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Updated: 1 hour 27 min ago

Florida in focus: Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They’re being rented

Fri, 2017-08-18 07:58

Tampa Tribune: Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They’re being rented

Oreste Mesa Jr. owns a modest 40-year-old house in West Tampa just off MacDill Avenue. It’s an area where many homeowners are hearing the siren song of builders and cashing out while the market is strong.

But Mesa has no intention of joining them. Since he and his wife stuck a “for rent” sign on the lawn this summer, they’ve had their pick of tenants from among 80 callers.

“We don’t need the money as far as selling it,” Mesa says, “and right now we get more in rent than we would if we invested in something else.”

It’s a mindset that’s contributing to the critical shortage of homes for sale in the Tampa Bay area and many other parts of the country.

Even as the median price of a U.S. house is at a record high — $263,800 — many owners are choosing to lease out their properties rather than sell. It can be a smart move at a time when millions of people are renting, either because they want to or because they don’t have the money or good enough credit to buy. But the increase in rentals is shrinking the supply of available homes — and driving up prices — just as the huge millennial generation reaches its prime home-buying years and many baby boomers are looking to downsize.

News 4 Jax: How much would it cost to remove Confederate statues?

The controversy continues over what to do with Confederate monuments in the city of Jacksonville.

Mayor Lenny Curry said this week that he’s focused on his priorities, but if monuments become a priority for the Jacksonville City Council, he’ll deal with it then.

City Council President Anna Lopez-Brosche told News4Jax on Thursday she’s pushing ahead to take a reasonable, measured look at the topic — including the potential costs.

Brosche said the cost of removing the statues, and who is going to pay for it, is part of a bigger question, adding that she’s pursuing an inventory from the city about what statues exist in Jacksonville and Duval County.

She said it seems too early to make any guesses about the cost or who would pay it.

Tampa Bay Times: Pinellas wants to see impact of tourism bucks spent on big events

Pinellas County relies on more than just beaches to attract visitors. County government also spends millions to help sponsor big-name events to draw even more tourists.

But now the Pinellas County Commission wants to see exactly how many visitors they’re getting in return for that investment.

The commission on Tuesday approved spending $1.5 million in tourist tax revenues to sponsor 12 events that they hope will draw even more tourists in 2018.

The biggest winners include annual events such as the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg ($250,000), followed by the Valspar PGA Championship ($250,000), the Outback Bowl & Clearwater Beach Day ($150,000); and the St. Petersburg Bowl ($135,000).

But commissioners also delivered a sharp message to event organizers: Turn over your attendance figures if you want the cash.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin ban on Irish butter sales fail the smell test? Judge lets courts sort it out

Fri, 2017-08-18 07:41

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin ban on Irish butter sales fail the smell test? Judge lets courts sort it out

 Consumers know what they like, and they don’t need the state deciding what butter they can buy based on a bureaucrat’s subjective standards about flavor, texture and smell, a lawyer argued Tuesday.

At issue is the constitutionality of a Wisconsin law that bans the sale of butter that hasn’t been graded by the state or federal government.  That means Kerrygold, a popular Irish brand, can’t be sold here — though it is available in other states.

Some butter eaters and a Grafton food shop — a former seller of Kerrygold — sued in March, claiming the law violates the state constitution’s protections of due process, equal protection and even free speech.

They are represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, or WILL, a conservative nonprofit law firm. Its director, Rick Esenberg, argued Tuesday against the state’s effort to have the case thrown out.

Reuters: Wisconsin bill giving $3 billion incentives to Foxconn advances

Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Assembly voted 59-30 on Thursday to approve a bill that paves the way for a $3 billion incentives package for a proposed liquid-crystal display plant by Taiwan’s Foxconn.

The plan still needs to be approved by the joint finance committee, which has members from both the Assembly and the state Senate, as well as the Senate before it can go to the governor. The finance committee and Senate are also controlled by Republicans.

Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (2317.TW), hopes to open a $10 billion plant in 2020 at a 1,000-acre site in southeastern Wisconsin.

Foxconn is a major supplier to Apple Inc (AAPL.O) for its iPhones.

“We are ready to take advantage of this historic opportunity … and build a long-lasting relationship with Foxconn,” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who helped negotiate the deal, said in a statement.

Wisconsin State Journal: GOP lawmakers introduce bill opening Wisconsin to mining

Two Wisconsin lawmakers on Thursday introduced a controversial proposal to repeal state law requiring mining companies to demonstrate that they have operated without polluting before they are permitted to extract metals here.

“People want to make things in America again,” said Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst. “Our neighbors, Minnesota and Michigan, have placed their shovels in the dirt of America’s future. It is Wisconsin’s turn to do the same.”

Tiffany, who was instrumental in a 2013 law relaxing state iron mining regulations, has been talking for months about lifting the so-called “moratorium” on mining for sulfide metals such as copper and gold.

In April, the Sierra Club and Wisconsin Resources Protection Council urged the Legislature to reject Tiffany’s plan. They said 50 other state, regional and national groups also opposed repeal of the 1998 mining law, which was signed by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, after receiving bipartisan legislative support.

Colorado in focus: Denver Sheriff Department overtime is excessive

Fri, 2017-08-18 07:24

Denver Post opinion: Denver Sheriff Department overtime is excessive

Despite hiring 200 deputies, the Denver Sheriff Department spent $14 million on overtime in 2016, and is on track to spend nearly as much in 2017, according to data reported by The Denver Post’s Noelle Phillips. In 2015, the department spent $10 million. In 2014, it spent $8 million.

The practice strikes us as unsound.

Sheriff Patrick Firman says the increase in overtime is due to a struggle to retain and replace employees — the department is 30 deputies short of full force. Also, in the past two years deputies have undergone a heavy load of additional training courses in response to Firman’s laudable efforts to reform a jail system that has suffered more than its fair share of scandal. Both of those factors are certainly driving increased overtime.

We hope Firman is right and, once the additional training is completed and the force staffing levels stabilize, the amount of overtime paid in the remainder of 2017 drops to more in line with what was paid in 2014. That’s a tough order seeing as how the department has already spent $6 million so far this year.

Denver Post: Need a building permit in Denver? Auditor says you can expect to wait — too long

Long wait times to submit building-permit applications and a disorganized filing system are delaying development across Denver, an audit has found.

The problem is especially vexing as a booming population has pushed construction — and a demand for permits — into high gear, Denver Auditor Timothy O’Brien said.

