Corbett Signs Tort Reform Compromise

By Jared Edgerton and Keegan Gibson

Today Governor Corbett delivered one of his campaign promises by signing the Fair Share Act, making Pennsylvania the next state to adopt comprehensive tort reform. Corbett has hailed the legislation as shifting the responsibility of financial damages caused by frivolous lawsuits away from businesses clearing the way for job growth.

The Fair Share Act is a key component in addressing one of the most important issues to Pennsylvania – jobs,’’ Corbett said, before signing the bill into law in the Capitol Rotunda. “This bill announces to the rest of the world that Pennsylvania is open for business.

It’s a victory for business groups (whose campaign contributions tend to go to Republicans) in their legislative proxy war with the state’s trial lawyers (whose campaign contributions tend to go to Democrats).

The new law amends the existing requirement that guilty defendants could potentially be liable for 100 percent of damages if their co-defendants cannot pay for the negligence resulting in death or injury to a person or property. Under the new law defendants are only fully accountable if it is proved they are 60 percent at fault. If the defendant is proved not to be 60 percent at fault they only have to compensate for the percent of damages they caused.

The bill was initially set up as a compromise by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and attorneys’ strongest patron among Republicans. His SB1131 had initially protected the standard of joint liability for cases involving economic damages, like medical expenses and lost earnings. It would also apply in claims involving children who were either victimized, or had a wrongful death interest in a lawsuit. However, those changes were stripped out by an amendment from Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre), leaving the bill practically identical to earlier versions.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai praised the act because he feels, “it’s a message to employers and entrepreneurs that Pennsylvania is open to jobs,” adding, “it’s about communities, it’s about employers and family-sustaining jobs.”

Earlier today Chairman Rob Gleason, from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, issued a press released commending the act stating, “The ‘Fair Share Act’ is a necessary reform that helps to end frivolous lawsuit abuse and will make Pennsylvania more competitive…I applaud the legislature for passing this much-needed legislation that will put our Commonwealth on equal footing with other states that have passed similar legislation and enable us to recruit new businesses that create more jobs.”

Although Republicans are enthusiastic about the new law Democrats have been referring to it as “The Wrongdoers Protection Act.” Minority Whip Mike Hanna argues the Fair Share Act marginalizes victims of accidents by limiting their ability to seek legal recourse saying, “the rights of victims should be the No. 1 priority of our legal system.”

The PA Democratic Party blasted the bill as a handout to business.

“Once again Pennsylvania Republicans have sided with corporate special interests over Pennsylvanians,” said Party spokesman Mark Nicastre. “By passing legislation that makes it more difficult for victims, Pennsylvania Republicans have protected wrongdoers at the expense of workers in Pennsylvania.”

The legislation received nearly unanimous party line support with a few Democrats voting for it in the House and a few Republicans voting against it in the Senate. Pennsylvania has now joined the majority of states who have already adopted similar measures.

Correction: an earlier version of this story failed to report that the compromise provisions put forth by Sen. Greenleaf were removed from the final version of the bill. PoliticsPA regrets this error.

PR Battle Continues Over Marcellus Jobs Numbers

By Jamie Brackman, Contributing Writer

From the Capitol in Harrisburg to municipal buildings in the northern tier of the state, Marcellus shale gas drilling advocates have wielded the ultimate trump card in every debate: jobs. The promise of the industry’s economic benefits have outweighed practically every other concern.

Now, as lawmakers prepare to debate a possible fee or tax, a left-leaning think tank is looking for chinks in the armor.

A PA Department of Labor and Industry report last month claimed that gas extraction and related industries produced 48,000 jobs this year – contributing to Pennsylvania’s better-than-average employment rate. However, according to a recent Keystone Research Center (KRC) report, fewer than 10,00 new jobs have been created by the industry.

The KRC report claims that the 48,000 “new hires” reported by the Marcellus Shale Coalition is a deceptive figure.  The figure only counted the number of people hired by the industry without considering the number of employees who were separated from the industry.  The KRC claims that the Marcellus Shale Coalition did not account for people who no longer work for the industry.

“The number of new hires by itself tells half the story and is not a meaningful indicator of job creation,” said Stephen Herzenberg, PhD, Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition was quick to respond to the KRC report.  Coalition President Kathryn Klaber called the report a “thinly-veiled, politically-timed attack” on the natural gas industry.

“Families across Pennsylvania are seeing firsthand the reality of Marcellus development: it is fueling economic growth, employment, and investments in roads and infrastructure at rates not seen in decades.” Klaber said

The KRC report claims that Marcellus Shale growth is relatively small, making up about 10% of all 111,400 new Pennsylvania jobs.

