KEYSTONE CROSSROADS – Many cities across Pennsylvania are struggling with outdated infrastructure, especially their water and sewer lines. In Pittsburgh this week, a water main break caused a safety advisory affecting 7,000 households. It’s the city’s third such warning this year. The broken 20-inch water main left some customers without water or with very low pressure, which means groundwater could infiltrate the pipes. In a precautionary measure, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority told affected customers to run their taps and then boil water before using it to drink or cook.
ROCHESTER (WXXI) – A possible change to school calendars would give districts more flexibility in scheduling. A proposal made by the New York State Education Department would switch from a ‘number of school days per year’ guideline, to hours per year. Right now, the department requires schools be in session 180 days a year, something that can easily get messed up by parent teacher conferences or snow days. Spokesperson for the Rochester City School District Carlos Garcia says this would also help college prep students who attend some classes at MCC. “So they can come in later, they can come in earlier etc.
ROCHESTER (WXXI) – The changes contained in the GOP tax bill may have an impact on charitable giving in 2018. That’s the word from the President and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, Jennifer Leonard. She notes that the tax bill proposes nearly doubling the standard deduction, which means millions of people may not itemize, and charities and non profits could take a hit, as a result.
“The estimates range from $13 to $24 billion dollars in prospective losses in charitable giving in 2018 alone,” she said. “Currently, 30 million taxpayers itemize. That may drop to as few as 5 million, and that means those 25 milion people who no longer are itemizing also can’t use the charitable deduction.” Leonard expects a spike in charitable giving now because many people expect their opportunities to deduct charitable gifts next year may be constrained.
ALBANY (WSKG) – 2018 might finally be the year that Democrats regain control of the state Senate. But they face a number of obstacles, and Republicans aren’t ready to give up any time soon. Two feuding factions of Democrats in the Senate have agreed to reunite later next year and perhaps rule the chamber, but it can happen only if a number of events occur first. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under pressure from left-leaning Democrats to be a peace broker, last month called on the eight breakaway members of the Independent Democratic Conference to rejoin with the rest of the Democrats. “I urge both sides to stop their intramural disputes and unify,” Cuomo said on Nov.
ROCHESTER (WXXI) – The New York State Canal Corporation has agreed to wait until February to continue their project that’s removing trees from canal embankments between Medina and Pittsford. That’s after a protest a few weeks ago and a meeting held earlier this week, where residents and three town supervisors from Brighton, Pittsford and Perinton voiced concerns about the project. The Canal Corporation says they need to remove the trees to maintain embankment integrity and prevent erosion. They say the roots cause the embankments to weaken. But those who live along the canal weren’t so quick to let that happen.
WRVO (SYRACUSE) – Centerstate CEO President Rob Simpson is criticizing a report on central New York’s inland port, and the New York State Department of Transportation’s decision to locate the project in the town of DeWitt. The inland port would receive goods by rail from the Port of New York and New Jersey. Two years ago, Simpson said the inland port had the potential to create 2,000 jobs if warehousing could be developed adjacent to the rail terminal. But he said the DeWitt location is surrounded by protected wetlands, making it difficult to build warehousing. “The decision that has been made, which is to effectively declare the DeWitt rail yard as the only viable site for a central New York inland port, is inaccurate, represents a failure for this process, and represents a massive missed opportunity for central New York,” Simpson said.
Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) says the tax overhaul bill he voted for is even better after it went through the conference committee with the Senate version. It retains the historic tax credit, which was used to restore the Hotel Syracuse, it no longer taxes the tuition waivers that some graduate students use to pay for school and it allows taxpayers some flexibility on whether they want to deduct their state income, sales or property taxes – capped at $10,000. On top of that, Katko says it’s going to stimulate the region’s economy. “The analysis is very, very solid – the vast majority of my constituents – particularly the middle class and the working class – are absolutely going to be getting a tax cut here,” Katko said. “There’s no question about it.”
SYRACUSE (WRVO) – The House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation aimed at rewriting the nation’s tax code Tuesday, by a vote of 227-203. 12 Republicans voted against the bill, five of them are from New York. North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Wilsboro), in a statement Monday, said that she could not support the bill because it “does not adequately protect the State and Local Tax deduction that so many in our district and across New York rely on. Due to Albany’s failed leadership and inability to rein in spending, New York is one of the highest taxed states in the country, and families here rely on this important deduction to make ends meet. Failure to maintain SALT could lead to more families leaving our region.”
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Longtime Republican lawmaker Scott Petri, who vocally opposed recent expansions to Pennsylvania’s gambling industry, is resigning at the end of the year. He had served as chair of the House Gaming Committee. The Bucks County Republican says he’s stepping down from the legislature to become executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The previous director, Vince Fenerty, resigned amid sexual harassment allegations. Petri helmed the Gaming Committee through a budget process that saw his own chamber’s leaders throw their weight behind a sweeping gambling expansion, hoping to use the revenue to balance state finances.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — A newly published report shows state House Democrats have paid $600,000 in taxpayer money to settle complaints against four lawmakers over the last decade. Two of those were sexual harassment complaints–including one against 21-term Representative Thomas Caltagirone that cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars. According to documents obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the House Democratic Caucus paid $248,000 in 2015 to settle a complaint from one of Caltagirone’s staffers. It apparently involved years of physical and verbal harassment. The settlement included a nondisclosure agreement.