People start lining up hours before the Department of Community Planning and Development opens to hand in plans for review, he said, and the agency should take steps to dramatically improve efficiency.

“Imbalances in staff training and long wait times are holding up the business of growing and developing the City of Denver,” O’Brien said in a written statement Thursday.

The department says that improvements are already either completed or underway in response to the auditor’s report, like better use of digital-submission systems, which have begun to reduce waits for those trying to file plans. It disagreed, however, with the notion that Denver’s development boom is any way being hampered by the hold ups.

KKTV 11: Homeless forced off street near America the Beautiful Park

A group of people who were claiming Conejos Street at America The Beautiful Park as their temporary home have been forced to move.

11 News partner The Gazette is reporting homeless people and campers living in vehicles parked along the street were told by Colorado Springs police to pack up and move out.

The group of people vacated the area Wednesday in preparation for a new overnight parking ban that doesn’t allow parking from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Scott Wisler told the Gazette the roadway is being closed to overnight squatters because it is too narrow for the large motorized campers that park there.

Florida health care system finishes at bottom of pack, study finds

Fri, 2017-08-18 07:07

Florida’s poor showing on a recent ranking of state health care systems can be attributed partly to the large number of lower-wage jobs in the Sunshine State and its decision not to expand Medicaid, which would have come with its own significant costs over the long term, health care experts said.

The personal finance website WalletHub.com reported that Florida came in No. 43 in its ranking of state health care systems. Florida received poor marks for its relatively low percentage of adults and children with health insurance and its high premium costs.

The study measured health care costs, accessibility and outcomes.

Florida received a score of 46.07, with a score of 100 representing the best-quality health care at the most affordable price. The state ranked dead last among states and the District of Columbia in its percentage of insured adults aged 18 to 64, according to the WalletHub study, and came in at No. 47 for its percentage of insured children 17 years and under.

Florida ranked No. 48 for its high health care costs and No. 40 for residents’ access to health care. In terms of outcomes – including mortality rates, life expectancy, disease rates and use of preventative health services – Florida came 35th.

The results of the study tend to dovetail with research done by the Florida Policy Institute, according to Anne Swerlick, the institute’s health care policy analyst. The state has experienced high growth of low-income residents with disabilities, while the low-income senior population has risen 25 percent over the past 10 years compared to a national average of 14 percent, according to an institute report released earlier this month.

“We continue to have a high uninsured rate,” Swerlick told Watchdog.org. “Although it improved under the ACA [Affordable Care Act], we still have one of the highest rates in the country.”

Having large percentages of uninsured residents puts a huge burden on hospitals and other medical facilities, she said. The state and the federal government did reach an agreement earlier this year to expand a low-income pool to aid hospitals.  This will expand the funding level for hospitals from $600 million to $1.5 billion annually, according to Swerlick.

The funds become available only if local governments provide matching funds, and the total allocation from the federal government is relatively low compared to what the state could obtain through the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, she said. Though other states that did expand Medicaid are facing significant funding gaps as the federal government scales back its portion of funding.

One way the state could increase the percentage of people with health insurance is to expand Medicaid eligibility rules, Swerlick said.

“Not only would it help people in terms of health care needs … but it would have a tremendously positive impact on the state and local economy in Florida,” she said.

Swerlick also pointed to a 2016 study done by a unit of the federal Department of Health and Human Services that showed health care premium costs are lower in states that opted to expand their Medicaid programs, compared to those that did not.

Paul Duncan, a professor and health services researcher at the University of Florida, said the WalletHub report squares with research he has done on health care issues.

“Florida’s relatively high rate of uninsurance has been well-documented for decades,” Duncan said in an email to Watchdog.org. “That’s probably why Florida has been such a big contributor to the total number of people purchasing health insurance on the federal exchange under the ACA.”

The state’s high percentage of uninsured residents is due primarily to the structure of the Florida economy, which consists largely of tourism, agriculture, aquaculture and a large number of small firms that cater to the needs of retirees and the elderly in the state, according to Duncan.

“These are precisely the employers that are least likely to offer or significantly support health insurance for their employees,” he said, adding that the low participation rate in Medicaid is another factor.

As a way to improve the health care system in Florida, state lawmakers could put in place mechanisms to encourage employers to provide health coverage to their workers, Duncan said. Instead, the opposite has occurred, he said.

“The state seeks to attract new businesses/employers by touting how inexpensive it is to do business in Florida,” Duncan said.

Louisa McQueeney, spokeswoman for Florida Voices for Health, which advocates for wider access of affordable health care, said that expanding the Medicaid program in Florida would have helped to insure 800,000 more people in the state.

Access to health care in the more affluent southern region of the state tends to be good, but the situation is worse in the middle of the state, McQueeney said.

 

Pennsylvania in focus: Vacation’s over, time to finish state budget

Thu, 2017-08-17 08:56

Erie Times-News opinion: Vacation’s over, time to finish state budget

Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled Legislature passed a $32 billion 2017-18 spending plan on time with no opposition from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who let it lapse into law without his signature. The figure was not far off his initial proposal.

Left undone, however, was the revenue plan to cover a $2.2 billion shortfall in the budget.

The Senate acted late but responsibly to put forward a revenue plan in July that contains a modest shale gas extraction tax supported by a majority of Pennsylvanians, along with an assortment of less savory remedies, including utility tax hikes, a gambling expansion and borrowing more than $1 billion against a fund meant for tobacco-related education and health.

The House, led by Speaker Mike Turzai, rejected it.

We’d like to say House GOP leaders have been working since then to resolve differences with Senate GOP leaders, but we can’t.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Council OKs hiring of attorney to push for Allentown mayor’s ouster

A Pennsylvania city council has approved a resolution allowing the hiring of an attorney to investigate ways to force the ouster of the mayor, who has been indicted on federal corruption charges.

The Allentown City Council passed the measure, 4-3, on Wednesday. The resolution says the attorney could help the council investigate potential “malfeasance” by Mayor Ed Pawlowski, file a petition for his removal to the governor or submit complaints to ethics boards.

Pawlowski has denied accusations he accepted more than $150,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for city business. He says the measure is “political posturing” by Council President Ray O’Connell, who has launched a write-in campaign to defeat him in the November election.

Fox News: How a 13-year-old girl may have inspired Pennsylvania to legalize medical pot

Pastor Shawn Berkebile says he remembers when two parishioners told him they were going to break the law.

“They came to me as a confession,” said Berkebile, a pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Abbotstown, Pa.

