Friday Happy Hour: Hand Sanitizer Edition

Titos hand sanitizer

The prize for the Biggest News of the Week goes to former vice president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden. While he’s still a long way from wrapping up the Democratic nomination, he did capture the coveted Phoenix Rising from the Ashes award. On Saturday in South Carolina, he won his first presidential primary ever, and three days later, on Super Tuesday, he laid claim to 10 more.

Bernie Sanders took the single biggest prize on Super Tuesday – California – but not by as much as he had hoped and expected. While the Golden State results are still being tallied, it appears that Sanders got about a third of the votes, while Biden got about a quarter of them. In terms of total delegates, they’re neck and neck, but either way, it’s game on.

And in the aftermath, we bid adieu to Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar (darn, just when we were finally learning to spell their names), Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren. All Bloomberg has to show for his kazillion dollars is American Samoa, securing two-thirds of its six pledged delegates. Biden was immediately endorsed by Bloomberg, Briettegig and Krobuchum (see? Already we’ve forgotten how to spell their names).

Warren did not immediately endorse anyone, and there was wide-ranging speculation about which candidate would gain the most from her departure. While one might think it would be Sanders, as the only progressive of the two candidates still standing, there has been bad blood between Warren and Sanders, what with Warren knee-capping Sanders a couple of debates ago and the Sanders surrogates more recently bullying Warren to get out of the race and let the progressives rally behind their guy. Maybe the lesson here is that it’s unbecoming to kneecap or bully anyone you had previously called “a friend.”

Back home in PA, Franklin & Marshall Professor Terry Madonna posited that the Keystone State is now almost assured of being a key factor in selecting the Democratic nominee, despite our fairly late primary on April 28. In recent elections, presidential primary races have often been decided before Pennsylvanians cast their ballots.

Meanwhile, on that issue, Republican state Sen. John Gordner’s bill that would move the primary up to the third Tuesday in March in presidential years awaits House consideration after unanimous approval in the Senate.

The York Daily Record had an interesting analysis, reporting that tens of thousands of PA voters are switching parties this year. But unlike 2016, when a plethora of Dems switched to the GOP, the trend this year is in the other direction. More than 28,000 Republican and third-party voters have switched in Pennsylvania since the first of the year, YDR reports.

The coronavirus pandemic also received lots of ink this week as a panicked public rushed to stores to acquire hand sanitizer and face masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the surgeon general and every health care professional on the planet all say the face masks will not prevent the viral infection… but what do they know? By week’s end, President Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency spending measure sent to him by Congress.

Speaking of the president, he traveled to Scranton for a town hall meeting on Thursday, and for reasons known only to him seized the opportunity to bad-mouth Hunter Biden. It was Trump’s first visit to Pennsylvania in 2020 and his first town hall event of this year’s campaign season.

Obamacare once again is in the crosshairs as the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of a lawsuit brought by Texas that would strike down the Affordable Care Act. SCOTUS has upheld the law twice so far.

In economic news, February’s data showed a robust increase of 273,000 jobs, and mortgage rates hit a record low as investors shifted their money to the relative safety of the bond market in the wake of coronavirus anxiety. Looks like a bumpy ride for a while.

Beginning Monday, speeding through highway work zones could start costing you money. Automated speed enforcement has arrived in Pennsylvania, targeting those who violate the posted speed limit by at least 12 miles per hour. Your first offense will draw only a warning, but a second time will nick you for $75, with a $150 pop for subsequent offenses.

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment takes us to the interwebs, where a few Twitter users caused a stir by suggesting that Tito’s Vodka can be used to make hand sanitizer. The Austin-based distillery’s social media team quickly pointed out that, at 40 percent alcohol (80 proof), Tito’s isn’t potent enough to serve that purpose. Sadly, Bacardi 151 was discontinued a few years back.

And that’s about all we got this week, boys and girls! No hugging, no kissing, and stay away from planes and cruise ships – unless you have plenty of face masks on hand. We’ll see you back here next week.


The Triad Way

Triad High Res Logo 2By: Roy Wells 

Triad Strategies has evolved in many ways since its creation in 2001, but our core values have remained constant. Over the past 19 years, those core values have developed into a set of behaviors that we believe have led to our success as an organization.  During the last quarter of 2019, our leadership team sat down with David Friedman, author of Culture by Design and CEO of High Performing Culture LLC, to assist us in better defining and institutionalizing those behaviors that define our corporate culture.

After much introspection and discussion, we developed a list of 30 fundamental behaviors, which we refer to as “The Triad Way,” which describes how we work with our clients, public officials, strategic partners, our community partners, and most importantly, each other.  These behaviors comprise the very foundation of what we believe is our competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Although there are 30 fundamentals that encompass The Triad Way, all are grounded in our core values:  teamwork, honesty, integrity, client-focused, results driven, excellence and accountability. Each week team Triad focuses on one behavior which we describe as the fundamental of the week.  During every internal meeting, we discuss the fundamental of the week, how we practice it in our daily routines, and how we can ensure that it remains a part of our corporate culture.

Starting next week, we will begin our fundamental of the week blog post and share what we are focusing on. We look forward to sharing these behaviors and values with our community, with the hope of creating a deeper discussion that will not only help us improve our culture but hopefully assist others in strengthening theirs.  Stay tuned!


Friday Happy Hour: Pho King Edition

Pho King

We open our missive today with a shout-out to the students, faculty and volunteers who danced the nights away at Penn State last weekend, raising more than $11 million for pediatric cancer research and treatment. That’s roughly $11 million more than the Commonwealth currently spends on such research, coincidentally. In any case, #WeAre!

As the coronavirus continues to dominate the news, we have discovered that not only can it kill you, it can also do a pretty solid number on the stock market. The Dow this week went from “market correction” to “holy crap, look at my 401k” territory, cratering by more than 3,000 points. 

The outbreak continues to play havoc on supply chains across the globe, hitting our largest trading partner, China, particularly hard. As China is the chief purveyor of artificial sweeteners, you may wanna figure out an alternative to your normal rum and Diet Coke this summer, as the Diet Coke part might not exist.   

As we careen toward the 2020 election, Pennsylvania has rolled out a new web site designed to help you understand all the changes enacted to our voting laws in 2019. With most counties also unveiling new machines, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself early. Maybe spend some time focusing on the new mail-in ballot procedures? 

Wow, you guys took us pretty seriously on that suggestion! More than 20,000 Pennsylvania voters are already set to vote by mail this year. Note to political consultants: this could be a very big deal when you are doing your voter targeting. 

A Drexel University report was released this week showing that Philadelphia’s sweetened beverage tax has not slowed the consumption of soda in the city. It has only slowed the purchase of soda within city limits. So, to recap: soda intake stays the same, grocery stores are closing, and Rebuild Philly is still at the starting gate after four years. Seems normal. 

If you were wondering how Pennsylvania students stack up against other states when it comes to SAT scores, you sure do have a lot of time on your hands. Anyway, that info can be found here. Also, maybe you should consider a hobby. 

State budget hearings continued apace this week with the normal give-and-take between people who wanna spend your tax money and those who would prefer we do no such thing. Of interest, however, was a rather spirited sparring session over Governor Wolf’s decision to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Opponents of the plan claim it will cost jobs, and if the coal industry happens to be where you are employed, that is probably a correct assertion.

Controversy came to South Philly this week, as a new supervised injection site was announced in that neighborhood. The fight against addiction can indeed be messy and controversial, we are finding.

Philadelphia officials may also be in a bit of hot water as a federal appeals court has ruled that the Trump administration may hold back grants to cities who have classified themselves as sanctuary cities.  Philly, astute readers may recall, is one of them. 

Meanwhile, in western Pennsylvania, if you have not been following the unmitigated disaster that was the Allegheny County Democratic Party endorsement, you should really do yourself a favor and read about it. There are some hard feelings out there west of the Alleghenies. 

And in the Steel City, that little mom-and-pop, nonprofit health system, UPMC, continues to hum right along, posting $20 billion in revenue for 2019. If y’all wonder why some folks seem to be obsessed with Medicare for All, read that number again. 

Lawmakers are once again rallying around yet another bipartisan plan to end congressional gerrymandering, which if enacted and authorized by voters would be in place just in time for the 2030 census. Interestingly, the legislation deals only with congressional redistricting. Reform for thee, not me.  

Lebanon County, already famous (infamous?) for denying medical marijuana to parolees, is once again back in the news after it was reported that a county inmate (who also happens to be Rastafarian) has been tossed into solitary confinement for months because he refused a haircut. If you wonder why it is hard to enact bipartisan criminal justice reform around here, read that story closely.

Speaking of medical cannabis, the state has awarded the first four clinical research licenses, another step toward actually figuring out the clinical benefits of marijuana so we can all stop guessing.   

There was some bad news out of Cumberland County this week, as the Letterkenny Army Depot announced it will shed more than 300 jobs in the coming year. Letterkenny, it should be noted, is also the name of a hilarious Canadian sitcom that you can find on Hulu. 

Speaking of hilarious sitcoms, if you have not watched the South Carolina presidential debate, do so immediately

Did you know that our planet has been lugging around a second moon for a few months now? Neither did we, and frankly, we are a little freaked out about it.  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we go back to Cumberland County, where an entrepreneurial Vietnamese couple has opened a new restaurant, Pho King, which we have been told has some Pho King awesome food. Honestly, it was too easy, and we are ashamed. 

Finally, on a sad note, Alex DiSanto, a successful businessman and philanthropist tagged by President George H.W. Bush as one of his Thousand Points of Light and the father of state Sen. John DiSanto, passed away this week at age 88. Our condolences to his family and friends.

That’s what passes for news around here in frosty Harrisburg. We will be back next week after we scrounge around for more useless knowledge to impart. Until then, from team Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Screwed, Blued, Tattooed Edition

Crime pays

We do not often have the opportunity to begin our screed in the State of Nevada, but this week we return to the scene of some rather painful bludgeoning, carried out by Democrats on members of their own species. We’re referring, of course, to the presidential debate. It'becoming really hard to imagine this merry band uniting behind any candidate after all the ugliness on display Wednesday night. Here’s how the NY Times scored it. 

Penn State’s student-led Thon took a significant financial hit a few years ago, when organizers deemed that “canning” – the practice of soliciting money at stop lights – was too dangerous. We are happy to report that event leaders now say social media and other online technology have offset much of the loss and hold greater long-term potential. BTW, this is Thon weekend.  

Four years ago, supporters of wine and liquor privatization figured they had started the death knell for the state-run wine and spirits system. Surprise! Despite wine now being available at more than 1,000 not-state-run outlets, the state stores are doing just fine, thank you, owing to an 11 percent increase in the sale of liquor, on which the state maintains its monopoly. 

