FILE - PA Anthony Williams 1-28-2019

Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, addresses a news conference on probation and parole reform Jan. 28, 2019, in Harrisburg.

Boockvar: 76 percent of Pa. counties have selected new voting systems

Fifty-one of Pennsylvania’s 76 counties have selected new voting systems that comply with new state standards, according to acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.

The Department of State issued a mandate in April 2018 requiring all counties to have voting machines that include a paper record. Counties have until the end of the year to decide on their new system and must have them in place by the November 2020 election.

Gov. Tom Wolf allocated $14.15 million in federal and state funding to help counties pay for the new systems. A $90 million bond is currently being discussed that would reimburse counties for at least 60 percent of the costs.

500 attend Pennsylvania’s first Hemp Summit

About 500 people attended the first PA Hemp Summit in Lancaster this week to learn more about how they could grow and sell hemp crops in the commonwealth.

Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding told the group that $460,000 in funding is available through Specialty Crop Block Grants. The grants were a part of Wolf’s Pennsylvania Farm Bill.

“We are building a new industry, literally from the ground up,” Redding said in a statement. “We’re here today to foster the conversations and provide the tools you need to seize the opportunity to build processing businesses, a supply chain, markets, and ultimately, sustainable income and new jobs.”

Sen. Williams asking other lawmakers to join him on bill banning safe injection sites

Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, is asking other lawmakers to join with him on a bill that would ban safe injection sites in Pennsylvania.

A federal court said in a ruling last week that a plan by a Philadelphia nonprofit to develop a safe injection site, where individuals can go to consume illicit recreational drugs intravenously, did not violate federal statutes.

“In the midst of an epidemic, we should not be providing spaces for users to continue to use without requiring treatment,” Williams said in a statement. “Instead of dedicating resources to aid in the continued use of drugs, the General Assembly should seek to provide additional funding to treatment and use prevention, to mental health and trauma-informed education, and to reducing the amount of opioids on our streets.”

Philadelphia receives $350K grant for crime-fighting initiative

The city of Philadelphia received a grant of $358,803 from the U.S. Department of Justice that will be used to add Temple University as a research project for its Kensington Initiative.

The city and Attorney General Josh Shapiro began the initiative to address the high crime rates in the Kensington area. Included are state, local and federal law enforcement agencies that focus on criminal drug organizations in the area. Philadelphia’s crime rate is 2.5 times the national average with drug overdose deaths at 3.5 times the national average, according to a statement by Shapiro. Kensington has the highest concentration of overdose deaths in the Philadelphia area.

The grant will fund research by Temple University that will evaluate the initiative’s strategies and measure their impact.

E-Verify requirement for construction companies becomes law

Legislation that requires construction companies to use the federal E-Verify system to determine if workers can legally work in the United States is now law.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh/Berks, and Rep. John Galloway, D-Bucks, is similar to an Arizona law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a news release from the House Republican Caucus.

Construction companies that do not comply with the new law will receive a warning letter for the first violation. The second violation will be referred to the attorney general’s office, according to the bill which takes effect next year.