Recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania – what happens next?

Recreational marijuana is a hot-button issue in Pennsylvania.

Governor Wolf recently came out in favor of legalizing cannabis for recreational use. Wolf arrived at this position following Lt. Governor John Fetterman’s 67-county listening tour. As part of the tour, Fetterman participated in town-hall style meetings to gauge the support for legalizing marijuana and found that of those who “voiced their opinions, the majority supported legalization.”

Lt. Gov

Justin Kocis

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, appears on Smart Talk, October 18, 2019.

The tour results are consistent with a March Franklin & Marshall College Poll that shows 59 percent, or nearly seven in 10 voters, support the idea of legalizing marijuana.

Already there are 33 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana use in some form. Many of these states, like Pennsylvania, allow for limited medical use.

Not everyone is on board the legalization train. Many organizations have voiced their opposition, like the American Lung AssociationCenters for Disease Control, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who cite statistics showing the impact of marijuana on physical and mental health. Their position is that just because it is legal in many states, doesn’t mean it is safe.

This week, two Pennsylvania Democratic state senators introduced legislation that would legalize adult marijuana use. Any legislation could face a roadblock in a Republican controlled senate.

Appearing on Smart Talk Friday to discuss the administration’s support for legalizing recreational marijuana is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

Lt. Gov

Justin Kocis

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, appears on Smart Talk, October 18, 2019.

Should college athletes be paid?

Today’s college athletes are considered amateurs. They are not paid for their performances on the field or court. At the same time, many of the universities and colleges they represent rake in millions of dollars through TV contracts and ticket sales.

Last month, California became the first state to make it legal for college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Athletes will also be allowed to hire agents to represent them to seek out deals.

Almost a dozen other states have quickly followed up, including Pennsylvania.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is vehemently opposed to allowing athletes to be paid. Opponents of so-called “Fair Pay to Play” say student athletes already are compensated with scholarships, meals and room and board that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over four years.

Appearing on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss their proposal to allow athletes to be compensated are Democratic state Representatives Dan Miller and Ed Gainey, both of Allegheny County. We’ll also hear from former All-America football player Adam Breneman and youth coach Archie Smith, Jr., who also played college football.

What will your obituary say about you?

Losing a loved one can be a difficult time for everyone.

When a family member or friend passes away, capturing their memories can be a challenging process. Obituaries are an essential part of someone’s life and an important way to continue someone’s legacy. However, are we prepared to write an obituary?

Obituaries today often are different than just a few years ago when just the basics of the deceased were listed. Those kinds of obituaries still exist but often there are those that talk about how the person died, what kind of personality they had, what they enjoyed doing, what was unique about them and even their quirks.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss writing an obituary is Alan Foster, Adjunct Professor of Journalism, Department of English, Millersville University.

Also, September is Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a time when one of the fastest growing populations in Pennsylvania celebrate their culture and contributions but zero in on challenges they face, as well.

On Friday’s Smart Talk, we discuss the heritage and challenges with members of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs — Executive Director Luz Colon, George Fernandez and Delma Rivera-Lytle.

The Art of Storytelling

Everyone has a story to tell.

Many people may not know it, but their life experiences and the knowledge each person possesses are stories. Some are better at storytelling than others, but everyone does have a story.

The eighth annual Lititz Storytelling Festival is scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday is one of the world’s great storytellers; Daniel Morden who will also perform at the Lititz Storytelling Festival. David Worth, one of the founders of the Lititz Storytelling Festival joins the conversation, as well.

Also, in the early morning of April 14, 2014, the militant Islamic group Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from their school in the small town of Chibok, Nigeria. The brazen and violent act made headlines around the world and galvanized global leaders demanding the girls return to their families.

In the book titled Beneath the Tamarind Tree, journalist and author Isha Sesay tells the story of the abduction, perseverance and eventual return of some of the girls.

Isha Sesay will deliver the keynote address for the 2019 Harrisburg Book Festival, which is taking place from October 3-6. Also appearing on the program is Alex Brubaker, manager of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, the festival sponsor.

Making a difference for Pa’s most vulnerable children

Children entering foster in Pennsylvania often encounter an overwhelmed system.

In 2017, there were more than 20 thousand children’s cases brought before Dependency Court. Adjudicating foster care cases is a lengthy process. On average, a child will spend nearly two full years in foster care while their case is determined. During that time, many kids will change foster homes three or more times.

It is a difficult and burdensome process to find safe, forever homes for abused or neglected children.

That’s where volunteers come in. Court Appointed Special Advocates are trained volunteers appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interest in court. CASA volunteers help judges develop a fuller picture of each child’s life for the judge to make the most well-informed decision for each child.

The program is very successful, but there are more kids in the foster care system than there are volunteers to support them.

Appearing on Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss how the state can better support foster kids are Pennsylvania CASA Executive Director Jennifer DeBalko, Art McNulty, an Attorney and long-time CASA volunteer and Judge Edward Guido, Cumberland County, Common Pleas.

