The financially troubled PA State System of Higher Education was under the microscope as state budget hearings continue. The 14 state-owned universities.. including Bloomsburg... are struggling with declining enrollment and rising operating and personnel costs. State System of Higher Education Acting Chancellor Dr. Karen Whitney told lawmakers that teaching and learning remain their core focus, as they look for ways to control costs and provide more equity between state funding for the schools and the costs for students and their families.
Fate of Former Cabinett Member
Did he resign... or was he fired. A state lawmaker used the Department of State's budget hearing to seek answers following last fall's sudden departure of the former Secretary. After the Wolf Administration said former Secretary of the Department of State Pedro Cortes had resigned, it was later reported that he was fired. During the Department's budget hearing Senator David Argall asked Acting Secretary Robert Torres several times about the reasons for his predecessor's departure, saying senators and the people they represent are entitled to an answer. But Torres said he did not know the answers to Argall's questions.
They came... they gathered and members of the House Transportation committee heard from folks in the biz... and others about the need for mass transportation in Rural Pennsylvania.... including Columbia County. Many who testified told on relying on Rabbit Transit.... a company based in York County... for rides to and from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville... and being left out on a hot day following a shopping trip waiting for a van pick up. Now... legislators say they'll work together to make sure things run smoothly in the future.
As the courts try and figure out the latest congressional redistricting maps... Columbia County Chief Registrar Matt Repasky says we're in pretty good shape. The latest mapping places the county in the 9th congressional district. And no matter what the final outcome is... Bloomsburg and Columbia County are in decent shape... and looking at the issue further... candidates do not have to live in the district they're attempting to represent.
Republican leaders have filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court in an effort to stay Pennsylvania's newly-drawn congressional map. The request was filed with the high court late Wednesday. In this third attempt, Republicans argue that the state court cannot strike down a congressional map, because the US Constitution grants legislatures the power to draw them. If the effort fails, the new map goes into effect in time for the May 15th primary election.
Pennsylvania's junior Senator says he'll likely reintroduce background check legislation. Senator Pat Toomey says he believes its reasonable to require background checks for commercial gun purchases.
Toomey says his priority will be to grow the vote for the proposal which received no more than 54 affirmative votes after it was first introduced following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Toomey says he would be open to making changes to the legislation to pick up support. Toomey also favors increasing penalties for convicted felons who lie on federal firearms background check applications.
State Budget Hearings
Pennsylvania's top elected law enforcement official is among those coming before House and Senate members as state budget hearings continue. PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro went before the Senate Appropriations Committee to answer questions on a number of issues, chief among them the ongoing opioid crisis. Drug treatment remains a priority for people dealing with addiction, but Shapiro says he won't hesitate to pursue criminal charges when needed. Other issues included consumer protection, human trafficking, and fully reimbursing county District Attorneys for the work they do assisting the state in criminal cases.
A slow go on the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike. Part of the roadway was shut down shortly after six last night... when an electrical beam inside the Lehigh Tunnel fell.. hitting several vehicles. Troopers say no one was hurt. Southbound traffic was rerouted at Mahoning Valley... bringing drivers back at the Lehigh Valley interchange.
A threat of violence has a teenage girl in trouble in Lycoming County. Police in Muncy said a 16-year-old student was arrested Wednesday for allegedly threatening to “shoot up” Muncy High School this week. Several students told officers the girl made the threat on the bus last week. That 16 year old is now charged with making terroristic threats, which is a felony. She is locked up in a juvenile detention facility.
Wilkes – Barre Parking Rates
There's another fee increase for parking in Wilkes-Barre. This time the parking authority doubled the daily rate in its garages. It used to cost about $7 to park at a deck for the day in Wilkes-Barre, but soon, it'll be $15. Business leaders in Wilkes-Barre say more than 11,000 people come downtown every day for work so there's a need for long-term parking and now, it could cost some people more money. The authority hopes the move will get more people to sign up for a monthly parking pass which costs $70. The new parking rate for parking garages in Wilkes-Barre is scheduled to take effect by the end of the month.
Shenandoah Parking Meters
Parking meters in downtown Shenandoah will soon be a thing of the past. Shenandoah's borough council president said that the borough doesn't have a meter attendant and the meters aren't in use anymore. So, the plan now is to remove them. The Shenandoah council recently discussed removing the meters at one of its meetings. Removing them means parking would be free downtown as it has been for a while now.
Hanover Drug Bust
A man is locked up in Luzerne County after police discovered more than $70,000 worth of marijuana. 22 – year old Malik Hudson of Plains Township, faces drug trafficking charges. Officers say, in addition to the 17 pounds of marijuana, they also found ecstasy tablets and several hundred dollars in cash.
A man pleaded guilty in Luzerne County this week to stealing from the Plains Township Volunteer Ambulance Association. Paul Zabriski took over $100,000 while serving as the treasurer of the association. Zabriski pleaded guilty to a felony count of theft.
Pennsylvania is getting new lookout towers to help fight fires in state forests. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Wednesday it’s in the middle of a $4.6 million effort to renovate and replace 16 towers on state forest lands. Many date to the 1940s and earlier. The new towers are considered sturdier, are safer to get up and down and have weatherproof areas at the top.
Gun Legislation to be Introduced
A Pennsylvania lawmaker says he’ll introduce legislation to help families and prosecutors prevent suicides and gun violence. State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) said his proposal would allow courts to issue an Extreme Risk Protective Order when there is clear and convincing evidence that someone with mental health issues poses a threat to themselves or others. The protective order would temporarily prohibit the person from possessing firearms and ammunition.