DEP encourages Pennsylvanians to join local litter cleanup efforts | Five for the Weekend

It’s time to Pick Up Pennsylvania

By: - March 26, 2022 6:30 am

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Happy weekend, all. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is calling on Pennsylvanians to do their part for the commonwealth and join a litter cleanup opportunity in their local community as part of the Pick Up Pennsylvania campaign.

“Clean green spaces and waterways factor into our physical and mental health and enable the function of the ecosystem we depend on. They foster thriving communities that attract investment and support our recreation, tourism, and shopping economies. As the weather warms and we move outdoors, we benefit ourselves and our families by dedicating a morning or afternoon to Pick Up Pennsylvania,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement.

In 2021, more than 79,000 Pick Up Pennsylvania volunteers recycled 3,124,648 pounds of various materials and disposed of 3,818,760 pounds of trash.

For more than two decades, volunteers from scout troops, businesses, outdoor enthusiast groups and environmental organizations have participated in the twice a year cleanup campaign.

The department reports that there are already 290 events registered this year on the Pick Up Pennsylvania website with approximately 21,000 volunteers. 

“Cleanup activity is ramping up across the state. We’re honored to support the efforts of groups and individuals who are working hard to improve their communities,” said Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

Those interested in volunteering their time can find local events here. 

As always, the top five stories from this week are below. 

(Pittsburgh City Paper photo)

1. Marijuana Policy Project names Pennsylvania one of 19 states with worst weed laws

Pennsylvania’s cannabis prohibition laws are among the worst in the country, according to a new report by the Marijuana Policy Project called “Behind the Times: The 19 States Where a Joint Can Still Land You in Jail.”

Despite record-high levels of public support for legalization and the fact that the state’s bigger municipalities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have already passed measures to decriminalize cannabis possession, “There’s still a ton of arrests happening for cannabis possession” in Pennsylvania, the organization’s senior legislative counsel, DeVaughn Ward, said.

At the state level, lawmakers “have not fully dealt with [decriminalization], and the federal government has not fully dealt with that,”  House Democratic Whip  Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, said during a Tuesday press conference. “Let’s be clear,” Harris continued, “in Pennsylvania, it is the government that sells the alcohol. We are selling this product, we are selling this substance that we know is more harmful than marijuana.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

2. The Capital-Star’s 2022 Pa. incumbent retirement and primary tracker

With the 2022 elections on the horizon, tracking legislative turnover amid changing lines, double-bunked incumbents, and retirements is difficult. But the Capital-Star will attempt to track these potential changes over the coming months.

The House and Senate maps were approved in their final form Feb. 5, and the state Supreme Court said the maps are constitutional Mar. 16. These lines drew 26 lawmakers in with each other, however many of those matchups have been resolved by retirements.

Below are the 34 state legislators who have so far said they will not run for reelection, and the eight who still face a colleague to return to Harrisburg next year.

(Photo by John Altdorfer for the Capital-Star)

3. Staffing shortage, COVID-19, politics take toll on Pennsylvania teachers

When Becky Cibulka retired from the classroom last year, the West Mifflin Area School District lost more than a teacher.

The district lost a Spanish/ESL teacher, department head, social media manager, club advisor, and school-to-work program coordinator.

Education wasn’t the same as when the 41-year-old started teaching almost 20 years ago.

Still, her decision to leave didn’t come easy or without guilt.

It was a slow burn that started with voluntarily taking on additional roles, helping as a marching band assistant, planning service projects, and overseeing the Spanish club. Being involved in the community — where Cibulka grew up and still lives — was a chance to build relationships with students, parents, and alumni.

Eventually, her responsibilities expanded

(Image via Pa. Treasurer’s Office/The Philadelphia Tribune)

4. Pa. Treasury to auction unclaimed property this week

A one-ounce gold bar; a Rolex watch, and some South African Krugerrand gold coins.

Those items, and more, will be on offer when Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity’s office holds an online auction this Wednesday and Thursday of unclaimed property.

Under Pennsylvania law, the state Treasury receives unclaimed property that has been abandoned or forgotten, after three years of dormancy. Much of the property held in Treasury’s vault comes from abandoned safe deposit boxes, college dorms, nursing homes and police evidence rooms. Other unclaimed property includes forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, stocks and insurance policies.

Vermont state human resources employee Courtney O’Brien holds her 4-month-old at her office at the Department of Transportation. A number of states have programs to allow workers to bring their infants, under 6 months old, to the office (Photo via The Pew Charitable Trusts).

5. Pa. Democrat proposes study of four-day work week for state employees

A progressive Philadelphia Democrat wants Pennsylvania to study the impacts of moving 77,000 state employees to a four-day work week.

In a statement Monday, state Rep. Chris Rabb said he wanted a cost-benefit analysis of such a schedule to “enhance state government’s efficacy,” while still providing taxpayers the “level of service they both need and deserve.”

“We have to end this trope of the Protestant work ethic that demands an unrelenting commitment to work at the expense of the health of our households in our communities,” Rabb told the Capital-Star.

The legislation, likely the first to call for a four-day work week in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, asked for the state’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the topic. The study would also look at “policies to incentivize all Pennsylvania employers to make the shift,” according to Rabb’s memo.

And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.