Government & Politics

Government & Politics
7:57 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Veterans Marker Now Available on Driver’s Licenses

Pennsylvania’s military veterans can now have their service noted on their driver’s licenses.

The new designation is free, though the costs of renewing the license apply.

At a roll-out news conference Tuesday, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) said the designation helps identify veterans so people can simply show respect.

“And it will come in handy in the worst of times when a veteran may find him or herself in a dangerous situation,” Baker said. “This designation is something our veterans have asked for, and worked for, for a very long time.”

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Military
5:03 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Two Former Guardsman Charged With Stealing Nearly $300,000 From Military

The United States Department of Justice Wednesday announced charges against two former enlisted Guardsman at the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Coraopolis.

U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said Col. Gerard J. Mangis, 59, of Shaler Township is charged with 110 counts of conspiracy, honest service wire fraud, false claims and theft of government property. Mangis was formerly a Vice-Wing Commander at the refueling wing; he was relieved of his duties in 2011.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:00 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Wagner: Campaign Finance Reform, Education Funding Top Priorities

Gubernatorial candidate Jack Wagner
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

After an unsuccessful run for mayor of Pittsburgh, former Pennsylvania auditor general Jack Wagner has thrown his hat into the gubernatorial ring.

Currently, he is the only candidate from Western Pennsylvania seeking the Democratic nomination, but he said he plans to focus his campaign on the entire state.

He’s late to the race and behind in fundraising. He acknowledged he’s up against candidates with much more personal wealth than he has, but said he intends to work hard on fundraising. He went on to say that if elected, one of his priorities would be campaign finance reform.

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Affordable Care Act
12:13 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

PA Voters Less Likely to Vote for Candidates Who Supported Affordable Care Act, Poll Says

A new poll out from the Robert Morris University Polling Institute shows that Pennsylvania voters are more likely than average Americans to oppose the Affordable Care Act in the context of mid-term elections.

RMU asked 1,006 American adults and an additional 501 Pennsylvanians if they knew that a member of Congress had voted for the Affordable Care Act, would it make them more or less likely to vote for that person.

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Labor
5:32 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Peduto to Begin Mediating Talks Between UPMC and SEIU

Mayor Bill Peduto said in a press conference Tuesday that he is beginning talks with UPMC and SEIU, in attempt to resolve the ongoing labor dispute at the non-profit healthcare organization.  

Peduto said he will begin by meeting with both sides individually to see where they are at, before bringing all parties to the table.

“Right now, this is the most pressing issue that I have, because it affects not only our economy, but our peace,” Peduto said. “It hits on all the different things we talk about when we build a next Pittsburgh.”

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Government & Politics
8:18 am
Tue March 4, 2014

A Push for Human Services Block Grant, Despite Data Difficulties

The Corbett administration wants to expand the block grant approach of funding county human services programs, despite concerns that assessments of the new method have been done in a vacuum.

The human services block grant was approved in 2012, changing the way certain counties receive human services funding. Instead of getting discrete funding for seven different programs, selected counties have received one lump sum to parcel out among all the services.

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Government & Politics
8:12 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Transportation Funding: Too Touchy To Tout?

A Wall Street Journal editorial last week delivered a harsh sizing-up of Gov. Tom Corbett’s legislative achievements, and in so doing prompted a question: Why isn’t the governor campaigning on securing additional transportation funding for the state?

The WSJ op-ed noted Corbett’s low polling numbers and criticized the governor for being “unable to corral his caucus to pass even de minimis pension, school and tax reforms.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:44 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

2 States for 2 Peoples: A Local Town Hall on a 2 State Solution for Israel & Palestine

Mattan Peretz and Obada Shtaya, grassroots activists with the OneVoice Movement
Credit Shania Low / OneVoice Movement

On Monday night, the Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh hosts a town hall meeting in support of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Territory.

The meeting is part of J Street’s 2 Campaign, a nationwide effort to localize conversations of a two state resolution.

