that is bad enough, the IRS will not be able to process tax refunds if the stalemate persists, so don’t spend what you don’t have. It may be a long time before you have it. 
 
Speaking of shutdowns, at least one member of the PA Congressional delegation is forgoing his paycheck until the stalemate ends. From his humble Ogontz Avenue roots, our good friend Congressman Dwight Evans has always walked the walk.
 
The U.S. economy, buffeted about recently by a shaky stock market, rebounded with a roar this morningas the U.S. Labor Department announced that 312,000 new jobs were created last month. This is a pretty strong signal that the economy will grow for a record tenth straight year.
 
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is getting ready to do his oath of office thing and is laying out a pretty aggressive second-term agenda that includes tax reform, reforming school funding, gun safety and the old standby – a tax on shale drillers. Early odds on the agenda are, in order, “probably not,” “maybe,” “define ‘gun safety’” and “who the hell knows.”
 
In a late Christmas gift to Wolf’s budgeteers, the Supreme Court has ruled that so-called “stripper wells” (get your heads out of the gutter, people) should have been subject to the state’s impact fee and will have to cough up millions in unpaid fees. Should help to fatten up the old exchequer.  
 
There was a bit of bad news out of Philly this week, as ShopRite store owner Jeff Brown was forced to announce his first store closure, a result of the city’s soda tax. Brown’s store had experienced a 24 percent drop in revenues since the tax went into effect, but according to the mayor’s office, that didn’t actually happen because a Harvard study said it didn’t actually happen.
 
Remember Ted Cruz? Yeah, he is apparently still in the U.S. Senate. This week, Cruz introduced a bill that would impose term limits on members of Congress, which may or may not be a good idea, but will eventually go nowhere because Ted Cruz introduced it.
 
In our Shameless Client Plug this week, we give a shout out to our good friends at ES&S for being chosen by the Delaware County Board of Elections to provide new voting machines that will comply with Governor’s Wolf’s paper backup mandate. Great work team!
 
With a mixture of sadness and pride, we announce that our colleague, friend and Triad Senior Associate Lauren Gutshall has accepted a new position with another valued client, The College Board. We wish Lauren all the best, and an endless supply of good wine! Godspeed, LG!
 
In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to lovely Des Moines, Iowa, where a man was arrested this week for assaulting a convenience store clerk with a banana. This is the second time in history that a banana has been used in the commission of a felony, the first being Detective Axel Foley disabling a police cruiser with one in Beverly Hills Cop. 
 
That’s what passes for news around here as we slide into 2019! Be sure to check back next week when we share a whole lot of news that you may not have read and most certainly cared less about! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend! 

Friday Happy Hour: Sea Otter Edition

Image result for sea otter monterey

As you read this beautiful tome, the U.S. government is careening toward a partial shutdown, as President Trump unexpectedly announced he would not sign a U.S. Senate-approved stopgap budget because it did not include border wall funding. Senators who had left town were absolutely thrilled to be summoned back to Washington to vote on a House-approved measure that has zero chance of passing in the Upper Chamber.

And along comes U.S. Congressman and Freedom Caucus Major Domo Mark Meadows, who had a message for federal employees who won’t be paid starting at midnight tonight: “You signed up for this.” Yup, it was right there in their employment handbook, Section 2. “In the event of a senseless political kamikaze mission, you are out of luck. Merry Christmas, suckers.”  

President Trump, who famously announced just last week that he would be proud to shut down the government, is now blaming the Democrats. That sound you hear is Chuck Schumer giggling. 

The on-again, off-again relationship between President Trump and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is on ice this week after the president announced the withdrawal of troops from Syria. Hey Lindsey, you do remember that the president campaigned on that issue, right? You should Google it instead of sub-Tweeting President Trump. Bring a knife to a gunfight lately?  

The Trump administration also announced this week that it will, some way or another, severely restrict eligibility for SNAP benefits, despite the recently-signed farm bill declining to do so. Farmers are not going to enjoy this move.

Speaking of farmers, they have been smacked in their collective combines by the ongoing trade war with China. On the bright side, Pennsylvanian’s steel industry is doing quite well, thank you very much. Turns out not everyone wins in trade wars, much like Star Wars. 

