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  • Pennsylvania Hits COVID-19 Vaccination Target

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Oct 21, 2021

    Pennsylvania hit a self-imposed vaccination target this week as Gov. Tom Wolf announced 70 percent of the state’s adult population are now fully immunized against COVID-19. As of Wednesday, the Department of Health reported that 13.1 million doses had been given to residents, ranking Pennsylvania seventh in the nation for first shots administered. “This milestone is critical to protect those not yet eligible for the vaccine, like our children under 12 years of age,” Wolf said Wednesday. “To everyone who has gotten vaccinated, thank...

  • State To Text Residents Who Missed Second COVID-19 Shot

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Aug 26, 2021

    In an effort to boost the statewide COVID-19 vaccination rate, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said residents who missed their second dose will soon receive text message reminders to complete the immunization series. Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said last week federal data shows that about 65 percent of the new virus cases in the region that includes Pennsylvania are caused by the delta variant. While breakthrough cases have occurred in fully immunized people, Beam said unvaccinated patients represent 97 percent of the...

  • Smaller Toll Increases Planned on Pa. Turnpike Through 2050

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Aug 5, 2021

    Drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike can except toll increases through 2050, officials said Wednesday, July 28, albeit at a slower rate than experienced over the past 15 years. The announcement comes as the PA Turnpike Commission makes the last $450 million payment to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as part of a state law that diverted toll revenue to pay for mass transit projects across the state. Since 2007, the commission has paid out $7.9 billion – funded through 6 percent annual toll increases and borrowing more than $14 bi...

  • 'Record Breaking' Lottery to Benefit Seniors

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Aug 5, 2021

    Pennsylvania lottery profits exceeded a “record-breaking” $1.3 billion, state officials said Monday, Aug. 2. Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko said it’s the 10th consecutive year that the agency’s revenue hit $1 billion, driven by an all-time ticket sales high of $5.3 billion, including scratch-offs, Powerball and Mega Millions. Online play sales totaled $887 million, growing each year since the offerings launched in May 2018, the agency said. Svitko said the funds will support tax and rent rebates, free and...

  • Pennsylvania Announces New Nursing Home Regulations

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Jul 29, 2021

    Pennsylvania’s 72,000 nursing home residents could soon receive at least four hours of care, the Department of Health said Wednesday. The proposed regulation comes more than 20 years after the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said four hours was “the minimum” level of care needed to prevent bed sores, malnutrition, dehydration and other ailments common in nursing homes. “It not only aligns with best practices and existing research, but it prioritizes residents’ well-being,” acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam...

  • Pa. Double Counted 500,000 Vaccine Doses

    Christen Smith, The Center Square|Jul 22, 2021

    Pennsylvania’s number of vaccinated residents shrank by more than 500,000 last week after the state revealed it counted some doses twice. The discovery came July 9 when the Department of Health said more than 11.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered, down from 11.8 million the day before. The figure reflects vaccination rates in 66 of the state’s 67 counties. Maggi Barton, a department spokesperson, said that staff has been working to connect first and second doses with residents, so duplicated data was removed from...

  • PennDOT Says Proposed Interstate Bridge Tolls 'Not Permanent'

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|May 20, 2021

    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said that proposed tolls for nine interstate bridges won’t be permanent. PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian told the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, April 29, that the tolls will remain in effect for the length of the contract the state enters into with the private developer responsible for replacing and maintaining the structures as part of the agency’s Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative. “This is not a permanent tax,” she said during an exchange with Sen. Devlin Robinson,...

  • Vaccine Hesitancy Among Longterm Care Workers A Complex Issue, Pennsylvania Providers Group Says

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|May 6, 2021

    Vaccine hesitancy among long-term care staff remains a complex issue that goes beyond “selfishness,” the Pennsylvania Health Care Association said Thursday. “Two weeks ago, there were headlines that painted a picture of selfish, uninformed workers who refused to take the vaccine,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of PHCA. “It’s not that simple.” The association, which represents more than 400 long-term care and senior service providers that treat 50,000 elderly and disabled residents, said an internal survey revealed that 63...

