April 8, 2018 Altoona Mirror Bills would give options for students to graduate
The state Legislature has already tossed out the requirement for career and technical education students to pass the state’s standardized Keystone Exams in English, algebra and biology.
Now, bills in the state Capitol are aimed at giving all students multiple pathways to graduate if they don’t pass Keystone Exams.
A bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Thomas McGarrigle, R-Chester, was met with statements of support from the state’s teacher union and school boards association.
Local school officials, too, support efforts to put less importance on standardized test scores.
“Since the inception of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement, we have seen the negative impact of the one size fits all measure of success,” Hollidaysburg Area Superintendent Bob Gildea wrote in an email Thursday. “Countless students, who are great kids with amazing talents outside the tested content areas, are deprived of opportunities to pursue their interests due to our overemphasis to succeed on the exams. Elective courses are omitted from their schedules to make room for Keystone remediation courses. This does nothing to help us accomplish our mission of preparing our students to be successful and productive members of society,” Gildea stated.
McGarrigle’s bill proposes four pathways to graduate if they don’t pass Keystone Exams.
But it’s not the only bill in Harrisburg that aims to address the issue, said Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, Senate Education Committee chairman.
“The bill (McGarrigle’s bill) was just introduced, and it hasn’t been assigned to a committee yet. I expect to get it in the Education Committee, but that is up to the Pro Tem’s Office. I have not looked at it, but there are a number of bills that deal with the Keystone Exams, including one that I sponsored.”
Eichelberger’s bill, SB 756, which he co-sponsored with Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester, “eliminates the Keystone Exams or any composite of these exams from being taken or used as a high school graduation requirement,” a memo seeking co-sponsors said. A variety of other measures could be used to show student competency to meet federal standards.
The statutory requirement for students to pass Keystone Exams isn’t yet in effect; it’s been delayed until the 2019-20 school year.
The alternate graduation options in McGarrigle’s bill — or any similar legislation — would take effect when the current Keystone Exam delay expires.
According to McGarrigle’s plan, one way to graduate would be to achieve an established composite score based on performance on all three of the Keystone Exams. A second option entails achieving established equivalent scores on a variety of alternate assessments, acceptance in a registered apprenticeship program after graduation or attainment of a career readiness certificate. The third option is a clarification of what passed last year — it allows students who are career and technical education concentrators to demonstrate competency through evidence specific to their trade.
A fourth option students could take is to present at least three approved pieces of rigorous and compelling evidence relating to a student’s postsecondary or career objectives that reflect readiness for graduation.
The bill further provides for the elimination of project-based assessments, places parameters on supplemental instruction relating to Keystone Exams and prioritizes student college and career planning while tying that to the graduation requirement options.
Pennsylvania State Education Association supports the proposed changes.
“Standardized tests aren’t the only way to measure students’ abilities, and they’re certainly not the best way to do it,” read a statement attributed to PSEA President Dolores McCracken. “This is a solid proposal,” McCracken stated.
Such proposals are forward looking, according to Hollidaysburg Area School District curriculum director Francine Endler.
“The movement in education is to personalize instruction. The next logical step would be to offer options to demonstrate readiness for success after high school in each student’s chosen pathway.” Source
Jan 23, 2018 Media Line Times GOP: Keep an open mind on Meehan scandal allegationsDelaware County Republicans on Monday urged voters not to jump to conclusions regarding allegations that U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint from a former staffer.“There are always two sides to a story,” said Michael Puppio, the Springfield Republican Party chairman and chairman of Meehan’s election campaigns. “Hopefully the constituents of the 7th Congressional District will not rush to judgment on reports that were based on unnamed sources and wait until the facts are available for public view before coming to a conclusion.”
The New York Times published a story Saturday alleging Meehan used office funds to settle the complaint last year after a former aide accused him of making unwanted romantic overtures toward her.Meehan, a married father of three who has served in Washington since 2011, denied the harassment claim in a statement, but indicated he is bound by the conditions of a confidentiality agreement from commenting further.
Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Andy Reilly said he had not heard anything of the matter until someone forwarded him the Times story Saturday and he had not spoken with Meehan or his staff by Monday afternoon.
