Wednesday, February 21, 2007

State News-Wednesday, Feb. 21st

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A 26-year-old man faces sentencing today for his girlfriend's fatal fall from his 23rd-floor apartment in Harrisburg. Kevin Eckenrode was convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter in the February 2005 death of 23-year-old Rachel Kozlusky. The jury acquitted him of the more serious crime of third-degree murder. Both Eckenrode and Kozlusky had been drinking heavily on the night of her death. Eckenrode told police he helped Kozlusky sit on the apartment ledge, then dangled her by the wrists in horseplay before she slipped from his grasp.

DUNCANNON, Pa. (AP) - A Harrisburg woman who's charged with homicide in the shooting death of her former lover has a preliminary hearing today. The lawyer for 45-year-old Rochelle Laudenslager questions the strength of the prosecution's case. Police say they found the gun used to kill 48-year-old Elaine Pierson hidden under insulation in Laudenslager's mother's attic. Laudenslager told state police she and Pierson had a four-year sexual relationship that ended in 2002, but that they had remained friends. She told state police that she was interested in rekindling the intimate relationship but could not because Pierson was involved with another woman.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A bipartisan reform panel is expected to resume its deliberations today over proposed changes to rules governing the state House of Representatives. The Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform has been voting on proposed rules changes that the full House will consider on
March 12th. The panel earlier this month recommended that the House make permanent a ban on allowing representatives to give their proxy votes to floor leaders while they are elsewhere in the Harrisburg
area on official business. The committee has also recommended restricting session hours to 8 a-m to 11 p-m, but would allow exceptions for special circumstances.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Rendell administration official says the state might not have the money to provide health coverage for all uninsured adults. There could be a waiting list if demand for the proposed expansion outstrips the state's ability to pay for it. Rosemarie Greco of the Governor's Office of Health Care Reform
testified during a state budget hearing that Governor Ed Rendell's "Cover All Pennsylvanians" proposal isn't an entitlement program. Greco says Rendell's proposal includes enough money to insure about 800-thousand of adults who cannot afford private insurance but make too much money to qualify for taxpayer-subsidized
insurance. She says that if lawmakers are concerned about waiting lists they could appropriate more money than the governor requested for the program.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The state Legislature is holding hearings this week about the response to last week's snow and ice storm. Lawmakers want to know why the storm shut down Pennsylvania interstates and stranded drivers in freezing overnight temperatures. The Senate will be looking into the storm response tomorrow and the House on Friday. Also, two of Governor Ed Rendell's top aides are undertaking a
"ratcheted-up" version of the post-mortem that normally follows a weather emergency in the state.
And the state's contracted with a business run by former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief James Lee Witt. It's to perform "a thorough forensic investigation" into the snowstorm response.
Witt is supposed to recommend how to avoid repeating errors.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Three dozen coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania now have until 2015 to reduce their mercury emissions by 90 percent. Notice of a new regulation became final on Saturday, and it
marks a major step in the state's regulation of smokestack mercury pollution. As a result, Pennsylvania has become the nation's biggest coal-burning state to approve mercury limits that are tougher than a rule enacted by the federal government. The U-S Environmental Protection Agency still must review the
rule. Mercury often accumulates in fish and can damage the development of the nervous system in children and fetuses. State officials say power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in Pennsylvania.

TULLYTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A Tullytown borough councilman serving in Afghanistan asked to be allowed to participate in meetings by phone. But Councilman Joseph Shellenberger was turned down -- so
veterans are planning a protest before the next council meeting. Shellenberger, a master sergeant in the Air Force, was sent to Afghanistan in January and is expected to return home in about two months. Before leaving, he asked to be allowed to phone in his votes during meetings. Instead, the council passed a motion requiring members to be present to vote. Another councilman moved to make an exception for Shellenberger, but the motion died when nobody seconded it. Council President Beth Pirolli says Shellenberger shouldn't be worrying about local suburban Philadelphia politics while at war.


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