Blue Cross Affordable Care Act Rates To Rise

Members enrolled in Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Affordable Care Act plans will see their premium rates rise by an average of 6.9 percent in 2015.

Officials for the Wilkes-Barre-based insurer declined to specify how many members are covered by its Affordable Care Act plans. Its website shows 12 available 2014 “Blue (Affordable Care Act) Metal” plans.

“The increases are necessary to meet the coverage requirements, including essential health benefits, of the (Affordable Care Act) and to keep up with the cost of care for members in our ACA products,” said Anthony Matrisciano, spokesman for Blue Cross of NEPA, which has about 550,000 members across 13 counties.

The increase, effective Jan. 1, comes amid a state Insurance Department review of Highmark Inc.’s proposal to acquire Blue Cross of NEPA. It’s one of two rate hikes submitted by the insurer that received approval from the state Insurance Department.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blue-cross-affordable-care-act-rates-to-rise-1.1789100

Tom Wolf On Work, Reforms And Driving His Jeep

AFTER TOM WOLF got his doctorate from MIT, he worked at his family-owned cabinet company – driving a forklift.

That experience could soon come in handy.

Estimates just released by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office say the incoming governor’s first budget faces a shortfall of nearly $2 billion.

Heavy lifting clearly is called for.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141117_Tom_Wolf_on_work__reforms_and_driving_his_Jeep.html#7AA1RDMFBPBSBrrc.99

Kane Fires, Disciplines AG Employees Over Porn E-Mails

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said Wednesday she had fired, suspended, or disciplined about two dozen employees for sending or receiving e-mails containing pornographic content over the last few years.

In a statement, Kane said an internal review had identified 31 workers whose e-mails contained sexually explicit content, although she didn’t say when the messages were sent. The disclosure comes after her office had said it identified 30 other workers in the office who participated in pornographic e-mail exchanges between 2008 and 2012.

The 61 represent just short of 10 percent of the 750 workers in the office.

Of them, Kane said, four have been fired, two will be fired, and two have resigned. Eleven others were suspended without pay, and others were being disciplined or reprimanded in their personnel files.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141113_Kane_fires__disciplines_AG_employees_over_porn_e-mails.html#57I5ocuw35z08eTR.99

Planned Sunoco Pipeline Will Quadruple Gas Liquids Traffic

English: Cropped portion of image from USGS re...

English: Cropped portion of image from USGS report showing extent of Marcellus Formation shale (in gray shading). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. announced Thursday that it will build an enormous, $2.5 billion pipeline project that will quadruple the volume of Marcellus Shale natural gas liquids moving through the Philadelphia area.

The Mariner East 2 project, the second phase of a plan to move materials like propane, butane, and ethane from Appalachian shale-gas fields, would dramatically expand industrial activity at the company’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex.

Sunoco Logistics said it would build a pipeline at least 16 inches in diameter to follow the route of its first Mariner East project, an 83-year-old fuel pipeline crossing Pennsylvania that the company is repurposing to carry liquids to Marcus Hook.

Industry and political leaders have rallied behind the Mariner East projects as a way to closely tie Philadelphia to the Marcellus Shale region, which now accounts for nearly a quarter of the nation’s natural gas production.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20141107_Sunoco_Logistics_annouces__2_5B_pipeline_project.html#u0qiaZftbuYCVsZB.99

Evaporating Cap On Pa. Gasoline Taxes To Offset Drops At Pump

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and ...

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and roads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If gasoline prices continue to hover where they are, Ron Stover might get rid of his Dodge Durango.

These days, the dark silver sport utility vehicle with its V8 engine costs $85 to fill.

“I haven’t filled it up in I don’t know how long,” said Stover, 39, of the North Side.

Pennsylvania drivers pay less for a gallon of gas than they did a year ago, but planned changes to a state tax could increase the cost down the road, even as experts predict prices nationwide might continue to drop.

Read more: http://triblive.com/state/pennsylvania/6977771-74/tax-taxes-gallon#ixzz3HpbJFanD
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Mapping The Data: Corbett Is Nation’s Highest-Paid Governor

Money doesn’t buy you everything. Because if it did Tom Corbett, the country’s highest-paid governor, would not be trailing his challenger by double digits.

A salary report, based on new data compiled by the nonpartisan Council of State Governments and shared with The Washington Post, reveals Corbett gets paid more than any other top executive in the nation.

Corbett earns an annual salary of $187,818, though 1.7 percent of the total is being repaid as part of a statewide management pay freeze.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/mapping-the-data-corbett-is-nation-s-highest-paid-governor/article_39b73f5a-5a1c-11e4-ac47-001a4bcf6878.html

Suspected Cop-Killer Frein Held Without Bail; D.A. To Seek Death Penalty

HAWLEY, PA – Eric Frein, the captured suspected cop-killer who for six weeks was the target of a Poconos manhunt involving more than 1,000 law enforcement officers, on Friday was ordered held without bail on murder charges.