The Post-Gazette this week warned us that the Commonwealth is approaching another transportation funding crisis, as the federal government insists that we divert dinero from local roads and show a little love for the Interstate System, which in recent years has been shuffled to the back burner in anticipation that Congress and the president would step up and helpDiversion of transportation funds, inflation, fuel efficiency and the expiration of a subsidy for public transportation are contributing to the dilemma. 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection this week, seeking financial breathing room as it deals with hundreds of complaints of child sex abuse by predator priests. The diocese said the move was necessary in order to continue to function as a religious and social welfare entity. 

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman found himself in a kerfuffle with a Harrisburg attorney after the LT blocked a couple of dudes from his Twitter account who had the gumption to criticize the photo Fetterman posted of his wife in a Brazilian carnival costume. The attorney demanded that Fetterman apologize and unblock the duo; Fetterman said, in essence, pound sand. 

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee voted on Sunday to endorse a slate of moderate Dems over their more progressive opponentsThere is quite a bit of political turmoil going on out west. We’ll see how this all shakes down in the April 28 primary. 

Tuesday was the filing deadline for candidates running in the April primary. We offer this link for those of you who are interested in statewide races, and this one for fans of congressional contests. 

And speaking of the primary, Sen. Bob Casey says he believes the election should be moved up, as voters in 37 states and territories will get to weigh in before Pennsylvanians do. Others note that moving the primary up would also require moving the filing deadline up, creating its own set of challenges involving weather and holidays. 

Igeneral election news, it appears that Pennsylvania will prove to be quite important in this year’s presidential race. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, we are again among three swing states that could determine the outcome of the election. The others are Michigan and Wisconsin. At present, the poll says President Trump trails Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Mike Bloomberg by six to eight percentage points in PA. 

One issue causing some angst among PA Democrats these days is fracking. While some on the more progressive side of the spectrum support banning it, leaders of organized labor – particularly in the building trades – consider that position a nonstarter. In any case, adhering to a position of banning it will make for a bumpy ride in some corners of the Commonwealth. 

It appears that the health care industry and trial lawyers are amassing for another battle royale over where medical malpractice lawsuits may be filed. In 2003, the state Supreme Court decreed that med mal suits could be filed only in the county where an injury occurred, rather than an any county in which a health care provider operates. The court is considering whether to reverse the rule.  

In this week’s We Can’t Make This Up segmentwe trek on over to Indiana, where a man who has “crime pays” tattooed on his forehead wound up in jail, charged with resisting arrest, reckless driving, possession of meth and auto theftThe headline on the story very helpfully points out that this is not the first time the man has been in prison.” We’ll go out on a limb here and predict it won’t be the last time, either. 

And that’s what passes for news ‘round here this week, boys and girlsA tip of the Triad hat to those who are dancing the weekend away in State College, and we’ll be back next week with more of the same sad stories. 


Friday Happy Hour: Rogue Wiener Edition

Wienermobile

President Trump this week unveiled his shiny, new $4.8 trillion government spending plan for the next fiscal year, and it was promptly thrown in the trash by Congress. Regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office, this seems to be the case every year, which leads us to believe that the entire exercise is a giant waste of time.   

Fresh off his impeachment acquittal and subsequent victory/vengeance tour, Trump was also reminded that not every senator is in lockstep on everything he desires, especially when it comes to his chosen nominees to the Federal Reserve. Our own SenPat Toomey made it pretty clear that Trump’s nominees are not exactly his brand of whiskey.   

If you watched the Oscars on Sunday, you likely saw Joaquin Phoenix give a rambling speech about cows and a baby calf and milk and UFOs and whatever else popped into his mushy brain. His screed did not sit well with dairy farmers here in Pennsylvania, we have been told, which is why we watched hockey instead of the Oscars in the first place.   

Back here in relatively sane Pennsylvania, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati announced he will not seek re-election this year, joining House Speaker Mike Turzai, who announced the same in January.  It is pretty rare that two presiding officers head to the exits in the same year, so expect a moderate amount of upheaval around these parts.    

Fresh data from New Hampshire exit polls tell us that a mere 11% of Granite State voters get their political news from Twitter. This is your periodic reminder that Twitter isn’t the be all/end all of information delivery, despite what @theRealDonaldTrump might say. This news dovetails nicely into what Triad’s own Jennifer Riley has to say on delivering effective messages in this low-trust, often fact-free world we live in. Check that out here.   

Gov. Tom Wolf this week embarked on a tour of the state’s 14 public colleges to tout his new $200 million tuition forgiveness plan. The scholarship fund would be built by taking loot away for the state’s horse racing development fund, setting up a classic battle between students and horses. It is gonna be epic.    

Wolf this week also whipped out the old veto pen and squashed a bill that would have prevented him from closing two state-run centers for people with intellectual disabilities. Helpful legislative hint moving forward: if you pass a bill to stop a governor from doing something he clearly wants to do, he is PROBABLY GONNA VETO IT!   

A federal judge this week picked the winner of the “who gets the old Philly refinery site” lottery, and while we do not know the future of the property, we do know this: it ain’t gonna be a refinery. Expect to hear more – perhaps much more – from our friends in the building trades.   

Although Pennsylvania residents have largely been spared from the spread of the coronavirus, experts are starting to warn that the pandemic’s impact on the world economy might be severeputting a hurtin’ for certain on your wallet. Viruses, it turns out, are not good for the commerce.   

Pennsylvania’s hemp farmers are getting a lesson in supply-and-demand economics, as a glut of hemp has driven the price from $40/ton to a mere $10/ton. So before you run out and throw some hemp seeds into the ground, think about waiting until there is an actual demand.    

One lawmaker this week rolled out a plan to help protect “vulnerable travelers” on our state’s roadssuch as pedestrians, bikers, scooter aficionados and even horse-and-buggy users. Lotsa road out there for all of uslet’s do the right thing and share, people.     

A report out of Philadelphia this week reminds us all that everyone loves to talk about campaign finance reform, while at the same time benefiting from the lack thereof. This time, it is our progressive pals in the east who have figured out that there is indeed life after Citizens United if you learn how to play the game.     

Redistricting is right around the corner for Pennsylvania and the nation, so naturally, some folks would like to see the process reformed, whatever that means. The problem for the reformers is any redistricting legislation that might be passed this year won’t take effect for another decade. Maybe by then the General Assembly will have eliminated property taxes too.    

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to chilly Wisconsin, where police pulled over the driver of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, giving the wiener pilot a verbal warning for failing to obey traffic laws. Even processed meats must follow traffic laws, kids.      

That’s what passes for news around here as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, which we all know was celebrated a little differently in Chicago in 1929In 2020, instead of lining up and executing seven mafia membersmaybe just go out and have a nice dinner. From all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!  


Persuasion in a Low Trust World

Triad2020_32 (2)

by Jennifer Riley 

In our profession, we often think about how to persuade. What will resonate? What will drive action? 

Oftentimes, we spend our time creating “myth vs. fact” sheets or one-pagers that are clear, concise and fact-driven.

But even most compelling statistics don’t guarantee successful persuading. Instead, the greatest predictor of success depends less on the “facts” and more on your audience’s entrenched beliefs.

In our world of public affairs, we have to remember that trying to correct someone’s misperceptions, or trying to persuade them with facts can create a backfire effect, making people embrace their existing beliefs even more.

As Mark Twain said, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”

A Low Trust World 

Frankly, people don’t trust “facts.”

Known as “confirmation bias,” people embrace information that supports their existing beliefs and reject “facts” that contradict them. 

This is why people don’t trust the media. Even a truly balanced news article that represents all sides fairly would still be considered biased. Why? Because everyone thinks their side is right, so the article should have emphasized their side more. 

But this mistrust extends beyond the media. Consider the public opinion polling shared by Morning Consult and the Public Affairs Council at the recent Advocacy Conference in Las Vegas. Both surveys mirrored data that tested online and offline public trust. 

Approximately 65% of people are more likely to trust a friend or a family member, greatly outpacing any other source of information. Only 40% of people trust the news media and less than 25% trust political ads or messages. 

But, even though people are much more likely to believe information that comes from their friends/family “group”, this group is likely sharing facts and information that they probably already agree with. 

And so it continues.

Emotional Storytelling

This doesn’t mean that truth is doomed, or even that people can’t change their minds. Because there are facts, and then there are beliefs.

Facts rarely drive decisions --- but beliefs do. And beliefs are born from emotions. Therefore, emotions drive decisions. 

Emotions are often not precise and don’t require a lot of facts because they don’t involve much cognition. Because of this, great communicators know that the best way to motivate and persuade others is through emotional storytelling.

During the conference, Matthew Luhn, a former Pixar animator and storyteller, discussed the five principles of effective storytelling. And he would know. Matthew spent 25 years crafting some of the world’s most engaging stories, including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Up.

1. Start with the Hook 

A person’s average attention span lasts about eight seconds. Think about what you would say or show in eight seconds that pulls people from their ordinary world. Matthew recommends using something unusual or unexpected that asks a question, like: “What if a rat dreamed of becoming a French chef?” 

2. Change is Good

Another important element of great storytelling is character transformation. Interestingly, people are usually resistant to change, but people love to see stories about characters who experience change, like Woody learning that he will still be loved even if someone else holds the rank of “Andy’s favorite toy.”

3. Know Your Audience

If you need to target a certain audience, you must craft a narrative that’s relatable to that particular demographic. But if you need to connect with a larger or unknown audience, use universal themes built around emotions. At our core, we all have very similar emotions and universal desires/fears, including: Love, Safety, Freedom, Failure and Abandonment.

4. Be Authentic

Authenticity is key, because inspiring stories come from a place of truth and vulnerability. At the same time, people don’t want to be told what to think, they want to figure it out on their own. For example, instead of saying “letting Nemo go will allow him to discover life on his own,” Dory explains, “You can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.” 

5. Focus on the Journey

Successful stories are structured in three phases: set-up, build and payoff. In simplest terms, a good story is just a hero on a journey.  And in an apropo way, Matthew showed us what he meant, rather than explaining it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw3hSEbWIrs

My biggest takeaway from all of this? 

Successful persuasion needs great storytelling that is simple, honest and emotional. 

And I’ll be shredding my myth vs. fact sheets. 


Friday Happy Hour: Tennessee Weed Edition

Not legal in Tennessee

Last week was quite a long year in Pennsylvania and national politics, so let’s jump right in with the biggest story, the formal Senate acquittal of President Trump. In his usual understated and calm style, the president thanked the Senate for doing its constitutional duty and quietly went about his business, never once mentioning Mitt Romney’s name.   

The POTUS also gave his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night, which was basically he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doing their best “I know you are but what am I? fifth-graders in the schoolyard impersonation.    

