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Activists Say They’ll Keep Trying For Ethics Reform

 ALBANY (WSKG) – This year’s state legislative session has produced no agreements on ethics reform, even though Albany is in the midst of a what some call a corruption crime wave. Capitol correspondent Karen DeWitt (who is recovering from a cold) spoke to longtime League of Women Voters lobbyist Barbara Bartoletti about the lack of action.    

Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' Performed Outdoors

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Cider Mill Playhouse and the City of Binghamton have joined to present Shakespeare’s comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Confluence Park for three performances.  Andrea Gregori, playing Titania, and Shan Towns, playing Oberon, talk about this joint venture, and give an overview of this comedy of mismatched couples. Audience members are encouraged to bring folding chairs. http://wskg.org/audio/midsummer.mp3

 

Photo credit: Joshua B for Shakespeare on the River

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With PA Pursuing Proceeds, Is Party Pot A Possible Plan?

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – As GOP leaders search high and low for more than two billion dollars to patch the commonwealth’s budget gaps, one state senator is trying to tempt his colleagues with revenue projections from one of his longtime pet issues–recreational marijuana.  Over the last several years, Democrat Daylin Leach has never had much luck getting the legislature to take recreational weed seriously. The Montgomery County lawmaker said he still doesn’t have any illusions about getting a bill on the table for the current budget. Instead, he’s hoping new revenue estimates–which his staff put together with help from budget experts–grease the wheels for the coming years. Especially, he said, because they show significant, recurring revenue. “We’re heading into a period of enormous, unsustainable structural deficit, and a reluctance to raise any sort of money necessary to address them,” he said.

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PA Issues First Round Of Permits To Medical Marijuana Growers

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — The director of Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana program has announced the first round of permit allocations to marijuana growers and processors.  The 12 businesses chosen — including three in the midstate — were ranked against the state’s scoring rubric, which includes diversity plans, business history, and community impact, among other things. The newly-licensed companies now have six months to become operational. The permitting process was competitive, with over 450 applications. An avenue is in place for businesses to appeal the state if they think they’ve been wrongly passed over. Program director John Collins said even accounting for appeals and potential lawsuits from the businesses that weren’t chosen, he doesn’t think the program will be thrown off track.

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After Nearly A Year, PA’s Legislature Passes “Libre’s” Animal Protection Law

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — After almost a year of work over two legislative sessions, a comprehensive animal protection bill has passed the legislature, and will soon be signed by the governor. This time last year, Libre the Boston terrier was near death, suffering from malnutrition and a severe skin infection on the Lancaster farm where he was born and neglected. Today, he’s enthusiastically sniffing staffers in Adams County Senator Richard Alloway’s office, having become perhaps the best lobbyist Harrisburg has on animal rights. Alloway, a Republican, has been a vocal supporter of the animal protection bill that’s come to be known as Libre’s Law. He noted that Pennsylvania had been one of only three states without a felony penalty for severe animal abuse.

What is the Critical Zone?

The Critical Zone supports terrestrial life on Earth. It is the region above and below the Earth surface, extending from the tops of the trees down through the subsurface to the bottom of the groundwater. It is a living, breathing, constantly evolving boundary layer where rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms interact. These complex interactions regulate the natural habitat and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources, including our food production and water quality. Critical Zone scientists work to discover how this living skin is structured, evolves, and provides essential functions that sustain life. The national Critical Zone Observatory Network is made up of nine environmental observatories each located in a different climatic and geologic setting.

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Top PA Democrat Says State Budget Probably Won’t Balance

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – According to Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, he and other Democrats haven’t so far been party to many of the budget negotiations that are heating up in the Capitol.  “There’s only been a handful–not even a handful maybe just a couple–conversations on the budget,” he said. “It’s a little different from previous years.” But based on what he’s hearing, Costa said he’s increasingly concerned this year’s budget won’t be properly balanced. The commonwealth is up against a roughly $1.5 billion revenue shortfall–and that’s just for this fiscal year. Democrats in the House and Senate–and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf–have long pushed to fill budget holes with broad-based tax increases.

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PA Lawmakers Consider Borrowing Money To Balance Budget

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — The Republican majority leaders of Pennsylvania’s House and Senate say they’re determined to put together a budget without raising taxes.  That means making up this year’s $1.5 billion shortfall, plus accounting for a roughly $3 billion structural deficit. To get it done, the final plan is likely to involve significant borrowing. One option under consideration would involve using an asset as collateral to get a loan, which would be paid off over 25 years or so. Several assets could be used. One contender is the state’s significant tobacco fund, which comes from a settlement with tobacco companies two decades ago.  Senate Appropriations Chair, Republican Pat Browne, noted that other states have used the same tactic.

Final Week Of New York State Session Begins With Issues Unsettled

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ALBANY (WSKG) – The New York State Legislature is approaching its final week of the 2017 session, and agreements on outstanding issues, including mayoral control over the state’s largest school system, remain elusive.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is not optimistic an agreement will be reached. Three separate measures permitting the mayor of New York City to control the city’s public schools were approved in the Senate, extending the program one, two and five years. Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan and his GOP members have not had a warm relationship with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio since the mayor tried to get Democrats elected to the state Senate in 2014. But Flanagan, during debate on the Senate floor on June 13, said he does not oppose the concept of mayoral control. “I believe that the mayor should ultimately be responsible for the good parts and whatever negative parts there might be,” Flanagan said.

Chesapeake Bay’s ‘Dead Zone’ Expected to be Bigger Than Average This Summer

Scientists predict the Chesapeake Bay will have a larger than average ‘dead zone’ this summer, where oxygen levels in the water are so low fish and crabs will leave the area, if they can. Photo: Bay Journal

According to the Bay Journal, a year after experiencing its best water quality in decades, the Chesapeake Bay is expected to have a larger than average “dead zone” this summer, where fish, crabs and shellfish will struggle to breathe. Researchers with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and the University of Michigan are forecasting that the volume of oxygen-starved water in the Bay will grow to 1.9 cubic miles, enough to nearly fill 3.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. A “dead zone” is a popular term for water that’s low in oxygen, or hypoxic. Fish often leave such areas; if they’re trapped — or immobile, like shellfish — they can suffocate.