State Senate passes bill to fund Philly schools

The state Senate this afternoon passed HB 1177, which will provide additional funding for the School District of Philadelphia by implementing a $2 tax on cigarette sales in Philadelphia.

The bill passed by a 39-11 vote. The vote came just a day after the state House approved the bill by a 114-84 vote.

School district officials have called the legislation essential to preventing further layoffs within the district. The bill is expected to provide the funding necessary to make up an $80 million shortfall in the district’s operating budget.

Passage of the bill followed a months-long delay.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who is running for re-election against Democrat Tom Wolf, hailed its passage as a success.

“I am pleased that both chambers have taken action on this legislation so that the Philadelphia School District, and more importantly, the students of Philadelphia, can benefit from it,” Corbett said in a statement released by his press office. “I intend to sign the (bill) into law as soon as it reaches my desk so that the Philadelphia School District has the ability to ensure students have access to a safe and secure learning environment for the remainder of the school year.”

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, D-8, of Philadelphia, said the funding is not enough and called for a greater fix to the city’s funding struggles.

“While this is a significant revenue stream for Philly schools, it is also the epitome of what is wrong with Pennsylvania. We are depending on cigarette smokers to close the financial hole that exists in the city,” Williams said in a statement.  “This commonwealth needs to do much more to reverse course and re-dedicate itself to the mission of public education. We need a modern funding formula that fairly distributes the precious billions in revenue that we now pay to deliver a first-class education.”

 

 

 

McGarrigle touts grassroot campaign marks; other political tidbits

State Senate candidate Tom McGarrigle announced today that his campaign has knocked on 12,000 doors and called 22,000 voters since the Republican formally declared in February.

McGarrigle is campaigning against Democrat John Kane for the open seat in the 26th Senatorial District. Current state Sen. Edwin Erickson, a Republican, is retiring.

“I am committed to meeting with as many voters as possible between now and Election Day,” McGarrigle said in a statement. “I want to know the priorities and concerns of residents across this district and I want them to know my views as well. While there are many social media tools that we use to reach voters, there is no substitute for grassroots campaigning.”

The McGarrigle campaign also announced it has raised more than $1 million in campaign donations and expects to double that amount in the final six weeks of the race, which is expected to be among the most expensive in the state.

State House candidate Chuck Hadley, a Radnor Democrat, is seeking to debate his opponent, state Rep. William Adolph, R-165, of Springfield. In a press release this morning, Hadley suggested holding a series of four debates moderated by a nonpartisan organization. He wants to hold one in each of the communities that comprise the 165th Legislative District.

The endorsement front remains active. The latest endorsement announcements were noted here today in the Daily Times. Other recent endorsement roundups can be found here and here.

Missed the first debate between Gov. Tom Corbett and his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf? Catch a replay here. Or, if you don’t have 50 minutes, read about it here.

Lastly, today is National Voter Registration Day. The League of Women Voters of Delaware County is holding a voter registration event at Delaware County Community College. The nonpartisan organization has several more registration events planned before Oct. 5, the deadline to register in time for the Nov. 4 general election.

 

 

State Senate expects busy fall session

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.

 

 

McGarrigle campaign launches new TV advertisement

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.”

 

Adolph introduces suicide prevention bill in state House

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.

State Rep. Bill Adolph announces legislation designed to prevent suicide.

State Rep. Bill Adolph announces legislation designed to prevent suicide.

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.

John Kane launches TV ad campaign in state Senate bid

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.

 

 

 

Adolph, Hackett hail job growth throughout Pennsylvania

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.”

State Rep. Joe Hackett, R-161, of Ridley Township touts job growth in Pennsylvania at a press conference at East Coast Contractors in Ridley Township Wednesday.

State Rep. Joe Hackett, R-161, of Ridley Township touts job growth in Pennsylvania at a press conference at East Coast Contractors in Ridley Township Wednesday.

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.

F&M poll: Wolf leads Corbett by 25 percentage points

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.

County Council awards contracts

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.

 

 

Full Text: Ronald Tomalis resignation letter

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.

Sincerely,

Ron Tomalis

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