“The Marcellus boom has contributed to job growth, but the size of that contribution has been significantly overstated,” Dr. Herzenberg said.

The PA GOP also attacked the report and the KRC as a whole.  Their statement points to a Tribune-Review story in April, which “debunked” a KRC report on Marcellus Shale tax evasion.

“The fact is that the Marcellus Shale gas industry has and will continue to create jobs all across Pennsylvania” PA Republican Party Executive Director Mike Barley said, “The KRC and its affiliates have been known to release fact-challenged reports that support their extreme, liberal point of view.“

The KRC fired back at the opposition with a response from Herzenberg.

“While the Marcellus job dividend has been small to date,” Dr. Herzenberg said, “greater opportunities exist if the state replaces cheerleading for the industry with a real strategy to maximize its benefits.”

The KRC press release suggests an impact fee or tax would broaden the positive economic footprint of Marcellus shale, and stops short of calling for a moratorium on drilling.

Chris Bowman contributed to this report.

6/28 Morning Buzz

Good morning politicos, and welcome to the buzz.

The budget battle continues. Will the GOP be able to keep campaign promises and deliver an on-time budget? What happens in Harrisburg today will likely tell the story.

And more importantly, Governor Corbett decided this week that he wants help naming his new dogs! PoliticsPA might recommend “Red” and “Herring.”

PoliticsPA Reports

With Budget Deadline Looming, Is Governor Corbett Looking to “Dog Days” of Summer for Reprieve?
With one major deadline already looming this week, Governor Tom Corbett and his wife Susan on Monday etched another significant date onto the public calendar.

Altmire, Critz & Shuster Write Pro-Shale Drilling Letter
On Monday, Pennsylvania Congressmen Jason Altmire, Mark Critz, and Bill Shuster co-signed on an open letter to President Obama urging him to expand Marcellus Shale drilling in the United States.

Pa. Lawmakers Seek To Limit Teacher Strikes
Pennsylvania Democratic Representatives and Pennsylvania Republican Representatives hold divergent views of teacher strikes regarding wage and benefit negotiations. At issue here are the reoccurring teacher strikes that hit the state of Pennsylvania on average 11 times a year.

Rick Santorum On Glenn Beck’s Show
Today, Senator Rick Santorum appeared on Fox News Host Glenn Beck’s television show. Beck introduced Santorum saying, “America needs people who are ready to stand up and lead.” And praised Santorum’s firm stance against radical Islam during his 2006 campaign, despite its unpopular polling numbers. Beck cited Sanotrum’s courageous 2006 campaign as the reason why he chose him to be one of his final guests on the show, which is ending next week.

Sen. Toomey Signs Cut, Cap, and Balance Pledge
Freshman Senator Pat Toomey signed the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge yesterday, joining ten of his Republican colleagues. The pledge makes candidates promise to make substantial cuts in spending, enforce spending caps and work to pass a balanced budget amendment.

Roll Call: GOP Weary of Repeating Redraw Overreach in Pa.
Republicans tasked with redrawing the state’s congressional map continue to seek a balance between protecting potentially vulnerable incumbents and keeping currently safe seats out of reach for Democratic challengers, according to a report published by Roll Call today.

AP: Gushers Show Shale’s Potential
The result is that the Marcellus, a rock formation beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio, has turned out to be an even more prolific source of gas than anyone anticipated. Energy firms are boosting their production targets, not only because new wells are coming on line but also because they’re managing to coax more gas from each well.

Capitol Ideas: Midday Budget Update
The House Appropriations Committee has attached fiscal notes to the four bills that provide funding to the state-related universities (Temple, Penn State, Pitt and Lincoln). House and Senate Republicans are still trying to figure out what they’re going to do about a vote on a shale extraction tax or fee vote.

National
Politico: Playbook – Obama 2012 has 300,000+ donors – Bachmann today: ‘We can’t afford four more years of Obama’ – New Josh Bolten firm – Brian Stelter writing book on morning-show wars – Teddy White goes digital
Politico: Revenue vs. cuts in debt debate
Roll Call: Top 5 Member-Vs.-Member Battles
Roll Call: Obama Visits Media Market He Shunned in 2008
The Times: Cuomo, Obama and the Realm of the Possible
The Hill: Supreme Court strikes down ban on sale of violent video games to minors
Real Clear Politics: Like Chauncey Gardiner, Obama Is Profoundly Aloof

