Friday, August 11, 2017

Pennsylvania in focus: Pa. House leader signals budget impasse likely to linger

By Watchdog News - August 11, 2017 at 08:47AM

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pa. House leader signals budget impasse likely to linger 

House Majority Leader Dave Reed said Thursday that Republicans have serious concerns about some taxes included in budget bills passed by the Senate, the latest signal that their impasse could linger for at least a few more weeks.

“We respect the fact that they sent it over to us. We respect the fact that this is where the Senate is,” Mr. Reed, a Republican from Indiana County, told Capitol reporters. “It’s not where we are.”

The GOP-controlled legislature passed a nearly $32 billion spending plan on June 30 — inching in under a midnight deadline — but has since been unable to agree on a way to pay for it.

Negotiators have struggled with how to plug a $1.5 billion shortfall still lingering from last year’s budget and a $700 million deficit projected for the fiscal year that began July 1.

The Morning Call: Prosecutors signal long road to trial in Allentown pay-to-play case

Federal prosecutors provide a glimpse of the scope of their case against Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and two political contributors in a legal filing proposing a timeline for a trial on public corruption charges.

Given the complexity of the case, prosecutors should be relieved of a requirement under court rules to be ready for trial in 70 days, their motion says. Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek suggests a Jan. 10 trial date — five months from now — would give both the government and defendants time to prepare.

“The captioned case is so unusual and so complex due to the nature of the prosecution, the number of defendants, the number of witnesses, and the voluminous discovery, that it is unreasonable to expect adequate preparation for pretrial proceedings or the trial itself within the time limits established by the Speedy Trial Act,” the filing says.

The filing says prosecutors intend to call 40 to 50 witnesses in the case against Pawlowski and his co-defendants, Allentown attorney Scott Allinson and business consultant James Hickey.

The Patriot News: Epic collapse of Pa. insurer will raise premiums around the country

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department tried for 8 years to help Lehigh Valley-based Penn Treaty Network America Insurance Co. get back on its feet.

But the department earlier this year concluded the provider of long term care insurance — coverage for nursing home care — couldn’t be turned around. Next began the process of informing various “guaranty associations” — state-level entities that cover the obligations of failed insurers — what their share of the bill will be.

The guaranty associations are funded with contributions from other insurers, with the amount each insurer pays based on their market share. They exist to make sure customers of failed insurers, who may have been paying premiums for many years, aren’t left in the cold by a collapse.

In the insurance regulation world, long term care insurers are considered health insurers. Therefore, Penn Treaty’s obligations will be paid by health insurers and their customers.

The Penn Treaty collapse, which includes the collapse of a related company, is considered one of the biggest ever among insurers. The two insurers cover about 76,000 people around the country, with eventual claims expected to reach $4.6 billion.