Governor Wolf Commits to Phasing Out Gas Tax, Announces Commission to Develop Funding Solutions

Governor Tom Wolf today reiterated his commitment to phase out Pennsylvania’s gas tax, which is becoming an unreliable source for funding Pennsylvania’s vast transportation network. To make this possible and to further address the state’s transportation funding needs, the governor has also signed an Executive Order establishing the Transportation Revenue Options Commission, which will develop comprehensive funding recommendations for Pennsylvania’s large and aging infrastructure. 

“Our economy, our communities, and our future rely on a strong transportation system that supports our safety and growth. We have more than $9 billion in annual unmet needs across our state-maintained transportation system alone. At the same time, Pennsylvania is relying too much on outdated, unreliable funding methods, and the federal government hasn’t taken meaningful action in decades,” Gov. Wolf said. “Phasing out the burdensome gas tax, coupled with seeking long-term reliable funding solutions that will keep pace with our infrastructure needs, deserves a close examination. Forming this bipartisan commission will bring multiple, bipartisan voices to the table to ensure that we can examine reliable, sustainable revenue solutions to address both near-term and long-term funding needs.” 

Pennsylvania has one of the largest state-owned transportation networks in the country, with nearly 40,000 miles of roads and over 25,400 bridges under its direct purview. PennDOT also oversees aviation, rail freight, public transportation, ports, pedestrian and bicycle programs.  

In 2019, the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) identified major risks to transportation funding such as reduced fuel revenues, unpredictable federal funding, and legislative changes to reduce commitments.  

PennDOT’s latest assessment places the annual gap of its needs in all modes and facilities at $9.3 billion, growing to an annual $14.5 billion gap by 2030. 

Further, as more fuel-efficient cars and technologies are created, reliance on the gas tax for state revenue is less and less dependable. Any phase out of the gas tax will need to be coupled with new or replacement revenue. 

The Transportation Revenue Options Commission is comprised of transportation, economic, and community stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, including majority and minority leaders from the House and Senate Transportation and Appropriations committees. PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian will serve as commission chair. 

The commission will have its first meeting by March 25 and a report of commission activities and funding options will be submitted to the Governor before Aug. 1, 2021. 

The following individuals were invited to join the commission, with additional representatives from transportation’s varied stakeholders to be invited before the first meeting: 

  • Rep. Stan Saylor, Chair, House Appropriations Committee;  
  • Rep. Matthew Bradford, Minority Chair, House Appropriations Committee;  
  • Sen. Pat Browne, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee;  
  • Sen. Vincent Hughes, Minority Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee;  
  • Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Chair, Senate Transportation Committee;  
  • Sen. John Sabatina, Minority Chair, Senate Transportation Committee;  
  • Rep. Tim Hennessey, Chair, House Transportation Committee;  
  • Rep. Mike Carroll, Minority Chair, House Transportation Committee;  
  • Gene Barr, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry;  
  • Carl Belke, Keystone State Railroad Association (KSRRA);  
  • Becky Bradley, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission;  
  • Sarah Clark Stuart, Pennsylvania Pedalcycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee; 
  • Howard Cohen, Temple University, Public-Private Transportation Partnerships Board; 
  • Mark Compton, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission;  
  • Patricia Cowley, Pennsylvania Bus Association;  
  • Secretary Dennis Davin, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development;  
  • Ronald Drnevich, State Transportation Commission;  
  • Secretary Cindy Dunn, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources;  
  • Colonel Robert Evanchick, Pennsylvania State Police;  
  • Rich Fitzgerald; Allegheny County Executive;  
  • James Harper Jr., Laborers’ International Union of North America;  
  • Katherine Kelleman, Port Authority of Allegheny County;  
  • Amy Kessler, North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission;  
  • James Kunz, International Union of Operating Engineers;  
  • Mike Glezer, Wagman;  
  • Jeffrey L. Iseman, Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council;  
  • Robert Latham, Associated Pennsylvania Constructors;  
  • Brock Myers, Alan Myers;  
  • Secretary Patrick McDonnell, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection;  
  • Rebecca Oyler, Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association;  
  • Secretary Russell Redding, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture;  
  • Leslie Richards, Southeastern Public Transit Authority;  
  • Shawna Russell, Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association;  
  • Dave Sanko, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors;  
  • Bob Shaffer, Aviation Advisory Committee;  
  • Leeann Sherman, American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania;  
  • Karl Singleton, Pennsylvania Diversity Coalition;  
  • Secretary Jen Swails, Office of Budget;  
  • Andrew Swank, Swank Construction;  
  • Jerry Sweeney, Southeast Partnership for Mobility;  
  • Secretary Robert Torres, Pennsylvania Department of Aging; and,  
  • George Wolff, Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition. 

