Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Dog kennel hearing

Coverage for today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

HARRISBURG — Kennel owners told a House committee Thursday that a proposed overhaul of commercial dog laws in Pennsylvania would go too far.

“We don’t support a bill that makes it easy to criminalize largely law-abiding people,” said Rob Sexton, vice president of government affairs for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, which includes members who raise hunting dogs.

Proposed criminal and civil penalties of up to $1,000 against violators are too steep, Sexton said.

“Treating all licensed kennels the same (with fines) would mean financial ruin to many, if not all, kennels.”

Read the rest on Pittsburgh Live. Image courtesy.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Illegal immigration rally

Rally coverage from yesterday for today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

HARRISBURG — As the Pennsylvania General Assembly plunges into its annual budget negotiations, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is focusing on what is becoming his signature concern: immigration reform.

“The illegal alien issue in Pennsylvania is costing taxpayers millions of dollars,” the Butler County Republican said. “So I think the budget season is the perfect time to announce this legislation.”

Metcalfe held a rally in the Capitol on Wednesday to introduce two bills that would levy legal and economic sanctions against local governments that violate federal immigration law by supporting people who come into Pennsylvania illegally, whom Metcalfe has called “illegal alien invaders.”

Read the rest on Pittsburgh Live here. Image from previous rally in Philadelphia, courtesy Diggers Realm.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Rendell and furloughing payment

This written yesterday for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

HARRISBURG — Nearly all state employees termed “essential” would be paid even if there is no budget in place after the June 30 deadline, a treasury department official said today.

The testimony from Leo Pandeladis, chief counsel of the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury, came in response to questions about Senate-passed legislation that would term all state workers essential in a budget impasse.

The purpose of the hearing was to determine the legal standing for furloughing of “nonessential” state employees by Gov. Ed Rendell if the General Assembly doesn’t pass a budget by the deadline, said state Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola, chairman of the committee.

Rendell last week threatened to furlough more than 24,000 workers at 12:01 a.m. on July 1.

Read the rest on Pittsburgh Live.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Casino grows, financing looms

Written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

HARRISBURG — The cost of the planned North Shore casino continues to rise and owner Don Barden still does not have enough money in place to finish construction, his spokesman said this morning.

Barden said he’s “not worried” about getting the money when he spoke to members of the state Gaming Control Board at their regular monthly meeting today. He still expects to open the Majestic Star Casino in May 2009.

“It’s moving along at just a terrific pace,” Barden told the board, adding that he could not provide specifics on his attempts to secure financing.

Read more on Pittsburgh Live. Image courtesy.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Kilbuck landslide

A double byline today with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review…

HARRISBURG — The state Department of Environmental Protection would need to approve excavation in geologically sensitive areas, under legislation recommended Monday by a legislative panel in response to the September 2006 Kilbuck landslide.

A developer was working on the site of the former Dixmont State Hospital when the slide dumped 500,000 cubic yards of debris onto Route 65, snarling traffic for two weeks and disrupting interstate train travel on adjacent tracks for days. Wal-Mart, which planned a superstore at the site, has abandoned plans to develop the property and is working to stabilize the site.

The landslide apparently occurred because of slide-prone geological conditions and blasting the day before, according to a report issued by the panel.

The task force chaired by Democratic Rep. Tom Petrone of Crafton issued a 130-page report recommending legislation to prevent similar incidents. Petrone said he would file the legislation this month and predicted the odds for its passage are “excellent.”

Read more on Pittsburgh Live. Image courtesy.

Those who don't want to pay I-80 tolls in Pennsylvania

Filed for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

HARRISBURG — Tolling Pennsylvania’s portion of Interstate 80 would create an “economic Chernobyl” in areas along the interstate, a Bloomsburg businessman said.

Paul Eyerly, president of Press Enterprises, was one of the two dozen people who rallied at the state Capitol Monday to oppose tolling I-80.

“We’re going to drive people away from Pennsylvania,” state Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Altoona, said.

A few of the rally’s 25 attendees attacked Act 44 — a transportation funding law from last July that would institute I-80 tolls.

The groups, including truckers, cited congestion and loss of business as reasons to repeal Act 44.

Under Act 44, I-80 tolls would help raise nearly $1 billion annually for transportation infrastructure. Lawmakers would need to find a funding source if Act 44 is overturned.

The federal government hasn’t approved tolling the interstate.

“I have never seen legislation that so threatened my business,” said Pat Kahle, whose grandfather founded Zacherl Motor Truck Sales in 1940. His company is just off I-80 in Clarion, and he fears truckers will find ways to avoid I-80 and so choose other truck parts providers. “Customers will absolutely bypass us.”

See it on Pittsburgh Live.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Rendell and furloughs

A double byline for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

HARRISBURG — A showdown over Gov. Ed Rendell’s threat to furlough more than 24,000 state workers on July 1 is set for Tuesday.

A Republican state senator will grill administration officials about the threatened furloughs of “noncritical” employees if a state budget is not in place by June 30.

During a budget impasse with Republican legislators last year, Rendell furloughed nearly 25,000 state workers on July 9, resulting in a one-day closure of state parks, driver’s license centers and state environmental permitting services.

That move contributed to a budget agreement signed into law seven days later. Critics called the furloughs unnecessary and said Rendell used them as leverage to get a state spending plan more to his liking.

More on Pittsburgh Live. Image courtesy.

State government comes down to vandalism

Take a break from state property taxes, the state smoking ban proposal and Philadelphia exemption for a moment and enjoy some good old vandalism.

HARRISBURG — The phone and power lines were cut in the district office of state Rep. Jim Marshall, R-Beaver, just before 4 a.m. today.

“Somebody had to know what they were doing,” said Gina Kane, the manager of Marshall’s office at 1612 7th Ave in Beaver Falls. “Everything was cut except for the main power line, which would have electrocuted them pretty good.”

Kane found the office’s electrical box on the ground near the rear employee entrance when she arrived at 8:20 this morning. It was confirmed by the office’s phone service provider that service was cut at 3:47 a.m., Kane said.

Nothing was taken and police found no evidence of forced entry, she said.

By 10:30 power was returned and by noon all office activities had resumed.

Police noted a string of burglary attempts over the past two weeks in the area and the office’s alarm could have scared those involved, Kane said.

“But they didn’t even try to get in here.”

Read it on Pittsburgh Live. Photo courtesy of Ironic Sans.

Statewide smoking ban passes conference committee

I covered a Pennsylvania House-Senate conference committee hearing on a statewide smoking ban this morning for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

HARRISBURG — A House-Senate conference committee today approved a statewide smoking ban, but a member of the panel blasted the agreement, saying it amounted to telling Allegheny County to “go to hell.”

The agreement must be approved by the full House and Senate. It carves out a partial exemption for casinos and some bars.”

Read the rest on Pittsburgh Live.

It marks a laborious, 10-month joint effort to find compromise between a state Senate and more restrictive state House bill. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, made note of the long process.

This has probably been the longest [conference committee] in the history of the commonwealth.”

Hear Greenleaf speak on a statewide ban last month.