Health officials sound the alarm over vaping

Health officials across the country are sounding the alarm over E-cigarette use, which is also known as vaping.

Seventeen people across the state are believed to have “lung diseases associated with vaping,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Nationwide, the CDC reports six deaths and more than 450 cases of the disease.

The department is looking into another 20 cases that may also be tied to the electronic tobacco-and cannabis delivery systems.

What is causing the apparent increase in lung disease?

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s investigation is WITF Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis.

Brett Sholtis
WITF Transforming Health reporter, Brett Sholtis, appearing on Smart Talk, September 13, 2019.

Also, in 1953, a group of parents decided they wanted a better life for their intellectual and developmental challenged family members. The Arc of Dauphin County was born and has thrived for over 65 years in the Central Pennsylvania area.

The non-profit advocates for people with disabilities, consults for their employment needs, and provides programs to improve quality of life

For the entire month of October, artwork created by clients from The Arc of Dauphin County will be on exhibit at the WITF’s Public Media Center in Harrisburg Art in the Atrium showcase.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the importance The Arc of Dauphin County plays in our community is the Education and Community Advocate, Kathy Gingerich, and the Director of Consumer Programs, Ken Seeger.

The Arc of Dauphin County
Director of Consumer Programs, Ken Seeger, and Education and Community Advocate, Kathy Gingerich. Appeared on Smart Talk, September 13, 2019.

Redistricting Reform Commission releases report

Pennsylvania Congressional district boundaries made headlines in 2018 following a lawsuit alleging they were gerrymandered, giving Republican candidates an advantage in elections.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed and ruled the districts were so gerrymandered that they were unconstitutional.

Lawmakers, with Republicans in the majority, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf were given three weeks to submit new maps. The Court rejected those maps and adopted a map of their own.

Republicans attempted to stop the Court’s map but were unsuccessful and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court map was the one that Congressional candidates ultimately ran on in the midterm election.

Early in 2019, Governor Wolf signed an executive order creating a commission to explore ways Pennsylvania could curb gerrymandering and make redistricting fairer in the future.

The bipartisan Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission released a final report recently with recommendations to improve the process and find consensus in redistricting. The commission’s report is available here.

Appearing on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss the commission’s findings is David Thornburgh, Redistricting Reform Commission and President and CEO, Committee of Seventy.

The British are Coming cover image
Also, The British are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 recounts the first 21 months of America’s violent war for independence. From the battles at Lexington and Concord in spring 1775 to those at Trenton and Princeton in winter of 1776-1777. The story is told from the British perspective, as American militiamen and the Continental Army take on the world’s toughest military force.

Joining us on Thursday’s Smart Talk to talk about the first book in the Revolution Trilogy is Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Atkinson. He is also the author of the Liberation Trilogy—An Army at Dawn (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history), The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light, among others.

A legislative plan to eliminate property taxes

The debate over Pennsylvania school district property taxes rages on.

For years, lawmakers have proposed eliminating the property tax burden, with little success. Advocates for change say the current system places an undue burden on citizens who can least afford to pay, like seniors and those living on limited income.

Now, a new piece of legislation seeks to create a permanent fix to the funding shortfall that would be created by eliminating property taxes.

The proposal takes aim at retirement income that is not currently taxed by the state. Advocates for the plan say the current system encourages the relocation of retired people hoping to take advantage of tax savings while at the same time placing the funding burden on working people, providing them with an incentive to leave. This creates a revenue shortfall that the legislation will address.

Joining Smart Talk to talk about this most recent legislative initiative is Republican State Representative Frank Ryan of Lebanon County.

Photo of Rep. Frank Ryan
Republican State Representative Frank Ryan of Lebanon County appears on Smart Talk, September 11, 2019.

Also, area schools are open and one local agency says this is the time when both parents and school districts must take a hard look at policies and procedures designed to keep kids safe.

Back-to-school safety is more than transportation issues and facility security. It is also about knowing who has access to children and what to do if there is suspected abuse.

Appearing on Smart Talk to examine best-practice policies is Angela Liddle, CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.

