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Workers rally on minimum wage

Published by James O'Toole on .

By Kate Giammarise/Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
 
HARRISBURG -- June is always a busy time at the Capitol, with dozens of advocacy groups rallying all month long to make sure legislators remember their issues as lawmakers complete the state budget, which must be passed by June 30.
 
Among other rallies Tuesday, was the Raise the Wage coalition, advocating for Pennsylvania to raise its minimum wage. 
 
Raising the minimum wage has been a hot topic of late, with Democrats pushing the issue nationwide, and a number of states and municipalities hiking wages.
"Folks, the tide is turning," said Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, speaking to the crowd in the Capitol Rotunda, noting the other states that have recently increased wages.
 
The state's current minimum wage is $7.25; the General Assembly last voted to raise the wage in 2006.
 
 
Business groups oppose such a raise, saying it would hurt businesses and workers. 
“Employers across the Commonwealth have continually expressed their concerns that a government mandated wage increase would put jobs at risk. This is especially true of the state’s small businesses,” said PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr in a letter sent to lawmakers today.
 
For a more detailed story on the issue and these arguments, check out our piece from a few months ago here.
To read the PA Department of Labor and Industry's most recent annual report on the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, click here. The report has some fairly detailed information about who, demographically speaking, in Pennsylvania is earning the minimum wage.

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Gov-race polls galore

Published by Karen Langley on .

We know what you're wondering: What about those Quinnipiac governor's race numbers due out first thing Wednesday?

Wonder no more.  The university found that the York businessman emerged from the primary with a whopping 53-33 percent lead over Gov. Tom Corbett.

That reinforced the findings of two earlier surveys: Specifically, the 20-point lead over Corbett that the Rasmussen survey posted Sunday, and the the 25-point lead of the Public Policy Polling report Tuesday?

The Rasmussen poll showed Wolf with 51 percent of likely voters compared to Corbett's 31 percent, a difference greater than the 14 percent the survey found are undecided.

PPP found Wolf with 55 percent of voters and Corbett with 30 percent. The Democratic firm also found that only 27 percent of voters approve of the job Corbett is doing, while 58 percent disapprove. Wolf, on the other hand, had 47 percent of voters seeing him favorably and 20 percent with a negative opinion.

Wolf led Corbett 63-20 among independents in the PPP poll.  We'll have more on the Q poll later.

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Wolf: "Dear Governor Corbett"

Published by Karen Langley on .

Tom Wolf isn't awaiting the outcome of the November election to try to directly influence officeholders in the Capitol.

Today he sent letters to Gov. Tom Corbett and members of the House and Senate asking them to pass a 5 percent tax on the extraction of natural gas. His campaign says Wolf's top priority with the revenue would be funding for education.

Wolf’s letter to Governor Corbett:

June 3, 2014

Honorable Tom Corbett
Office of the Governor
225 Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Dear Governor Corbett,

The urgent challenge facing our state leaders, now and into the future, is how to manage our remarkable natural gas resource so that the citizens of Pennsylvania broadly share its benefits for many years to come. I believe it is incumbent upon our leaders to put politics aside and pass a severance tax at the effective rate of 5 percent. I urge you to join me in supporting this and agree to not veto such a measure if it is passed by the General Assembly.

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Murphy looks to help mentally ill

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

WASHINGTON -- Advocates for the seriously mentally ill came to Washington today to help U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy make a push for his controversial bill that would make it easier for caregivers to access mental health records and to force the seriously mentally ill into involuntary treatment.

Mr. Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, invited a trio of advocates to the Capitol to help him make his case. 

Meanwhile, Democrats who control the House are supporting an alternative bill by Ron Barber of Arizona. And Rep. Democrat Mike Thompson of California, who chairs the House Gun Prevention Task Force, is expected to unveil a third competing bill Friday.

On Thursday, Mr. Murphy’s supporters said his bill is most effective because it focuses on treating the most serious mental illnesses.

