Wednesday, November 29, 2006

State News-Wednesday, Nov. 29th

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) - For the first time in 12 years, Democrats have won control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Chester County officials settled a pair of hotly contested House races yesterday -- three weeks after the election. In the closest race, Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith was declared the winner in the 156th District by a 23-vote margin. Smith owns a water-treatment company. She defeated Republican Shannon Royer, who has worked on the House Republicans' staff for a decade. The vote was 11,614 to 11,591. Both candidates are former West Chester borough council members. In the other race, in the 157th District, Republican Duane Milne, a West Chester University professor, defeated Democrat Anne Crowley by 144 votes -- 13,556 to 13,412. The back-to-back decisions by the Chester County commissioners, sitting as the county Board of Elections, give Democrats a 102-to-101 edge in the House.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Senate's newly elected president pro tempore says he will urge Senate Republicans to discuss measures to make the chamber more open and accountable to the public. But Senator Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County stopped short of endorsing any specific proposals. Scarnati says that among other things, he will consider providing greater public access to Senate leadership accounts. He says the Senate should conduct its voting sessions during the daytime, but that exceptions should be allowed if the Legislature has a deadline to meet. The former restaurant owner was unanimously elected as the Senate's new president pro tempore last week. He is expected to be re-elected to the post when the Legislature returns in January to begin a new session. Scarnati replaces former Senator Robert Jubelirer of Blair County, who was defeated in the May 17th primary.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Federal authorities charge that the older brother of Mayor John Street traded on his last name to obtain lucrative airport contracts for firms and failed to pay taxes on more than two million-dollars in income. Milton Street and two other businessmen face charges of mail and wire fraud, filing false tax returns and related counts. Yesterday's indictment says soon after John Street took office in 2000, Milton Street began hiring himself out as a high-priced consultant to companies that thought he could help them get city contracts. Authorities say One firm paid Milton Street 30-thousand dollars per month and didn't require him to do work. The mayor said says he didn't know details of his brother's financial dealings but defended his right to pursue city contracts. Sixty-nine-year-old Milton Street says he'll be vindicated of the charges and blamed any problems on poor record-keeping.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) - A jury says five Bethlehem police officers used excessive force when arresting a man now serving life without parole for murder. But jurors awarded 50-year-old Sonny Thomas only one dollar last night -- not the 35 million dollars he was seeking. Thomas stabbed his neighbor more than 80 times with a four-foot-long samurai sword and set the victim's clothes on fire. Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan says the officers' actions were "truly heroic." He notes that the officers entered a room with a burning body with a sword sticking out -- yet they didn't shoot the suspect. One of Thomas's lawyers questions why it took ten officers to restrain a five-foot-six, 160-pound man. She says five men held him while another five hit him.


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