Gov. Tom Wolf drove the media and lawmakers temporarily insane this week as he announced that the state should take a long, hard look at how recreational marijuana legalization has worked in other states, and maybe – or maybe not – follow suit. Despite his decidedly lukewarm semi-endorsement, reaction was swift. It will either be the policy victory of the century or cause the Commonwealth to burn to the ground. 

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate members are introducing bills to protect some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, now that a Texas judge has thrown the entire federal law out the window. We assume they are doing so due to the fact that Obamacare repeal advocates haven’t the foggiest idea what comes next, which is comforting. Y’all caught the car, now what?  

Despite the impressive strides the state has taken on improving the condition of roads and bridges since the passage of Act 89 in 2013, much work remains to be done, we learned this week. Our bridges clocked in with a D- grade, and 43 percent of our roads are deficient. Memo to incoming lawmakers: transportation infrastructure funding is going to be on your plate, come hell or high water, very soon.

Governor Wolf this week announced the Commonwealth has signed a compact with eight neighboring states with the goal of slashing car and truck carbon emissions significantly over the next decade.  If this move triggers a shift to more hybrid and electric vehicles, we have an addendum to our previous memo to incoming lawmakers: electric car owners don’t pay the gas tax.

Last week, Pittsburgh elected officials announced they will begin work on gun safety legislation bright and early in 2019. In response, a group of Second Amendment supporters announced they will hold an open-carry rally in Pittsburgh to protest the move. Pittsburgh is used to peaceful rallies, so we assume both sides will retire to the Grant Street Tavern afterwards and knock back a few Iron City beers.  

Governor Wolf this week untapped about $800,000 in grants for the craft brewing industry and the agricultural products they use. Because nothing goes with legalized weed like a nice Double IPA.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to California, where Monterey Bay Aquarium officials publicly apologized this week for their Twitter comments that, in their words, “fat-shamed” a sea otter. The sea otter fired back that she was, in fact, “big boned” and was well below what marine biologists consider obese. California, man. You keep on doing you.   

That’s what passes for news around here as we anxiously await Santa and his reindeer, all of whom are in perfect shape and not at all fat. The entire team at Triad wishes you a happy holiday season, and a healthy and prosperous 2019!


Friday Happy Hour: Bad Santa Edition

Bad SantaPresident Donald Trump this week hosted incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (along with a VERY relaxed Vice President Mike Pence) at the White House for a spot of tea and some policy talk. It was a very cordial affair and nothing controversial happened. 2019 is going to be a breeze, folks.

Also this week, Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for “a smorgasbord of criminal acts.” It has become clear, however, that Cohen intends to do quite a bit of talking before he becomes a guest of the feds in March.  

Congress is wrapping up its two-year session by doing a bunch of things that could have been done in the preceding 23½ months. First up was a bipartisan farm bill, which had lots of goodies for our friends in agriculture but none of the “take away your food stamps” stuff, much to the dismay of some folks who thought the latter would be a dandy Christmas gift to poor people. Maybe next year.  

Next up for those crazy congressional kids appears to be a bipartisan compromise on prison reform that could, among many other things, free up to 4,000 non-violent offenders immediately and, by pure coincidence, cut Michael Cohen’s sentence by about a third.

A western Pennsylvania lawmaker this week said he intends to introduce legislation to allow municipalities to regulate firearms. The bill would allow cities to ban assault weapons and other firearm-y things, while at the same time being most certainly unconstitutional. But hey, we haven’t had a rip-roaring gun debate in a while, so buckle up.

A top state senator this week said he will work this coming year to help municipalities clean debris from streams and creeks so that they don’t flood every ten minutes. It seems this is a commonsense approach to stream protection that doesn’t involve state overreach and lawsuits. 

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is likely to end the fiscal year with a surplus as revenue collections are running about $900 million above estimate. This is great news for anyone who would rather not spend July and August watching lawmakers stare at each other. 

Governor Wolf traveled the state this week handing out free Narcan to communities that have been wracked with overdose deaths. A reminder to all during the holiday season: addiction doesn’t take holidays off. 

