Ending child marriage in Pennsylvania/Lobbying for renewables


What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, June 18, 2019:

Child marriage is something that happens in other countries, right? Not so fast, advocates say, because there are young people getting married in the U.S.

Around the world, nearly 12 million girls marry before the age of 18 every year. Numbers in the U.S. are a little harder to come by since there are few studies and no federal laws regarding child marriage. Each state sets its own requirements. However, data collected from 41 states found that more than 200,000 minors were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015.

With some exceptions, there is no minimum age in Pennsylvania for a child to marry. Children, mostly girls, age 15 or younger can marry with parental consent and if a court decides it is in her best interest. Children 16 or 17 only need parental consent.

Legislation is being considered in the Pennsylvania Senate to eliminate the loopholes in the current law that allow for marriage under 18. Legislators say there is a fine line between consent and coercion, and Senate Bill 81 will provide both parties the opportunity to consider their options as adults.

Appearing on Smart Talk on Tuesday to discuss the issue and legislation are sponsors Sen. John Sabatina Jr., a Democrat serving Philadelphia (part) County, Sen. Judith Schwank, a Democrat serving Berks (part) County, and Fraidy Reiss, executive director of Unchained At Last.


Sen. Judith Schwank (L) and Sen. John Sabatina (R)

Also, hundreds of Pennsylvanians will descend on Harrisburg this week to advocate for bipartisan legislation that will transition Pennsylvania to 100% renewable energy to help combat climate change. Joining us on Smart Talk to talk about the state’s largest annual citizen lobby day for the environment is David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment.

Proposed changes to PIAA playoff and transfer rules / Changes in emission test rules

Untitled design (2).png

St. Joseph Prep’s Justin Montague holds the championship trophy after a PIAA, Class AAAA championship football game against Pine-Richland in Hershey, Pa. on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. St Joseph won 49-41. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)

What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, June 17, 2019:

A 1972 Pennsylvania law requires the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) to accept private schools as members. For decades, the PIAA has contended that the law thus prohibits holding separate playoff tournaments for private and public schools.

Yet, as private schools have continued to dominate state playoffs in a variety of sports, many public schools have urged separating the playoffs to level the playing field between schools that can recruit and schools that have fixed geographic boundaries.

State Representative Aaron Bernstine introduced legislation last week that he says addresses these issues. House Bill 1600 would require the PIAA to institute separate tournaments for public and private schools (charter schools would be considered public schools), eliminate many restrictions on students transferring, and create a final “crossover game” between the winners of the public and private tournaments.

While the bill enjoys support from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi called the legislation an “end around” in a statement last week.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the bill and its implications on high school athletics in Pennsylvania is Rep. Aaron Bernstine.

Untitled design - 2019-06-17T093332.296.png

Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R – Beaver County, Butler County and Lawrence County)

Also, last Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee approved a bill on a party-line vote that would lift the requirement for annual emissions inspections on vehicles for up to eight years after the vehicle was manufactured. Emissions test cost an average of about $40 and are required in 25 Pennsylvania counties.

Opponents worry that the bill could jeopardize $420 million in annual federal funding that Pennsylvania receives under the Clean Air Act. In other states, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted waivers of the emissions testing requirement.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the legislation and Pennsylvania’s air quality are Senator Kim Ward, Chair of the Transportation Committee, and Joe Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel for the Pennsylvania Clean Air Council.

CORRECTION: Construction of vehicle emission testing facilities was approved by the legislature during the Gov. Robert Casey Administration in 1993. Gov. Tom Ridge’s Administration reached a settlement with Envirotest Systems Corp.to end the program. That settlement resulted in Pennsylvania paying Envirotest millions of dollars. We regret not making that clear during Smart Talk.

The changing role of fathers and ending animal suffering


What to look for on Smart Talk, Friday, June 14, 2019:

Today’s father comes in many forms. Fathers are not always the primary source of income or the main disciplinarian in a household. Fathers can be single or married, self-employed or stay-at-home, gay or straight.

Ahead of this Father’s Day, Smart Talk discusses the changing role of today’s fathers. Joining Smart Talk to discuss modern fatherhood are Jonathan Heisey-Grove, president of The National At-Home Dad Network, Leslie Penkunas, editor of Central Penn Parent and Derrick James, director of fatherhood programs at Tri-County Community Action.