Photo of Angela Liddle
Angela Liddle, CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, appears on Smart Talk, September 11, 2019.

Call ChildLine 1-800-932-0313 to report suspected child abuse or general child well-being concerns.

 

Legislation aims to help fire companies recoup cost

Firefighting is expensive.

There are recruiting costs, recurring training, and expensive equipment to purchase and maintain.

Forecasting those costs is especially difficult because firefighters don’t only respond to fire alarms or battle blazes. Many departments also respond to calls for emergency medical services in their areas.

In Pennsylvania, more than 96% of registered fire departments are manned by volunteers. Managing a volunteer fire department is an exercise in doing a lot with very little funding. As costs rise, their fundraising efforts must, as well.

There is new legislation in the works that would allow volunteer fire companies to bill for the cost of their emergency response.

The bill would allow local departments to seek compensation from the insurance companies who provide policy coverage for the buildings or vehicles involved in the emergency call.

Not everyone agrees that billing insurance providers is the right answer, or that this bill solves recurring funding problems. Opponents say that most policies don’t cover the cost of fire response and the bill’s language must be clarified.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the legislation and potential pitfalls are Republican State Representative Cris Dush of Jefferson County and Sam Marshall, President and CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania.

Also, Pennysylvania planned to expand gambling in the state by auctioning 10 additional mini casino licenses. Only five of them have been sold to date.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the impact this may have on the state budget is PaPost reporter Ed Mahon.

Republican State Representative Cris Dush of Jefferson County appears on Smart Talk September 10, 2019.
Republican State Representative Cris Dush of Jefferson County appears on Smart Talk September 10, 2019.
PA Post reporter Ed Mahon explains the debate over the Pennsylvania minimum wage.
PA Post reporter Ed Mahon explains mini casino licensing issues on Smart Talk September 10, 2019
Sam Marshall, President and CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, appears on Smart Talk September 10, 2019
Sam Marshall, President and CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, appears on Smart Talk September 10, 2019

Are you recycling properly?

Last year, Lancaster County became one of the first counties in central Pennsylvania to limit what waste materials could be recycled to plastic bottles, metal cans, glass jars and bottles and corrugated cardboard. It came in response to China deciding to stop accepting recyclables from the U.S. creating an overabundance of recyclables in this country.

At the same time, the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority began an education campaign encouraging consumers to put items in recycling bins that can be recycled and not what are referred to as contaminants like newspapers, junk mail or non-corrugated boxes.

A year later, too many contaminants are still going into recycling bins and it is costing more money to recycle.

Kathryn Sandoe, Chief Commercial Officer for the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority is on Monday’s Smart Talk to discuss today’s recycling.

Kathryn Sandoe, Chief Commercial Officer for the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority
Dr. Kathryn Sandoe, Chief Commercial Officer for the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, appears on Smart Talk, September 9, 2019.

Also, the Hatfields and McCoys had the most famous family conflict in American history on the border of West Virginia and Kentucky in the late 1800s. But there are myths surrounding the “feud” as it became known and it led to stereotypes about Appalachia that exist to this day.

The American Experience on PBS presents the documentary The Hatfields and McCoys Tuesday night (9 p.m. on WITF-TV).

The film’s producer, director and writer Randall McLowery talks about the two families and a changing America on Monday’s Smart Talk.

William Anderson Hatfield and Family - AMERICAN EXPERIENCE "The Feud"
William Anderson Hatfield (center) sits surrounded by his family on a winter’s day. Circa 1890s.

Is Pennsylvania doing enough for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup?

More than 40 years ago the U.S. committed efforts to the restoration of the nation’s waters. The Clean Water Act of 1972 codified the response to decades of industrial and agricultural pollution, and placed the responsibility of action with the states.

The Chesapeake Bay was identified by the EPA as being significantly polluted and states in its watershed were put on notice to clean up their act. In 1983, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, along with Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, signed the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement accepting responsibility for our share of the pollution load. The Agreement spelled out specific mandates for improving water quality in the Bay and tidal rivers.

