Wolf Signs Law Requiring Child Passenger Restraint System For Children Under 2

governor tom wolfOn Monday, June 13th, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill requiring the use of a rear-facing child passenger restraint system for children under 2 years of age.

Act 43, which was previously known as Senate Bill 1152, was sponsored by Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh). Children under 2 years of age must be in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system while in a vehicle up until the child has outgrown the manufacturer specified maximum weight and limits. Wolf issued the following statement when he signed Senate Bill 1152 into law, “We have no greater responsibility as public servants than protecting our most vulnerable, including especially young children… I commend Senator Browne, Representative Schlossberg and their colleagues for their efforts to ensure children in vehicles are safer and more secure.”

Before the law was signed, children under 4 years of age had to be secured in a child passenger restraint system, but the way the seat faces was not spelled out in the law. According to Browne, several studies show that rear-facing car seats are more well equipped to protect an infant’s spine, head, and neck. Browne issued the following statement on May 23rd before Wolf signed the bill, “After hearing from health care professionals and after seeing safety studies that have shown that children under two are better protected in car accidents when they are in rear-facing car seats, it was crucial that we changed the law in Pennsylvania to better ensure the safety of young children.”

Senate Bill 1152 is the same as legislation that Representative Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) had formerly introduced in the House. Schlossberg issued the following statement on May 23rd before the bill was signed by Wolf, “As a father of two young children, I know parents and caregivers want to be doing the right thing for their child, especially when it involves that child’s safety. The best thing we can do for our children while they are traveling with us in our vehicles is to ensure they are properly secured… Efforts such as this, which bring together both sides of the aisle and both chambers serve Pennsylvania best. I was glad to be able to work with Senator Browne to make that happen and as a result, Pennsylvania’s children will be safer.”

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommendations, infants weighing at or under 20 pounds and infants at or under 1 year of age should be in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system. According to Schlossberg, the federal guidelines suggest that rear-facing car seats should be required for infants.

Pennsylvania is now the fourth state to require a rear-facing child passenger restraint system for children under the age of 2. The other three states with such a law are New Jersey, Oklahoma, and California.

The law will be in effect in two months. A verbal warning will be issued by police for the first year. After the first year, anyone violating the law will have to pay a $125 fine.


Wolf Inks Bill Allowing Wine to be Sold at Grocery Stores and Gas Stations

governor tom wolfJust two days after the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 157-31 on a bill allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores, Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed the bill into law on Wednesday, June 8th, 2016.

As Wolf signed House Bill 1690 into law, he remarked, “This bill, as all of us know, is truly historic.”

The law will go into effect in 60 days and it allows wine to be sold at grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels that serve prepared food. Wine and six packs of beer to go will be allowed to be sold at establishments that sell gasoline and prepared food, but alcohol must be sold in a different location than gas is sold. Grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations must already have a liquor license in order to sell alcohol. Restaurants and hotels that have liquor licenses must pay a $2,000 permit fee which will allow them to sell up to four bottles of take-out wine. They also have to buy the wine from Pennsylvania with a 10% discount, and the wine cannot be sold at a lower price. Moreover, restaurants and hotels have to pay a 2% renewal fee on wine sales.

Wolf also said the following, “This bill will improve the customer experience, this bill will make pricing more competitive, it will make the purchase of these products more convenient and it will produce more revenue for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania… It will also show, once again, that Democrats and Republicans can work together.”

Casinos will also be allowed to sell beer and liquor during all hours of operation. Casinos that opt to sell alcohol must pay a $1 million application fee that has to be renewed every four years. Furthermore, Pennsylvania residents will be permitted to purchase out-of-state wine and have it shipped to their doorsteps. The 18% liquor tax on wine, also known as the Johnstown Flood Tax, is now a $2.50 “gallonage” tax. A wine auction permit will be allowed for nonprofit, college, and university fundraisers.

In addition, state-run liquor store hours will be expanded to include later hours and Sundays. Additionally, Pennsylvania lottery tickets will be sold at state stores. The Liquor Control Board (LCB) will auction as many as 50 dormant liquor licences in each county. The LCB has to reduce the mark-up on specialty orders to 10%. The LCB is also permitted to establish new pricing schemes for customers. Wolf and the Legislature will put a commission together in order to study the state’s role in the liquor industry.

Speaker of the PA House of Representatives Mike Turzai (R- Allegheny) was the bill’s prime sponsor. Turzai issued a statement after Wolf signed the law. His full statement may be read below:

“This historic legislation is a tremendous leap toward bringing Pennsylvania into the 21st century,” said Turzai, the prime sponsor of the legislation.  “This privatization bill will bring consumers the added choice and convenience they have been asking for since Prohibition.”

