Guns, Seized Guns

Legislation Crafted to Keep Young People Out of Gangs


Dominic Pileggi

State Senator Dominic Pileggi

A trio of southeastern Pennsylvania lawmakers is introducing a bill designed to prevent gang violence before it starts  The bill would make it a criminal offense to recruit gang members in Pennsylvania.  “It will give law enforcement a tool to stop people from trying to recruit young folks into gang activity,” says Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester/Delaware).

The new offense could be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on how the recruitment takes place.  Simply soliciting someone to join a gang would be a first-degree misdemeanor.  The addition of threats or intimidation would bump the offense up to a third-degree felony, and there would be a sentencing enhancement if bodily harm were involved.

Senator Pileggi tells us the bill was born out of discussions with Chester County DA Thomas Hogan, who is currently prosecuting a dozen teens and young adults for offenses related to the stabbing deaths of two rival gang members.

Listen to Hogan’s comments at this week’s news conference in Chester County:HOGAN

Sen. Pileggi says Pennsylvania’s behind the times on this issue.  “We found at least 20-states, including our neighbors in Delaware and New Jersey that have very similar laws in place now.”  He says the bill will be up for discussion this fall, and believes it could see action before the end of the legislative session.

Senators John Rafferty (R-Montgomery/Chester) and Ted Erickson (R-Delaware/Chester) are also a part of the legislative push.

Study: Pennsylvanians Want Electricity from Renewable Sources

Penn State researchers are finding broad public support for increased renewable energy generation, and the strengthening of the state’s alternative energy portfolio standards.  “We looked at different groups with different incomes, different political backgrounds, rural vs. urban,” says PSU professor of agricultural and environmental economics Richard Ready.  “The support is there across the board.”

The broad-based public support encompasses renewable electricity sources like hydropower, solar and wind power.  In fact, Dr. Ready found that the average Pennsylvania household is willing to pay an extra $55 per year to increase renewable energy production.

“We estimate for example that to increase the amount of electricity that comes from wind power, by an amount that would be equal to 1% of the total electricity consumption in the state, the aggregate amount that Pennsylvania households would be willing to pay we estimate at about $290-million dollars per year.”

However, on average, people were not supportive of biomass combustion.  “People are more supportive of technologies that don’t have emissions, and biomass combustion does have emissions,” Ready says.  Pennsylvanians rated biomass combustion rated below other electricity sources, like natural gas and nuclear, according to the report.

The study, Pennsylvanians’ Attitudes Toward Renewable Energy, was sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Adds New Air Quality Forecast Areas In August

Air quality forecasts will soon cover more areas of Pennsylvania.   The Department of Environmental Protection is adding 8 new areas to its forecasts starting August 1st.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday says the summer’s record heat waves have brought the need for increased ozone surveillance. He says hot and humid weather can put a lot of ozone into the air. He says it’s important to keep in mind the impact the weather can have on our air quality. High levels of ozone can make it more difficult for some people to breathe.

Altoona, Erie, Johnstown, Scranton Wilkes-Barre, State College, Williamsport, Mercer County and Indiana County will be added to the existing five regions; the Lehigh and Susquehanna Valleys and the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Liberty-Clairton Regions.

There have been a number of Code Orange alerts in the original five forecasting areas this summer.  Those mean air quality can be unhealthy for sensitive people including the very young, the elderly and those with respiratory problems.  There have been no Code Red alerts, meaning air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Sunday says the number of Code Red alerts has been declining for the past five years as pollution levels improve.

Sunday says people in the new areas can connect to the forecasts by going on line to  They can sign up to receive the air quality forecasts in their email.

Marking Ten Years since the Quecreek Mine Rescue

It’s hard for Bill Arnold to believe a decade has already passed.  He vividly recalls stepping outside to see why there were folks with flashlights walking around his Somerset County farm on July 24th, 2002.  That move made him the third person on the scene of what would later became a miraculous mine rescue.

Arnold thinks the world “miracle” is overused in today’s society, but tells Radio PA there’s no other way to describe the “9 for 9” Quecreek Mine rescue.  “This was a matter of life and death.”

Today, Arnold is humbled to be the caretaker of the rescue site and to serve as executive director of the nonprofit Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation.

Nine miners were trapped some 240-feet underground for four days that July.  The accident took place just months after, and miles away from the Flight 93 crash site in western Pennsylvania.  Arnold says, “It was a turning point in the hearts of Americans to realize that miracles still do happen, and we can do great things when we pull together for a united cause.”