The president did, however, take a whack at our own Governor Wolf for vetoing a school choice bill last year. This should give you all some idea of how important Pennsylvania will be in this year’s presidential election. For his part, Wolf sort of shrugged it off, ate a hot dog and went about his business.  

The U.S. economy seems pretty oblivious to the petty politics of our time, as the January job creation numbers came in at more than 225,000, marking the 112th straight month of positive job growthAt some point, aren’t we just gonna run out of humans to take those jobs, or no?   

Governor Wolf this week unveiled his 2021-2022 spending plan to the eager ears of the General Assembly and, as usual, public schools were the big winner. Wolf is looking to pour an addition $114 million into K-12 education.  

If you’d like a handy-dandy rundown of the budget highlights, head over to the Triadvocate, where our staff did all the work for you.   

One of the more interesting plans unveiled by the governor is his proposed creation of a new $200 million college scholarship fund aimed at poor kids attending state system schools. The loot for this endeavor will come from the state’s horse racing development fund, because after 14 years of cash rolling into that fund, if horse racing isn’t “developed” yet, maybe it ain’t ever gonna develop.    

It took all of 30 minutes for the horse racing industry to write its own obituary, saying that the Wolf plan will kill 20,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in tax revenue, two numbers that are gonna get a helluva lot of scrutiny over the next few months. If the horse racing industry wants to Win, it is gonna have to Place that data in front of lawmakers and Show the impact. See what we did there?   

Governor Wolf wrapped up his budget address with a personal and impassioned plea for the General Assembly to take up several bills designed to crack down on gun violenceOnce again, he will attempt to push that rather large rock up a very steep hill 

Speaking of Sisyphean tasks, the General Assembly has once again stalled out in the annual game of We Can Eliminate Your Property Taxes. Wake us when something interesting happens.  

Pennsylvania health officials are reminding folks that the regular, garden-variety flu is a much more imminent threat to your well-being than the coronavirus, which incidentally sounds like it should come with a lime wedge. Suffice it to say that you don’t want either of them, so go get a flu shot.    

Punxsutawney Phil was hoisted out of his luxury hole last weekend to let us all know that spring will come early this year. As we write this, it is snowing sideways outside our windowsGood job, varmint.   

A state rulemaking body has given the greenlight to a new regulation that will dramatically expand the number of Pennsylvania workers who qualify for overtime pay. The move was the predictable result of the General Assembly failing to pass minimum wage legislation. There was a quid there, but it never met the pro quo.    

If the Pennsylvania Senate has its way (and it often does), the 2024 Pennsylvania primary will be held on Super TuesdayBut before that ever happens, let take you to the current race where…  

This just in:  Iowa is never again allowed to have nice things.    

After three days of weirdness and someone apparently unplugging Iowa and plugging it back in, South Bend Mayor and first-time candidate Pete Buttigieg shocked the world by finishing in a tie with Sen. Bernie Sanders, a man who has run for president 16 times already.     

If you haven’t yet had the chance, head on over to the Triadvocate and introduce yourself to our newest public affairs whiz, Jennifer Riley! Welcome, Jen!  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Tennessee, where a man standing trial for misdemeanor drug possession thought it was a good idea to approach the bench and light up a joint in front of the judge. People are gonna write songs about this dude’s giant set of guts.     

That’s what passes for news around here as the howling wind blows us all into the weekend! From all your friends at Team Triad, enjoy the weekend and we will see you next week!  


Pa. State Budget Proposal Highlights

Gov. Wolf

Governor Wolf unveiled his 2020-21 General Fund budget during his annual address to the legislature, proposing to spend $36.06 billion, an increase of 4.22 percent.

The governor urged the legislature to tackle gun violence, student debt, and toxic schools. The proposed budget items targeting lead and asbestos in schools, day cares, homes and public water systems would total more than $1.1 billion in funding for remediation.

Highlights of the governor’s Budget in Brief include:

Investing in our children 

  • Proposes an expansion of universal, free, full-day kindergarten for all Pennsylvania students.
  • Continues Governor Wolf’s commitment to investing in education at all levels, including a $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts, a $5 million increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, a $100 million increase in basic education and a $25 million increase in special education.
  • Includes a $15.3 million increase in federal funds to create a more stable business environment for childcare facilities and to ensure equal access to these services.
  • Invests in our state’s early intervention programs by increasing county administrative allocations by $2.5 million for birth to age 3 services and providing an $11 million increase to fund an additional 2,000 slots for children ages 3 to 5.
  • Proposes Charter School Law reform.
  • Repurposes $204 million from the Pennsylvania Racehorse Development Trust Fund to support the Nellie Bly Tuition Program, which will provide financial assistance to full-time PASSHE students who agree to stay in Pennsylvania for the same number of years for which they receive the benefit.
  • Proposes a total of $60 million in new funding for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program through PHEAA.
  • Proposes $12.9 million to support a system redesign and shared IT infrastructure initiative for all PASSHE universities.
  • Implements lead and asbestos testing and remediation through the federal Health Services Initiative, PENNVEST funding and expansion of RACP-eligible projects

Building the nation’s strongest workforce

  • Provides $12 million in grant funding to implement recommendations brought forth by the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center to assist workers in overcoming barriers such as transportation, childcare, training, licensure and community re-entry.
  • Invests $14.8 million in federal dollars into the Department of Human Services redesign of its employment and training programs to meet the needs of individuals and families working toward career pathways and family-sustaining wages.
  • Invests $23.4 million in federal funding for TANF recipients to address the benefits cliff by creating a work expense deduction that will pave a pathway for Pennsylvania families to work toward self-sufficiency.
  • Proposes combined reporting and to reduce the Corporate Net Income Tax from 9.99 to 8.99 percent on January 1, 2021, and then incrementally to 5.99 percent by 2025.
  • Increases teacher salaries to a minimum of $45,000/year.
  • Proposes increasing the minimum wage to $12/hour for all Pennsylvania workers, with a path to $15/hour by 2026.
  • Invests more than $20 million in new manufacturing and technology jobs, works to attract new innovative businesses and provides job training opportunities throughout Pennsylvania.

Keeping Pennsylvanians safe

  • Commits $6 million in additional funds to reduce and prevent gun violence throughout Pennsylvania.
  • Proposes an additional $4 million for Philadelphia’s Gun Violence Task Force.
  • Assesses a fairer police service fee to all communities benefiting from police services provided by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Protecting our most vulnerable

  • Invests $1.4 million for adults living in long-term care facilities who require ventilator care.
  • Provides $1 million to expand legal services to low-income individuals and families.
  • Commits $1.2 million in new dollars to establish a training program for direct care workers in the Participant Directed Model to support individuals with physical disabilities living in the community.
  • Invests $4 million more to counties for risk management to support individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or autism.
  • Proposes $5.1 million additional dollars to fund staff within the Department of Human Services to implement changes in law, regulations, and licensing as recommended by the Council on Reform.
  • Proposes $1.25 million for 20 Community Hospital Integration Projects Program discharges to reduce state hospital populations.
  • Proposes $8.1 million in new funding to provide services to 1,700 seniors on the OPTIONS in-home services waiting list.
  • Invests $1.3 million in the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program so that children who have been victims of abuse or neglect have an advocate to share their voice in court proceedings.
  • A combined $2.4 million is proposed for evidence-based and evidence-informed home visiting that will support at-risk families.
  • Invests $1 million in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, which addresses food insecurity and ensures more Pennsylvanians have access to healthy meals for their families.

Environmental protection, restoration and job creation

  • Invests $2.5 million in the Department of Environmental Protection to support several core initiatives, including implementation of the Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan and support for the Bureau of Air Quality.
  • Proposes $2.5 million for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to hire additional state park and forest rangers.
  • Calls for legislative action on a $1 per ton increase to the tipping fee on municipal waste landfill deposits to generate an additional $22.6 million and maintain solvency of the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.

The governor continues advocating to fund Pennsylvania’s critical infrastructure needs with Restore Pennsylvania. First unveiled last year, the plan funds broadband, flooding, and other critical infrastructure projects.

The House Appropriations and Senate Appropriations budget hearings start on Feb. 18. 

The House and Senate Republicans provide their perspectives on the governor’s proposal.


Veteran Public Affairs Professional Joins Triad Strategies 

Longtime campaign strategist and advocacy professional Jennifer Riley has joined Triad Strategies’ growing public affairs and communications practice.

Jennifer brings two decades of high-intensity public policy campaign experience, as well as additional reach into the Philadelphia market. Coupled with deep political competency, her expertise spans advocacy campaigns, grasstops/grassroots organizing, media relations, crisis communications and event management for a variety of industry sectors.

Jen Riley Headshot 3

“Having built my career at the intersection of public policy and advocacy, I recognize and appreciate the impressive skills and talent found at Triad,” said Riley. “But most importantly, I am inspired by Triad’s creative and collaborative company culture.”

Prior to joining the team at Triad, Jennifer spent nearly 20 years at a Pennsylvania-based public relations firm, where she led the public affairs practice and served as the managing director of their Philadelphia-area office. 

“As Triad continues to grow, we are constantly looking for good talent that supports our business goals and those of our clients,” said Roy Wells, Triad president and managing partner. “Jennifer’s public affairs experience, coupled with her expertise managing business and growth in the Philadelphia market, made her a great fit.”  

Jennifer will also continue to serve as the state director for Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania, a position that she has held for nearly two years. Marsy’s Law seeks to amend the Pennsylvania constitution to include rights for victims of crime. Under her leadership, Marsy’s Law passed nearly unanimously in two consecutive legislative sessions and garnered overwhelming voter support during the 2019 general election. 

“Triad has had an exciting year of growth in public affairs, and we are looking forward to continuing that trajectory in 2020,” said Doug Rohanna, vice president, public affairs. “Jen’s background and experience complement our dynamic team, and we are thrilled she is joining us.” 

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

Jennifer is a cum laude graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and resides in Malvern, PA with her husband and two children. 


Friday Happy Hour: Raining Lizards Edition

Iguana

The Senate impeachment trial hit full stride this week as both sides basically retreated into their echo chambers and dutifully recited their scripted talking points. Some played with fidget spinners.

PA’s Democratic Sen. Bob Casey said the impeachment evidence, as presented, begs for calling witnesses, while Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said he hasn’t decided yet.

Topping Pennsylvania’s political news of the week, House Speaker Mike Turzai announced he will not seek reelection this year. The Allegheny County Republican was first elected to the House in 2001 and has served as speaker since 2015. He said he would assess new career opportunities as they present themselves and did not take questions during a Pittsburgh news conference.

