Smart Talk: Poll shows support for higher minimum wage, legal pot; Republicans hesitant to get vaccinated

The most recent Franklin & Marshall College state-wide poll found that only 36 percent of the state’s voters believe that Pennsylvania is “headed in the right direction.” That’s significantly lower (57 percent) than a poll taken before the COVID-19 pandemic and state-wide mitigation efforts impacted daily life.

The poll indicated 67 percent of those surveyed support increasing the state’s minimum wage and 59 percent favor legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. Both are issues garnering a lot of attention right now, as is the polarization of vaccines.

The poll also gauged voters perceptions of President Biden and former President Trump’s records, as well as results of the state’s 2020 presidential election.

Smart Talk Tuesday will discuss the poll results with Berwood Yost, Director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College.

Pennsylvania farms feeling pressure of population growth

Every five years the US Department of Agriculture conducts a Census of Agriculture to count farms and ranches, along with the people who operate them.

The Census of Agriculture offers the only source of aggregate agriculture data for every county in the nation. The most recent Census, conducted in 2017 and released in 2019, found a significant decline in the number of farms in Pennsylvania.

A new report from the Center for Economic and Community Development in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, points to areas experiencing population growth as a primary reason.

Timothy Kelsey, a professor of agricultural economics and co-director of the Center for Economic and Community Development, appears on Smart Talk Tuesday, along with Emily Ciganik, undergraduate research associate in the Center for Economic and Community Development and the report co-author, to share their findings.

Smart Talk: COVID-19 guidelines change as vaccinations move forward

Airdate: Monday, March 15, 2021

One year into the pandemic and vaccinations are underway throughout the country, which is remarkable given the virus was unknown to medical professionals before December 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track diseases and respond with guidelines to prevent the spread and severity of outbreaks like COVID. Throughout the pandemic they have responded by issuing guidelines for Americans, which government agencies have used to develop mitigation practices.

While there are still unknowns as to how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19, the CDC has updated guidance for vaccinated individuals moving forward.

Dr. Gerald Maloney, DO, is the Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Hospitals and he joins Smart Talk Monday to put the guidance into context, as well as answer questions about the ecology of the virus.

Updated CDC Guidelines for vaccinated individuals:

• Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart.
• Visit with unvaccinated people from one other household indoors without wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart if everyone in the other household is at low risk for severe disease.
• Refrain from quarantine and testing if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 after contact with someone who has COVID-19.

US/China relations – Presidential memorabilia

Relations with the People’s Republic of China loom large for the new Biden Administration. International security issues, allegations of genocide, and fallout from the pandemic have stressed diplomatic relations between the two nations.

China emerged internationally as a major economic power in the past 15 years and, as a result, the Asian nation has ramped up militarily and become increasingly active around the globe.

Bucknell University Professor Zhiqun Zhu, Ph.D.,Professor of Political Science and International Relations is a leading expert on U.S.-China policy. He joins Smart Talk to describe the challenges ahead.

Presidential memorabilia more than just a hobby for local historian

President’s Day federal holiday in February was just a few weeks ago.

For Smart Talk, it was an opportunity to look back at the men who have held our nation’s highest office, and enjoy some personal stories from a local collector and historian.

To continue that conversation and take a closer look into the personal side of the presidency, along with some little known facts, is Dr. Larry Cook, DC, an historian and lifelong collector of presidential memorabilia.

Smart Talk: Plastic pollution prevalent in area waterways

Plastic pollution is everywhere and it’s getting worse.

From single-use food items to plastic bags, plastic products litter communities, overburden landfills and pollute waterways.

A report by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center paints an alarming picture of the scope of the problem. Their research found that microplastic contamination existed in 100 percent of water samples taken from more than 50 of Pennsylvania’s most popular rivers, lakes and streams.

Municipalities want legislative action to address pollution

Communities across Pennsylvania are demanding the legislature take action, but in their absence not stand in the way of local communities enacting ordinances to address waste and litter from single-use plastics.

Philadelphia is the latest municipality to file suit to undo the General Assembly’s preemption law. Councilman Mark Squilla represents City Council’s First District, a diverse and growing area that stretches along the Delaware River and he appears on Smart Talk Thursday to discuss the legal action.

Also on the program are David Masur, Executive Director, PennEnvironment, along with Faran Savitz, Conservation Associate, PennEnvironment and John Wallace, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Director, Millersville University Center for Environmental Sciences. They join Smart Talk Thursday to highlight the dangerous levels of microplastics in Pennsylvania waterways.

The Conestoga River in Lancaster County – one of the waterways tested in the research. (Photo by Scott LaMar)

Smart Talk: Should the Supreme Court decide settled cases?

In a rare court action, Chief Justice John Roberts filed a lone dissent, at the same time accusing the other Justices of expanding the court’s jurisdiction.

Chief Justice Roberts went so far as to accuse his colleagues of “turning into advice columnists,” after the court decided to allow a review of a case that lower courts had already dismissed without precedent.

Michael R. Dimino, Professor of Law Widener University Commonwealth Law School shares his perspective and analysis of the recent SCOTUS action on Smart Talk Wednesday.

Dog licensing fees and puppy health directly linked

The Department of Agriculture, along with veterinarians from the Pennsylvania SPCA and Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA), are highlighting the need for a dog license fee increase to help pay for sick dogs housed in breeding operations.

Pennsylvania dog license fees help pay for dog wardens to perform unannounced inspections twice a year — inspections critical for maintaining healthy breeding kennels.

