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.

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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.