A first-time candidate for a western PA House seat has solved the vexing challenge of name recognition. Meet Danny DeVito, a 27-year-old self-described working-class conservative who is seeking the Republican nomination in a traditional Democratic district. Spoiler alert: he looks nothing like Louie DePalma.

In a move aimed at eliminating the Democratic majority on the Pa. Supreme Court, the Republican-controlled General Assembly is advancing legislation that would put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring that justices to be selected from geographic districts rather than running statewide. You can bet this will be a battle royale.

State lawmakers this week introduced bills designed to put the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education in better position to adapt to changing demographics and job markets, tight budgets and new teaching technologies. The State System schools are among many facing challenges stemming from declining enrollments.

Speaking of colleges, Penn President Amy Gutman tops the compensation list of PA private college presidents at $2.9 million. Click here to see how the rest of the PA list shakes out.

Members of the state House voted overwhelmingly to allow governmental units to charge additional fees when they get Right-to-Know requests for records intended to be used for commercial purposes. The ball is now in the Senate’s court.

Gov. Tom Wolf said he will follow through on his plan to close Retreat state prison in northeastern Pennsylvania , announced originally in August as a cost-cutting step amid a declining inmate population and rising prison costs.

Sigh. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that flu-related medical visits cost Americans about $10.4 billion annually. In Pennsylvania, there have been 40,000 confirmed flu cases so far this season. Yet, 43% of respondents to a nationwide survey said they won’t get a flu shot due to concerns about effectiveness, whether it would make them sick or about what is in the vaccine. For the record, practically every medical professional on the planet says they’re a good idea, with rare exceptions.

If the threat of flu isn’t enough to get your attention, how ‘bout that coronavirus? In China, 17 have died, and several cities have imposed travel restrictions. In the U.S., airports and health agencies are on high alert, watching for people who may have a fever and severe cough. Spring cannot arrive soon enough.

Among the country’s 100 largest metro markets, our own Steel City has been anointed the fifth best for people who work in STEM fields (that’s science, technology, engineering and math). Only Seattle, Boston, Austin and Atlanta were deemed better.

This week’s installment of We Can’t Make This Up takes us – as it so often does – to the Sunshine State, where it seems there has been quite a cold snap recently. How cold, you ask? So cold that it could cause iguanas to fall from the trees, according to weather forecasters. So, be sure to dress warmly, and consider taking an umbrella, or possibly a hard hat.

And on a sad note, we bid farewell to our friend, colleague and mentor, Tony May, who passed away on Monday. If you didn’t catch our tribute, you can find it here.

And that’s what passes for news ‘round these parts this week! Don’t get bonked by flying reptiles, and have a great, albeit essentially football-less, weekend!


Remembering Tony May

Tony May

With profound sadness, the Triad family mourns the passing of one of our own. Tony May, colleague, mentor and friend, died yesterday at the age of 77.

Tony could legitimately lay claim to multiple successful careers – news reporter and editor, spokesperson, political strategist, consultant and pundit, to name a few. Yesterday, PennLive’s Joyce Davis did a nice job of detailing Tony’s career, which you can read about here.

Today, we’d like to tell you what he meant to us.

Tony was unfailingly honest, with himself and others. It earned him immense respect, even when the truth was not kind. He didn’t invent the idea of always doing The Right Thing, but he adhered to that principle.

He was generous with his time and attention, always willing to coach up younger colleagues. His legacy is a legion of mentees.

He had a keen eye for win-win solutions. He once explained that he didn’t ask for favors, but rather presented opportunities. Today, that is one of Triad’s core values.

He was a lifetime learner, keeping up not only with news and current events, but with the evolution of the channels that distribute it. Tony stayed relevant as the art and science of communication was transformed by technology.

He was never one to hog the limelight or the credit. With an insatiable desire to educate, instruct and provide context, he made hundreds of television appearances despite his preference for being more of a listener than a talker.

He made time for and wrote checks to a variety of nonprofit organizations, promoting public broadcasting, economic education and social services. There was no friend more reliable, supportive and willing to lend a hand.

Whoever or whatever he touched is better for the experience. That includes members of the Triad family. We will miss his counsel and coaching, but we’ll honor his memory by always striving to do The Right Thing.


Friday Happy Hour: Parrothead Edition

Parrothead

We start out this week on a somber note, sending our most sincere condolences to the friends and family of former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who succumbed to cancer this week. He was taken far too soon. 

Despite the fact that December job creation numbers failed to hit expectations (what, we ONLY created 145,000 new jobs? What the hell do you people want, anyway?) the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 29,000 for the first time in history yesterday. President Trump trumpeted the news on Twitter by asking how everyone’s 409(K) is doing. 409, 401, tomato, tomahto…

As tensions escalated in the Middle East this week, we all learned that is was, in fact, not simply a coincidence that a Ukraine-bound plane crashed outside of Tehran at roughly the same time the Iranians were showering the desert with missiles. Very rarely do planes simply fall out of the sky.  

Meanwhile, GOP and Democratic U.S. senators emerged from a briefing on the Iran crisis with markedly different opinions on what they just heard. And by “GOP” we mean “all of the GOP except for Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.”  

Central Pennsylvania news outlets spent the entire week camping out at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, drinking milkshakes and petting livestock. Notable this year, however, was the array of hemp-based products for sale, ushering in a new age of hemp-ness in Pennsylvania. 

And while hemp was the belle of the ball, the same cannot be said for the dairy industry, which has hit quite a rough patch in Pennsylvania. Note to readers: almond milk is not milk. As our good friend and Senior Consultant George Wolff often says, “I’ve never seen teats on an almond.”

Elected leaders across Philadelphia rallied this week to try and pry loose about $170 million from the state to remove asbestos from the city’s public schools. Yeah, that’s a pretty steep price tag, but the health of children and teachers shouldn’t be judged on how much it might cost. Ever see a hospital bill for treating a child with pediatric cancer?

Like swallows returning to Capistrano, the General Assembly will reconvene next week after a short holiday respite. And like every year since the dawn of time, there will be a new bill introduced to reduce the size of the legislature. You can set your watch by it. 

A lawmaker in Vermont has proposed legislation that would ban the use of handheld phones for anyone under the age of 21. Great idea, except that people under 21 spend a lot of time teaching those over 50 how to use their handheld phones. What will Boomers do without these handy-dandy tutors? 

The booming shale industry is getting a small taste of its first bust in Pennsylvania, as gas drillers are shedding jobs in western Pennsylvania. According to industry experts, the culprit is not a lack of demand, but rather the lack of pipelines to get said gas from point A to point B. And we know how easy it is to build pipelines around here. 

We ran across an interesting tidbit this week that should help put Pennsylvania’s infrastructure crisis in perspective for you. Lehigh Valley officials this week put pen to paper for all the projects they intend to build in the next decade, and the price tag is just north of $500 million. That’s just for the Lehigh Valley.  Now multiply that by, um… a lot. See where we are going with this?

Now we would like to introduce you to our Women on the Move 2020 section, where three deserving folks are in the news. First off, our good friend, former lawmaker and all-around awesome person Cherelle Parker was sworn in as Philadelphia City Council majority leader this week! Go get ‘em, Cherelle!

The Philadelphia Tribune this week also spilled a little ink for our own Brandi Hunter-Davenport, making her move to Team Triad!

Finally, we give a shout-out to Danielle Farber, who this week became the first-ever female Pennsylvania National Guard member to complete Army Ranger School. Congratulations, Sergeant!

And as long as we’re giving shouts out, here’s one for the longtime Senate staffer formerly known as Drew Crompton, who was sworn in this week as a judge on the Commonwealth Court. Congratulations and good luck, Judge J. Andrew Crompton!

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you back to – where else? – Florida, where police responded a distress call only to find out that the woman who was repeatedly screaming “Let me out!” was actually a parrot. In addition to wanting out, the parrot also wanted a bowl of Froot Loops.      

That’s what passes for news around here on a lovely Friday in your seat of state government. Come back next week where we will once again regale you with tales of yore. Until then, from all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Gas Pump Edition

Gas pump

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Friday Happy Hour 2020! We pick up where we left off in 2019, with tensions between Iran and the U.S. reaching a boiling point yesterday after our military dispatched of one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. For those worried that this action might spark a broader war with Iran, it is probably a good time to remind everyone that Iran has been at war with pretty much the entire free world since 1979.

The new year brought with it several new state laws that went into effect on Jan. 1. Among the more notable ones are raising the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21, and for the first time, the legalization of mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. And hey, speaking of voting…

After Dauphin County elected officials finally relented at the 11th hour and 59th minute, all sixty-seven counties will officially have new voting machines just in time for the 2020 elections, which, we have been told, will shatter turnout records from here to Kingdom Come.

A new federal overtime rule also kicked in on Jan. 1, guaranteeing 60,000 or so Pennsylvanians overtime pay should they work more than 40 hours a week. Which, to be fair, seems pretty fair and reasonable.  

And what would January be without the kickoff to the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show, where despite the misleading name, one cannot walk in and buy a farm. There will be a delightful spread of food, and as an extra added bonus this year, a massive butter sculpture of the Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot Gritty, which will haunt your children for months to come. 

2020 will also see the kickoff to the state’s implementation of automated speed enforcement in construction zones. So if you are the type of chowderhead who speeds in work zones, the eye in the sky (or more aptly, in the Grand Cherokee) is gonna get you. 

Gov. Tom Wolf opened the new year by announcing a new multi-agency effort called Reach Out PA to help combat the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Kudos to him and his team for this new initiative, which should truly be a bipartisan effort. Wolf is getting really good at this “bipartisan” thing as his second term kicks into high gear. 

And if you have not yet watched Wolf and his second-in-command, John Fetterman, reading mean tweets about themselves, please do yourself a favor and watch. It is pure gold. 

Out in Allegheny County, health officials are planning a series of initiatives to combat climate change on the heels of a spike in poor air quality days over the last year. Maybe everyone can breathe a little easier in 2020.   

Out in Philly, Mayor Jim Kenney finished up the year by vetoing six – yes, six – bills passed by City Council, among them a community benefits bill championed by Council President Darrell Clarke and a popular wage tax rebate plan. Well now, that’s gonna leave a mark.   

Despite the vetoes, President Clarke has doubled down on his bid to cut the poverty rate in the city, with a pledge to pull 70,000 residents out of poverty over the next four years. We wouldn’t bet against him. 

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and several members of the state’s congressional delegation have signed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to “reconsider” Roe v. Wade. You know, it was a pretty safe bet that the 2020 elections were gonna be a tad acrimonious BEFORE they signed this brief. Nothing like dumping a little gas on the electoral fire.  

As lawmakers continue to battle over the future of the fossil fuel industry, often times folks forget what the energy sector has meant to some southwestern Pennsylvania communities. Here is one such story from Beaver County, just up the Ohio River from Pittsburgh and home to the new Shell cracker plant.   

