Capitol news roundup 3/1

Acting budget secretary Charles Zogby yesterday heaped blame for the state's fiscal crisis on former Gov. Rendell.

In the first public appearance by a member of Gov. Corbett'scabinet, Zogby said the "day of reckoning" has arrived and the days of "quick fixes" are over.

"All the one-time means, all the gimmicks have been utilized. We've kicked the can down the road long enough," Zogby, the new budget secretary, told the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday.

Ed Rendell, in an interview Monday, made no apologies for tapping reserve funds in tough times, saying that's what they are there for. Corbett delivers his first budget address on March 8.

More from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians woke up without health insurance today as the state's insurance program for the working poor expired. Corbett officials say the program ran out of money to continue to cover the 42,000 residents, many of whom suffer from chronic conditions. Insurance options are costly, some totaling more than 400 percent higher than the adult basic rate making them all but out of reach for those with low incomes. More from the Philadelphia Inquirer here.

Cabinet confirmation hearings get underway in the state Senate today.

First up is Alan Walker, a former coal mining executive, who is Corbett's nominee to run the Department of Community and Economic Development. Also set to face a Senate committee is Sheri Phillips, chosen to run the Department of General Services.

On Wednesday Michael Krancer, the Department of Environmental Protection nominee appears before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and Frank Noonan, nominee for Pennsylvania State Police commissioner testifies before the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Corbett administration officials dismissed rumors that any renewed merger between DEP and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was being considered. Six weeks into his term as governor Corbett has yet to name an individual to head up the agency that controls  gas drilling leasing rights on state forest land, reports the Scranton Times Tribune.

But Budget Secretary Charles Zogby and gubernatorial spokesman Kevin Harley said there is no merger planned and that Corbett is just looking for the right person for the job.

DEP and DCNR were created out of the Department of Environmental Resources 15 years ago by Gov. Tom Ridge.

Expect fireworks in committee hearing room this morning as the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee attempts to reopn the state dog law. Sponsor  of HR 89, Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R., Lancaster), claims the dog law has cost the state millions in tax revenue and lost jobs from the number of commercial kennels that closed since the passage of the law in 2008. The American Kennel Club is supporting Denlinger's effort. Animal welfare advocates say the economic impacts of the new law were already evaluated in the course of approving the law which has created humane standards - such as larger kennel sizes, exercise and mandatory veterinary care - for dogs spending their lives in large-scale breeding kennels. Efforts to weaken the law would mean furthering suffering for thousands of dogs, they say.


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