Both chambers of the General Assembly return to Harrisburg from their summer recesses Monday. Here’s a look at what the Senate hopes to accomplish, courtesy of Erik Arneson, spokesman for Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester:
The Senate Appropriations Committee is likely to meet Monday to begin constructing the fall calendar, Arneson said. No final votes are anticipated for Monday; few, if any, will occur on Tuesday.
Perhaps the biggest issue awaiting state lawmakers is legislation to aid the School District of Philadephia. A bill implementing a $2 tax on Philadelphia cigarette sales is pending. The tax would provide funding Philly school officials say is necessary to get through the year without layoffs.
“We’re very optimistic that an agreement will be reached soon on the issue of the Philadelphia cigarette tax, which will provide needed funding to the Philadelphia School District,” Arneson wrote in an email. “HB 1177 is the House right now. Discussions continue to determine the best way to get that bill to the Governor’s desk as quickly as possible.”
Arneson described discussion on pension reform and liquor reform — two priorities of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett — as “ongoing.” The House passed a liquor reform bill last year, but it has not gained the necessary support in the Senate. Various bills have sought to ease the state’s ballooning public pension obligations.
“At this point, no plan has been developed on either issue that has 102 votes in the House and 26 votes in the Senate,” Arneson wrote.
Arneson said several “high-profile” bills could receive votes during the next four weeks, including legislation legalizing medical marijuana, amending the state’s Open Records law, revising the Act 47 distressed municipalities law and addressing rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.
Altogether, Arneson said hundreds of bills could see possible action this fall. He noted 68 new laws were enacted during this same stretch last year.
A new television advertisement for Republican state Senate candidate Tom McGarrigle is expected to begin running today.
The ad praises McGarrigle for the role he and Delaware County Council played in saving jobs when three regional refineries, including two in Delaware County, were faced with closure in 2011. It features Andrea Devenney sharing the uncertainty she felt in the months leading to their impending closures.
“When I first found out the refineries were closing, there was fear,” Devenny says in the ad. “How am I going to pay the bills? Will my husband find another job? Because of leaders like Tom McGarrigle, thousands of people are back to work.”
A bipartisan group of local, state and federal officials helped find buyers for the former ConocoPhillips refinery in Trainer and the former Sunoco refinery in South Philadelphia. A buyer was never found for Sunoco’s former refinery in Marcus Hook, which awaits a possible future involving Marcellus shale.
McGarrigle, the owner of an auto repair shop and the chairman of county council, is running against Democrat John Kane for the open seat in the 26th Senatorial District. Kane, the business manager of Plumbers Union Local 690, debuted his first television ad on Wednesday.
The new McGarrigle ad, dubbed “Thanks for Believing,” is the second aired by his campaign. He launched his first ad in late May. It featured him working in his auto repair shop and discussing the values instilled by his late mother.
McGarrigle, of Springfield, said he met Devenny last winter at the 75th Anniversary party for IBEW Local 654. Devenny thanked him for helping save her husband’s job, McGarrigle said.
“I think it shows that the rank and file know who went out there and helped and who marched down Market Street,” McGarrigle said, referencing a November 2011 march through Marcus Hook by union workers facing job loss.
McGarrigle said he did everything he could on his behalf for the refinery workers.
“I’m not telling voters what I plan to do,” McGarrigle said. “I have a record and the record is clear.”
Kane campaign spokesman Aren Platt issued a statement in response to McGarrigle’s new ad.
“Tom McGarrigle knows that there are dozens of politicians and community leaders who played a bigger hand in keeping the refineries open than he did,” Platt said. “But, like a typical politician, he’s taking credit for something he didn’t do to try to win an election. If he wants to go toe-to-toe with John Kane about who has created more working and middle class jobs, bring it on — as a business manager, John Kane has literally created thousands of jobs across the region.”
State Rep. William Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, announced Thursday that he has introduced legislation designed to help prevent suicide, the 11th leading cause of death in Pennsylvania.
