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Election recap: Wolf, more GOP lawmakers headed to Harrisburg

Pennsylvania voters elected a new governor yesterday, opting to replace the Republican incumbent, Tom Corbett, with Democrat Tom Wolf.

Despite their decision to send Corbett packing, voters also increased the GOP’s majorities in both the state House and state Senate. So don’t expect Wolf to waltz into Harrisburg and quickly push across his agenda.

The Republican majority in the state Senate grew by three votes, giving the GOP a 30-20 edge. That came despite a Democratic push to regain control of the chamber for the time since 1994. That played out prominently in Delaware County, where Republican Tom McGarrigle won the open seat in the 26th District, a $4 million race in which he topped Democrat John Kane by four points.

The GOP majority in the state House — which was never in jeopardy — grew by eight votes. Republicans now hold 119 seats to the Dems’ 84.

Here’s a recap of what happened yesterday among Delaware County’s state lawmakers:

26th Senatorial District
Tom McGarrigle, R, 44,870
John Kane, D, 41,544

159th Legislative District
Michael Ciach, R, 3,793
Thaddeus Kirkland, D, 8,827

160th Legislative District
Stephen Barrar, R, 13,058
Whitney Hoffman, D, 7,850

161st Legislative District
Joe Hackett, R, 12,612
Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D, 9,916

163rd Legislative District
Jamie Santora, R, 11,362
Vince Rongione, D, 9,963

164th Legislative District
Saud Siddiqui, R, 3,011
Margo Davidson, D, 12,164

165th Legislative District
William Adolph, R, 15,293
Charles Hadley, D, 8,382

166th Legislative District
Sarah Armstrong, R, 8,007
Greg Vitali, D, 13,814

Results are unofficial.

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ICYMI: A brief recap of the week in Delaware County politics

A Haverford native was selected today to become the new head of the Secret Service.

Joseph Clancy, 59, was tapped by President Barack Obama to replace Julia Pierson, who resigned as director Wednesday as criticism mounted regarding multiple security breaches. The most prominent breach occurred Sept. 19, when a knife-wielding man scaled the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue and made it into the executive mansion before being stopped. Revelations also surfaced this week that Obama had shared an Atlanta elevator with an armed guard who was not authorized to be around him.

More on Clancy’s selection here.

Of course, election season is in full swing and there’s been a plethora of election news over the last couple days. I’ve spent much of that time in training sessions for a new computer program we’re using, but here’s a recap of what’s gone on:

Delco Republican Party Chairman Andy Reilly and Delco Democratic Party Chairman David Landau joined Daily Times editor Phil Heron last night for Live From the Newsroom, where they broke down the general election. Catch a replay of it here.

State Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, hosted a panel discussion on college affordability Wednesday at Villanova University. Education is among the hottest issues this election season and has been a major talking point in Adolph’s re-election bid against Democrat Chuck Hadley. More on the panel discussion here.

The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee filed a complaint against state Senate candidate Tom McGarrigle regarding his campaign magnets. The SDCC claimed the McGarrigle campaign violated election code by distributing magnets that did not include fine print noting who had financed or authorized them. More on that here.

Gov. Tom Corbett and his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, squared off in their second debate yesterday morning. Once again, education was a key subject. Corbett also addressed the pornographic videos and images his employees allegedly exchanged while he was the state attorney general. Details here.

Lastly, a Republican candidate for the open 28th Senatorial District wants state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, out as majority leader. That news is here. Meanwhile, Pileggi told a Delco business group that a bill eliminating property taxes is unlikely to become law and also appeared alongside Corbett to praise the passage of David’s Law, which seeks to combat heroin overdoses.

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.”

 

 

 

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.

Rep. Adolph disappointed by decision to cancel vote to fund Philadelphia schools

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.”

 

Adolph unveils amended GOP budget proposal

State Rep. William Adolph, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, unveiled an amended budget proposal today in Harrisburg.

The $29.1 billion spending plan, proposed as an amendment to House Bill 2328, includes a 1.9 percent spending increase from last year’s budget. It assumes 3.2 percent revenue growth – the same growth as projected by the Independent Fiscal Office, said Adolph, R-165, of Springfield.

The budget will be balanced using a “series of transfers, lapses and other revenue options,” Adolph said when he unveiled the plan.

It also includes increases to public education and human services.

“This is not the end of discussions and I’m sure the Senate will make some changes to this plan,” Adolph said. “But this is an important step forward to getting a fourth, on-time general appropriations budget.”

The budget proposal was approved by the House Appropriations Committee earlier today.

The proposal includes a $323 million increase to K-12 education, including an additional $70 million more for basic education and another $20 million for special education. It also allocates an extra $8.7 to the Pre-K Counts program, which will serve another 1,453 children.

Funding for all higher education programs remains flat, though a new $5 million line item was added to award middle income students merit-based grants.

The budget for the Department of Public Welfare increased by 1.6 percent, which Adolph said was due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and other federally-mandated costs. It also commits an additional $10.4 million to the Department of Environmental Protection and increases line items for domestic violence programs by 10 percent.

“This is a solid spending plan that puts the priorities of our citizens firsts and makes sure that we are being good fiscal stewards of taxpayer money,” Adolph said.