Chesapeake Bay report card: D+


In this Aug. 1, 2018, file photo, debris washed into the Chesapeake Bay from record rainfall accumulates around a sailboat in Annapolis, Md. An annual report on the Chesapeake Bay says pollution from unusually heavy rains in 2018 contributed to the first decline in a decade in the overall health of the nation’s largest estuary. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File)

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, January 17, 2019:

There’s good news and bad news in a recent report on the Chesapeake Bay’s health.

First the bad news. Record regional rainfall last year in the watershed area washed an enormous amount of debris and pollutants into the Bay, significantly affecting the water quality.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently released their State of the Bay report card, awarding an overall D+ due to increased pollution and poor water clarity. This is a downgrade from the previous report issued two years ago.

The Foundation also tracks the progress of states in the watershed toward achieving goals set to reduce pollution in local creeks and rivers. Pennsylvania continues to fall short of meeting its goals.

The good news? Pollution causing dead zones in the Bay are decreasing and the important bay grasses are intact; an important component of the ecosystem.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the report is Will Baker, Chesapeake Bay Foundation President and Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.


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Will Baker and Harry Campbell

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Photo taken September 22, 2018, from a Cessna at 2500 feet. Photo shows the mouth of the Susquehanna as waters enter the Bay, looking north. (photo courtesy of Kirk Allison)

Criminal Justice Reform

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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, January 16, 2019:

There are more than 40-thousand people incarcerated in Pennsylvania prisons. That is roughly 725 out of 100-thousand residents.

The Wolf administration recently released updated figures showing the state prison population is in decline. They say that legislative changes and efforts by the Corrections Department and the Board of Probation and Parole are helping drive the change.

Criminal justice reform has a national spotlight now, also.

State and federal legislators are progressing toward tangible criminal justice reform.

At the end of 2018, President Trump signed the First Step Act, which is being called a “small but necessary step toward addressing the deep-rooted issues in our country’s criminal justice system.”

In Pennsylvania, lawmakers approved the Clean Slate law in summer 2018. The law expands criminal record sealing to include more types of offenses, including some first-degree misdemeanors.

Appearing on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to discuss these and other criminal justice reform initiatives is Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel.


Secretary John Wetzel

Wolf 1st term changes/SNAP early during shutdown/Strange medical stories

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, January 15, 2019:

Gov. Tom Wolf is being sworn in for his second term Tuesday. So, what’s changed in Pennsylvania during the governor’s first four years in office, in terms of taxes and revenue?

PA Post reporter Ed Mahon looked back this week at what Wolf wanted in his first term and what he got from the legislature. Increased funding for education, higher taxes on cigarettes and tobacco, digital downloads and lottery winnings were all part of Wolf’s first term achievements. The governor didn’t get a severance tax on natural gas drillers.

Mahon appears on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to provide details and discuss what Gov. Wolf may pursue over the next four years.

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Ed Mahon

Also, the partial shutdown of the federal government has worried many Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients about paying for food. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services says what used to be called food stamps will come earlier than usual for February. In fact, the benefit will be dispersed Friday.

Secretary of the Department of Human Services Teresa Miller joins us on Smart Talk to explain.

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Secretary Teresa Miller

Finally, Thomas Morris, author of the book The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine is with us.

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Taking action against human trafficking


What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, January 14, 2019:

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month; an opportunity to raise awareness of the often-hidden crime.

It may not be in plain sight, but human trafficking happens everywhere; in communities around the country and in our own backyards. If left unchecked, traffickers will recruit and exploit victims with profit as their motivation.

Pennsylvania legislators and advocacy organizations are part of the fight to combat modern-day slavery.

The Buyer Beware Act, also known as House Bill 12 and Senate Bill 60, rolled out in January and will double prison time for traffickers and patrons, if signed into law.

In April, the Federal government signed into law the Fight Online Sex Trafficking act to fight the trafficking of children and adults on the internet.

There is a great deal of attention and initiative focused on the problem. Is it helping?

Appearing on Smart Talk Monday to examine the issues are Jennifer Storm, Commonwealth Victim Advocate, Rhonda Hendrickson, VP of programs, Division of Residential and Violence Intervention & Prevention Services, YWCA of Greater Harrisburg and Shea Rhodes, director of the Villanova University Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation.

Also joining the conversation is Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), co-author of the Buyer Beware Act, which is current legislation in the House and Senate to increase penalties on criminals convicted of certain human trafficking offenses.

To report a tip, receive information or seek help from trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to BeFree (233733)

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Rhonda Hendrickson and Jennifer Storm

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Shea Rhodes and Rep. Seth Grove

Authors: Abolitionists of South-Central PA and While Reason Slept

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The John Brown House (Ritner Boarding House) in Chambersburg, PA, is where the famous abolitionist boarded during the summer of 1859 under the alias of Isaac Smith. During that summer, weapons were secretly secured, and plans furthered to seize the arsenal at Harpers Ferry in October 1859. (Photo courtesy of the Franklin County Historical Society)

What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, January 11, 2019:

The Underground Railroad was a series of routes, people and places that helped runaway slaves on their journey north to freedom. The “Railroad” was formed in the late 1700’s and it traversed north to free states and into Canada.

The “Railroad” reached its peak in the decade before and during the civil war, and some estimates reveal that more than 100-thousand slaves may have escaped this way.

Pennsylvania, as the “first free state north of the Mason-Dixon line,” offered many entry points for slaves seeking freedom. South Central Pennsylvania, in particular, played an historic role in the anti-slavery movement.

Many of the most well-known abolitionists who campaigned to end slavery hailed from New York and New England. But there were many in Pennsylvania, who may not be as famous but were just as passionate about abolishing slavery.

