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PA House Abortion Ban Bill Called Unconstitutional

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Civil-liberties advocates call a bill passed Monday by Pennsylvania’s House Health Committee “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

House Bill 2050 would make it a crime to perform an abortion based on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Elizabeth Randol, legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, noted that other states have passed similar laws, but none has gone into effect.

“It attempts to ban abortion prior to viability,” she said, “and, beginning in Roe vs. Wade all the way through subsequent Supreme Court decisions, that has been repeatedly affirmed flatly unconstitutional.”

Supporters of the bill have said people with Down syndrome can lead happy lives and contribute to their communities. HB 2050 could come up for a final vote in the House next week. There is no similar bill in the Senate.

Randol said medical test results are not shared with law enforcement and establishing a diagnosis as the sole motivation for an abortion would be difficult at best. She contended that the legislation is strictly political.

“It utilizes a very difficult decision for some people and a very complex one to exploit the people that it affects as a wedge to try to legislate abortion control,” she said.

She added that the bill was put on the committee’s agenda late last Friday afternoon, after it was too late for members of the House to file amendments.

Randol said there already is a very long waiting list of people with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome in Pennsylvania who are desperate for services. There is inadequate state funding for support professionals, she said, but this bill doesn’t address those issues.

“They have done nothing to provide any help or assistance for both children and adults with Down syndrome,” she said, “and no assistance or education for women or parents who would want to bring a pregnancy to term.”

A federal court stopped implementation of a similar law in Indiana in 2016, and last month an Ohio ban was blocked while a lawsuit challenging it is litigated.

The text of House Bill 2050 is online at legis.state.pa.us.

Equal Pay Day Finds Slow Progress to Parity

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Today is Equal Pay Day, marking the 99 extra days women have to work this year to equal the pay men were paid last year.

Data from the National Committee on Pay Equity show the wage gap between women and men narrowed slightly last year. Women are now paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men.

According to Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, the research shows that progress toward equal pay has moved at a snail’s pace since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

“When we first started talking about this, the average full-time working woman was earning 59 cents,” Van Pelt said, “so in 55 years, it’s only closed by 18 cents.”

She added the pay gap is even greater for women of color, with African-American women earning an average of 66 cents, and Latinas just 60 cents, to every dollar paid to men.

Van Pelt pointed out the huge impact that this pay gap can have over the course of a lifetime, as hourly pay itself is just part of total lifetime earnings.

“Pension benefits, our vacation time, our care-giving time – all of these things can be based on how much a woman is paid,” she observed. “And so, it’s really important that she has equal pay.”

On average, a woman’s lifetime earnings are $530,000 less than a man’s. And Van Pelt noted that lower pay for women affects more than their purchasing power.

“If women are kept in a state of constant economic insecurity, they are more liable to feel that they must put up with sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace,” she said.

A study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that, at the current pace, white women will achieve pay equity with white men in about 40 years. But for African-American women, it will take 100 years, and for Latinas, more than two centuries.

Secretary of State Encourages Pennsylvanians to Use Online Voter Registration as Primary Deadline Approaches

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Harrisburg, PA – Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres today reminded Pennsylvanians that Monday, April 16, is the deadline to register to vote in the May primary election. He added that Online Voter Registration (OVR) makes the process easier than ever before.

“Voting is the most important way in which we can participate in our democracy,” Torres said.  “OVR, which has been used by more than 1 million Pennsylvanians, is the best method for registering or updating your registration.”Voting is the most important way in which we can participate in our democracy,” Torres said.  “OVR, which has been used by more than 1 million Pennsylvanians, is the best method for registering or updating your registration.”