Statewide
Heard in the Hall: Tom Knox Considering Run For Governor Rather Than Run for Mayor of Philly
AP via Inquirer: Bill to Limit Civil Liability Heads To Gov. Corbett
AP via Inquirer: Judge To Rule on Rep. DeWeese Trial Location
PhillyNow: What’s Coming From Harrisburg?
Fox Philadelphia: PennDOT May Ban Registration Stickers
Capitol Ideas: Rep. DeWeese Makes Miriam-Webster’s Word Of The Day
Capitol Ideas: Monday Morning Coffee: Four Days And Counting
Capitol Ideas: New Patrick Murphy Web Video
Capitol Ideas: Midday Budget Update: More Dominoes
Capitol Ideas: FY 2011-12 School Funding Spreadsheets
Capitol Ideas: FY 2011-12 Budget Printout — FULL DOCUMENT
Pennsylvania Independent: Commission to push for tolls to fund mass transit
Altoona Mirror: Sunday Passes Without Budget Deal
Observer-Reporter: Budget Deal Means Big Cuts For Higher Ed
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:Corbett administration lauds tentative employee contracts
AP via Post Gazette: House passes lawsuit liability limits
Tribune-Review: Fair Share Act Limiting Damages in Civil Lawsuits Advances
Tribune-Review: State Laws Pit Public School Districts Against Charter Schools
Business Journal Daily: Toomey to Tour Manufacturing Plants
Roll Call: Senators Stay Put in Hideaways, Arlen Specter’s Old Office Is Sought After
School Transportation News: Group of Senators Seek Support of Head Start Funding
CBS KDKA:Republican legislative leaders release details of budget deal

Philly
ABC Philadelphia: Tom Knox Is Not Running For Mayor
WHYY Newsworks: Knox Returns To His Democratic Roots
WHYY Newsworks: Superintendent Ackerman Denies Reports She Is In Talks To Step Down

Philly Suburbs
Pottstown Mercury: With 250,000 people near Limerick nuclear, is evacuation plan realistic?
Pottstown Mercury: Tolls on Philadelphia-area bridges to increase Friday
Pottstown Mercury: Montco planning commission to study plans for Willow Grove air base
Daily Times: Rose Tree Media schools hold line on taxes

Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Tribune Review:State budget headed for votes would cut spending 4.1 percent
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:DeWeese argues to move corruption trial to Greene County
Pittsburgh Post Gazette:Dems bargain with state related funding
Early Returns: Fitzgerald sees red
Post-Gazette: Mr. Mayor, Here’s A Touch of FDR 4 U
Early Returns: Roll Call: PA’s redistrict jockeying
Early Returns: Mike Kelly goes viral
Early Returns: Kaufmann’s clock revisited

Southwest
Altoona Mirror: Voucher Details Remain Up In The Air
Beaver County Times: Moon Area School Board Approves Budget, Labor Resolution
Charleston Gazette: Opponents of Amtrak Privatization Point to Britain, Rep. Bill Shuster
Daily American: Maple Producers Celebrate Successful Season, Rep. Carl Metzgar Unable to Attend Due to Budget Talks
Observer-Reporter: Judge: Altered Parking Tickets Not Legal
Observer-Reporter: Pa. Lawmakers Meet As Budget Deadline Looms
Observer Reporter: First Responders Recognition Dinner Held, Sen. Solobay Sends His Regards
Observer-Reporter: Judge to Rule on DeWeese Trial Location this Week
Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi, Not Settling In (Rep. Critz in Photo)

South Central
Harrisburg Patriot News- Bankruptcy might not be an option for Harrisburg
Harrisburg Patriot News- Act 47 bill regarding Harrisburg bogs down with new amendment; Senate vote now expected Tuesday
Harrisburg Patriot News- No raises appear to be in the cards for management and non-union employees in Pa. state workforce
Harrisburg Patriot News- Harrisburg School Board adopts budget that closes schools, eliminates staff
Harrisburg Patriot News- House rejection imperils college appropriations bills
Gettysburg Sun Gazette- Corbett seeks disaster aid for county

NEPA
AP via Times Leader: Pa. budget details become clearer as vote nears
Times Leader: This week shaping up to be a good one for Gov. Corbett
AP via Citizens Voice: Gushers show potential of Marcellus Shale
Citizens Voice: Court expected to appoint new Lackawanna County commissioner Tuesday
Citizens Voice: Final state budget push starting today
Citizens Voice: Changing Government may not stop corruption
Citizens Voice: Amid scandal, Republicans hope to regroup
AP via Wayne Independent: NE Pa. mayor says he was beaten, carjacked
AP via Wayne Independent: Pa. bill to limit civil liability heads to Corbett
AP via Times Leader: Work goes on before Pa. budget deadline
Pocono Record: Monroe County elections director – Voter ID not needed
Daily Item: U.S. Rep. Tom Marino – A Life In Office

