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Gender: Male
Hometown: South Texas. most of my life I lived in Austin and Dallas
Home country: United States
Current location: Bryan, Texas
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2011, 03:57 AM
Number of posts: 77,784

About Me

Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Twice-vindicated Trenton special education teacher alleges retaliation in whistleblower lawsuit

TRENTON — Despite being exonerated last year of time-theft charges that threatened his job, special education teacher Michael Coe says his work life hasn’t gotten better.

The special education teacher at Joyce Kilmer Middle School filed a whistleblower lawsuit this month accusing school district officials of passing him up for promotions and creating a hostile work environment.

“Despite having been exonerated from the baseless claims brought by defendants, plaintiff Coe continues to be subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation for objecting to defendants unlawful practices,” attorney Linda Niedweske wrote in the lawsuit.

Coe, of Burlington Township, says his 18-year career is filled with examples of him going the extra mile for special education students, many of them with severe disabilities.

Read more: https://www.trentonian.com/news/twice-vindicated-trenton-special-education-teacher-alleges-retaliation-in-whistleblower/article_1f73cdac-07ba-11e9-941c-0fd47d8e368e.html

Murphy calls for changes -- but no cuts -- to drive down New Jersey's soaring pension costs

Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday began rolling out recommendations for how to drive down New Jersey’s ever-ballooning costs for government-worker pensions and health benefits — but stopped short of suggesting the cuts that some top state lawmakers are considering.

Instead, the Murphy administration says the state’s health care plans should leverage its size and shorten contract lengths to save taxpayers money, according to an interim report from a task force the rookie governor convened.

Murphy, a Democrat, called the 12-page report “an excellent starting point in our ongoing pursuit of innovative solutions to improve the way we provide health benefits to public employees.”

“This is a Goliath of a task, but the blue print laid out today provides sound, actionable items that are achievable in the immediate future while we work towards long-term solutions,” the governor added in a statement.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/politics/2018/12/murphy-wants-changes-but-no-cuts-to-drive-down-njs-soaring-pension-costs.html

Good riddance and a turning point

There is now further vindication for the need and ultimate success of our NJ Blue Wave. For all their shifting positions, our five NJ incumbent Republican Representatives showed their true colors in the House vote which added $5.7 billion for the Wall to the resolution designed to keep government open.

“Individual-1” had initially said he would sign a bill which did not have Wall funding. That led the Senate to pass a “clean bill” which had no Wall monies. Then “Individual-1” changed his mind and insisted he would not sign a bill without the $5.7 billion. Had Republicans in the House stood in solidarity with the Senate they would have sent a clear message to “Individual-1” and a “clean bill” would have landed on his desk for his signature.

Instead our four departing Republicans – Rodney Frelinghyusen, Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo, and Tom MacArthur – and the lone remaining Republican, Chris Smith all voted to add the wall monies to the continuing resolution. The fact that our Republican contingent and other Republican House members bowed to Trump’s demand (207 to 170), only emboldened “individual-1” to harangue us with his “Do it my way or the highway.”

Whether Trump, presented with a clean bill supported by both houses, would have acquiesced and signed it, we don’t know. What is clear is that toadying to Trump’s whims has to stop. Our current Republican congressmen showed no desire to do so.

Read more: http://www.bluejersey.com/2018/12/good-riddance-and-a-turning-point/

Star-Ledger editorializes in support of $15/hour wage, but pays drivers much less

The Star-Ledger editorial board has advocated for a “Clean 15” – an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15-per-hour with no carveouts – but the company they use to deliver their newspapers pay their drivers much less than that.

The state’s largest daily newspaper ran an advertisement in Wednesday’s print edition seeking drivers for newspaper deliveries willing to work 2-3 hours daily, “starting around 3 AM,” with a typical bi-weekly compensation that starts at $400. That could mean less than $10-per-hour.

To get a job like that, applicants must have their own cars. Star-Ledger drivers – they call them Delivery Service Providers — receive no benefits; they “are independently contacted, meaning they are self-employed” and receive 1099s. Minimum wage laws do not apply.

There is no paid vacation time, no workers compensation, and since drivers do not handle collections, there are no gratuities involved.

Read more: https://newjerseyglobe.com/media/star-ledger-editorializes-in-support-of-15-hour-wage-but-pays-drivers-much-less/

Former Pennsylvania court clerk charged with stealing bail

JIM THORPE — A former county official has been charged by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office with stealing bail money and court fees.

Former Carbon County Clerk of Courts William McGinley was charged with theft, tampering with public records and other crimes related to $43,000 in missing bail and fingerprint fees.

The 60-year-old McGinley abruptly resigned from his position in May. Court records do not show an attorney for McGinley, who was released on bail Friday.

Prosecutors say audits tracked numerous instances of missing funds between 2013 and early in 2018 in more than 150 cases. The attorney general’s office says the missing funds have held up the disposition of cases in which defendants were due back fees upon release.


Ex-secretary of tiny Jefferson Co. borough charged with stealing $300k

The former secretary of a tiny Jefferson County borough fleeced the community of some $300,000, according to a federal grand jury.