In 2013, Matt and Angie Sharrer told him they were using medical marijuana as a treatment for their daughter, Annie, then 9, who suffered from epileptic seizures.

“They were gonna do it to save their daughter, and they wanted me to know as pastor,” Berkebile told Fox News.

At the time, medical marijuana use was illegal in Pennsylvania. Berkebile said the Sharrers were getting their doses of medical cannabis from out of state where its use was legal. The parents did what they could to be discrete about bringing it back home, he added.

Florida in focus: Florida Highway Patrol leader behind quota flap resigns

Thu, 2017-08-17 08:43

Bay News 9: Florida Highway Patrol leader behind quota flap resigns

A top official with the Florida Highway Patrol who told troopers they aren’t writing enough speeding tickets is resigning from his job.

Maj. Mark Welch of Troop H in Tallahassee turned in his resignation letter on Wednesday. Welch’s last day will be Sept. 4.

Highway Patrol Director Col. Gene Spaulding said in statement that Welch had served the state for more than 35 years and that he appreciated his dedication to the patrol’s “mission of saving lives.”

Welch resigned hours after Attorney General Pam Bondi called his actions “reckless” and “stupid.”

Tallahassee Democrat opinion: CRAs need to change, no more should be created

A mayor who received $84,529 from a side job paid for by taxpayers. A grand jury report stating that government officials were “spending large amounts of taxpayer dollars on what appeared to be pet projects of elected officials.” An inspector general’s report finding over $2 million in questionable expenditures and political cronyism involving a city commissioner. And finally, millions of taxpayer dollars spent and a new FBI investigation under way.

If all of this sounds like a John Grisham novel waiting to happen, you’d be right. But unfortunately all of the above is not fiction. It’s all true and sadly, I believe, just the tip of the iceberg.

Have you ever heard of Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs?

Wait! Before you stop reading, hear me out.

I’ll bet you didn’t know — and why would you — that there are more than 1,600 local agencies, boards and special districts that have the power to incur debt and operate under very little scrutiny whatsoever. Of the 1,682 such groups, 224 of those are CRAs.

News 4: Universities say new money helps with faculty, courses

Florida universities are hiring more faculty, providing more scholarships and expanding course offerings and academic counseling with a $121 million boost in funding provided by the Legislature this year.

In letters to Gov. Rick Scott, the 12 state university presidents outlined plans for using their shares of $71 million in the “world class faculty and scholar” program and $50 million in a new program designed to improve “the quality and excellence” of medical, law and business graduate schools.

Although the funding was included in the $82 billion state budget for 2017-18, a shadow was cast over the new programs when Scott vetoed a policy bill that would have made more permanent the world-class scholar and graduate-school initiatives.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin Assembly set to approve $3 billion for Foxconn

Thu, 2017-08-17 07:57

ABC News: Wisconsin Assembly set to approve $3 billion for Foxconn

The Wisconsin Assembly planned to approve a $3 billion tax break Thursday for Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group to build a massive display panel factory in the state, a project President Donald Trump touted as a transformational win for the U.S. economy.

Democratic critics in Wisconsin, who don’t have the votes to stop the incentive package or the project, have questioned whether it’s worth the cost. The tax breaks up for a vote Thursday would be the largest in state history and the biggest to a foreign company in the U.S.

If built, the plant would be the first outside of Asia for liquid crystal display panels used in television, computers, medicine and other fields.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who led negotiations on the deal won by Wisconsin over competition from several other nearby states, has called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

The Post-Crescent: Major annexation effectively eliminates Town of Harrison

The town of Harrison is no more, with the exception of one uninhabited parcel.

The petition to annex the remainder of the town into the village of Harrison was approved July 25 by the Village Board.

“It’ll help us lighten our load a little bit,” said Travis Parish, village administrator. “We won’t have to do double-duty with budgets, taxes. It should make things a little easier on our staff.”

Previously, Parish and other village staff members had dual roles serving the village and town.

Before annexation, the town of Harrison encompassed about 420 acres, or 0.67 square miles, and had about 475 residents. By comparison, the village encompasses about 33 square miles and has about 11,900 residents.

Wisconsin State Journal: State starts investigation into corruption allegations against ex-Sauk County Highway Commissioner

A Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the agency has begun its own investigation into allegations against former Sauk County Highway Commissioner Steve Muchow.

In a June 16 letter to Sauk County Administrative Coordinator Alene Kleczek Bolin, Sauk County Sheriff Chip Meister stated the department had determined a criminal investigation into allegations against the former highway czar was not warranted. The News Republic reported the decision Aug. 7 and disclosed that Meister met monthly with the former county official for breakfast as part of a social group. The following day, Meister asked the DOJ to independently review the case.

DOJ Director of Communications Johnny Koremenos stated in an email to the News Republic the department had begun an investigation into the matter.

In April, county administrative officials opened a personnel investigation into allegations against Muchow.

Highway department staff alleged he misrepresented financial information, manipulated bids, used county resources for personal reasons, misused county business relationships, falsified timecards and mistreated employees.

Colorado in focus: Boulder to fund anti-speeding projects in neighborhoods

Thu, 2017-08-17 07:43

The Daily Camera: Boulder to fund anti-speeding projects in neighborhoods for the first time since 2003

For the first time in 14 years, Boulder will restore funding to anti-speeding road treatments in residential areas.

In a unanimous vote just before midnight Tuesday, the City Council approved the terms for what will be known as the Neighborhood Speed Management Program.

This program, unlike others aimed at making streets safer, will focus exclusively on reducing speeding in Boulder, where neighborhood limits generally run at 25 mph or below throughout the city.

It’ll open with a modest budget: $300,000 was approved, but that amount will cover the salary of a new program coordinator, consultant fees, data collection and community engagement. As a result, only about half of the money will be available for actual physical mitigation, such as roundabouts, speed humps, traffic islands and digital speed displays that tell drivers how fast they’re going as they pass by.

Denver Post: New Denver immigration proposal keeps most restrictions proposed by council, but allows ICE jail release notifications

A new Denver City Council proposal that has Mayor Michael Hancock’s backing would heighten the city’s resistance to federal immigration enforcement in most of the same ways as a previous disputed version, but with one key compromise.

Hancock got his way on allowing the Denver Sheriff Department to continue notifying federal immigration authorities  when jails are about to release immigrants wanted on a detainer. In part, his administration feared the White House might see the cut-off of that communication as an invitation to step up immigration arrests in Denver.

