TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR NOVEMBER 16TH, 2021

New Castle Police say a 16-year-old girl reported to be kidnapped actually left willingly and is now back with her family.  Officials said Haylee Hobbs was found at the home of her ex-boyfriend, 18-year-old Carlos Jones, on Monday and told officers she left her home voluntarily.  On Sunday, Hobbs’s family reported Jones had kidnapped her, and there was a history of violence in the relationship.  No charges have been filed, and police say they are still investigating the incident

A  bill that would sharply limit gift bans to elected officials has passed a key committee in the House of Representatives.  The so-called “Gift Ban Legislation” would also limit gifts to public employees and officials say it could be brought to a floor vote before the end of the year.  If it comes to that, it would make history as no measure seeking a ban or even limits on all gifts, hospitality, transportation, and other perks has ever been brought to a floor vote.

Charges have been filed in the case of a Butler County motorist who fatally struck a bicyclist in September.  Authorities on Monday brought one count each of homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and careless driving against Susan Ekstrand.  Ekstrand says she stopped at a stop sign before entering an intersection and fatally running into Pittsburgh physician Henry Sinopoli.  She says she didn’t see Sinopoli who later died of his injuries.  Investigators say that video evidence shows that Ekstrand slowed her vehicle at the sign but did not stop.

State Police in Mercer County arrested a New York man on drug charges last week following a traffic stop. According to police 35-year-old Andrew Bae of Elmhurst, New York was pulled over on Monday, Nov. 8TH after a traffic violation on I-80 Eastbound just after 1:30pm in Wolf Creek Township. Authorites found 90 pounds of marijuana inside the vehicle. Bae was placed in the Mercer County Jail on 100 thousand dollars bond.

Some democratic members have walked out of a hearing on labor union bills.  The members staged a walkout of a Labor and Industry Committee hearing Monday that was discussing six bills. Republicans reportedly consider the proposals labor reform. Among them, preventing public-sector unions from getting employees’ contact details from their employers. Unions call the bills attacks on workers by wealthy outsiders.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed the number of COVID cases jumped by nearly eleven percent over a 24-hour period last week.  As of late last week,  there were just under ten-thousand-900 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to over one million-six hundred nineteen thousand cases. There are just over 26-hundred people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 600 patients are in intensive care units. The statewide positivity rate for the week of October 29th through November 4th was nine point three percent.

According to this week’s Triple-A East Central Gas Price report the average price of gasoline in Western Pennsylvania is up a penny this week to 3.59 a gallon. In New Castle drivers are paying 3.57 a gallon while in Sharon the average price is at 3.61. The national average is $3.41, down one cent.

President Biden’s infrastructure plan will inject billions of dollars into Pennsylvania for highway projects and bridge replacements.  Federal officials say the state is set to receive over eleven-billion dollars for highway projects, along with over one and a half billion for bridge replacement and repairs. The state’s highways are among the nation’s worst for road and bridge deterioration, according to the White House.  Other allocations will go for public transportation, improving water infrastructure, airport improvements and wildfire protection.

State officials say a ban on the sale of a popular landscaping shrub will go into effect by 2023.  According to reports, Japanese barberry has been added to the state’s list of noxious weeds because it attracts ticks that can carry Lyme disease.  The colorful plant was brought to the U.S. in the 1800s and has become popular with landscapers because deer do not eat it.  A two-year rollout plan on its removal goes into effect this month, with the shrub no longer allowed to be sold in Pennsylvania by the fall of 2023.