Unlike at a formal hearing last month, there was little push-back Thursday, only a platform for supporters who say the legislation could help prevent mass violence like last week’s shooting in Isla Vista, Calif. by forcing people into treatment before they become violent.

“What Isla Vista has blown the doors off of is the idea that someone who carries out a mass killing just snaps,” said psychiatrist Michael Welner of New York City.

He said parents and other family members often see clear signs before doctors or police officers who may be called in to intervene, as they were with Elliot Rodger before he went on a shooting rampage in California. But restrictions on involuntary treatment and privacy laws prevent families from intervening, Dr. Welner said.

Mr. Murphy wants to change that.

"Before there was Elliot Rodger, there was Adam Lanza in Newtown, Jared Loughner in Tucson, James Holmes in Aurora, Colo., and Aaron Alexis at the Washington Navy Yard,” the congressman said Thursday. “All had untreated or undertreated serious mental illness. … Many had parents who were pleading for more help.”

Mr. Welner said the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is “a wall that stands in the way in crisis situations.” It prevents providers and family members from sharing information, and is a particular problem in cases of patients who don’t believe they are ill.

Edward F. Kelley III, who also spoke Thursday, knows that all too well. He has bene struggling for 15 years to get help for his son who has rejected help even when he was living under a bridge, talking to himself, failing to recognize his parents and insisting he was a U.S. marshal, a CIA agent and a Gulf War veteran.  

He said Mr. Murphy’s bill would help parents like him get their adult children treatment before they become homicidal or suicidal.

D.J. Jaffe, executive director of the Mental Illness Policy Org, said that involuntary treatment is humane.

"It’s like putting a fence by the edge of a cliff rather than an ambulance at the bottom,” he said.

Critics, though, say Mr. Murphy’s legislation would inhibit patients’ rights to privacy and restrict their ability to refuse treatment. 

Some prefer Mr. Barber’s bill, which includes more funding for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration programs and increases mental health services for veterans, active duty military and school children.

Mr. Jaffe said the Barber bill spends too much on milder mental illnesses instead of targeting resources where they can do the most good.

“We have to prioritize federal spending. Send the most seriously ill to the head of the line rather than jails, shelters, prisons and morgues,” he said.

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Perry on Politics: "Politician" hasn't always been a dirty word

Published by Early Returns on .

By James M. Perry

Members of Congress these days are held in even lower regard than members of the Fourth Estate.  
 
That's sad. Politician hasn't always been a dirty word.
 
I've written about hundreds of politicians over almost 50 years. I thought I'd compile a short list of some of the good ones, even though not many people remember most of them.  
 
20140527wap dilworth200Richardson Dilworth in 1950. (Associated Press)My original favorite politician was born in Pittsburgh.  His name was Richardson Dilworth and his father owned a grocery business, His mother, a friend of the Mellons, helped in popularizing Southampton on Long Island as a summer home for the wealthy, according to Jason Fagone, writing in Philadelphia Magazine.
 
Dilworth left Yale to join the Marines and was badly wounded in fierce fighting at Belleau Wood. An exploding shell tore up his left arm. He was awarded the Purple Heart, "which," he said, "is really no decoration if you're dumb enough to get hit." He was back in the Marines in World War 2 and won a Silver Star for gallantry at Guadalcanal.

He could have played a Marine Corps hero in the movies, for he was that handsome, tall. urbane, dimpled just like Cary Grant, and beautifully dressed (almost always in double-breasted suits). He came home from the war, went to law school at Yale, and moved to Philadelphia to find work. He and an old-line Philadelphian, Joseph Sill Clark, became reform Democrats  and soon began toying around in the city's grubby politics. "Silly and Dilly" eventually crushed the city's corrupt Republican machine, each serving as mayor.
 
Dilworth was no saint. He drank too much (he once threw up all over Andrew Mellon's daughter, Ailsa) and became a notorious womanizer (he ran off to Cuba with Ann Hill, someone else's wife. He eventually married the lady).
 
Clark and Dilworth restored the city's parks and historic sites, rebuilt the transit system, created public housing, and began what became one of the largest urban renewal programs (some of it ill-advised) in the country.   It was, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania said, "Philadelphia's Modern Golden Age."
 