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Government & Politics
4:38 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

New Restaurant Grading System Moves Forward in Allegheny County

The Allegheny County Board of Health voted to move forward on crafting a new restaurant grading system that would give eating establishments a letter grade from "A" to "C."

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Government & Politics
10:00 am
Mon March 3, 2014

More Than Two Months Before Primary, Democratic Candidates Are Still On The Same Page

There’s still little daylight between the positions espoused by the Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania governor, as evidenced by the Friday debate in Harrisburg hosted by Keystone Progress, a progressive Democrats’ group.

Most all of the six Democratic candidates who participated in the two-hour long debate could have pulled a muscle being nice. They poured water for one another from the shared pitchers on stage and shared off-mic jokes. They complimented, echoed each other’s policy positions, and rarely asked for time to give a rebuttal to someone else’s answer.

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Keystone Progress Debate 2014
4:04 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Pennsylvania Progressive Summit Hosting Gubernatorial Debate

Six Democratic candidates for governor will debate tonight during the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit hosted by Keystone Progress. According to Executive Director Michael Morrill, this will be the first opportunity for candidates to rebut each other’s arguments unlike earlier forums.

Morrill says the candidates are going to face questions unlike any they have heard before.

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City Government
4:59 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Local Real Estate Investor Proposes Solution to Urban Blight

Around 200 people spoke at last week’s public hearing on Councilwoman Deb Gross’s land bank legislation, according to Gross’s chief of staff Nathaniel Hansen.

At least one of those people, Josh Caldwell of the Pittsburgh Real Estate Investors Association, has gone public with his proposal for fighting urban blight.

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Government & Politics
4:41 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Casey Pushing For Drug Abuse Legislation

Saying Pennsylvania is in a prescription and drug abuse crisis, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) is pushing for legislation to study and fight opioid abuse.

The Prescription Drug Abuse Act would include training for practitioners, state grants for drug abuse education, and the creation of a national registry to track opioid related deaths.

Pennsylvania has the third highest rate of heroin abuse in the U.S. and ranks 14th in drug overdose mortality, according to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Casey said the state’s drug abuse problem is too large to ignore.

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City Government
8:08 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Burgess Introduces Priority Communities Initiative for Redevelopment of Troubled Neighborhoods

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess has introduced four pieces of legislation that he said will help spur development in some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

One piece of legislation would create the Pittsburgh Priority Communities Commission, a body that would be tasked with creating comprehensive redevelopment plans for six to eight neighborhoods that show the most potential for an economic resurgence.

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Government & Politics
8:03 am
Thu February 27, 2014

PennDOT Chief: Winter Weather Has Wiped Out Road Maintenance Budget

The PennDOT secretary says his annual funding allocation for winter road maintenance has been wiped out by the harsh winter weather.

Barry Schoch says his agency is already about 11 million dollars over budget for the season.

He said frigid temperatures, snow and ice, along with underinvestment in road paving, has led to more and more potholes.

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Government & Politics
7:52 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Gov. Corbett Doing Well After Surgery In Pittsburgh

Updated: 10:35 a.m.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's office says his hernia surgery went well and he's resumed his role and powers as governor.

Corbett returned to Pittsburgh to have the outpatient surgery performed at Allegheny General Hospital so he could recover in his Shaler home. 

Corbett was under general anesthesia from 7:10 a.m. to 8:35 a.m. Spokesperson Jay Pagni said the governor "was in great spirits" as he left the hospital.

Corbett will remain in Shaler through the weekend and return to work in Harrisburg Monday.

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Pension Reform
4:12 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Peduto and Auditor General Lobby for Statewide Pension Reform

State Auditor General Eugene Depasquale joined Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Wednesday to announce recommended reforms addressing the $6.7 billion of underfunded municipal pension liabilities in Pennsylvania.

