Ending child marriage in Pennsylvania/Lobbying for renewables


What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, June 18, 2019:

Child marriage is something that happens in other countries, right? Not so fast, advocates say, because there are young people getting married in the U.S.

Around the world, nearly 12 million girls marry before the age of 18 every year. Numbers in the U.S. are a little harder to come by since there are few studies and no federal laws regarding child marriage. Each state sets its own requirements. However, data collected from 41 states found that more than 200,000 minors were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015.

With some exceptions, there is no minimum age in Pennsylvania for a child to marry. Children, mostly girls, age 15 or younger can marry with parental consent and if a court decides it is in her best interest. Children 16 or 17 only need parental consent.

Legislation is being considered in the Pennsylvania Senate to eliminate the loopholes in the current law that allow for marriage under 18. Legislators say there is a fine line between consent and coercion, and Senate Bill 81 will provide both parties the opportunity to consider their options as adults.

Appearing on Smart Talk on Tuesday to discuss the issue and legislation are sponsors Sen. John Sabatina Jr., a Democrat serving Philadelphia (part) County, Sen. Judith Schwank, a Democrat serving Berks (part) County, and Fraidy Reiss, executive director of Unchained At Last.


Sen. Judith Schwank (L) and Sen. John Sabatina (R)

Also, hundreds of Pennsylvanians will descend on Harrisburg this week to advocate for bipartisan legislation that will transition Pennsylvania to 100% renewable energy to help combat climate change. Joining us on Smart Talk to talk about the state’s largest annual citizen lobby day for the environment is David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment.

Proposed changes to PIAA playoff and transfer rules / Changes in emission test rules

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St. Joseph Prep’s Justin Montague holds the championship trophy after a PIAA, Class AAAA championship football game against Pine-Richland in Hershey, Pa. on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. St Joseph won 49-41. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)

What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, June 17, 2019:

A 1972 Pennsylvania law requires the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) to accept private schools as members. For decades, the PIAA has contended that the law thus prohibits holding separate playoff tournaments for private and public schools.

Yet, as private schools have continued to dominate state playoffs in a variety of sports, many public schools have urged separating the playoffs to level the playing field between schools that can recruit and schools that have fixed geographic boundaries.

State Representative Aaron Bernstine introduced legislation last week that he says addresses these issues. House Bill 1600 would require the PIAA to institute separate tournaments for public and private schools (charter schools would be considered public schools), eliminate many restrictions on students transferring, and create a final “crossover game” between the winners of the public and private tournaments.

While the bill enjoys support from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi called the legislation an “end around” in a statement last week.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the bill and its implications on high school athletics in Pennsylvania is Rep. Aaron Bernstine.

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Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R – Beaver County, Butler County and Lawrence County)

Also, last Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee approved a bill on a party-line vote that would lift the requirement for annual emissions inspections on vehicles for up to eight years after the vehicle was manufactured. Emissions test cost an average of about $40 and are required in 25 Pennsylvania counties.

Opponents worry that the bill could jeopardize $420 million in annual federal funding that Pennsylvania receives under the Clean Air Act. In other states, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted waivers of the emissions testing requirement.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the legislation and Pennsylvania’s air quality are Senator Kim Ward, Chair of the Transportation Committee, and Joe Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel for the Pennsylvania Clean Air Council.

CORRECTION: Construction of vehicle emission testing facilities was approved by the legislature during the Gov. Robert Casey Administration in 1993. Gov. Tom Ridge’s Administration reached a settlement with Envirotest Systems Corp.to end the program. That settlement resulted in Pennsylvania paying Envirotest millions of dollars. We regret not making that clear during Smart Talk.

The changing role of fathers and ending animal suffering


What to look for on Smart Talk, Friday, June 14, 2019:

Today’s father comes in many forms. Fathers are not always the primary source of income or the main disciplinarian in a household. Fathers can be single or married, self-employed or stay-at-home, gay or straight.

Ahead of this Father’s Day, Smart Talk discusses the changing role of today’s fathers. Joining Smart Talk to discuss modern fatherhood are Jonathan Heisey-Grove, president of The National At-Home Dad Network, Leslie Penkunas, editor of Central Penn Parent and Derrick James, director of fatherhood programs at Tri-County Community Action.