“I am confident this law is the first incremental step into a future for which Pennsylvanians have waited far too long,” said Turzai.

Wellsboro’s Pine Creek Bar-B-Que Co Wins First Place for Pork in Conquer the Grill BBQ Competition

Photo by Josh Hatcher Media
Photo by Josh Hatcher Media

Wellsboro won the #1 spot for pork and ranked #7 overall in the Conquer the Grill BBQ Competition which was held from Friday, June 3rd to Saturday, June 4th, at the Potter County Courthouse Square in Coudersport.

Wellsboro’s Pine Creek Bar-B-Que Co, being represented by Gary Phelps, ranked first in the pork category. Pine Creek Bar-B-Que Co also won seventh place in the overall competition. Four Coudersport BBQ establishments ranked in the overall competition as well. Mort’s Meat Mafia, being represented by Jeff Heasley, won 5th place. Potter County Smoke Eaters, being represented by Tadd Ostroski, took home 9th place. Brothers in Smoke, being represented by Larry Lauber, took home 12th place. E & D Pork Pullers, being represented by Eric Boucher, took home 17th place. In addition, Port Allegany’s Mobile Fresca, being represented by Casey Henning, took home 16th place. Behind BBQ, being represented by Kim Perry, won first place. Behind BBQ is located in Spencerport, NY. You can view the full results for all categories here: visitpottercounty.com/events/bbq/results

A total of eighteen teams competed from Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland. The Conquer the Grill BBQ Competition was held along with the God’s Country Marathon. It was the first Conquer the Grill BBQ Competition in the area. The Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned the event, and the Hotel Crittenden and Shell sponsored it. The Potter County Visitors Association benefited from the event.

The KCBS rules were used to judge the teams. KCBS judges, along with amateur judges, judged the teams. There were four categories: pork, chicken, pork ribs, and brisket. Those who ranked in the top five for each category took home prizes. First place got $200, second place got $150, third place got $100, fourth place got $75, and fifth place got $50. Governor Tom Wolf declared the event a state championship. Behind BBQ is eligible to be a part of the American Royal World Series of Barbecue® as well as the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

The next Conquer the Grill BBQ Competition is being held on June 2-3, 2017.

Shell to Build Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County, Wolf and Baker Issue Statements

Shell logoShell Chemical Appalachia has decided to build an ethane cracker plant in Pennsylvania, and both Governor Tom Wolf and Representative Matt Baker (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) issued statements supporting Shell’s decision.

Natural gas production may increase, and more jobs could become available in the region as a result of the ethane cracker plant being built in Beaver County. According to Shell in a statement, “The complex will use low-cost ethane from shale gas producers in the Marcellus and Utica basins to produce 1.6 million tonnes of polyethylene per year.” Specifically, the plant will be built where the Horsehead zinc smelter used to be in Potter Township. The site was purchased by Shell for $13.5 million in 2014. The cracker will be at the site, as will two units that convert ethylene into polyethylene pellets. Polyethylene is used in automotive components, food packaging, containers, and much more. In addition, there will be a natural gas-fired power plant, a wastewater plant, and a loading dock.

The ethane cracker plant is a multibillion-dollar project. In Beaver County alone, there will be 600 permanent jobs created at 6,000 construction jobs during the building of the plant. The main construction is expected to begin in approximately 18 months. Commercial production should start sometime within the next ten years, Shell said in a statement.

Shell’s decision was five years in the making. In 2012, Shell decided on the Beaver County location. At that time, the then-Governor Corbett (R) worked on a tax break in which Shell would receive a $2.10 credit per barrel of ethane it purchased from gas and oil operators in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Shell will get tax cuts and exemptions for fifteen years due to the fact that the site is a Keystone Opportunity Zone.

Representative Matt Baker (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) issued the following statement on Tuesday, June 7th, regarding Shell’s decision to build an ethane cracker plant in Pennsylvania, “With the need for large amounts of natural gas in the plastic manufacturing process, this type business should lead to an increase in production of natural gas from our area… With the natural gas industry taking hits the past couple of years with lower gas prices, we have had some companies move out of the area and others decreasing their job force. I am hopeful the new Shell plant will help put more people back to work and even create new ancillary jobs in our region.”

According to Baker, a third-party study found that as many as 17,500 direct, indirect, and induced jobs could result from the plant. Baker went on to say the following, “This is a business deal that has been years in the making, and thanks to sound business policies we have enacted and our determination to keep business taxes in check, the people of Pennsylvania will benefit from an influx of new job opportunities that will reach well beyond the borders of Beaver County.”