In the new proposed ordinance unveiled Wednesday, the two council sponsors dropped a provision from their previous version that would have ended the jail release notifications to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in most cases. Hancock, meanwhile, agreed to require the jails to advise inmates affected by those ICE notifications of their legal rights and to collect more information to track what happens.

And Hancock said an executive order he’s still planning on issuing in the coming weeks would no longer include policy provisions that compete with the council’s action.

The Gazette: Unprecedented traffic expected in Colorado as eclipse nears

Brace for unprecedented traffic this weekend as a monumental event approaches to the north, transportation officials are warning Coloradans.

Signs along Interstate 25 advise drivers to expect delays as hundreds of thousands are expected to pile into Wyoming and Nebraska by Monday for the total solar eclipse. Parts of both states are under the “path of totality,” where the passing moon will blot out the sun for two-plus minutes of afternoon darkness.

U.S. 287, U.S. 85 and Colorado 52 are among other highways that will be heavily affected if the pilgrimage is as great as anticipated. Predictions indicate that travelers will more than double Wyoming’s population on Monday.

Pennsylvania tax plan would cost state thousands of jobs, study finds

Wed, 2017-08-16 08:51

The Pennsylvania Senate’s recently passed plan to raise taxes by $600 million would lead to 3,600 lost jobs and the loss of nearly $1 billion in families’ disposable income through 2018, a new analysis says.

The Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation last week released the analysis of House Bill 542, which would raise taxes on natural gas drilling, home heating, cell phones and online purchases. Senators passed the bill on a vote of 26-24 on July 27.

“It’s important for people to understand that the proposal from the Senate is a broad-based tax hike,” Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis at the Commonwealth Foundation, told Watchdog.org.

The study, which is based on the Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute’s State Tax Analysis Modeling Program (STAMP), also found that the tax hike would lead to a $142 million drop in business investment in its first year.

The modeling analysis compares the dynamic effects of the state’s current tax structure to projected effects as a result of the tax increases, according to Paul Bachman, director of research for the Beacon Hill Institute. The model focuses on the interplay of taxes, government spending, the behavior of households and businesses, and changes in investments, Bachman said.

“It is dynamic in the sense that it does incorporate the sort of behavioral adjustments of both firms and households,” Bachman told Watchdog.org.

He emphasized that Pennsylvania would not actually lose 3,600 jobs as a result of the tax changes but would see a reduction in the number of jobs created over time compared to the number that would be created under the current tax system.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Bachman said.

State lawmakers had many ways to balance the budget without raising taxes, Stelle said, including alternatives such as fully privatizing the state’s liquor system, shifting special fund money back to the general fund budget and eliminating corporate welfare.

The Keystone Park and Recreation Fund, for one, diverts money to nonessential projects such as studies for pools and golf courses, she said.

“Let’s do a better job of prioritizing our spending in special funds to give us flexibility to balance the budget without having to do cuts alone,” Stelle said.

She expects changes in the tax plan as it moves to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The Senate came up with its plan through negotiations between senators and Gov. Tom Wolf, without consultations from representatives in the House, according to Stelle.

“We’ve raised taxes four times in the last nine years, and we still have the same problem every year,” she said.

The tax on the natural gas industry will have negative effects since taxing job creators makes little sense, according to Stelle.

“It singles out that one industry even though that industry is still recovering from record low prices,” she said.

One positive aspect of the bill, however, is that it places work requirements on healthy adults in the Medicaid program, which could help them transition from Medicaid to private health insurance to reduce costs, Stelle said.

But Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, stressed that the current budget situation in Pennsylvania is in a crisis state, with bond rating agencies reporting that Pennsylvania needed to find recurring revenues or face a downgrade of the state’s credit rating.

“We have shaken out the couch cushions … and we have exhausted all of the options,” Kocher said.

In addition, Kocher pointed out that the state Treasurer’s Office just announced that the state will be running out of money very soon. Treasurer Joe Torsella announced earlier this month that the state would need a $750 million line of credit to keep the general fund from dipping into the red toward the end of the month.

“The cost of doing nothing will be fatal to Pennsylvania and its finances,” Kocher said.

Businesses remain unhappy with the prospect of the tax hikes, however. A coalition that includes the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Energy Association of Pennsylvania, Industrial Energy Consumers of Pennsylvania and Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania opposes the plan, arguing that it would hurt companies’ ability to compete and raise consumer prices.

Senate Majority Leader Corman counters that lawmakers’ hands were tied.

“We’ve done everything we can in state government to contain spending in areas that we have the ability to do in order to avoid any tax increase,” he said in a prepared statement.  “Unfortunately, we are here today because we ran out of our ability to do that. If we are going to maintain our responsibility to educate our children, provide for higher education, provide for human services and pay our debts, we are in a position that we have to find the revenue needed to make that happen.”

Pennsylvania in focus: Democrat lawmaker pleads guilty in case linked to illegal gambling

Wed, 2017-08-16 08:49

ABC News: Democrat lawmaker pleads guilty in case linked to illegal gambling

A lawmaker accused of using his political influence to benefit an illegal gambling ring pleaded guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanor charges.

Democratic state Rep. Marc Gergely entered pleas in Pittsburgh to counts of conspiracy and accepting an illegal campaign contribution. Felony counts were withdrawn. The seven-term lawmaker, who remains in office, is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 6.

Attorney Louis Caputo also pleaded guilty Tuesday to a criminal solicitation charge in the same case and was sentenced to five years’ probation. Allegheny Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski said the sentence reflected the nature of the offense and the defendant’s cooperation.

The two were accused of aiding Ronald “Porky” Melocchi in an illegal video gambling operation that had some 335 machines at 70 restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and other locations.

The Times-Tribune: Commissioners likely to vote on property tax reassessment ballot question tonight

Lackawanna County commissioners will likely vote tonight on the language of a November ballot question on reassessment. Commissioners voted 2-1 in late June to let Lackawanna County voters decide in November whether the county should conduct and complete its first comprehensive property tax reassessment since 1968

Commissioners Patrick O’Malley and Laureen Cummings voted for the ballot referendum, while Commissioner Jerry Notarianni voted no.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at the Blakely Borough Building at 7 p.m.

Erie Times-News: Can Erie County’s vacant school buildings be taxed?

A growing number of school districts have something in common. They own silent old buildings where children no longer attend class and lunch is no longer served.

For the school districts, those buildings reflect changing demographics and declining enrollment.

