2017: The year of legislative ambition

Your elected officials barely got through their "Happy New Year" greetings before getting back to work. The 201st legislative session will likely see a change from the plodding pace of lawmaking in years past. 

Democratic governor Tom Wolf told 90.5 WESA that he'll still be able to implement his agenda, but Senate Republicans have a veto-proof majority and the House has the largest number of Republicans in decades. And if December's unemployment center funding debate was any indication, bipartisan cooperation may be a pipe dream in Pennsylvania. 

Already, the House has made some moves, including tightening ethics rules in the wake of a Philadelphia lawmaker's embezzlement conviction. Rep. Leslie Acosta secretly pleaded guilty and then was re-elected. They'd rather that not happen again. 

There has been lots of talk about starting the year off with some gaming legislation, intended to offer answers to the many questions left over from last year's supreme court ruling. 

One lawmaker is planning to propose a bill that would cut off funding to "sanctuary campuses," which protect illegal immigrants from federal authorities. He's got company on the federal level: Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey has proposed a similar bill for sanctuary cities

Even as we move into a new year, don't forget the greatest hits of 2016. That includes the loosening of liquor laws to allow (gasp!) the sale of wine in grocery stores. Don't fully understand Pennsylvania's liquor laws? We've got an explainer for you. 

2017: The year of financial progress

Is your New Years resolution to get out of debt? You're not alone. Two Delaware County boroughs in Act 47, the state's program for distressed cities, are hoping to have a steadier year than they saw last year. 

Some counties are hoping to capture additional income by reassessing their property taxes. Pennsylvania has the least regulated system of tax reassessment in the country, leaving some homeowners paying more than they should and some public utilities, like schools, earning less than they should. But reassessment isn't without pain: Blair County is facing push back as they try to determine tax rates for the first time in decades.

Philadelphia is implementing a sweetened beverage tax with mixed success. Allentown is offering potential home-buyers cash to move downtown. Pittsburgh businesses earned $9.4 million from the filming of a movie adaptation of August Wilson's play Fences.  And tax reform could hurt affordable housing by making tax credits less valuable to investors.

Compared to these ups and downs, getting out of your credit card debt should be easy! 

2017: The year of defying gravity

What goes up must come down. For inclines (or aerial trams or gondolas) those are the only two directions they can go in. Pennsylvania's three public transit inclines may be onto something. And as our roads get more and more clogged, we could all be onto something — something like an incline. 

If you're not going up on an incline, just hope you're not going down — into a sinkhole. Sinkholes are fairly common in Pennsylvania and they're caused by a variety of different factors, including building over mines and sinking limestone. 

As we've reported, the growth of Pittsburgh's airport is a good sign for economic recovery. But now Frontier Airlines is cancelling two of it's five much-anticipated flights out of the airport due to low economic performance. May we suggest taking the train? (Oh, wait, that's also really hard.) 

2017: The year Pennsylvania wins everything

At least that's how it's looking so far. It's only January 3 and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is already coming in hot with some great news for the state. Toomey has held onto ownership of the Senate candy desk for one more year. 

In a press release, Toomey said, "Our state is home to the best confectioners in the world. Hershey's, of course, is headquartered in Central Pennsylvania. Mars makes Three Musketeers in Elizabethtown. Asher's is based in Kulpsville. Just Born creates Peeps in Bethlehem. One senior Republican senator, who shall remain nameless, makes a special request for Gertrude Hawk candies from Dunmore. And there are so many more. I am proud to spotlight the best of Pennsylvania in the Candy Desk." 

We may have already reached peak 2017. Stay tuned!