Government & Politics

City Government
12:40 am
Tue November 26, 2013

Peduto's Early Retirement Plan for City Employees Moves Forward

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto saw his plan to offer early retirement to some city employees move forward in City Council Monday.

The plan would allow 136 city employees, whose age plus years of employment equals 70 years, to begin collection their pensions early. Currently that number has to equal 80. The employees must also be at least 50 years old and have no less than 8 years of service to the city.

Peduto says this is all part of his vision for a major shakeup at City Hall.

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City Government
5:11 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

City Council Approves Minimum Staffing Policy for Police

After more than nine months of discussion, Pittsburgh City Council Monday passed a minimum staffing policy for the Bureau of Police.

The policy authorizes the chief of police to initiate a new class in the training academy once the police force falls to 98 percent of the budgeted union sworn police personnel. The class itself would be equal to 5 percent of the budgeted number of officers.

The 2013 and 2014 budgets both allot for 892 officers. The Bureau of Police currently has 840 officers, far less than the 874 officers needed to initiate hiring.

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Transportation
3:08 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Corbett Signs $2.3 Billion PA Transportation Bill

Gov. Tom Corbett speaks under Pittsburgh's Liberty Bridge about legislation that will provide funds for improvements to Pennsylvania's highways, bridges and mass-transit systems.
Deanna Garcia 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Corbett spent Monday touring sites in need of repair to talk about the just-signed transportation bill.

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Veterans Bill
3:30 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Package of Bills Aims to Help Veterans

About 995,000 veterans live in Pennsylvania, many of whom face homelessness, unemployment and traumatic disorders when they come home.

Senate Democrats introduced a package of bills last Tuesday intended to help veterans and their families make the transition from serving in the military.

The Saluting Pennsylvania Veterans plan consists of 23 bills and targets veteran education, housing and jobs.

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa said they were surprised when they heard some of the issues vets face.

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Government & Politics
12:24 pm
Sun November 24, 2013

PA’s Hate-Crime Law Still Leaves Many Groups Out

Jane, 59, was born a man but completed her transition from male to female in rural Pennsylvania about two years ago.
Credit Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Jane’s whole life has been like one long hate crime.

As a teenager, her classmates beat her to a pulp because she shaved her legs. Her family believed that praying would cure what the belt didn’t.

Jane was born a man. Today, she is a woman.

Jane, a transgender woman, asked PublicSource not to use her name because of fear that she might be targeted. She completed her transition from male to female in rural Pennsylvania about two years ago.

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Government & Politics
2:21 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

For Some PA Lawmakers, Support for Transportation Plan Means Tough Elections Ahead

State lawmakers who voted to raise more than $2 billion in fees and gas taxes will have some explaining to do to conservative groups that keep close watch over tax votes in the Legislature.

Lawmakers who flipped to support the $2.3 billion plan are already being targeted by an anti-tax and limited government group based in Harrisburg.

Republican Rep. Stan Saylor of York County is among the members being singled out.

He said he’s already expecting a primary challenge in next year’s election.  

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Transportation
10:39 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Corbett Hails Passage of PA Highways Bill

After more than a year of discussion, the state has a transportation plan in place.

A $2.3 billion plan to fund roads, bridges, mass transit, airports, waterways, bike paths and more has passed the state House and heads to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Tom Corbett is hailing passage of new transportation bill, saying he perceived an urgent need to fix roads and bridges after he took office three years ago.

The Republican spoke Thursday shortly after legislative approval of a law to pump billions into transportation infrastructure and mass transit.

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Transportation
7:57 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Transportation Funding Plan Passes Senate, Heads Back to House

A $2.3 billion transportation infrastructure funding plan is headed back to the state House after it passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Lawmakers are expected to take a concurring vote on it Thursday afternoon.

Senate Democrats were blocked from offering their own amendments to the bill.

Democratic state Sen. Jim Ferlo of Allegheny County says the plan includes a fund that will be used a lot like “walking around money,” or WAMs, which have been disparaged by Gov. Tom Corbett as an underhanded way of stewarding tax dollars.  

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City Government
4:24 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Peduto's Early Retirement Plan for City Employees Hits a Snag

A City Council vote on Mayor-elect Bill Peduto’s plan to incentivize the early retirement of roughly 400 city employees has been delayed once again, and may even have hit a major snag.