“I am grateful to all the commission members for contributing their time and expertise to this critical issue,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “We must work together to find sustainable, future-focused funding solutions that will keep Pennsylvanians moving.” 

For more information about transportation funding in Pennsylvania, visit  

Geisinger Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Child Life Department

The Child Life Department at Geisinger is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month coinciding with Child Life Month. It is a time to celebrate child life specialists at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital (JWCH) who support pediatric patients and their families through play, education and emotional support.

“Child Life’s presence at Geisinger has been long standing and incredibly impactful,” said Dr. Frank Maffei, MD, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics. “Their 40 years at Geisinger predates the construction of our JWCH and the services they provide to our children are indeed foundational and essential.”

In the program’s early days, specialists focused on playroom activities that encouraged socialization and self-expression, normalizing the hospital environment, providing support for patients and family members of chronically ill patients, supervising volunteers in the inpatient setting and event planning to gather donations for funding.

The team also offers medical play to work through feelings and understanding of medical experiences, preparation for tests and procedures, pet therapy, and serve as liaison to the CSIU Hospital School Teacher Program so children don’t fall behind in their academics while hospitalized and more.

15-year-old patient, Leah Williams and her family have had a positive experience with a child life specialist at JWCH. Leah was officially diagnosed with “ALG 13 mutation” in 2014. This condition is a rare disorder and disease-causing variants in ALG13 have been reported in fewer than 20 individuals. Leah’s diagnosis means that she has a seizure disorder, a severe developmental delay, and hypotonia.

“Child Life has helped Leah cope and feel comfortable while being at the hospital. Our child life specialist Rose Lauck noticed that Leah responds well to physical touch and enjoys having her arms, feet, and hair rubbed. Rose also makes sure there are things for Leah to look at or listen too while being seen. When it’s time for Leah to have a procedure, she stays with us and provides continuous reassurance. The support has been tremendous, and we are grateful for it,” said Krista Williams, Leah’s mom.

Today, the Child Life team has grown to 12 certified child life specialists who support patients admitted to the JWCH inpatient setting, both at Geisinger Medical Center and Geisinger Wyoming Valley, and children visiting various pediatric outpatient subspeciality clinics. This includes hematology and oncology, gastroenterology, cystic fibrosis and orthopedics clinics, same day surgery, sedation services and the emergency department.

“The 40th anniversary of our Child Life Department is a celebration of our past, present and future. The continued growth of our department is a result of both the hard work the team has invested over the years and the strong working relationships they have built with members of the multidisciplinary team,” said Rebecca Drumheller, Geisinger’s Child Life Program manager. “Our programming continues to expand as these creative, flexible, out-of-the-box thinkers take the initiative to improve upon the services we provide for our patients and families,” she added.

To learn more about Geisinger’s Child Life services, special events or how to make a donation, click here.

Allied Services Establishes Full Scholarships for Lackawanna College Nursing Students

Driven by a commitment to invest in life-long careers in healthcare in Northeastern Pa., Allied Services has created the Allied Services Nursing Scholarship to provide full tuition for eligible students in Lackawanna College’s nursing associate degree program.

Students awarded these scholarships will have the opportunity to work at Allied Services while continuing their education and be guaranteed a full-time position upon graduation and licensure as a Registered Nurse. Additionally, they will be awarded a sign-on bonus of up to $20,000.

“We are incredibly grateful to Allied Services for their significant investment in our nursing students,” said Dr. Jill Murray, Lackawanna College President. “Partnerships like this have a lasting impact on health outcomes in our communities. This opportunity will ensure that our graduates have acquired family-sustaining jobs and fill much-needed positions in our local healthcare facilities.”

Applications will be accepted until April 1 of a student’s first year and will be awarded in the Fall 2021 through Spring 2023 semesters to nine second-year students in Lackawanna’s nursing program. The scholarship will cover tuition, fees and textbooks.

