Bill Would Add to Newborn Health Screenings

Sep 1, 2011

A bill in the Pennsylvania Senate would bolster the state's newborn health screening law by adding a test for congenital heart disease. Sponsoring Senator Daylin Leach said the test takes only three minutes and costs one dollar, but has the potential to save the lives of newborns with congenital heart disease.

Leach said the test measures the oxygen levels in a child's blood, which can help determine if they're at risk for the disease. If that is the case, Leach said doctors will be able to intervene faster, as the condition is often otherwise undetectable.

According to a study from the Commonwealth Foundation, average prices for top-shelf wines and spirits out of state were found to be significantly cheaper than in-state options. The vast difference in price and selection has led to illegal bootlegging, which could potentially cost Pennsylvania millions of dollars annually.

Raja Promises County Department of Innovation

Sep 1, 2011

Republican D. Raja said if he's elected as the next Allegheny County Executive, he would create a "Department of Innovation" to improve county government.

Announcing his broad plans to foster innovation, Raja said the new agency would be dedicated to finding and implementing creative ideas to save money and improve the services of all other county departments.

Perzel Admits Guilt in Legislative Corruption Probe

Aug 31, 2011

Former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel today pleaded guilty to eight counts of conflict of interest, theft and conspiracy as part of a deal to cooperate with prosecutors in the ongoing investigation of legislative corruption. Perzel, who served more than 30 years in the House before being defeated in last November's election, had originally been charged with 82 counts. His plea agreement includes charges he used House Republican technology and staff for campaigns and fund-raising and also stole state money to pay for vendors contracted during campaigns.

A coalition of nearly thirty labor unions and community groups wants Pennsylvania's General Assembly to pass a transportation package this fall.

Patrick McMahon, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Pittsburgh, said the group plans to write to legislators and hold rallies in support of greater investment in the state's "crumbling transportation infrastructure."

McMahon said the coalition is endorsing the funding recommendations made by the governor's Transportation Funding Advisory Committee (TFAC) earlier this summer.

More Mosquito Spraying in Homewood & Point Breeze

Aug 31, 2011

The Allegheny County Health Department will spray for mosquitoes from 8:00 to 9:00 PM, weather permitting, Thursday, September 1, in certain areas of South Homewood, Point Breeze, Homewood Cemetery and Wilkinsburg. Forty-six samples taken there have tested positive for West Nile Virus since early July.

State Park Will Grow with Land Acquisition

Aug 31, 2011

Laurel Hill State Park will soon expand to include more woodlands along Laurel Hill Creek, and a new vista from the peak of a grassy ridge.

The Somerset County property will gain 137 acres when land recently bought by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is handed over to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The park will encompass more than 4,100 acres when the deal is finalized.

The House State Government Committee holds a second day of hearings today on more than a dozen proposals aimed to halt what Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County) calls the "invasion" of illegal immigrants. One of the measures would allow local law enforcement to verify the citizenship of someone they've stopped for breaking a law whose immigration status "should be reasonably suspected." Police could then arrest those who were determined to be undocumented.

Former state House Speaker John Perzel is slated to plead guilty Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 PM in the Dauphin County Courthouse to charges related to the misuse of taxpayer dollars. The specific charges aren't yet known, but will be related to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's corruption investigation of House lawmakers and staff for using millions of tax dollars for campaign purposes.

A new civic organization is asking experts and ordinary citizens to weigh in on how natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale has impacted Pennsylvania and its residents.

The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission will gather public testimony and professional opinions at five late-summer meetings across the state, with the intent of making policy suggestions to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and state lawmakers this October.

Restoring Power in Pennsylvania Could Take All Week

Aug 29, 2011

Power companies are updating their websites with power outage maps, and eastern Pennsylvania is covered with outage dots. The state Public Utility Commission reports some 385,400 Pennsylvania homes are without electricity as of 4:00 PM Monday in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Although the Justice Department opted not to file criminal charges against three police officers in the Jordan Miles case, the attorneys for the Miles family and the city of Pittsburgh will get to look at the information gathered by the FBI. U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster has issued an order allowing attorneys on both sides of the civil rights lawsuit to see and copy materials from the FBI probe. J. Kerrington Lewis, Miles' attorney, says this will likely include interviews with witnesses, police and medical providers.

Great Pennsylvania Outdoor Challenge

Aug 29, 2011

Exercise in a park or forest 30 minutes a day for 30 days to take part in the 4th annual Great Pennsylvania Outdoor Challenge, from September 10th to October 9th.

Small Business Grants Could Be Changing

Aug 29, 2011

Josh Tarnoff is the CEO of a small, Pittsburgh-based startup company called Complexa. He's trying to bring new medicine to market that would help control inflammation.

Tarnoff said the compound was developed at the University of Pittsburgh several years ago, and it has the potential to help people with diabetes, kidney disease, and trauma.

Josh Raulerson Hits the Airwaves in Pittsburgh

Aug 29, 2011

That new voice you are hearing this week on Essential Public Radio is the station's new Morning Edition Host. Josh Raulerson is no stranger to public radio. He most recently served as Morning Edition Host and News Director at Aspen Public Radio in Colorado. Before moving to Colorado, Josh worked at a pair of public radio stations in his home state of Iowa.

Josh took the last two years off from on-air work to finish his Ph. D. in English at the University of Iowa. His masters degree is in 20th Century American literature.

Streetcars in the Strip?

Aug 26, 2011

The notion of streetcars in the Strip District may seem outdated or romantic in the 21st century, but it could become a reality in the near future.

