Tuesday, June 30
Major votes lined up in Pennsylvania Legislature
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are lining up a series of floor votes on major pieces of legislation that all appear headed for vetoes by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Procedural moves Monday put budget legislation, an overhaul of public employee pension benefits and the privatization of the state-controlled wine and liquor store system in place for floor votes by Tuesday night.
The state government's new fiscal year begins Wednesday, and the Wolf administration will lose some authority to spend money without enacted budget legislation in place.
Wolf says the GOP budget is balanced on stopgaps that worsen the state's long-term structural deficit and it doesn't include nearly enough money for education programs. He also opposes a privatization of the state wine and liquor store system and the GOP's efforts to end the traditional pension benefit for state government and public school employees.
Wolf seeks to reassure state workers, vendors, on budget
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf is reaching out to state employees and stakeholders about the possibility that the state government will not have a budget in place when the new fiscal year begins Wednesday.
In Monday's letter to tens of thousands of state workers, the Democratic governor said they'll continue to be paid on time for their work. In a separate letter, he advised vendors and contractors to work with the state so payment delays can be resolved once a budget is passed.
Republicans who control the Legislature spent the weekend advancing a plan to boost education funding without raising taxes. Wolf, who has signaled he is likely to veto at least some of the GOP plan, wants substantially larger increases for schools and a tax shift to reduce local property taxes.
GAS DRILLING-NEW YORK BAN
New York formalizes ban on fracking, ending 7-year review
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York has formalized its ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas after a seven-year environmental and health review.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens announced the decision Monday, saying a ban was the "only reasonable alternative" after "years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts."
The agency concluded that existing safety precautions are inadequate to protect against harm to water, air, ecosystems, wildlife, community character and public health.
New York is the only state with significant natural gas resources to ban fracking, which has allowed other states to tap huge volumes of gas trapped in shale formations deep underground.
While environmental groups praised the ban, drilling proponents have said the decision was based on politics rather than on science.
Bon-Ton Stores in $84 million sale-leaseback deal with REIT
YORK, Pa. (AP) — Bon-Ton, like a number of other retailers, is turning some of its real estate in to cash.
The department store on Monday announced an $84 million deal with a real estate investment trust in which it will sell six properties and lease them back.
Last week Darden Restaurants Inc. said that it would create a real estate investment trust and transfer about 430 owned restaurant properties to the new entity, with essentially all of them being leased back to Darden. Sears Holdings Corp. Sears is planning to sell more than 250 properties to a REIT it created.
And McDonald's told the Wall Street Journal last week that it was trying to sell its stores in Taiwan to a franchise operator.
Family of businessman killed in train crash sues Amtrak
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The family of a businessman killed when a speeding Amtrak train derailed has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in Philadelphia.
Robert Gildersleeve Jr.'s survivors accuse Amtrak of negligence and outrageous conduct in the crash last month that killed eight people and injured more than 200.
The federal lawsuit filed Monday says the 45-year-old Gildersleeve, of Elkridge, Maryland, was sitting in the mangled lead passenger car.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of his wife, Danna, and his two children and parents.
More than a dozen lawsuits have now been filed over the May 12 crash.
Federal investigators are trying to learn what caused the engineer to operate the train at more than 100 miles per hour as it approached a curve.
An Amtrak lawyer says he cannot comment on the pending litigation.
JETBLUE BAG FEES
JetBlue adds checked bag fee, ending longtime holdout
NEW YORK (AP) — The era of free checked suitcases on JetBlue has come to an end.
The airline proudly proclaimed itself a holdout on fees for years, allowing passengers to check one bag for free. Now it will charge up to $25 for checked luggage.
The move leaves Southwest Airlines as the only major U.S. carrier not to charge a bag fee.
JetBlue passengers will pay less if they plan ahead. Those with the cheapest tickets will pay $20 each way if they check in online or at a kiosk. The fee jumps to $25 if they go to the counter. A new fare class that costs about $15 extra each way would include one free bag.
The fee only applies to new bookings; existing reservations still get one free bag.
AIRLINE MANAGER-CHILD-SEX ARREST
Airline ops manager working on 9/11 is charged in sex sting
PITTSBURGH (AP) — An American Airlines operations manager involved in the response to the 9/11 hijackings has been arrested near Pittsburgh on charges he arranged sex with a woman and a 10-year-old girl and sent sexually explicit messages.
Prosecutors say 55-year-old Ray Howland, of Arlington, Texas, was actually communicating with an undercover agent.
He was charged Friday with criminal attempt to commit rape of a child and other offenses.
He's jailed on $150,000 bail pending a July 7 hearing. An attorney isn't listed for him.
American Airlines declined to comment on his case. It says employees violating ethical standards could be fired.
Transcripts show Howland telling panicked Boston employees to keep quiet about the Flight 11 hijacking minutes before the jetliner struck the World Trade Center. He's mentioned in the footnotes of the 9/11 Commission report.
Ohio, Indiana, Michigan divide money to help Lake Erie
PERRYSBURG, Ohio (AP) — Ohio will get much of the $17.5 million in federal money going to farmers to help reduce the algae problem in Lake Erie.
Farmers in Michigan and Indiana also will be getting some of that to reduce the pollutants that wash away from the fields and help the algae thrive.
Ohio's share will be just over $12 million. State leaders say that should help put conservation efforts into about 45,000 acres.
Michigan will get just over $3 million while Indiana's share will be $2 million.
Farmers in the western Lake Erie watershed can begin applying for the money in July to take steps to reduce the pollutants feeding the algae in the lake.