  • White House Report Grades Pa. Infrastructure C-

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Apr 22, 2021

    A White House report rates Pennsylvania's infrastructure at a C-minus after decades of "systemic" underfunding. The analysis concludes that "historic" levels of investment via the American Jobs Plan will fix the state's more than 3,300 deficient bridges and 7,500 miles of crumbling roads that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation lacks resources to address. PennDOT's funding woes remain a perennial problem for the General Assembly as it strategizes ways to close the agency's $9.3...

  • In Pa. Visit, Biden Proposes $16 Billion For Plugging Abandoned Oil And Gas Wells

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Apr 8, 2021

    President Joe Biden's infrastructure spending plan earmarks $16 billion to plug abandoned oil and gas wells across the country. It's a potential solution for an expensive and overwhelming problem for Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). During House budget hearings last month, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell told lawmakers the department spends an average of $17,000 plugging one abandoned well. The cost means fewer than 1,100 orphaned wells have been plugged in the last...

  • Minimum Wage Debate Taking Shape In Senate

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Apr 8, 2021

    Pa. Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Pittsburgh, said March 2 that his caucus can’t accept a Republican proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour. “We don’t believe it’s the right number, and we believe it needs to be higher, and we think it’s something we need to push for,” he said during a news conference with reporters. “My hope is that we can have a discussion about a higher rate.” The proposal in question came from Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, who earlier this month unveiled his plan to raise the rate...

  • Emergency Constitutional Amendment For Sexual Abuse Survivors Blocked In Pennsylvania

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Apr 1, 2021

    The effort to extend the litigation window for survivors of child sexual abuse suffered a blow this week after lawmakers blocked an emergency constitutional amendment necessary to get the measure on the ballot in May. Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Greensburg, said Monday her caucus concluded that elevating the amendment to emergency status – an option only used sparingly in the past to address problems arising from natural disasters – obfuscates the issue from public review and leaves it vulnerable to legal challenges that could...

  • Pa. Restaurants to See Reprieve From Restrictions Soon

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Apr 1, 2021

    Bars and restaurants across Pennsylvania will soon see a reprieve from pandemic operating limitations. Gov. Tom Wolf made the announcement March 15 that state-certified establishments may raise their occupancy to 75 percent and resume bar service without food requirements as of April 4. Non-certified establishments can operate at 50 percent capacity, and the curfew for removing drinks from tables will also be lifted. “Pennsylvanians have stepped up and done their part to help curb the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Wolf said. “Our case counts...

  • Constitutional Amendment Proposes End to Pennsylvania Property Taxes

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 25, 2021

    A bicameral pair of lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment on Thursday ending the collection of school property taxes. Sen. John DiSanto, R-New Bloomfield, and Rep. Perry Stambaugh, R-New Bloomfield, said Senate Bill 424 and House Bill 927 – if passed in two consecutive sessions – would allow voters to decide if the General Assembly should replace the levy with a combination of state and local sales and income taxes. “It’s past time to allow the people of Pennsylvania to directly decide the future of school property tax...

  • Pa. Senate Urges 'Smart Use' Of School Stimulus Money

    Christen Smith, The Center Square|Mar 25, 2021

    The American Rescue Plan delivered more than $5 billion in stimulus to Pennsylvania’s 501 school districts, but senators last week urged caution when spending the “windfall.” Pa. Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega told the Pa. Senate Appropriations Committee on March 18 that some of the money comes with strings attached so that schools focus on pandemic-induced learning loss first. But the department can’t dictate how each dollar is spent – and districts face many needs, most the result of ongoing funding challenges that...

  • Pandemic Highlights Shortcomings of Pa.'s Open Records Law

    Christen Smith, The Center Square|Mar 25, 2021

    News outlets said in March that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health “hides behind other state statutes” to block the release of COVID-19 data – but it’s far from the only agency or organization to do so. During a hearing with the House State Government Committee on March 9, Pa. Media Group President Cate Barron said law enforcement agencies, the Department of Community and Economic Development and other governmental organizations routinely deny right-to-know requests by claiming the information sought is protected by other state...

