Politics & Government

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

Michael Conroy / AP

Child advocates warn that Senate Republicans’ latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act could threaten child welfare funding. Cuts to Medicaid, advocates said, could force states and counties to divert limited child welfare dollars to cover the cost of healthcare to children in out-of-home placement.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Federal authorities told officials in Pennsylvania that Russian hackers unsuccessfully tried to access election systems in the state before last year's presidential election.

Pennsylvania Loses Billions Under GOP Bill, Analysts Say

17 hours ago
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Independent analysts say Pennsylvania would be one of the hardest-hit states under Senate legislation that would take federal health care subsidies provided under President Barack Obama's 2010 law and redistribute it among states.

On Friday, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf urged Pennsylvania's U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to reject the bill that's scheduled for a vote next week. Analysts including the Kaiser Family Foundation and Avalere Health say Pennsylvania would lose billions of federal health care dollars, while some other states would get billions in new federal dollars.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

In McKees Rocks Thursday morning, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) spoke out against the Senate Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare with the Graham-Cassidy bill.

He was joined by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Health Department director Karen Hacker and Michelle Schwartzmier, whose 20-year-old daughter died of a heroin overdose earlier this year.

Pennsylvania System Glitch Let Non-Citizens Register To Vote

Sep 21, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Some people who are in the U.S. legally but who are not citizens were mistakenly allowed to register to vote in Philadelphia because of a glitch in Pennsylvania's electronic driver's licensing system, a city election official said Wednesday.

Al Schmidt, a Republican who sits on Philadelphia's three-member election commission, said that since 2006 at least 168 noncitizens registered to vote in the city through the motor voter driver's licensing system. In some cases, they voted, and some of them voted in more than one election, Schmidt said.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The GOP-controlled state Senate has formally rejected a conservative budget plan passed by the House—essentially resetting negotiations nearly three months past the deadline.

Now, Republicans in the House and Senate will attempt to work with Governor Tom Wolf to figure out a compromise.

Wolf has said he wants to get the budget done by October first.

But the general consensus from the House and Senate has been that that’s a stretch.

Pennsylvania Takes Credit Ratings Hit Amid Budget Fight

Sep 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's credit rating took its latest hit Wednesday, another black eye in a nearly three-month budget stalemate that has pitted Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Senate against the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The credit rating agency Standard and Poor's lowered its rating on Pennsylvania's debt, citing the state's stubborn post-recession deficit and its history of late budgets, as well as Standard and Poor's belief that the pattern could continue.

Matt Rourke / AP

Senators are trying to figure out how to move forward on the stalled state budget.

They’re planning to formally vote against a conservative House funding plan Wednesday in hopes of kick-starting an expedited process known as a conference committee.

However, there’s no guarantee that will happen.

After receiving it last week, Senate leaders quickly made it clear they don’t support a House proposal that would close the $2.2 billion budget gap primarily with one-time fund transfers instead of taxes.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

UPDATED: 4:18 p.m. Sept. 20, 2017*

The state Auditor General’s office has released a report that alleges a provider of abortion-alternative services misused taxpayer dollars.

Real Alternatives has been receiving state grants through the Department of Human Services for 20 years.

All of it is supposed to go to the subcontractors that actually carry out abortion alternative services.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

While federal and state environmental regulators are in town this week examining the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s treatment processes, a city-hired consultant is working on its final recommendations to completely restructure the agency.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority

Officials from state and federal regulatory agencies are in town this week touring the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s water treatment plant in Aspinwall.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate is back in session, and is gearing up to respond to a budget package the House passed last week.

Senate leaders aren’t revealing much about their plans—though they indicate they have fundamental disagreements with House leaders.

Meanwhile, the standoff is prompting credit rating agencies and budget experts to put the commonwealth on their watch lists.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Senate could vote Monday or Tuesday on whether to put the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority under state oversight.

A bill that would empower the Public Utility Commission to oversee the embattled agency has been pending before the full Senate since June 30. When the chamber returns from summer recess Monday, it will have two days to act on the measure. Without action by Tuesday, the bill will be removed from the Senate calendar with the possibility of later consideration.

Senate To Confront No-Tax Package In 80-Day Budget Fight

Sep 18, 2017
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate is due to reconvene in Harrisburg on day 80 of an increasingly ugly budget fight.

The Senate's chief piece of business Monday is sorting through the House's no-new-taxes plan approved last week amid a three-month stalemate over plugging a projected $2.2 billion budget hole.

Sen. Pat Toomey A Key Player In Trump Tax Overhaul Effort

Sep 18, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

As President Donald Trump and Congress undertake an overhaul of the U.S. tax code this fall, Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is likely to be a key player in the effort.

Toomey brings a passion for tax policy and years of experience as president of the conservative group, Club for Growth.

