Mar. 06, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
 
Town Hall Meeting March 19

I will host a town hall meeting on Thursday, March 19, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the newly reconstructed Joe Stickell American Legion Hall, 63 E. Main St. in Waynesboro. The topic for this meeting will be veterans’ issues, and American Legion Department Service Officer Paul DeVincenzo will be present to answer questions relating to the VA and other veterans’ benefits. All are welcome.
 
 
A Few Statistics on the Minimum Wage

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is coupled with the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. This past week the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry released the result of its annual survey of the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. The data in this survey is from 2019.

Pennsylvania has an estimated 90,700 workers earning the minimum wage. This is a 5.6% decrease from 2018’s numbers. Over the same period, the number of individuals working for an hourly wage of any kind was down only slightly by 0.3%. However, the number of salaried positions rose sharply, up 1% over the previous year. The median hourly wage earner in Pennsylvania makes $15.14 per hour.

Of those Pennsylvanians earning the minimum wage, 79% are female, 82% are white, 55% are under age 24, 54% have not yet graduated high school, 72% have never married, 78% have no children, 78% work in the food or retail industries and 66% worked only part-time. The average minimum wage earner in Pennsylvania is a white female under the age of 24 who has never been married or had children and works part-time at a restaurant or clothing store. Minimum wage jobs are not intended to be family-sustaining jobs; they are beginner wages.

The state’s Independent Fiscal Office projects that upwards of 34,000 minimum wage jobs would be eliminated in Pennsylvania if the minimum were raised to $12 per hour, which is Gov. Tom Wolf’s recommendation. Advocates for leaving the minimum wage where it is argue that increases in the minimum wage only benefit those lucky enough to keep their jobs. What it would do is eliminate many of those first jobs, which young people obtain and where they learn the value of showing up on time and meeting an employer’s requirements.

As a believer in the free market., I do not see a legitimate state interest in the government’s intervention in the private contract for employment between a prospective employer and a willing worker. I certainly welcome your thoughts.
 
 
Budget Hearings Conclude

The House Appropriations Committee concluded its in-depth review of the governor’s budget proposal this week with a focus on education and human services, the two biggest state agencies in terms of funding.

As was the case in the prior two weeks of hearings, members drilled down on the estimated $1 billion in state spending which exceeded last year’s approved budget. In particular, members sought to identify the cause of extra-budget spending in order to ascertain if the state is mis-managing funds or not adequately assessing the state’s needs when budgeting.

With the hearings concluded, lawmakers can now move forward with developing a state budget that funds the core functions of government while also being respectful of the taxpayers who foot the bill. Additional information about the 2020-21 state budget proposal, as well as archived video of the budget hearings, may be found here.
 
 
Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement Program in Effect

As of Wednesday, March 4, drivers speeding through certain active work zones in the state could find themselves being cited for the offense through the new Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWZSE) program.

Designed to slow traffic and improve safety for both highway workers and travelers, the program is being operated by a partnership of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) and Pennsylvania State Police.

The AWZSE program uses vehicle-mounted systems to detect and record motorists exceeding posted work zone speed limits using electronic speed timing devices. Work zones will be marked with signage in advance of the enforcement area, and the systems are operational only in active work zones where workers are present. Locations are posted on the project website, WorkZoneCameras.PennDOT.gov.

A 60-day pre-enforcement period, which has been in place since January, ended earlier this week. Now, registered owners who are found to be speeding will receive a warning letter for a first offense, a violation notice and $75 fine for a second offense, and a violation notice and $150 fine for third and subsequent offenses. These violations are civil penalties only; no points will be assessed to driver’s licenses.

In 2018, 1,804 work zone crashes occurred in Pennsylvania, resulting in 23 fatalities, and 43% of work zone crashes resulted in fatalities and/or injuries. Since 1970, PennDOT has lost 89 workers in the line of duty. The PA Turnpike has lost 45 workers since 1945.
  
 
Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Expands

A dozen counties have been added to Pennsylvania’s Spotted Lanternfly quarantine zone by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. This brings the total quarantine zone to 26 counties, more than a third of the state’s 67 counties.

The counties added this week are not completely infested, but rather have a few municipalities with a known infestation which led to a quarantine being placed on the entire county out of an abundance of caution. Allegheny, Beaver, Blair, Columbia, Cumberland, Huntingdon, Juniata, Luzerne, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry and York have been added to the quarantine for 2020.

Businesses that operate in or travel through quarantined counties are required to obtain a Spotted Lanternfly permit; fines associated with noncompliance can be up to $300 for a criminal citation or up to $20,000 for a civil penalty. Homeowners with questions about treatment are encouraged to contact their local Penn State Extension office or learn about management, including approved sprays, online.  Pennsylvanians who live inside the quarantine zone should also review and sign the Compliance Checklist for residents.

For more information about the Spotted Lanternfly, click here.
 
 
Spring Ahead: Turn Clocks Ahead One Hour This Weekend

Daylight saving time will begin on Sunday, March 8, at 2 a.m. Be sure to turn your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night before going to bed.

This is also a good time to check and/or change batteries in both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. The alarms should also be replaced every 10 years.
 
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