North by Northwest
Erie Times-News: Millcreek school board voting on budget
Centre Daily Times: Bogus signs suggest testing PA water with fire
Courier-Express: Gusher emphasizes Marcellus Shale value

Opinions
Wayne Independent Editorial: Bring our troops home
Daily Review Editorial: Federal shield law is a good idea
Jeff, Greenfield Politico: A religious test for president?
Fred Kennedy, Observer-Reporter: Workers are losing their rights
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post: Don’t make the economy worse
The Mercury, Editorial: Pa. needs a better way to address hunting’s decline
Mark Guydish, Times Leader: Spend or save, we still have to pay those pesky taxes

With Budget Deadline Looming, Is Governor Corbett Looking to “Dog Days” of Summer for Reprieve?

With one major deadline already looming this week, Governor Tom Corbett and his wife Susan on Monday etched another significant date onto the public calendar: Pennsylvania children ages twelve and under have until July 25 to submit suggested names for the two Airedale puppies that will call the Governor’s Mansion home starting next month.

“Susan and I felt it would be nice to let Pennsylvania’s children pick the names,” the governor said in a press release distributed on Monday.  “We are really looking forward to seeing the suggestions.”

Not as much, PoliticsPA suspects, as he is looking forward to seeing the legislature’s “suggestion” for a balanced budget that doesn’t introduce new taxes or fees.  The naming contest could, however, serve as a welcome distraction should the GOP-controlled legislature fail to deliver a completed spending plan to Corbett by the Thursday deadline.

Altmire, Critz & Shuster Write Pro-Shale Drilling Letter

Congressman Mark Critz

By Jared Edgerton, Contributing Writer

On Monday, Pennsylvania Congressmen Jason Altmire (D-McCandless), Mark Critz (D-Johnstown), and Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg) co-signed on an open letter to President Obama urging him to expand Marcellus Shale drilling in the United States.

The letter (PDF), signed by four Republicans and four Democrats, calls for President Obama to invest in natural gas drilling as a way to promote energy independence.  The Congressmen characterize the United States’ current situation as the perfect opportunity to support the natural gas drilling industry, citing revolutions in the Middle East which are limiting oil imports, lauding European countries’ efforts to diversify their energy sources, and pointing out the potential threat of natural resource competition from developing countries in need of broader energy production.  

The letter ends by imploring President Obama not to impose environmental regulation that would stifle the industry, writing that shale gas recovery “does not pollute our Nation’s water supply,” and asking that the President “advance the concepts [stated in the letter] later this year…to Members of both parties.”

Although the letter focuses on pushing gas drilling as a way to strengthen national security, there are also two unmentioned reasons for the Pennsylvania Congressmen who signed the letter to support shale drilling.  

First, the natural gas industry has created a tremendous economic boom for their constituents.  Reports indicate that the drilling industry has created 48,000 jobs in Pennsylvania in the last 18 months.

Signing the letter also helps Representative Critz and Altmire position themselves as moderate Democrats.  Because redistricting will favor the GOP (which controls the state Senate, state House and the Governor’s mansion — and thus the reigns of the redistricting efforts), both Critz and Altmire could face reelection bids even more challenging than usual.  The letter helps give credibility to their claim that they are moderates who will have the ability to attract swing voters next year.

Roll Call: GOP Weary of Repeating Redraw Overreach in PA

Republicans tasked with redrawing the state’s congressional map continue to seek a balance between protecting potentially vulnerable incumbents and keeping currently safe seats out of reach for Democratic challengers, according to a report published by Roll Call today.  Shira Toeplitz has the story, which begins like this:

“Republicans know they can’t afford to get greedy when they redraw the Pennsylvania Congressional map this time around.”

“The Keystone State GOP stretched the boundaries of its House districts beyond their limits a decade ago, producing a handful of competitive seats that have traded party hands in the wave elections of recent cycles.”

“Even though the Pennsylvania Legislature is not expected to consider a new Congressional map until the first couple of weeks of 2012, members of Congress are already tussling over and lobbying for the shape of their preferred districts.”

“Republicans’ foremost goal is to shore up the 12 House seats that they already control and to use the state’s single-seat loss to shrink the number of Democrats in the delegation from seven to six.”

Toeplitz’s sources tell her that Congressman Joe Pitts, the elder statesman among the Keystone State’s GOP contingent, has been reluctant to cede solidly Republican areas of his district to help out more vulnerable colleagues like Congressmen Jim Gerlach or Pat Meehan.