“Allied Services Integrated Health System has a strong history of reinvesting in education for our employees’ career advancement,” said Bill Conaboy, Esq., President and CEO of Allied Services. “This new nursing education partnership is an excellent example of extending the same opportunities to deserving students who truly want to make a difference in healthcare by joining our team which helps thousands of people, especially the aging in our region and those with chronic illness, in long term care, home health, rehabilitation nursing, and hospice care”. 

The new scholarship opportunity aligns with Lackawanna College’s and Allied Services’ commitment to preparing students for careers in the field of healthcare, particularly in post-acute and long-term care.

More information about how to apply for the Allied Services Nursing Scholarship is available at

Marywood University’s School of Social Work to Hold Spring 2021 Online Information Sessions

Marywood University’s School of Social Work will hold several Spring 2021 Online Information Sessions for both its Scranton and Lehigh Valley programs. The online information sessions are free and open to anyone who is interested in pursuing an undergraduate, graduate, or doctorate of social work degree.

Marywood University’s Scranton location online information sessions will be offered on:

  • Thursday, March 18, 2021, from 12-1 p.m.
  • Friday, March 19, 2021, from 12-1 p.m.
  • Friday, April 9, 2021, from 10-11 a.m.
  • Tuesday, April 13, 2021, from 12-1 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 17, 2021, from 6-7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 27, 2021, from 12-1p.m.

To register, please visit, or contact Selina Shrestha, at, or call (570) 348-6282, ext. 4566 for questions.

Marywood University’s online information sessions for its Lehigh Valley Program at DeSales University will be offered on:

  • Thursday, march 18, 2021, from 12-1 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 20, from 9-10 a.m.
  • Monday, April 5, from 5:30–6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 21, from 5:30–6:30 p.m.
  • Monday, May 20, 2021, from 5:30–6:30 p.m.

To register, visit, or email with questions.

Participants will learn more about the accredited master’s degree in social work (MSW). An MSW degree from Marywood University includes both full and part-time study options, and advanced standing for bachelor of social work (BSW) graduates. Additionally, attendees will learn about the admission process and Marywood SSW internship program.

For additional questions, please call the Office of Admissions, at (570) 348-6234.

Lackawanna County Commissioners’ Proclaim March 25 as Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day

March is both National Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month with Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day being observed on Thursday, March 25. Lackawanna County Commissioners’ issued an official proclamation declaring March 25 as Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, to coincide with UCP of NEPA’s GO GREEN Campaign to help raise awareness.

United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern Pennsylvania was founded by families of those individuals with cerebral palsy, and over the years it has grown to support individuals with all different types of disabilities, including cerebral palsy. We increase awareness of those individuals with cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities by wearing the color green on March 25.

Participating is free and simple. Dress in green, take a photo and post it to UCP of NEPA’s social media channels, tagging #UCPNEPA #GOGREEN. Community support is imperative to the success of this event to help raise awareness of cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities. It’s up to each of us to do our part and support each other in our local community. This is a perfect way for schools, businesses, community organizations, health providers, sports teams, etc. to show our support.

Everhart Museum Names Kathy Johnson Bowles as Executive Director

After a nationwide six-month search and with assistance from Arts Consulting Group, the Board of Trustees of the Everhart Museum is pleased to announce that Kathy “Johnson” Bowles has been selected as the new Executive Director. Ms. Johnson Bowles brings with her thirty-two years of experience in museum management and higher education, specializing in fundraising, strategic planning, community engagement, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability.

Ms. Johnson Bowles has worked extensively with educational and not-for-profit institutions creating
philanthropic and revenue-generating solutions as the CEO of Gordian Knot Consulting, as a senior
executive in higher education, and as a museum director. Her advice on management best practices has been published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Inside Higher Education, the National Association of University and College Business Officers, among others. As a museum director, she has organized more
than 120 exhibitions and has written numerous catalogs and essays for national publications.

” Ms. Johnson Bowles successfully led Longwood University’s Longwood Center for the Visual Art to national accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and received more than a dozen international, national, and regional awards for excellence in programs and publications. Her experience is extensive, and the Board of Trustees and I have much confidence in her ability to provide the guidance and leadership needed as we look to the future,” said Don Frederickson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Ms. Johnson Bowles has provided service to national, state, and regional boards, including an
appointment by the Governor of Virginia to The Library of Virginia Board, and was a Fellow with the
American Council on Education
, the Harvard Management Institute, and the National Endowment for
the Arts.