“Hopefully there will be a process for both Pat and the staffer to get due process,” said Reilly. “He is entitled to due process, as is the former employee, and there will be a House investigation and I think Pat’s going to cooperate with that.”
Reilly said it is up to Meehan whether he wants to run for re-election, but Delco Republicans will not hold endorsement meetings until mid-February. He said there are typically a few Republicans eying a congressional run and the party will keep the nominating and endorsement process open.
“This is all new and the senator is shocked, quite frankly,” said Michael Rader, a spokesman for state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26 of Springfield. “Congressman Meehan has been a dedicated public servant for over 30 years and has denied the factual allegations of any type of harassment. All such allegations do need to be taken very seriously while understanding that every individual, even in this very judgmental environment, is entitled to due process and an ability to present their side of the story.”
Meehan spokesman John Elizandro did not have an update Monday. He referred to an initial statement denying the allegations Saturday that called for reform of the process to resolve complaints. Both parties are bound by a confidentiality agreement.
“At Congressman Meehan’s request, the congressional attorneys handling the case have asked the complainant’s counsel to release all parties from the confidentiality requirements of the agreement to ensure a full and open airing of all the facts,” Elizandro said. “The congressman is hopeful that they will agree to this request for full transparency.”
An attorney for the former staffer, who was reportedly not a source for the Times story, has indicated her client does not wish for that to happen.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Democrats in the race have meanwhile called for Meehan, a former Delaware County district attorney and U.S. attorney for eastern Pennsylvania, to step down. Information technology consultant Drew McGinty said the settlement “is just another example of Washington’s incompetence when handling issues related to sexual misconduct,” while attorney Dan Muroff said House leadership should strip Meehan of his committee assignments if he does not resign.
“That Meehan was allowed to remain a member of the House Ethics Committee while working to settle his own sexual harassment claims, with taxpayer money, demonstrates a stunning lack of personal ethics and is an absolute disgrace,” said Muroff.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, removed Meehan from the House Ethics Committee Saturday and launched an investigation. Source
Jan 4, 2018 Daily Local News Local officials turn up heat to ensure safety of pipeline process
WEST CHESTER >> In light of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s decision yesterday to shut down construction on the controversial Sunoco Mariner East 2 statewide, state Sen. Andy Dinniman has decided to turn up the heat on Sunoco.
Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, said Thursday that the state has not, and is not, fully overseeing the safety of the pipeline process. The senator is inviting a group of citizens, civic leaders and elected officials to meet next week at his office to consider funding a study of the pipeline project with private money.
“The governor didn’t solve the problem in terms of protecting public safety, and if the state doesn’t do it we’ll perform a risk assessment ourselves,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman said that while other states regulate pipeline construction in high-density areas and consider an area’s geology, there is very little oversight in Pennsylvania.
On Wednesday the DEP indefinitely suspended work on the pipeline statewide until Sunoco complies with the terms of its permitting process.
The ruling comes in the wake of a DEP violation notice served to Sunoco concerning the company’s using the controversial horizontal directional drilling method without the proper permitting out near Harrisburg.
Dinniman also is working closely with state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44, to propose a series of pipeline bills to be considered when the Legislature returns to session in late January.
“The reason we will have the bills – more pipelines will be built and we have to have protections that do not exist in this state now,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman feels that it’s important for citizens to know who was responsible for decisions being made every step of the way in the approval process leading up to construction of Mariner East 2.
Sunoco Pipeline LP’s $2.5 billion project is expected to deliver as much as 250,000 barrels a day of ethane, butane and propane from the state Marcellus Shale regions to the former Sunoco refinery complex at Marcus Hook.
“Who made the decision to allow for such an easy process?” Dinniman asked. “It’s a little late for the DEP to start acting tough when for six months they didn’t enforce. They still haven’t taken care of adequate enforcement in our area.”
Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline communications manager, insisted Thursday that the company is working with DEP to resolve the problems.
“We continue to work with the DEP to resolve all issues connected with our environmental permits and look forward to promptly returning to work on this important pipeline project,” Shields said. “Safety is our first priority: The safety of those in the community, the safety of our employees and the safety of the environment.”
Lynda Farrell is executive director of Pipeline Safety Coalition. Both she and Dinniman pointed to a group of citizens in Chester and Delaware counties that has created a united front against pipeline construction.