  • Pa. Dept. of Human Services: Stimulus Package 'Going to be Huge' For Entitlement Programs

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 18, 2021

    The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) said March 10 that the latest federal stimulus package will help it "prepare for life beyond the pandemic" in the face of rising costs. "This is going to be huge," said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller during a budget hearing with the Senate Appropriations Committee. "This is a lot of funding. What we have been doing for awhile now ... we want to make sure we have a strong system and supports available after the pandemic." Pennsylvania will receive...

  • Pa Schools Offered Free Water Testing

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 18, 2021

    Pennsylvania launched a statewide program March 15 that will offer free water tests at schools and day cares concerned about lead contamination. Gov. Tom Wolf said the $1.74 million federal grant program is a piece of his “Lead Free Pennsylvania” plan. He said the departments of Education and Human Services have begun the process of contacting eligible facilities. “Testing the water of thousands of child care centers and schools will give us a bench mark of the work we need to do next for removing lead from water and protecting our...

  • Pa. Dept. of Human Services: Stimulus Package 'Going to be Huge' For Entitlement Programs

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 18, 2021

    The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) said March 10 that the latest federal stimulus package will help it "prepare for life beyond the pandemic" in the face of rising costs. "This is going to be huge," said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller during a budget hearing with the Senate Appropriations Committee. "This is a lot of funding. What we have been doing for awhile now ... we want to make sure we have a strong system and supports available after the pandemic." Pennsylvania will receive...

  • Pa. Begins Vaccination Plan Focused on Teachers

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 11, 2021

    Starting March 10, about 200,000 educators and support staff will receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the Pennsylvania's newest mass immunization plan. Gov. Tom Wolf and the state's vaccine task force said March 3 that Pennsylvania's first 94,600 doses of Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine will be prioritized for teachers, administrators, bus drivers and other school support staff so that in-person instruction can resume full-time across the state. A pharmacy partnership will earmark...

  • Pa. Ag Officials Talk About Enforcing Pandemic Health Orders

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 4, 2021

    The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said Feb. 24 that it has been “deputized” to enforce public health orders stemming from the pandemic as restaurants and other establishments flout operating restrictions. As such, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said the department has responded to nearly 9,800 complaints related to COVID-19 orders, out of which 11 establishments have faced civil penalties and another 149 were closed by order of the Department of Health. “We’ve been sort of deputized by the Department of Health,” he...

  • Bipartisan Cannabis Legalization Bill Emerges From Pa. Senate

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 4, 2021

    A bipartisan duo of senators introduced a measure on Feb. 24 to legalize adult use cannabis in Pennsylvania. It's the first time a Republican member of the chamber has cosponsored the proposal – typically endorsed solely by Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. "That's kind of the elephant in the room, if you will," said Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie. "I believe in solving problems, and adult use cannabis is no more harmful than liquor. I'm not afraid to run a bill that d...

  • Pa. Public Officials Worry 2020 Deadliest Year On Record For Fatal Drug Overdoses

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Feb 18, 2021

    Drug overdose deaths in 2020 may eclipse Pennsylvania’s peak recorded just three years prior, public officials said. Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith made the statement during a meeting with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania that discussed the intersection of the state’s opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. “It is quite frightening that we are seeing those numbers head back up again,” Smith said. About 5,400 residents died from a drug overdose in 2017, or about 14 people every single day. It was the...

  • Pa.'s School Choice Debate More Fraught Than Ever Amid Pandemic

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Feb 18, 2021

    With the pandemic affecting how students attend public schools, the ongoing debate about whether lawmakers should prioritize traditional districts or ease limitations on their public and private alternatives seems more fraught than ever. The Hollidaysburg Area School District recently faced push-back from parents over a decision to have students return to face-to-face instruction. The district administration has to weigh the interests of students, staff, teacher and parents – and sometimes...