Appearing on Friday’s Smart Talk is local author Cooper Wingert to talk about his most recent book Abolitionists of South-Central Pennsylvania.


Cooper Wingert

Also, we’re continuing our conversation with Thomas Brier, author of the book While Reason Slept. Brier is a Hershey native and he tells the story of the nation’s founding principles and how the men who wrote the Constitution envisioned government for the common good. He writes that the Constitution has been eroded by self-interest, consumerism and propaganda.

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Thomas Brier

Hospital price transparency and 2019 PA legislative priorities


What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, January 10, 2019:

Healthcare is expensive. That we know. Unlike most other expenses in our lives, we almost never know what a medical procedure or treatment cost. Most patients don’t ask their doctor or healthcare provider’s office how much we would pay for treatment before it’s done. That is especially true if the patient has insurance.

The fact is the prices for even the same treatments and procedures vary — sometimes greatly — from provider-to-provider.

Last year the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services enacted a rule requiring hospitals to make public their standard charges for the procedures and services that they provide.

That rule went into effect in January.

Proponents see the publication of the lists as a first step toward price transparency. However, health systems say those price lists aren’t a good way for people to shop around for services.

Appearing on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss the effect of the regulation is WITF’s Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis.


Brett Sholtis

Also, Katie Meyer is WITF’s Capitol bureau chief and she joins us on Smart Talk to discuss the new legislative session and the priorities ahead for state lawmakers.


Katie Meyer

Raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania


What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, January 9, 2019:

It’s a new year and a renewed push is underway to increase the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Wolf made this initiative a priority for his administration during his first term and as he begins a second term that is not changing.

The state minimum wage last increased in 2009 to match the federal wage of $7.25 an hour. In 2018, the Wolf administration proposed an increase to $12 an hour, which did not pass.

Proponents of Wolf’s plan say an increase will help low-wage workers keep up with the cost increase of food, rent and private transportation. Opponents say the bigger issue to address is the income and skills gap of the workers, neither of which are helped by raising the minimum wage.

An Independent Fiscal Office analysis acknowledges both sides of the debate; While more than one million workers will see higher wages, about 33,000 fewer jobs will result.

Where does Pennsylvania go from here?

Joining us on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the merits and challenges with increasing the state’s minimum wage are Dr. Mark Price, Labor Economist, Keystone Research Center and Alex Halper, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry Director of Government Affairs.

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Mark Price and Alex Halper

Smart Talk Road Trip to 2019 Farm Show

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, January 8, 2019:

Smart Talk makes our annual visit to the Pennsylvania State Farm Show for a live broadcast Tuesday.

The Farm Show is a celebration of agriculture in Pennsylvania, but it also is a good time to catch up on the status of farming and hear stories from individual ag-related businesses and families.

However, fewer young people are pursuing careers in farming, demand for certain products and technology has resulted in job vacancies in the agriculture industry. With that in mind, the Wolf Administration has created the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence to assist in the development of a statewide plan for agricultural education. A list of the most in-demand occupations or careers has been created. They include production agriculture, animal health and veterinary services, landscaping, food manufacturing, forestry and conservation and natural resources.

Dr. Robert Clark is the new Executive Director of the Commission and he appears on Tuesday’s Smart Talk.

Also, Tuesday is STEM Day at the Farm Show and Smart Talk explores how science, technology, engineering and math is being used in relationship to farming and agriculture.

Is there a clean solution to plastic waste?

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(2009/AP Photo/ Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Mario Aguilera, File)

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, January 7, 2019:

The images are shocking. An ocean scene of floating garbage and plastics, destroying an otherwise bucolic seascape. Images that force us to face the reality that our planet is awash in trash.

Plastics are a particularly large component of the garbage glut. Central Pennsylvania agricultural operations are big producers of plastic waste. Many area producers, and also homeowners, relied on recycling as a solution, until the market collapsed with Chinese recyclables demand and contamination at the curbside bin.

Until a solution is found, the plastic waste continues to pile up. What can be done to solve this problem?

Penn State researchers believe they have found a possible solution that, on the surface, appears to address several environmental problems.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss a possible solution to the plastics problem are Dr. Bill Lamont, Prof. Emeritus of Vegetable Crops, Penn State, Jim Garthe, retired Penn State agricultural engineer, and Ron Davis (aka Ron the Bagman) area recycling advocate.


Jim Garthe, Ron Davis and Bill Lamont

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Agricultural waste (Photo credit Ron “the bagman” Davis

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Tires and agricultural waste (Photo credit Ron “the bagman” Davis)

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Plastofuel burner (photo Bill Lamont)

Intermediate Units forge community partnerships


What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, January, 4, 2019:

The complexity of the world and the need to prepare students for the future have placed great demands on our education system.

Teachers and administrators must do more with less and in the process, they are expected to achieve great results. Parents and communities demand as much.

With so much at stake and limited resources where do schools and families turn for help?

The Commonwealth created a system of Intermediate Units (IU’s) in 1970 to serve the public school system and bridge the resource gap. Originally, the IU’s replaced county superintendents of school’s offices and assumed their role. Today, they provide a wide variety of services to both public and private schools, including professional development for teachers.

Intermediate Units offer such a depth of skills and resources that community organizations are pursuing collaborative opportunities, as well.

Appearing on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss community collaboration programs and the role of IU’s are Tom Gluck, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units, Dr. Andria Saia, Executive Director, Capitol Area Intermediate Unit, Dr. Lynn Murphy, Lincoln Intermediate Unit Director of Special Education, Jamie Reisinger, VP of Education Services with Byrnes Health Education Center, and Lynda Morris, Executive Director of the Capital Region Partnership for Career Development.

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Andria Saia, Jamie Reisinger, Lynn Murphy, Tom Gluck and Lynda Morris