Central Penn College president / Does PA have too many school districts?


Dr. Linda Fedrizzi-Williams (photo courtesy of Central Penn College)

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, February 14, 2019:

Founded in 1881, Central Penn College is ranked in the top fifty Regional Colleges North and is one of four colleges and universities in Cumberland County. Central Penn is also one of four Central Pennsylvania post-secondary institutions led by a female president.

President Linda Fedrizzi-Williams was named the 10th president of Central Penn College in June 2018. In a recent interview about the challenges and opportunities women face in leadership positions, Fedrizzi-Williams discussed her thoughts on work-life integration and the leadership experiences she’s had as a woman in her position.

More recently, too, Central Penn and President Fedrizzi-Williams addressed the college affordability crisis by offering a year of free housing for freshman and transfer students living on campus. Joining us on Thursday’s Smart Talk is President Linda Fedrizzi-Williams.

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Also, Pennsylvania has 500 school districts, each with its own superintendent.

A local educator noticed this and she questioned the multitude of superintendents in Central Pennsylvania school districts by submitting it on PA Post’s Listening Post, a forum for Pennsylvania residents to ask questions for reporters to investigate.

PA Post reporter Ed Mahon narrowed down to four reasons for the high number of superintendents and school districts in Pennsylvania, and specifically why it is difficult to reduce that number. He appears on Thursday’s Smart Talk.

Medical malpractice lawsuits; will venue shopping return?

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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, February 13, 2019:

In the early 2000s, a litigant preparing medical malpractice charges against a provider or care facility could, under certain conditions, file in a jurisdiction other than where the incident occurred. This procedure is called venue shopping and it would usually happen in areas where juries had a reputation for siding with victims.

The practice of venue shopping was often credited with encouraging frivolous lawsuits that clogged the legal system for years. The problems it created compelled lawmakers to seek reforms. After the reforms passed in 2003, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits dropped significantly.

Not everyone thinks this is a good thing.

A committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is now looking into eliminating the rule against venue shopping. The committee believes the possibility exists that the reduction in lawsuits means there may be fewer medical negligence victims receiving compensation.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss medical malpractice and venue shopping are Curt Schroder, Executive Director of the PA Coalition for Civil Justice Reform and Cliff Rieders, PA Association for Justice.

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Cliff Rieders, PA Association for Justice, and Curt Schroder, Executive Director of the PA Coalition for Civil Justice Reform.

Winter weather updates on Smart Talk

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Drifting snow blows across a road near Mount Joy in Lancaster County, Pa. Wednesday Jan. 30, 2019. Winter driving conditions continue in the mid-state this week. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, February 12, 2019:

Tuesday’s Smart Talk focuses on the winter weather and how Central Pennsylvania is impacted by it.

Snow fell overnight and it’s been raining most of the morning. Depending on the ground temperature, the rain is freezing on contact in some places making it extremely slippery on the roads.

Schools are closed throughout the region and many employers and businesses have delayed their start times in anticipation of the hazardous conditions. As a result, there aren’t many vehicles on the roads. Restrictions are in place that include a top speed limit of 45 miles per hour on most major highways and limits on whether commercial vehicles like trucks can be on those roads.

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk, we’ll get updates from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania State Police, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

We’ll also hear from the National Weather Service on what conditions are influencing our weather and what to expect in the near future.

Lt. Gov. Fetterman kicks off pot listening tour

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John Fetterman is sworn in as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor by Superior Court Judge Judge Deborah Kunselman on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.(AP/Matt Rourke)

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, February 11, 2019:

He was described as “America’s coolest mayor,” while in the top spot in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Now that he occupies the state’s second highest leadership position, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is labeled as “unconventional.”

Fetterman clearly doesn’t fit the mold of a mainstream politician. At 6′ 8″ he towers over everyone, and his laid-back personal style belies the importance of his role as Governor Wolf’s right-hand man.

While he may not reflect the image of most elected officials, that hasn’t stopped the 49-year-old John Fetterman from rising in the political hierarchy.

Governor Tom Wolf recently tasked the newly-elected Fetterman with gauging public opinion on legalized recreational marijuana. Fetterman begins a 67-county listening tour Monday in Dauphin County. You can view scheduled stops on the lieutenant governor’s Facebook page.

Both Gov. Wolf and Lt. Gov. Fetterman believe it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious look at legalization. Medical marijuana was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2016.

Fetterman is a Democrat who campaigned for Lt. Governor on progressive issues like social equality and racial justice. He appears on Smart Talk today to discuss the listening tour and other priorities now that he is in office.