According to Depasquale, 47 percent of municipalities in Pennsylvania are considered distressed when it comes to their ability to fund employee pensions. As a solution to this statewide concern, Depasquale issued 13 recommendations for state legislators to enact.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:59 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Reporter Debrief on the Sentencing of Nate Harper

Former Police Chief Nate Harper
Credit File Photo / 90.5 WESA

Former Pittsburgh Police Chief, Nate Harper, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiring to create an unauthorized slush fund.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon also ordered the 61-year-old Harper to repay $31,986 from the fund that he spent on himself.

90.5 WESA’s reporter Deanna Garcia says the sentencing was not surprising for most people, but Harper’s family and legal team were disappointed.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:46 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

In the Case of Nate Harper, Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, believes that the sentencing was right for Nate Harper.
Credit University of Pittsburgh Law School

Roughly one year ago Nate Harper resigned from his post as Pittsburgh Police Chief. Soon after his resignation, Harper was indicted with conspiracy charges and failing to file tax returns.

Yesterday US District Judge Cathy Bissoon sentenced Harper to 18 months in prison as well as repayment of the $31,986 for the slush fund that he spent on himself.

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Government & Politics
7:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Corbett Administration Urges Caution on Film Tax Credit Expansion

The Corbett administration is still cautioning lawmakers against uncapping a tax credit for the film industry.

Several Republican legislative leaders, along with Democrats, have voiced support for increasing the state’s annual $60 million in tax credits. Supporters say it would attract more big-budget films to the commonwealth and support a growing industry.

But Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said there are complications to consider.

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Government & Politics
4:28 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

State DPW Head Calls for Agency to be Renamed

The head of the commonwealth’s Department of Public Welfare is telling state lawmakers she’d “love” for her agency to be renamed.

Supporters of changing the name to the Department of Human Services have long said the switch would show more sensitivity to benefit recipients.

DPW Secretary Bev Mackereth has previously cited concerns about the cost of the makeover.

"But in the year that I’ve been here and I’ve watched people who again believe we’re something we’re not, that becomes a concern because it becomes a barrier," she said.

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Public Safety
3:28 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Peduto Seeks Quality Over Speed in Filling Public Safety Positions

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Mayor Bill Peduto said he is not rushing to fill two of the most high profile vacant positions in the city: public safety director and police chief.

In a Monday interview with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer, Peduto said it is more important to find the right person for those positions than it is to get them filled right away.

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Government & Politics
7:47 am
Mon February 24, 2014

New Website Design Aims to Make Campaign Finance Reports Easier to Find

The Pennsylvania Department of State has redesigned the portion of its website that contains campaign finance reports. Spokesman Ron Ruman said the old site design was confusing.

“It was set up in a way that perhaps made sense to candidates or people that file campaign finance reports and that sort of thing,” said Ruman, “but to the average citizen that doesn’t deal with those things a lot it was kind of confusing, it wasn’t necessarily intuitive in the way it did the searches.”

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Government & Politics
5:00 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

PA Supreme Court Won't Revisit Gas Drilling Case

Pennsylvania's highest court said Friday it would not revisit its decision striking down a state law that took zoning decisions about natural gas drilling out of the hands of local governments.

The state Supreme Court denied a request by Gov. Tom Corbett's administration to vacate its decision and send it back to a lower court for a new round of briefs and fact-finding process.

Instead, the justices left in place the Dec. 19 decision that said new industry-friendly rules violated the state constitution.

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Government & Politics
4:35 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Citing Funding Crisis, Nursing Facilities Ask for More State Aid

Nursing homes across Pennsylvania say they’re facing a funding crisis exacerbated by longer life expectancy, sicker patients as compared to two decades ago, and less federal aid for patients on Medicaid. Now they’re asking for state lawmakers for additional financial aid.

Managers of long-term care organizations say they’ve cut costs as much as they can. If they don’t get more state aid, they say more institutions will have to turn away Medicaid patients because reimbursement rates don’t match the costs of care.  

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