This shows that people have different approaches to the basic problems of this project, Farrell said.
“All worked together for a common goal with our legislators saying, ‘enough is enough.’” she said.
In Delaware and Chester counties, there are now 50,000 residents in the loop and connected to grassroots organizations, raising their voices, largely in opposition to the pipeline project. Their concerns center on safety, including the proximity to densely populated neighborhoods, schools and senior centers.
“This is just the first step,” Farrell said. “As much as this has been a long haul, it’s a stellar achievement by our citizens and legislators. This is the first step to make a real difference. When a collective community works together, things happen.”
“This is the most amazing, dedicated and organized group I’ve seen in 30 years of public service,” Dinniman said.
State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, is also meeting with stakeholders next week.
“I’m pleased that the administration is responding to the violations and safety concerns that have been raised by so many people, however, we still don’t a have a risk assessment and it’s essential that it happens,” Comitta said. “This is a step that needs to be done.”
Farrell pointed to a letter that Dinniman wrote to the governor asking him to pull the plug on pipeline construction. After that letter was posted, other legislators decided to fight pipeline construction.
Dinniman isn’t getting complacent.
“While we certainly appreciate the actions of the governor taken thus far, much needs to be done in term of public safety,” Dinniman said. “We need to go even further in terms of protecting the health and safety of residents.”
State Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, and state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, Thursday joined the chorus of voices stressing public safety following the DEP action to suspend construction.
“From the beginning of this regulatory process, we have insisted that the job creation and energy development that come from this project must not occur at the cost of health, safety or protecting the environment,” their statement points out
“We still believe that the economic benefits can co-exist with safety and environmental protection, but this pause ordered by DEP seems necessary to ensure that this occurs. It is critical that Sunoco Pipeline L.P. follow all permit conditions.
“Pennsylvania can be a leader in natural gas development, but we must get it right. That is why we are co-sponsoring several bills to ensure pipeline safety across Pennsylvania and hold pipeline owners accountable if anything goes wrong.”
Senator McGarrigle and Senator Killion are co-sponsors of legislation that would:
• Strengthen the pipeline siting review process.
• Require pipeline operators to conduct proper studies of aquifers that may be impacted by construction.
• Make owners and operators of pipelines liable for contaminating water supplies.
• Establish notification requirements for residents impacted by pipeline construction.
• Ensure pipeline construction in densely populated regions includes automatic or remote control safety valves.
• Require pipeline companies to provide funding to support emergency responders.
• Improve communication and coordination between emergency management agencies and pipeline companies in the event of an emergency. Source
Oct 31, 2017 City & State Pork-barrel provisions in gaming bill pit DelCo pols against one other
After more than three months of gridlock, Gov. Tom Wolf quickly signed off on a massive gaming package that will legalize 10 new “mini-casinos,” truck-stop video slots, online poker and more. The move effectively ends the long stalemate over how to pay for PA’s $32 billion budget.
That may have been intentional, some say – the product of last-minute dealing to get the package through the General Assembly. Despite the state’s shaky financial outlook, this latest iteration of the bill is larded with convoluted payout schemes to fund ambiguous economic development projects in localities impacted by gaming.
“There was a complete lack of transparency in the process,” said Democratic state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky. “Nearly all the changes were all put in by Senate Republicans. They had very little if no debate when it went through the Senate. When you have to vote on something less than 24 hours later, of course you can’t analyze everything.”
A share of the forthcoming $90-$100 million in new annual revenue will primarily be funneled into a wing of the Department of Community and Economic Development, called the Commonwealth Financing Authority, as a “host fee.” While the CFA is jointly guided by a board with representatives from the governor’s office, the House and the Senate, the department has notably been criticized for its own lack of transparency.
Krueger-Braneky said she was shocked to discover that Delaware County – where her district lies – would see its cut shoehorned into a new and somewhat unique county-controlled gaming authority.
Krueger-Braneky predicted this new gaming authority would fall under the sway of a Republican political machine that has long dominated Delaware County. She compared the setup to the troubled Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, which had faced dissolution after allegations of financial mismanagement became public.
“What they’re setting up in Delaware County has already failed in Erie,” she said. “We’ve already got way too much patronage in Delaware County and I was shocked to see them making another money grab two weeks before an election. Maybe this is a golden parachute for someone who could lose their job.”