Frein, his hair slicked back and sporting a goatee and bruises on the cheeks, nose, and eyes, answered politely as Pike County District Judge Shannon Muir asked if he understood the charges against him and the purpose of the arraignment in the packed, one-room 19th Century courthouse.

To taunts of “you’re a coward,” and “rot in hell,” from a crowd of about 150, after the proceeding he was led out by state police from the front steps and marched to the rear of the building. He was taken to the Pike County Correctional Facility.

During the arraignment, with Frein’s hands bound in the handcuffs that once belonged to slain State Police Cpl. Bryon Dickson, a state trooper turned the pages of the complaint, which Frein appeared to read intensely.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20141031_Suspected_cop-killer_Frein_taken_into_custody.html#bAKjqlRmGyKDhfM2.99

Snowy Look To Outlooks

DSC01676[1]Anyone serious about weather won’t care about this, but the Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling for snow and cold in the Philadelphia region.

What is of perhaps more significant is that its outlook is in line with those posted so far from some more conventional neighborhoods of the meteorological community.

AccuWeather went on record two weeks ago as calling for a snowy winter in the Northeast, with above-normal snowfall around here.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/weather/Snowy-look-to-outlooks.html#V6F1e0rcLujFSTmJ.99

Suspended Justice Retires Because Of Porn Emails

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, suspended from his $200,202 post, has stepped down because of disclosures that he sent or received hundreds of pornographic emails, the court said Monday.

McCaffery’s spokesman was unavailable for comment.

The Governor’s Office received a letter announcing McCaffery’s retirement.

“Everybody’s got a right to announce their retirement. He’s announcing his. I won’t have any comment on that,” said Gov. Tom Corbett.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/7040179-74/mccaffery-court-emails#ixzz3HMh16Dpx
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Large-Scale Batteries Are Integral In Shift To Renewable Energy

At Turkey Hill Dairy in Lancaster County, the secret ingredient in its ice cream is wind.

Along with conventionally derived power used to make its sweet treats, the dairy is the sole customer of a nearby wind farm, built in 2010, that provides 25 percent of its electricity.

“That’s honestly all we need,” said company spokeswoman Andrea Nikolaus.

Relying on wind for bigger operations, or to power the grid, is a different matter. As critics of renewable energy are quick to point out, the wind doesn’t always blow — or it does when customers don’t need it — and the sun doesn’t always shine on solar panels.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/6805730-74/battery-energy-power#ixzz3GhmVa9jx
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22-Year-Old Woman Shot To Death In Susquehanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Susquehanna C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Susquehanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After plotting for months, a Susquehanna County man fatally shot his ex-girlfriend outside of her home early Friday and later confessed, police said.

Jonathan Kopacz, 34, 413 Jackson St., Thompson, is facing charges of criminal homicide, terroristic threats and recklessly endangering another person for the shooting death of 22-year-old Kelly Conklin of Susquehanna. He is being held without bail in the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility.William Conklin

The relationship between Mr. Kopacz and Ms. Conklin ended in May, according to police. On Friday, Mr. Kopacz followed Ms. Conklin to a local bar and then back to her home, where he opened fire with two 9-mm handguns as she got out of her car around 1:17 a.m.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/22-year-old-woman-shot-to-death-in-susquehanna-county-1.1772815

Southwestern Energy Snaps Up Assets In Marcellus, Utica From Chesapeake

Chesapeake Energy continued its sell-off of gas drilling operations in the Marcellus and Utica shales Thursday with its biggest withdrawal from Appalachia.

Pennsylvania’s biggest shale gas producer agreed to sell 435 shale wells, 1,100 conventional wells and the rights to drill in more than 400,000 acres to Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. for $5.375 billion.

“I certainly think this is consistent with what we’ve seen from Chesapeake,” said Scott Hanold, an energy analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/6974705-74/energy-southwestern-marcellus#ixzz3GPXRKihi
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Distressed Cities Bill Wins Final OK

HARRISBURG, PA — Scranton and other fiscally distressed cities could triple the local services tax to help them move out of Act 47 status under legislation that won final legislative approval with a 43-5 Senate vote Thursday.

This option would be available to Act 47 municipalities only as an alternative to an increased earned income tax already available to them.

Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill after a review, said spokesman Jay Pagni. He has 10 days to review the provisions.

The local services tax could potentially triple from $52 annually to $156 annually for individuals working in those municipalities but those earning under $15,600 annually would be exempt from the higher local services tax.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/distressed-cities-bill-wins-final-ok-1.1772463

Biden In Philly To Promote Port

Official portrait of Vice President of the Uni...

