Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Monday Deadline For Voter Registration

Oct 3, 2015
George (Patti) Larcher / flickr

The deadline to register to vote in the November election is October 5.

Stragglers can still sign up by going online. This marks the first year that eligible voters can register via the web, as long as PennDOT has a record of the applicant's signature.

"But if you don't have a signature on file with PennDOT, please keep in mind that your signature has to be postmarked by Monday," said Marian Schneider, deputy secretary for elections and administration at the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Prosecutors added a new perjury count and other criminal charges Thursday against Pennsylvania's attorney general, saying they found a signed document that contradicts her claims she never agreed to maintain secrecy of a grand jury investigation in 2009, before she took office.

The Montgomery County district attorney charged Kathleen Kane with felony perjury and two misdemeanors — false swearing and obstruction — based on a signed secrecy oath she signed shortly after taking office in early 2013.

Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected attorney general in Pennsylvania, was previously charged with perjury, conspiracy and other offenses. Prosecutors said she leaked secret grand jury information about a 2009 investigation to a newspaper and then lied about it.

Flickr user camera_obscura [busy]

Following in the footsteps of New Haven, Conn., San Francisco, and New York City, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration is floating a proposal to issue municipal identification cards to city residents.

Twitter

A bill passed by the Pennsylvania House aims to help high school students with disabilities gain employment rather than “graduating to the couch.”

The “Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act” would develop official pathways between local education agencies, organizations and employers and establish a funding mechanism helmed by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) in the Department of Labor and Industry.

Gov. Wolf Vetoes GOP Interim Budget

Sep 29, 2015
Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Tom Wolf kept his promise to veto a short-term funding package on Tuesday, killing the stopgap plan he derided two weeks ago as an ill-suited solution to the state’s long-term problems. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania voters have one week left to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election, and for the first time, they’ll be able to register online

PA House Sends Short-Term Spending Plan To Governor

Sep 24, 2015

The Pennsylvania state House of Representatives has passed a short-term spending bill that Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto without an agreement on a plan to end a nearly three-month budget stalemate.

Supporters of medical marijuana are keeping the pressure on state House lawmakers who have remained cool to efforts to legalize the substance.

Advocates are pushing a state proposal to make caregivers a more central part of a patient’s care.

A spokesman for state Attorney General Kathleen Kane says he doesn’t know when she will follow through on her latest promise to release all uncovered pornographic e-mails exchanged with current and former employees of the Office of Attorney General.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto submitted Tuesday a $517.5 million operating budget for 2016 to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. The spending plan, which comes with no tax increases, is nearly $10 million, or 1.9 percent, more than this year’s budget. 

Supporters and opponents of House Bill 1506, which would make English the official state language in Pennsylvania, testified Monday at a House Committee hearing.

Under the legislation, introduced by Rep. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette), all state government documents would be required to be in English.

Court Suspends PA Attorney General's Law License

Sep 21, 2015
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Pennsylvania's highest court on Monday ordered the temporary suspension of state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's law license, a step that could trigger efforts to remove her from office as she fights criminal charges.

The state Senate has passed what may be a doomed interim state budget meant to get public money flowing again to schools, social services providers, and a variety of other projects.

Debate wrapped up quickly Friday as the Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines to pass the stopgap budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the package, criticizing the GOP’s concern for schools and social services as disingenuous.

State Backs Phone Discount Program

Sep 17, 2015
Mary Wilson / WITF

  The state is trying to drum up interest in discounted phone service for the commonwealth’s neediest people.

More than 900,000 Pennsylvania residents signed up last year for the federal program known as Lifeline. Based on statewide poverty statistics, state officials believe many more people are eligible.

Child Welfare Services Sue Over Budget Deadlock

Sep 16, 2015

A coalition of social services providers is suing Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration for leaving them high and dry during the state budget impasse.

The Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, which represents more than 100 private providers of child welfare and juvenile justice services in Pennsylvania, said the legal challenge filed Tuesday is an attempt to protect its members’ funding during state budget fights in the years to come.

Wolf: I Will Veto GOP’s Stopgap Budget

Sep 16, 2015

The tone of state budget talks hit a new low this week as the governor promised to veto a stopgap measure meant to get state funding flowing to entities facing their own fiscal cliff due to the months-long standoff over a state budget.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said a deal still seemed distant after a Wednesday meeting with Democrats and the governor. As a result, he said, Republicans would go ahead with a short-term proposal to fund schools and social services through October.

Officials debated in state court Wednesday whether pornographic e-mails exchanged by state employees on state computers should be released to the public.