For the Erie County Board of Tax Assessment Appeals, they could represent a potential source of real estate tax revenue.

Maybe.

The issue was discussed Monday at the group’s regular monthly meeting. While no official action has been taken, the board has discussed reaching out to public and private schools in Erie County, asking them to confirm if they have empty school buildings and if they are being used for any moneymaking purpose.

Florida in focus: Why Florida insurers could double homeowners’ rates

Wed, 2017-08-16 08:02

CBS News: Why Florida insurers could double homeowners’ rates

Florida has seen its share of calamities, but an “epidemic of insurance claims” could shove the Sunshine State down a financial sinkhole even before the next hurricane hits.

Lawyers and “restoration companies” have teamed up to create a superstorm of lawsuits forcing Florida’s home and auto insurers to either raise rates – or leave the state. And, to the chagrin of insurance companies, their tactics are totally legal.

“This is costing the honest Floridian enormous pain,” said former state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who accepted a university post in June. Insurance premiums are “flying off the chart,” he added, and all because “a few law firms, along with a few contractors, have found a way to make the most of this opportunity.”

In the heavily populated Miami-Dade county of Southeastern Florida, where most of the assignment of benefits (AOB) claims come from, homeowners’ insurance coverage for a modest house assessed at $300,000 is expected to nearly double to $8,000 a year by 2022.

Sun Sentinel: Florida budget aided by new gambling deal with Seminoles

A new gambling deal between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe is providing a large boost to the state’s finances.

State officials on Tuesday drew up new forecasts to predict how much the state will collect in taxes. State legislators will use the forecasts when drawing up a new state budget next January.

Economists now predict that state’s main budget account will grow by 4.5 percent during the fiscal year that ends next June. That same account is estimated to grow an additional 4.1 percent in fiscal year 2018-19.

The Gainesville Sun: Schools take precautions against eye damage from solar eclipse

Craig Ham knows firsthand about the dangers of looking into the sun during an eclipse. Marion County Public Schools’ deputy superintendent of operations said one glance at the sun during an eclipse 63 years ago damaged his eyes and caused him to forever need glasses.

It was back on June 30, 1954 when Ham, then age 8, remembers the hoopla over the solar eclipse, which began over Nebraska, crossed Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and western Michigan. It raced over Canada and just north of Great Britain. The eclipse that year was seen in Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Ham didn’t know that one quick glimpse at a near-total eclipse from his Michigan home would forever injure his eyes. The good news is he didn’t look long enough to cause blindness.

Wisconsin in focus: Schools gear up for new year without state funding set

Wed, 2017-08-16 07:46

Wisconsin State Journal: Schools gear up for new year without state funding set

Schools across Wisconsin are starting a new year without knowing exactly what’s coming from the state as lawmakers continue to put off passing a new two-year state budget.

For many school officials, the delay isn’t worrying them much at this point. But for some, spending on staff, new course materials and training is on hold. And if a new budget isn’t in place soon, payments to schools in rural areas could be delayed and school officials there may turn to borrowing to fill the gap.

“With the state budget not being settled, there’s a lot of uncertainty across all superintendents and people managing the finances of school districts across the state of Wisconsin,” said Brad Saron, superintendent of the Sun Prairie School District. “And what that means is, really, everything is on hold.”

Most schools in Milwaukee and in the state’s voucher programs have already started their 2017-18 school year, and schools in the rest of the state will have their first day on Sept. 5.

WKOW 27: Sen. Johnson: Should Wisconsin bear full Foxconn cost?

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is questioning whether Wisconsin should bear the full $3 billion in financial incentives being considered to lure electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group to the state.

Johnson raised the question since Illinois workers would also benefit from the plant, which is expected to be built in southeast Wisconsin near the border.

Johnson made the remarks Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, saying the incentives package state lawmakers are weighing is “a risk worth taking.”

Wisconsin Public Radio: State’s Attempt To Dismiss Part Of Butter Lawsuit Fails

A judge has refused to throw out part of a lawsuit challenging a state law on butter sales.

A Grafton food store and four Wisconsin consumers sued the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in March.

They’re taking aim at a law making it illegal to sell at retail any butter not marked with a Wisconsin grade or its federal equivalent, including Kerrygold Irish butter.

DATCP asked an Ozaukee County judge to dismiss most of the case. But on Tuesday, the state’s motion was denied.

Attorney and conservative activist Rick Esenberg is representing the plaintiffs. He’s pleased the case is going ahead.

 

Colorado in focus: Colorado water plan cost estimate doubles to $40 billion – maybe more

Wed, 2017-08-16 07:36

Summit Daily: Colorado water plan cost estimate doubles to $40 billion – maybe more

When the Colorado water plan was formally adopted in November 2015, its aims were lofty: expand storage capacity on a grand scale, bolster conservation efforts, meet agricultural demands and provide for as many as 10.5 million people by 2050. At the time, it was estimated to cost around $20 billion. Even then, the number seemed staggering.

“Everyone’s eyes lit up, including the governor,” said environmental activist Gary Wockner, who attended the announcement at the Capitol in Denver. “So it’s a big deal now that the price tag basically doubles.”

Yes, you read that correctly — the price has doubled. New estimates released this month suggest that full implementation of the water plan will cost roughly $40 billion.

In 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper tasked the Colorado Water Conservation Board with coming up with the plan and then-director James Eklund came up with his best approximation on the overall expense. New board director Becky Mitchell, in the position since early-July, recently took her own stab at the total, though, and believes full implementation to be closer to twice Eklund’s figure.

Denver Post: Thornton overreaching with proposed oil and gas rules, state official warns

The state Attorney General’s Office has told Thornton that it is going too far with a new set of oil and gas regulations the city is set to finalize next week, arguing in a letter to Thornton officials that many of its proposed rules illegally pre-empt state law.

The letter, written by Assistant Attorney General Kyle Davenport last month, was obtained and publicized Tuesday by Vital for Colorado, a group that pushes for responsible energy development in the state.

In the letter, Davenport says Thornton is proposing setbacks for oil and gas operations that are stricter than what the state stipulates. The city is proposing to prohibit the practice of abandoning flowlines in place, which contradicts state statutes that allow the practice, the letter states.

Davenport also wrote that Thornton would require operators to maintain $5 million in general liability insurance for property damage and bodily injury, while the state requires only $1 million in insurance coverage.