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Derrick James (L) and Leslie Penkunas (R)

Also, Humane Pennsylvania’s Healthy Pets, Healthy Communities initiative seeks to ensure access to high quality veterinary care regardless of an owner’s income. The initiative aims to ensure every animal in Berks County receives health care to keep them out of shelters and in their homes. The effort is funded by a $3.1 million grant from the Giorgi Family Foundation, the largest animal welfare grant in U.S. history. One of Humane Pennsylvania’s community partners is No Nonsense Neutering, which provides affordable spay and neutering services for dogs and cats, along with core vaccines. The key to this initiative, both groups agree, is the scale of the effort.

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Martha Kahan (L) and Karel Minor (R)

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss efforts to end preventable animal suffering in Pennsylvania are Karel Minor, CEO of Humane Pennsylvania, and Martha Kahan, President of No Nonsense Neutering.

Pennsylvania Game Commission audit / PA insurance marketplace takeover


A hunter on State Game Lands (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

What to look for on Smart Talk, June 13, 2019:

The Pennsylvania Game Commission was established in 1895 to manage, protect, and preserve PA wildlife. The Commission also regulates the hunting and trapping of game, operates game farms, and employs state game wardens.

The audit identified several escrow accounts outside the purview of the Pennsylvania Treasury, a high number of pool vehicles beyond what the Commission’s management estimates is necessary, and a failure to audit royalty checks from organizations that drill on State Game Lands as potential concerns. The report also made 43 recommendations to address its findings.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the results of the audit and the Game Commission’s response are Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Game Commission Spokesperson Travis Lau.

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Also, the federal government has managed Pennsylvania’s online health insurance exchange for those who buy individual insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act since 2014. Last week, House party leaders Bryan Cutler (R) and Frank Dermody (D) introduced legislation directing the state to take over operating the exchange, which they estimate will save the Commonwealth tens of millions of dollars each year. Gov. Tom Wolf supports the proposal.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the legislation are House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, and WITF Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis.


House Majority Leader Rep. Bryan Cutler

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House Minority Leader Rep. Frank Dermody

The proposed Family Care Act


What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, June 11, 2019:

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness, taking time off from work for treatment can be costly, or even impossible. Families can risk financial hardship when faced with long-term treatments or even for routine medical events like the birth of a baby.

To help mitigate this problem there is proposed legislation that would allow workers access to paid family and medical leave. Called the Family Care Act, the legislation would establish a statewide family and medical leave insurance program.

All working individuals would make small contributions from their weekly earnings to the leave program, which would be administered by the Department of Labor & Industry. Leave benefits would be calculated on a graduated scale to make the program accessible to all workers, regardless of income.

Joining us on Smart Talk to discuss the Family Care Act legislation are sponsors Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, and Sen. Maria Collett, D-Bucks and Motgomery, along with Karen Showalter, senior campaign director for MomsRising.com’s Food Justice Team and the Pennsylvania State Moms Task Force.

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From left to right: Sen. Maria Collett, Karen Showalter, and Sen. Dan Laughlin.

Pilot programs show promise in the Capital Region

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What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday, June 12, 2019:

For years, there has been a steady increase in the demand for health and human service programs in the Capital Region. A partnership, led by United Way of the Capital Region, is working to face that growing demand.

In 2014, UWCR partnered with Harrisburg Regional Chamber, West Shore Chamber of Commerce, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, Cumberland County, Dauphin County and Perry County to conduct a community needs assessment.

In response to its findings, the partnership developed three pilot programs to tackle a lack of access to health care, disparities in school readiness and workforce development.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the program’s findings and successes are Tim Fatzinger, CEO of United Way of the Capital Region, Jeannine Peterson, CEO of Hamilton Health Center, and Dr. Mark K. Leidy, Ed. D., Superintendent of the Mechanicsburg Area School District.

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From left to right: Jeannine Peterson, Tim Fatzinger, Mark K. Leidy

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United Way of the Capital Region’s school readiness pilot program. Photos courtesy of United Way of the Capital Region.

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United Way of the Capital Region’s school readiness pilot program. Photos courtesy of United Way of the Capital Region.

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United Way of the Capital Region’s workforce development program. Photo courtesy of United Way of the Capital Region.

Why are mothers still dying from childbirth? (Encore episode)


What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, March 18, 2019:

Giving birth to a child is one of the most significant events in a woman’s life. It is also one of the most dangerous.