Wolf also this week announced he is launching a new home care advisory committee that will allow the 20,000 or so home care workers in the state to have a say in their working conditions and the future of their industry. It sounds so innocuous that there was actually a lawsuit to try and prevent it from happening. Because, well, Pennsylvania. 

Swearing-in day for the Pennsylvania General Assembly (Jan. 1, 2019, for those playing at home) is usually a quiet, ceremonial day filled with flowers, family and food. The proceedings in the state Senate next month might be quite a departure, however, as the GOP majority may refuse to seat an elected Democrat from the Pittsburgh suburbs, citing her residency status as an issue. Is the 2018 General Election ever going to end? 

There were e-mail bomb threats made across the nation Thursday, including some right here in Pennsylvania. It is hard to describe the level of depravity it takes to scare the hell out of people while simultaneously making law enforcement personnel run around for no reason, but that’s where we are in this new cyber-world. 

Even though Amazon left Pittsburgh at the altar, Apple announced this week that it will soon be expanding in the Steel City, bringing with it hundreds of jobs. And nobody had to beg them to do it, either. Have fun on the New York City subways, Amazon!

Vitaminwater is offering $100,000 to anyone who can go a full year without using a smart phone. Neat idea. We saw a homeless person near the parking garage this morning who did not have anything to eat, much less a smartphone. We are sure he’d be happy to have that 100K. Problem solved.   

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to Independence Blue Cross CEO Dan Hilferty, who was named Most Admired CEO by the Philadelphia Business Journal. A top man doing a top job, indeed!  Congratulations, Dan!  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to merry old England, where Brexit wasn’t the only controversial item on the menu. When fire alarms went off at an event with Santa Claus, Old Saint Nick tried to get the children to safety by ripping off his beard and yelling “Get the f*** out!  Listen, we understand the profanity, but did he need to rip the beard off? Have some decency, these children are scarred for life now.

That’s what passes for news around here as we draw closer and closer to the end of a tumultuous 2018.  We will do this thing of ours one more time next Friday before we release you until the new year. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Goalie Dog Edition

Goalie dog

The nation paused this week to honor the life of former President George H.W. Bush, who was laid to rest on Thursday. It was a nice, if fleeting, reminder of how genteel our politics used to be around here, as Democrats and Republicans came together and didn’t whack the crap out of each other in the process.   

The U.S. economy is cooling a bit in the final months of 2018, as the November jobs report showed the creation of 155,000 new jobs, down from previous months. Hey, every car needs to downshift from time to time or you’ll blow the engine up. Trust us on this one. 

Continue reading "Friday Happy Hour: Goalie Dog Edition" »


Friday Happy Hour: Eye of a Storm Edition

Camel in snow

Pennsylvania got whacked by Winter Storm Avery on Thursday, snarling traffic and shutting down air travel. Most meteorologists missed the intensity of this storm by a mile. Original estimates called for up to five inches of the white stuff, while in reality, some parts of central Pennsylvania got anywhere from 7 to 12 inches of snow. So naturally, everyone in the Commonwealth blamed PennDOT. Readers note: “12 Inches of Snow” was also, coincidentally enough, the title of the debut album from Canadian rapper/reggae artist “Snow.”

The storm was also bad enough in New Jersey to prompt former Gov. Chris Christie to complain that his commute home took him five hours, prompting every, single person on Twitter to ask him if random bridge closings had anything to do with his delay. Twitter can be brutal, Chris.   

Amazon finally announced the co-winners of the “HQ2” beauty pageant, with northern Virginia and New York City splitting the trophy. So much for affordable housing and access to quality mass transit being the keys to the kingdom. But kudos to Philly and Pittsburgh Mayors Jim Kenney and Bill Peduto for making to finals.

After the winners were announced, we found that Pennsylvania and its two cities had offered up about $4.6 billion in tax incentives to try and lure Amazon to the Keystone State. This, of course, led critics to characterize the incentives as suitcases full of cash, which they decidedly were not. But why let facts get in the way?

President Trump’s ongoing trade kerfuffles have apparently given us all a Christmas gift for which we should all be thankful. The War on Chicken Tariffs has driven down the price of pork so much that bacon prices are plunging. Making breakfast great again!  

