Wednesday, January 31, 2007

State News-Wednesday, Jan. 31st

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - House Speaker Dennis O'Brien is scheduled to address the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association in Harrisburg today. O'Brien is a Philadelphia Republican who was elected speaker with mostly Democratic support. It's the first time in modern history that the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is a member of the minority party.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Striking bloodmobile and blood bank workers return to work today at the Johnstown-based chapter of the American Red Cross. The Communications Workers of America went on strike Sunday and are returning with no promise of the new contract they sought. A major issue is how much workers pay for health insurance. Officials from the Greater Alleghenies Red Cross have said they were prepared for the strike and have adequate blood supplies.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - State representatives are offering the new House reform panel a wide range of suggestions for changing how the chamber operates. In less than two hours yesterday, the Commission on Legislative Reform fielded ideas about lame-duck sessions, the handling of amendments, proxy voting, the power to force a floor vote on a bill, advance notice of the chamber's actions and public access to lawmakers' spending records. The commission's been given six weeks to formulate its recommended changes to House operations, after which it'll take up broader issues of state government. The House is scheduled to consider changes to its rules the week of March 12th.

YORK, Pa. (AP) - A state legislator collected more than 11-thousand dollars in daily expense payments in his final year in office. Stephen Maitland lost his seat in the Republican primary in a race that focused on his support for a legislative pay raise. The Adams County man won't discuss his "per diem" payments totaling 11-thousand-368 dollars. They include some that were retroactive to 2004 and 2005. The "per-diem" payments are controversial because lawmakers can collect them without submitting receipts or detailing their expenses.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Authorities have filed drug and conspiracy charges against 15 people they say were involved in a cocaine and heroin ring in central Pennsylvania. Authorties say a grand jury recommended the charges after an investigation that focused on trafficking and bulk sales of the narcotics in Lycoming, Clinton and Centre counties. Attorney General Tom Corbett says the operation distributed about two million dollars worth of cocaine and heroin over a four-year span, centering on the Lock Haven area. A Mill Hall man, Orlando Diaz Junior, is charged with drug possession and delivery. He's also charged with conspiracy and participating in corrupt organizations as well as a weapons count and related charges.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia judge says Wyeth won't pay punitive damages to a woman who had breast cancer. Sixty-year-old Mary Daniel of Hot Springs, Arkansas, alleged that the pharmaceutical giant's menopause drug was responsible for her cancer. On Monday, a jury awarded one-and-a-half million dollars in compensatory damages to Daniel and her husband. The jury concluded that Wyeth's actions were bad enough to warrant punitive damages. But Common Pleas Judge Myrna Field ruled yesterday that there wasn't sufficient evidence presented at trial for the jury to reach that conclusion. The jury wasn't told of that ruling. Jurors were allowed to continue deliberating to determine a dollar amount of punitive damages. That's in case Field's ruling is overturned on appeal.


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