On Tuesday, June 7th, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf issued a statement after Shell told him they are going to build an ethane cracker plant in Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Wolf’s statement may be read in full below:

“Over the past four years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has worked with Royal Dutch Shell to finalize plans to construct an ethane cracker plant in Western Pennsylvania, and this morning I was notified that Shell has taken the final step to move ahead with this game-changing plant and create thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania.

“The commonwealth began its efforts on this project in 2012, and I would like to thank former Governor Tom Corbett and his Secretary of Community and Economic Development C. Alan Walker for all of their efforts to bring the plant to Western Pennsylvania.

“Since first taking office, I have worked in close collaboration with my Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, local officials in Western Pennsylvania, and Royal Dutch Shell to make the proposed plant a reality. The commonwealth engaged the company with the goal of creating jobs, spurring economic development, and taking the next steps to connect the energy industry with long-term, sustainable economic growth.

“My administration is committed to creating jobs in the energy industry through responsible, well-regulated extraction and long-term, creative industrial growth. We have worked to develop strategies for safe and responsible pipeline development that brings resources to markets and facilities and we have prioritized the Shell plant to show the world that Pennsylvania is a leader in energy manufacturing and downstream production.

“The success of this project is part of a much-needed, longer term plan to translate our abundant resources to make Pennsylvania a leader in downstream production. The commitment of the Shell cracker plant in Western Pennsylvania is an important step toward this goal.

“This critical effort spanned four years, and two administrations, and today I want to congratulate all of those involved, including both Republican and Democratic officials, and thank Royal Dutch Shell for providing this unique and exciting economic development opportunity to the people of Western Pennsylvania.”

PA House Passes Bill Allowing Wine to be Sold in Grocery Stores

Pennsylvania House of RepresentativesOn Tuesday, June 7th, 2016, the Pennsylvania House of Representative approved a plan that was amended by the Senate allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores.

The House vote was 157-31, and it was a bipartisan vote. Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) announced the results of the vote. Reed said the following in a statement, “We’re in the 21st century, and our constituents ask for and expect better convenience and accessibility; this legislation provides it… These improvements to wine, beer and liquor sales include a number of changes requested by consumers and will allow consumers to buy wine at their grocery stores by Thanksgiving.”

If Wolf signs the bill, grocery stores would be allowed to sell take-out wine. In addition, restaurants and hotels could sell take-out wine. Only those businesses with existing licenses would be permitted to sell wine. Customers could buy up to four bottles of wine at a time.

The bill, known as House Bill 1690, has several liquor and wine sale reforms. The bill also makes it possible for private wine wholesalers to sell wine directly to customers in Pennsylvania. According to Reed, the bill will generate millions in revenue. Reed went on to say, “This legislation will generate approximately $150 million initially and growing revenues each year to aid the budge… It is time to put that money where it belongs, instead of propping up an antiquated and outdated liquor system.”

The bill requires the monetary worth of the state store system to be studied. In addition, there would be proposals to eventually privatize liquor sales. Though the bill passed in the Senate last year, House Republicans would not vote on the bill due to the fact that it did not allow for the whole system to be privatized.

Governor Tom Wolf is expected to sign the bill. He said the following in a statement regarding the House passing the bill, “Today the House concurred with the Senate on historic liquor modernization legislation that provides greater customer convenience to the people of Pennsylvania… As I have always said, my goal is to modernize the sale of liquor and beer in Pennsylvania to ensure convenience and satisfaction for customers. Once the bill reaches my desk, I will conduct a final review of the legislation to ensure it meets my goals of enhancing the customer experience, increasing much-needed revenue to help balance our budget, and bringing our wine and spirits system into the 21st century.”

Wolf has recently been supportive of expanding liquor sales in Pennsylvania. In late May, he sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) asking them to approve license applications allowing businesses to sell as much as 192 ounces of brewed or malt beverages. The PLCB approved nine applications after Wolf sent his letter.

On Wednesday, June 8th, State Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Harborcreek) issued a statement in support of House Bill 1690. Sonney said the following:

“Pennsylvanians are now a signature away from being able to buy wine at their local grocery store and beer at their nearby convenience store. This legislation is not the full liquor privatization many of us have been pursuing, but it is a bill that answers consumers’ consistent call for convenience.

“House Bill 1690 would also allow tourists who visit out-of-state wineries to have that product shipped back home, provided the state they are visiting has similar laws in place. Direct shipment also benefits Erie County wineries, as anyone visiting them from another state will be able to have wine shipped to their homes.