Over the last four decades, the Agreement has been evaluated and updated with a plan of action in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. In 2014, the watershed states, including Pennsylvania, signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The Agreement includes measurable goals and a timeline that accelerate the pace of restoration.

Now, Pennsylvania’s cleanup efforts are being called into question.

In August, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan sent a letter of concern to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, criticizing Pennsylvania’s implementation plan. Hogan said the Commonwealth’s final plan falls “far short” of achieving pollution reductions and includes a “troubling funding gap of over $300 million annually.”

How does Pennsylvania respond to the unusual criticism leveled by Maryland’s Governor?

Joining Smart Talk to discuss how Pennsylvania is holding up its end of the cleanup agreement is Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Also, are consumers more likely to select products that are labeled as “natural?”

A recent study examined the “natural-is-better” bias and found that it translates to behavior choices with real implications.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss their research findings are Dr. Brian Meier, Ph.D, professor of psychology at Gettysburg College and Dr. Courtney Lappas, Ph.D, professor of biology at Lebanon Valley College.

Secretary Patrick McDonnell, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, September 6, 2019.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell, appeared on Smart Talk, September 6, 2019.
Dr. Brian Meier, Professor of psychology at Gettysburg College, and Dr. Courtney Lappas, professor of biology at Lebanon Valley College, appeared on Smart Talk, September 6, 2019.
Dr. Brian Meier, Professor of psychology at Gettysburg College, and Dr. Courtney Lappas, professor of biology at Lebanon Valley College, appeared on Smart Talk, September 6, 2019.

Urban Forests enhance quality of life

The presence of trees is an integral part of a community’s quality of life.

Trees provide oxygen, improve air quality, stabilize the soil and support wildlife. They are so important to the health of the planet that they have been identified as a primary solution to climate change.

Urban forests make up a large component of America’s forested areas. They come in different shapes and sizes and include parks, river boundaries, street trees and other community greenways. As our nation becomes more urbanized, urban forests become more important to the environment.

Helping communities select, plant and care for trees is a skill in high demand. As communities try to leverage the benefits of trees, finding qualified people to work in the industry is becoming more difficult. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the tree care industry will need 30,000 new workers in the next five years.

New training initiatives to prepare former inmates to enter arboriculture professions are helping to fill the workforce gap, but is that enough?

The demand for a tree management workforce is only one area of emphasis by the Department of Natural Resources.

The Pennsylvania DCNR is also focused on taking advantage of urban wood as an underutilized natural resource. The goal is to tap into the unmet potential of trees in urban areas, which could be used to produce furniture, flooring, fuel pellets or in construction once they are harvested.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the value and management of Pennsylvania’s urban forests are Greg Czarnecki, Director of Applied Climate Science, DCNR, Rachel Reyna, Section Chief, Rural and Community Forestry, DCNR, Shea Zwerver, TreeVitalize Coordinator, Community Conservation Collaboration coordinator (inmate arboriculture training program), DCNR, and Ben Livelsperger, Forest Program Specialist, Wood Utilization, DCNR.

Greg Czarnecki, Rachel Reyna, Shea Zwerver, and Ben Livelsperger appear on Smart Talk, September 4, 2019.
Greg Czarnecki, Rachel Reyna, Shea Zwerver, and Ben Livelsperger appear on Smart Talk, September 4, 2019.

Are independently-owned pharmacies at risk?

The high cost of prescription drugs isn’t only hurting consumers, it may also be partly responsible for the demise of the independently owned pharmacy.

In the last decade alone, more than 16 percent of independently owned pharmacies in the United States have shut down. The impact on rural communities is especially significant where pharmacy options are limited.

No one can agree on any one reason for the decline but many point fingers at Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBM’s.

PBM’s were established in the 1960’s to reduce health-care costs, by basically performing the function of a drug demand aggregator, or buyer. They were to leverage the buying power of employers and insurers to reduce the overall cost of prescriptions.

What started as a model to help lower health care costs, PBM’s are now being scrutinized as part of the problem in price transparency.