The city of Pittsburgh is asking consultants to submit bids for a streetcar system in the Strip, to be situated between 10th and 40th Streets.

Pittsburgh's Principal Transportation Planner Patrick Roberts said whichever comprehensive plan the city adopts this November will also include other transportation changes for the market neighborhood, like pedestrian and bikeway improvements.

Johnstown Wins Grants for Business Park

Aug 26, 2011

The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority has received more than $2 million in combined state and federal grants to help set up a future business park.

JRA Executive Director Ronald Repak said the money will be put toward the construction of an access road and utility lines, meant to connect the former industrial site to the city.

He said the Rosedale Business Park would be built atop a remediated brownsite, where Bethlehem Steel had previously been located.

In recent years, an ever-increasing number of people have sought behavioral health care services at Highlands Hospital, many of them veterans. But for the most part, they aren't coming in and saying, "Hello, I have behavioral health care needs, can you please help?" More often than not, they are being admitted to the Emergency Room after a car accident or a drug overdose. Or they're coming in over and over again with headaches or stomache aches.

A panel of Pennsylvania legislators, private citizens, and the state's Transportation Secretary heard arguments for funding local infrastructure projects on Thursday.

Leaders from southwestern Pennsylvania counties and municipalities submitted their ideas for the Department of Transportation's 12-Year Plan, or TYP. Updated every two years, the TYP maps out which road and bridge projects will be a priority for the state agency.

PennDOT Chief: Higher Driver Cost vs. Worse Roads

Aug 25, 2011

Pennsylvania's top transportation official said if the state adopts recent recommendations for funding its worn-out roads and bridges, it will raise costs for drivers. But, he said that's not necessarily worse than the alternative.

Pops Gets His Own Stamp

Aug 25, 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates Hall Of Famer Willie Stargell will be honored by the U.S. Postal Service with his own first class stamp. WECT-TV in Wilmington, NC got the OK from the Postal Service to report the new stamp on Wednesday, a day before it was officially announced. Stargell lived in Wilmington until he died in 2001. His wife's twin sister works at the station. Stargell played for the Pirates from 1962 to 1982, hit 475 home runs, and led the Pirates to a pair of World Series victories.

PEMA: Quake Info Flowed Well

Aug 24, 2011

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) said coordination after Tuesday's earthquake went according to plan. The scope of the quake was small enough that PEMA allowed various state agencies, including PennDOT and the Public Utility Commission, as well as nuclear power plants, to work independently to send out status updates.

Pennsylvania's Top Elections Official Favors Voter ID at the Polls

Aug 24, 2011

A member of the Corbett administration is voicing her support for a state law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls. Carol Aichele, the commonwealth's Secretary of State, said her department aims to protect every Pennsylvanian's right to vote.

If a voter ID law is passed and signed, a person would only be able to cast a ballot, in person or by mail, after proving three things: U.S. citizenship, residency in Pennsylvania and that he or she is 18 years or older. "The voting requirements are pretty … pretty generous," said Aichele.

Study Shows Home Visiting Programs Make Big Impact

Aug 24, 2011

A new report from the Pew Center says states should invest in research-backed home visiting programs, because early intervention will save money in the long run. The study also found that states that are investing in the programs too rarely use evidence of effectiveness to inform policy decisions. Home visiting programs are voluntary. Low income and young women sign up when they are pregnant, and home visitors make sure expectant mothers are taking care of themselves.

A local education nonprofit is asking teachers in Pittsburgh's middle and high schools what they need to do their job better.

A+ Schools Executive Director Carey Harris said her organization aims to talk with more than 100 teachers from Pittsburgh Public Schools and three charter schools. Harris said the 30-minute sessions will be a confidential means of determining the schools' strengths and weaknesses.

Quake Causes Only Minor Damages in Pittsburgh

Aug 23, 2011

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked much of the East Coast today did not cause structural damage to any major local facilities or utility lines, said Allegheny County Emergency Services Acting Chief Alvin Henderson.

Henderson said the extent of the damage reports he's received is several cases where brick facades and chimneys tumbled down in the tremors. He said he's not heard reports of any injuries in the county.

The environmental group Sustainable Pittsburgh is hosting a "Green Workplace Challenge" competition for the city's businesses.

Sustainable Pittsburgh Program Manager Matt Mehalik said the friendly competition will rank businesses in the Pittsburgh area, based on how many green design features they can implement and how much energy and water they can save over the next year.

A new study claims the difference in pay between Pennsylvania public employees and their private sector counterparts is "statistically insignificant."

When both wages and benefits are taken into account, public employees make about 2.1% less than private sector workers on an hourly basis, according to the study recently released by the Keystone Research Center and the Economic Policy Institute, working with Rutgers University.

Tiny Wasps Used to Attack Ash-Destroying Beetle

Aug 22, 2011

The Emerald Ash Borer has destroyed or severely damaged more than 40 million ash trees in 15 states, including Pennsylvania. The beetle is native to China, but was first detected in 2002 in Michigan, and then was found in Pennsylvania four years ago. At least 12 counties in the commonwealth are infested with the pest. Past eradication efforts have not succeeded, so agriculture and forestry officials have been trying to contain the pest by placing quarantines on hardwoods.

The Eastern Hellbender is a salamander of many names:

"The snot otter's probably my favorite. Waterdogs is what a lot of people call them in the area. Allegheny Alligator is another one, I've heard that one as well," says Eric Chapman. Chapman works with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the PPG Aquarium, and Purdue University to study eastern hellbender salamanders in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Hellbenders live in large streams and rivers. Chapman and his team have been conducting hellbender surveys in the Little Mahoning Creek Watershed since 2007.