Lt. Gov. John Fetterman


Involuntary commitment for treatment, does it help? / Traveling while black


What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, February 8, 2019:

A new state law makes it easier to commit someone with a mental illness to get treatment through a process called “assisted outpatient treatment.” The law, called Act 106, takes effect in April.

Its supporters say it will help people who have serious illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. They say similar laws have proven successful in other states.

However, some long-time mental health sector workers say the law has some flaws.

On one side are those who worry the law may go too far, compromising a person’s civil rights and turning them away from mental health services in the future.

There are also those who say the law doesn’t go far enough–that it lacks key provisions to make sure someone follows the treatment program.

Funding woes add to their concerns that counties will be ill-equipped to succeed with this law.

As part of Transforming Health’s series on mental health issues in Pennsylvania, called Through the Cracks, reporter Brett Sholtis joins us on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss.

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As part of Transforming Health’s series on mental health issues around Pennsylvania, called Through the Cracks, reporter Brett Sholtis.

Also, for many Americans, wandering the nation’s highways and byways is an opportunity to express one of the greatest parts of our freedom; traveling without limitations.

For some, however, traveling is filled with risk. African-Americans have experienced unique dangers and harassment traveling in our country, so in the early twentieth century a Harlem postal worker created a guide to help them navigate the cultural landscape.

The Negro Motorist Green Book was created in 1936 and republished every year until 1967. The book was a guide to help black travelers find restaurants, gas stations, hotels and service establishments that would welcome them.

Appearing on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss the challenges of “traveling while black” is Dickinson College Professor Cotten Seiler. He’s the author of Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America.

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Dickinson College Professor, Dr. Cotten Sieler, author of Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America.

Wolf budget focuses on education, workforce development

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What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday February 6, 2019:

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing a $34.1 billion 2019-2020 fiscal year budget for the state that focuses heavily on education and workforce development.

In his annual budget address Tuesday, Wolf outlined a broad plan of his priorities for Pennsylvania over the next 12 months. The governor started his budget message by saying he wasn’t asking for a tax increase. That’s even though Wolf’s plan calls for roughly a billion dollars in additional spending from the current fiscal year.

Some of the highlights include:

  • $13.7 billion for public education — a 3.3% increase.
  • Establishing a minimum salary for teachers of $45,000 annually
  • Increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 an hour by July 1 and increasing the minimum by 50 cent increments to $15 by 2025
  • Reducing the corporate net income tax from 9.99% to 5.99% by 2024
  • Allocating an addition $10 million for schools that provide technical and trade skills

Gov. Wolf also wants to enact a severance tax on natural gas drillers to pay for infrastructure upgrades.

Appearing on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to provide analysis of the governor’s budget plan is Franklin and Marshall College political analyst and pollster Dr. G. Terry Madonna.

What happens to juveniles charged as adults? / New districts change election results?

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More than 400 youth were charged in adult court in Pennsylvania in 2017 because of a law passed in 1995 (courtesy Joshua Vaughn, The Sentinel)

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, February 7, 2019:

Before 1995, criminal homicide was the only charge (other than traffic violation’s) that required a person under 18 appear in an adult court.

Then came Act 33, which was passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature and elevated certain felonies, committed under specified conditions and by people between the ages of 15 and 17, to adult court.

Act 33 made a significant impact on how the Commonwealth charges and adjudicates juvenile crime. In 2017 alone, more than 400 children aged 14 to 17 were charged with criminal offenses in adult court.

Adult courts can mean sentencing to adult jails, alongside adult offenders. The problems created for juveniles in this system are exponential.

The Carlisle Sentinel recently published an investigative series looking into how juveniles are treated within the adult criminal process.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the series’ findings is Sentinel reporter Joshua Vaughn.


Joshua Vaughn

Also, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last year that the Congressional district boundaries were unconstitutional. The Court asked the state legislators to offer an alternative map, but when they failed to do so, the Court adopted its own boundaries.

Before the most recent election there were 13 Republicans and five Democrats representing Pennsylvania in Congress. After the election, there was an even split of nine Republicans and nine Democrats.

What would the results have been if the election was held using the old boundaries?

Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti analyzed the data and joins Smart Talk to discuss those results.


Emily Previti

Bucknell poll measures Trump influence on voters/What’s next for Marsy’s Law in PA


President Donald Trump waves after stepping off Marine One, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, right, and son Barron Trump, on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Washington. Trump is returning from a trip to his Florida resort. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, February 5, 2019:

A recent national survey conducted by Bucknell University’s Institute for Public Policy Polling (BIPP), found that President Trump’s performance in office is influencing whether voters wll vote for Republican candidates in the future. The poll results are not good news for Republicans, especially when it comes to young voters.