The Matt Adler Suicide Prevention Act would require state-licensed psychologists, social workers, professional counselors and marriage and family therapists to dedicate at least one hour of their continuing education requirements to the assessment, treatment and management of suicide risk.
“Many of these professionals already do a great job with helping those at risk get the proper treatment,” Adolph said. “However, the intent of this legislation is help strengthen our providers awareness of the growing problem of suicide.”
Pennsylvania recorded 1,747 deaths by suicide in 2011, the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s 13.71 percent suicide rate was a tick higher than the national rate of 12.68 percent. Delaware County had 66 suicides in 2013, according to county officials.
The bill was prompted by Gary and Phyllis Adler, a pair of Adolph’s constituents whose son, Matt, died of suicide in 2011 in Seattle.
The bill has received 41 co-sponsors from both parties.
Adolph, like all members of the state House, is up for re-election. He is opposed by Democrat Charles Hadley.
Check the Daily Times for more information.
State Senate candidate John Kane has launched his first television advertisement, a 30-second spot that features his family explaining his educational values.
Kane, the business manager of Plumbers Union Local 690, is running against Republican Tom McGarrigle, the owner of an auto repair shop and the chairman of Delaware County Council, for the open seat in the 26th Senatorial District.
The ad notes Kane’s support to tax natural gas drillers to fund education. Specifically, Kane pledges to “put back the billion dollars Corbett cut from education and make sure corporations and natural gas drillers pay their fair share.” He also mentions his intention to close the Delaware loophole, which allows companies to avoid paying state corporate taxes by incorporating in Delaware.
The Kane campaign said the ad will be broadcast on both network and cable television. It also will be used online.
“I am incredibly proud of this ad, and so happy that my family was able to join me in making it,” Kane said in a statement furnished by his campaign. “As I cross the district, knocking on doors and talking to voters, I hear over and over again that people are angry that their schools are not getting the funding they need and their property taxes are going up, while corporations and shale drillers are getting sweetheart deals.”
McGarrigle launched his own television ad campaign May 30. His ad, dubbed “Beginnings,” featured him working in his auto repair shop and discussing the values instilled in him by his late mother. His campaign has not aired a followup ad.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, referenced in the ad, has refuted claims that he cut the state education budget by $1 billion in 2011, noting the funding cuts resulted from expired federal funding. He has refused to impose an extraction tax on natural gas drillers, but approved an impact fee.
Corbett is facing Democrat Tom Wolf in a re-election bid in which polls cast him as a heavy underdog.
State Reps. Joe Hackett, R-161, of Ridley Township, and William Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, heralded Pennsylvania’s job creation statistics Wednesday, claiming hard work and smart decisions made by both the public and private sector has sparked job growth.
Led by the booming natural gas industry, Pennsylvania has gained 123,321 jobs since 2011, Adolph said, citing numbers prepared by the House Appropriations Committee. Delaware County has gained 6,900 jobs.
The state unemployment rating stands at 5.7 percent — a 2.4 point drop from Jan. 2011, according to statistics from the state Department of Labor and Industry. Delaware County’s unemployment rate is 5.5 percent — a 2.6 point decline.
“It didn’t happen because it happened,” Adolph said. “It happened because good legislation was passed. Four straight budgets with no tax increases.”
Adolph pointed to legislation that reformed workers compensation by eliminating regulations that forced shipbuilders to pay for duplicative insurance policies for employees. He noted the Inheritance Tax Elimination bill, which exempted from the tax all assets of family-owned businesses being transferred to another family member. He also heralded the reduction of the state’s capital stock and franchise tax.
“You didn’t even have to make a profit and you were still paying a heavy tax,” Adolph said. “Slowly, but surely, we are phasing that capital stock tax out.”
The state lawmakers — who are each up for re-election — held their press conference at East Coast Contractors, a Ridley Township pipe and metal fabricating company that severely cut its workforce in 2011, when two Delaware County refineries were threatened with closure. The company reduced its staff to six full-time employees, but has since rebounded to employ about 35 full-time workers.