Gov. Tom Wolf this week laid out his second-term agenda, and reforming gun laws is near the top of the list. That’s a mighty big rock you’ve chosen to roll up Capitol Hill, governor.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., meanwhile, is setting his sights on infrastructure funding during his next term, which is always heartening to hear but never seems to come to fruition. Maybe 2019 is the year we finally stop kicking that worn-out can down the heavily-damaged road. 

Before we leave the topic of Mr. Casey, he also raised some eyebrows Thursday when he told NBC News that he is considering a presidential run. Should Casey throw his hat in the ring, expect Washington talking heads to mention abortion once or five million times, as if he has no other positions of import. 

And while Casey focuses on infrastructure funding in Congress, that topic is also at the top of the list for our good friend Bob Latham of the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (Shameless Client Plug!)  You can check out his YouTube comments right here

Back in Harrisburg, Lancaster County’s state Rep. Bryan Cutler is poised to assume the role of House majority leader, which as we all know is not only one of the most powerful positions in Pennsylvania government, but is also arguably the craziest job he will ever have unless he becomes White House chief of staff. Good luck, Bryan, we are sending antacids your way!

When it came to leadership elections on the House Democratic side of the aisle Tuesday, the Philly delegation flexed some serious muscle, electing three members to the seven-member team, including Rep. Jordan Harris’ elevation to the No. 2 slot, minority whip. We will save some antacids for you, too, Jordan!

After the Pennsylvania General Assembly took some major steps on criminal justice reform this last year, it looks like Congress is about to follow suit, as President Trump this week backed a bipartisan plan to reform sentencing and incarceration laws. Reaching across the aisle; how refreshing!

Of course, not all is quiet in D.C. this week, as the incoming House Democratic majority is fighting like cats in a burlap sack over whether Rep. Nancy Pelosi should be elevated to speaker of the House in January. Because… well, Democrats. 

Pennsylvania’s Department of Education has released a new online tool that will help you evaluate how your school district stacks up against the other 499 in the Commonwealth. So before you head off to the next school board meeting to vent your spleen, do a little research first, will you? 

We have one more shout-out to our friends this week, this time to the fine folks at Domus Construction, who will have a big hand in the renovation of the storied Metropolitan Opera on Broad Street in Philadelphia. Bravo!

This week’s We Can’t Make This Up segment poses a question, not of whether a camel can go through the eye of a needle, but rather through the eye of a snowstorm. Apparently, no. A camel named Einstein was to be delivered to an event in Philadelphia when his chauffeur became stuck in Thursday’s storm on Route 309 near Souderton. Einstein was released from his trailer for fear of a rear-end mishap and briefly strutted around, well, like he owned the place. Alas, after getting the trailer back on the road, the driver decided it best to deliver the dromedary back to the Peaceable Kingdom Petting Zoo instead of continuing to Philly.

That’s what passes for news around here in snow-covered Harrisburg! Be sure to come back next week when we ruminate further on ruminants and pseudo-ruminants (go ahead, look it up). From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Naked Robber Edition

Waffle House

Happy Friday, good readers! Welcome to the post-election edition of our weekly wrap! We ran down all of the results for you on the Triadvocate this week, so we are gonna spare you all the gory details and cut to the chase: Governor Wolf won big, as did Sen. Bob Casey Jr. The state’s congressional delegation is now a nine-nine partisan split, and both the state House and Senate Democrats picked up seats, but not enough to take the majority in either chamber. At this point, you can safely turn your TVs on again, at least until the 2020 presidential election campaign, which starts in 10 minutes.  

Tom Wolf became the first governor in Pennsylvania since 1968 to be elected twice while losing his home county each time. Not that it mattered to Wolf, who ran up an impressive 16-point victory over fellow York Countian Scott Wagner. Wolf enters his second term with a more manageable partisan balance in each chamber, as well as a pretty impressive electoral mandate.

On the national scene, a huge voter turnout helped the Democrats reclaim control of the U.S House, but we would be remiss if we did not point out that President Trump helped the GOP expand its Senate majority by relentlessly rallying and campaigning in red states. We now have the divided government that we all say we want, until we actually have it.

