Officials Highlight Pool Safety with Swimming Season in Full Swing

Pennsylvania ranks 5th in the country for drownings and near drownings and officials are emphasizing pool safety this summer.   In late June, two toddlers died after drowning incidents in the state.

Connie Harvey, American Red Cross Aquatics Manager, says preventing drownings in home pools involves layers of protection from fencing around the pool to door and gate alarms. She says people should add as many steps as possible.

Harvey says it begins with constant, active supervision whenever children are in, or around the water.  She says adults should never leave them unattended, even for a minute.

 Harvey believes children should be taught the rules of the pool as young as possible.  She says make certain they understand they should never ever go around the water unless they’ve been given permission by a parent or adult and they are being supervised.

Harvey says the rules are the same for portable quick set pools as other swimming pools. Unless they’re emptied after each use, they should be enclosed in a fence and ladders should be removed when not in use.

You also need to make sure you’re not leaving items around the pool that could attract children when you’re done swimming for the day.  Harvey says remove all of the pool toys from the gated, fenced area so they do not draw a child in. She says make sure there’s nothing near the pool or the fence that children could easily climb to gain access to the pool.

Harvey says families with small children may want to add alarms to their pool security system. She says door alarms, gate alarms and water surface alarms can alert people if a child is leaving the house and heading for the pool.

Harvey says children of all ages should be kept away from pool drains, pipes, fittings and other openings to prevent entrapment that could occur.

Harvey says everyone should be taught water safety and should know how to swim. She says that means having good skills to handle themselves in the situation they’re in, whether they’re swimming in a pool, river, lake or the ocean.

To learn more about swimming pool safety, go to

Philadelphia Native Commands Final Space Shuttle Flight

Christopher J. Ferguson, Commander, STS-135

The last mission for the U S Space Shuttle program is scheduled for lift off the morning of July 8.  A Pennsylvania native will be the commander of the flight.

Christopher Ferguson, a retired Navy Captain, was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Archbishop Ryan High School and Drexel University. He joined NASA in 1998.  The Atlantis flight will be his third space shuttle mission.  He also served as commander of STS-126, the November, 2008 flight of Endeavour and pilot of STS-115, the September 2006 flight of Atlantis.  Commander Ferguson served as spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM)  for STS-118, 120, 128 and 129.

Ferguson says the four member crew for this flight of Atlantis has a very busy, event-filled, packed 12 day mission that they will have to pull off before they can finish up on the runway and celebrate the 30 year history of the space shuttle program.

Ferguson believes the legacy of the shuttle program is the inspiration it provides.  He remembers watching the very first shuttle launch on a television in a college cafeteria.  He remembers thinking it would just be fantastic to be part of a program like that.

Ferguson says Atlantis has the right crew for the right time.  He says they had only nine months to train, and four crew members to do it with, and they’ve managed to get an awful lot of work done.  He adds it’s an experienced crew.

Commander Ferguson still has family living in the Philadelphia area.  Prior to entering the space program, he was a Navy pilot. He received his commission from the Navy ROTC program at the University of Pennsylvania.

**Photos Courtesy of NASA.

Revenue Collections End Year Up Almost 3% Over Estimates

Pennsylvania ended the fiscal year in the plus column.   Revenues for June were 8.3 percent, or $246.1 million above estimates.

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue says the numbers were boosted by higher collections for sales, personal income, corporation and inheritance taxes.  They offset declines in realty transfer and other general fund taxes, such as cigarettes, malt beverage, liquor and table games.

Sales tax receipts were $72.2 million above estimate in June and 3% or $252.9 million more than anticipated for the fiscal year.

The Personal Income Tax revenue was $115.5 million above estimate for June and 3.1 percent or $311.2 million above estimate for the fiscal year.

Corporation Tax Revenue was $32.3 above estimate for June and $245.4 million or 5.3 percent above estimate for the fiscal year.

Inheritance Taxes brought in $9.2 million more than expected for June, bringing the fiscal year 4.5 percent or $34.3 million ahead of estimates.