PBM’s say they reduce costs for millions of Americans through drug plans and estimate savings of over $650 Billion over the next decade.

When it comes to prescription drug costs and supplies there are a number of stakeholders; Pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacy’s (independent and large), health care providers, and, ultimately, the consumer.

Can PBM’s help one or more without harming the others?

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the impact of PBM’s on independent pharmacies and consumers are the Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Patricia Epple, president and CEO of PA Pharmacists Association, Chuck Kray pharmacist with Hershey Pharmacy.

Auditor General report on the role of pharmacy benefit managers

Chuck Kray pharmacist with Hershey Pharmacy and Patricia Epple, president and CEO of PA Pharmacists Association appear on Smart Talk September 5, 2019.
Chuck Kray pharmacist with Hershey Pharmacy and Patricia Epple, president and CEO of PA Pharmacists Association appear on Smart Talk September 5, 2019.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale appears on Smart Talk September 5, 2019.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale

 

 

Harrisburg School District starts school year under new management

<span data-contrast=”auto”>Last </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>week</span><span data-contrast=”auto”>, </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>the </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>Harrisburg School District opened the 2019-2020 school year under </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>new state-appointed </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>leadership. </span><span data-ccp-props=”{&quot;201341983&quot;:0,&quot;335559739&quot;:160,&quot;335559740&quot;:259}”> </span>

<span data-contrast=”auto”>Years of </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>reported </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>mismanagement and poor budgeting caught up </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>with </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>the District and e</span><span data-contrast=”auto”>arlier this summer t</span><span data-contrast=”auto”>he Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>operational </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>control </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>of the schools</span><span data-contrast=”auto”>. New management </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>found </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>over </span><a href=”https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/08/as-harrisburg-school-year-starts-a-look-back-at-the-summer-of-turmoil-and-change.html”><span data-contrast=”none”>$5 million</span></a><span data-contrast=”auto”> worth of taxpayer dollars </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>that </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>were questionably </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>spent. </span><span data-ccp-props=”{&quot;201341983&quot;:0,&quot;335559739&quot;:160,&quot;335559740&quot;:259}”> </span>

<span data-contrast=”auto”>On top of financial issues, </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>the </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>Harrisburg School District has historically underperformed academically with a </span><a href=”https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/04/harrisburg-school-district-teacher-turnover-blamed-for-low-test-scores-on-last-state-report-card.html”><span data-contrast=”none”>below average graduation rate of 49 percent</span></a><span data-contrast=”auto”> compared to the state average of 86 percent. </span><span data-ccp-props=”{&quot;201341983&quot;:0,&quot;335559739&quot;:160,&quot;335559740&quot;:259}”> </span>

<span data-contrast=”auto”>However, even with the school district organization in flux the new administration </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>feels </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>optimistic for the future. </span><span data-ccp-props=”{&quot;201341983&quot;:0,&quot;335551550&quot;:1,&quot;335551620&quot;:1,&quot;335559739&quot;:160,&quot;335559740&quot;:259}”> </span>

<span data-contrast=”auto”>Appearing on </span><i><span data-contrast=”auto”>Smart Talk</span></i><span data-contrast=”auto”> to discuss the </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>future of the </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>Harrisburg School District are Dr. Janet Samuels, </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>court appointed Receiver, </span><span data-contrast=”auto”>and Mr. Christopher Celmer, acting assistant Superintendent. </span><span data-ccp-props=”{&quot;201341983&quot;:0,&quot;335551550&quot;:1,&quot;335551620&quot;:1,&quot;335559739&quot;:160,&quot;335559740&quot;:259}”> </span>

<img class=”wp-image-104411 size-large” src=”https://www.witf.io/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/DSC_0990-e1567516607535-1920×1648.jpg” alt=”Photo of acting Superintendant Christopher Celmer and Dr. Jane Samuels, court appointed Receiver” width=”1920″ height=”1648″ /> Acting Superintendant Christopher Celmer and court appointed Receiver Dr. Janet Samuels appear on Smart Talk, September 3, 2019