Southeastern Pennsylvania went all Michael Johnson (obscure pop music reference alert) and turned bluer than blue on election night, with the Philly suburbs providing just about every significant Democratic pickup of the night. This ain’t your daddy’s Montgomery County anymore, apparently.

The ink was not yet dry on the new House Democratic majority in Washington when the talk on CNN went immediately to President Trump’s tax returns. Yup, that was exactly why the Democrats flipped 35 seats. It had nothing to do with health care, we are sure.

Speaking of health care, Obamacare has once again escaped the congressional GOP knife based on Tuesday’s results. If you would have predicted on election night 2016 that the Affordable Care Act would be intact today, we would have suggested that you had a pre-existing mental condition. In short, don’t expect the Obamacare repeal to be high on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s list of “to-do” items.

In a weird glitch, Democrat Susan Wild will be sworn in to represent the new Seventh Congressional District, but not before her vanquished opponent, Marty Nothstein, heads to Washington to be sworn in to complete the term of former Congressman Charlie Dent, who resigned early. The special election to fill Dent’s old seat (under the old boundaries) was held concurrent with the General Election. Memo to Nothstein: don’t rent a house.

A dead brothel owner was elected to a U.S. House seat in Nevada because, well, it’s Nevada.  

And of course, no election would be complete without Florida screwing everything up and ending up in a recount. You keep on doing you, Florida. Practice up for 2020, when we have no doubt you will screw up the presidential election, too.

Democrats across the country passed out cold Thursday after it was reported that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had fallen and broken three ribs. By the time Democrats regained consciousness Friday, RBG had already recovered, ridden her bike and written three scathing dissents. The 85-year-old is currently resting quietly, or perhaps wrestling an alligator.

Not terribly satisfied with the narrative coming out of Tuesday’s elections, President Trump on Wednesday forced the resignation (read: fired) Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. We are sure it was perfectly normal, and nobody even noticed, which is why we thought we would mention it.  

The Keystone XL pipeline has been scuttled yet again by a U.S. Circuit Court judge. Remember 30 or 40 years ago when newly-elected President Trump signed an executive order to build that thing? Yeah, neither do we. At this rate, we will be celebrating (or protesting, depending on your particular view) the 10th anniversary of the border wall before ground is even broken on that pipeline. 

There were some perfectly normal newsworthy items this week that had nothing to do with elections. One of them (Shameless Client Plug Alert!) was the big announcement from Pocono Raceway about the first-ever airshow coming to the track in August. Check it out! 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Alabama, where a man with no pants fell through the ceiling of a Waffle House during a botched robbery attempt. The man then fought with patrons before leaving the scene, and his wallet, pants and driver’s license, behind. By the way, what the hell are you trying to steal at a Waffle House? Those places flush with cash all of a sudden?

That’s what passes or news around here as we unpack it all, take a deep breath, and prepare for 2019. From all of your friends at Triad, have a great weekend! 

 

 

 

 


Triad Election 2018 Recap

Here is your Election Day 2018 recap from your friends at Triad Strategies. Ballot-box-WEB

Statewide

Governor Wolf cruised to a second term, defeating Republican Scott Wagner by a 58%-41% margin.  Wolf will have a new Lieutenant Governor as he enters his new term, as Braddock Mayor John Fetterman won a Primary victory in May over current Lt. Governor Mike Stack.

Bob Casey, Jr. also easily outpaced his opponent for U.S. Senate, Congressman Lou Barletta.  Casey took home a 55%-42% win and will serve a third term.

Continue reading "Triad Election 2018 Recap" »


Friday Happy Hour: Bad Candidate Edition

Bad candidate

People all over the world watched in horror Saturday as Pittsburgh became the latest city to join the list of communities that have experienced domestic terrorism. If you didn’t know before Saturday, Pittsburgh is strong. Stronger than steel, stronger than hate. 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from trauma or just needs someone to talk to after Saturday’s horrific attack in Squirrel Hill, our friends at Magellan Health have set up a hotline and will provide free counseling services.

The U.S. economy has made it clear to everyone that even a terrible hurricane will not stop its momentum. The October jobs report was released today, and the economy added 250,000 more jobs, marking a historic 100 straight months of positive growth. Could this report be the wind in the GOP sails as the midterms approach?