  • Pa. State Senate OKs Bill Authorizing Pandemic Relief For Hospitality Industry

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Feb 11, 2021

    The Pennsylvania Senate approved a bill Jan. 27 that aims to provide $145 million in state aid to bars and restaurants crushed under ongoing pandemic restrictions. Senate Bill 109 would amend the Fiscal Code to provide funding for the Hospitality Industry Recovery Program, as well as $569.8 million for rental and utility assistance and $197 million for education programs. The hospitality program would offer grants worth between $5,000 and $50,000 to establishments that: • have not already...

  • Pa. Voters To Decide Extent Of Governor's Emergency Powers

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Feb 11, 2021

    Voters in Pennsylvania will soon decide the extent of the governor’s emergency powers. A constitutional amendment requiring the governor to seek legislative approval before extending disaster declarations beyond 21 days cleared the last hurdle Feb. 5 after the House voted, 116-86, to send the question to voters via a ballot referendum in the upcoming primary election scheduled for May 18. Senate Bill 2 also includes another amendment that expands discrimination protections on the basis of race or ethnicity. The third says the General...

  • Pa. Governor Says Stifling Minimum Wage 'Bad For Business'

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Feb 4, 2021

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Jan. 28 that stifling employee earnings to increase profits “is simply not good business.” Wolf’s comments came during a 40-minute news conference previewing his budget priorities. The governor said he wanted the Pa. Legislature to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 immediately, with a 50-cent increase each year until the state reaches $15 in 2026. The last time Pennsylvania raised its minimum wage was in 2009, after the federal government mandated it. One million workers would see an instant raise...

  • Pandemic may cause some permanent job loss

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Jan 28, 2021

    Fiscal analysts projected Jan. 21 that Pennsylvania’s economic damage from the pandemic will last years, and some jobs may never return. The Independent Fiscal Office released its five-year outlook that concluded lost economic growth in 2020 will lead to a $2 billion structural deficit – doubling the gap measured before the pandemic hit. “The pandemic has brought really significant and abrupt economic changes,” said IFO Director Matthew Knittel during a presentation of the results on Thursday. “We think some of these changes will be...

  • Pennsylvania health officials launch provider map for expanded immunization plan

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Jan 21, 2021

    Residents now included in Pennsylvania's expanded first phase of its COVID-19 immunization plan can find available providers through an interactive map on the Department of Health website. A vaccine screening program and the map are available at https://www.pa.gov/guides/get-vaccinated The department said last week that it will soon vaccinate residents age 65 or older or those with preexisting health conditions – from cancer to heart disease to pregnancy, obesity and chronic smokers ...

  • Pa. Turnpike Tolls Rise, Again, Amid Bleak Revenue Projections

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Jan 21, 2021

    Another year, another toll increase on the Pennsylvania Turnpike – a trend drivers will likely withstand for another three decades amid bleak traffic and revenue projections, according to a new report. The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy said the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will raise tolls through 2050 as it falls deeper into a financial hole exacerbated by its $450 million annual commitment to PennDOT and the pandemic's impact on travel, likely to last years. The Turnpike...

  • A Review of the Laws Pennsylvania Enacted In 2020

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Jan 7, 2021

    Despite a series of vetoes from Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf this year in his tug-of-war with Republicans to control pandemic mitigation efforts, the General Assembly managed to pass some laws, too. A review of the laws passed in Pa. in 2020 follows. Takeout Cocktails Bars and restaurants – arguably hit hardest with pandemic-related restrictions – got a break when Wolf signed House Bill 327 in May that permits businesses with valid liquor licenses that lost a quarter or more of their monthly revenue as a result of the statewide lockdown to sell up to...

  • Pa. looks to accelerate vaccination plan in 2021

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Jan 7, 2021

    Officials in Pennsylvania said Jan. 4 approximately 135,000 residents have been vaccinated since mid-December, falling far short of expectations set by the federal government. Nationally, about 2 million doses have been administered out of more than 14 million shipped to states. Pennsylvania will receive 166,000 Pfizer and 80,000 Moderna units this week, all destined for hospitals, nursing homes and personal care facilities. “I really think that some of the estimates from the federal government, especially estimates during the holidays, were...