“While there was direct involvement in bringing these plants back to life, sound state fiscal policy and reasonable spending by state government has helped to make Pennsylvania and Delaware County an attractive place to do business,” Hackett said. “Our commonwealth is making world headlines on the energy front with the production of Marcellus Shale’s natural gas exploration in our state. This fact has played a role in the resurrection of the refineries in our area and contributed to the success story of East Coast.”
Hackett, a former police officer, is running for his third term in Harrisburg against Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky, a Swarthmore businesswoman.
Adolph, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was first elected in 1988. Earlier this month, he gained a new Democratic opponent in Charles Hadley, a retired venture capitalist who replaced Jeremy Fearn on the ballot.
Hadley, of Radnor, and Krueger-Braneky each released statements critical of Pennsylvania’s job growth and the education policies of incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. They pointed to statistics, compiled by Arizona State University, that ranked Pennsylvania 42nd in job growth — down significantly from its No. 7 ranking in January 2011.
“If Rep. Adolph thinks Pennsylvanians should be happy with abysmal job growth, a billion dollars less funding for our schools and higher property taxes and gas taxes for motorists to boot, he should get out of the Harrisburg bubble,” Hadley said. “Because that equation doesn’t work for Delaware County.”
Krueger-Braneky’s statement blamed state Republicans for underfunding schools, causing property taxes to increase.
“This didn’t have to happen,” Krueger-Braneky said. “Hackett and Corbett chose to support the gas drillers over our schools. … If Joe Hackett stopped wasting time on smoke-and-mirror press conferences, maybe he could stand up to Corbett and help middle class families in Delaware County.”
Unlike Corbett, who opposes an extraction tax on natural gas, Hackett has said he would support a 5 percent extraction tax if it enabled senior citizens to freeze their property taxes. Adolph also has said he supports an extraction tax.
Democrat Tom Wolf holds a 25-point advantage over Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in the gubernatorial race, according to the latest poll released by Franklin & Marshall College.
The poll, released today, shows Wolf beating Corbett, 49 percent to 24 percent. That marked a two-point increase from the last F&M poll, released in June.
The poll also showed that 61 percent of Pennsylvania voters believe the state is on the wrong track. Only 26 percent of those polled found Corbett to be performing sufficiently well enough to deserve re-election in November.
To view the poll, click here.
Delaware County Council awarded a series of contracts Wednesday, including a three-year deal with First Choice Medical Supply to furnish and deliver new linens for Fair Acres Geriatric Center at a cost of $239,000 per year.
The nursing facility, located in Middletown, accommodates more than 900 residents living in five residential buildings on the 210-acre property.
Council also awarded a one-year contract to Petroleum Traders Company, of Indiana, to furnish and deliver gasoline and diesel fuel for an estimated $428,471. Council also approved contracts totaling $37,507 to various janitorial suppliers — T. Frank McCall’s, Inc., Calico Industries, Office Basics and Paragon.
Below is the full text of Ronald Tomalis’ resignation letter. Tomalis, a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, resigned as a special adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett today following accusations of being a ghost employee making $140,000 a year. The letter:
August 12, 2014
Carolyn Dumaresq, Ed.D.
Acting Secretary of Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street, 10th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126
Dear Madam Secretary:
It has been a great pleasure and honor to serve and assist you, fellow members of your leadership team at the Department, and the Administration in implementing many of the Governor’s accomplishments in education. I know of your pride in the significant progress in many of these initiatives and I am extremely grateful to have assisted you in these efforts.
However, as you also know, I have been engaged in conversations with other organizations regarding new opportunities, and given recent events, I believe it is in the best interest of the Administration that I resign my position with the Commonwealth, effective August 26, 2014, to pursue those endeavors.