In our first We Can’t Make This Up installment of the year, we take you to – where else? – Florida, where a man was arrested this week for trying to beat up a gas pump. No matter how many times you punch it, the price is not going down, pal. 

The whole episode reminded us of a scene from the Steve Martin classic film, The Jerk. Die, gas pumper!

That’s what passes for news around here at the dawn of the decade in Harrisburg. Thanks for making us a part of your Fridays, and from all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Duct-Tape Banana Redux

Work of art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Not Goodbye, But See You Later

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

Andrew 1

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

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

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

Andrew 2 Andrew 3


City of McKeesport Receives $3 million through Neighborhood Assistance Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday Happy Hour: Fried Meth Edition

Meth fryer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday Happy Hour: Duct-Taped Banana Edition

Work of art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

Triad Strategies extends warm wishes to each of you this Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on and give thanks for our blessings. It’s also an opportunity to support those who may not be as fortunate.

Triad believes in the power of community connections. Working together, we can sustain and uplift our communities.

We are honored and privileged to have partnered with Jaindl Farms, the Central PA Food Bank and the Bethesda Mission to provide 200 turkeys to individuals and families in south-central Pennsylvania this holiday season. Our opportunity to help those who are less fortunate results from the support of our clients, who trust us to assist them in solving their problems.

The Friday Happy Hour will not be published this week. Have a great holiday weekend, and we'll see you back here next week.

 


Friday Happy Hour: Wild Turkey Edition

Wild turkeys

We begin this week’s news-a-palooza with a public service announcement for Amazon:

Dear Amazon,

We have been told that you are really good at shipping things. One thing we don’t need you to ship into Pennsylvania are out-of-state workers to build your new mega-warehouse outside of Pittsburgh. We have plenty of people living there who will do a wonderful job. So, stop it.

Sincerely, Everyone.  

House Democrats continued their impeachment inquiry (is it still an inquiry or not?) by inviting two more diplomats to testify, Fiona Hill and David Holmes, the latter of whom rolled his eyes so hard at GOP questions that we are pretty sure he sprained his skull.  

Meanwhile, in the Upper Chamber, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has announced that he will begin an investigation into – wait for it – the Bidens! If there is one thing that Congress needs right now, it is another public investigation. 

The Trump Train is coming to Hershey next week, and tickets are free! The Sweetest Place on Earth is about to become one of the louder places on earth!

The state House and Senate this week passed the long-awaited package of bills to address statute of limitation reforms on child-sex crimes. It was a tough road, but all sides eventually removed the heat from the debate and replaced it with light. 

The Senate this week also passed a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2022. There was a bit of low-grade grumbling from Democrats who wanted more, but in the end, the bill passed overwhelmingly. Next up? A much more unwelcoming House. 

A group of largely western Pennsylvania lawmakers are planning to sue the Wolf administration over his decision to enter into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Some believe that Wolf overplayed his hand when he decided not to seek General Assembly approval for the move, which if successful will pretty much bury the state’s coal industry.

Another group of lawmakers this week fired off the opening salvo in the next debate on transportation funding in Pennsylvania, an issue they would very much like to see debated next year, which is an election year, which would be rather stunning.   

The General Assembly this week again passed a ban on abortions in the case of a Down syndrome diagnosis. And once again, Governor Wolf waited all of three minutes before vetoing it. We still doing this? Lather, rinse, veto, repeat.

A bill to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 is inching along the rails of the General Assembly. Because once it is illegal for 19-year-olds to buy tobacco, we are pretty sure they never will again.  Teenagers are, as we all know, famous for following the law. That’s why none of them drink alcohol before they turn 21.

Despite 16 years of effort to get a casino built in Beaver County, it looks like local officials have once again rolled snake eyes on that bid. State regulators this week gave a thumbs-down to Mount Airy Casino’s application to build a mini-casino in Big Beaver Township. In related news, yes, there is a Big Beaver Township. 

Despite the Big Beaver setback, NBC news still plans to do a year-long series about 2020 presidential “swing counties,” one of which will focus solely on Beaver County. We humbly suggest they film it at the Original New Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe. 

If some state lawmakers have their way (and they often do), the 2024 presidential primary date in Pennsylvania will be moved way up. No longer will we be forced to sit back and watch 26 people in New Hampshire decide the direction of our country.

Weeks after the state again slammed the brakes on their application, Erie County officials are back at it, pushing for movement on their community college bid as early as January. Expect this issue to continue to be wrapped around the axle for the foreseeable future.   

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse plans to abandon a potential deal to privatize the city’s water and sewer system as he threw his support this week behind a plan to add additional fees to city dwellers to pay for sewer and stormwater upgrades. This should go over well, we are sure.   

The business of the state Senate was temporarily upended this week as Sen. John Yudichak of Luzerne County announced he switched his party registration from Democrat to Independent and will caucus with the GOP moving forward. Nothing like a party switch to get tongues wagging all over the state capitol.  

In other nakedly political news, if you were wondering where former state senator and failed gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner has landed, it very well may be directly opposite longtime GOP power broker Bob Asher. Wagner is floating the idea of taking on Asher for his powerful spot on the Republican National Committee. Some bad blood flows pretty deep around here.   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to aptly named Toms River, New Jersey, where wild turkeys have pretty much taken over the entire town, setting up a potentially deadly, Quentin Tarantino-esque showdown next Thursday. Turkeys vs. Humans: this time, it’s personal.

That’s what passes for news around here as we careen wildly into the weekend. From all your friends at Team Triad, have a great one!


Friday Happy Hour: Gin Edition

We start this week’s missive by taking you to Lafayette County, Wisconsin, where some elected officials have lost their damned minds.  Earlier this week, one of the county commissioners filed a new resolution that would criminally charge reporters for the crime of not posting official press releases word-for-word. In essence, normal, everyday reporting would become a crime.  The crime here seems to be that people elected these loon bags to office in the first place.  Gin

Meanwhile, the nation’s eyes were fixed on Congress this week, as the impeachment inquiry of President Trump hit the small screen.  Thus far, the GOP defense of Trump is that the witnesses had no direct contact with the President himself, and therefore we're relying on hearsay.  So we spent the week channeling R.E.O. Speedwagon.  Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another you’ve been messing around…  

The President, however, continues to do himself few favors as he spent Friday morning Tweeting at one of the witnesses while she was testifying.  We expect at some point that House GOP will arrive on the South Lawn en masse and demand the President turn over his phone.  

Apparently, there is no end to the list of delusional Democrats who believe they should be the next POTUS.  Joining the field this week are former governor Deval Patrick and current billionaire Michael Bloomberg. 

A lot of lawmakers are diving into the criminal justice pool, and the issue has become a true bipartisan lovefest.  However, the consequence of reform is that the prison populations tend to shrink, which causes prisons to close, which does NOT make lawmakers happy.  Can’t have it all, folks.   

Philadelphia’s Controller this week released a report showing that the city’s soda tax revenue continues to be funneled into places other than Pre-K and Rebuild Philly (i.e. the general fund), and that the entire program lacks transparency.  So, nothing to see here.   

Word around the hallowed halls of Harrisburg is that lawmakers might finally, maybe, kinda raise the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $9.50 an hour. Grizzled vets that we are, we will believe it when we see it.  We have heard this song before, and it usually gets cut off before the ending. 

The state is lugging around a $1.3 billion structural deficit, we learned this week, although all is not bleak.  A strong economy and better-than-expected revenue numbers are trimming that number each month, making it possible that Governor Wolf might just wrap up eight years with no big tax increase.   

The City of Erie woke up today much the same as yesterday: without a community college and with no green light to build one.  The Department of Education voted this week to continue to study the need for such a community college for at least six months, at which point there might still be snow on the ground.   

A new report was released this week showing that craft breweries are pouring money (we see what you did there) into the Pennsylvania economy.  As such, we give our Shameless Client Plug shout-outs this week to our friends at Yards, Voodoo and Bald Birds Breweries.  

It is a tricky time to be a Democrat in southwestern Pennsylvania, we are beginning to learn.  As more and more elected Democrats are embracing things like fracking bans and the end of petrochemical plants, the more old-school Dems are being beaten about their heads and shoulders for supporting both.  Expect to see these battles move to the ballot in 2020.  

Did you know that Philadelphia has 90,000 more women living there than men?  No?  Well, now you do.  We propose reversing the current city slogan to the City of Sisterly Affection and Brotherly Love.  

An early, extended bear hunting season is going really well, if you’re not a bear.  Hunters are on pace to harvest more bears than ever, which is also good news for wayward hikers and other people who stumble around in the forest. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to South Africa, where a distillery is now making and marketing gin made partially from elephant dung.  We kinda always thought gin tasted like crap anyway.   

That’s what passes for news around here on this sunny Friday!  The legislature returns for more top-notch lawmaking next week, so tune in!  From all your friends at Team Triad, have a great weekend!  


Friday Happy Hour: Happy Meal Edition

Happy meal

We’ll begin with the most important event of the week, which was the opportunity to exercise our constitutional right to select those who represent us, aka Election Day. We congratulate the winners, console the losers, and thank all of them for their participation in an increasingly rancorous political environment.

There was drama. In the southeast, Democrats continued their recent trend of making gains in suburban Philly, taking control of what was once a GOP stronghold, Delaware County Council, for the first time since the Civil War. They also won a majority on the Chester County and Bucks County boards of commissioners.

The Dems also took control of the nine-member Lehigh County Board of Commissioners for the first time in decades.

On the other hand, out west it was the R’s flipping four counties to their side in commissioner races. The counties of Washington, Armstrong, Greene and Westmorland are now in the red column after trending in that direction for several years.

And, right here in good ol’ central PA, everything pretty much stayed the same, although the vote count in York County was delayed because of snafus with the new voting machines. Several other counties experienced problems with new machines, but as Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick observed, counties that rolled them out for this off-year election can now make adjustments that will enable a smoother experience next spring.

The statewide Superior Court race was very close, although it appears that Philly Dem. Daniel McCaffery and Chester County Deputy DA Megan McCarthy King, a Republican, won the two open seats.

And finally, the proposed constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law, which spells out the rights of crime victims, garnered nearly three-quarters of the votes, but can’t be certified until the state Supreme Court sorts out whether the proposal was constitutional.

Elsewhere, the General Assembly in Virginia went Democratic, as did the governor’s office in Kentucky. Throw in the suburban Philly results and it led to some gleeful speculation on the part of Democrats. PennLive columnist John Baer, often a contrarian, warns that the D’s could end up blowing it, at least in Pennsylvania, if the candidate doesn’t appeal to our moderate-minded electorate.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke dropped his presidential bid. So, faced with the alarming prospect of a sudden shortage of Democratic candidates, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg indicated he just might be interested in giving it a shot. Although he apparently hasn’t made a final decision yet, he sent some people to Alabama to gather signatures enabling him to qualify to be on the primary election ballot next year.

