Pennsylvania

John Quinn, 67, attended St. Francis Vocational School for a couple of months in the 1960s, along with other Catholic orphanages. Quinn says it was during that time that he was molested by priests and counselors.
Natalie Piserchio for WHYY

Last year’s grand jury report detailing sexual assault allegations against 301 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania raised the question: how would the church respond?

In the months that followed, seven of the eight dioceses in Pennsylvania launched compensation funds, following the model set by dioceses in New York.

These programs, which started winding down at the end of September, offer a lump sum to victims in return for signing away the right to sue the church over their allegations. 

Grain farmer Jesse Poliskiewicz breaks open a pod of soybeans while on his farm Sept. 20, 2019, in Upper Mount Bethel Township, Pennsylvania.
Matt Smith / Keystone Crossroads

Don Cairns is driving through rural Chester County between one of his many plots of farmland. He grows corn, wheat, and soybeans on about 1,700 acres. It’s a hot, dry day — perfect for harvesting. He’s busy shuttling fresh-cut corn from the field back to his silos for storage.

In a sun-faded camouflage cap, a dusty brown t-shirt and blue jeans, Cairns lugs a large semi-truck hauling a grain trailer onto the cornfield. There, a combine outfitted with the latest technology analyzes the yields as it ploughs the field and shells the kernels from the cobs.

The deadline to register to vote in the November election is fast approaching.

And while it’s an off year for high-profile races, Pennsylvanians will be deciding a major ballot measure.

Pennsylvania Among 17 States Suing Feds Over Weakening Endangered Species Act

Sep 25, 2019
National Park Service, via AP / Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — Seventeen states sued the Trump administration Wednesday to block rules weakening the Endangered Species Act, saying the changes would make it tougher to protect wildlife even in the midst of a global extinction crisis.
The lawsuit, in federal court in San Francisco, follows a similar challenge filed last month by several environmental groups, including the Humane Society and the Sierra Club.

Governor Wolf Now Supports Legalizing Marijuana

Sep 25, 2019
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is now in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, saying Wednesday that most of the state's residents support it and that the state has a wealth of knowledge from the experience in other states to guide it.
Wolf, a second-term Democrat, packaged his announcement with a call to the Republican-controlled Legislature to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and allow the expungement of past convictions of nonviolent and small marijuana-related crimes.

State and federal officials hosted a summit at Mount Aloysius College Monday to talk about legislation that would help the dairy industry.
Min Xian / WPSU

Pennsylvania dairy farmers have been under continuous pressure of decreasing fluid milk consumption in the country and tight markets met by production surpluses and tariffs. Congressman Glenn Thompson led a summit at Mount Aloysius College in Cambria County Monday, reassuring producers and farmers that a handful of new policies would offer meaningful assistance to the industry.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

(Harrisburg) -- Democratic state lawmakers are criticizing the Trump Administration over its proposed plan to restrict Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for certain people.

They say the change amounts to a punishment for the poor. 

Right now, people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—or TANF—are also considered eligible for SNAP.

But the US Department of Agriculture is proposing limiting that eligibility to people who get at least $50 in TANF benefits per month.

Some Pa. Election Systems Still Use Vulnerable Software

Jul 13, 2019
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pennsylvania's message was clear: The state was taking a big step to keep its elections from being hacked in 2020. Last April, its top election official told counties they had to update their systems. So far, nearly 60% have taken action, with $14.15 million of mostly federal funds helping counties buy brand-new electoral systems.
But there's a problem: Many of these new systems still run on old software that will soon be outdated and more vulnerable to hackers.

Keith Srakocic / Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's Republican Party chairman is stepping down following a published report that he had traded sexually charged text messages with a Philadelphia City Council candidate and also sent her an explicit photo of himself.
Val DiGiorgio's resignation was announced Tuesday by the state GOP.
In a letter to party officials, the 51-year-old DiGiorgio says the report by The Philadelphia Inquirer contains "gross mischaracterizations" of what he said were "mutual consensual communications."

U.S.G.S

A minor earthquake hit Central Pennsylvania Wednesday night. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.4, struck at around 8:31 p.m. The epicenter was located in Juniata county, Pa., about 11 miles south/southwest of Mifflintown. Reports of mild shaking came in to the U.S.G.S website from Altoona to Lancaster, and from State College to Hagerstown, Md.

A screenshot of the map related to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania broadband study shows only some fractions of the state meet the FCC definition of broadband internet downloading speed.
broadbandtest.us

A new report released on Monday by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania says the Federal Communications Commission overstates broadband internet availability and access across Pennsylvania.