  • Pandemic Lockdown Closed 30 Percent of Pennsylvania Businesses, Second Most In Nation

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Dec 31, 2020

    Federal data shows pandemic restrictions forced three in 10 businesses statewide to close, at least temporarily, ranking Pennsylvania second only to Michigan in terms of economic lockdown impacts. Still, the number of businesses that received federal aid in Pennsylvania for complying with these closures didn't even crack the top 20, leaving many employees seeking jobless benefits in a system too crowded to handle the influx of workers – more than 1.2 million in March and April alone – witnes...

  • Restaurants In Pa. Find Creative Ways To Survive Amid Pandemic Restrictions

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Dec 31, 2020

    It’s been two weeks since Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf banned indoor dining and alcohol sales at restaurants statewide amid an alarming spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. And for many owners, abiding by the rules – devastating as they may be – remains a top priority, even if it challenges everything they know about running a successful business. “We want to do what’s best for the public, and that’s always been our goal in everything we do,” said Jessica Elliot Alaya, co-owner of two restaurants in central Pennsylvania. "It just seems like...

  • Pennsylvania's Population Stagnates As Reapportionment Nears

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Dec 31, 2020

    Pennsylvania netted just 83,000 more residents over the last decade as growth in the state stagnates compared to the southern and western regions of the country. Only 500,000 more Americans live in the Northeast in 2020 as compared to 2010. In Pennsylvania, the total population peaked at 12.8 million in 2018 before settling at 12.78 million this year, according to the most recent U.S. Census estimates published this month. Pennsylvania's stagnation will likely cost the state another...

  • Republican Senators Denounce 'False Hope' of Pa. Legislative Election Reversal

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Dec 10, 2020

    Two Lancaster County Republican senators said Dec. 4 that a campaign from fellow GOP colleagues to change the state’s electors in support of the president gives “false hope” that the Legislature can overturn the results. State Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin said a constitutional provision dating back more than 80 years demands that the state awards its electors to the certified winner of the popular vote. Gov. Tom Wolf confirmed on Nov. 24 that former Vice President Joe Biden etched out a narrow 81,000-vote victory over Donald Trump....

  • Pa. GOP Won't Overrule Popular Vote for Joe Biden, If Certified

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Nov 12, 2020

    Republican leaders in the General Assembly confirmed Friday, Nov. 6, that a certified popular vote victory for former Vice President Joe Biden for the presidency will stand, despite rumors to the contrary still circulating on social media. Pa. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) and House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) told reporters that legislators care only that the state follows election law, no matter the outcome. “Our role is to provide oversight,” Corman said. “Certainly we want to stay with that tradition that the...

  • Pennsylvania Elected Officials Agree To Yearlong Pay Freeze Amid Pandemic

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Oct 22, 2020

    Pennsylvania state government officials delayed their annual pay raise last week in the face of a pandemic-induced revenue shortfall. Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 2487 on Friday that freezes pay for himself, cabinet officials, legislators and department leaders beginning Dec. 1 with expiration set for Nov. 30, 2021. Deferring the annual cost of living adjustment sailed through the Senate last month as lawmakers contend with how to backfill the estimated $5 billion budget deficit. According to Ballotpedia, Pennsylvania lawmakers earn the...

  • Proposed Laws Regarding Solar Power Could Help Dairy Farmers

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Sep 17, 2020

    Proposed legislation enabling electricity credits for community solar panels may just benefit Pennsylvania’s struggling farmers the most. At least, so say the clean energy groups testifying in favor of Pa. House Bill 531 the first week of September. The proposal, under consideration in the Pa. House Consumer Affairs Committee, would allow residents to invest in solar panels installed on open land and receive a credit on their electricity bill as if the units were on their own roofs instead. “There is no question that HB 531 would help...

  • Pa. Supreme Court Bars Trump Campaign From Election Lawsuit

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Sep 10, 2020

    The state’s highest court said neither the president’s reelection campaign – nor the national Republican National Committee – can intervene in a state lawsuit brought against election officials. The split decision comes six weeks after Pa. Senate Democrats sued Pa. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and all 67 county election boards to secure ballot drop boxes, extend counting deadlines for mail-in votes and ensure poll watchers reside in the county in which they plan to serve. The court granted motions from the Senate Republican Caucus...