“As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’m also pleased with the estimated $150 million in non-tax revenue this legislation will produce. The money will go a long way toward increasing education funding in Pennsylvania.”

State Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) also issued a statement supporting House Bill 1690 on Wednesday. Gabler said the following:

“Over the past few years, our citizens have clearly sent the message that they desire more choice and convenience in the beverage marketplace. This legislation takes a major step in providing just that. When this bill is signed into law, Pennsylvanians will be able to buy wine at their local grocery store and beer at their nearby convenience store. Our citizens who travel out of state will be able to have products from wineries they visit shipped to their doorstep – something they cannot currently do. In turn, our local wineries could provide the same service for visiting tourists.

“In addition, the estimated $150 million in state revenue we expect to realize with the enactment of this legislation will assist in balancing the state without the broad-based tax increases that some continue to advocate. I proudly voted for this bill and I will continue to support commonsense proposals that protect taxpayers and benefit consumers.”

State Representatives Mike Regan (R-Dillsburg), Seth Grove (R-Dover), Keith Gillespie (R-Hellam), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York Township), Kate Klunk (R-Hanover), and Stan Saylor (R-Red Lion) issued a statement in support of House Bill 1690 on Tuesday, June 7th:

“Today, we are proud to join our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in supporting House Bill 1690, which is the first step towards complete liquor privatization in the Commonwealth. This legislation will expand consumer convenience by allowing for wine sales at grocery stores and six-pack beer sales at convenience stores. It will also allow direct shipment of out-of-state wine to the doorstep of Pennsylvanians’ and permit wineries in the Commonwealth to do likewise in states that have similar laws in place.

“House Bill 1690 will also provide $150 million in non-tax revenue for the budget, which is an important consideration during this difficult budget year and our efforts to oppose broad-based tax increases. While we continue to support full liquor privatization for the Commonwealth, this legislation will require the Liquor Control Board to consider free market reforms for savings and efficiency. We thank House Speaker Rep. Mike Turzai for his continued leadership on this issue.”

You can read more about House Bill 1690 here.

Senator Gene Yaw to Introduce Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum for Medical Students

Senator Gene YawOn Monday June 6th, 2016, Pennsylvania Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) said he is going to introduce legislation proposing that medical schools in Pennsylvania should have Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum.

The Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum would be provided through state funding. The following four key areas will be focused on: Instructing medical students about managing substance abuse disorders as a chronic disease; focusing on those patients who are at risk of developing problems with prescription opioids; pain management; and multimodal treatments for chronic pain that lessens the use of opioids, or prescribing opioids in a safe way according to guidelines when they need to be prescribed.

Students taking the Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum would have to show that they are proficient in the use of the heroin overdose antidote naloxone. Yaw issued the following statement regarding the proposed Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum, “We must collectively do more to address the rise in opioid abuse impacting our communities… It’s disturbing to learn that veterinarians often receive more training in pain management that many of our medical doctors. We need to have people properly trained in these areas. Our response to the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to evolve. As such, we need to evolve our curricula being taught in our medical schools. Training in certain areas, such as pain management, is a pivotal first step.”

Yaw said that the Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum would be a part of medical students’ overall education. The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine would have to evaluate the Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum every three years. You can read about other legislation Yaw has introduced concerning opioids and heroin here.

Yaw has been very vocal about the issue of opioid abuse in the Commonwealth. On April 28th, he attended a meeting at the Pennsylvania College of Technology along with Governor Tom Wolf and others in order to talk about the efforts being taken to fight opioid abuse and heroin use in Pennsylvania. Yaw issued the following statement at that time, “We appreciate the opportunity to sit down with Governor Wolf today in order to increase public awareness of the heroin and opioid crisis facing our rural counties… However, this is not just a rural issue. It’s a statewide issue.  Fortunately, we have a coalition in Lycoming County called Project Bald Eagle that is working to stem the tide of heroin and opioid abuse through education, prevention, treatment, enforcement and data monitoring.  Undoubtedly, it will take a statewide-wide effort to combat this issue and we thank the Governor for his involvement.”

Yaw is on the Project Bald Eagle Board of Directors. Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour of the Pennsylvania College of Technology is the Project Bald Eagle President. According to the Project Bald Eagle website, it’s mission is as follows, “Project Bald Eagle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is leading coalition efforts to stem the tide of the heroin epidemic through Education, Prevention, Treatment, Enforcement and Data Monitoring.”


Wolf Wants $34 Million to Build Outpatient Treatment Centers for Opioid Addiction

Governor Tom WolfPennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) addressed the press at the Center for Substance Abuse Research at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine as he discussed the topic of opioid abuse in the Commonwealth while in Philadelphia on Thursday, June 2nd.

