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Welcome Message

Welcome to PAMatters.com, a joint effort by Radio Pennsylvania and TFM Advertising. Since 2011, we have provided you with important news and information from the state capital and around the Commonwealth, as well as given you access to the governor of Pennsylvania.

The Governor stops by every month to answer your emails and discuss the issues with Radio PA’s Brad Christman. Exclusive video clips can be found here and you can also use PAMatters.com to submit your own question for the governor. Due to the high volume of emails, we will not be able to answer every question on the website, but if your question is brief, pertinent and thought-provoking, you’ll have an excellent chance of becoming part of the Ask the Governor program! You can submit a question right now using the ASK THE GOVERNOR link at the top of this page, or email us at AsktheGov@pamatters.com. Please include your full name and town. Anonymous questions will not be considered for the program. Remember, brevity is the key to being part of the show, so make your questions quick and to the point!

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Our motto is: People, Politics, Pennsylvania.

Note that the PEOPLE come first!

New Voter ID Requirements?

SURPRISE! Tomorrow is an election day.

Now, don’t feel bad if you weren’t aware that Pennsylvanians go to the polls in the 2011 Primary Election tomorrow, May 17th. The fact is that these off-year elections generally draw less than 1 in 5 voters to the polls, despite a myriad of local races that may actually have more impact on our daily lives than the statewide and national elections that draw us out in droves.

On Tuesday, you’ll be picking party candidates for two statewide judicial seats, one on the Commonwealth Court and one on the Superior Court. For Commonwealth Court, each party has two candidates on the ballot. Republicans will choose between Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto and Anne Covey, an employment and labor law attorney. Democrats will choose from attorneys Kathryn Boockvar and Barbara Behrend Ernsberger. Ernsberger was the Democratic nominee for Commonwealth Court in 2009, but lost out to Republican Patricia McCullough.

For Superior Court, the GOP candidates are former PA Deputy Attorney General Vic Stabile and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick, while Democrat Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge David Wecht is running unopposed for his party’s nomination.

The winners on Tuesday face off for the judicial seats this November.

Also of note on Tuesday, incumbent Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is facing a Democratic primary challenge from the older brother of former Mayor John Street. T. Milton Street is 71 years old and was just released from federal prison last year after serving more than two years for tax evasion. Street is also a former state lawmaker, serving in the PA House in the late 70s and the Senate in the early 80s. Nutter is seeking a 2nd term as Philadelphia’s 98th mayor.

Republicans in Philadelphia may be pinning their slim mayoral hopes on a Democrat-turned-Republican who still has strong ties with her former party. Karen Brown has the backing of the city GOP and faces real estate agent John Featherman for the Republican nomination.

Again, look for a variety of local races on your ballot tomorrow. Mayors, town councils, school boards, county commissioners…these are all positions that have a profound impact on your daily life. Don’t ignore these important races, and rest assured, you’re very unlikely to have to wait in line to vote in this election!

Surgery

Gov. Corbett’s Back Surgery a Success

Governor Tom Corbett should be up and walking later this evening, and his surgeons expect a full recovery. Corbett suffered from spinal stenosis, a common condition which is marked by a narrowing of the spinal cord. The lower back procedure was conducted at Allegheny General Hospital, and lasted about an hour and a half. In a media briefing, Dr. Mark Fye said Corbett is taking pain medications and will likely have discomfort in his back for the next few days. “Our goal is to get him home to Shaler as soon as possible.”

Gov. Tom Corbett

Governor Tom Corbett

Dr. Fye expects the governor will be discharged on Tuesday. A statement released by Governor Corbett’s office indicates that he will recuperate for a few days at his home in suburban Pittsburgh, and should return to Harrisburg within the week. Lt. Governor Jim Cawley briefly assumed the duties of acting governor while Corbett was under anesthesia, but Corbett resumed the powers of the office around 10:30am.

The most common cause of spinal stenosis is the natural aging process. Corbett’s office says tests confirm the 61-year-old governor is otherwise in excellent health.

KQV contributed to this report.