On May 15, primary voters who are registered as Republican or Democrat will choose the two parties’ nominees for U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor, representatives in Congress, half of state senators, all representatives in the General Assembly and members of the state and county party committees.
In addition, all registered voters who reside in the 48th, 68th, and 178th legislative districts will be able to vote in the special elections being held on May 15 to fill vacancies in those districts.
Torres encouraged eligible citizens to make use of the state’s OVR site, whether they are registering for the first time or updating an existing registration with a change of name, address or party affiliation.
“OVR makes registering or updating an existing registration more convenient, secure and accurate than using a traditional paper form,” Torres said. “The OVR system ensures that applications are complete when submitted, so there is far less chance of error.”
Even applicants who do not have a driver’s license or PennDOT ID card may complete their registration online, thanks to a feature that allows users to easily upload a digital copy of their signature.
Individuals wishing to register to vote in the May 15 primary must be:
— A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the primary.
— A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which the individual desires to register and vote for at least 30 days before the primary.
— At least 18 years of age on or before the date of the primary.
In addition to using the OVR site, eligible voters can register by mail or apply in person at a county voter registration office; county assistance offices; Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program offices; PennDOT photo and drivers license centers; Armed Forces recruitment centers; county clerk of orphans’ courts or marriage license offices; area agencies on aging; county mental health and intellectual disabilities offices; student disability services offices of the State System of Higher Education; offices of special education in high schools; and Americans with Disabilities Act-mandated complementary paratransit providers.
Applications for new registration, change of address or change in party affiliation must be postmarked or received in county voter registration offices by April 16.
Pennsylvania law requires a closed primary, meaning only voters registered as Democrats or Republicans will select nominees to represent their party in the November 6 general election.
The Department of State’s website, votesPA.com, available in English or Spanish, offers printable voter registration applications, a polling place locator and county boards of elections contact information.  It also includes tips for first-time voters and members of the military.
In addition, voters can familiarize themselves with the voting system they will use in their home county on Election Day.
For more information on voter registration, call the Department of State’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) or visit votesPA.com

DEP to Host Public Hearing on Brunner Island Draft Discharge Permit

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Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will host a public hearing to collect comments on the draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued to Brunner Island LLC. The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Union Fire Company, 201 York Street, Manchester, PA. Doors will open at 6:00 PM.

Brunner Island LLC operates a 1,490-Megawatt coal- and natural gas-fired power plant which discharges treated industrial wastewater and cooling water to the Susquehanna River. DEP issued the draft NPDES permit on January 5, 2018 and published notice of it in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on January 20, 2018. The draft permit has been available for review on the DEP website since the date of issuance.

Individuals will have the opportunity to present up to five minutes of verbal testimony. Comments must be limited to the contents of the draft permit. Groups are asked to designate one speaker. Relinquishing of time to other speakers will be prohibited. All presenters should bring at least one copy of their comments and exhibits for submission to DEP. The hearing may conclude earlier if all testimony is completed prior to the designated end time.

Those who wish to present testimony are asked to register in advance by contacting John Repetz at jrepetz@pa.gov or 717-705-4904, at DEP’s Southcentral Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110. Registration will be taken through Tuesday, April 24. Individuals will be called to testify in the order they register. Time permitting, those who did not register in advance will be given the opportunity to testify.

DEP received written comments on the draft permit during a 30-day comment period after the draft permit was published in the PA Bulletin. The comment period ended on February 20, 2018 and DEP is reviewing all comments received.

The draft permit and fact sheet are available for public review at the DEP Southcentral Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110, Monday through Friday between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Please call 717-705-4732 to make an appointment. They can also be accessed on DEP’s Southcentral Regional Office webpage at

http://www.dep.pa.gov/southcentral

Individuals who need an accommodation for the hearing as provided for in the American with Disabilities Act should contact Mr. Repetz at the number listed, or make accommodations through the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at 1-800-654-5984.

WHAT:
 Public hearing on Brunner Island draft NPDES permit
WHEN: Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 6:30 PM
WHERE: Union Fire Company, 201 York Street, Manchester, PA 17345

DEP Seeks Public Comment on Draft Final Methane General Permits

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Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is accepting public comments on the draft final general permits (GP) that address methane emissions and other air pollutants from unconventional well sites and from midstream and natural gas transmission facilities. The additional comment period is opening to provide the opportunity for public comment on the updated documents and to comply with the publication and notice requirements in DEP’s regulations.