John Minchillo / Associated Press

Tuesday, May 28, 9:50 p.m.
The National Weather Service says a tornado has been confirmed in eastern Pennsylvania where homes have been damaged but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Meteorologist Jonathan O'Brien says a damage assessment team will be sent to the area Wednesday to determine the strength of the twister that struck Tuesday.

Pennsylvania Has Already Seen Yearly Average Of Tornadoes

May 26, 2019
David E. Brown

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Weather officials say Pennsylvania has already recorded the average number of tornados for a year.
Meteorologist Sarah Johnson of the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, New Jersey says 16 tornadoes that have had preliminary confirmation in the commonwealth so far this year.
Severe weather is more common in June and into July, but Johnson cautions that that is by no means a hard and fast rule. For example, a large outbreak of severe weather was recorded Oct. 2 of last year across the commonwealth, she said.

Pennsylvania will host a special election on May 21. Democrat Marc Friedenberg and Republican Fred Keller are vying for the state's 12th U.S. House seat vacated by Congressman Tom Marino.
WVIA Public Media

A few months ago, Daniel Klein bought two flags to hang on a chainlink fence outside his home in rural Wyoming County.

They say “Trump 2020: No More Bulls---.”

Some people driving along wooded Route 29 stop to take pictures. Some blow their horns.

“I don’t know whether they’re throwing me the bird or saying, ‘Good job,’ but I don’t care,” Klein said.

From left to right, Joe Polaski, John Hecker and Larry Bickel, officials from the Moshannon Forest District, gather around the alidade, an instrument used to help personnel staffing lookout towers pinpoint the location of wildfires.
Amy Sisk / Stateimpact Pennsylvania

John Hecker pointed out the window of the truck as it passed oak, maple and birch trees in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

Up ahead was a fork in the road.

The state has approved $40 million in grants for school districts to improve safety. These competitive grants are in addition to $25,000 that most districts received last year. Huntingdon Area School District is one of the districts receiving grants.
Courtesy of huntsd.org

The state has approved $40 million in grants for school districts to improve safety.

 

Over a dozen school districts in Central Pennsylvania received grants, including the Altoona Area School District, the Keystone Central School District and the Smethport Area School District. None of Centre County’s school district was awarded a competitive grant.

These competitive grants are in addition to $25,000 that most districts received last year.

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (left) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (right) took turns discussing the rising cost of college education at Penn State's University Park campus on Thursday, April 11, 2019.
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

Third highest in the nation.

That’s how Pennsylvania ranks in the price of attending a public university according to the most recent report from College Board, with an the average cost of $14,770 for in-state tuition and fees in the 2018-19 academic year.

Pennsylvania Gun Violence Activists Set Sights On New Bill

Apr 8, 2019
Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Fresh from a victory in Pennsylvania last fall, anti-gun violence advocates are turning their attention to legislation to empower family members or police to seek the immediate, if temporary, seizure of someone's firearms.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America went to the state Capitol on Monday to press the case for the bill, sometimes called a "red flag" bill in other states.
Under it, someone who is deemed to represent a danger of suicide or a serious threat to another person could be the subject of an "extreme risk protection order."

In this file photo, a device called a "bump stock" is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah.
Rick Rowmer / AP Photo

As a nationwide ban took effect this week, gun owners must immediately destroy or turn over their bump stocks after President Trump pushed the Justice Department to classify the controversial gun add-on as a type of illegal machine gun.

The gun accessory attaches to the butt of a semi-automatic rifle, allowing the weapon to reload and fire more rapidly.

The device became a focal point in the country's debate about gun violence in the months after law enforcement officials said a shooter used one to kill 58 people in Las Vegas in October 2017.

In this file photo, Movita Johnson-Harrell was a supervisor of the Philadelphia district attorney's Victim/Witness Services unit. An invocation given before Johnson-Harrell's swearing-in to the state House was broadly construed as Islamophobic.
Tom MacDonald / WHYY

(Harrisburg) -- The state House swore in its first-ever Muslim woman on Monday.

Movita Johnson-Harrell won her Philadelphia seat in a special election earlier this month. A mother and grandmother, she arrived in Harrisburg with 55 guests, more than half of whom she said were fellow Muslims.