The Daily Camera: Boulder Council seeks voter support pn Capital Improvement Tax Extension

A hectic evening of workshopping culminated in the Boulder City Council advancing what may end up being the final version of a plan for allocation of theoretical future revenues from a Capital Improvement Tax extension the city hopes voters will pass this November. 

What the council is seeking support for is a four-year extension of the 0.3 percent sales tax, which would bring in about $41 million for 14 different projects, some of which benefit city infrastructure and some of which fund local nonprofits.

Congressman: Repealing death tax would be ‘nirvana’

Tue, 2017-08-15 15:52

It was Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” One Illinois congressman wants to disconnect the two by eliminating the so-called death tax.

Tax reform is one of the major issues being pushed by the administration of President Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, recently shared what’s been concerning his constituents the most.

“Less government,” Shimkus said. “Individual responsibility, lower taxes, more personal freedoms and liberties.”

While tax reform has been elusive so far in Washington, Shimkus said one issue he hopes to get right is eliminating the federal estate tax, also known as the death tax.

“We don’t want triple taxation,” Shimkus said. “We want a simple code that says, ‘You’ve got income, you’re gonna be taxed on income. You’re not going to be taxed on assets evaluations over families, over generations and force people to sell farms.’”

Tax reform is going to happen, Shimkus said, it’s just a matter of what reforms and when.

“So now it’s a matter of how you get lower rates,” Shimkus said. “To get lower rates you have to reduce what we call the loopholes, or the exemptions and all that stuff, and that’s what the fight is going to be.”

As for the estate tax, Shimkus said it doesn’t just hit family farms with triple taxation.

“It could be the automobile repair shop down the street now,” Shimkus said, “with that much assets and just a building and equipment.”

Shimkus said repealing the estate tax would “be nirvana.”

Even if Congress abolishes the federal estate tax, Illinois still levies levels the tax at the state level.

Pennsylvania in focus: School board says no outdoor recess during eclipse

Tue, 2017-08-15 07:58

ABC 27: Cumberland Valley: No outdoor recess during eclipse

The Cumberland Valley School District will keep students indoors for afternoon recess during next week’s partial solar eclipse.

In a letter to parents, school administrators said the decision was made after consulting with the district physician.

“While we recognize that the opportunity to view an eclipse is a rare occurrence, our number one priority is the health, safety, and well being of our students and staff,” the letter states. “There are possible hazards associated with exposure to potentially harmful rays during the partial eclipse.”

NASA says the only safe way to look directly at the partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe.

Hazleton Standard-Speaker: Mayor to propose moving $1M from pension fund

Hazleton City Council will consider a proposal pitched by the mayor for temporarily transferring $1 million worth of pension revenue into the general fund for meeting payroll and paying bills.

Council will consider a resolution on Tuesday that calls for the transfer of funds from the Act 205 account to the general fund.

With a general fund shortfall projected “for the foreseeable future,” Mayor Jeff Cusat has asked for the temporary infusion of funds for covering operational expenses and payroll until the city can secure a long-term loan.

Funds must be returned to the pension account by Dec. 31, the resolution states.

Cusat said recently that he wanted the funds transferred before the Aug. 11 payroll, which marks the beginning of a five-week period that he has warned the city could run out of money for paying employees.

The Morning Call: Pennsylvania cutting student PSSA test questions, teacher prep time for exams

Standing in a middle school library, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday that the state is cutting the classroom prep time and number of test questions for statewide standardized tests.

The changes, which begin this spring, should reduce the eight hours of testing time about 20 percent in PSSA math and English exams in grades 3 through 8. Depending on the school, that would give teachers at least an extra day and a half for regular classroom instruction.

The change, the Democratic governor said, is being made as part of the Department of Education’s plan for implementing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which gave states and local school districts most of the flexibility they lost nearly two decades ago over standardized testing guidelines. The testing change is being made, Wolf said, after he and his administration spent more than a year talking to educators, students, parents and school board members about how the state could help make schools better.

“The thing I heard more often was the need to reduce the amount of time our teachers and students spend getting ready for and taking the PSSA tests every year,” Wolf said.

Florida in focus: Gov. Rick Scott, Speaker Richard Corcoran want to make raising taxes super hard

Tue, 2017-08-15 07:42

Tampa Bay Times: Gov. Rick Scott and Speaker Richard Corcoran want to make raising taxes super hard

Gov. Rick Scott wants to make it harder to increase taxes by changing Florida’s Constitution to require a new “supermajority” vote by the state Legislature.

Scott floated the idea for the first time Monday. He provided few details and his staff said he won’t for several weeks.

It will be debated in the next legislative session in January.

Scott did not clarify whether a supermajority means three-fifths of both houses of the Legislature, or the higher two-thirds threshold. He will be in Jacksonville today and in Tampa on Friday to promote the tax measure.

Before Scott pitched the idea in Orlando, he secured the support of newfound ally Richard Corcoran, the House Speaker from Land O’Lakes. Like Scott, Corcoran has his sights on higher office in 2018. He joined Scott at the announcement.

Sun Sentinel: Florida tourism keeps growing thanks to American visitors

The number of tourists visiting Florida continues to grow.

Gov. Rick Scott will announce Tuesday that an estimated 60.7 million tourists came to the state during the first six months of the year. That’s a 4.1 percent increase over the same time period in 2016.

Scott plans to highlight the new numbers during a visit to the Florida Aquarium.

A breakdown shows that the increase is due primarily to a growing number of visitors coming from other states. But the number of tourists coming from overseas countries and Canada has dipped slightly.

Tampa Tribune: State to hold Aug. 23 hearing to consider Citizens Property Insurance rate hikes

State insurance regulators have scheduled an Aug. 23 hearing to consider proposed rate hikes by Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run property insurer of last resort.

Among the proposed increases is a 5.2 percent hike for personal property lines and a 6.7 percent jump for homeowners multi-peril insurance.

Many in Tampa Bay will likely see minimal rate increases or a rate cut. Under the formula approved by Citizens’ board in June, rates would go up just below 1 percent for Hillsborough County and nearly 2 percent increase for Hernando while dropping about 3 percent in Pasco and dropping 6 percent in Pinellas.

Wisconsin in focus: Walker: Foxconn analysis doesn’t tell the whole story of benefits and risks

Tue, 2017-08-15 07:30

The Capitol Times: Walker administration officials: Foxconn analysis doesn’t tell the whole story of benefits and risks

There’s been plenty of debate on the pros and cons of a proposal that would provide incentives for Taiwanese LCD manufacturer Foxconn to build a factory in Wisconsin. Criticism increased after a legislative analysis said the state wouldn’t financially break even on the deal until 2043.

