Another Year Of Pennsylvania Budget Woes

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.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program Enters Final Stages of Rollout

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.

PA Officials: Budget Constraints Limit Care For Mentally Ill Inmates

KEYSTONE CROSSWORDS - Following a U.S. Department of Justice investigation in 2014, the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, demanding changes to provide better care for mentally ill inmates. DOC settled in 2015, and three years later, the state says it no longer uses solitary confinement as prevalently. “We no longer utilize the same level of segregation that we did prior to the reports and the investigations,” said Lynn Patrone, DOC’s mental health advocate. She said the department is working to meet the requirement that the settlement put forward to divert inmates into treatment instead of solitary confinement. Patrone said even when the misconduct of inmates with mental illness results in solitary confinement, they are offered 20 hours of out-of-cell activities per week.

Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Lawsuit Over Royalty Payments Advances

A lawsuit is moving forward by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office alleging natural gas companies didn’t pay royalties to landowners as they’d promised. Bradford County Common Pleas Court Judge Kenneth Brown denied the preliminary objections raised by the defendants, Chesapeake Energy and Anadarko Petroleum. The lawsuit, filed in 2015, accuses the companies of violating the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, by promising landowners royalty money they never paid. You can read the full story here.

Calls For Change Mount After Harassment Allegations Against Pennsylvania Lawmakers

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- On the heels of recent Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette stories on alleged sexual harassment by state lawmakers, a number of officials are calling for a change. The latest story concerns 40-year veteran lawmaker Thomas Caltagirone, a Berks County Democrat. The House Democratic caucus paid a quarter million taxpayer dollars to settle a harassment complaint a staffer made against him. A non-disclosure agreement kept the whole thing under wraps. A few weeks before that was reported, fellow House Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky, of Delaware County, said a different news story made her realize the settlements were happening and being kept secret.

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Eastern PA Democratic Lawmaker Joins Crowded Race For Lieutenant Governor

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- The field for the 2018 lieutenant governor election is filling up, with a number of Democrats jumping into the often-low-key race.  That could mean a tough battle for incumbent Mike Stack, who has struggled through public conflicts with fellow Democrat, Governor Tom Wolf. State representative Madeleine Dean, who has served part of Montgomery County since 2012, is the latest entry to the race. So far, she has avoided bashing other candidates. But asked if the Lieutenant Governor's office has used more resources than it warrants, she offered some criticism that seemed aimed at Stack. "You know, the current climate shows that it has not," she said.

PA Lawmakers Float Stringent Budget Bill To Save Money

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- Several Republican state senators plan to introduce legislation that would require Pennsylvania to use zero-based budgeting--a standard specifically designed to save money. The idea comes from lawmakers' annual, unsuccessful struggles to balance the commonwealth's books. However, other states that have attempted to use the method have often opted not to stick with it. Zero-based budgeting basically requires a rotating percentage of state agencies to re-justify all their operations and expenses every five years, and estimate the minimum amount of money they need to continue them. The author of the new measure, York County Republican Scott Wagner, said he's taking cues from the private sector.

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PA’s Highest Court Considers Governor’s Appeal In Home Care Case

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- Pennsylvania's Supreme Court is deciding whether Governor Tom Wolf overstepped his authority with an executive order letting the state organize home healthcare workers under a union-like structure.  A lower court already decided against the governor once. But lawyers for the Wolf administration argue the governor's directive merely gives workers an option to voice their concerns. The 2015 order--one of Wolf's first in office--targets independent workers who care for elderly and disabled people in their homes. It has them pick representatives to meet with the state human services secretary about issues like pay and benefits. It also gives their contact information to representative groups, which opponents say could facilitate future organizing.