Post-Gazette: Municipalities to pay for state police under bill

Breaking news Web item for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, full story in tomorrow’s paper.

HARRISBURG – Municipalities with more than 10,000 residents that rely on state police for law enforcement would have to dig deeper into their pockets under legislation proposed today by two Democratic state legislators from Westmoreland County.

House Bill 2563, introduced by Rep. John E. Pallone, would require all communities with more than 10,000 people to either establish a local police force or pay an annual fee of $100 per resident for state police protection.

“This is a basic issue of safety,” Mr. Pallone said at a news conference. “State police are stretched way too thin.”

State police now provide police protection for hundreds of smaller towns around the state that don’t have their own municipal police forces.

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Sean Blanda launches Consumer Whore, changes the balance of commerce forever

It was sometime in the summer of 2008, history books will one day read, that media mogul, Internet Jesus and a hetero-life mate of mine, Sean Blanda launched another in a long line of his Web-savvy projects, Consumer

Every day the site features something strange and moderately accessible fiscally for you to buy. Already, I imagine, Blanda is being overrun with ideas and fodder.

Now if only he can turn a buck on the product. I suggested selling a spot on the blog to the highest bidder, but, you see, Blanda has far higher ethical standards than I realized even exist. Good for him and his dad.

He announced his role in Consumer Whore on his popular media blog on Saturday.

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Post-Gazette: State's $28 billion budget agreement

This a double byline with Tom Barnes, as appearing in the July 1, 2008 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.This is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

HARRISBURG — Even though a handshake agreement was reached early yesterday on a new $28.2 billion state budget that calls for no tax increases, the House and Senate won’t take final action for several days.

Legislators’ goal is to vote by late Thursday, so they can be home on July Fourth for parades, picnics and politicking. Because it will take a couple of days to print and proofread the hundreds of pages of the document, and because the House sometimes waits for 24 hours before a final vote on bills, it’s unknown if the lawmakers will be back home Friday.

Another question is how many of the 100 amendments that House Republicans have prepared will be debated on the floor. Lengthy debate could delay final action by a day or more.

“People are hoping to have the budget all done by Thursday, so everyone can get out by July 4. It’s a heavy lift, but it can be done,” said Gary Tuma, spokesman for Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, one of the Senate budget negotiators.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2008-09 is 3.8 percent higher than the spending package for the just-ended fiscal year, an increase that is near the rate of inflation. That was important to Senate Republicans, who objected to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell’s original budget of $28.3 billion, which would have increased state spending about 4.2 percent.

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Photo of  House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, right, and House Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon courtesy of from AP photographer Carolyn Kaster.

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Post-Gazette: Environment, energy in budget deal

I contributed to this report by Bill Toland, as appeared in the July 1, 2008 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.This is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

Part of yesterday’s budget deal included a rough agreement to spend $650 million on environment- and energy-related programs, $500 million of which will come from new borrowing over two years.

From the pot of $500 million, $180 million will be spent on solar power — $100 million to help residents and businesses install solar power equipment, and $80 million for capital projects relating to recruiting solar energy companies and jobs.

An additional $165 million over two years is earmarked for alternative energy projects, distributed through the Commonwealth Financing Authority, an agency that administers a variety of economic stimulus packages. On top of that, $40 million goes to the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership (a risk-capital investor attached with the state); $25 million goes toward the construction of “green” buildings; and $25 million more goes to help coal companies reduce their mercury emissions.

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Capitol Wire: Keystone Opportunity Zone program extended, expanded by Senate

This is my last story covering the State Capitol for Capitol Wire, a service for which you don’t have a subscription, so I can only give you a taste. This is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

HARRISBURG (June 30) Builders developing underused parts of Pennsylvania would continue to see breaks from certain state and local taxes under a bill that passed the Senate on Saturday.

Senate Bill 1412, sponsored by Sen. John Pippy, R-Allegheny, would reauthorize Pennsylvania’s Keystone Opportunity Zone program, extending the tax-free status for unoccupied zones for an additional seven years, beyond the current Dec. 31, 2008 expiration date. Municipalities must opt into the extended program by July 31, 2009.

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Leaving the Capitol at 10:30 P.M. on a Sunday

Ah, the Harrisburg State Capitol at night with a gentle rain.

Pennsylvania  2008-2009 budget negotiations are continuing through the night as tomorrow’s June 30 midnight deadline approaches.

In my last day with Capitol Wire, I stayed until after 10 P.M. When was the last time you stayed at work that late on a Sunday?

The life of a journalist, eh?

Image courtesy of SIOR.

Number of Views:2480

The Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents' Association: a brief history

Back row from left: David Spett, Intern; Tony Romeo, KYW Newsradio; Matt Spolar, Intern; Brad Bumsted, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; Christopher Wink, Intern; John Baer, Philadelphia Daily News; Mario Cattabiani, Philadelphia Inquirer; Front row from left: profile of Chuck Ardo, Rendell spokesman; Alex Roarty,; Angela Couloumbis, Philadelphia Inquirer; Jan Murphy, Patriot-News; Kari Andren, Intern; Chris Lilienthal,

I have mentioned that I am currently serving one of the great internships that still remain in the newspaper industry these days. For 12-weeks, I am getting $500 every Friday to cover the largest full-time State Legislature in the country in the Capitol of Harrisburg, Pa.

When I am done at the end of August, I will have reported with top-flight state political reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Allentown Morning-Call, the Harrisburg Patriot-News and the online-only subscription service Capitolwire.

What unites them all is that they are members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association. The nearly 115-year-old organization doesn’t do much to promote itself because it is mostly an informal collection of members from a struggling industry, so I didn’t know much about it when I got here.

I have learned plenty and thought many might be interested, too.

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The 10 most attractive women in the country, seriously

*Addition(s) amended

Care for a sophomoric distraction?

People magazine or someone came out with another one of those Sexiest Man Alive lists. You know where Brad Pitt or George Clooney or Matt Damon get credited with being attractive because its their job.

Well, in preparation for Sunday when I will be waiting for state budget negotiations to move along, I just did something I tend to avoid: wasting time with something incredibly meaningless to me.

But people love lists and beautiful women, so it seems perfect.

The most common traits of those listed include that I know absolutely nothing about their personal lives and have judged them entirely in the superficial context of TV and public opinion.

In no particular order, here’s a compilation of the 10 female celebrities I find the most attractive.

Lara Logan

Lara Logan: The Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS News is beautiful, brilliant and British (okay, so actually South African, but alliteration is key here). She has to be the go-to choice for anyone making a list as ridiculous as this and wanting to retain some semblance of self-respect.

See others below the fold, you know you want to…

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Number of Views:13562

Capitol Wire: Professor calls leasing the turnpike "risky" at hearing

I continue to cover the State Capitol for Capitol Wire, a service for which you don’t have a subscription, so I can only give you a taste. This is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association.

HARRISBURG (June 27) – Leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the current financial market was called “risky, volatile and unpredictable” by one professor who studied the proposal and spoke at a House Transportation Committee hearing Thursday.

“Why sell your prize asset in a buyer’s market?” Dr. Patrick J. Cusatis, an assistant professor of finance at the Harrisburg campus of the Pennsylvania State University, asked the committee.

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Number of Views:2658