However, the Realty Transfer Tax was $1.7 million below estimate for June, lagging by 12.4 percent or 39.4 million below estimates for the fiscal year.

Other General Fund tax revenue brought in $6.9 million less than estimated for June and were off 2 percent for the fiscal year, $30.1 million less than expected.

 For the fiscal year 2010-11, General Fund collections exceeded estimates by 2.9 percent or $785.5 million.

 Non-tax revenue ended the year 1.1 percent, or $11.2 million, above estimate.

Motor License Fund collections for the year were 8.5 percent, or $197.6 million, above estimate. Those revenues include gas and diesel taxes along with license, fine and revenue fees.  


Is Rick Santorum Really Running for VICE-President?

    A few weeks ago, former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum announced his candidacy for President of the United States on the courthouse steps in Somerset County. He’s been campaigning in the early primary and caucus states for months and seems serious about making a run for the #1 spot on the ticket, but that’s an approach many candidates take when they’re really looking at the #2 slot, according to F&M College political analyst Dr. Terry Madonna.

Santorum: The Ideal Candidate for Veep?

    On paper, Santorum could be the ideal running mate. He’s a bulldog with strong Conservative appeal, which would help balance out any necessary moves to the center by the eventual nominee.

    That being said, with more than 6 months to go before the start of the primary season, Santorum still has plenty of time to increase his name recognition and define himself to voters. He faces an uphill battle, though, as his state and national poll numbers are mostly hovering in the low-to-mid single digits.

    Here in Pennsylvania, a recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed Santorum in a strong 2nd place in the GOP field, trailing only Mitt Romney, who also leads in most other national and state polls.

Corbett Signs Budget Ahead of Deadline

PA Budget Signing Beats Midnight Deadline

The $27.15-billion dollar, no-tax increase budget trims state spending by more than a billion dollars.  It passed the legislature with zero Democratic support Wednesday night, but Governor Tom Corbett waited until all of the supporting bills were in place before finally putting pen to paper late Thursday night. 

The administration reports that 66-line items were eliminated, 226-line items were reduced, and 52-line items were consolidated.  Basic education funding will receive $5.35-billion dollars in the new fiscal year.  That’s down from a total of $5.77-billion dollars last year (a number which included federal stimulus dollars).  The State System of Higher Education is already responding to 18% funding cuts.  Its board of governors approved a 7.5% tuition hike on Thursday.  Similarly, the state related universities (PSU, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln) face 19% reductions in state support.    

Governor Corbett calls the lean spending plan an important first step in putting PA’s fiscal house back in order.  “It spends no more than we have and it doesn’t pretend that we have more that we haven’t budgeted,” Corbett said referring to Democrats’ calls to use last year’s unexpected revenues to mitigate cuts to education and welfare programs. 

At Thursday night’s bill signing, Governor Corbett said the budget was crafted to grow PA’s economy: “Make no mistake here. This is a budget for Pennsylvania families, for Pennsylvania working families.  It is a budget that imposes no new taxes on them.”

Governor Corbett also hailed legislative passage of a new bill to limit Act 1 exceptions – thus requiring a voter referendum if a PA school district seeks to raise property taxes above the rate of inflation.  While it was technically an unrelated bill, it represents a Corbett priority and the final piece of the budget package.  “I believe we need to give the citizens of Pennsylvania, in the school districts, the ability to voice their opinion in more than just the election of school board directors,” Corbett tells reporters.     

However, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is concerned that this will result in additional reductions in educational programming.  They know that voter referenda on property taxes are extremely difficult to approve.  “The problem is, less than 25% of the population has children in schools, so there’s 75% of the population that the districts need to reach that they don’t necessarily reach on a routine basis,” says PSBA director of research Dave Davare.  “Districts are not willy-nilly raising taxes,” Davare tells us. 

With this year’s budget work behind them, the State House and Senate have each recessed until September.  This marked the first time in nine years that PA’s state budget was signed by the constitutional deadline.