“I am passionate about the role museums play in communities. Museums allow us to showcase our history, connect it to our lives today as we imagine the future. I hope to bring my experience to the Everhart, guiding and leading the team to achieve institutional excellence through focused innovation and shared responsibility as we serve the public,” said Ms. Johnson Bowles.

Kathy Johnson Bowles will relocate to the Scranton area from North Carolina. The move will bring her closer to her daughter, who resides in Philadelphia.

The Wright Center Moderates Remote Panel Discussion About Health Records

“Sharing Data, Saving Lives: The Healthcare Interoperability Agenda” will premiere Friday, March 19, at 7 p.m. on WVIA-TV. Additional air dates include Sunday, March 21, 2 p.m.; Thursday, March 25, 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 28, 3 p.m. This is the second episode in a four-part special series that delves into the importance of partnerships and pathways needed for physicians, hospitals — and even patients themselves — to be able to access electronic health records containing crucial medical histories anywhere and any time.

Healthcare interoperability means patient health information can be safely exchanged between labs, hospitals, pharmacies, primary care offices, etc., in order to advance the effective delivery of care. Interoperability makes it easier for medical providers to share patient information with one another and in real time. For example, a patient who is on vacation and falls ill may not be able to provide all details of his medical history, which can make all the difference to the emergency room doctor charged with his care.

Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, CEO of The Wright Center for Community Health and President of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, moderates a remote panel discussion that also includes:

  • Martin Ciccocioppo, Director of the Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Program in the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
  • Marty Lupinetti, President and CEO of HealthShare Exchange, a health data hub with more than 10 million patients throughout the Greater Philadelphia and Delaware Valley regions, including southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey
  • Kim Chaundry,  Operations Director for the Keystone Health Information Exchange, which serves more than 5.8 million patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“The ability to safely exchange and access your health information between your doctor, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers in real time is extremely important, especially during a pandemic,” explained Dr. Thomas-Hemak. “It allows your primary care doctor to know, for example, that you tested positive for COVID-19, enabling your physician’s office to proactively reach out and provide appropriate care. 

“Interoperability also offers you easy access to your own health information, which is critical now that we have COVID vaccinations available,” Dr. Thomas-Hemak added. “It has the power to track vaccine administration, the type of vaccine administered, side effects, and to generate second-dose scheduling efforts. Without interoperability, patient care and safety are at risk, costs are higher and the transition to value-based care is jeopardized.”

NEPA Health Care Foundation Opens Careers in Care Nursing Scholarships

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Health Care Foundation today announces the opening of its new Careers in Care Nursing Scholarship application, established through the Scranton Area Community Foundation.  This $700,000 competitive nursing scholarship program aims to support the growth and development of the nursing workforce in NEPA. The Careers in Care Nursing Scholarship Program is now accepting applications from students who plan to pursue or who are pursuing nursing and who will practice in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Interested students with demonstrated financial need can apply through the Scranton Area Community Foundation’s online portal found at

The deadline to apply for a nursing scholarship is Saturday, May 15, 2021.

To qualify for a Careers in Care Nursing Scholarship, individuals must show they have had a permanent address in Lackawanna, Luzerne, or Wyoming County for the last three years. Scholarships are available to those interested in obtaining a CNA and entering the healthcare workforce. Scholarships are also for anyone employed in the healthcare field in either Lackawanna, Luzerne, or Wyoming County and looking to advance as an LPN or RN. Additionally, students may apply if they are in their third or fourth year of a four-year nursing degree and looking for financial assistance. ‘Nontraditional’ students or those looking to go back to school to obtain a nursing degree may also apply. A registered nurse looking to obtain a Master’s degree may also qualify for a Careers in Care Nursing Scholarship. Letters of recommendation are required when applying.

These scholarship opportunities offered by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Health Care Foundation through its Careers in Care program, come during a time where the strains on the healthcare workforce in Northeastern Pennsylvania have been significant. These scholarships aim to make an impact on the nursing workforce in Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming Counties.

