Pa. Labor & Industry Dept. donates 600 stuffed toys to families in need | Five for the Weekend

‘With all the stuffed toys that come to our Harrisburg office for inspection, L&I staff consider ourselves to be part of Santa’s workshop,’ L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier said in a statement

By: - November 27, 2021 6:30 am

Happy Weekend, All.

Well … saints preserve us … the holiday shopping season is officially upon us. And maybe you’re reading this while you’re waiting in line at your favorite Big Box Retail Emporium after scoring some hot holiday deal. So here’s a heartwarming tale to pass the time while you help keep the wheels of capitalism rolling:

Earlier this week, officials at the state Department of Labor & Industry announced they’d donated 600 stuffed toys that passed safety inspections to the state Department of Human Services’ three-decade-old Holiday Wish program.

First founded in 1989, the DHS program now stretches across state agencies and works to help Pennsylvanians in need this holiday season.

“With all the stuffed toys that come to our Harrisburg office for inspection, L&I staff consider ourselves to be part of Santa’s workshop,” L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier said in a statement.

“Partnering with the Holiday Wish program, Dauphin County Systems of Care and New Hope Ministries gives us a unique opportunity to provide children with the toys that pass inspection, giving the toys a good home and bringing joy to kids across Pennsylvania this holiday season,” Berrier said.

From all of us at the Capital-Star, our best wishes for a peaceful and happy holiday season to you and your loved ones.

As always, your Top 5 Most-Read Stories of the week start below.

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper)

1. ‘Rent to Own’ companies ordered to deed 285 homes to consumers in Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH — In a recent Allegheny County Common Pleas Court ruling, several companies specializing in “Rent to Own” real estate schemes were ordered to deed 285 homes in Pennsylvania to customers who either currently live at the proprietors or who most recently occupied them.

About three dozen of the homes are located in Allegheny County, which is out of more than 80 that are located in the Pittsburgh metro area.

“Rent to Own” companies have long been derided by consumer advocates for predatory tactics that disproportionately hurt low-income residents, and place the onus on tenants to fix up derelict properties of which they don’t actually have any legal rights to ownership.

The largest of these companies is Vision Property Management, a business based in South Carolina that advertises itself as America’s biggest provider of “affordable Lease-to-Own property opportunities.” The defendants have filed an appeal to this ruling, which was made in Allegheny Common Pleas Court, a lower court of the state judicial system.

Black Lives Matter protesters match down Harrisburg’s Front Street in response to the death of George Floyd, May 30, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

2. Bail funds help the poor get out of jail. Advocates say a Pa. House bill could shut them down

As the former head of the top national bail bonds industry group lobbies lawmakers, a bill that would treat nonprofits that free people from pre-trial detention the same as for-profit companies has quickly and quietly advanced in Harrisburg this month.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, was introduced on Nov. 3 without a memo describing what it would do in plain-English terms.

The House Judiciary Committee sent the proposal to the full House last Tuesday, and it passed the full chamber 111-88 this Tuesday — a fast turnaround of just two weeks from the bill’s introduction to its approval.

The bill’s backers say that the nonprofits, known as bail funds, exist in a loophole in state law and should be registered and regulated in some way. But those who run the nonprofits say the bill is just an attempt to shut down a concentrated community effort to challenge mass incarceration.

In a statement to the Capital-Star on behalf of Pennsylvania’s eight nonprofit bail funds, Malik Neal, executive director of the Philadelphia Bail Fund, said the bill would not only impede their work, but also would prevent individuals, community groups, and churches from pitching in to aid incarcerated individuals on an ad hoc basis.

Zarah Livingston (Courtesy of Hospital Workers Rising)

3. Activist announces independent run against 20-term western Pa. Democratic lawmaker

A western Pennsylvania criminal justice advocate says she’s mounting an independent run against a longtime Democratic state representative, citing in part a recent vote against community bail funds.

Zarah Livingston, 27, of Penn Hills, Allegheny County,  told the Capital-Star on Monday that she plans to challenge state Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, for a seat in Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs.

Livingston is a UPMC health care worker who also helps run No Cop Money Pennsylvania, a group that demands elected officials “refuse money from police unions and, instead, to donate to organizations that uplift Black communities.”

DeLuca, 84, was first elected in 1982, and Livingston said it was time for someone new given that “it’s been the same person for longer than I’ve been alive.”

Among her priorities, Livingston said, is fighting mass incarceration by decriminalizing marijuana and magic mushrooms, also known as psilocybin.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

4. Pa. House sends permitless concealed carry bill to Wolf’s desk, who promises veto

A bill to allow all lawful gun owners in Pennsylvania over the age of 18 the right to carry a concealed firearm is on its way to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk after it passed the state House 107-92 after more than three-and-a-half hours of floor debate on Tuesday night.

The proposal, which would also remove a prohibition in state law on openly carrying firearms in Philadelphia, passed the state Senate 29-21 last week.

Wolf, a Democrat, has already promised to veto the proposal, and the GOP-controlled Legislature does not have the votes to override him.

However, Republicans and other conservative activists have been clear for months they wanted a vote on the bill, regardless of whether it would become law or not.

A veto, they’ve argued, would motivate their base ahead of the critical 2022 election when Republicans could flip the open governor’s seat. And the vote will also help gun rights activists identify moderate Republicans who are not strong enough on the issue. Wolf will leave office in January 2023, after serving the constitutional maximum of two, four-year terms.

The Pennsylvania House chamber. Image via Flickr Commons

5. Voters are cynical? The Pa. House didn’t help this week | Thursday Morning Coffee

If you can say one good thing about the harried three days’ worth of voting sessions that the Republican-controlled House wrapped up on Wednesday, it’s that it’s over.

After nearly three straight days of backbreaking work, the 203-member chamber has now recessed for its Thanksgiving break. And, along with the Republican-controlled state Senate which wasn’t even in session this week, lawmakers will not return to Harrisburg until Dec. 13, where (unless something changes) they will labor in the vineyards of public policy for another three, whole days before packing it in for the year.

But rest easy. While lawmakers were in session this week, they cannily tracked any number of solutions in search of problems to their lairs, pounced upon them, and produced a legislative product that, in at least one notable instance, is destined for a swift death at the hands of Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto pen.

So why go through this exercise? Why, partisan politics, of course.

Majority Republicans admitted as much when the sharply divided House pushed through a previously approved Senate bill on Tuesday night allowing any state resident, aged 18 or older, to carry a concealed weapon. That’s the bill Wolf has vowed to veto when it reaches his desk.

And that’s the week. See you all back here next weekend. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.