Politics & Government

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

Pennsylvania Courts

Across Pennsylvania Tuesday, voters will choose judges and justices in a total of 370 races at all levels of the state court system.

 

Many voters find it challenging to choose which judicial candidates to support, according to Maureen Lally-Green, a former judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court and the dean of Duquesne School of Law.

 

Min Xian / WPSU

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to put on ice a federal lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's congressional districts approved after the 2010 census.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

In 2015, $15.8 million was spent in Pennsylvania's judicial elections, breaking the record for the costliest supreme court race in U.S. history.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the state budget wrapped up, lawmakers can turn their attention to a few fast approaching deadlines--including the renewal of funding for unemployment compensation.  

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED  Nov. 3, 2017 at 12:32 p.m.

Pittsburgh's only contested city council race this year pits Democrat Anthony Coghill against Republican Cletus Cibrone-Abate for the District 4 seat.

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Republican leaders in Pennsylvania's General Assembly on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put on ice a federal lawsuit challenging the state's congressional districts approved after the 2010 census.

House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati asked Justice Samuel Alito in a filing for a stay of the lawsuit by five Pennsylvania voters against the governor and elections officials.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a tumultuous budget process that saw state lawmakers pass a plan they couldn’t fully pay for, many are looking into changing how the system works entirely.

Allegheny County/Virginia Alvino Young

On November 7, voters in some northern Allegheny County municipalities will choose between one-term Republican Incumbent Ed Kress and Democrat Anita Prizio to represent District 3 on County Council. 

Kress is a native of Shaler Township. The lawyer was first elected in 2013, although he served two other short appointed stints.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Tuesday’s election may be in an off-year, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have statewide implications.

The highest-profile race is for a seat on the state Supreme Court, and seats are also open on the Superior and Commonwealth courts.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court leans heavily Democratic right now, with a 5 to 2 majority.

The Republican candidate, Sallie Mundy, currently holds one of those seats and is seeking a full 10-year term. She was appointed as an interim justice by Governor Tom Wolf last year.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

When Pennsylvanians go to the polls next Tuesday, they’ll have a rare opportunity to vote to change the state constitution.

Friends of Mik Pappas

For the first time in 24 years, Ron Costa, Sr., will face an opponent in the Nov. 7 election for magisterial district judge. Attorney Mik Pappas is running to unseat him in Pennsylvania’s 31st Magisterial District, which includes eight East End neighborhoods.

Running as an Independent, Pappas calls himself progressive.

Keith Srakocic / AP

As Pittsburgh continues trying to grow its tech sector, including a bid for Amazon’s second North American headquarters, Mayor Bill Peduto said he's conscious about ensuring that rising tide lifts all boats.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Tech giants are testifying before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday about Russian efforts to spread disinformation in the U.S. Representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google, along with two national security analysts, will speak with lawmakers about ways that Russia has used the social media platforms.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

One of the biggest parts of the budget plan that Governor Tom Wolf has now mostly signed into law is $1.5 billion worth of borrowing.

But Wolf said Monday it’s not yet set in stone where that money will come from.

The legislature’s plan called for borrowing from the Tobacco Settlement Fund—which gets yearly payments from a settlement states made with tobacco companies in the late 1990s.

But while he was waiting for lawmakers to pass it, Wolf came up with his own approach — deciding to borrow the money against future revenue from the state-run liquor industry.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf has signed the majority of the revenue plan passed by the legislature last week —four months past the deadline.

But he hasn’t signed the public school code yet, and in a briefing Monday, appeared to leave open the possibility of vetoing it.

The rest of the revenue package fills a $2.2 billion hole in the $32 billion budget.

90.5 WESA

Republican incumbent County Councilman Tom Baker has a challenger for the seat he’s held since 2014 thanks to a successful write-in campaign from Democrat Jack Betkowski.

A week before the primary election, Betkowski, who is a Ross Township commissioner, decided to run for a seat to represent Ross, Moon, North Fayette, Findlay and other northeastern townships. He said he wants to increase public transparency and takes issue with the fact that meetings are held Downtown at 5 p.m.

Governor OKs Online Gambling, More Casinos In Pennsylvania

Oct 30, 2017
Julie Jacobson / AP, file

Pennsylvania's governor has approved legislation authorizing a major expansion of gambling in what's already the nation's second-largest commercial casino state.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday he's signed a bill that will make the state the fourth to allow online gambling. The measure also will allow the state's current 10 casinos to apply for the right to operate satellite casinos and put video gambling terminals inside truck stops. It also would allow gambling parlors in airports.

