By: Andrea Sears
PHILADELPHIA – The ACLU is appealing a court ruling that allows a county transit system to ban ads from an atheist group. The County of Lackawanna Transit System refused to allow the Northeast Pennsylvania Freethought Society to place ads on its vehicles that contained the word “atheist” and the group’s website. The transit system said the ads were too controversial.
According to ACLU staff attorney Brian Hauss, when a government entity such as a transit authority opens up a space for public speech, the First Amendment puts strict limits on its ability to censor that speech.
“When the government has the power to censor speech simply because it’s too controversial, history has shown time and again that the government will inevitably use that power for the benefit of people with political connections and the powerful, and to the detriment of everybody else,” he says.
The Federal District Court upheld the ban, saying the vehicles are a “limited public forum,” allowing for more discretion, and because the ban was not based on the viewpoint of the ads.
But Hauss disagrees with that determination. He points out that when the government is given wide discretion to prohibit speech it deems controversial, no one knows what the factors are that go into that determination.
“If the government concluded, for example, that an ad supporting Black Lives Matter was hate speech, it would be empowered to suppress that advertisement and its discretion would be very hard to overrule,” he explains.
He notes that in a similar case, a transit system in the nation’s capital banned an ad placed by the ACLU that simply contained the text of the First Amendment.
And Hauss points out that official censorship leads to the stifling of debate and the public’s right to know, as has happened in Philadelphia.
“The transit system there refused to run an ad about mortgage discrimination,” notes Hauss. “It was an informational ad explaining that there was systemic mortgage discrimination in a lot of housing in Pennsylvania.”
The ACLU is appealing the Lackawanna ruling to the Federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Media, PA – Pennsylvania is home to more than 1,000 farmers’ markets, with local, nutritious, and affordable produce generating more than $140 million for the commonwealth’s economy. Today, in recognition of those significant contributions, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced that Governor Tom Wolf has declared August 2018 as Produce Month in Pennsylvania.
“The commonwealth is a leader in the production of fruits and vegetables, and the impact these products have on our communities is far-reaching and profound,” said Sec. Redding. “We continue to support the growth and consumption of Pennsylvania produce, and we continue to encourage Pennsylvanians to eat fresh, eat healthy, and buy local–three of the most important things a consumer can do for themselves and for their community.”
During his visit to Linvilla Orchards in Delaware County today, Sec. Redding noted that Pennsylvania farmers’ markets offer a variety of benefits to local economies. For instance, he said, every $100 spent at a farmers’ market contributes $48 to the local economy.
In addition to the economic impacts realized through the consumption of local produce, Redding also noted that farmers’ markets can help combat food insecurity by providing affordable, or even free, food to Pennsylvanians at risk for hunger.
He reminded eligible residents that they can access fresh, Pennsylvania-grown produce – at no cost — through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs. Participating markets can be found at pafmnp.com. Voucher holders can search for a participating market in their area or an area they are visiting. Participants may redeem vouchers from June 1 through November 30, 2018.
Text of the governor’s proclamation follows:
PENNSYLVANIA PRODUCE MONTH
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania is a national leader in the production of quality, nutritious and affordable vegetables, a sector of the agriculture industry that generates more than $140 million for the Commonwealth’s economy; and
WHEREAS, nearly 4,000 farm families manage about 49,400 acres which produce well in excess of 200,000 tons of vegetables for fresh and processing use each year; and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania’s vegetable growers are national leaders in the production of processing snap beans (3rd); pumpkins (7th), cantaloupes (7th), fresh market sweet corn (9th), fresh market tomatoes (11th) and fresh market cabbage (12h); and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania growers use integrated pest management and other good agricultural practices to provide an extra level of safety to consumers and the environment alike; and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania vegetables are both delicious and nutritious, providing important vitamins, fiber and other dietary components that are essential to a healthy, balanced diet; and
WHEREAS, health authorities have long encouraged increased consumption of vegetables for both nutritional and disease prevention purposes; and
WHEREAS, many Pennsylvania fruit and vegetable growers market their produce as PA Preferred™, the official brand of agricultural goods grown and made in Pennsylvania. Buying PA Preferred ensures consumers have chosen food locally grown and processed and are investing their dollars back into the local economy by supporting Pennsylvania’s producers; and
WHEREAS, fresh Pennsylvania vegetables are available in abundant supply and peak quality at community farmers markets, roadside farm markets, and supermarkets throughout the Commonwealth during August.