But Mike Rader, chief of staff to DelCo Sen.Tom McGarrigle, said that Krueger-Braneky was simply jealous of the good deal his boss and other local Republicans like Sen. Tom Killion had helped hammer out. Carving his home county out of the CFA arrangement would ensure more local control of gaming funds, he said. Read more
Sept 14, 2017 Delaware County News Network Delco lawmakers push severance tax as cure to Pa. budget crisis
With cash running out and a Friday deadline for Pennsylvania’s ability to pay its bills, some Delaware County legislators spoke about the severance tax.
A supporter of the severance tax, state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield, continued to look at the fee as a potential solution while state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, cast a critical eye to some of her Republican colleagues in the House.
On Tuesday, state Treasurer Joseph M. Torsella and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale sent Krueger-Braneky a letter warning that $860 million in scheduled expenditures would be in jeopardy as of Friday.
“Please be advised that without additional revenue, the balance in the General Fund is projected to fall below zero this Friday,” the letter read. “To our knowledge, this would be the first time the commonwealth would miss a payment as a consequence of insufficient funds in the General Fund.”
In June, a $32 billion spending plan was passed. However, the Legislature has been unable to craft — and agreed on — any kind of way to pay for it.
Torsella and DePasquale warned that Pennsylvania’s credit rating hangs in the balance.
“The commonwealth’s financial challenges have resulted in Standard & Poor’s placing Pennsylvania on a negative credit watch,” they wrote. “On five occasions since 2012, the rating agency has either downgraded the Commonwealth’s credit or placed it on negative credit watch. Continued disruption to the commonwealth’s finances, in particular its inability to timely pay obligations, risks an additional downgrade.”
Krueger-Brankey, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the committee chairman, state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-94 of Red Lion, “literally ran an amendment that took the existing impact fee legislation and changed the name.”
This was done, she said, rather than allowing legislators to consider the severance tax bill introduced by state Rep. Kate Harper, R-61 of Blue Bell, that had bipartisan support.
In her two years in the General Assembly, she said the issue of a severance tax has been blocked from discussion.
“There has not been one real debate in two years I’ve been here,” she said. “The speaker (Mike Turzai, R-28 of Allegheny County) has continually refused to bring up the votes. He consistently puts the needs and wants of his campaign donors of the oil and gas industry (ahead) of the needs of Pennsylvanians.”
Attempts to reach Saylor and Turzai were unsuccessful Wednesday.
When he first took office in 2015, McGarrigle introduced an act that would tax 4 percent of the gross value of natural gas at the wellhead. These revenues would then be put into a Severance Tax for Education Fund for public education.
This year, he supported placing a 2 percent tax on the gross value of the natural gas at the wellhead. This is anticipated to raise $100 million annually.
In July, McGarrigle said, “It has been clear for the last several fiscal years that hardworking Pennsylvania taxpayers cannot bear the burden of balancing the state budget alone. An increasing portion of this severance tax will be paid by international purchasers as pipelines and distribution networks are completed.”
On Wednesday, his staff spoke of the senator’s continued support for a severance tax.
“It’s critical,” McGarrigle spokesman Mike Rader said. “It’s not the entire solution for the budget issue but it is a part of it.”
He said the state must act, particularly when facing a credit downgrade, but, he added, decimating spending isn’t the answer.
“We can’t cut our way out of this issue,” Rader said. “We all need to man up and do recurring revenue. That’s what the Senate plan did.”
One proposal under consideration in the House would cut $700 million in environmental and transportation items, he said.
While the senator recognizes the economic benefits the natural gas industry can bring to this area and Pennsylvania once the pipeline is completed, Rader said oversight is needed during construction.
“It’s not a time to roll back environmental programs when we have that going on,” he said. Source
August 11, 2017 Daily Times News Legal gambling in bars can solve state budget crisis, owners say
MEDIA >> Flanked by fellow tavern owners and state Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, Jack’s Tavern owner Jerry McArdle warned that if video gambling isn’t approved in bars only one thing will happen – taxes will increase.
“To all the hardworking citizens of Pennsylvania, make no bones about it, if this Legislature doesn’t pass (video gaming terminals) and other recurring-revenue plans, you are getting a tax increase,” he said.
