Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Social Media and the Gubernatorial Election

Oct 22, 2014
Tom Corbett/Tom Wolf Campaigns / Twitter

Do Governor Corbett and his challenger Tom Wolf have as many followers on Twitter and Facebook as their campaigns would lead you to believe? We’ll look at the role social media is playing in this year’s gubernatorial election with Pittsburgh Tribune Review reporter Andrew Conte.

It’s been nine years since the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility in Oakdale was slated for closure, a move that could have left 168,000 veterans and active duty military personnel in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio without a commissary or post exchange nearby.

Pennsylvania delegates in Congress, including Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey and Representatives Tim Murphy, Mike Doyle and others have been pushing for a replacement facility ever since.

Pigeon shoots can live on in Pennsylvania, and cats and dogs can still be eaten in the privacy of your own home.

That’s the state of affairs now that state lawmakers have left town without passing a state proposal banning both activities.

A House bill banning only the slaughter of dogs and cats for private human consumption began its legislative life with unanimous support last year.

Things got complicated.

Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Pittsburgh to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf.

The Wolf campaign said Clinton will lead a mid-day rally Monday at an electrical workers' union hall on Pittsburgh's South Side. Wolf is challenging Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's re-election bid.

Clinton is the third political celebrity to campaign for Wolf in as many weeks, following separate appearances in Philadelphia by his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and first lady Michelle Obama.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery has been benched over his recent admission of sending sexually explicit e-mails with people in the state attorney general's office, along with other imbroglios over the past few years. The suspension is effective immediately, though McCaffery will still receive pay.

Dozens gathered at the Allegheny County Courthouse courtyard Friday in support of legislation that would increase penalties for those convicted of child abuse.

House Bill 2411, which is sitting in the Senate judiciary committee, would take endangering the welfare of a child from a first degree misdemeanor to a felony if the child is found to have a serious bodily injury or be near death. The offense would increase one degree if the child is under six years old.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery is punching back after being named by the court’s chief justice for swapping sexually explicit emails with “longtime friends” working in state government.

McCaffery was named Wednesday by Chief Justice Ron Castille, who said a review of emails provided by the Office of Attorney General (OAG) found that McCaffery had exchanged hundreds of sexual or pornographic images with an erstwhile employee of the OAG. Castille hinted the high court might take action against McCaffery for the emails.

A once popular issue is now falling into the background, especially in the upcoming gubernatorial general election: the privatization of liquor.

Back in January of 2013, Governor Tom Corbett proposed changing Pennsylvania’s liquor laws and joining the already “48 other states,” whose sale and control of wine and spirits rests in the hands of the private market. Utah is the only other state with controls similar to Pennsylvcania's.

In the eleventh hour of this year’s state legislative session, Republicans are again trying to pass legislation that would allow citizens and groups to sue municipalities that pass gun laws.

House Bill 1796 was drafted by Representative Todd Stephens, a Republican from Montgomery County, and meant to beef up protections for victims of domestic violence.

An amendment approved in the Senate late last night added language that has come before the legislature in the past.

Stephen said he’d prefer to see the bill pass clean.

Stories of Juvenile Incarceration Told Through 'Day Room Window'

Oct 15, 2014
Jenn Vargas / Flickr

Last year the Christian Science Monitor reported juvenile incarceration rates in the U.S. were at their lowest point in 38 years.

However, the sentencing of juveniles is still a challenge for the justice system. We’ll explore this issue with Jeff Shook, associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work.

We’ll also speak with playwright Bonnie Cohen whose play "Day Room Window" is based on her experiences working in the juvenile justice system.

A long-sought expansion of the state system for tracking prescription drugs is expected to hit the governor’s desk this week.

The broadened database would monitor opioids, the powerful painkillers whose abuse has been linked to a spike in fatal heroin overdoses.

State senators are making a lunge for power in the waning legislative session.

Keno drawings and internet games offered by the Pennsylvania Lottery would need the General Assembly’s approval under a proposal amended by the state Senate. The same measure would outlaw video or monitor-based games. 

Email Scandal and Close of PA Legislative Session

Oct 14, 2014
Talk Radio News Service

We'll talk with Harrisburg Patriot News Editorial Page Editor John Micek about the latest news related to the scandal involving current and former state employees trading raunchy emails. How will it impact the governor's race with three weeks left before election day? And what's on tap in the final days of the legislative session?

State lawmakers expect to pass a bill this week that would allow the courts to muzzle criminal offenders if their behavior causes mental anguish for their victims.

Supporters say the measure carefully skirts infringement on free speech rights, but people on either side of the issue are bracing for a lawsuit, should the bill receive the governor’s signature.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

The state Legislature convenes this week in Harrisburg for its final two days of voting scheduled before the November election.

Longtime legislative observers say the proposals that advance this close to an election are more about politics than policy.

Red meat issues abound. There’s a plan to scale back regulations protecting high-quality streams. Another bill would let gun owners sue cities over local gun laws.

Some bills have omnivore appeal, like the measure adding a couple jury duty exemptions to include breastfeeding mothers and people 75 or older.

State House set to convene on medical marijuana legislation. After the state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would make medical marijuana legal in Pennsylvania, the House is now setting aside time to discuss the possible legislation, 90.5 WESA’s Mary Wilson reports. The meetings will help clear up for all House members exactly what the legislation would entail as well as what the long-term effects could be.