THEREFORE, in recognition of our thriving vegetable industry, I, Tom Wolf, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, do hereby proclaim August 2018 PRODUCE MONTH in Pennsylvania, and encourage all citizens to enjoy the commonwealth’s plentiful supply of fresh and processed vegetables and vegetable products while recognizing the industry’s contributions to our economy and health.
GIVEN under my hand and the Seal of the Governor, at the City of Harrisburg, this first day of August two thousand eighteen, the year of the commonwealth the two hundred forty-third.
Harrisburg, PA – With the new school year approaching, 11 schools in seven counties are protecting students’ safety by improving management of laboratory chemicals in the 2017-2018 Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign led by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). By the time the campaign ends on August 9, 2018, DEP will have removed more than 57,000 pounds of outdated, excess, and high-risk chemicals and 158 pounds of low-level radioactive materials from 180 schools statewide since the annual program began in 2011.
“We’re committed to helping schools protect their students, faculty, and staff by preventing problems with mishandled chemicals,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Lab accidents can and do happen at schools. To help reduce risk, we train teachers and staff on the full spectrum of chemical use in teaching, from thoughtful purchasing to safe handling, storage, and disposal. We may provide further support by funding and coordinating a one-time chemical cleanout event.”
Schools must complete DEP chemical management training to be eligible to apply for the one-time cleanout. DEP provides the training to personnel in the fall, and the school completes a laboratory chemical inventory over the winter. DEP then coordinates a cleanout event at the school in the summer.
Eighty teachers and staff from 61 schools participated in DEP’s fall 2017 training. Earning continuing education credits, teachers learned procurement best practices; what to include in a chemical inventory; how to replace high-risk chemicals with lower-risk ones; correct spill response; and proper storage, use, and disposal.
The following schools were approved for the 2018 chemical cleanout:
- Bucks County: Council Rock School District;
- Huntingdon County: Mount Union School District and Southern Huntingdon County School District
- Lackawanna County: Lakeland Junior/Senior High School;
- Luzerne County: Crestwood School, Hazleton Area High School, and Northwest Area School District;
- Mercer County: Mercer Area Middle School;
- Montgomery County: Bala Cynwyd Middle School and Harriton High School;
- Potter County: Coudersport Area Junior/Senior High School.
Cleanouts are carried out by approved contractors under DEP supervision, and hazardous and nonhazardous wastes are transported to appropriate permitted disposal facilities.
Teachers can return for chemical management continuing education even after their schools have had a cleanout under this popular program.
The DEP Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign is provided to schools at no cost.
Training for the 2018-2019 campaign will begin in October. Teachers interested in participating should consult their Intermediate Unit Continuing Education courses. DEP offers the campaign as part of the Department of Education’s Safe Schools Initiative.
HARRISBURG, PA – Pennsylvania’s first longhorned tick has turned up in Centre County’s Potter Township.
The identification was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL).
A single longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) was identified on an adult, male wild white-tailed deer that was euthanized on July 10 by Game Commission personnel because it was exhibiting signs consistent with chronic wasting disease (CWD), according to Dr. Justin Brown, agency wildlife veterinarian. The deer was diagnosed with severe pneumonia and no CWD prions were detected.
Ticks were collected from the deer at the laboratory as part of the Game Commission’s active longhorn tick surveillance program. The suspected longhorn tick was sent to and first identified by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Ga., and subsequently confirmed at the NVSL.
The longhorned tick, also known as the “cattle tick” or “bush tick”, is an invasive parasite native to Southeast Asia. It currently is not known when, where or how this tick was introduced into North America. However, it was first found and identified on a sheep in New Jersey during 2017. Since then, it has been identified in wild and domestic animals in other states, including Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Arkansas and North Carolina.
The longhorned tick, during its three life stages can be found on birds, wild and domestic mammals and humans. To date, the tick has been identified on goats, raccoons, horses, cattle, sheep, humans, an opossum, deer and dogs.
