Politics & Government

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

Morry Gash / AP Photo

First lady Michelle Obama will be in Pennsylvania on Wednesday to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

She's attending a late afternoon rally for Clinton at the University of Pittsburgh following a Democratic Party event at noon at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.

Obama will speak at Fitzgerald Field House at 3:30 p.m. Doors open at 1 p.m. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf brings his message on combating the opioid epidemic to a joint session of the state legislature Wednesday, he will be speaking to a group that for the most part is already aware of the issue.

“They’re all fed up with this,” said State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver, Greene, Washington) of her constituents.  “It’s a scourge and they know that we have to all stand together and try every angle we possibly can.”

Last year, more than 3,000 Pennsylvanians died of an opioid overdose including 424 in Allegheny County.

J. Dale Shoemaker / PublicSource

“Would you like to register to vote?”

Nearly every time Elaine Harris-Fulton asks the question, she gets a version of, “I’m already registered.”

The Men And Women Of Pittsburgh's Sewers

Sep 23, 2016
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

Damon “Hop” Hopkins only needs three words to tell you about the grossest thing that’s ever happened to him working in Pittsburgh’s sewers. That—and a lengthy, well-timed pause between words two and three.

“Chest high. Feces.”

‘Nuff said.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

David Zak didn't know Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was supposed to speak in Pittsburgh today. The 33-year-old Friendship resident said he ran into protesters while walking to work Downtown and felt compelled to follow the action.

"I've never actually been this radical before," he said. "But I think this his happening for a reason."

Lawmaker With Secret Criminal Case Pressured To Resign

Sep 21, 2016
PA House of Representatives

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says a public official shouldn't be in office if they're guilty of a crime, as questions swirl around whether a state lawmaker secretly pleaded guilty to a federal felony.

Wolf's comments Tuesday came four days after a Philadelphia Inquirer report revealed state Rep. Leslie Acosta's criminal case.

The Philadelphia Democrat is running unopposed for a second term in the November election. Her lawyer Christopher Warren says Acosta won't resign, despite Democratic Party pressure.

Donald Trump To Speak Thursday At Shale Insight Downtown

Sep 20, 2016
Keith Srakocic / AP

  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will speak Thursday at the annual Shale Insight conference at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center, organizers said Monday.

Conference officials told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was also invited but declined, citing a scheduling conflict.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a long summer break, the state House is back in session—for now. But lawmakers aren’t expecting to tackle anything too divisive before Election Day.

The House will have just 12 voting days before lawmakers retire to their districts for the election. The Senate, which returns next week, will have nine.

Major items on the docket include decisions on expanded gambling and a state pension overhaul. Governor Tom Wolf is also seeking a joint session to address the opioid crisis.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Under a tent in a Canonsburg parking lot Wednesday, the free hamburgers and chips flowed like shale gas through Washington County.

The food was there to feed a few hundred supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at his new volunteer center, located in an office building.  

Many of them held hand-made signs reading, “Deplorables for Trump.”

AP

Officials with the Department of Human Services announced increased oversight for its major programs and said it’s paying off financially.

The department reported Thursday that savings increased by $65 million over the last fiscal year.

As DHS Secretary Ted Dallas explained, its programs can be complicated. 

Things like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and other state benefits involve a lot of paperwork, and Dallas said administrative errors are relatively common.

Katie Meyer / WITF

This year, state legislators determined that the Department of Health would be responsible for reducing the backlog of untested rape kits. So far, department of health officials said that effort has not been successful.

Part of that agreement also stipulated that the Department of Health would ensure that local police departments submitted all of the untested kits.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Motorcycles revved and a crowd marched by the line wrapping around the Homewood Coliseum on Friday where former President Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife and Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton’s visit fell on the same day as the funeral for a beloved pastor from the neighborhood. He offered condolences for the friends and relations of Reverend Eugene “Freedom” Blackwell, who died last month from cancer at the age of 43.

Rose Tileston / Hidden Harvest

There are 600 fruit-bearing trees in Pittsburgh, according to the most recent municipal forest analysis in 2008. They line streets and grow in parks, but Hana Uman with the nonprofit 412 Food Rescue said much of that fruit rots.

“When we go and check out some of these trees, there’s just often fruit all over the ground,” she said. “So that is fruit that could have been used and just goes to waste.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Key changes are being made among the top staff of the state attorney general’s office. New Attorney General Bruce Beemer announced Robert Mulle is taking over as First Deputy Attorney General and James Donahue III will be Acting Chief of Staff. 

Russell Lee (Public Domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Roughly 100,000 retired coal miners across the U.S. are collecting pensions, but there isn’t enough money left in the system.