But on two Sunday morning political talk shows, “UpFront with Mike Gousha” and “Capital City Sunday,” officials in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration said the analysis doesn’t tell the whole story of the benefits or risks of the deal. Proponents said the report doesn’t account for other positive economic effects, while others said it’s tough to predict economic conditions decades in the future.

Foxconn has pledged to invest $10 billion and create up to 13,000 jobs, initially hiring 3,000 employees. The state Legislature is currently considering an incentive package bill that would give Foxconn $3 billion in tax breaks and exempt the company from certain environmental regulations.

Last Tuesday, Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released an analysis predicting it will take 25 years for the state to recoup its investment.

WISC 3: Wisconsin Assembly panel approves Foxconn bill

A Wisconsin state Assembly committee has approved a $3 billion tax incentive package for Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group.

The Republican-controlled Assembly jobs and economy committee voted 8-5 Monday along party lines to send the bill to the full Assembly. The proposal was tweaked to address some concerns raised by critics that the state is giving away too much to land the plant that could employ thousands of people.

But key provisions tying the tax breaks to Foxconn’s promise to invest $10 billion and employ 13,000 people remain.

Wisconsin State Journal opinion: Foxconn has GOP embracing government-run economy

A bill moving through Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature wouldn’t only provide $3 billion in taxpayer incentives for a company planning to build an LCD screen plant in Kenosha or Racine county, it could also seek to dictate some company operations.

Government getting all up in the business of, well, business is probably par for the course for Foxconn, which does the greatest share of its production in the government-managed economy of communist China. It’s weird for the party of “free markets,” though, which often bemoans government meddling in health insurance and other private industries.

If Wisconsin’s leaders insist on a Chinese approach to economic development, the least they could do is ensure good wages for the proletariat.

Here are some of the proposals for the Foxconn deal that bring government-private sector symbiosis to a whole new level:

  • State positions created to work specifically on Foxconn issues.
  • Taxpayer-funded expansion of Interstate 94 near Foxconn.
  • Creation of a new state tax credit program for Foxconn.
  • Programs at public colleges and universities to train Foxconn workers.

Colorado in focus: Denver voters will decide on $937 million bond package for roads, libraries, other city project

Tue, 2017-08-15 07:16

Denver Post: It’s official: Denver voters will decide on $937 million bond package for roads, libraries, other city projects

Denver voters in November will decide a nearly $1 billion question that would unleash a dizzying array of projects that transform streets, install more bike lanes, fix up libraries, help pay for cultural projects and build a new health center.

Voters actually will face seven questions — broken up by category — in the Nov. 7 election, as a result of the City Council’s unanimous vote Monday night to refer the $937 million bond package to the ballot.

Among the flashiest and most expensive items on the bond list: an outpatient facility planned by the Denver Health and Hospital Authority called the Ambulatory Care Center, the East Colfax Avenue bus rapid transit project, a renovation of the Central Library plus substantial work at 10 branches, the Denver Art Museum’s North Building renovation and a new Westwood recreation center.

The Coloradoan: Marijuana rules could come to Fort Collins voters, again

After a five-year hiatus, marijuana might once again be part of a Fort Collins election.

The City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to consider placing a measure on the Nov. 7 ballot asking voters if the council may make changes to city regulations on marijuana without votes of the people.

The idea is to allow the city to keep up with changes in state marijuana rules, regulations and laws without voter approval, as is currently required by city ordinance.

State regulations on weed, including licensing requirements and dispensary ownership structures, have changed a lot in recent years and are likely to continue evolving.

Fox 31: Veterans helping fill the gap in Colorado’s teacher shortage

Making a major life transition from serving their country in the military to serving their community in the classroom.

As we start a new school year Colorado’s facing a critical shortage of teachers and the problem’s only getting worse.

But some former soldiers are helping fill some of the shortfall.

Specialist 4 Sean Gallup’s getting out of the Army to do something he’s always wanted to do – become a teacher.

“You should just constantly 100 percent be trying to teach someone something because for me the day you stop learning is the day you just become ignorant so I think teaching is one of the best professions there ever is.”

Haupt: Abandoning the gold standard created legalized theft

Mon, 2017-08-14 20:39

“The gold standard kept us honest and forced us to control out of control spending.”

– Lane Brody 

Alan Greenspan told us, “Gold is a good place to put money, given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.” This basic truism certifies that money has emerged by evolution from the market process. It was not invented by governments. For centuries, economic forces contributed to the evolution of world monetary systems. The security of nations has always been judged by how they manage their money. Those with stable economies have fewer social and political conflicts. Nations that don’t practice credible guardianship of their currency continually fight for survival. There is nothing more destructive to any society than a government that cannot manage their finances competently. Although we’ve been told “Money can’t buy happiness,” that wise comic Groucho Marx reminded us that, “It certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”

Centralized banking systems have been around for centuries. Dutch merchant Johan Palmstruch formed Stockholms Banco in Sweden 1657. But this bank ended in disaster when the value of the paper currency exceeded the amount of dalers backing it. When customers learned this, there was a run on his bank and it collapsed. In France 50 years later, John Law, a Scottish womanizer and gambler once convicted of murder and exiled by England, talked the French into helping him open a central bank, the Banque Générale backed by government IOUs. His inept blundering caused the bank and the economy to collapse. Law was banned from France forever. Palmstruch and Law both forgot:

“Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No.1.”

– Warren Buffett

The first legitimate paper currency issued by European governments was distributed by colonial governments in North America. The shipment of goods between Europe and the colonies took so long, the colonists often ran out of cash. To pay for luxury items, due to a shortage of currency, the colonial governments used IOUs. This practice of “trading paper for goods” started in Canada, a French colony, in 1685. Military personnel were issued denominated playing cards signed by the governor to pay for goods instead of French coinage. Although primitive, this system of bartering worked well for their colonies: As Plato told us in 390 BC: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

By the mid 1800s, most countries adopted the gold standard. This guaranteed paper money could be redeemed for its value in gold. This also facilitated trade since it no longer had to be done with heavy gold bullion. It increased trust in world currencies since paper currency had value tied to a precious commodity, gold. And in 1913, America created the Federal Reserve to stabilize gold and currency values. Since printing money not backed by gold created hyperinflation, their goal was to keep inflation low and guarantee the health of the dollar. But that did not last. We soon would learn that:

“Governments lie; bankers lie; even auditors sometimes lie: gold tells the truth.”