Advocates Hope Legislation Can Sound the Alarm on a Silent Killer

Advocates hope legislation can sound the alarm on a silent killer — carbon monoxide (CO). SB920 would require that most homes be equipped with CO alarms at the time of sale. It would also mandate CO alarms in most multifamily homes and apartment units within one year, if it becomes law. CDC statistics show that from 2000 – 2006 about 600 Pennsylvanians died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute, Don Konkle, adds that CO alarms only cost $20 – 40-bucks. “We think it is a very cheap price to reduce those deaths.”

The prime sponsor Patrick Browne (R-Northampton) recently addressed a Pennsylvania Safe Homes Coalition rally, and shared the story of three people in his district who were hospitalized last month, because they were unaware that a space heater was seeping the deadly gas. Konkle tells us CO is called a ‘silent killer’ because it is colorless, odorless and builds up over time. Specifically, SB920 would apply to homes with fossil fuel-burning heaters or appliances, a fireplace, or an attached garage. It’s been referred to the Urban Affairs and Housing Committee.

 

Capitol Building

State House Republicans’ Budget Bill is Positioned for Debate

State House Republicans’ budget bill is positioned for floor debate the week of May 23rd. Like the plan laid out by Governor Tom Corbett in March, the House GOP budget would spend $27.3-billion dollars and raise no new taxes. Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) says the goal is to have “an on-time, no-tax increase budget” that prioritizes spending within the framework of the governor’s blueprint.

House Republicans have restored $210-million dollars to basic education line items and about $380-million dollars to higher education funding, when compared to Governor Corbett’s proposed cuts. They plan to find the money primarily through targeting a 4% error rate in public welfare programs; it’s a rate they call “conservative.” Rep. Turzai feels confident that they can find $470-million dollars in Department of Public Welfare (DPW) savings. In fact, Turzai suggests it may be the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to waste, fraud and abuse.

Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved the GOP-backed budget plan — along party lines — after nearly three hours of debate. Around that same time, a Senate committee was holding its confirmation hearing with Governor Corbett’s nominee for DPW Secretary. In that hearing, Senators asked Acting Secretary Gary Alexander if the projected savings were viable. Alexander says, “there’s definitely savings. I don’t know if its $400-million at this point. It could be a lot more, it could be less.” He also suggested it will take time to thoroughly review the entire department.

What’s not included in House Republicans’ budget is use of the $500-million dollars in unanticipated tax revenues the state has collected fiscal year-to-date. Rep. Turzai notes that it’s not clear whether the economy will continue to grow, or whether the revenues will continue to come in. However, House Democrats are making this a big budget issue. Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) says there is no rational reason for making Pennsylvania’s working and middle class families suffer, “when we can avoid much of the pain in this budget.”

The budget process is currently on pace to meet the June 30th deadline. If the budget bill passed the House during the week of the 23rd, it could set the stage for negotiations with the Senate and Governor Corbett’s office after Memorial Day.

Texting While Driving

Status of Texting/Cell Phone Bans in the PA Legislature

The State House and Senate are each positioning distracted driving bills to ban the use of handheld cell phones and texting while driving. But, the key difference is enforcement. State Rep. Josh Shapiro (D-Montgomery) tells us that making it a primary offense will help to stop accidents from occurring in the first place, instead of just punishing drivers after the fact. A similar Senate bill would make this type of distracted driving a secondary offense – similar to PA’s seatbelt law. At this week’s Senate Transportation Committee meeting, State Senator John Wozniak (D-Cambria) said we can always ratchet up the law, but it’s difficult to ratchet it down.

Rep. Shapiro knows this enforcement issue will be the key battle when it comes down to negotiations between the House and Senate. HB8 was amended Wednesday evening, and could see final House votes later this month. SB314 was amended in committee, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration. The Senate Transportation Committee also advanced a contingency plan of sorts; SB635 would apply the distracted driving language only to junior drivers.

Tom Corbett

Ask the Governor

Use this form to submit a question to Governor Corbett.  Due to the large number of questions submitted for the governor, and the time constraints of the program, not every question submitted can be answered on the air.

[contactform id=’X0H7WTZ16Q’ /]

NOTE:
Due to Governor Corbett’s recent back surgery, “Ask the Governor” on PAMatters.com will debut in June. You may submit your question for the governor now, and be sure to check back in June to see if your question makes it on air. Due to the high number of emails, not every question can be addressed on air. Check back often for updates on the governor’s scheduled appearances on PAMatters.com.