President Trump spent almost the entire week focused on immigration, suggesting at one point that he could end birthright citizenship with an executive order. House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly debunked that idea, bringing a stinging response from the POTUS. We assume Ryan and his colleagues would much rather be talking about that aforementioned jobs report today, that’s for sure.   

A week before the midterm elections, and we finally have some policy disagreements to report on in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. First, the Squirrel Hill attack shined a light on a major difference between Governor Wolf and Scott Wagner, and that is their respective positions on capital punishment. Wagner is a big supporter, and Wolf has placed a moratorium on using the death penalty in Pennsylvania. It has been a while since the death penalty played any role in gubernatorial campaign politics, so stay tuned.

We also heard two very different plans on how to keep schools safe from gun violence, as Wolf touted the unprecedented money for school safety he secured in his last budget, while Wagner wants to arm school guards and called for (yup, common thread coming your way) the death penalty for anyone perpetrating gun violence in schools.

The third time was not a charm for GOP leaders in PA, as they failed once again to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the congressional maps that were foisted upon them earlier this year by the PA Supreme Court. Looks like you gotta play the cards you got dealt on this one, fellas. 

A new report this week found that an astounding 55 percent of Pennsylvania public schools do not employ even a single, solitary teacher of color. We have an idea – maybe take a tenth of the energy we expend talking about how to fairly reorganize PIAA high school football classifications and start thinking about diversity.

This just in to Triad World Headquarters: Oprah Winfrey will not be running for president in 2020, dashing our dreams of hearing Democrats make the the argument that we should definitely elect a billionaire TV personality with no political background as president. Oh, the fun we could have had.   

Speaking of billionaires, Michael Bloomberg this week decided he will not be spending the millions he promised to spend to help Philly-area congressional candidates get elected. Bloomberg has somewhat of a history of promising big political dollars and then ghosting at the last minute. Ask all those Chicago elected officials he was going to beat when they voted to repeal that city’s soda tax. Go ahead, ask them. They are still in office, they should be easy to find.

We have officially entered the “celebrity endorsement” phase of the 2018 elections, as President Trump announced that legendary Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight will be joining him at a rally.   A word of caution: don’t get Knight riled up, he will throw a chair at you.

On the Democratic side, Hamilton the Musical actor Leslie Odom Jr. will be in south-central Pennsylvania stumping for George Scott, who is looking to unseat incumbent Scott Perry. It will be better than Cats

Joining Odom will be everyone’s favorite celebrity, Joe Biden. Biden, it turns out, will be coming back to Pennsylvania after the election to raise money for outgoing Congressman Bob Brady, who is now hinting that he may consider trying to knock off U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, who isn’t up for re-election until 2022. Nothing like an early start.

A conservative pollster this week released three new polls that sent chills down the spines of GOP operatives in PA. The polls showed that three fairly reliable Republican districts represented by Perry, Lloyd Smucker and Mike Kelly are all in danger of turning blue. Should that be the case, Nancy Pelosi should buy everyone in Pennsylvania a Christmas gift. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Kansas City, MO, where a candidate for the state House is being publicly and vocally opposed by his own children, who are begging people not to vote for their dad. Daddy, they say, is a homophobe and a racist, while he maintains they are the product of a bitter divorce. Wow, bitter divorce huh? You don’t say. 

That’s what passes for news around here as we wait breathlessly for Tuesday, Nov. 6. We will be back with a recap of all that action next Friday. Until then, have a great weekend and remember to vote!


Friday Happy Hour: Devil Spider Edition

Devil spider

The nation was shaken Wednesday as word came that a series of pipe bombs were mailed to two former presidents and other high-profile Democrats.  Thankfully, none of the devices detonated, and no one was injured.  Within minutes, two distinct theories emerged on social media as to why the bomb threats happened.  It was either a) President Trump’s fault, or b) a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats themselves, because that is currently who we are as a nation.

While we were lovingly crafting today’s tome, law enforcement found said jackwagon.

There was some good and bad news on the economic front this week as the GDP grew by a robust 3.5 percent in the third quarter, powered by big consumer spending.  The stock market, however, continued to act like a kid who just ate a whole bag of Halloween candy, bouncing around wildly in every direction.   