– Lord Mogg

In 1900, The Gold Standard Act officially placed the U.S. on the gold standard. America remained on the gold standard until President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Congress passed the Gold Reserve Act in 1933. It required all gold and gold certificates held by the Federal Reserve to be surrendered to the U.S. Treasury. All contracts and currency that required redemption in gold were declared null and void. He justified this claiming we wanted to stop the run on banks. But contrary to his populist propaganda, his real motive was simply to gain control of our money supply. He was planning massive, expensive socio-economic programs that required capital. Controlling the gold supply would give him money to do this. He knew:

“He who controls the money supply of a nation controls the nation.”

– James Garfield

Before 1934, the government was allowed to print $20.67 in paper money for each ounce of gold.

After FDR did his damage, it increased to $35; a difference of $14.33. By doing this, the value of the gold held by the government increased by over $3 billion! This enabled FDR to create $3 billion in new money out of nothing. He then used it to fund his expansion of government. In doing so, FDR flooded the market with currency, which initially helped the economy. However, this cost us dearly. FDR devalued U.S. paper money by 41 percent to finance his “Bad Deal.” This brought more uncertainty to industry and discouraged investment. Like our former president, he was totally unpredictable? As author Ivan Panin commented, “Of the future, man knows least; yet, about this, he worries most.”

Reaction by the rest of the world to FDR’s actions was immediate. When they heard the U.S. pulled off of the gold standard, it stunned world leaders and seriously damaged world monetary markets. It also locked in pestiferous worldwide economic nationalism. Skyrocketing tariffs, trade subsidies, manipulated fiat currencies became universal and global leaders lost faith in the U.S. economy.

Sweden, Holland, and France shortly abandoned the gold standard. This fiasco left international financial markets demoralized. FDR’s idea of a one size fits all economy failed the international litmus test. Author Dean Koonts reminded us that, “One man’s idea of perfect order is another man’s chaos.”

Removing us from the gold standard caused irrevocable damage. And the passage of FDR’s next Bad Deal made matters worse. He spent like a junkie on a money fix. When the Treasury tightened its grip on currency, this economic uncertainly prolonged the Depression until WWII. FDR went too far. His credibility suffered ineluctable damage and the spell he cast over his Congress vanished quicker than Genie can go back into her bottle. Most of his legislation to expand government was rejected en masses by Congress. They knew we were headed to the “eve of destruction.” As Milton Freeman said, “The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus.”

Four decades later, in 1971, the remaining U.S. ties to the gold standard were severed by President Richard Nixon. Desperately in need of money to pay for the Vietnam War he dubiously inherited from former President Lyndon B. Johnson, he unilaterally canceled the direct convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold.  And we have had wafting free floating fiat currencies since. Later, he told critics: “Well, I screwed it up real good, didn’t I?”

Since we’ve been divorced from the gold standard, we have suffered three atrocious recessions. Unemployment has been as high as 11 percent. These are horrendous numbers compared to the post WWII era, from 1947 to 1970, when we averaged less than 5 percent. Since government has the power to manipulate the quantity and value of our money, it controls the economy but not our free markets. U.S. Keynesianism has usurped the role of free enterprise and it has created a new era of austerity at the expense of prosperity.

“We pay dearly each day for the cost of free money.”

– Chadwell Black

It’s impossible to return to the gold standard now. But we can resurrect the “classical school” of economics. The health of our economy is dependent upon its valued-real money supply and our free markets must adapt to the changes in equilibrium necessary for “laissez faire” government to work. This is the only responsible way for us to remain independent and maintain individual liberty. Every country that has taken control of their economies also found it necessary to restrain freedom and re-engineer society.

“A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

– Milton Friedman

Pennsylvania in focus: Pennsylvania’s lawmakers look to lead utility service lines in private homes with taxpayer money

Mon, 2017-08-14 06:52

Pittsburgh Past-Gazette: Pennsylvania’s lawmakers look to replace lead utility service lines in private homes with taxpayer money

Amid the budget impasse enveloping Harrisburg this summer, legislators slipped into state spending bills language that would empower the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to help homeowners replace their lead service lines.

The provision, tucked into a document called the fiscal code, would allow PWSA and similar agencies across the state to replace or repair privately owned segments of select utility lines — but only if the work would “benefit the public health, public water supply system or public sewer system.” Municipal authorities would have to consider the “availability of public funds, equipment, personnel and facilities” before starting.

Backed by the Senate last month, the measure could ease complete replacements for thousands of lead service connections in Pittsburgh as PWSA tries to eliminate the hazardous metal. Yet a final vote is uncertain, delayed while advocates wait for lawmakers to return to the Capitol.

“We think that helping Pittsburgh solve this infrastructure problem could be a model for other municipalities,” said Kevin Acklin, chief of staff under Mayor Bill Peduto. Mr. Peduto’s office has argued that enlisting PWSA to handle private lead line work would streamline the replacements, which are expected to continue for years.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Ex-police union leader admits embezzling more than $100,000

A retired police officer who once served as president and New Jersey delegate for a police union has admitted embezzling more than $100,000 from the union to buy timeshares in Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean and make other personal purchases.

State authorities say John Campbell recently pleaded guilty to theft.

The 48-year-old Cape May man now faces a 364-day county jail term when he’s sentenced Nov. 17. He also must pay $105,000 in restitution.

The Morning Call: New pot industry luring college-grad job seekers

Growing up in a Colonial home in Downingtown, Chester County, Alessandro Cesario cultivated an interest in the family garden, trying to become “in tune” with plants and insects, and by the time he was 16, he knew he wanted to work with plants in his career. Specifically, one plant — cannabis.

So he spent four years at Delaware Valley University, taking courses in hydroponics and working in greenhouses and on farms. His ambition was no pipe dream: After he graduated in 2013, Cesario made the jump from vegetables to cannabis — moving to Las Vegas to become director of cultivation for Desert Grown Farms.

“It’s not like you’re walking into a cubicle, that’s for sure,” said Cesario, 26, who said he works 80 to 90 hours a week managing plants in a 58,000 square-foot warehouse. “Everyone’s super stoked to be here and just to be around the plants.”

Delaware Valley University, in Doylestown Township, one of the top providers of agriculture degrees in the state, offers students a chance to study hydroponics — a system for growing produce without soil, and a technique used in the cannabis industry. By working with plants such as basil, students can gain specialized skills that can be applied to jobs in the medical marijuana industry.

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