Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Victims of sexual violence in Pennsylvania may receive more support as the state adopts a new approach to contact them.

The State Police and the Office of the Victim Advocate are now sharing data to identify victims of sexual violence and let them know them about changes in their offenders’ status.

The effort has more than doubled victim registrations in the past two months, according to state officials.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) re-introduced a House resolution to impeach PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane “due to the pattern of misbehavior that we have seen in office for the last two years,” he said.

Metcalfe first introduced the measure in 2013 after she chose not to defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s now-nullified Defense of Marriage Act. He withdrew it after not getting support from the House State Government Committee before the 2013-14 legislative session ended. So Metcalfe is trying again.

The top House Republican says he'll try to override the governor's budget veto if negotiations don't starting yielding consensus.

"We have to look at overriding if we're not going to have a substantive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai, during his appearance at the Harrisburg Press Club luncheon on Monday.

Turzai said an override should be the "goal" of the GOP-controlled Legislature, though he's not sure if such a move would have the votes to pass.

A forthcoming state Senate plan would curb the use of drones by state and local government.

Several other states have enacted laws limiting the use of drones for surveillance or hunting purposes, and federal rules for civil drones are still in the works. But Pennsylvania has no specific laws governing unmanned aircraft systems.

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County) said he wants to limit government agencies’ use of drones. He’s worried they could violate someone’s right to be protected from search and seizure.

Flickr user SOZIALHELDEN

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law 25 years ago on Sunday.

The act was a major step toward full-scale accessibility for citizens with disabilities, but according to many, there are still substantial barriers in place.

Minor Parties Get Win In PA Ballot-Access Lawsuit

Jul 24, 2015

A federal court is throwing out provisions in Pennsylvania law that minor political parties say make it unconstitutionally difficult for their candidates to get onto ballots.

The ruling released Friday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel targets the financial penalties that judges can impose on candidates for office who lose a challenge to their nomination papers, but he's also striking down the state's higher signature requirement for the nomination papers of minor party candidates.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday said goodbye and good luck to his chief of staff for the past six months and turned to his legislative liaison, Mary Isenhour, to step in as his top aide.

Katie McGinty resigned Wednesday and is expected to launch a bid for U.S. Senate in 2016 after being courted intensively by national Democrats. She would not confirm Thursday that she intends to run.

AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File

Katie McGinty, chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, is stepping down, reportedly to prepare for an announcement of her candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Wolf's spokesman said McGinty submitted her resignation Wednesday, first reported by the National Journal. She has been considering a U.S. Senate run for the past few weeks.

McGinty's departure comes as Wolf is still trying to hammer out a budget agreement with a GOP-controlled Legislature. But a feud with Senate Republicans has smoldered for months since she took a shot at their proposal to change public pension benefits in May.

Pennsylvania schools represent a growing chunk of the school districts with the most desperate finances in the country, according to one credit rating agency.

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the credit of eight Pennsylvania school districts since March, and it says the worst of those aren’t like to recover soon.

Pittsburgh City Council voted on Wednesday to hold the Paid Sick Days Act for one week so the bill can be amended and council can hold a public hearing July 30.

Councilman Corey O’Connor of Squirrel Hill agreed to amend his own bill. In it's original form, the bill required businesses with 15 or more employees allow workers to accrue up to 72 hours of paid sick leave per year, and those with less than 15 employees up to 40 hours of leave. An employee would have to work 30 hours to earn one hour of sick leave.

Every 10 years a fight explodes in Harrisburg over how to redraw state House, Senate and U.S. Congressional districts, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers wrangling over what often becomes a map full of oddly shaped districts drawn in an effort to keep one party or the other in power. 

State Rep. Ted Harhai (D-Westmoreland) wants to end the fight by creating a new independent panel to redraw the districts following the decennial U.S. census.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

President Barack Obama on Tuesday called the Legionella-related deaths of six veterans at a Pittsburgh VA hospital a “tragedy.”

“Whenever there are any missteps, there is no excuse,” Obama told thousands of veterans at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Gov. Tom Wolf said he would be "willing to have conversations" about compromises on the 5 percent severance tax on natural gas he's proposed to balance the state budget.

"I'm willing to have conversations," Wold told reporters while touring Big Beaver Elementary School in Darlington on Monday. "I want a better Pennsylvania. If I'm convinced we can have a better Pennsylvania with something better than what I've proposed, then I'm all ears."

The City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections is changing the way it handles appeals to its decisions regarding businesses licenses and property violations.

PLI Chief Maura Kennedy said a review of all bureau policies last year revealed that the current system — wherein Kennedy herself evaluates and adjudicates appeals — violates state law.

“Legally there needs to be an independent body that you appeal the director’s decisions to,” she said. “It’s not appropriate for the department both to be the judge and the jury.”

There are 250 state boards and commissions in the commonwealth, but a Pittsburgh-area lawmaker said there’s no full understanding of what they do and how they spend state money.

Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Shaler) sponsored Senate Resolution 138, passed in June, that led to a new study to answer those and other questions.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is supporting a bill to correct the “WIC gap” in which young children who receive assistance are left without nutritional assistance before entering school.

In Pennsylvania, children are eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children program until they reach age 5 – then its assumed they enter school where they may qualify for the school breakfast and lunch programs that provide them with food.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The political debate over the state budget has hit a lull within the walls of the state Capitol, but it's very much alive on roadside billboards, radio ads, and in mailboxes.

"We're in a messaging war, but that's on both sides," said Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) this week.

GOP ally Americans for Prosperity has radio ads and billboards blasting the governor for trying to raise taxes.

A measure to expand the state's DNA collection to people arrested but not convicted for certain crimes has passed the state Senate for the third time since 2013. The plan now faces a skeptical House and considerable uncertainty about its costs.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), would make Pennsylvania one of nearly 30 states that can take DNA samples from people arrested for serious crimes and some lesser offenses -- without needing a conviction first.

When someone is victimized in a crime, the court can order the offender to pay the victim restitution. But according to the Office of Pennsylvania Courts, many victims never receive that restitution.

“Only 12 percent of mandated restitution is dispersed to the victims, only 12 percent which is ridiculous because these people are owed their money. A lot of people just evade; they try to avoid their restitution and this is two more bills aimed at trying to collect it for victims,” said Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton County).

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

President Barack Obama hits the Steel City on Tuesday to address the nearly 12,000 men and women expected to attend the 116th Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States national convention, which takes place July 18-22.

Joe Davis, director of public affairs for the VFW, said the organization hopes to hear from the president about national security, the recent Iranian deal and veterans' issues, including insurance and problems known to plague health care provided through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The next 15 years of continued technological advances and planned investment in American energy infrastructure will create some 1.5 million new energy jobs, according to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who was in Pittsburgh on Friday to launch a partnership aimed at filling some of those positions with local veterans.

A state House Republican with a reputation for bucking party leaders is trying to loosen up the deadlock that has gripped budget negotiations for weeks.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) is offering his own attempt at a compromise state spending plan. It includes a new tax on natural gas drillers and a higher personal income tax — more than the GOP supported in new spending, but less than Gov. Tom Wolf proposed.

Flickr user fcastellanos

At least 135 movies have been filmed in Southwestern Pennsylvania in the last 20 years, according to Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office.

“As of August 1st, that will total $1 billion … from film activity in Southwestern Pennsylvania, which primarily takes place in the city of Pittsburgh,” Keezer told City Council at their committee meeting Wednesday.

Council gave preliminary approval to a bill sponsored by Councilwoman Darlene Harris that aims to codify the city’s process for permitting filming activities on public property.

Courtesy of Heather Arnet

Women and Girls Foundation CEO Heather Arnet is seeking the Democratic nomination to run in a special election to fill former Sen. Matt Smith’s seat representing Allegheny and Washington counties in the 37th District.

Democratic committee members have yet to schedule a vote to cement Arnet's candidacy, though one is expected in the coming weeks. 

City Council is slated on Wednesday to consider Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak's plain language resolution, which aims to do away with forms and other documents filled with legalese that may be hard for some people to understand.

Screenshot from pittsburghpa.opengov.com

Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday will take a final vote on a bill that would take the city one step closer to the creation of a Regional Data Center.

The legislation authorizes the city to enter into cooperation agreements with Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh to create and operate a web-based open data portal.

Courtesy Guy Reschenthaler official Facebook page

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania has nominated a former judge and military prosecutor to run in this fall’s special election to fill the seat left vacant by former state Sen. Matt Smith (D-Mt. Lebanon).

Guy Reschenthaler will run against a still unnamed Democratic opponent on Nov. 3rd.

Reschenthaler, who tendered his resignation as a District Judge upon receiving the nomination, beat out five other opponents in five rounds of voting.

Megan Sweeney, communications director for the party, said 81 conferees met Sunday morning in Pittsburgh to cast their votes.

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) has enlisted the support of the entire Pennsylvania delegation and more than 200 other members of Congress in asking fellow members working on appropriations bills to force the U.S. Army to leave the Apache helicopters currently assigned to National Guard units right where they are. 

The Republican this week circulated for signatures a letter asking that funding to move the 200 helicopters be removed from the pending budget. Twenty-four of those aircraft are based in Johnstown.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf isn't ruling out a switch to 401(k)-style retirement plans for future state and school employees.

"I think we can actually come up with a pension plan that's fair to employees and that meets the concerns that have been expressed by taxpayers," said Wolf when asked if he could sign such a proposal.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Some see the state Capitol deadlock over a state budget as political dysfunction or theatre. But it's also a social experiment: this is the year Pennsylvanians will see how a court decision ending "payless paydays" affects the budget negotiations.

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