There’s more agreement on the other side of the state, where the current consensus seems to be that Democrats Jason Altmire and Mark Critz will find themselves in the same district come 2012, Toeplitz reports.  Congressman Bill Shuster, whose own district would neighbor a hypothetical merger between Altmire and Critz, has taken an active role in shaping that area of the new congressional map.

Despite the increasingly likely scenario that they’ll share a district next year, Altmire told Toeplitz that he and Critz haven’t discussed how they’d handle the hybrid.  “Mark and I are both well-aware of the rumors and the possibility that we will end up in the same district.  We are friends and we are supportive of each other.  We are not preparing to run against each other. We are not doing stuff in each other’s districts,” he said.

Click here to read the full story.

Toomey Signs Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge

By Jared Edgerton, Contributing Writer

Freshman Senator Pat Toomey signed the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge yesterday, joining ten of his Republican colleagues. The pledge makes candidates promise to make substantial cuts in spending, enforce spending caps and work to pass a balanced budget amendment.

So far the pledge has been signed by 11 senators, all of whom are Republican (a complete list is below).

Toomey explained his support for the pledge, stating, “For a long time I have argued that the most irresponsible thing we can do is raise the debt limit without imposing badly needed spending cuts and structural reforms. The debt ceiling debate is our best chance, if not the only one remaining, for this Congress to show the American people that we will stop the overspending and skyrocketing debt. I support the ‘Cut, Cap, Balance’ pledge because it clearly spells out how we can achieve this goal.”

The growing GOP support for the pledge adds another complicating factor to already arduous negotiations among leaders of the two parties and Vice President Joe Biden, who are exploring ways to lower the country’s debt obligations and raise the debt ceiling.  Though the ceiling will be reached by early August unless a compromise can be reached, the talks were suddenly halted last week after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor withdrew and urged President Obama to intervene.

Senators who signed the pledge:

Jim DeMint (South Carolina)
Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)
Orrin Hatch (Utah)
Dean Heller (Nevada)
Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma)
Mike Lee (Utah)
Jerry Moran (Kansas)
Rand Paul (Kentucky)
Marco Rubio (Florida)
David Vitter (Louisiana)

Capitol Ideas: Midday Budget Update

Read the story here.

The House Appropriations Committee has attached fiscal notes to the four bills that provide funding to the state-related universities (Temple, Penn State, Pitt and Lincoln)…

…House and Senate Republicans are still trying to figure out what they’re going to do about a vote on a shale extraction tax or fee vote. It appears that the House GOP still doesn’t have the votes to block an amendment to the fiscal code if Democrats decide to get clever and try to tack language onto it…

 

AP: Gushers Show Shale’s Potential

Read the rest of the story here.

Two unexpected gushers in Northeast Pennsylvania are helping to illustrate the enormous potential of the Marcellus Shale natural gas field.

Each of the Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. wells in Dimock Twp., Susquehanna County, is capable of producing 30 million cubic feet per day – believed to be a record for the Marcellus and enough gas to supply nearly 1,000 homes for a year. The landowners attached to the wells, who leased the well access, numbering fewer than 25, are splitting hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly royalties.

“There was definitely excitement among the team that planned out these wells and executed their completion,” said Cabot spokesman George Stark.

Drilling companies knew the Marcellus held a lot of gas. They just had to figure out a way to get it out, and they say they’re getting better at it all the time.

The result is that the Marcellus, a rock formation beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio, has turned out to be an even more prolific source of gas than anyone anticipated. Energy firms are boosting their production targets, not only because new wells are coming on line but also because they’re managing to coax more gas from each well.

Rick Santorum On Glenn Beck’s Radio Show

By: Jared Edgerton, Contributing Writer 

Today, Senator Rick Santorum appeared on Fox News Host Glenn Beck’s television show. Beck introduced Santorum saying, “America needs people who are ready to stand up and lead.” And praised Santorum’s firm stance against radical Islam during his 2006 campaign, despite its unpopular polling numbers. Beck cited Sanotrum’s courageous 2006 campaign as the reason why he chose him to be one of his final guests on the show, which is ending next week.

The interview covered a wide range issues including foreign policy, religions role in government, media bias and job creation.

Appearing on Glenn Beck’s show gave Santorum a good medium to try and win the support of Tea Party activists. Throughout the interview Santorum expressed support for Tea Party held positions by condemning activists judges, calling for limited government and advocating for religion to play a more pivotal role in government.

The interview had some lighter moments, Santorum recounted his first interview with Beck on his radio show, during which Beck said he wanted to, “kiss [Santorum] in the mouth.”

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