Legislators introduced legislation to raise the fees and Democratic state Representative Eddie Day Pashinski of Luzerne County will appear on Smart Talk Wednesday, along with Dr. Mary Jane McNamee, DVM, Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association to discuss the issue.

Smart Talk: Killing the Chesapeake–Pa poisoning the Bay

The beautiful Susquehanna River is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States. It is also thought to be one of the oldest rivers in the world, even older than the Hudson, Delaware and Potomac Rivers.

For many years, the Susquehanna has been targeted by environmentalists because of the excessive pollution it receives from agricultural runoff, farming and untreated sewage. Because the river is a main tributary feeding in the Chesapeake Bay, Susquehanna pollution is blamed for endangering that important waterway.

The USA Today Network recently published an investigative series on how Pennsylvania is failing in its obligation to clean up the river, and by extension, the Chesapeake Bay.

Joining Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss their reporting are Scott Fisher, USA Today Network Central Pennsylvania regional editor, Mike Argento, investigative reporter for the York Daily Record and Julia Rentsch, environmental reporter for Delmarva Now.

Celebrating the Commonwealth’s 340th Birthday

Happy Charter Day, Pennsylvania!

There are no in-person events this year to recognize the state’s birthday, but anyone interested in learning more or seeing the 340-year-old Charter need only visit the Pennsylvania State Archives to view the original document.

David Carmichael is the Pennsylvania state Archivist and he appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to share the programs that are available through this week.

Smart Talk: Targeting vaccines to teachers and childcare workers

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

Getting teachers back in the classroom and schools in session are top priorities for parents and administrators.

Last week, the Wolf administration, along with a bipartisan COVID-19 Task Force, announced that Pennsylvania’s shipment of the recently approved Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine will be earmarked for teachers and staff.

The administration is coordinating with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Education and Health to establish vaccination sites. The Pennsylvania National Guard and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI) will administer the shots.

Joining Smart Talk Monday to discuss details and the plan moving forward are Pennsylvania acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega, followed by Republican state Senator Ryan Aument from Lancaster County, who is a member of the COVID-19 Task Force.

Smart Talk: Travel and recreation opportunities plentiful in Pennsylvania

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

Warmer temperatures this week make it seem like spring is right around the corner. Travel restrictions are loosening, to some degree, so now may be the time to begin planning.

The Pennsylvania Tourism Office wants to inspire “dreams and plans” for travel in a post-COVID Pennsylvania, and have published a free travel guide to inspire a Pennsylvania getaway.

Carrie Fischer Lepore is the Deputy Secretary of Marketing, Tourism, & Film, with the Department of Community and Economic Development and she joins Smart Talk Friday to share highlights of the 2021 Happy Traveler guide.

Pennsylvanians seek parks and outdoor activities during the pandemic

When Pennsylvania locked down for COVID mitigation, residents sought relief outside.

Over the last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources saw park attendance increase by more than twenty-five percent. A poll of park visitors found that the vast majority felt that time spent in recreation areas has been essential to their mental and/or physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As winter weather abates, park and recreation areas are anticipating more record attendance. Appearing on Smart Talk Friday to discuss recreation opportunities in Pennsylvania are the DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, along with John Hallas, Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks.

2021 Central PA Spelling Bee

The WITF Central PA Spelling Bee will be buzzing along to your television soon!

On Sunday, March 7, 32 students from across Central Pennsylvania will compete for the title of regional champion. The winner will advance to compete in the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Program host and WITF multimedia producer Keira McGuire appears on Smart Talk Friday to share the details.


Smart Talk: Paying to cross bridges to pay for repairs

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

There are more than 25 thousand state-owned bridges in Pennsylvania; the third-largest number of bridges in the country. With the average bridge more than 50 years old, planners are challenged to develop plans to upgrade and fund the work.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation made headlines last month after announcing plans to toll nine bridges to help fund future repairs.

The tolling concept was approved in November by the Public Private Transportation Partnership board, which does not require legislative approval to move forward. There is opposition to the plan, though, and the potential for legislation to limit PennDOT’s authority to approve tolling.

Appearing on Smart Talk Thursday to address the bridge plan is Ken McClain, Alternative Funding Program Director with PennDOT.

For more information about PennDOT funding, visit here. To contact PennDOT visit here.

Smart Talk: Tax deadline approaches, what this means for stimulus recipients and the unemployed

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

It’s tax time and even in a normal year tax professionals are challenged to answer individual’s questions about their returns. During the pandemic, these questions are even more complicated due to unemployment and stimulus payments.

The IRS has their work cut out for them, too, as they deal with numerous virus-related provisions passed by Congress. Questions persist, including the impact of stimulus payments on taxable income, deductions for working from home, and tax credits that apply specifically to the pandemic.

Joining Smart Talk Wednesday to answer your questions are Ben Bostic, CPA and Director, Boyer & Ritter LLC and Brian Kutz, CPA and Manager, Boyer & Ritter LLC

The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover makes historic landing

The first human expedition to the “Red Planet” came one small step closer last month with the landing of the Perseverance Rover on the surface of Mars.

The Rover will search for signs of ancient life, while gathering rocks and soil for eventual testing back on earth.

Allen Chen is a systems engineer and Mars 2020 Entry, Descent and Landing Lead with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and he appears on Smart Talk Wednesday to share the significance of the Perseverance landing.

This is the first image NASA’s Perseverance rover sent back after touching down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. The view, from one of Perseverance’s Hazard Cameras, is partially obscured by a dust cover. Image made available by NASA/JPL-Caltech