Bill Would Defund Planned Parenthood, other Abortion Providers

Pro-life lawmakers are trying to cut off state funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion on demand providers. The Whole Women’s Health Funding Priority Act would direct the state’s family planning funding to facilities that provide comprehensive health care to women. It would defund those that offer abortion on demand.

State and federal laws already prohibit public funds from paying for abortions in Pennsylvania, but supporters of the bill say public funds going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers for family planning ends up supporting abortions.

The prime sponsor, Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) says its the job of government to protect life. He says the war on women is taking place in every abortion facility in Pennsylvania and across the nation. He says womens health is put at risk every time an abortion is performed.

Metcalfe says 30 thousand surgical abortions were performed in Pennsylvania in 2010, 16 thousand of them at Planned Parenthood affiliates. He says that means 45 abortions a day.

Mike McMonagle, President of the Pro Life Coalition of Pennsylvania, says the current law prohibiting state funding for abortions is a joke.  He says Planned Parenthood plays accounting schemes and it hasnt put a dent in their business.

But Sari Stevens, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania, says there are not enough other providers offering family planning and women’s health screening services who could absorb the patients if funding were redirected. She says its the patients who would be hurt by House Bill 2405.

Stevens says Pennsylvania has long standing segregation requirements between any state funding and abortion services. She says any idea that public funding is propping up abortion services is preposterous. She says women should be able to access the health care provider of their choice and politics should not get in the way of that.

Planned Parenthood is analyzing the potential impact of the bill and plans to fight against it.

Steeler Nation Extends All the Way to the Capitol

Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward joined Governor Tom Corbett, who read from a proclamation recognizing the recently retired receiver’s achievements:HinesWard1

Later in the day, Ward was also honored by the House and Senate chambers.  “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in this position,” Ward explained.  “For me, I just wanted to represent not only the city of Pittsburgh but the whole state of Pennsylvania.”

The 36-year-old Ward retired this spring, three weeks after the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they would release him in a salary cap maneuver.

Click it or Ticket Campaign Underway

State and local police are taking part in a national “Click it or Ticket” enforcement effort for the next three weeks.  The campaign runs through June 10th.

Police are emphasizing the state’s new primary seat belt law for drivers and passengers under 18. It allows an officer to pull over a vehicle when they observe someone under age 18 who is obviously not buckled up.

Police will also focus some of their enforcement efforts on night time seat belt  use, since nearly 300 unbuckled fatalities last year occurred between 6 pm and 6 am.

State Police spokesman Sgt Anthony Manetta says with the summer driving season quickly upon us, they want to stress to the public that the thing they can do to protect themselves the most is buckling up.

In 2011, the state had 509 unbuckled fatalities, down from 524 in 2010. But that number includes 66 teens ages 16 to 19, 32 of the victims were driving.

State Police will offer child safety seat checks.  Those interested should call their local barracks.

Capitol Rotunda - Facing House Chamber

State Rep. Puts School Districts on Notice

Department of Education data show Pennsylvania school districts had a combined $3.2-billion dollars in reserve funds as of the end of last school year.  Taxpayers deserve an explanation, according to State Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery).  “The people on these school boards that are holding on to these pots of money need to come clean with the taxpayers that they are about to jump into their pockets and raid one more time,” Vereb said at a capitol news conference on Monday. 

Vereb rattled off a list of the districts with the most cash in the bank.  He says it’s ludicrous for school districts to propose property tax hikes and point their fingers at Harrisburg while holding onto vast reserves.   

But much of the money represents school districts’ attempts to help smooth out the looming pension spikes that are legislatively mandated, according Dave Davare, director of research services at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). 

Speaking to Radio PA Davare rattled off his own list of school districts that are, in fact, tapping their reserve funds in order to balance FY 2013 budgets.  The PSBA advises school districts to use reserve funds as one-time revenue streams for one-time expenses.  “When a district uses its fund balance to pay for teachers’ salaries so they don’t have to lay off teachers this year, that just means next year when they don’t have that fund balance, they’re going to have to lay off teachers at that point,” Davare explains.   

Rep. Vereb says the rule of thumb is that schools’ reserve funds should be 5 -7% of their operating budgets.  He’s looking into possible legislative action.

Homes, Homeowners, Properties, Neighborhood

Property Tax Elimination to be Discussed at Capitol Hearing

Taxpayer groups from across Pennsylvania are rallying behind the latest attempt to abolish burdensome school property taxes.  The newly-introduced Property Tax Independence Act would replace homeowners’ most dreaded bill with a one percentage point increase in the state sales tax, a broadening of the sales tax base, and a hike of the personal income tax from 3.07 – 4%.

It’s a dollar-for-dollar tax shift, and the bill’s author says the number of losers is extremely small.  “What this does is shift the [school funding] burden off the backs of six million property owners, up to the shoulders of 12-million sales tax payers,” state Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks) tells Radio PA.  “Everyone pays the sales tax.  How much is largely up to them, but everybody pays the sales tax.”

One difference between HB 1776 and previous attempts to thwart the local property tax is the unprecedented level of input it received from Pennsylvania taxpayers.  In fact, the Property Tax Independence Act has the backing of 72-taxpayer groups.