With the stroke of the old gubernatorial pen, Gov. Tom Wolf set Harrisburg free from the bonds of Act 47.  Up next will be an appointed financial oversight board that will control the city’s finances for five years before kicking it out of the nest to see if it can fly again. 

A group of 11 Pennsylvania counties have registered their collective opposition to being forced to buy new voting machines by December of 2019.  Their arguments are that the machines will be unnecessary, since they are not connected to the Internet and therefor, cannot be hacked.  The Battle of the Paper Trail has begun! 

Advocates for child sex assault statute of limitations reform are not going gently into that good night, we learned this week.  Victims of the Catholic clergy assaults gathered once again in the State Capitol to urge the Senate to come back and vote.   While a lame-duck session vote once seemed inconceivable, there is now a crack in that door, it would seem. 

Governor Wolf this week also signed legislation that would give grandparents new rights in raising grandchildren.  One tragic byproduct of the opioid and heroin scourge (as if there aren’t enough already) is that there are a whole lot of Pennsylvania kids being raised by their grandparents – about 84,000, according to recent estimates. 

A bill to add work requirements to some Medicaid recipients did not fare quite as well, as Wolf vetoed that legislation minutes after it hit his desk.  Considering he had vetoed similar legislation previously, we are still uncertain as to why the General Assembly sent it to him again.  Perhaps, and we are just spit-balling here, it had something to do with a certain election coming up in 12 days? 

The Pittsburgh City Schools will not be arming their guards anytime soon, thanks to a vote by the school board this week.  Seven of eight board members voted “no thanks” to the idea which (again) begs the question: why did it even bother going to a vote?  We aren’t exactly math wizards up here, but we can count to eight. 

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is one of the more progressive people to ever hold that post in Pennsylvania, so it should come as no surprise that he is investing considerable resources in ensuring diversity among his 800 employees.  Say what you want about Shapiro, but he walks the walk. Kudos to you, General. 

The final voter registration numbers in are, and Pennsylvania got a bit bluer this year. In 2018, the Democratic Party added 135,000 new voters, compared with just 38,000 for the GOP.  Party registration hasn’t necessarily meant much in Pennsylvania recently, as Democrats in the western part of the state are often more conservative than southeastern PA Republicans.  For starters, check and see how many Democratic-majority counties in western Pennsylvania voted for Hillary Clinton.  It won’t take you long. 

And we were also reminded this week that, despite the breathless media coverage of all the newly registered millennials and young adults, one thing in the Keystone State remains constant: there are still a metric ton of older voters, and trust us, they WILL be voting on Nov. 6.  Seniors skip elections about as often as we skip our morning coffee around here. 

As the race for Pennsylvania governor comes down the back stretch, we thought we would share this handy “where they stand” guide with you, since Lord knows this has been the sleepiest election we have seen since Governor Ridge sailed to re-election against Ivan Itkin, despite the catchiest jingle in history “Itkin be done; Ivan can do it.”  

Whether the fabled blue wave materializes, it bears watching the race in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, where incumbent GOP member Brian Fitzpatrick is locked in a death struggle with Democrat Scott Wallace.  More than $7 million has already been pumped into this cage match, and this much we know: If the early returns show that Fitzpatrick will hang on, Nancy Pelosi may want to put the gavel back in the drawer.  If Wallace jumps out to a big lead, its gonna be a long night for congressional Republicans. 

A week after President Trump rallied his faithful in Erie, Vice President Mike Pence and Eric Trump popped in to say hello to Pennsylvania voters. Team Trump is spending quite a lot of time and political capital here in Pennsylvania, which tells you all you need to know about how important the state is to the national GOP.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Fulshear, Texas, where video emerged of a giant spider getting ready to attack a police officer. Once everyone viewing the dashcam footage cleaned out their pants, they realized the spider was on the windshield in front of the dashcam, and not, in fact, a four-foot long devil spider from hell.  Doesn’t matter, we would have shot the windshield anyway.   

That’s what passes for news around here as we head off to a chilly weekend!  If you haven’t yet registered to vote in Pennsylvania yet, sorry!  You are out of luck until next year! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!