Untitled design - 2019-06-14T090452.256.png

Derrick James (L) and Leslie Penkunas (R)

Also, Humane Pennsylvania’s Healthy Pets, Healthy Communities initiative seeks to ensure access to high quality veterinary care regardless of an owner’s income. The initiative aims to ensure every animal in Berks County receives health care to keep them out of shelters and in their homes. The effort is funded by a $3.1 million grant from the Giorgi Family Foundation, the largest animal welfare grant in U.S. history. One of Humane Pennsylvania’s community partners is No Nonsense Neutering, which provides affordable spay and neutering services for dogs and cats, along with core vaccines. The key to this initiative, both groups agree, is the scale of the effort.

Untitled design - 2019-06-14T100821.811.png

Martha Kahan (L) and Karel Minor (R)

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss efforts to end preventable animal suffering in Pennsylvania are Karel Minor, CEO of Humane Pennsylvania, and Martha Kahan, President of No Nonsense Neutering.

Pennsylvania Game Commission audit / PA insurance marketplace takeover


A hunter on State Game Lands (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

What to look for on Smart Talk, June 13, 2019:

The Pennsylvania Game Commission was established in 1895 to manage, protect, and preserve PA wildlife. The Commission also regulates the hunting and trapping of game, operates game farms, and employs state game wardens.

The audit identified several escrow accounts outside the purview of the Pennsylvania Treasury, a high number of pool vehicles beyond what the Commission’s management estimates is necessary, and a failure to audit royalty checks from organizations that drill on State Game Lands as potential concerns. The report also made 43 recommendations to address its findings.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the results of the audit and the Game Commission’s response are Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Game Commission Spokesperson Travis Lau.

DePasquale 600 x 340.jpg

Also, the federal government has managed Pennsylvania’s online health insurance exchange for those who buy individual insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act since 2014. Last week, House party leaders Bryan Cutler (R) and Frank Dermody (D) introduced legislation directing the state to take over operating the exchange, which they estimate will save the Commonwealth tens of millions of dollars each year. Gov. Tom Wolf supports the proposal.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the legislation are House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, and WITF Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis.


House Majority Leader Rep. Bryan Cutler

dermody gray.png

House Minority Leader Rep. Frank Dermody

The proposed Family Care Act


What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, June 11, 2019:

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness, taking time off from work for treatment can be costly, or even impossible. Families can risk financial hardship when faced with long-term treatments or even for routine medical events like the birth of a baby.

To help mitigate this problem there is proposed legislation that would allow workers access to paid family and medical leave. Called the Family Care Act, the legislation would establish a statewide family and medical leave insurance program.

All working individuals would make small contributions from their weekly earnings to the leave program, which would be administered by the Department of Labor & Industry. Leave benefits would be calculated on a graduated scale to make the program accessible to all workers, regardless of income.

Joining us on Smart Talk to discuss the Family Care Act legislation are sponsors Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, and Sen. Maria Collett, D-Bucks and Motgomery, along with Karen Showalter, senior campaign director for MomsRising.com’s Food Justice Team and the Pennsylvania State Moms Task Force.

Untitled design - 2019-06-11T091204.094.png

From left to right: Sen. Maria Collett, Karen Showalter, and Sen. Dan Laughlin.

Pilot programs show promise in the Capital Region

doctors-office-picture-id492494343 (1).jpg

What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday, June 12, 2019:

For years, there has been a steady increase in the demand for health and human service programs in the Capital Region. A partnership, led by United Way of the Capital Region, is working to face that growing demand.

In 2014, UWCR partnered with Harrisburg Regional Chamber, West Shore Chamber of Commerce, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, Cumberland County, Dauphin County and Perry County to conduct a community needs assessment.

In response to its findings, the partnership developed three pilot programs to tackle a lack of access to health care, disparities in school readiness and workforce development.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the program’s findings and successes are Tim Fatzinger, CEO of United Way of the Capital Region, Jeannine Peterson, CEO of Hamilton Health Center, and Dr. Mark K. Leidy, Ed. D., Superintendent of the Mechanicsburg Area School District.

Untitled design - 2019-06-12T090429.642.png

From left to right: Jeannine Peterson, Tim Fatzinger, Mark K. Leidy

Untitled design - 2019-06-12T093500.887.png

United Way of the Capital Region’s school readiness pilot program. Photos courtesy of United Way of the Capital Region.