The longhorned tick can negatively impact the health of humans and animals both directly and indirectly. Longhorned tick infestations can reach very high numbers on an animal host, which can result in disease and, in some cases, death.
The longhorned tick, in its native range, can carry many pathogens that may cause diseases such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, theleriosis, ehrlichiosis and Powassan encephalitis in animals or humans. To date, none of these pathogens have been identified in longhorned ticks from North America. However, testing has been limited.
“The preventive measures currently used for our native ticks are the best way to protect yourself and animals from the longhorned tick,” Brown said. “They include frequent tick checks, prompt and proper removal of any attached ticks, avoiding or removing the high grasses or brush where ticks concentrate, and tick treatments.”
Concerns regarding ticks on humans or domestic animals should be addressed through consultation with a physician or veterinarian.
The recent identification of the longhorned tick in multiple states throughout the eastern United States suggests that it is likely established. Many questions remain about the ecology of this tick and the impacts it will have on the health of humans and animals.
The Game Commission will continue to conduct active surveillance for the longhorned tick on wildlife in collaboration with multiple state and federal agencies and academic institutions.
Additional information on the longhorned tick can be found on fact sheets provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Penn State. Longhorned tick questions concerning wildlife should be directed to the Game Commission; humans, Pennsylvania Department of Health; and domestic/agricultural animals, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) today announced guidelines for handling discrimination complaints based on sex under the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act (PFEOA).
This guidance indicates the way the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission intends to exercise its administrative discretion in accepting complaints, investigations, and adjudicating cases. PHRC remains committed to ensuring that its adjudicative determinations are made on a case-by-case basis after consideration of all evidence of record in the given matter.
“This information is to provide clarity to all Pennsylvanians regarding their civil right to equality of educational opportunities regardless of their sex,” Executive Director Chad D. Lassiter said.
The entire document, including public comments and responses, is available on the PHRC website.
Find more information on the PHRC here.
Act 5 of 2017 inserted Section 8411.1 into the Public School Employees’ Retirement Code that requires school districts, beginning July 1, 2019, to have a minimum of four separate “financial institutions or pension management organizations” for each 403(b) plan sponsored. The term “financial institutions or pension management organization” is intended to include providers of an annuity contract or custodial account (collectively referred to as “vendors”).
The Retirement Code also requires PSERS to select three “providers of investment options” for the School Employees’ Defined Contribution Plan (“DC Plan”), effective July 1, 2019. If one or more of the providers selected by PSERS for the DC Plan is also a vendor that has a contract with a school district for the school district’s 403(b) plan, then the school district is required to seek additional vendors to ensure that the school district has four vendors plus the vendor that was selected to be a provider for the DC Plan. In other words, the school district must maintain four vendors that are not also a provider for the DC Plan.
PSERS DC PLAN selects providers A, B and C for the DC Plan.
- Employer 101 contracts with vendors A, B, E, F and G for its 403(b) plan.
- Employer 101 must select one additional vendor, other than A, B or C, for a total of 4 vendors in addition to providers A and B of the DC Plan.
- Employer 102 contracts with vendors H, I J, L, N and Q for its 403(b) plan.
- Employer 102 does not need to select any additional vendors.
- Employer 103 contracts with vendor C for its 403(b) plan.
- Employer 103 must select four additional vendors, other than A, B or C, for a total of 4 vendors in addition to provider C of the DC Plan.
PSERS is in the process of selecting its providers for the DC Plan and anticipates that the remaining providers will be selected during the Board’s regularly scheduled meetings beginning in October 2018. Once the contracts with the providers are finalized, the information will be posted on PSERS’ website. If you have a question regarding the number of vendors you may have or need to contract with, you can contact your third party administrator of your 403(b) plan.
2000 – American Water ran into challenges in the repair of the water line. ETR is now 2200. Normal pressure was established today for all but 19 customers. Repair for the main line is still in progress.
Harrisburg, PA – The State Museum of Pennsylvania today announced its program schedule for August 2018:
Commonwealth Jobs Set Record High for 15th Consecutive Month