Also on Tuesday’s Smart Talk — Democratic State Senator Sharif Street of Philadelphia is proposing legislation that would make those convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison eligible for parole after serving 35 years behind bars. Under Street’s plan, second-degree murderers could be paroled after 25 years.

Sen. Street explains his proposal on Smart Talk.

Shawn’s Law; a bill to combat aided suicide

When 25-year-old Shawn Shatto died by suicide in May, her family was left struggling to understand why their daughter would take her own life. Imagine their horror to learn that she died with the help of an on-line chat room.

Republican State Rep. Dawn Keefer, who serves parts of York and Cumberland Counties, wants to make sure other families are spared the same pain.

Keefer introduced new legislation called Shawn’s Law that would increase criminal penalties for people convicted of aiding or encouraging another person to commit suicide.

Representative Keefer joins Smart Talk to discuss how the bill will increase sentences and strengthen the justice system’s response.

Also, as people age, maintaining the ability to remain at home may become more of a challenge.

Healthcare is complicated, especially for anyone dealing with health problems and limited resources.

Pennsylvania is launching a state-wide program to help Pennsylvanians manage their health care and, hopefully, remain in their homes longer.

The program is called Community HealthChoices and it is targeted toward the elderly who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid and adults with physical disabilities.

How do you know if you qualify and what, if anything, will change in your healthcare plan?

Appearing on Smart Talk on Monday to offer program details are Kevin Hancock, Deputy Secretary for Long Term Living, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and Laval Miller-Wilson, executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project.

Smart Talk road trip to the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival

The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival takes the stage this weekend in beautiful Adams County. The festival is well-known among music lovers for presenting top-notch Bluegrass music and as a place featuring entertainment for the entire family.

Smart Talk broadcasts from the Granite Hill Camping resort for a look at Pennsylvania’s long legacy of musical storytelling and Bluegrass tradition. There is also a discussion and preview of the new Ken Burns Country Music series.

In the series, PBS filmmaker Ken Burns explores the history of a uniquely American Art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, Burns highlights how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become “America’s music.” Burn’s series premieres on WITF TV September 15 at 8pm.

Stryker Combat Team Iraq anniversary and Stop blaming mental illness for mass shootings

Pennsylvania’s 28th Infantry Division of the National Guard has a long and storied past. The Division battle lineage dates to military campaigns during the Civil War and to the present-day conflict in Iraq.

The “Iron Division” was also the first, and only, National Guard unit to field the Stryker Combat Vehicle as part of the Army’s reorganization in the early 2000’s.

Ten years ago, the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 28th Infantry Division deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. WITF went along with a journalist embedded in the unit to file reports from the field.

Appearing on Smart Talk is former WITF journalist Scott Detrow to reflect on the anniversary and experience. Detrow is currently a political correspondent for NPR. He covers the 2020 presidential campaign and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.

Retired Col. Marc Ferraro, Former 56th Stryker Brigade Commander, and Maj. Lois Mendoza, Commander 1st Battalion, 108th Field Artillery Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team are also in the studio to share their perspective on the historic deployment.

Also, the recent mass shootings in Ohio and Texas have renewed calls for greater attention on individuals with mental illnesses. Some Pennsylvania lawmakers say that any new gun control efforts must include an investment in mental health treatment and screening.

Mental health professionals, however, say that people with mental illness are being unfairly cast as the perpetrators. They point out that a history of violence and substance abuse are much more accurate predictors of future violence than a mental health diagnosis.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the issue are Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis and Dr. John “Jack” Rozel, MD, Medical Director, Resolve Crisis Services and President, American Association for Emergency Psychiatry.

For more on mental health screening plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. A partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

Franklin & Marshall poll gauges voter satisfaction

The most recent Franklin and Marshall College poll finds that Pennsylvania voters are generally satisfied with how things are going in the state, and their personal lives.

Keystone voters also agree on several key issues; overhaul the state tax framework and get rid of the current property tax system. They also agree on how and who should pay for community police coverage.

Contrast this with how the electorate feels about the direction of the country and there is a little less optimism. The sentiment is split along party lines.

There are a few surprises in the poll results, as well. Like, the approval ratings for President Trump and which Democratic candidates top the survey.

Franklin and Marshall College political analyst and pollster Dr. G. Terry Madonna appears on Monday’s Smart Talk to discuss the poll results and provide perspective.

Election coverage on WITF is supported by the law firm of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP

After weekend shootings: Gun restrictions-what works?/Hate crimes in PA

Many Americans and lawmakers are demanding that something be done to prevent mass shootings like the ones in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend. Thirty-one people died in those two incidents and dozens of others were wounded and injured.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released a statement saying he supports the U.S. Congress to vote and pass legislation that would require universal background checks on all commercial firearm purchases. The bill was approved by the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives earlier this year but hasn’t been voted on in the Republican majority Senate. Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey blames Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for holding up the vote.

Wolf also said he would like to see a ban on assault-style weapons and more attention paid to white nationalists.

The alleged shooter in El Paso reportedly said he wanted to shoot Latinos.

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk, we’re joined by Dr. Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and Chad Lassiter, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.