Tammy Laird appeared in U.S. District Court on Friday to face more than two dozen wire fraud counts in ripping off Corsica, Pa., a village east of Clarion with a population of about 357.

Ms. Laird was secretary and treasurer there and handled all the bills, earning $12.50 an hour.

Starting in 2009 and lasting until last year, the grand jury said she issued checks from the borough's accounts at S&T Bank and the Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust to herself, her husband and her father in the total amount of $256,000.

Read more: https://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2018/12/21/Ex-secretary-of-tiny-Jefferson-Co-borough-charged-with-stealing-300k/stories/201812210134

Pennsylvania's underperforming pension funds need new investment approach, state warns

Pennsylvania needs a new investment office with better strategies to replace the underperforming offices that manage state and public school pension plans, a commission tasked with recommending changes to the retirement systems with a combined deficit of $75 billion told lawmakers Thursday.

A single office would help the State (SERS) and Public School (PSERS) Employees' Retirement Systems cut investment costs, boost pension profits, and reduce pension expenses that currently eat up more than 10 percent of the state budget, according to a new report from the commission.

The bipartisan, five-man Pennsylvania Public Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission, headed by State Rep. Mike Tobash, (R., Schuylkill Haven) also urged the state (aided by local school districts) to continue paying more than 30 cents into the pensions, for every dollar paid in wages, as the state’s “employer contribution” to help erase past deficits. Tobash said that's 10 times what private business typically spends on retirements.

Under Govs. Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell, the state had cut its pension funding even as legislators, teachers, state troopers and other public workers retired in larger numbers, with bigger pensions, and lived longer than projected — saddling future taxpayers with growing costs.

Read more: https://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2018/12/20/Pennsylvania-pension-funds-investment-state-employees-teachers-unions/stories/201812200129

Pennsylvania Senate slow to react in the wake of #MeToo

HARRISBURG — Just over a year ago, two women accused the top security officer in the state Senate of sexually harassing them, sending offensive texts or engaging in lewd comments. Within weeks, he had resigned.

Since then, both women have filed federal lawsuits against the Senate, claiming the chamber has permitted a culture of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. One of the two — the second highest-ranking Senate security officer — has seen her duties restricted, and was even given a week’s suspension without pay recently because she let her husband, also a state employee, park in her state-issued parking spot.

The sexual harassment case involving the Senate’s security force was just one of several such scandals to envelop the Capitol in the wake of the #MeToo movement, a nationwide reckoning over how women are treated in the workforce that spawned a push to enact stronger protections for victims of harassment.

Yet Pennsylvania’s legislature — reeling from #MeToo allegations against three lawmakers — has not taken a floor vote on a flood of bills introduced since the start of 2018 to combat sexual harassment. One of the only measures that did pass was a resolution to create a task force to study the problem. The task force, according to legislative aides, doesn’t even have members yet.

Read more: https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2018/12/22/pennsylvania-Senate-slow-to-react-MeToo-sexual-harassment-legislation-bills/stories/201812230162

Pennsylvania air pollution fee hike planned for thousands of facilities as DEP account runs dry

Fees for thousands of facilities with air pollution permits would increase by $12.7 million under a proposal by Pennsylvania regulators to avoid running out of money in an account that pays for staff and air quality monitoring statewide.

The draft fee proposal was advanced by the state Environmental Quality Board on Tuesday. It would affect about 500 major and 2,100 lower-emitting facilities that receive air pollution control plan approvals and operating permits from the state — a list that includes power plants, refineries, steel mills, industrial bakeries, plastics makers, natural gas transmission stations and landfills.

New fees for asbestos notification would apply to about 2,000 demolition and renovation contractors and raise about $1.5 million. They would not apply to projects in Allegheny County, which has its own asbestos program.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is proposing the changes because the account funded by the fees, known as the Clean Air Fund, is on track to run out of money around 2021.

Read more: https://www.post-gazette.com/business/powersource/2018/12/21/air-pollution-fees-Pennsylvania-DEP-asbestos-Bruce-Mansfield-FirstEnergy/stories/201812200049

Gov. Tom Wolf hints at openness to recreational marijuana legalization in state

During a Twitter Q&A on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) hinted at a change of heart in his stance toward recreational marijuana legalization in the commonwealth.

“I think it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana,” tweeted Wolf in response to a question asking when Pennsylvania would catch up to other states in this regard.

Governor Tom Wolf

More and more states are successfully implementing marijuana legalization, and we need to keep learning from their efforts. Any change would take legislation. But I think it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana.

California, Washington, and Colorado have dispensaries where anyone can purchase legal marijuana. After a successful ballot initiative, Michigan legalized marijuana on Dec. 6. New Jersey’s recreational weed bill cleared committee recently and is one step closer to becoming law. Delaware isn't far behind.

Before the election in November, Wolf was more sheepish on recreational marijuana, going as far to say in an August interview with KDKA radio that he didn't think “citizens of Pennsylvania are ready for it.” He said he was happy with the progress and reforms to the state’s medical marijuana program, but didn’t indicate openness to backing recreational use.

Read more: https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/gov-tom-wolf-hints-at-openness-to-recreational-marijuana-legalization-in-state/Content?oid=12794797
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