Politics & Government

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

Twice A Supreme Court Runner-Up, PA's Thomas Hardiman Is Back At Work

Jul 10, 2018
Cliff Owen / AP

Judge Thomas Hardiman was in the Washington area Monday, but it was for a meeting on court cybersecurity — not for a prime-time introduction as President Donald Trump's choice for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A district attorney in Pennsylvania says should Roe v. Wade be overturned, he would not prosecute any women or medical professionals for seeking or performing safe abortion services.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala says there's concern that approval of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, could result in the landmark decision's reversal.

If it is overturned, abortion laws would revert to the states.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney met Monday evening with a group of immigrant advocates, as well as members of a protest encampment decrying the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and calling on the city to end its data-sharing contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) says he'll vote against any Supreme Court nominee President Donald Trump chooses to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

He called the system Trump is using to pick the nominee -- mining from a pre-chosen pool of 25 conservative candidates -- "corrupt."

"It's a flawed system," Casey said. "If the President changes the system and opens it up to more people, then it's a different story."

Cliff Owen / AP

A look at the four judges thought to be President Donald Trump's top contenders to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court:

NAME: Amy Coney Barrett

AGE-BIRTHDATE: 46, Jan. 28, 1972

BIRTHPLACE: New Orleans.

EDUCATION: B.A., Rhodes College, 1994; J.D., Notre Dame Law School, 1997.

CURRENT JOB: Since 2017: Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

Courtesy of Friends of Turahn Jenkins

Turahn Jenkins announced his bid to challenge Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala on July 2. Less than a week later, some of the progressive activists who initially supported him are calling on him to withdraw, citing Jenkins' ties to a church with deeply conservative views on abortion and homosexuality.

Cliff Owen / AP

Vice President Mike Pence will be in Philadelphia later this month to host a fundraiser for Republican Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Lou Barletta.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Earlier this week, Peoples Natural Gas announced that it would partner with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to provide clean water to Pittsburgh, and unveiled a model for a state-of-the-art water treatment facility to be situated on riverfront property in O'Hara Township.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner spent much of his first town hall Thursday night hammering Democratic Governor Tom Wolf on his refusal, so far, to commit to debating him. 

It was a day full of one-upmanship between Wolf and Wagner’s campaigns—with both candidates deploying their running mates to counter each other’s talking points ahead of the event.

Independent Commission Will Probe Pennsylvania Voting System

Jul 5, 2018
Brad Larrison / WHYY

Cybersecurity specialists at the University of Pittsburgh have formed an independent panel to study ways to protect Pennsylvania’s voting system from hackers.

Tim Lambert / WITF

A proposal to retroactively extend the statute of limitations in child abuse cases in Pennsylvania is getting renewed blowback from national Catholic organizations.

Rick Hinshaw, a spokesman for the national Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said his group is always tracking bills that aim to make it harder to sue the church for old abuse cases beyond the statute of limitations.

The one they’ve had on their radar for a while in Pennsylvania is championed by Democratic Representative Mark Rozzi of Berks County.

Cliff Owen / AP

A Pittsburgh-based judge is reportedly in the running to be Trump’s next pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. If chosen, federal appeals court judge Thomas Hardiman, 52, would replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

State House of Representatives

In a surprise announcement made the afternoon before the Fourth of July holiday, state Rep. Hal English, R-Hampton, said he's withdrawing from the November election. 

Allegheny County Republicans can replace him on the fall ballot, but for now Democrat Betsy Monroe is the only candidate in the race. 

"I'm speechless," Monroe said, after a five-second pause, when notified that her rival was withdrawing. "I'm as surprised as anyone." 

Keith Srakocic / AP

In the wake of the officer-involved death of Antwon Rose last month, state Sen. Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) said he plans to introduce legislation to improve police training on cultural awareness and use-of-force. 

Casey, Wolf Press Feds For Details On Immigrant Children

Jul 3, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey pressed the Trump administration Tuesday for information about immigrant children being held in the state, separated from their families at the border after entering the country illegally.

In a letter sent to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Wolf and Casey, both Democrats, asked for answers on how many unaccompanied immigrant children are being held in Pennsylvania, where precisely they are living and what plans there are to reunite them with their parents.

90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders are being sued in federal court over a budget provision to fold a medical malpractice insurer and its assets into the state Insurance Department.

It’s the latest development in the commonwealth’s repeated attempts to take $200 million from the group’s surplus.

This is the third time the Joint Underwriting Association has sued the state—insisting its funds are separate from the commonwealth’s. Its employees don’t receive state benefits, and it’s not housed in a state building.