Allegheny County / Campaign of Mike Dell

Voters in the Eastern municipalities of Allegheny County will chose between a longtime incumbent and an accountant for County Council’s District 8 seat Nov. 7.

Budget Bills Are Ugly, But Wolf Has Little Choice But To Sign

Oct 30, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's House of Representatives had passed an aggressive, bipartisan gambling expansion bill an hour earlier when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's top budget adviser walked by the chamber's Democratic leader in the Capitol's ornate Rotunda.

"Thank you," he told Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny.

It was perhaps the most polite thing said about Pennsylvania's ugly budget process and a Frankenstein-like assortment now sitting on Wolf's desk: The gambling bill, a $140 million tax package and $1.5 billion borrowing measure to bail out the state's finances.

Matt Rourke / AP

The cash-strapped Pennsylvania state government is getting another loan to pay its bills on time.

Pennsylvania state Treasurer Joe Torsella said Friday he's authorizing a $1.8 billion credit line that must be paid back by April 2.

It comes as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers are patching up a deficit, primarily by borrowing, tapping off-budget programs and expanding casino gambling.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s state House has sent a gambling expansion bill to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk — effectively finishing the budget lawmakers have labored over this entire fiscal year, four months past the due date.

The long, complex measure prompted hours of debate over the course of two days.

It significantly broadens Pennsylvania’s 13-year-old gaming industry.

Gambling in airports and over the internet will now be legal. Truck stops across the commonwealth will be able to install video gaming terminals — or VGTs — and up to 10 new miniature casinos are authorized.

Pennsylvania House Passes Massive Gambling Bill

Oct 26, 2017
Julie Jacobson / AP, file

*UPDATED: Oct. 26, 2017 at 12:48pm

The Pennsylvania House is sending a just-unveiled plan to expand casino-style gambling to truck stops, online portals, airports and 10 new mini-casino sites to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf.

The chamber approved it 109-72 on Thursday, as lawmakers hope to squeeze a couple hundred million more from license fees and gambling losses to help stitch together Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After almost four months of false starts and negotiation breakdowns, the state legislature has passed most of a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s budget—almost entirely through borrowing and internal transfers.

Matt Rourke / AP

State representatives are trying to figure out how to stop voter registration glitches that have allowed over 500 non-citizens to vote in state and national elections since 2000.

pacourts.us

The two candidates fighting for a full term on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be debating the issues at a Harrisburg law school.

The hour-long forum at Widener University Commonwealth Law School on Wednesday pits Democrat Dwayne Woodruff against Republican Sallie Mundy.

Woodruff is a family court judge in Allegheny County and a former defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Matt Rourke / AP

The legislature is crawling closer to finishing its four-months-late state budget—with the House and Senate both saying they’re aiming to finalize a plan based mostly on borrowing this week.

“It’s been a long three months, so hopefully there’s more optimism than there was for most of the time,” House Republican Leader Dave Reed said.

“But,” he added, “we’ll wait and see.”

So far, the legislature has sent the governor its fiscal code, which implements the overall budget, and which Wolf said he still has to review.

Ivanka Trump Says Tax Plan Addresses Needs Of US Families During PA Town Hall

Oct 24, 2017
Rich Shultz / AP

President Donald Trump's eldest daughter on Monday channeled her roles as a working mother, entrepreneur and senior adviser to the president to help sell the administration's tax plan, which she said is overdue to address the needs of the modern American family in an increasingly competitive global market.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

This week the state Senate is expected to consider a budget proposal that’s already been approved by the House, and leaders say the borrowing-heavy plan might be the only avenue to finding consensus.

But disagreements remain on a key component of the revenue package: how to expand gambling.

Many House members have long wanted to legalize remote video gaming terminals—or VGTs— in bars and taverns. They argue illegal terminals already exist, and should be regulated.

Senate Eyes House Budget Plan That's Short Of What It Wanted

Oct 23, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Amid a four-month budget standoff, the Pennsylvania Senate is returning to the Capitol to confront a House budget-balancing plan that falls well short of what Senate leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf had sought.

Monday's session day could start a long week for senators.

The budget fight largely revolves around the size of a tax increase to help plug Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances. That's pitting Wolf and the Senate against the House Republican majority. The sides are agreeing to borrow more than $1 billion to help backfill the deficit.

Sait Serkan Gurbuz / AP

Ivanka Trump is slated to discuss the Republican tax plan at a town hall in Bucks County.

President Donald Trump's daughter will be joined by U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza at the event in Richboro on Monday. The event will be moderated by former Rep. Nan Hayworth.

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