The 45-day public comment period, which closes May 15, 2018, is to receive comment on the updated draft final versions of GP-5, which is applicable to midstream and natural gas transmission facilities, and the proposed GP-5A, for unconventional well sites and pigging stations. Both general permits incorporate the most current state and federal requirements.

DEP received more than 10,000 comments on the proposed general permits during the initial comment period in 2017. Based on these comments, DEP made several changes to the general permits and the Air Quality Permit Exemptions List, which can be found here: http://www.depgreenport.state.pa.us/elibrary/GetFolder?FolderID=3632 

Interested persons may submit written comments on the Draft General Permits and Air Quality Permit Exemption List by Tuesday May 15, 2018. Comments submitted by facsimile will not be accepted. Comments, including comments submitted by e-mail, must include the originator’s name and address. Commentators are encouraged to review the proposed General Permits and Air Quality Permit Exemption List and submit comments using DEP’s online eComment system at www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment or by e-mail to ecomment@pa.gov. Written comments should be submitted to the Policy Office, Department of Environmental Protection, Rachel Carson State Office Building, P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2063.

Wolf Administration Recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Efforts

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Harrisburg , PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller joined commonwealth representatives and community advocacy groups at the annual Child Abuse Prevention Month Awards Ceremony hosted by Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA). This event honors those who have made profound efforts to improve the safety and well-being of Pennsylvania’s children in acknowledgement of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“Pennsylvania children are a priority for Governor Wolf and their safety is of the utmost importance to the administration and everyone here today,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “It is important for us to stand together and support this important cause. We must continue to be the voice for these individuals who are often unheard.”

DHS believes that protecting Pennsylvania’s children from abuse and neglect is a vitally important responsibility. The cause unites lawmakers, community partners, the child protective services system, citizens, and families to provide a safe environment for children throughout Pennsylvania.

In partnership with counties, schools, and community organizations, the department is promoting evidence-based programs that give parents the skills and supports, both formal and informal, that they need to prevent child abuse and neglect.

“The toll of abuse in this Commonwealth is almost too much to bear,” noted Angela M. Liddle, MPA, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. “But we cannot let these failures define us nor defeat us in the mission of protecting children. Let us find in the voices of these young people with us today the strength we need to confront and stamp out child abuse in all its forms. That is why we celebrate the heroes among us; to ignite the spark within each of us that can save more children.”

PFSA prevents child abuse and protects children from harm by helping parents learn positive parenting techniques, educating professionals and volunteers who work with children to recognize and report child abuse, and helping community members learn how they can play a positive role in keeping children safe. PFSA offers a suite of bilingual training programs, including free, in-person Mandated Reporter Training, in how to recognize and report suspected child abuse.

During the month of April, DHS will display the Children’s Memorial Flag and Banner in honor of children who have died as a result of child abuse or neglect. The department encourages all Pennsylvanians to wear or display blue ribbons as a way to signify the importance of child abuse prevention. For other events around Child Abuse Prevention Month, visit www.pa-fsa.org/Calendar.

“Keeping children safe is a critical part of our mission at DHS,” said Secretary Miller. “All Pennsylvanians have an obligation to protect and keep our children safe. Pennsylvania’s children need us to do everything we can to protect them today and in the future.”

Wolf Administration Extends Pennsylvania Home Heating Assistance Program Deadline

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Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today that Pennsylvanians struggling to pay home heating bills will now have until April 13, 2018, to apply for financial help through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

 

The federally funded program was slated to end April 6, 2018, but the Wolf Administration decided that given the unpredictable weather this winter, Pennsylvania would extend the program, giving people extra time to apply for funding.

 

“Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable were able to heat their homes this winter because of LIHEAP,” said Governor Wolf. “By keeping the program open longer, we hope to provide additional assistance to those who are struggling to keep their family warm.”