Pennsylvania's Ugly Budget Fight Gets Personal And Regional

Sep 18, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The feel-good bipartisan spirit that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf tried to instill last year in Pennsylvania's Capitol is gone, stomped to bits in an increasingly ugly budget stalemate.

Matt Rourke / AP

The commonwealth is putting off paying over a billion dollars to insurers who administer Medicaid benefits, because its main bank account is almost out of money.

It will be at least a week before the state can afford to pay, and the delay will probably mean the insurers will charge interest.

In some ways, this is a recurring problem for the commonwealth: bills come due at the beginning of the fiscal year, but revenue doesn’t come in until later.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he thinks fully legalizing medical and recreational marijuana could solve the state's growing budget problems.

Pennsylvania On Edge Of Missing Payments In Budget Stalemate

Sep 15, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state government appeared on the edge, for the first known time, of missing a payment as a result of not having enough cash on hand amid a feud over how to patch a $2.2 billion budget gap.

Gov. Tom Wolf's office has not revealed how the Democrat will manage through a cash crunch that he has said will leave his administration unable to pay every bill on time, three months into the fiscal year. Beginning Friday, the state's main bank account was projected to go below zero.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate's Republican majority leader is pledging fast action following the House's passage of a plan to help plug state government's $2.2 billion budget gap almost three months into the fiscal year.

Sen. Jake Corman said in a statement late Wednesday night that senators recognize the situation's urgency. Thursday is the last day that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says his administration has enough cash to pay bills on time until the spring.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House of Representatives has narrowly voted to move a budget plan built largely on one-time fund transfers.

Although it represents the first action on the overdue budget in well over a month, it’s unclear how much it’ll move the needle toward a resolution.

The Senate and the administration of Governor Tom Wolf both support a very different plan that raises several taxes—something the House majority wants to avoid completely.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state House is still working on a plan to fill a $2.2 billion dollar gap in a budget that is almost three months late.

But negotiations took an unexpected turn Tuesday when the chamber adjourned suddenly without holding an expected vote on a plan from a conservative faction of members.

On Monday, House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin had appeared fairly sure a vote would happen the next day.

But something happened in the hours since then that stalled the process.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Advocates for overhauling the redistricting process packed the Capitol rotunda Tuesday hoping to persuade lawmakers to take their quest seriously.

Pennsylvania's congressional districts are considered among the most unfair in the country.

Matt Rourke / AP

Heated speeches could be heard from the House GOP’s closed caucus room Monday night, as a conservative faction attempted—for several hours—to rally support for a budget funding plan that wouldn’t raise taxes.

They’ll probably vote on the proposal sometime Tuesday—whether or not it’ll actually pass.

House GOP leaders largely avoided commenting on the situation.

House GOP To Test Budget-Balancing Plan In Growing Stalemate

Sep 11, 2017
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will return to session Monday for the first time in seven weeks as a lengthening budget stalemate is drawing warnings by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that he is out of options to make payments on time.

Hanging in the balance is $2.2 billion in program funding — about 7 percent of approved spending — and another downgrade to Pennsylvania's battered credit rating.

Matt Rourke / AP

Agencies are raising alarms over a GOP-backed House plan to redirect billions of dollars to fill gaps in the state’s badly unbalanced budget.

The proposal comes from a conservative faction of the House.

Supporters say it wouldn’t impact state departments, because the money to be transferred is all surplus that has increased over the last few years without being spent.

But a number of agencies say they’d be profoundly affected.

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said the funds identified as “surplus” are virtually all committed for future projects.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP, file

One of Congress’s most vocal moderates has announced he’s stepping down.

Pennsylvania’s 15th District representative, Republican Charlie Dent, announced late on Thursday that he won’t seek reelection next year—a decision he said he came to in mid-summer.

Dent has cut a distinct path over the course of his seven terms in Congress.

Recently, he opposed a GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—a move that reportedly led President Donald Trump to tell Dent he was “destroying the Republican Party.”

Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania is in its third month with no balanced budget.

Governor Tom Wolf, Senate Democrats and Republicans, and House Democrats are pushing House Republicans to agree to a compromise plan that would raise some taxes and borrow money to fill a $2.2 billion shortfall.

The caucus is still holding out—and even its own members appear conflicted on what to do.

About 20 of the House’s more conservative members released a plan this week to balance the budget on transfers from the special state funds that help pay for things like transportation and parks.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says a plan assembled by a group of House Republicans to balance Pennsylvania's budget is "nonsense" and urged House members to approve a $2.2 billion bipartisan plan that passed the state Senate in July.

Wolf said Wednesday the House GOP plan would divert aid from other programs, such as volunteer fire companies, highways and county emergency response agencies.

Wolf also repeated an earlier warning that he'll have to start freezing some spending on Sept. 15 to prevent the state's main bank account from going below zero.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

According to the state constitution, congressional districts should be compact, contiguous and respect county lines. But that isn’t exactly the case for Pennsylvania’s 12th.

Pages