Tri County Report For June 16th, 2017

Residents of the Laurel Area School District will be paying more in taxes next year.  The New Castle News reports the increase will cost the average resident an additional 45 dollars a year. Superintendent Leonard Rich says the district was able to cut a 1.4 million dollar deficit down to a little over 638 thousand dollars. A 32.57 percent employer contribution to the state pension fund, along with a 14 percent increase in heath benifits where major inreases from last year. Rich also said the district will lose 445 thousand dollars in federal funds on the revenue side.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is announcing a new effort in the fight against the national opioid abuse crisis. Shapiro said yesterday he and other attorneys general are investigating the roles of drug manufacturers in the crisis, specifically looking at marketing and sales practices. Over 46-hundred overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania last year by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Shapiro notes many heroin users start by abusing prescription drugs.

The Beaver Area School District says it was upholding the country’s constitution when it prevented a student from giving a speech in the form of a prayer at the high school graduation.  However, Moriah Bridges sees what the district did as a violation of her civil rights.  She’s now being represented by Texas-based religious group First Liberty.  The organization says Bridges’ speech was a personal message to her classmates and protected by the U.S. Constitution.  First Liberty has sent a letter to the Beaver Area School District’s superintendent requesting a meeting and asking for the district to change its policy.

Governor Tom Wolf isn’t saying if he will sign the proposed ban on plastic bag bans. Lawmakers in Harrisburg sent the governor the proposal yesterday.  The legislation would stop cities from banning plastic shopping bags.  There currently aren’t any plastic bag bans in Pennsylvania, though leaders in Philadelphia have talked about the idea in the past.

The New Castle News is reporting Hira Educational Services of North America has kept alive its bid to purchase the former Youth Development Center in Shenango Township. State officials said Hira returned a signed agreement of sale to state offices in Harrisburg by Thursday’s 5 p.m. deadline, thereby keeping the process alive toward finalization of the sale by October. Local state representatives, along with supervisors in Shenango Township and the Lawrence County Commissioners all have expressed there concern over the sale.

Pennsylvania’s governor is telling the Attorney General of the United States not to mess with the state’s medical marijuana program.  Governor Tom Wolf yesterday sent a sharply worded letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to interfere with the medical cannabis program in the state.  Session has said he will enforce federal laws on marijuana, and may be looking to expand that enforcement to states with medical marijuana programs.

The jury in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial will start their fifth day of deliberations today.  The jurors, all from Allegheny County, said yesterday they were deadlocked but the judge asked them to keep trying.  Cosby is charged with aggravated assault for allegedly drugging and then sexually assaulting a woman he was mentoring several years ago.  If the jury can’t come to a decision, the judge could declare a mistrial.

The numbers are in for gambling revenue in Pennsylvania from the month of May. The state Gaming Control Board announced yesterday that table games revenue totaling over 74-million dollars represented a spike of about four-point-four percent from May of 2016. Revenue at the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse reported table games revenue last month of just under three-million dollars, which is almost the same as the total from the previous year.

A settlement is being reached with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services regarding the treatment of mentally ill defendants. The ACLU had filed the suit in 2015, accusing the state of violating due process rights by delaying treatment, resulting in the defendants who were waiting to stand trial being forced to wait in county prisons. The ACLU recently planned new legal action after concerns that delays were worsening after the DHS originally reached a settlement last year. The new settlement will see the state department pay for about 110 more treatment beds and hire consultants to help reduce the treatment waiting list.