The man leading the rescue ten years ago was Joe Sbaffoni, now the director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mine Safety.  Sbaffoni says coal mine safety has improved greatly since Quecreek.  A 2009 law gave the Mine Safety Board the authority to update its own regulations as needed instead of waiting on lawmakers to respond, and Pennsylvania hasn’t had an underground mine fatality in more than three years.

“Things are going to happen.  I mean you’re dealing with Mother Nature, conditions change by the minute.  But if you do things you’re supposed to… always follow safe work practices, you’ve got a darn good chance of coming home at the end of each shift,” Sbaffoni says.  “That’s the number one goal.”

Saturday’s celebration ceremony will cap-off a week’s worth of anniversary events at the Quecreek Mine rescue site in Somerset, PA.  It’s also the day they will cut the ribbon on a brand new visitors’ center.  The site attracts more than 10,000 visitors a year.

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 07.27.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul discuss the NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State University and analyze the football players’ reaction. Matt also follows up on his ongoing reports on the proposal to privatize the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery with an interview with PA Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser.

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:


Power Outages Remain from Thursday Storms

Utility crews worked into the morning on Friday attempting to restore service to thousands of Pennsylvania customers. Electric service was knocked out in numerous counties as a strong storm front knocked down trees and power lines late Thursday afternoon and evening.

In the PPL service area, Berks County reported to most outages remaining Friday, but residents in at least 25 eastern Pennsylvania counties were still in the dark. PECO is attempting to restore service to customers in the five-county Philadelphia region, as well as a small area of York County.

There are reports of at least one fatality from the storms as a woman in Potter County was struck by a falling tree. The storm front continued on into New England Thursday evening, causing more damage.


Voter ID Arguments to be Heard in Commonwealth Court

Opponents of Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law are asking the Commonwealth Court to block enforcement before the November election.  “Article 1, section 5 of Pennsylvania’s constitution guarantees that elections shall be free and equal,” says Marian Schneider of the Advancement Project.

The petitioners contend that one million Pennsylvanians are eligible to vote but lack the photo ID required under Pennsylvania’s new law.  “If you’ve listed to the proponents of the law… you would have the impression that everyone either has photo ID or they can easily get it.  Their message is that photo ID is used for everything, what’s the big deal,” says attorney David Gersch.  “It is a big deal.”

The hearing before Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson starts Wednesday morning, and is expected to continue through most of next week.

Despite critics’ complaints, state officials are standing by the new law.  “Really for this size issue in Pennsylvania, I think the challenges we’re facing are relatively small,” Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele told reporters in Gettysburg last week.  She was responding to questions about the more than 750,000 registered voters that aren’t already in the PennDOT database.

Letters are going out to every one of them, reminding them of the new law and the complete list of acceptable IDs.  The Department of State has also announced the creation of a new card that can be issued to voters who need identification under the law, and who are unable to provide all the documents they would normally need to obtain a PennDOT ID.

But it’s not enough to assuage the hundreds of protesters who gathered on the state capitol steps Tuesday. Their rally cry: “Voter ID, Not for Me.”  Among the speakers was Sen. Daylin Leach, who says that even the Commonwealth’s lawyers agree there’s no evidence of in-person voter fraud.

“This bill was passed under false pretenses.  That’s why I’ve introduced a bill to repeal the Voter ID bill,” Leach announced to a round of applause at Tuesday’s rally.  Additional rallies are planned in Pittsburgh, Allentown and Philly on Wednesday.

Turnpike Sets 2013 Tolls, Takes Step Toward Possible All Electronic System

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has approved tolls for next year.   There will be a differential again in 2013 between what E-ZPass customers pay and what cash customers pay.

Tolls for cash customers will rise 10%, but E-ZPass users will pay only 2% more. Turnpike Spokesman Carl DeFebo says it costs less to collect the tolls electronically. With the toll increase next year, the difference between E-ZPass and cash fares will be about 25%.  He says it’s currently around 17% on average. He says that means substantial savings for people who sign up for E-ZPass.

DeFebo says the commission has also selected a program manager to lead the potential conversion to all electronic tolling. But he says they’re looking at a minimum of 5 years to covert the system.  

He adds even an all-electronic system would still have an option for someone who does not have  E-ZPass. DeFebo says they’re looking at some type of video tolling.  That would involve taking a photo of the license plate and sending a bill in the mail to the licensed owner.

DeFebo says the commission has been reducing the number of toll collectors through attrition since E-ZPass began. He says the workforce has been reduced by more than 250 over the past decade.  He says that effort will continue.