After weeks of complaining about the closed impeachment hearings, President Trump has now decided that there shouldn’t be public hearings either. The House Democrats will launch the public hearings next week, featuring three witnesses who have already testified privately.

Back here in the Keystone State, the PA Turnpike Commission has decided after a four-year pilot to proceed with converting the tolling system to a totally cashless one by the fall of 2021. About 600 toll collector and auditor jobs would be eliminated, and those employees would either be reassigned to another commission gig or could use the agency’s tuition assistance program to study for a new career.

Faculty for the 14-university State System of Higher Education will vote on a four-year contract. The vote will be held on individual campuses from Nov. 11 to 13.

Seven current and former non-union state workers filed a class-action lawsuit this week against AFSCME Council 13 in an attempt to recoup the estimated $3 million in non-member fees paid to the union by almost 10,000 non-union employees in 2017 and 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that union fees paid by non-union government employees are illegal.

Prominent politicos gracing PA with their presence this week included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spoke at the Democratic Independence Dinner in Philly and former VP Joe Biden, who traveled to the Steel City to speak at a presidential campaign fundraising event.

Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele has filed a civil complaint against vaping company JUUL, aiming to hold the company responsible for its “illegal, predatory business practices aimed at turning minors into addicts.”

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment takes us to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where a man who ordered a McDonald’s sweet tea wound up “stoned to the bone” when the tea was spiked with cannabis. His theory is that asking for “extra lemon” is code for “hit me up with some reefer, please.” The sheriff’s department didn’t reveal the location, but our crack research team tells us there are only two Mickey D’s on the island.

And that’s pretty much what qualifies for news around here this week! A shout out to veterans, whom we honor on Monday. Have a terrific weekend, and we’ll see you all back here again next week!


Friday Happy Hour: Hash Cake Edition

Hash cake

The U.S. House voted along party lines Thursday to formally launch an impeachment probe into President Trump’s dealings with the Ukraine. House Republicans had been loudly complaining that, thus far, the probe was being conducted behind closed doors, so naturally they all voted against opening it up to the public.

For his part, President Trump decided to move to Florida this week, presumably because he is in his 70s and moving to Florida is required by law once you hit 73. 

Meanwhile, nationwide job growth outpaced expectations, proving once again that the economy doesn’t seem to give much of a hoot about what is going on in Congress. The U.S. added 128,000 jobs last month, after those killjoys on Wall Street predicted a far lower number.

Back here in Pennsylvania, a last-ditch attempt to derail the ballot question on Marsy’s Law got a bit of life, as a Pennsylvania judge ruled that “yeas and nays” shall not be counted after Tuesday’s vote. The Supreme Court will eventually have to decide if the entire General Assembly, Republican and Democrat alike, acted improperly in passing the ballot question, which seems rather improbable. 

If you speed through active work zones in Pennsylvania, you are not only a Grade A chucklehead, you may soon find a citation in your mailbox. PennDOT is unveiling a pilot program that will place automated speed cameras in work zones. So smile, dimwits, you’re on work zone camera!

Governor Wolf this week signed into law a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s election procedures, the first such change in more than 80 years. There were some howls of discontent over the ban on straight-ticket voting, conveniently ignoring the fact that the governor, a Democrat, had to negotiate with the legislature, which is controlled by the Republicans. You know, divided government and all that messy stuff.  

A lower court judge this week tossed the City of Pittsburgh’s new gun control ordinances into the circular file, much as everyone expected. They don’t call Title 18, Chapter 61, Subchapter A the Uniform Firearms Act for no reason, we suspect. The battle over state preemption will once again move to the Supreme Court, and you never know what that band of fun-loving rascals might do!

The federal government this week unveiled 150 pages of regulations governing hemp farming. Since Pennsylvania lawmakers had the foresight to legalize hemp production last year, we have a big head start on the field. So get to it, hempers. Let’s lead the nation in something other than municipal waste importation.

The Supreme Court this week stopped Lebanon County officials from denying medical marijuana access to parolees and probationers, striking a blow for good old common sense. The move by Lebanon County to enact this policy in the first place is a stark reminder that, despite what the states do on marijuana policy, the feds still view marijuana as equivalent to heroin and can act accordingly whenever they damned well choose.

A perfect storm of factors, not the least of which is an overabundance of really excited deer, are causing experts to predict an above-average season of car-to-deer collisions in Pennsylvania, most of which find the deer on the losing end. So be careful, and make sure your auto insurance is up to date.    

Speaking of deer, the legislature is nearing agreement on a bill that would permit Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania, albeit for just three Sundays out of the entire year. The General Assembly has been debating this issue since before guns were actually invented.   

Do you wanna find out how wonderful or crappy your child’s school is? Here is a searchable database where you can find how your district measured up on the most recent round of the dreaded Keystone Exams.

One lawmaker this week announced he will offer a bill to ban flavored vaping products in Pennsylvania. He contends, probably correctly, that cherry and bubblegum-flavored vapes are aimed at getting children addicted. Under his plan, the only flavors allowed will be horse manure and dead skunk. That’ll teach those meddling kids.

Pennsylvania will not be sharing your driver’s license info with the federal Census Bureau, we learned this week. Despite the census folks assuring states that it will keep all the information safe (sure they will) and asking pretty, pretty please, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards ain’t having any of that noise, thank you very much.

A Pittsburgh Port Authority bus sank into a 10th Avenue sinkhole this week, causing the Internet to break after roughly forty-five million memes were created. For our part, Tenth Avenue Sinkhole reminded us of Tenth Avenue Freezeout by Bruce Springsteen, so we spent the day with it stuck in our heads.  Damned Internet.  

In this week’s Shameless Spousal Plug, aesthetician extraordinaire Sharon Wells (better half of Triad creator and resident mad scientist Roy Wells) was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week for her work at the spa in the venerable Four Seasons, located literally on the roof of Philadelphia. Way to go, Sharon! 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Berlin (Germany, not Pennsylvania) where 13 people had to be taken to the hospital after eating a cake following a funeral service. As it turns out, the cake had been baked with hashish and was made by an 18-year-old, who was definitely going to a much different kind of party. 

That’s what passes for news as we say goodbye to October and look forward to Election Day next Tuesday, where we will likely see about 26% of you who are registered to vote. Until then, from all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Haunted House Edition

Haunted house

Quid pro quo, or not? Impeachable offense, or not? A legitimate inquiry, or not? We don’t know. And just when we thought things couldn’t get much weirder in Washington, a couple dozen Republican members of Congress stormed the office suite where House committees were taking testimony in the Trump impeachment investigation and staged a… we’d call it a sit-in, but sit-ins usually have a point. After disrupting the hearings for several hours, eating some pizza and complaining about the process, the group left, and the hearings resumed.

As we segue back to Pennsylvania, we present you with PennLive/Patriot News columnist John Baer’s latest take on national and local political weirdness.

Last weekend, Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold was nominated as the Republican candidate to replace former state Sen. Mike Folmer. The Dems picked Lebanon Valley College Prof. Michael Schroeder, and rumors abound that unsuccessful Republican hopeful Matt Brouillette will remain in the race as a write-in. A special election will be on Jan. 14.

The U.S. Census Bureau asked states to cough up driver’s license data as part of the Trump administration’s latest effort to compile information about citizenship status. On Thursday, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards said Pennsylvania would not participate, joining a growing number of states that have declined.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery/Delaware, and Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, have introduced legislation that would legalize cannabis for adult use in Pennsylvania. No need to rush out and buy your Doritos quite yet, in our opinion.

Meanwhile, a group of medical marijuana patients staged a demonstration at the PA Department of Health to complain about the high cost of cannabis meds. They called for action to make the drug more affordable and accessible.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro had a busy week, joining his counterparts in several other states in announcing a tentative $48 billion settlement with three opioid distributors and two manufacturers, which is said to offer the best opportunity to get help quickly for people struggling with addiction.

The next day, he joined 46 of his counterparts in supporting an investigation of Facebook to determine whether the social media firm’s dominance is stifling competition, limiting choice for consumers and costing advertisers more money.

In the midst of public debate over a proposed constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law, PennLive provides us with a primer that ties everything together.

Among prominent Commonwealth visitors this week were President Trump, Vice President Pence and former VP Biden. Trump spoke at a shale conference in Pittsburgh, while Pence and Biden visited Luzerne County, aka, Biden’s old stomping ground.

The state Senate this week voted unanimously to transfer control of the lieutenant governor’s Fort Indiantown Gap residence to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, a move that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman called “a win across the board.” Fetterman has chosen not to reside in the official residence. The bill now goes to the House.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the PA Turnpike will no longer accept cash payment for tolls at two new locations, the entry from Ohio in Lawrence County and the Turnpike Route 66 bypass in Westmoreland County. The agency is encouraging motorists to use its prepaid E-ZPass transponder, although for a higher toll, drivers without transponders will receive a bill in the mail.

Although Governor Wolf says he has no intention of signing it if it gets to his desk, a freshman legislator has introduced a bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. More than a dozen states have enacted similar measures, and a heartbeat bill enacted in Georgia has been blocked by a federal judge.

Triad’s own Todd Brysiak weighed in on a national shortage of a chemotherapy drug used to treat pediatric cancer. The father of a cancer survivor who has been cancer-free for more than a year, Todd noted that the drug, vincristine, was an essential part of his daughter’s treatment. The shortage was attributed to a manufacturing delay and is predicted to continue through December.

This week’s We Can’t Make This Up segment arrives just in time for Halloween. The owner of a Tennessee haunted house billed as the scariest in the world offers a $20,000 prize to anyone who completes a tour of the attraction. No one has ever collected. He says he uses hypnosis to scare the you-know-what out of customers and backs it up with a video of every visitor tapping out by uttering the phrase, “You really don’t want to do this.”

And that’s what passes for news around here this week! Be sure to stock up on plenty of candy for all the little goblins, ghosts and witches in your neighborhood! From all of us here at Triad, have a great weekend, and be sure to meet us back here again next week.


Friday Happy Hour: Painted Cow Edition

Painted cow

We’ll begin our weekly adventure in Washington, which was all abuzz on multiple fronts. President Trump had a busy week, cramming at least five days’ worth of stuff into a holiday-shortened week. The fallout from his orders to separate U.S. troops from their (former?) Kurdish allies climaxed with an overwhelming rebuke by the House, including two-thirds of the chamber’s Republicans. The president did not take it well.