 

LIHEAP offers assistance in the form of a cash grant sent directly to the utility company or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat. Some households are eligible for both types of assistance. Cash grants are based on household income, family size, type of heating fuel and region. In addition to proof of income and household size, applicants must provide a recent bill or a statement from their fuel dealer verifying their customer status and the type of fuel used.

 

“Everyone deserves a safe, warm home. I encourage Pennsylvanians to apply today to ensure they have the necessary resources to stay warm as the weather continues to be unpredictable,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller.

 

Individuals can apply for a LIHEAP grant online at www.compass.state.pa.us or in person at their local county assistance office. They may also call the statewide toll-free hotline at 1-866-857-7095 with questions about the program.

 

Eligibility for the 2017-18 LIHEAP season is set at 150 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. The chart below shows the maximum income allowed for eligibility based on household size.

Household size Maximum Income
1 $18,090
2 $24,360
3 $30,630
4 $36,900
5 $43,170
6 $49,440
7 $55,710
8 $61,980
9 $68,250
10 $74,520

For more information about LIHEAP, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.

CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULED TO BEGIN ON NORTH FARMERSVILLE ROAD BRIDGE OVER THE CONESTOGA RIVER IN WEST EARL TOWNSHIP

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​Harrisburg, PA – Construction for the North Farmersville Road (State Route 1025) bridge, spanning the Conestoga River in West Earl Township, Lancaster County, is scheduled to begin during the week of April 16 as part of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. Replacement of this bridge will allow PennDOT to remove it from Lancaster County’s structurally deficient bridge list.

During construction, drivers will be directed to follow a detour along Main Street (Route 23), Route 772 (Glenbrook Road/State Street), Route 272 (Oregon Pike), Old Akron Road (SR 1041), and Tobacco Road/Diamond Station Road (SR 1022). Construction should be complete in late June.

In the event of unfavorable weather or unforeseen activities, this schedule may change.

This bridge is referred to as JV-265 and is one out of the 558 bridges being replaced under the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. JV references the joint-venture partnership between Walsh/Granite, which is leading construction for the entire project.

The Rapid Bridge Replacement Project is a public-private partnership (P3) between PennDOT and Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners (PWKP), under which PWKP will finance, design, replace, and maintain the bridges for 25 years. The P3 approach will allow PennDOT to replace the bridges more quickly while achieving significant savings and minimizing impact on motorists.

PENNDOT TO REHAB FROGTOWN ROAD BRIDGE OVER PEQUEA CREEK; FROGTOWN ROAD SPAN IN SOUTHERN LANCASTER COUNTY TO BE CLOSED FOR UP TO 100 DAYS.

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​Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced that on Monday, April 16, its contractor will close the bridge that carries Frogtown Road over Pequea Creek as crews begin demolition of the existing bridge superstructure at the Martic-Conestoga Township Line in southern Lancaster County. This portion of Frogtown Road, officially designated as State Route 3023, averages more than 500 vehicles traveled daily.

PennDOT awarded the $676,579 contract on February 12, 2018, to Kevin E. Raker, LLC, of Sunbury, Northumberland County. Work includes removing the existing 68-year-old structurally deficient span, replacing the steel beams and concrete bridge deck, minor roadway approach work, and new guiderail, signs and pavement markings.

PennDOT advises motorists that Frogtown Road will be closed to through traffic over Pequea Creek for up to 100 days while the superstructure is replaced. Until then, a detour which follows Main Street in the Village of Conestoga, New Danville Pike, and Route 324 is available for motorists. Milling and paving work may be conducted after the bridge is opened to traffic under short-term single-lane alternating traffic patterns. Work under this construction contract is scheduled to be completed by the end of July 2018.

The existing bridge was built in 1950 and has a posted 23-ton weight limit. Once the superstructure is replaced and the roadway is reopened to traffic, the weight restriction will be lifted and the bridge will be removed from the list of structurally deficient bridges.