Official portrait of Vice President of the United States . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vice President Biden toured a dredging barge on the Delaware River at Penn’s Landing Thursday to show support for the project to deepen the river’s shipping channel.

Biden, the latest high-profile politician to visit the region in recent days, was flanked by fellow Democrats U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, Rep. Robert Brady and Rep. Chaka Fattah.

Before delivering remarks on the ongoing deepening of the Delaware, Biden and the delegation were led on a tour of the large barge by Brian Puckett, project manager for the Great Lakes Dredging and Dock Co.

The vessel’s main feature, an enormous dredging bucket that can haul as much as two dump trucks, immediately caught Biden’s eye.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141017_Biden_in_Philly_to_promote_port.html#XRrFTtvHxbyblZSS.99

Manhunt Impacts State Police’s Future

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA — As the intensive manhunt for suspected cop killer Eric Matthew Frein ends its fourth week, Harrisburg is taking the first steps to address how this unprecedented event will affect the future operations of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Officials here discuss the topic with the caveat that the manhunt isn’t over yet. Considered armed and dangerous, Frein, 31, of 308 Seneca Lane, Canadensis, is the sole suspect in the Sept. 12 sniper attack at the Blooming Grove state police barracks in Pike County that killed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II of Dunmore and wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass of Olyphant. Since then, authorities have been searching for Frein, a self-described survivalist, in the dense state forest that straddles Barrett and Price townships in Monroe County.

The estimate by a state police spokesman this week that the manhunt has cost several million dollars so far is one issue emerging on the radar screen of Corbett administration officials and lawmakers. Policy makers are starting to focus on related matters such as security at state police barracks, equipment needs of state troopers, impact on local governments and schools and assistance of local fire companies, 911 centers and the Red Cross with the manhunt.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, has requested a Senate committee hearing in Pike County once the manhunt is over to delve into these issues.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/manhunt-impacts-state-police-s-future-1.1769039

Terrain Difficult In Hunt For Frein

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PRICE TWP., PA — Eric Matthew Frein could make the roughly 30 mile hike from the scene of a murder to his hometown without ever seeing another person.

The terrain state police believe the suspected cop killer is hiding in could make him invisible.

“That whole area is pretty remote,” said Gary Alt, a retired state Game Commission officer and wildlife biologist.

Alt has spent more than a thousand hours in an airplane, flying low over the woods that stretch from Blooming Grove to Price Township, looking for bear. His experiences working in the game commission afford him intricate knowledge of the terrain Frein likely crossed to escape a manhunt that began in Pike County.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/terrain-difficult-in-hunt-for-frein-1.1768591

Chilling Cop Shooting Details Revealed

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Pike County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Pike County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BLOOMING GROVE TWP., PA— Eric Matthew Frein hid in the dark across from the station and waited for a target. Any trooper would do.

State police Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II just ended a shift he wasn’t originally scheduled to work. It was late when he walked out the front door of the Blooming Grove barracks and into Frein’s sights. The next 90 seconds were hell.

“Friday, Sept. 12, got a shot around 11 p.m., he dropped. I was surprised at how quick,” Lt. Col. George Bivens, deputy commissioner of operations, read at a news conference Wednesday from a first-hand narrative of the shooting they believe Frein penned and hastily abandoned later at a campsite. “I took a follow-up shot on his head and neck area. He was still and quiet after that.”

State police revealed the chilling account Wednesday of the ambush that killed Dickson and severely wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass. Frein, 31, is the lone suspect of the crime and is still sought for the assassination.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/chilling-cop-shooting-details-revealed-1.1767923

PSERS Investments Exceed Expectations

Taxpayers and public school employees should expect some good news later this year when one of state’s major public pension systems releases its investment returns for the most recent fiscal year.

The state Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS, earned nearly 15 percent during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A press release on the organization’s website Monday revealed the latest findings.

Exceeding the annual investment earnings assumption of 7.5 percent helps to ease the burden of the unfunded liability that must be made up in the future by some combination of future investment returns, contributions from workers and tax dollars.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/psers-investments-exceed-expectations/article_285ee46e-4e4c-11e4-b1be-001a4bcf6878.html

Corbett Down 17 In New Quinnipiac Poll

Democratic challenger Tom Wolf leads Gov. Tom Corbett (R) by 17 percentage points among likely voters in Pennsylvania – 55 percent to 38 percent – as the campaign enters its final month, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday.

The survey shows a slight improvement for Corbett compared to the last Quinnipiac Poll of the race Sept. 11, when Wolf led 59 percent to 35 percent among likely voters.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/big_tent/Corbett-down-17-in-new-Quinnipiac-Poll.html#Ccbgppqxvz3zPMFX.99