But the foreign policy kerfuffle was merely a sideshow to the main event, as House Democrats continued down the path of the impeachment investigation. That peaked on Thursday when Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney undercut his boss’ assertion that there was no quid pro quo involving Trump’s request that the Ukrainians investigate former VP Biden and his son.

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had another butt-ugly week, what with being fingered as the president’s point man in the shadow foreign policy activities regarding the Ukraine. The man once known as America’s Mayor is having a bad month.

The Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Ohio this week for a three-hour yackfest, with several of the participants homing in on Sen. Elizabeth Warren for a change. We’ll let the NY Times analysis tell you what’s what.

The explosions and fire that destroyed the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in June was most likely caused by the failure of an elbow pipe, according to the U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Investigation Board. The pipe had worn to about half the thickness of a credit card, investigators said. The oil refinery was the largest on the East Coast.

A 23-foot Northumberland County Douglas fir will make the ultimate sacrifice in exchange for the honor of being the White House Christmas tree. The tree’s soon-to-be-former owner called it a “most exciting and humbling experience.” The tree, facing its demise at age 16, was not nearly as excited.

Even though he has scaled it back, business leaders still aren’t happy with Governor Wolf’s plan to extend overtime eligibility to thousands more of Pennsylvania workers. His initial proposal would have eventually extended eligibility to 460,000 workers, and the scaled-back plan would limit eligibility to just 82,000. The Democratic controlled Independent Regulatory Review Commission may consider the plan next month.

Republican Sen. David Argall told a gathering of real estate professionals this week that his bipartisan group looking into taxation issues is likely to recommend cutting or eliminating property taxes by raising the sales and income taxes. He said he wants to get recommendations to lawmakers before year-end to avoid having it get caught in election year festivities.

Why does Pennsylvania lead the nation in average student loan debt per resident, with a figure of $36,000? Freshman State Rep. Jennifer O’Mara, a Delaware County Democrat who at age 29 is still paying off her student debt, intends to find out, and it began with a hearing this week by the House Democratic Policy Committee.

The relatively nascent Harrisburg University aims to boost its brand awareness by becoming the country’s badass at esports. Who needs a football program anyway? A tip of the Triadvocate cap to HU and President Eric Darr for attracting the attention of the Washington Post.

The PA State System for Higher Education is asking for an additional $100 million over the next five years to help retool the 14-member system by merging some services and support, enhancing online learning and improving technology for students. The system’s enrollment of about 100,000 students is 21,000 fewer than a decade ago, and system officials believe that more online courses will attract more students.

Pennsylvania will become one of the last states to take advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow states to collect corporate income taxes from corporations that do business in states, even if they have no offices, employees or property there. Businesses that record at least $500,000 in annual sales will henceforth be required to file tax returns and pony up.

Governor Wolf said thanks, but no thanks to the opportunity to refuse to accept refugees in Pennsylvania. The Trump administration last month issued an order giving state and local governments the authority to turn refugees away, but the governor said they will continue to be welcome here.

A federal tax incentive program passed in 2017 by Republicans in Congress has not proven to be the lifeline for ailing Rust Belt cities such as New Castle, according to a report from Spotlight PA, the new investigative reporting collaboration involving several prominent news organizations.

This week’s installment of We Can’t Make This Up takes us all the way to Japan, where scientists have discovered that painting cows to look like zebras significantly reduced attacks by biting flies and lessened the need to use pesticides. Udderly brilliant.

And that’s what passes for news around here on a suddenly chillier fall Friday. On behalf of your good pals at Triad, have a terrific weekend, and check back in with us next week as lawmakers in both houses return to Harrisburg.


Friday Happy Hour: Guinea Pig Edition

Guinea pig

It was not a good week for America’s favorite crazy uncle, Rudy Giuliani. Two of Rudy’s “associates” got bagged for campaign finance violations by federal authorities, right before they tried to board an international flight to Anywhere but Here. Ensnared with these two totally legitimate businessmen was “Congressman One,” which is an appellation that no member of Congress wants. 

The U.S. Navy will be christening a new ship that honors Pennsylvania’s contributions to our Armed Forces. We have been unable to confirm the rumor that the U.S.S. Harrisburg will be the first incinerator-powered ship in history.   

The Trump Trade War with China continues to kick the soybeans out of Pennsylvania farmers, we learned this week. Our farmers are currently getting 40-50% less for soybeans than a year ago, which is causing many of them to see nothing but red ink where their crops used to be.   

Despite throwing around subpoenas like they are nerf footballs, congressional Democrats may – and we say this with an abundance of caution – be closer to voting on President Trump’s USMCA trade deal after Mexico agreed to come up with some better labor standards (better being something more than the current none.) The Son of NAFTA is coming!

The Trump 2020 team is reportedly targeting Amish voters in Pennsylvania. We can assume a robust digital media strategy is not part of that effort. 

The American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters have launched a legal assault on the crime victims’ bill of rights ballot question this fall, for some odd reason. The groups are contending that the Marsy’s Law ballot question passed by the General Assembly in two separate legislative sessions was done so improperly. Nothing like questioning the rules of the game in the ninth inning. 

Pennsylvania’s state parks are an integral part of our Commonwealth’s tourism industry, hosting 10 million visitors a year. Despite adding 81,000 additional acres over the past decade, those parks also operate with fewer staff and need about $500 million in facility upgrades. So we either pony up or lease it all to Bass Pro Shops and be done with it. 

Volunteer fire departments across the state are about to partake in about $60 million in new grant funding, we learned this week. This is great news for our first responders, who would much prefer responding to fires and rescuing cats from trees than selling hoagies.   

Governor Wolf’s decision to enter into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative last week was met with some skepticism by the House GOP. This week that skepticism tuned into some loud murmurs. Next week we expect the murmurs will become abject rage.   

Lawmakers and the Wolf administration are getting serious about finding some real solutions to the state’s suicide epidemic. House members heard testimony in central Pennsylvania this week and it was very hard, but very necessary, to watch.

If you are ready to grab your hunting license, be sure to do it through the state and not through some online broker. Scammers and online thieves have infiltrated the world of hunters and anglers in Pennsylvania, which we are not sure is a very bright idea since those people tend to be armed.   

The Department of State is urging folks to get their absentee ballots early this year to avoid the huge, last-minute rush that comes with off-year, municipal elections. The good news is that for the first time ever, you can apply online! Welcome to the Internet, dear voters!  

A bill that will levy fees on electric vehicles (which pay zero in gas taxes) has hit a snag in the General Assembly, as lawmakers haggle over the Porridge Question, as we like to call it. Some say the fee is too high, some say it is too low. We will let you know when they get it just right. 

Governor Wolf this week signed a bill that will make it tougher for telemarketers to interrupt your dinner or your nightly game of Fortnite. This is very good news, because the current law leaks like a sieve.   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to lovely (and presumably very hot) Ecuador, where a local company has started making guinea pig-flavored ice cream. Shocking absolutely no one, Turkey Hill currently has no plans to offer this delicacy in Pennsylvania.

That’s what passes for news around here on board the U.S.S. Triad! Come back next week and we will have a boatload more to share with you! Until then, have a great weekend!


Brandi Hunter-Davenport Joins Triad Strategies

Brandi's head shot

HARRISBURG – Triad Strategies is pleased to announce that Brandi Hunter-Davenport is the latest public affairs associate to join the firm.

With nearly 20 years of experience of under her belt, Brandi is excited to bring her talents to the bi-partisan public relations firm.

“From the moment I entered Triad’s doors, I felt a collaborative energy and spirit among the already established team,” said Hunter-Davenport. “I knew that was a dynamic I connected with. Triad knows the power in bringing diverse individuals together to work toward common interests. I’m honored to join the team and look forward to working together on behalf of Triad’s clients.”   

Prior to joining Triad, Brandi oversaw PA Forward, an outreach and training initiative, for the Pennsylvania Library Association. In that role, she provided training and facilitation, media, marketing and public relations guidance along with strategic planning skills to the association’s membership.

Additionally, she cultivated a series of partnership opportunities for the organization, leveraging educational resources, materials and support for libraries. In this role, she also oversaw the association’s Star Library Program, an achievement-based program that recognized libraries for their application of literacy-aligned programming for patrons throughout Pennsylvania. The program has grown to more than 200 actively participating libraries.

“Brandi brings the right combination of association management and communications experience with her,” said Roy Wells, Triad president and managing partnering. “Her extensive understanding in state government communications, nonprofit associations, and higher education will lend itself well to Triad’s clients. We are excited to have her on the team.”

Brandi has previously served as the director of communications for the state Department of Agriculture, working on communication platforms that focused on areas such as the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, the potential of the High Path Avian influenza virus and racing reform.

She was also the director of public affairs and education with the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts and handled press, marketing and communications with the state departments of Environmental Protection and Health and was as a member of Governor Rendell's press and communications team. Before that, she was program manager for the American Lung Association, servicing a 15-county area in the south-central region of Pennsylvania.

“I first met Brandi several years ago and watched how she expertly navigated the state government and nonprofit arenas,” said Doug Rohanna, Triad’s vice-president of public affairs. “As Triad continues growing and expanding our client offerings, we knew Brandi would be the right addition to the team. Together, we will work together to put Triad’s clients first.”

Brandi is a graduate of Bennett College as well as Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, earning an undergraduate degree in mass communications and a Master of Science in journalism, respectively. She is an adjunct professor in the Communications Department at Messiah College and resides in Harrisburg with her family.

***

About Triad Strategies:

Triad Strategies LLC is a bipartisan public affairs firm headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The firm provides 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: Burning Love Edition

Fearing that the Ukraine government did not have adequate resources to really investigate the Bidens, President Trump this week asked that China do so as well.  A country that still has not admitted that anything of note ever happened in Tiananmen Square might not be the best place to get additional investigatory help.  Burning love

Governor Wolf this week announced that Pennsylvania will join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), setting into motion
the first real debate in Pennsylvania over climate change. Before that debate can commence, however, the House GOP would like to have a word with a few lawyers about whether Wolf can act unilaterally. Nevertheless, elected officials from coal-producing regions are, shall we say, less than thrilled with Wolf’s actions.  

A public service announcement from your friends at Triad Strategies.  This November when you saunter into your voting booth (because you WILL be voting this November), be sure to pay special attention to the ballot question about Marsy’s Law.  For all you need to know about this crime victim rights amendment, check out this handy primer from our friends at the venerable Reading Eagle.     

Due to what state officials are calling “unprecedented demand,” Pennsylvania is staring at a significant shortage of the Shingles vaccine, which is not good news.  From what we understand, Shingles are painful as hell, perhaps even more painful than having actual roofing shingles nailed to your skin. So get the vaccine today if you can find one.  

