Pennsylvania State Capitol. Photo credit: Zack Frank/


On Jan. 10, Gov. Tom Wolf signed papers to declare heroin and opioid addiction a statewide disaster. The move was the first of its kind for a public health emergency in Pennsylvania.

According to a statement from the Wolf administration, the declaration will intensify the state government’s response to the crisis and increase access to treatment.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency has been ordered to set up a command center to track progress and enhance coordination of health and public safety agencies.

“I am taking this step to protect Pennsylvanians from this looming public health crisis, and I am using every tool at my disposal to get those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment, save more lives, and improve response coordination,” Wolf said.

Among the 13 specific steps outlined in the declaration are measures to increase access to naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal treatment, and empower nurse practitioners and physician assistants to admit persons to narcotics treatment programs.

The PEMA command center will meet on a weekly basis to monitor progress in stemming the crisis, the statement said.



Taxpayer money should not be used to fund settlements for sexual harassment complaints against elected officials, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Jan. 8.

In a statement from the Auditor General’s Office, DePasquale said his team is currently preparing to review sexual harassment policies in the executive branch. But, DePasquale said, he is awaiting a response from the General Assembly to an offer to perform a similar review of legislative offices.

“I realize that some legislators may not welcome a full-on audit of legislative accounts,” he said. “I am willing to conduct an audit limited to reviewing the various sexual harassment policies and settlement payouts.”

HB 1257, introduced by Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, with bipartisan sponsorship, would authorize the auditor general to look into sexual harassment policies in the General Assembly and its agencies. But it has not progressed out of the Finance Committee in the state House of Representatives.


Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, on Jan. 8 ordered two special elections to be held on May 15 to fill vacant seats in the 48th Legislative District in Allegheny County and the 178th Legislative District in Bucks County. May 15 is also the scheduled primary election in Pennsylvania.

Turzai filed the writs of election, the formal document setting the date of the special elections, with the Department of State.

The vacancies were created by the Dec. 31 resignation of former Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Washington, who left to take a seat on the Washington County Court of Common Pleas, and the Jan. 1 resignation of former Rep. Scott Petri, R-Bucks, who left to become executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.


Penn National Gaming secured the right to put up a casino near Pennsylvania’s southern border, submitting a winning bid last week of just over $50 million and selecting a site that could draw heavily from Maryland, The Associated Press reported.

Pennsylvania-based Penn National, one of the nation’s largest casino operators, beat out three other bidders in the first of a planned 10 auctions for “mini-casino” licenses under a law passed by the General Assembly two months ago.

Penn National won the license even as it has filed a lawsuit to block the construction of the new mini-casinos.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board auctioned the rights to the casino as the state government looks to the gambling industry for cash to help patch up a massive budget deficit. Penn National plans to pay another $2.5 million for a certificate to operate 30 table games at the site. •