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would test energy efficient technologies in state buildings.

The State Agency Green Technology Act aims to reduce the commonwealth’s carbon output while saving money, increasing energy conservation and promoting new environmental technologies.

Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) said, under the bill, state buildings would invest in products such as energy efficient insulation and windows that hold heat in the winter and releases it in the summer.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration is taking another run at raising the fee for lobbyist registrations.

A state panel will consider hiking the lobbyist registration fee from $200 to $300.

Many lobbyists have balked at the prospect of another increase to the registration fee. It was last raised in 2011 from $100.

A skirmish is unfolding in the final days of the state legislative session.

It's over an effort to change who approves state grants for economic development projects, so often touted by lawmakers.

Opponents call it a legislative power grab.

Senate Republicans have voted to put economic development spending in the hands of a little-known state authority with an abysmal record on transparency.

But, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa says the governor’s office should maintain control of which projects get funding.

The Supreme Court: What cases will be heard this term?

Oct 9, 2014
David / Flickr

 

 

The 2014-2015 session of the Supreme Court began on Monday. The court wasted no time in making news by refusing to rule on same-sex marriage. There are a number of other issues on the docket including first amendment rights in the digital age and whether to hear a challenge to the affordable care act. The current term also marks John Roberts’ 10th year as chief justice. Joining us for an overview of the cases the Supreme Court could be ruling on is University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris.

Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ron Castille on Friday will find out more about whether bawdy e-mails traded among current and former state employees went all the way to the state judiciary.

Jim Koval, a spokesman for Castille, said the chief justice will meet with an agent from Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office. Castille requested more information specific to any "top jurists" who sent or received sexually explicit e-mails in a letter to Kane two weeks ago.

AP Photo/Rodney Johnson,WTAE-TV, Pool

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf met for their third and final debate in Wilkinsburg Wednesday evening.

The tone was less combative than previous debates, which Wolf attributed to the format of the debate, in which each candidate had one minute to respond to questions from an in-studio panel and the public via social media.

The main topics of the evening were education funding and the state’s pension debt shortfall.

A Pennsylvania county prosecutor is resigning in the wake of a pornographic email scandal that the state attorney general's office says involved him while he was a high-ranking supervisor there.

Rick Sheetz, who led the criminal division until Attorney General Kathleen Kane took office early last year, resigned Monday from a part-time job as assistant district attorney in Lancaster County.

District Attorney Craig Stedman says the email scandal prompted Sheetz's departure, first reported Tuesday by Lancaster Newspapers.

State lawmakers could send to the governor a plan to make doctors test for hepatitis C among patients most likely to have it – baby boomers.
 
The mandatory screening for people born between 1945 and 1965 would address another medical issue contributing to rising health care costs.
 
Hepatitis C causes liver failure if left untreated. Most people don’t know they have it.
 

State House lawmakers plan to hold at least one hearing on medical marijuana, which will likely put off any final votes on legalization until next year.
 
House GOP leaders say a Senate-backed plan to allow certain kinds of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania needs to be more thoroughly vetted before it’s lined up for a vote.
 
“What exactly does it do? Do you guys know what it does?” said House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin, addressing reporters. “Do you know it sets up a whole new bureaucracy and industry?”
 

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented an $832.9 million 2015 operating budget to County Council at their meeting Tuesday evening, along with a $79.9 million capital budget.

Among the highlights, according to Fitzgerald, is the lack of a real estate millage increase for the 13th time in 14 years.

Fitzgerald linked that millage stasis to county bonds that were refinanced over the last two years.

Bob Herbert on How We’re “Losing Our Way”

Oct 7, 2014
Justin Garland / Flickr

For nearly 20 years Bob Herbert was an award-winning columnist for the New York Times. His book, titled "Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America, " chronicles ordinary Americans struggling for survival in a nation that has lost its way. We’ll talk with Bob Herbert prior to his upcoming appearance at Carnegie Mellon University’s McConomy Auditorium on Thursday, October 9 and discover the Pittsburgh ties to the book.

Herbert’s book centers on the idea that the United States has been heading in the wrong direction when it comes to the economy and the stakes of ordinary people. In the face of “perpetual war and economic decline,” Herbert stresses, leadership in America seems unwilling or unable to make forward progress.  Part of the problem, Herbert argues, is that America’s leadership has become preoccupied with short-term thinking. 

A comprehensive and rational drug policy in Pennsylvania may be elusive for some time, warns one academic.

State lawmakers have considered a few different remedies to the spiking rates of heroin overdoses in Pennsylvania. In the next few weeks, they'll turn their attention to the abundance of painkillers. If abused, such opioids can turn people on to heroin.

This story was updated Oct. 13, 2014 with comments from Erin McClelland.

Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District does not appear to be as close of a contest as it was back in 2012.

The current race pits incumbent Republican Keith Rothfus against Democrat Erin McClelland – a political newcomer and businesswoman from Westmoreland County. As it stands, Cook Political Report has PA-12 as a “Solid Republican” district with a partisan voting index of R+9.  

Two Corbett staffers resign with connections to lewd emails. The story surrounding the sending of sexually explicit emails among Tom Corbett’s staffers while he held the position of Attorney General got more interesting. As more information was released to Corbett and news outlets, Environmental Protection Secretary Christopher Abruzzo and his colleague Glenn Parno have resigned from their posts, reports 90.5 WESA’s Mark Nootbaar.

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