Some coal miners are planning to rally in Washington D.C. Thursday in an effort to convince lawmakers to release nearly $300 million in federal funds needed to shore up deleted pension programs. About 12,000 retired miners in Pennsylvania stand to benefit from it.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said it will save $214 million over the next three years by changing health benefits and long-term non-paid leave rules for government employees.

“This is the first health plan design change in over 12 years for the state and the changes represent the most significant health plan savings in Pennsylvania in recent history,” said Spokesman Jeff Sheridan.

Much of the savings will be generated through having employees and retirees in PPO plans cover deductibles and make co-pays for some in-network services and prescriptions.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

By 2050, 70 percent of the world's population will be living in cities, according to a United Nations estimate. Mayors could be more influential than ever.

That's why it's important to start training city leaders now, says Jorrit de Jong, faculty director for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

Biden, Kaine To Speak In Pittsburgh Before Labor Day Parade

Sep 2, 2016
Molly Riley / AP

 

Vice President Joe Biden will speak before Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade along with the man Democrats hope will succeed him, Tim Kaine.

The vice presidential nominee and Biden will speak at 9 a.m. Monday before the annual parade kicks off.

Jaclyn Rothenberg, a Hillary for PA campaign spokeswoman, says Biden and Kaine will "celebrate the contributions of American workers and organized labor" and promote Hillary Clinton's economic plan.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Recent polls are showing Hillary Clinton leading by 8 points in Pennsylvania, and by even wider margins in and around big cities.

Clinton has focused much of her Pennsylvania ground time on those liberal urban areas. But on Tuesday, vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine ventured out to Lancaster to make an appeal to voters there.

Kaine gave a pointed speech at the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster, making several overtures to small business owners, and pledging support for people struggling in the still-sluggish economy.

Tax Credits / Flickr

Pittsburgh’s pension funds continue to stumble and, for the second time in three years, Pennsylvania Attorney General Eugene DePasquale has launched an audit of the system.

DePasquale said Wednesday that he is not singling out Pittsburgh for additional audits.

“We think that this is one of the biggest financial challenges facing municipalities all over the state,” DePasquale said. “So we are really going to stay on top of this to make sure that cities are doing what they need to do to make sure (their pension programs) are financially in good shape.”

Pennsylvania's Convicted Ex-Top Prosecutor Swiftly Replaced

Aug 30, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

 

 

Pennsylvania lawmakers made a hasty return to the state Capitol from their summer recess on Tuesday as they rushed through a replacement for the state's convicted ex-attorney general.

The unanimous confirmation vote on Bruce Beemer comes less than two weeks after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf nominated him to head an office racked by infighting and scandal under Kathleen Kane.

John Bazemore / AP

In a speech Thursday, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton accused her opponent Republican nominee Donald Trump of encouraging hate groups, saying he had built a campaign on prejudice and paranoia.

In southwestern Pennsylvania, seven organizations are identified as “hate groups,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Hate Map." They're defined as organizations that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

John Minchillo / AP

 

Allegheny County has been held as a model for its handling of electronic voting testing and inspection. It’s the only county in Pennsylvania to conduct parallel testing, meaning an independent organization randomly selects machines on Election Day and simulates usage.

Flickr user CCFoodTravel.com

Buying Christmas presents is going to be a lot easier for Antoinette Palmieri this year.

Dick Thomas Johnson / Flickr

  An audit of the state Department of Education has found that the process to address appeals of charter school payment is unclear, and should be reexamined.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

On a Friday night in Altoona, the Blair County Convention Center was packed to the rafters with supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. There was an overflow room downstairs and a crowd waiting outside that couldn't get in. Trump discussed everything from ISIS to Supreme Court justices. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

 

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner wants an overhaul of the county’s ethics and disclosure process.

In an independent report over a two-year time period, Wagner said her office found multiple deficiencies in the county’s ethics code, which was enacted in 2001.

Matt Slocum / AP

U.S. Democratic Senate contender Katie McGinty went on the offense Monday, seeking to paint her opponent, incumbent Republican Pat Toomey, as an insincere flip-flopper.

Throughout her campaign, McGinty has played up her own working-class angle, presenting herself as a first-generation college grad—a claim she recently edited into a first generation four-year­ college grad—and a champion of the working class.

Toomey is the opposite, she said. 

Divided America: Diverse Millennials Are No Voting Monolith

Aug 23, 2016
Brennan Linsley / AP

 

The oldest millennials — nearing 20 when airplanes slammed into New York City's Twin Towers — are old enough to remember the relative economic prosperity of the 1990s, and when a different Clinton was running for president. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Former Democratic congresswoman Gabby Giffords is endorsing the re-election bids of Republicans U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, citing their votes on gun control.

Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, made the endorsements in a Monday editorial on behalf of their organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions. Giffords was gravely wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona.

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