HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) – Pennsylvania’s state police force is reviewing its interactions with the federal immigration and customs enforcement, in the wake of a series of investigative reports questioning the legality of troopers using traffic stops to detain people in the country illegally. It’s still not clear how law enforcement agency will change their procedures, or when. An investigation by ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer found the Philadelphia Immigration and Customs Enforcement office–which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia–arrests more undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions than any other ICE office in the country. Unlike police in many other states, Pennsylvania state troopers don’t have official partnerships with ICE –nor do they have limits on questioning people about their legal status. It’s largely up to individual troopers to decide whether to question people about their immigration status or contact ICE agents.
HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and a number of legislators are advocating for a slew of changes to the state’s criminal justice system. The call comes in the wake of a few victories for reform advocates, but in the face of opposition from a significant portion of the legislature’s GOP majority. On the agenda are eight initiatives, including standardizing bail across counties, pumping more money into public defense, providing a clean slate for old misdemeanors, and a second phase of Justice Reinvestment initiatives aimed at reducing recidivism. Some of those, like the clean slate bill, are already moving through the legislature and have garnered bipartisan support. “These reforms would save us precious time and money spent incarcerating people who are better-served through programs and services–people who simply don’t belong in prison,” Wolf said at a press conference outside the Dauphin County Judicial Center.
KEYSTONE CROSSROADS — The Pennsylvania legislature would get more control over how state legislative boundary lines are drawn under an amended bill that passed out of the House Government Committee along party lines Wednesday. The original bill removed lawmakers from the process in favor of an independent citizens’ commission. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, says lawmakers are the most accountable of anyone who might be tasked with legislative reapportionment. “The best way to make sure we have citizens actually being the ones redrawing, citizens who are held accountable to their fellow citizens who elect them to office, and are not just going to go away after the work is done, and be held accountable in the future for their decisions, is to totally gut and replace this bill,” said Metcalfe, committee chairman. Metcalfe’s amendment completely changed House Bill 722 from its original intent.
KEYSTONE CROSSROADS — Forty-two Pennsylvania dairy farms scrambled in search for new markets after receiving contract termination notices about a month ago from Dean Foods, a national distributor based in Texas. Since then, two distributors in the state have entered agreements with some of those farms.
Harrisburg Dairies will pick up nine farms in the Lebanon-Lancaster area, while Schneider’s Dairy in Pittsburgh decided to take on four farms from Clarion and Venango counties. “It takes a huge burden off of our shoulders,” said Alisha Risser, a dairy farmer in Lebanon county. Her farm will start producing for Harrisburg Dairies soon, but she said she is nervous for her fellow farmers who still struggle to stay in business. “I mean, I can’t even imagine what the ones that did not get the contract are going through right now,” she said.
HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) — State House Republicans are announcing two proposals aimed at curbing workplace harassment. The effort comes after one of their members–Delaware County’s Nick Miccarelli — was accused of harassment by fellow House Republican Tarah Toohil, of Luzerne County. She now has a restraining order against him. A few other lawmakers have also been accused of harassment in recent months. The GOP measures diverge significantly from previous solutions offered up by Democrats.
Activity in Pennsylvania’s gas fields slowed in recent years amid low prices, but operators ramped up drilling in 2017, and they’re expecting to drill even more in the new year. The site of some of the state’s newest gas wells lies atop a Washington County hill in Frank Brownlee’s backyard. Brownlee, 68, lives a quarter-mile away and operates a trucking business next to his house. Read Full Story Here
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Pennsylvania has struggled for a decade to pass balanced state budgets, and this year was no exception. A funding plan finally made it to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk four months after it was due, though like all his previous budgets, Wolf let it become law without a signature. Many fiscal watchdogs say it doesn’t do much to address the commonwealth’s underlying issues anyway. Off the bat, lawmakers were at a disadvantage when creating it. Revenue had come in more than a billion dollars less than expected the year before, and all told, they were on the hook to fill a $2.2 billion hole.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Pennsylvanians have started receiving identification cards to get medication through the commonwealth’s new medical marijuana program. More than 10,000 people have registered, but only about 1,188 have been approved so far. Medical marijuana ID cards started going out to patients in mid-December, with 435 released in the first wave. The Department of Health says more are being issued as we speak. Acting DOH Secretary Rachel Levine said people can actually start getting medication sometime during the next four months–though it’s still unclear exactly when.