It is difficult to believe that in a modern medical era women still die from childbirth complications. In fact, while maternal mortality in the world has declined, rates in the U.S have increased.

Approximately 700 women die each year in the U.S. as a result of pregnancy or pregnancy‐related complications. For every woman that dies, dozens more experience severe complications.

For minority women, the risk is even greater. Black women are dying at three to four times the rate of white women after childbirth.

What is killing these mothers? Are these deaths preventable?

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss factors affecting maternal mortality are Dr. Rebecca Sieber, M.D., OB-GYN, Lancaster Physicians for Women, Lancaster General Hospital, Dr. Jason Baxter, M.D., Associate Professor, OB-GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and member of the Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Committee, and Dolores Smith, mission director maternal and child health, March of Dimes in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Jersey.


Dr. Rebecca Sieber, OB/GYN

Mental Health Awareness Month


What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday, May 29, 2019:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Nationwide, 57.7 million Americans – nearly one-in-four – live with some type of mental health condition, and about 20 percent of children have a diagnosable mental illness during a given year.

Since 1949, Mental Health America has run a campaign in May to educate the public about the many forms of mental illness that affect people as well as how to improve mental health.

This year’s campaign focuses on the mind and body and includes topics such as animal companionship, spirituality and religion and work-life balance.

Another issue related to mental health is stigma and discrimination. Though people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, media portrayals often lead to misperceptions that people with mental illnesses are inherently violent. Many employers are also unaware of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to employees with mental health conditions even though workplace stress causes approximately one million employees to miss work each day.

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Dr. Gina Cavorsi (L) and Shalawn James (R)

Joining Smart Talk to discuss a broad range of issues relating to mental health and to answer listener questions about mental health is Shalawn James, Director of Program Advocacy with the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, Dr. Gina Cavorsi, Chief Medical Officer, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Christine Michaels, CEO National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone Pennsylvania.

Libraries managing conflict resolution


What to look for on Smart Talk,Tuesday, May 28, 2019:

There was time when a librarian’s greatest challenge might be quieting a noisy patron or tracking down overdue materials. In modern times, everything seems more complicated, including the role of a public librarian.

Libraries around the country are now adding conflict resolution to their professional skillset. As the number of library patrons experiencing homelessness increase, staff are encountering situations where skills are needed to resolve problems on the spot.

How does a library remain inclusive and welcoming while managing encounters that are often endemic to homeless patrons?

Appearing on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the challenges facing libraries are Karen Cullings, Interim Executive Director, Dauphin County Library System, Randie Yeager, Human Services Director with the Dauphin County Human Services Department, Lisa Howald, Library Manager of the McCormick Riverfront Library, and Ryan Dowd, Director, Chicago-area homeless shelter and author of The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness.

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Randie Yeager, Lisa Howald, and Karen Cullings

Also, state lawmakers are taking steps to impose a fee on communities that rely completely on the Pennsylvania State Police for law enforcement support.

Half the commonwealth’s municipalities — home to 20 percent of its population — would be affected.

PA Post reporter Emily Previti appears on Smart Talks with the details.


Emily Previti

Explore Pennsylvania!

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Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer season and with it comes dreams of vacations and long weekends.

There is so much to explore in Pennsylvania, from arts and history, to outdoor recreation and cultural events.

History buffs from around the world travel here to experience, first-hand, the starring role Pennsylvania played in the founding of our nation.

A sportsman’s paradise, Pennsylvania features a diverse landscape of rugged mountains, scenic waterways and state forests.

There is ample opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in nearly every corner of the state. If you are looking for something to do or a place to visit, you won’t have to journey far in Pennsylvania to find it.

Travel and tourism is big business in Pennsylvania, too, generating more than $41 billion each year, resulting in $4.3 billion in tax revenue and responsible for 490,000 jobs.

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Chris Barrett, Carrie Fisher Lepore & Rick Dunlap

Appearing on Friday’s Smart Talk to talk about exploring Pennsylvania as we enter the busy summer travel season is Carrie Fisher Lepore, Deputy Secretary, Office of Marketing, Tourism, and Film, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development; Chris Barrett, President/CEO, Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau; and Rick Dunlap, Director of Public Relations, Visit Hershey-Harrisburg.

WITF staff will also share some of their favorite sites in Pennsylvania, so put on your shoes and let’s explore PA!