McArdle, who is also a county delegate to the Pennsylvania State Tavern Association, said the state stands to earn between $300-$500 million a year, based on Illinois’ experience, if video gambling is permitted to be installed in local bars.
Pennsylvania representatives passed House Bill 271, allowing for VGTs, in the spring. The measure rests in the state Senate but Barrar said senators indicated no interest in voting on it. Read more
July 27, 2017 Daily Times McGarrigle, Killion provide key votes in Pa. budget dispute
Pennsylvania’s reign as the largest natural gas-producing state without a severance tax may be coming to an end after the state Senate voted 26-24 in favor of a spending package Thursday.
In a vote that was divisive within parties, two local Republican senators — Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26 of Springfield, and Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown — proved to be the decisive votes the Legislature needed to pass the package. Read more
July 18, 2017 Daily Local News Lawmakers continue talks about funding Pa. budget
State senators from Delaware County said Tuesday budget discussions among their leaders continue while elected and industry officials debate the optimum way to fund this year’s financial package.
The $32 billion spending package became law after it was passed by the House and Senate and not vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf. However, there is no mechanism yet in the budget to outline how those billions will be raised.
Senators said leaders were working on that Tuesday.
“The leaders of both chambers are in negotiations today and have also been meeting with administration,” state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, said. “The governor has insisted on a certain level of recurring revenue. The leaders are working with members of the General Assembly to find the best way to fund the compromise budget that the governor agreed to in June.”
State Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26 of Springfield, had similar news, confirming that the GOP leadership from both the House and the Senate met Tuesday morning.
“I think they’re just trying to come up with some recurring revenue that will be OK with the governor,” he said, adding that legislators are on a six-hour callback.
He said some of the measures being considered to fund the budget are Internet gaming and changes to liquor provisions.
At this time, McGarrigle said, a shale tax is not being evaluated.
Both he and Killion are supporters of a shale tax. Read more
July 17, 2017 Daily Local News State lawmakers want to beef up protections for pipeline neighbors
Local legislators are looking for new ways to create a greater level of transparency of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project after multiple incidents of fluid leaks have affected both private and public waterways in Chester and Delaware counties in recent weeks.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, submitted a list of concerns to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection after he claimed the agency both failed to protect the well water of residents on Valley View Drive in West Whiteland Township and failed to hold Sunoco Pipeline L.P. accountable.
“Following reports of groundwater impact and wells running dry, I immediately began investigating what DEP requires to protect homeowners with well water,“ Dinniman said. “I was shocked to discover that while notification is required, Sunoco was taking advantage of a significant loophole in the permitting process by claiming they were unaware that these wells existed.” Read more
March 25, 2017 Daily Times News
3 Delco pols oppose property tax bill
NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Bipartisanship can be hard to come by these days, but three area lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are united in opposing a bill that would dramatically alter the way schools in the state are funded.
During a town hall-style meeting on Friday night at Strath Haven High School, state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, and the chief of staff for state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, were unequivocal in declaring Senate Bill 76 as a non-starter as far as they are concerned.
McGarrigle said the bill, which has been dubbed the “Property Tax Independence Act” by its backers, would “destroy” education in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Read more
For those losing land because of Mariner East II, give the Senator a call and thank him. As for jobs, fracking sure brought a lot of jobs to PA didn’t it?
DEP’s Approval of Environmental Permit for Mariner East II Brings Praise
Posted on Feb 14, 2017
McGarrigle Press Release
Harrisburg, PA –State Senators Tom McGarrigle (R-26), Senator Tom Killion (R-9), Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and labor leaders today praised the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) approval of permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. This permit approval is the culmination of years of work between the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Sunoco Logistics to ensure the Mariner East II project is completed in an environmentally sound manner.
“This development is game changer for the entire Commonwealth, especially Delaware County. It’s the first major link from natural gas rich areas to the Southeast and it will create thousands of labor jobs and hundreds of permanent, family-supporting jobs, and has the potential turn our region into a 21st century ‘energy hub,’” Senator McGarrigle said. He continued, “that said, I’ll continue to follow the development of this project to ensure every single safety and environmental safeguard is in place.” Read more