But she said her first day in office was marred by an "offensive" invocation before her induction.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke visited Penn State University Park on Tuesday and spoke to a crowd of hundreds about how he wants to serve the country.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

Calling for respect and unity that he said will lead to common ground, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke visited Penn State University Park on Tuesday and spoke to a crowd of hundreds about how he wants to serve the country.

The former congressman from El Paso, Texas, is the first declared presidential candidate for the 2020 race to host a public event in Pennsylvania. Coming from previous stops in critical swing states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, O’Rourke said his “grassroots road trip” is really important to him.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

HARRISBURG (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf rolled out a second-term proposal Wednesday to vault Pennsylvania's minimum wage to one of the highest in the nation after similar first-term proposals by the Democrat fell flat in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Wolf wants to take the hourly minimum to $12 this year, putting Pennsylvania in line with the highest state minimum wages, according to federal data. Pennsylvania also would join a handful of states by eliminating its tipped wage minimum, now $2.83, under legislation being introduced with Wolf's support.

Harris Wofford, Former Pennsylvania Senator, Dies At 92

Jan 22, 2019
Nanette Kardaszeski / Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, a civil rights activist who staged an upset Senate win in 1991, has died. He was 92.
Wofford died late Monday night of complications from a fall in his Washington, D.C., apartment, his son, Daniel Wofford, said.
Wofford had joined the Senate in 1991, appointed to fill the Senate vacancy created by the death of Republican John Heinz. He then pulled off a surprise victory in a special election to complete the Senate term. But Wofford lost his 1994 bid for a full term.

In this file photo, Tony Pouliot demonstrates the goCrop app on his mobile photo in the cab of his combine on his farm in Westford, Vt.
Toby Talbot / AP

A group representing rural Pennsylvanians says expanding high speed broadband internet access in the state needs to be a priority this year, but acknowledges funding for infrastructure upgrades continues to be a challenge.

 

 

The most recent federal spending bill passed in March 2018 included a $600 million boost to efforts to improve high-speed internet access.

 

 

Big Jump In U.S. Catholic Dioceses Naming Names

Jan 3, 2019
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Over the past four months, Roman Catholic dioceses across the U.S. have released the names of more than 1,000 priests and others accused of sexually abusing children in an unprecedented public reckoning spurred at least in part by a shocking grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania, an Associated Press review has found.

Katie Meyer / Katie Meyer

 (Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania’s House and Senate swore in their newly-elected members on New Year’s Day and are now gearing up to start a two-year legislative session.

As the Capitol flooded with lawmakers’ friends, families, and supporters, legislative leaders spoke on the floor about their priorities for the new session.

In the Senate, GOP Majority Leader Jake Corman advocated bipartisan efficiency, telling members it
“doesn’t matter what we’re for, doesn’t matter what we want to do. If we don’t get it done, we’ve failed.”

Wanting To Get Things Done, Wolf Prepares For Second Term

Dec 31, 2018
AP / Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf, who introduced himself at his first inauguration as an unconventional governor and then unveiled an ambitious blueprint to transform Pennsylvania's tax structure, is returning for a second term with big plans, although with perhaps a more sober view of what is possible.
Wolf, a Democrat, faced huge Republican legislative majorities throughout his first term, and will again face substantial Republican majorities as he hopes to nail down second-term achievements, including on stalled first-term priorities.

Tougher Penalties Take Effect For Repeat DUIs In Pa.

Dec 26, 2018
AP / Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The legal consequences for repeatedly driving under the influence in Pennsylvania have become much more severe under a new law that just took effect.
Legislation passed in October by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf established the state's first felony for DUI.
It applies when someone has been charged with a third offense in a decade with at least twice the legal limit for alcohol, or any fourth-time offender. Pennsylvania law sets the legal limit for driving at 0.08 percent.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — For the Pennsylvania Senate, the election didn't necessarily end at 8:00 p.m. on November 6.
The chamber's Republican majority is questioning the residency qualifications of a newly elected Democrat who flipped a Republican-held Pittsburgh-area seat by a mere 793 votes, injecting tension into a normally quiet December between legislative sessions.

A screenshot of the Penn State study's live result map shows that only a fraction of the state meets the F.C.C.'s standard for high-speed broadband internet.
broadbandtest.us

Statewide research from Pennsylvania State University finds that there’s a severe lack of connectivity to high-speed broadband internet for much of Pennsylvania. The preliminary results of the study suggest that the problem is far worse than experts initially estimated.

Using data self-reported from internet providers, the Federal Communications Commission estimates about 800,000 Pennsylvanians lack access to broadband, which is about six percent of the state’s population.

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