Untitled design - 2019-06-12T093944.099.png

United Way of the Capital Region’s school readiness pilot program. Photos courtesy of United Way of the Capital Region.

Untitled design - 2019-06-12T093544.184.png

United Way of the Capital Region’s workforce development program. Photo courtesy of United Way of the Capital Region.

Smart Talk’s books for summer reading


What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, June 10, 2019:

A good book is the best sidekick to any summer vacation, whether it’s a beach weekend, family road trip, or faraway escape.

Smart Talk welcomes a panel of area wordsmiths to share their summer book recommendations, from popular new releases to literary classics. We’d also like to hear about a few of the books you’re reading this summer. Call the program at 1-800-729-7532 or email us at smarttalk@witf.org.

Untitled design - 2019-06-10T090417.859.png

Catherine Lawrence and Travis Kurowski

Joining Smart Talk are Catherine Lawrence, a writer and owner of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg and Travis Kurowski, an assistant professor of English and coordinator of creative writing at York College of Pennsylvania.

Reading Lists

Dickinson President Margee Ensign / Being a generalist / Gov. Steve Bullock

What to look for on Smart Talk, June 7, 2019:

Founded in 1783 by Dr. Benjamin Rush, Dickinson College was the first college chartered in the new United States of America. Today, the Carlisle liberal arts institution has just over 2200 students to whom the college seeks to provide a “useful” education. 

Some of Dickinson’s current areas of focus are campus sustainability, student recruitment, and major fundraising. 

Dr. Margee Ensign took office as Dickinson’s 29th president in July 2017. Ensign served previously as President of the American University in Nigeria and is an international political economy scholar whose work focuses on challenges of international development, as well as on the implications of development assistance. 

She joins us on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss her vision for Dickinson College and her thoughts on current issues facing the higher education landscape. 

Also, a push towards specialization is prevalent in arenas ranging from managing the economy to raising children. In his new book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, author David Epstein argues that, for successful individuals from Nobel laureates to professional athletes, specialization is the exception, not the rule, and that dabbling and failing can be keys to success. He appears on Smart Talk to discuss these ideas. 

Finally, Montana Governor Steve Bullock is one of 24 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election. He joins Smart Talk to discuss his positions on the issues and his path to the nomination.

Smart Talk road trip to the Eisenhower National Historic Site

What to look for on Smart Talk, June 6, 2019:

Seventy-five years ago today, General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s order set in motion a massive ground, sea, and air invasion of Europe called Operation Overlord. As the Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces in WWII, he spearheaded the planning and eventual success of the invasion that would turn the tide of the war.

Eisenhower returned to civilian life after the war until conflict on the Korean Peninsula brought him back into uniform for a time. In 1952, Ike, as he would become known, turned to national politics and was eventually elected the 34th president of the United States.

President Eisenhower bought a Gettysburg farm in 1950, but his association with the town and battlefield actually began while he was a West Point cadet.

Today, Smart Talk takes a road trip to the Eisenhower National Historic Site and the home and farm of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Appearing on the Smart Talk to discuss the site and the D-Day anniversary are John Heiser, historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, Tim Lambert, WITF News director and D-Day story producer, Alyce Evans, National Park Service guide, and Michael Birkner, professor of history Gettysburg College.

Consul General of Canada and the 75th anniversary of D-Day

What to look for on Smart Talk, June 5, 2019:

Pennsylvania exported $10.3 billion worth of products to Canada in 2017. Chemicals and machinery led the way.

A year ago, trade relations between the U.S. and Canada had reached a critical phase.

Canada had imposed tariffs on some American imports in retaliation for President Trump ordering tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada.

Now a new trade agreement is on the table.

The United States, Mexico, and Canada have reached an agreement to update the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)

The Consul General of Canada in New York Phyllis Yaffe is on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to discuss how the new agreement impacts Pennsylvania and the U.S.

Also, commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day are taking place this week around the country and the world. This remembrance on June 6 has been called the “final salute,” as few if any veterans from WWII will live to share the 100th anniversary.

In The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II, historian Alex Kershaw provides a new take on one of the most important days of the 20th century. He joins us on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the book.