DeFebo says you currently can get E-ZPass on line, through AAA and at Giant Eagle, GetGo, Karns and Acme Stores.  He says the commission is negotiating with a couple of major national retail chains to make transponders more available.

Staggering NCAA Sanctions Against Penn State University

Twelve months ago, Joe Paterno was prepping for his 46th season and leading one of the most respected college football programs in the country.

What a difference a year makes.

On Sunday, Paterno’s statue outside Beaver Stadium was dismantled and today NCAA President Mark Emmert dismantled his record, vacating 111 victories from 1998 through 2011. Additional sanctions against Penn State are staggering. They include:

-A $60 million fine (to go into a special fund to aid programs for victims of child sex abuse)

-No bowl games for 4 years

-A reduction in scholarships for 4 years

-A 5-year probation


The vacating of victories means Paterno’s win total drops from a record 409 to 298. The NCAA will allow current Penn State  players and recruits to transfer to another school without penalty.

Emmert says the so-called “death penalty,” whereby the football program would have been suspended for a year or more, was considered, but the NCAA felt that would punish too many people who had nothing to do with the Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

Meanwhile, Jerry Sandusky sits in prison awaiting his formal sentencing in September for the sexual abuse of young boys.


Additional penalties from the Big Ten Conference were expected today and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors issued a statement that included the following language:

Today, we have read the NCAA release on Penn State University.  We note in the release, and have independently confirmed, that Penn State has accepted the factual findings in the July 12, 2012 Report of the Special Investigative Counsel prepared by Louis Freeh and his firm (the Freeh Report).  Based on the findings, as accepted by Penn State, we fully support the actions taken by the NCAA.  Further, following a thorough review of the Freeh Report, the COPC has voted to impose the following additional sanctions on Penn State, effective immediately:

 1.       Censure:  The accepted findings support the conclusion that our colleagues at Penn State, individuals that we have known and with whom we have worked for many years, have egregiously failed on many levels-morally, ethically and potentially criminally.  They have failed their great university, their faculty and staff, their students and alumni, their community and state-and they have failed their fellow member institutions in the Big Ten Conference.  For these failures, committed at the highest level of the institution, we hereby condemn this conduct and officially censure Penn State.

 2.       Probation:  The Big Ten Conference will be a party to the Athletic Integrity Agreement referenced in the NCAA release, and will work closely with the NCAA and Penn State to ensure complete compliance with its provisions over the 5 year term of the Agreement.

 3.       Ineligibility:  As referenced in the NCAA release, Penn State’s football team will be ineligible for postseason bowl games.  It will also be ineligible for Big Ten Conference Championship Games for four years, a period of time that runs concurrently with the NCAA postseason bowl ban imposed this morning.

 4.       Fine:  Because Penn State will be ineligible for bowl games for the next four years, it will therefore be ineligible to receive its share of Big Ten Conference bowl revenues over those same four years.  That money, estimated to be approximately $13 million, will be donated to established charitable organizations in Big Ten communities dedicated to the protection of children.

 Penn State University is a great institution and has been a valued member of the Big Ten Conference for more than 20 years.  Since early November 2011, it has been working very hard to right a terrible wrong.   There is more to be done.  The intent of the sanctions imposed today is not to destroy a great university, but rather to seek justice and constructively assist a member institution with its efforts to reform.  From this day forward, as Penn State continues to make amends, the Big Ten conference and its member institutions will continue to engage with them in every aspect of conference membership.


Paterno Statue Removed; NCAA to Sanction Penn State University

Today is the day Penn State University learns of its fate from the NCAA. In the wake of the Sandusky scandal and the Freeh Report – which detailed a cover-up involving former school President Graham Spanier and former Head Coach Joe Paterno, among others – the school will learn this morning what sanctions it will face in the coming years. Possible penalties include the loss of scholarships, bowl games and television appearances.

NCAA President Mark Emmert is scheduled to make the announcement in Indianapolis at 9:00am (ET). Reports indicate that the so-called “death penalty,” which would suspend the entire football program, will not be imposed but the sanctions will be among the harshest ever handed down by the NCAA.

On Sunday, the centerpiece of the Paterno legacy was gone, as a crew removed the statue of the former coach outside Beaver Stadium. That decision was made by university President Rodney Erickson, who said in a statement that the statue had become a “source of division” and an “obstacle to healing.” Erickson said Joe and Sue Paterno’s names will remain on the library they helped to build.

Meanwhile, Jerry Sandusky awaits sentencing in September for his convictions on 45 counts involving the sexual abuse of young boys. Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former university Vice-President Gary Schultz are awaiting trial on charges they failed to report the abuse allegations.