Courtesy of Friends of Turahn Jenkins

Former public defender Turahn Jenkins of Churchill will run against Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala in 2019, when the 20-year Democratic incumbent is up for reelection.

 

A Democrat, Jenkins announced his candidacy to scores of people who filled a rainy Freedom Corner in the Hill District early Monday evening.

 

Chris Potter / 90.5 WESA

East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with homicide for shooting black teenager Antwon Rose just last week, and he's already facing a civil suit. 

Wolf Puts Tax Plans Far Behind Him As He Seeks A 2nd Term

Jul 1, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gone is the governor who had ambitious plans to overhaul Pennsylvania's tax structure and pump billions more into the state treasury to fix deficits and public school funding disparities. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat running for a second term, doesn't talk about that anymore.

"Who's talking about raising taxes?" he questioned a TV reporter last month who asked Wolf about the prospect of raising taxes this year.

Allegheny County Democratic Committee / via Facebook

Democratic committee leaders gather Saturday to decide who will be the next face of the party in Pittsburgh. And among the three candidates is a controversial ward chair who has faced repeated allegations of domestic violence.

 

Kevin Quigley, of Brighton Heights, is a fixture in local Democratic politics -- he chairs his community’s 27th Ward Democratic Committee and currently serves as the city committee's vice-chair. Once a public-works official for former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, he's now employed by County Controller Chelsa Wagner.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf is raising the minimum wage for a second time for Pennsylvania government employees and contractors under his jurisdiction.

Wolf on Thursday signed an executive order increasing it to $12 an hour starting Sunday. It orders an annual boost of 50 cents-an-hour until it reaches $15 in 2024.

The administration says wages will rise immediately for 879 employees. Wolf raised the minimum wage to $10.15 in 2016, which was expected to benefit a few hundred state employees.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf has signed a bill to wipe clean criminal records for certain low-level offenders if they go a decade without any other convictions.

The so-called “Clean Slate” measure has garnered bipartisan support. Notably, Wolf and his gubernatorial challenger Scott Wagner agreed on the measure while the Republican was in the Senate.

Under the new law, people who serve a year or more in prison can petition courts to have their records sealed after 10 years, as long as they’ve made all their court-mandated payments.

401(K) 2012/Flickr

A provision in the new state budget is seeking to end a two-year legal battle between lawmakers looking for cash to shore up their spending plan, and a medical malpractice insurer the state created in the 1970s.

Lawmakers Leave State Capitol For Summer With Bills Dangling

Jun 27, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Of all the bills that stalled this week in Pennsylvania's Capitol, perhaps the most remarkable is the derailing of a measure designed to force people with a domestic violence conviction or restraining order against them to forfeit their firearms more quickly.

Wayne Parry / AP

More regulations are being released for Pennsylvania’s fledgling sports betting industry.

Pennsylvania Unions Vow To Do Job, Despite Loss In Courts

Jun 27, 2018
Jacqueline Larma / AP

Pennsylvania labor unions are vowing to keep doing their job representing workers in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that government workers can't be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining.

PA One Of 17 States Suing Trump Administration Over Family Separations

Jun 27, 2018
Patrick Semansky / AP

Seventeen states, including Washington, New York and California, sued President Donald Trump's administration Tuesday in an effort to force officials to reunite migrant families who have been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Katie Meyer / WESA/WITF

A group of frustrated activists spent Tuesday afternoon holding a sit-in at the reception room outside Governor Tom Wolf's office, trying to convince him to call a special legislative session to overhaul Pennsylvania's redistricting process.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

An anti-gerrymandering advocacy group wants Gov. Tom Wolf to call a special session urging lawmakers to pass a resolution to amend the state constitution and create a citizens' redistricting commission.

The group, March On Harrisburg, said Tuesday that it's delivering a letter to the Democratic governor. Wolf's office had no immediate comment. Lawmakers left the Capitol on Monday, with no plans to return this summer.

Left undone is a resolution to create a citizens' commission that's designed to draw legislative and congressional boundaries free of political interference.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a final Monday session to tie up loose ends, the state House of Representatives has recessed for the summer until further notice, leaving some high-profile bills still-unfinished.

One of the measures in question would make it harder for domestic abusers to possess weapons. Another that would overhaul the commonwealth’s redistricting process.

The domestic violence bill has bipartisan support, and would require people under protection from abuse orders turn over their weapons more quickly, plus make those weapons harder to reclaim.

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