Politics & Government

We cover politics and government with an eye to providing to voters clear, in-depth, nonpartisan information. 

Chris Gardner / AP

President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration is just a week away, and there's no shortage of local rallying points, parties, meetups and protests to ring in our newest commander in chief.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Pennsylvania Health Access Network is urging lawmakers against repealing the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, saying it would intensify the state’s opioid abuse epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic is devastating families across Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Health Access Network Executive Director Antoinette Kraus. “Congress’s plans to repeal the ACA without a replacement will leave them out in the cold.

Pennsylvania AG Settles With Law Firm Over Email Review Bill

Jan 11, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania attorney general's office says it's settled a dispute with a Washington, D.C., law firm over its bill for reviewing explicit and objectionable emails on the agency's computers.

The office said Wednesday it will pay an additional $1.4 million to BuckleySandler, about $400,000 less than the firm had sought. That's on top of about $380,000 already paid to BuckleySandler.

Attorney General Bruce Beemer says the deal will help in the transition to a new attorney general, Josh Shapiro. He'll be sworn in next week in Harrisburg.

Gerry Broome / AP

The NPR Politics team and reporters across the newsroom will be live-annotating a news conference with President-elect Donald Trump, expected at 11 am ET/8am PT on Wednesday. We will be fact-checking and providing background to his remarks in real-time. We will be paying special attention to any comments about conflicts of interest, health care and national security.

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Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will be in Washington D.C. next week, but not for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

The NPR Politics team and reporters across the newsroom will be live-annotating President Obama's farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday night, scheduled to begin at 9 pm ET/6pm ET. The team will be adding fact-checks and background to Obama's comments as he gives them. We'll be watching in particular for remarks on his legacy, national security, health care and foreign policy, among other topics.

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Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

One year ago, Margaret Pietz was almost the victim of fraud when a man claiming to be a lawyer called her and said her grandson owed $4,000 in car repairs related to a traffic accident. He even put a young man on the phone who addressed her as “grandma.” 

Pietz started to realize something was up when she was asked to send the funds in the form of Target gift cards and to not tell anyone else in the family.

“He thought he was calling a gullible grandma,” Pietz said. “The more I thought about it, the more I knew it was a scam.”

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban the city from asking job applicants for their salary history.

Gilman said asking for salary history perpetuates wage gaps based on gender and race.

“Rather than paying someone based off either the budget, their qualifications or the job role, people use it to give a small increase in salary but still not pay someone the wage they deserve,” he said. “We’re taking the lead in the region and banning that from our job application and calling on the private sector to join us.”

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

In a surprise announcement last week, the state said it would close two of its prisons.

And while lawmakers and local leaders have begun discussing how the closures could affect their economies, civil rights groups have turned their attention to the conditions inside the prisons.

The state still hasn’t decided which two prisons will close, but the changes will push several thousand inmates into other facilities across the state.

Andy Hoover, with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it’s hard to know exactly how to interpret this.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

The state House has passed a resolution that makes significant changes to its ethics rules.

Scott Petri, a Bucks County Republican and former chair of the Ethics Committee, said the updates have been in the works for the past two years and provide some very necessary clarification. 

He also said it’s conceivable the new rules could have prevented a recent debacle surrounding Democratic Representative Leslie Acosta.

She secretly pleaded guilty to embezzlement in March, kept her seat and then finally resigned on Tuesday after being reelected.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

Pittsburgh leaders hope the city continues to grow as a testing ground for Uber’s self-driving cars and other companies, aiming for the federally-recognized status of "automated vehicle proving ground." 

The U.S Department of Transportation put out a call for states to apply for the designation in November. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

When Pittsburgh’s public safety officials asked for volunteers to help staff the Presidential Inaugural Parade, more than 50 police officers raised their hands, according to acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert.

Matt Rourke / flickr

Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane says her nine-count perjury and obstruction conviction should be overturned because of trial errors and overlapping charges.

Kane has been sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail but remains free while she appeals the August conviction.

Her lawyer in a filing Tuesday challenges the use of a special prosecutor to investigate the leak of grand jury material. The jury found that Kane orchestrated the leak to embarrass a rival.

Katie Meyer / WITF

New members have officially been sworn into the Pennsylvania legislature.

The first day of the new session saw further entrenchment of Harrisburg’s partisan divide. Republicans shored up their majorities in the House and Senate, where they’ve often clashed with Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Now, lawmakers are turning their attention to legislative priorities in the new session.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Though Republicans boosted their stronghold in the state legislature as they were sworn into office Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he's used to working in a bi-partisan manner. 

Republicans now have a veto proof majority in the Senate, 34-16, and increased their margin to 39 seats in the House, 121-82.

Wolf said he doesn’t believe the stronger GOP grip on the legislature will affect his upcoming budget, nor has it forced him to adjust his priorities.