Governor Wolf is turning up the volume on his quest to change the way the state regulates charter schools.  This week, he announced he is shuttering a cyber charter in Philadelphia, which we are sure caught the attention of a certain high-profile lawmaker from Allegheny County. We will let you guess which one. 

Several weeks ago, Governor Wolf went to southeast Pennsylvania to inform pipeline protesters that he will not be shutting down construction on the Mariner East pipeline.  Not content with that rather direct answer, those protesters will now come to Harrisburg to, presumably, get the same answer.  

Attorney General Josh Shapiro took a break from suing the tar out of the Trump Administration this week to announce he is on board the adult-use cannabis legalization train. The momentum grows with each passing puff-puff-pass. 

The state’s two pension systems (yes, we have two of those for some reason) are split on whether or not they should invest in funds that have private prison company interests.  With tens of billions of dollars invested, it can be a little tough to keep track of who is invested in what around here, but one thing is for certain: there will be NO investing in funds controlled by Hunter Biden. 

In Pennsylvania, we treat our teachers very nicely, we learned this week. When it comes to salary, benefits and overall respect for their daily plight, Pennsylvania’s teachers rank near the top of those nationwide lists.  And given what they have to endure day in and day out, whatever they make is probably not enough.   

Now that fall is here, winter is right around the corner.  That means, of course, Pennsylvania cars will soon be covered in snow and ice.  And should you decide not to remove said snow and ice from your vehicle before departing, you are 1. a certified chuckle-head and 2. a scofflaw, if the General Assembly has its way.  A bill to penalize drivers who don’t clean their cars is winding its way through the legislature after failing to get to the finish line last Session.   

This is your reminder that in the richest country in the world, we still have maternal and infant mortality rates that are an absolute tragedy.  Health officials in western PA are again ringing the alarm bell this week.  Are we crazy or does it seem like some legislative action might be warranted? Anyone?  Bueller?  

The invasive Northern Snakehead fish has been spotted in the Monongahela River.  Despite the incredibly badass name (and the fact that it is reportedly pretty damned tasty), this thing is bad news, as it eats pretty much everything in sight. It is the Spotted Lanternfly of the deep, so to speak.    

A proposal to establish a so-called “Bottle Bill” law in Pennsylvania has been introduced, which caused us to immediately relive our childhood, where we used our Red Flyer to lug Pepsi bottles back to the corner store to get enough change to buy candy. Yes, we stole that dream directly from a Norman Rockwell painting.   

This week’s Shameless Client Plug goes out to our good friends at IUPAT District Council 21 in Philadelphia for shining a little sunshine on an otherwise tragic event. Those union members will provide free home repairs for any homeowner whose house was damaged in that horrific shootout last month.  Nice job!   

Shameless Client Plug #2 goes out to our friends in the building trades, who will see their top legislative priority become law tomorrow.  E-Verify use in the construction industry will help prevent unscrupulous contractors from evading state taxes and paying poverty wages. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Nebraska, where a 19-year-old woman decided to burn love letters from her ex-boyfriend and ended up setting her house on fire when she left them on the floor and napped.  We were stunned that the 19-year-old had anything to burn in the first place, except for old Snapchats and texts, which don’t really burn all that well.

That’s what passes for news around here as we scamper off to enjoy the fall weather. Come back next week when we will once again choose your news for you, and you’ll like it.  Until then, from Team Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Emotional Support Clown Edition

Emotional support clown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday Happy Hour: Warren Zevon Edition

Rattler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday Happy Hour: Mockingbird Edition

Mockingbird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday Happy Hour: Freddie Mercury Edition

Freddie Mercury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday Happy Hour: Max Headroom Edition

Max Headroom

We open today’s lovingly-crafted screed by wishing a very happy birthday to the First Lady of Pennsylvania, Frances Wolf!

President Trump had quite a busy year this past week, which opened with him blowing off a meeting with the queen of Denmark because she is apparently not interested in selling Greenland to the United States. Having once been to Montana, we were unaware that we needed more empty space. 

Trump then dramatically escalated our trade war with China, which caused a tariff-ic response by the Chinese, which in turn sent the Dow into the crapper. Again. This caused a Tweetstorm of epic proportions by the POTUS, who ordered U.S. companies to stop doing business with China. Trade wars, it turns out, can be quite messy.

The president wrapped up the week by taking a flame-thrower to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell because the Fed signaled it will not be lowering interest rates. Powell’s job status is about as stable as weapons-grade uranium right now.

In other presidential news, former President Obama is buying a $15 million house on Martha’s Vineyard. That guy just keeps living his best life, doesn’t he? 

Bernie Sanders this week continued being Bernie Sanders by unveiling a climate-change plan with a price tag of $16 trillion, which is roughly enough money to buy Greenland 320 times. Bernie continues to be the personification of “go unfathomably big or go home.” 

A new report was released this week claiming that Pennsylvania has better roads than either New York or New Jersey, which is kinda like being damned by faint praise. Don’t expect that lofty ranking to be in place for long unless we figure out a transportation funding solution sometime soon.   

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is joining forces with the other 49 state attorneys general to defeat the robocall scourge once and for all. This is awesome news, as we are growing tired of being offered extended vehicle warranty coverage on a car we haven’t owned since 2010. 

A group of environmentalists came to Harrisburg’s beautiful City Island yesterday to announce that sewage overflows have caused the level of fecal matter in our waterways to skyrocket to 10 times the normal limit. Which got us wondering whether the band Live, which hails from York, wrote the song “Shit Town” about any place in particular.

Governor Wolf this week announced some loot to clean up groundwater contamination caused by chemicals used in fire retardants. The so-called PFAS contamination has made headlines in Bucks County for quite some time, and not just because nobody knows what PFAS stands for.  

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing has been working on sentencing guideline reform for the past decade with very little progress being made, we found out this week. To put that in context, everyone who was sentenced to a 5-10 stretch since this project began is now out of prison.   

The Philly soda tax was in the news this week, as the city has collected a whopping $191 million since the tax was implemented 2½ years ago. But please tell us again how it has had “no impact” on customers or grocery stores. Trust us when we tell you: if you yank $200 million out of the Philly economy, it is gonna leave a mark. 

Lack of broadband and high-speed internet service in rural Pennsylvania is hurting small business development, we heard this week (for the millionth time). This time agriculture is in the barrel, because in case you haven’t heard, farming is a fairly technologically advanced business these days.  

Pittsburgh city leaders are getting ready to unveil the long-awaited 2020 Bike Plan for city streets and sidewalks and highways and byways. This will inevitably lead to another annoying Twitter tirade by Stan from Blawnox about how we “don’t need any of them damn bikes n’at on our doggone streets!”   

There is a court battle brewing that will decide whether so-called safe injection sites are legal in Philadelphia. It is sad that, as a society, our addiction problem is so acute that we even have to have this discussion, but… here we are.

PennDOT would like you to read this friendly reminder about what to do when you are trying to drive around a school bus. The short answer is: don’t drive around a school bus, ding-dong. Keep the wee ones safe as they head back to school.   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Virginia, where a mysterious man with a TV on his head is depositing vintage TVs on people’s porches for no earthly reason. We are sure there is a Max Headroom joke here somewhere, but we don’t wanna admit to being old enough to remember Max Headroom. 

That what passes for news around here as the Dog Days of August click down to the return of the General Assembly. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Florida Man Edition (Again)

Walmart

In the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton last week, much of the national chatter this week focused on what should be done – or not done – to address gun violence. Universal background checks and “red flag” legislation that would take guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a risk to themselves or others seemed to gain the most traction. Whether the traction continues or dwindles as it has in the past remains to be seen.

On Wednesday, police attempting to serve a narcotics warrant touched off an eight-hour shootout in North Philly in which six officers were wounded and several others injured. Comments by Mayor Jim Kenney urging state and federal action on gun control spurred a rebuke by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, which we presume the mayor regards as a badge of honor. The gunman was taken into custody.

The Philly shootout prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to reschedule to today an event at which he signed an executive order that he says will strengthen gun violence reduction efforts in Pennsylvania and make communities safer.

Another roiling topic this week was the economy – U.S. and global – as the Dow suffered its largest decline of the year on bad news from the manufacturing sector and the bond market. Whether we’re looking at the probability of a recession or there’s nothing to worry about – yet – is a matter of who one talks to. An article by WaPo economics correspondent and former PennLive/Patriot News Deputy Editor Heather Long takes us pretty much down the middle.

President Trump stopped by for his 13th visit to PA as president to tout the creation of jobs at the Royal Dutch Shell Petrochemical Complex in Monaca. Or as the White House called it, “Monaco.” He spoke for an hour about a whole bunch of other stuff too.

The national average price of gasoline has fallen to the lowest level of the summer and is the lowest it has been since March. Some OPEC members have discussed cutting production, but analysts said such a move would likely slow the price decreases rather than stop them altogether.

This whole marijuana thing just keeps having more public policy twists and turns. A Lehigh County judge ruled that police who smell marijuana in a vehicle may not search said vehicle if an occupant happens to be carrying a medical marijuana card.

Governor Wolf asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get to the bottom of why at least four Pennsylvania children were recently separated from their parents. He demanded that the agency halt the practice until it has a plan to ensure the welfare of children.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that said the PA Turnpike Commission did not violate the right of truckers and others to travel between states. The court said that Congress authorized using toll revenue for things other than Turnpike uses, so it therefore does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Charter schools and Governor Wolf have created quite a row over the governor’s plan to revamp PA’s charter school law. Wolf called the law “flawed and outdated” and said it hurts public schools, and the charter schools reacted by complaining about the governor’s “blatant attacks.”

In Shippingport, First Energy Solutions announced that it will shutter the last of three mighty Bruce Mansfield coal-fired power generation units in November, some 19 months sooner than originally planned. “A lack of economic viability” was cited as the reason for the closing.

We cannot let the week pass without acknowledging Ag Progress Days, an annual event showcasing all things agricultural, from invasive species, to water quality, to no-till cover crops, to… well, you get the idea. The point is that ag is pretty darn important here in the Keystone State.

The Erie School District may be heading toward a state takeover after its board voted to defy two directives by the state-appointed financial administrator. The district might want to consider, um, going to school on what happened to the Harrisburg School District in recent weeks after it defied state directives.

This week’s We Can’t Make This Up section is actually more of a We Don’t Need to Make This Up section, featuring the ever-popular combination of Florida Man, Walmart and a vehicle. Michael Dale Hudson was arrested and charged with multiple offenses after careening through a Walmart in a golf cart and striking numerous shoppers before crashing into a cash register. Dude, if you want to play through, just ask.

And that’s what passes for news around here this week, boys and girls! Who would have thought we’d have all this in the Dog Days of August? Can September arrive too soon? Have a terrific weekend and check back in with us next week.


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!