Lawyers for the state Office of Attorney General told a panel of Commonwealth Court judges that the sought-after smutty exchanges among current and former OAG employees are not public records because they don’t document official agency activity.

“The question is: Was it sent in connection with commonwealth business?” said John Knorr III, Chief Deputy Attorney General, who argued on behalf of the office in court.

PA Auditor General Announces ICA Inquiry

Sep 15, 2015

The state's highest auditor launched an investigation Tuesday into the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, Pittsburgh’s state-appointed financial overseer.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto requested the audit in August, asserting the ICA has illegally withheld $12.8 million in state gambling funds the city earns by hosting Rivers Casino. The ICA was established in 2004 to help Pittsburgh avoid bankruptcy. It controls millions the state gives Pittsburgh every year and can disapprove city budgets.

House Group Readies Report On Medical Marijuana

Sep 14, 2015

A group of state House lawmakers tasked with finding a way “get to yes” on medical marijuana legalization is winding down its work. A spokeswoman for Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) said recommendations would be delivered to GOP House Majority Leader Dave Reed in the next few weeks.

The House GOP’s working group was pulled together after a medical cannabis legalization measure passed the state Senate in May.

Braddock Mayor Enters U.S. Senate Primary

Sep 14, 2015
Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate during a mid-day house party Monday.

“I would never pander to you by saying that I alone can fundamentally change Washington D.C. anymore than I could bring back the 14 furniture stores that Braddock once had,” he said,” But what I can promise you is that I will fight in a principled, collaborative way that my 14 years of service here in Braddock demonstrates.”

Kevin Hagen / AP Photo

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office received a $254,437 grant to process previously untested sexual assault kits.

That money will go towards testing 160 kits the medical examiner’s office has backlogged and about 400 additional kits at police stations, hospitals and other facilities in the county.

GOP Readies Stopgap Budget, But Details Are Scarce

Sep 11, 2015

Republican state lawmakers could put Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in a tricky spot with their next budgetary maneuver: they say they’ll be back in session this month to approve a temporary spending plan.

Flickr user the yellowrider

For many, pigeons are pests. Woody Allen called them “rats with wings” in the 1980 film Stardust Memories.

And according to Rebecca Reid with the animal advocacy group Humane Options Pittsburgh, that’s how the state and federal governments see them as well. Pigeons, or rock doves, are one of just three species not protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Aapo Haapanen / Flickr

  A legal battle over Gov. Tom Wolf’s seven-month death penalty moratorium lands in the state’s Supreme Court on Thursday.

The court’s ruling could disrupt Wolf’s plans to continue issuing reprieves to death row inmates, at least until a state task force finishes studying capital punishment in Pennsylvania. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

It’s no secret that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is big on innovation. He transformed the city’s Computer Information Systems department into the Department of Innovation and Performance and hired the city’s first Chief Innovation Officer, Debra Lam.

But Lam said that when the mayor’s team started looking around at the most innovative cities in the world, they found that they were also some of the most exclusive.

Officials with the Pennsylvania’s eHealth Partnership Authority plan to grant about $10 million to hospitals and ambulatory providers in an effort to digitize and streamline medical services. They will be able to connect to the Pennsylvania Patient Provider Network.

This is a continuation of the grant program and effort they started last year.

AP

Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a group of union workers before the Labor Day Parade in downtown Pittsburgh Monday morning.

His speech was focused on the importance of organized labor to the health of the national economy and quality of life.

PA Eyes Avian Flu Threat

Sep 4, 2015
Stewart Black / Flickr

  Pennsylvania is bracing for a possible outbreak of what was once called the “fowl plague” – a highly contagious form of bird flu that devastated entire poultry flocks in the Midwest this spring.

The commonwealth saw severe cases of the bird flu in the 1980s. Since then, commercial poultry operations have become more complex, and keeping backyard hens is more popular –- as evidenced, perhaps, by a certain website purveying in rent-a-chickens.

Rendell To Kane: Put Someone Else In Charge

Sep 2, 2015

Former Gov. Ed Rendell has a little advice for embattled state Attorney General Kathleen Kane: take a leave of absence.

“Let someone in her office be the one to call the shots for the attorney general’s office while she was getting ready for trial, preparing for trial with her lawyers, etcetera,” said Rendell on WITF’s Smart Talk on Wednesday.

Top state Democrats have called on Kane to resign in light of the criminal charges filed against her last month. Rendell said Kane could stop short of that while placating some of her critics.

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