Seventeen percent of American voters under age 35 felt that, given President Trump’s performance in office, they would support Republican candidates in the future. By comparison, 45 percent of American voters ages 55 and over felt that Trump’s term would make them more likely to support a Republican candidate in the future.

Appearing on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the Bucknell poll is Chris Ellis, Associate Professor of Political Science at Bucknell University.

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Dr. Chris Ellis

Also, the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution provides legal rights for individuals accused of a crime and those convicted of a crime. Yet, in the U.S.many of those rights do not extend to victims of crime. Pennsylvania is one of those states without a Victims’ Rights Amendment to its Constitution.

That may be about to change.

It’s called Marsy’s Law for All and it was named after Marsalee Nicholas, a California co-ed murdered by an ex-boyfriend. Only a week after her death, her family members walked into a grocery store and were confronted by the accused murderer. They were not told that he had been released on bail.

The Marsy’s Law amendment will require that victims of violent crime and their families be treated with respect and dignity by the criminal justice system. And their safety must also be considered when courts set bail and release conditions.

The Marsy’s Law amendment passed the Pennsylvania General Assembly last session, and now needs one more passage by lawmakers before it goes to voters for a referendum.

Joining Smart Talk to talk about what is next for the legislation is Democratic Senator John Sabatina Jr. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm, and Jen Riley, State Director, Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania.

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Jennifer Riley, Jennifer Storm, and Senator John Sabatina

Election reform package and the 2019 State of Tobacco Control report


What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, February 4, 2019:

States are granted the legal authority to hold elections by the U.S. Constitution. So, each state’s laws and regulations for conducting elections are as diverse as the state.

According to some members of the Pennsylvania legislature, the state election code needs modernized. A few changes that have been proposed would require a constitutional amendment to attain election reform.

The Senate’ State Government Committee assessed the Pennsylvania election code last session and, as a result, a group of Senators issued a memorandum outlining co-sponsorship election reforms.

Joining us on Monday’s Smart Talk to discuss the bipartisan initiative are two co-sponsors, Republican State Senator Mike Folmer representing parts of Lebanon, Dauphin, and York Counties and Democratic State Senator Judy Schwank representing Berks County.

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Republican State Senator Mike Folmer (Lebanon, Dauphin, and York Counties) and Democratic State Senator Judy Schwank (Berks County).

Also, the American Lung Association put the state of Pennsylvania on notice that tobacco, as the leading cause of preventable death and disease, must become a priority for state elected officials.

The ALA identified three action areas for the state:

  1. Raise the age of sale to 21 for all products, from the current age of 18.
  2. Fund prevention and cessation programs, then don’t redirect the money.
  3. Close loopholes in Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the State of Tobacco Control report and E-cigarette use among teens are Sarah Lawver, advocacy director, American Lung Association in Pennsylvania and Jennifer Hobbs Folkenroth, National Senior Director, Tobacco Health Education, American Lung Association.

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Sarah Lawver, advocacy director, American Lung Association in Pennsylvania and Jennifer Hobbs Folkenroth, National Senior Director, Tobacco Health Education, American Lung Association.

Pennsylvania sets carbon goals / Water quality systems need upgrade

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, February 1, 2019:

Last year, Governor Wolf signed an executive order to reduce carbon pollution in Pennsylvania. Carbon emissions are thought to be a major factor affecting global climate change, which Wolf calls “the most critical environmental threat facing the world.”

But the devil is in the details. Achieving a 26 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050 (from 2005 levels) is going to take the commitment of numerous state agencies and Pennsylvania taxpayers.

The executive order also establishes a “GreenGov Council” to coordinate the state agency response and monitor progress toward meeting the goals. The Secretaries of the Departments of General Services, Environmental Protection, and Conservation and Natural Resources will co-chair the Council.

Appearing on Smart Talk Friday to talk about reducing state carbon emissions are Patrick McDonnell, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Governor Wolf’s Deputy Chief of Staff Sam Robinson.

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Governor Wolf’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Sam Robinson, and Secretary Patrick McDonnell, PA Department of Environmental Protection.

Also, when the American Society of Civil Engineers released the 2018 Infrastructure Report Card in December, Pennsylvania earned an overall GPA of C minus. Seven of the state’s 18 critical infrastructure categories earned below average marks.

Drinking water is one of the categories with a D grade because of an estimated $14.2 billion in infrastructure needs over the next 20 years. Aging wastewater and stormwater systems have equally alarming projected resource demands.

Joining Smart Talk, along with Secretary McDonnell, to talk about what Pennsylvania can do to raise the grade is Greg Scott, ASCE Pennsylvania representative.