In addition to serving as an adviser to you on many critical issues, notably and certainly not all inclusive, I have also appreciated having the ability to oversee or assist in the:
- Re-establishment, after having been eliminated in earlier years, of the Governor’s Schools program, most notably the two recent additions of the School for Engineering and Technology at Lehigh University and the School for Agriculture at Penn State University;
- Creation and development of the Pennsylvania high school STEM competition, which will bring together students from all across the Commonwealth to showcase the important opportunities in STEM-related fields;
- Evaluation of the Department’s role in the approval and rigorous oversight of Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools;
- Development of the Governor’s Ready to Succeed Scholarship program – enacted with this year’s budget —to provide financial assistance to middle-income higher education students in Pennsylvania; and
- Evaluation and potential application of many of the recommendations of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education, albeit as you know somewhat constricted due to the ongoing difficulties associated with the Commonwealth budget.
Again, it has truly been an honor to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth and the Corbett Administration.
Ronald Tomalis, who served as the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education from 2010-2013, resigned Tuesday as a special adviser on higher education to Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
Tomalis had come under fire for allegedly being a ghost employee while being paid a salary of nearly $140,000. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Tomalis maintained a minimal schedule, averaged about one phone call per day and sent just five emails.
He had served as a special adviser since stepping down as the state education secretary in June 2013.
Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq announced Tomalis’ resignation in a press release this afternoon.
“Ron has truly been an asset to me and the department since I assumed the role of education secretary,” Dumaresq said. “He has been instrumental in overseeing the creation and re-establishment of important educational programs that benefit the students of the commonwealth. I wish him all the best.”
Dumaresq said Tomalis also worked on various education initiatives, including the Ready to Succeed Scholarship program, the upcoming Pennsylvania STEM Competition and re-establishing three Governor’s Schools.
She included Tomalis’ resignation letter as part of the press release.
Tomalis wrote that it was a “great pleasure and honor” to help implement various education initiatives promoted by Corbett. In addition to his work cited by Dumaresq, Tomalis also noted his involvement in evaluating the Department of Education’s role in overseeing cyber charter schools.
“However, as you also know, I have been engaged in conversations with other organizations regarding new opportunities, and given recent events, I believe it is in the best interest of the Administration that I resign my position with the Commonwealth, effective August 26, 2014, to pursue those endeavors,” Tomalis wrote.
Corbett, who is facing a gubernatorial challenge from Democrat Tom Wolf, also released a statement thanking Tomalis for his service.
“Ron has been committed to Pennsylvania’s education system since the early days of my administration,” said Governor Tom Corbett. “He has worked closely with Secretary Dumaresq and the Department of Education to shape programs and policies that are in the best interest of students. I thank him for his work and commitment to education.”
House Republican leaders cancelled a vote on a Philadelphia cigarette tax that would provide critical funding to the School District of Philadelphia, citing a lack of consensus on the proposal.
A special summer session had been slated for Monday to consider the proposal, which would have placed a $2 tax on all cigarette packs sold in Philadelphia. The tax was expected to raise as much as $45 million in revenue for the beleaguered district, which has a $93 million budget gap.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said earlier this month that the district would have to lay off employees or consider delaying the start of the school year.
State Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, issued a statement Thursday afternoon criticizing the decision to cancel the special session. Adolph serves as the majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Here is Adolph’s statement in full:
“I am extremely disappointed the House will not be returning to complete the unfinished business that is necessary to give the Philadelphia School District the resources they need to educate more than 200,000 students in the Commonwealth’s largest school district.
“Ensuring our state’s largest school district opens on time is something for which we should all accept some responsibility. I am very frustrated that we could not reach agreement on the language that was added by the Senate. It is my opinion that since there was no agreement on the issues added to HB1177, the funding of Philadelphia schools should have remained an isolated issue and voted on its own merits.
“The will of the House in regard to the enabling legislation for the School District of Philadelphia was expressed in the initial passage of House Bill 1177 on July 2. I believe there are other avenues that can be used to advance the extraneous issues added to House Bill 1177.
“Along with several other legislative leaders, I have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks to find consensus and build support in the Legislature for this proposal. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach that consensus in time to consider the legislation for the scheduled session days on August 4th, 5th and 6th.
“I remain optimistic a solution can still be reached. However, time is of the essence and I will continue to work so that the schools will be able to open their doors on time.”