“This is about all homeowners who are suffering under the burden of school property taxes,” says Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations spokesman David Baldinger.  “In some areas of the state, the monthly property tax escrow can be equal to the mortgage itself.”

Baldinger is among the testifiers scheduled to address the state House Finance Committee on Monday morning.  While enactment of such a dramatic change would be nothing short of monumental, Rep. Cox believes he already has enough votes to advance the bill out of committee and to the House floor.

HB 1776 has 70-cosponsors, 50-Republicans and 20-Democrats.  There’s also a companion bill in the Senate.

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 05.18.12

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week. Professionally produced and delivered every Friday, Roundtable includes commercial breaks for local sale and quarterly reports for affiliate files.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


Two Named to PA’s Middle District Bench

President Barack Obama has announced two appointments to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. the names of Matthew W. Brann and Judge Malachy Edward Mannion were released by the White House late Thursday.

Brann is a partner at the law firm of Brann, Williams Caldwell & Sheetz, where he specializes in tort, contract, commercial and property litigation. Judge Mannion has spent 11 years as a Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and was also an Assistant U.S. Attorney for 15 years prior to that appointment to the bench.

In a statement issued by the White House, President Obama said “I am pleased to nominate these distinguished individuals to serve on the United States District Court bench. I am confident they will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”

Both nominations require U.S. Senate confirmations.


Cooperative Extension Restructuring Underway

Cooperative Extension offices will remain in all 67-counties, according to Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Bruce McPheron.  It’s the administrative functions of those offices that will now be streamlined into 19 new districts.

“We had more than 50 Extension directors, administrators across the state,” McPheron tells Radio PA.  “This change alone resulted in more than 30 positions going from a primarily administrative role back to a primarily education role.” 

The restructuring is being driven by the need to keep the Cooperative Extension relevant in the information age, and financial pressures from all budget sources.  Over the past three years, the College of Agricultural Sciences has seen its funding cut by $18.5-million dollars.  Including Cooperative Extension, the college has lost about 200 of their 850 employees over that time. 

Dr. Bruce McPheron

“Our goal is to be able to continue to provide high-quality answers to folks who need that information, based upon the great science that we do here on campus,” McPheron says. 

Cooperative Extension offers educational programming and consultation to Pennsylvania residents on both agricultural and environmental issues. 

Governor Tom Corbett’s latest budget proposals would provide level funding to Extension and agricultural research by tapping the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund.  It’s a potential change that’s already sparked debate under the capitol dome.

Voices for Victims Delivers Letters, Still Collecting Messages


Voices for Victims

You can link to the Voices for Victims Facebook page below.

A student-led campaign is delivering letters of support to the alleged victims in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.  “Many of us have not forgotten about them, many of us do care,” says Voices for Victims project leader Matt Bodenschatz, who believes the alleged victims should not be lost in the scandal just because they are anonymous. 

“If you think about it, in today’s world we rarely send letters to our friends, let alone to take that action out of empathy and support and thanks from thousands of miles away,” Bodenschatz explains.  The letters the campaign’s already received have come from as nearby as the Penn State campus to as far away as Croatia. 

Bodenschatz has already delivered scores of letters to the attorneys for the alleged victims, but stresses their work is not done.  As a victim of child sex abuse himself, Bodenschatz tells Radio PA that a heartfelt message can have a profound impact.  “When I held it in my hands… tears were brought to my own eyes.” 

Voices for Victims has taken down the drop boxes they had placed around the campus and town, but are still accepting correspondence electronically and through the US Mail.  With the trial looming, they believe the alleged victims will be in need of another showing of support. 

Bodenschatz is often asked for advice on what to write.  “Really what people are often looking for is reassurance that what is coming from your heart is so very, very likely the right thing.” 

Sandusky’s trial on 52-counts of alleged abuse is currently scheduled to begin next month.  He has denied any criminal wrongdoing.

Think Tanks at Odds over Liquor Store Privatization Research

Leaders of the Keystone Research Center say their latest policy brief is meant to ‘set the record straight.’  They claim the Commonwealth Foundation has muddied the waters of the public policy debate with earlier research that claims to find no relationship between alcohol control and DUI fatality rates.

“Previous research had often included two variables that were absent from the [Commonwealth Foundation] model,” says Keystone Research Center Labor Economist Mark Price.  “Those variables were per capita incomes and per capital miles traveled.”

When he re-ran the numbers to account for those two variables, Price found that Pennsylvania has an estimated 58 fewer DUI fatalities a year because it controls alcohol at the retail and wholesale levels. 

The Keystone Research Center believes policymakers must carefully consider the impact privatization could have on alcohol-related fatalities.  But, the Commonwealth Foundation contends the KRC is trying to add more variables to explain away the facts. 

“There really is no difference between states that have government control of liquor sales and states that have private stores,” says Nathan Benefield, director of policy research at the Commonwealth Foundation. 

In testimony presented to the House Democratic Policy Committee, last year, Benefield also cited Mothers Against Drunk Driving data that ranks Pennsylvania 30th among states for its per capita DUI-related accidents.  He argued that if liquor control were such a driving factor, Pennsylvania should have ranked much higher on that list (with 1 being the state with the fewest DUI accidents).    

While there seem to be conflicting studies on the social impacts of privatization, supporters’ maintain that Pennsylvania should not be in the booze business.