I worked nights some of those years at the old Philadelphia Bulletin, an evening paper.  Walter Annenberg's  Philadelphia Inquirer, a morning newspaper, was notoriously unreliable. It would run wildly implausible stories two or three times a week -- we would get an early copy -- and I would frequently be told to call the mayor for comment, even if it was midnight. He always answered the phone and as far as I could tell always leveled with me. He was a great mayor but not much of a statewide politician. When he was mayor, he opposed  building the Keystone Shortway (Interstate 80) across the northern part of the state because he thought it would divert truck traffic from Philadelphia to New York City.
 
Why, said Dilworth, nobody lives up there but bears. When he campaigned for governor "up there," almost invariably someone would turn up wearing a bear's suit. He lost both times he ran for governor.
 
20140527uvlawlib-speccollection HenryHowell200Henry Howell, undated. (University of Virginia Law School Library)Henry Howell, a lawyer from Norfolk, Va., served four year's in the state's House of Delegates, four years in the state Senate, and three years as lieutenant governor, but that doesn't begin to tell the story of what "Howlin' Henry" Howell accomplished.  He wrecked the conservative Byrd machine and  took on Big Business in the state -- banks, insurance companies, utilities -- with the slogan, "Keep the Big Boys Honest."  One of the big utilities was called VEPCO, for Virginia Electric Power Company. Howell said it really stood for, "Very Expensive Power Company."
 
When he was campaigning for governor (he ran twice, and almost won once) he would criss-cross the state in a camper  with a loudspeaker on the roof. I was with him one day when he spotted a school-crossing guard. It went something like this.   "Good morning, school crossing guard, thank you for looking after our boys and girls, making sure they cross the streets safely day after day, in good weather and in bad. I salute you."    I'm sure that woman still wonders sometimes what that was all about.
 
"He rumbled from one remote country store to another in a loudspeaker-equipped camper blaring hillbilly music," the Virginian-Pilot recalled.  "He staged rallies with the trappings of revival tent meetings -- live music, cardboard buckets for campaign offerings, and the candidate himself calling on the faithful to 'witness' for his cause with their votes."
 
He was a wonder, the only real Populist I have ever known, and he was fun, something we don't see much of in politicians now. We loved being with him.  
 
20140527wap jackkemp200Jack Kemp in 1996. (Nick Ut/AP)Jack Kemp wasn't very tall for a professional quarterback, only five foot ten, and he weighed a paltry 175 pounds. He'd played for little Occidental College in California and one year his team won only three games. Still, he managed to take the Buffalo Bills to three consecutive AFL division titles and two straight AFL championships.    That  maybe made him the most popular person in upstate New York, and so, beginning in`1970, he switched from football to politics.  
 
He was elected to Congress that year, and represented that suburban Buffalo region for 18 years. He confused many by his eclectic views on major issues. He supported, for example, affirmative action, but opposed abortion. He supported inner-city poverty programs and generally opposed gay rights.
 
Most politicians love to hear their own voices. Kemp actually listened to people. He stayed up most of  one night in 1967 listening to my old colleague, Jude Wanniski, explain all the glories of supply-side economics. Kemp became an enthusiastic convert, and never gave up on supply-side tax cuts, even though the case for them never measured up. He helped President Reagan and Congress pass the tax-cutting Kemp-Roth Act in 1981.   
 
He began thinking about running for President in 1987 and decided he needed to spend some time in Europe.I was working in London then and was told to go along with him. I was with him in Stuttgart and Paris and then we came back to London. Our embassy had set up a lunch with six or seven leading British political writers. I told the embassy I was traveling with Kemp and would expect to be with him at the lunch. Not possible, I was told.   I mentioned this to Kemp, not really expecting he would intervene, but he called the embassy and said if I wasn't there he wouldn't be there. The embassy backed down quickly and said I could come, and so I did.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, is contributing regular observations for post-gazette.com.  Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.

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