“These scholarships will provide the much-needed financial support to students who may otherwise not have been able to further their education,” stated Director of Nursing and Associate Professor of Practice at Marywood University, Dr. Theresa Tulaney, Ph.D., MS, RN, GCNS. “In addition, it will allow students to focus on their education instead of having to work many hours to alleviate difficult financial situations,” she added.

“The Foundation’s Board understands the strains that the regional healthcare workforce is facing and,  through the Careers in Care initiative, strives to make an impact to address these critical issues,” said James Clemente, NEPA Health Care Foundation Board Chair. “Over the past year, we have seen just how timely this really is.”

Additionally, through Careers in Care, the NEPA Health Care Foundation will provide grant support totaling $830,000, to a variety of organizations including Lackawanna College, for its three-year plan to enhance the pipeline of local healthcare professionals and increase the number trained and retained in the region; United Neighborhood Centers of NEPA for its Upward Economic Mobility Program; and Saint Joseph’s Center for direct support professional wage increases. 

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Health Care Foundation’s Careers in Care initiative is a $1.5 million commitment over a three-year period (2020-2023) focused on moving the needle on these critical areas.

The rollout of the Careers in Care initiative comes after the completion of a regional listening tour which the Foundation conducted from May through September of 2019.  The NEPA Health Care Foundation conducted 30 site visits across the region to determine the health workforce challenges from the perspective of multiple healthcare providers, colleges, universities, vocational schools, agencies, and other nonprofit organizations, and how the Foundation could best make an impact.

“It was clear from discussions during our listening tour that there is a great demand for nurses at all levels. Supply is just not able to meet demand,” said Laura Ducceschi, President and CEO of the Scranton Area Community Foundation. She continued, “It was also clear that the development of the regional health workforce pipeline needs to continue to start earlier with students.” The Scranton Area Community Foundation administers the NEPA Health Care Foundation.

In addition to the Careers in Care initiative, the NEPA Health Care Foundation is also in the seventh year of a $3.2 million commitment to the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM) for scholarship support for incoming first-year medical students from Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming counties.  The NEPA Health Care Foundation Scholars program covers full tuition for these scholars, who indicate a commitment to practice medicine in Northeastern PA.

The Fireside Martini Grill Patio Now Open

The Fireside Martini Grill patio is now open with three igloos set up and available for customers to dine in. The restaurant is featuring St. Patrick’s cocktails and will soon have spring cocktails for purchase.

Swift Kennedy Helps Companies with HR & Benefits Administration

The proliferation of vaccinations and recent easing of restrictions on some Pennsylvania businesses are giving hope to many local employers that they may soon be able to jumpstart their businesses and hire new employees or rehire old ones.

However, many business owners have learned a valuable lesson from this crisis – namely, that to operate successfully in a world of unpredictable lockdowns, they need to update their Human Resources and Benefits Administration systems.

That is one reason that so many companies are now turning to insurance brokerage firms like Swift Kennedy & Associates to help them streamline their systems and manage HR issues ranging from onboarding and employee education to terminations and COBRA administration.

Virtual HR/Benefits Administration

Swift Kennedy offers employers a virtual HR/Benefits platform that enables them to hold digital open enrollment meetings and to keep track of how far each employee has advanced in the enrollment process through an enrollment progress dashboard. 

This system also streamlines a company’s absence management and enhances both its benefit communications and employee education.  In addition, employers have access to Swift Kennedy’s benefit support team via webchat, video conference, phone, and email.

Employees appreciate the fact that this platform lets them use virtual plan comparison tools when selecting benefit packages and enrolling online.  They also like being able to view their benefits digitally 24/7 on both their computers and mobile devices.

Swift Kennedy’s other HR/Benefits services include day-to-day benefits administration (including claims assistance, billing support, enrollments, and terminations), COBRA administration, and access to a comprehensive digital library of HR and benefits information.

The agency also helps businesses find affordable medical, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance plans, as well as alternative funding options.  

“We pride ourselves on helping employers manage their HR and Benefit needs from start to finish,” said Jerry Calistri, Swift Kennedy’s President and CEO, who is a Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist.

Swift Kennedy, which specializes in group employee benefits and senior insurance plans, works with all health insurance carriers in Pennsylvania and has offices in State College, Williamsport, Scranton, DuBois, Johnstown, and Virginia Beach.