  • Governor Signals Hope for June NASCAR Race at Pocono

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|May 21, 2020

    Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf said a NASCAR event planned for the Pocono Raceway next month can proceed if the county progresses to the yellow stage of his phased economic reopening plan. “If Monroe County goes to yellow before that race happens and NASCAR, in fact, has the competition without spectators in the stands, and they follow other guidelines to keep the competitors safe, yeah,” he said during a Monday news conference. As of May 22, 18 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will remain in the most restrictive red phase of Wolf’s plan that includes...

  • Pennsylvania's Top Health Official Warns Against GOP Push to Reopen Businesses

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Apr 16, 2020

    Pennsylvania’s top health official warned lawmakers against legislation that would reopen some of the state’s businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine wrote a letter to the General Assembly discouraging passage of Senate Bill 613 because of an amendment that would conform the classification of essential businesses to the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) advisory memorandum, rather than the more restrictive list used by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration....

  • Pennsylvania food secure, still panic buying persists

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Apr 2, 2020

    As Pennsylvania braces for another month of social distancing, state officials pleaded with residents to stop panic buying and supply hoarding. There’s more than enough for everyone, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding says, and there will continue to be thanks to an industry long prepared for the disruptions a viral outbreak can cause. "Pennsylvania's supply chain is solid – farmers, production facilities, and truckers are all still working," Redding said. "Buying more than you need only hurts other Pennsylvanians; it hurts those... Full story

  • Pa. Delays Primary Election Until June 2

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 26, 2020

    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously agreed Tuesday, March 24, on a plan delaying the state’s primary election until June 2 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Senate Bill 422 heads back to the upper chamber for a concurrence vote Wednesday. House lawmakers gutted the original proposal and replaced it with language rescheduling the April 28 election for June 2 on Tuesday afternoon. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they support the move as Gov. Tom Wolf tightens restrictions on public life across the state in response to... Full story

  • Pa. Reconsiders Closing Liquor Stores

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 26, 2020

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Sunday night, March 22, that he’s reconsidering his order to shutter liquor stores as part of the state’s coronavirus mitigation effort. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board closed 600 wine and spirits stores across the state Tuesday, March 17, under Wolf’s social distancing directive. Since then, industry trade groups and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) have raised concerns about blanket shut downs, encouraging Wolf himself to revisit the decision. “We are looking at that very... Full story

  • State Officials Aim To Quell Election Day Concerns Ahead Of Pa. Primary

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 12, 2020

    Pennsylvania State Department officials assured lawmakers that errors and delays will not plague the upcoming April 28 primary, despite the ongoing implementation of sweeping voting reforms enacted last year. “We will be ready,” Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We are working around the clock and we will be ready.” Pennsylvania's primary election is scheduled for April 28. The deadline for registering to vote is April 13. Lawmakers approved mail-in voting via Act 77 in October. The State Depar...

  • Pa.'s Medical Marijuana Program Shortages To Subside

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Mar 5, 2020

    Pennsylvania’s two-year-old medical marijuana program serves 160,000 active patients and, sometimes, keeping products in stock proves challenging. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine says, however, this problem will soon resolve itself. “I think we have one of the best medical marijuana programs in the country,” she told the Senate Appropriations Committee the week of Feb. 24. “This has just been a very ambitious, quick ramp up and this is not a mature industry yet.” Registered patients skyrocketed, Levine said, when the state...

  • Lawmakers Grill Pa. State Police Over Municipality Service Fee

    CHRISTEN SMITH, The Center Square|Feb 27, 2020

    House lawmakers grilled the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) on Feb. 20 over the governor’s proposal to raise $136 million for the agency via municipality service fees that some see as akin to a tax increase. “We were told this is a no-tax-increase budget, but in order to afford this, municipalities will have to probably raise property taxes,” said Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Fayette, during a House Appropriations Committee meeting. “I think it’s up to the municipalities whether they want to raise taxes or find another way to fund it,” PSP...