Lawmakers Begin New Session With Old Leaders Again At Helm

Jan 3, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania lawmakers are back in session with leadership teams largely unchanged from the two-year session that concluded in November.

The oath of office was administered Tuesday for members in both chambers, including 22 new representatives and six freshmen senators.

Republicans are again in firm majority control of both chambers, 121 to 82 in the House and 34 to 16 in the Senate.

Republican Rep. Mike Turzai was re-elected House speaker, while Republican Sen. Joe Scarnati is again the Senate's president pro tempore.

Liz Reid / 90.5 FM WESA

This is the third in a three-part web series looking ahead to 2017 with members of Pittsburgh City Council. Find part one here and part two here.

John Beale / AP

The Joint State Government Commission is recommending changes to a decades-old domestic violence protection law in Pennsylvania.

The group is pushing for updates that would, among other things, make it more difficult for abusers to access firearms.

Matt Rourke / AP

An independent report from an academic group has given Pennsylvania a dismal ranking in how well it conducts its elections.

The Electoral Integrity Project—which is based out of Harvard University and the University of Sydney—has the Keystone State tied for fifth-worst in the country.

The group ranked states based on 12 criteria, including electoral laws and procedures, media coverage, campaign finance, and district boundaries.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

This is the second in a three-part web series looking ahead to 2017 with members of Pittsburg City Council. Find part one here.

Council members Deb Gross, Corey O’Connor and Daniel Lavelle represent three very different districts, but the issue of equitable development looms large for each of them. 

Matt Rourke / AP

The 2017 legislative session has yet to begin, but some lawmakers are already making plans for the new year, and casino-related laws are among those at the top of the list.

A closed-door meeting on Jan. 3 has been planned between lawmakers and representatives from all of the state’s 12 casinos.

When it was passed this summer, the state’s operating budget included $100 million in new gambling revenue, but no bill was ever passed to provide the money.

courtesy: city of Pittsburgh

  When Bill Peduto became mayor of Pittsburgh three years ago, he restructured some of the city departments and created a new one: the Department of Innovation and Performance.

One of his first hires was Pittsburgh native Debra Lam to be the city’s first ever Chief Innovation Officer.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Lam said. “We took the old city Information Systems Department, which was just an IT department, and (Peduto) saw technology as a means rather than an end; and he wanted to see technology as a driving point to improve the quality of life for Pittsburgh.”

Katie Blackley / 90.5 FM WESA

When Pennsylvania Attorney General Elect Josh Shapiro takes the oath of office Jan. 17 he will be moving into an office that has been racked by controversy.  The last elected Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, was sentenced in October to 10 to 23 months in prison on charges of perjury and abuse of her office.

Shapiro said he believes he as a track record of acting ethically and will instill that in his staff.

Baastian Slabbers / NewsWorks

This year saw the end of one of the most dramatic political roller-coasters in recent Pennsylvania history: the tenure of former state Attorney General, Democrat Kathleen Kane.

Kane was convicted of perjury this summer and stepped down from her post, but the controversy surrounding her far predates that.

City of Pittsburgh

This is the first in a three-part web series looking ahead to 2017 with members of Pittsburgh City Council.

Pittsburgh's nine Democratic City Council members will soon find themselves governing in an era where Republicans control not only the state legislature, but both houses of Congress and the presidency. 

New App Helps Immigrants Deal With Complicated Tangle Of Forms

Dec 23, 2016
Jennifer Lynn / WHYY

 

For the 2 million people who move to the U.S. every year who wish to live and work here legally on a permanent basis, one big step involves paperwork — and lots of it. Filling out immigration forms can be tedious, confounding, and it comes at an expense.

In an effort to streamline the process, attorneys Jeremy Peskin and James Pittman have created Borderwise, a Philadelphia company with an app that prepares immigration applications based on answers to simple questions.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state health department plans to start accepting applications for growers and dispensers in Pennsylvania’s newly-formed medical marijuana program on Feb. 20.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The celebration in Pittsburgh City Council chambers Tuesday over the creation of a Housing Opportunity Fund was short-lived. Even before the final vote was taken, the focus turned to finding a revenue stream to support the fund.

“We have now created a box with a bow and wrapping paper but there is no gift in it,” Councilman Ricky Burgess said.  “We are now telling low- and moderate-income people in Pittsburgh that they count. The question is will we actually mean it?”

Keith Srakocic / AP

Affordable housing, more efficient transportation and park improvements are what Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he’ll focus on in 2017.

But the New Year also brings a measure of uncertainty for the county executive.

Fitzgerald said he’s still waiting to see what happens with a new presidential administration in office.

“We don’t live in a vacuum here in Pittsburgh and in Allegheny County,” he said.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval to a 2017 budget Tuesday that’s balanced by $10 million in casino revenues.

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