Wolf is requesting a $34 million budget that would be used to focus on opioid abuse in Pennsylvania. In addition, $16 million from Medicaid would be used to combat opioid addiction. Wolf would like to see 50 outpatient treatment centers built in Pennsylvania. These centers would serve as many as 11,000 people annually. He acknowledged that the budget would only be “a start” to addressing the heroin addiction problem and that  “we in Harrisburg are just waking up to the problem.” He also said, “This is something we really need to address in a much more comprehensive way… That’s a placeholder.”

Wolf asked the following two questions, “The question is why do we have this crisis of opioid addiction?… And second, what are we going to do about it?” In regards to treatment centers being built, Wolf said the exact help that heroin addicts need is still being determined. Wolf explained, “One of the things we have to do is find out what that need is… We need to get a better answer to the question. The problem is all over the state.”

The Legislature, which is currently controlled by the GOP, must pass a budget before July 1st when the 2016-2017 fiscal year begins. Wolf said that he believes people are wanting to address the heroin addiction problem regardless of their political party. He said, “This is something that cuts across party lines, class lines, geographical lines in Pennsylvania… I think there is real interest in doing something about this.”

Pennsylvania is currently number one for overdose deaths in the United States. According to Wolf’s office, at least seven Pennsylvanians die per day due to heroin overdoses. According to Wolf, he is especially focusing on drug addiction. Wolf hosted two opioid roundtable discussions in southeast Pennsylvania during the week of Monday, May 16th. The roundtable discussions were hosted in Bensalem and Brookhaven. The discussions were part of a tour across Pennsylvania where law enforcement, emergency responders, local officials, health care professionals, and state lawmakers talked about combining efforts in order to fight the problem of opioid addiction in Pennsylvania. Wolf issued the following statement after the roundtable discussions, “I look forward to continue working collaboratively with the General Assembly and community leaders to ensure Pennsylvania leads the nation in the fight to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic… The magnitude of the addiction and overdose death epidemic in Pennsylvania is shocking: at least seven Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose. With nearly 2,500 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2014 and estimates that the 2015 total will be higher, a collaborative effort on the federal, state, and local levels is crucial in combating this crisis.”

Wolf to Ink Legislation Directing PA School Funds Distribution

governor tom wolfPennsylvania Secretary of Policy and Planning, Sarah Galbally, announced on Wednesday, June 1st, that Governor Tom Wolf (D) will ink legislation outlining how state funds will be distributed among schools in the Commonwealth.

In June of 2015, the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission adopted the Basic Education Funding (BEF) Formula. According to Galbally, BEF “provides sufficient, predictable and equitable funding for school districts” in Pennsylvania. Also according to Galbally, Pennsylvania was one of three states that lacked such a formula.

The formula takes the following information about students into account: The amount of students who are in poverty, the amount of students that attend a charter school, and the amount of children who are learning English. In addition, the following district information is taken into account: The current tax effort of the district and the district’s ability to raise revenue.

Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) Executive Director Nathan Mains issued the following statement ahead of Wolf’s expected signing of the BEF legislation, “This is a historic moment in providing adequate, equitable and fair school funding in Pennsylvania… PSBA supported the use of the funding formula in distributing money through the fiscal code and is pleased that the BEF Commission formula will become permanently implemented in the School Code once Gov. Tom Wolf signs the bill… A formula goes a long way to help school entities develop their annual budgets. Additionally, a formula will help with the equitable distribution of school funding to alleviate the current disparities in how state dollars are allocated.”

There is a $200 million increase in the basic education subsidy within the 2016-2017 budget established by Wolf. The BEF formula would be used to distribute the subsidy. According to Galbally, the increase will help schools in the Commonwealth recover from cuts they experiences in 2011. In addition, students will get a “quality public education” no matter where they live in the Commonwealth. Galbally also acknowledged that there is still “more work” to be done.

PA Medical Marijuana Regulations Being Written

governor tom wolfAccording to Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy, it will likely be two years until medical marijuana is available for qualified patients in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, Murphy explained that regulations are being written. In addition, her agency is finding people that will process and grow medical marijuana. Physicians must be certified, growers must be licensed, and plants must be tracked.

According to Murphy, regulations will be written in July outlining how parents will be able to bring medical marijuana that was bought legally in another state to Pennsylvania so that it may be administered to children that have a qualifying condition.

In April, Governor Tom Wolf (D) inked legislation that will enable eligible patients in Pennsylvania to be prescribed medical marijuana. The marijuana products will be sold in oil, ointment, pill, liquid, or vapor form.