Last month, ESPN the Magazine published a scathing article critical of Governor Tom Corbett’s role in the firing of the late Joe Paterno last November. The iconic Penn State Head Coach was dismissed by the Penn State Board of Trustees, of which Governor Corbett is an ex-officio member, in the immediate aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.
Appearing on Radio PA’s “Ask the Governor” program Thursday, Governor Corbett made his most extensive comments on the article to date, calling it “sloppy journalism” and disputing several points, including a claim by ESPN that he refused numerous requests to respond to the article. Corbett says the magazine contacted his office on the eve of his European trade mission, but that he would have been happy to speak with them upon his return.
The ESPN article portrays Corbett the driving force behind the firing of Joe Paterno, a claim he flatly denies. Corbett told Radio PA that he played a minor role in the conference call the evening the decision was made to fire Paterno, primarily reminding the trustees to “remember the children.”
Newly-elected Penn State Board of Trustees member Anthony Lubrano has been critical of the governor based on the information in the ESPN article. He told WITF radio this week that he did believe the governor played a significant role in the dismissal of Paterno. Lubrano was elected to the 32-member board on a platform largely based on alumni outrage over the handling of Joe Paterno in the days after the Sandusky scandal rocked the university.
Governor Corbett says he plans to meet with Lubrano and other board members to further discuss the issue and he believes Lubrano’s opinion will change based on those talks.
After receiving unanimous votes in the House Appropriations Committee the pair of bills awaits action on the Senate floor. One would ensure that state tax benefits are only applied to state-sponsored college savings plans. “Pennsylvania is one of just a few states that allows for tax credits for investments out of state,” says Senator Jake Corman (R-Centre), the prime sponsor.
State Treasurer Rob McCord (D-PA) applauds the bipartisan effort. “It will help current account holders by lowering fees. It will help future account holders by making it crystal clear that they’ve got a best of breed program, top-ranked, Vanguard-provided, right here in Pennsylvania,” McCord explained in a telephone interview.
Corman’s second bill would put the full faith and credit of the Commonwealth behind the state’s Guaranteed Savings Plan. “I don’t think anyone here believes that if this program came under financial distress that we wouldn’t step in,” he said at this week’s Appropriations Committee meeting.
Treasurer McCord supports this bill too, telling us the explicit guarantee would assure even the most cautious consumers and advisors. But he adds that the GSP is extremely healthy. “We’ve had record-breaking investment return rates under the McCord Treasury, I’m singularly proud of that.”
The risk of a teen being killed in a traffic crash rises with the number of young passengers according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The study says if a 16 or 17 year old driver adds one passenger under the age of 21, the risk increases by 44%. With two young passengers, the risk doubles and with three or more, it quadruples.
But Jenny Robinson of AAA Mid-Atlantic says carrying an adult passenger has the opposite effect. A teen driving with an adult age 35 and up has their risk factor reduced by 62%.
Pennsylvania’s new teen driver law limits the number of non-family young passengers for the first six months of driving. Robinson says parents can impose their own limits for a longer period.
Robinson says parents should set the rules before they hand over the keys. She says AAA has parent and teen driver contracts on their website.
Robinson says they’ve known for some time that having young passengers is a distraction for a teen driver, and this study really makes the risk clear.
Turnpike speed limits max out at 65-miles per hour. The limit is set by state law, but the House Transportation Committee has advanced a change that would give the Turnpike Commission the authority to raise speed limits up to 70.
“It doesn’t mean that it has to,” says Rep. Joe Preston (D-Allegheny), the bill’s prime sponsor. “But to be able to give the latitude, if it so chooses in the different areas that have changed or improved, they can raise it from 65 to 70.”
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission doesn’t have an official position on the bill, but spokesman Carl DeFebo says roadway improvements – like wider medians and shoulders – do tend to be more conducive to higher speed limits.
Driving 70-miles-an-hour on the Turnpike wouldn’t be unprecedented either. When the Turnpike opened in 1940 there was no speed limit. The first speed limit imposed in 1941 was 70-miles-per-hour for passenger cars, but it was soon lowered. DeFebo says the majority of the toll road has been under a 65-miles-per-hour speed limit since 2005.
Preston’s bill received an 18 – 4 vote in committee this week. All four negative votes were cast by Democrats.
State budget pressures have taken their toll on the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP). The program, which provides small loans to financially distressed homeowners on the brink of foreclosure, has not accepted any new applications since last September.
State lawmakers now believe they’ve found a solution, and the Senate has voted unanimously to tap the recent national mortgage abuse settlement for HEMAP funding. Pennsylvania will be receiving about $65-million dollars specifically for consumer protection purposes. Senator John Gordner’s bill (SB 1433) would direct 90% of that money into the HEMAP program. The remaining 10% would be split evenly between the attorney general’s office and legal services for consumers.
“Since 1983, we have saved 46,000 homes through our HEMAP program,” Gordner explained from the Senate floor prior to Wednesday’s vote.
United Way of Pennsylvania President Tony Ross tells Radio PA that HEMAP is one of the wisest investments the state can make, “Because we know that homelessness is a major cost driver in terms of social services.” Ross points to a recent study that found hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.
If it becomes law, the bill is expected fund HEMAP for the next five years. It’s now headed across the capitol where it will await consideration by the state House.
The $27.65-billion dollar state spending plan cleared the Appropriations Committee with a unanimous vote late Tuesday morning. It would spend about a half-billion dollars more next year that what Governor Tom Corbett proposed in February.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman (R-Center) cites a recent Independent Fiscal Office report in telling the committee that the budget bill reflects the revenues of today.
“This has restorations to basic education, particularly in the area of early childhood education, with Pre-K Counts and Head Start restorations,” Corman explained. “This also sees significant restorations to higher education, back to level funding from last year.”
He says that the state-owned and state-related universities have agreed to hold tuition hikes at or below the rate of inflation if their funding is restored.
Senate Democrats want to see even more of the proposed cuts restored, but backed the bill to move the process forward. “Now that the dollars have come in we have a document in front of us that better represents the dollars that are available,” says minority Appropriations Chair Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia).
The Corbett administration is encouraged by the recent trend in state revenue reports, but isn’t ready to commit to spending more money until they see exactly how much revenue will be available. “We think it will be a little better than what our original projections were,” Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley told us by telephone. “We’re hopeful that will continue to be the case in May and June.”
The Senate budget bill is likely to be the document from which high-level budget negotiations can begin in earnest.
Four police officers killed in the line of duty last year in Pennsylvania were remembered at a Fraternal Order of Police Memorial Service Monday at the Forum in Harrisburg.
Governor Corbett spoke at the Memorial, saying when a law enforcement officer lays down his or her life; it is a sacrifice upon the altar of our liberty. He says we can only pledge to honor that loss by ensuring that the laws are respected.
Corbett says we must never forget the names of the fallen and carry on the ideals of a humane, just and civilized nation for which those officers fell.
The officers killed in 2011 were Deputy Sheriff Kyle D. Pagerly of Berks County, Officer Robert A. Lasso of Freemansburg Borough, Patrolman Derek Kotecki of Lower Burrell, and Officer John David Dryer of East Washington Borough.
After the memorial, the state house unanimously passed a bill designating the interchange of Route 136 and Interstate 70 in Washington County in memory of Officer Dryer. He was shot to death during a traffic stop last December
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