Councilman Ricky Burgess wants to tie the bill to increased funding for the Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program, or PSYEP.

Burgess said it’s a matter of priorities.

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Higher Education
3:15 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

State Senators Unveil Legislation to Reform Penn State Board

The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees would be decreased from 30 voting members to 23 under legislation unveiled by state Sens. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne County) and John Corman (R-Centre County).

Yudichak said, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the school is facing its greatest challenge.

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Transportation
9:29 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

On Third Go, House Green-Lights Transportation Plan

A $2.3 billion amendment to a transportation funding plan passed a preliminary vote in the state House Tuesday night, within 24 hours of the House's rejection of the same measure, twice, amid concerns from tax-wary Republicans and labor-allied Democrats.

The vote was 104-95, though two Republicans who missed the final tally asked that their affirmative votes be noted in the record.

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Government & Politics
5:45 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Food Banks Plead for Piece of a Diminishing Federal Funding Pie

Representatives of more than a dozen local food banks and other public service organizations made their annual plea to Pittsburgh City Council for Community Development Block Grant funding on Tuesday.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank asked for $200,000, which is consistent with what they received in years past.

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City in Transition
5:28 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

First Phase of Hiring of New City Workforce Begins

Pittsburgh Mayor Elect Bill Peduto shows off some of the jobs listed at the recently populated website listing key jobs in his administration.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

With the posting of more than two dozen job openings on Talent-City.org, the first phase of the process of hiring new top-level Pittsburgh city workers was launched Tuesday.  

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto is calling it a unique effort.

“This is something that is going to be transformative for Pittsburgh and where we are going for the next few years,” said Peduto. “This city is at a great transition, and we don’t even know yet where it is going to take us.”

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Government & Politics
11:09 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Local Government Academy Provides Education for Newly Elected Officials

Many of the people who run for, and win, municipal offices are not career politicians. They are every day people who want to make a difference in their communities, according to Susan Hockenberry, executive director of the Local Government Academy, or LGA.

“Serving in municipal government is like nothing people have done before,” said Hockenberry. “It’s very rewarding, but it can be very demanding as well.”

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Government & Politics
5:47 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Republican, Democrat Write PA Marijuana Bill

Two state senators, one a Republican and the other a Democrat, are planning to introduce a bill to legalize a certain form of marijuana for medicinal use in Pennsylvania.

Sens. Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer said Monday their bill would help ensure Pennsylvanians can get medical benefits from cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana that's credited with various medical applications without providing a high.

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Transportation
4:48 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Alternate Transportation Funding Model Floated as Lawmakers Debate Plan

As Pennsylvania lawmakers continue to debate a transportation funding plan, the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) is recommending a plan that would fund road, bridge and transit projects through a mix of cash and debt financing.

“With a combination of cash that’s raised through a number of vehicles (fees) and responsible borrowing, that will reduce the up-front cost but better reflect the fact that these are long-term investments that will have a long use over many years,” said PBPC Director Sharon Ward.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Pileggi Dismisses State Police’s Warnings About Expanding DNA Collection

One of the top Republicans in the state Senate is dismissing concerns from the State Police about a proposal to expand the state’s DNA collection is made law.

They say it would necessitate more funding from the commonwealth.

But GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says he doesn’t think the people who staff the state’s public forensic labs are “unbiased” in their assessment of how much money they would need to handle a larger workload.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:36 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Gen. Michael Hayden on Why NSA Spying is Reasonable

Credit CIA / Wikipedia

In the wake of the Edward Snowden/NSA scandal, people all over the world are up in arms about their personal information being collected without their knowledge.

In America, citizens think their privacy is protected by the Fourth Amendment.

"Whatever happened to prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure?” asks Essential Pittsburgh host, Paul Guggenheimer.

According to General Michael Hayden, former Director of the CIA and NSA, the keyword is unreasonable.

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Government & Politics
10:34 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Mismanaged Contract Delayed Pay to Home Care Workers, Audit Finds

An audit of the state Department of Public Welfare has found the consolidation of payroll services for home care workers was botched, leading to pay delays for at least 4,000 workers.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says workers were the collateral damage when a contract went to a single payroll provider that was not ready for prime time.

"You gotta have better oversight of the program," he said. "That means there’s got to be real dates, there’s gotta be real timelines, real items to be met."

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:06 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Bill Peduto's New Administration More Diverse Than Pittsburgh Itself?

Bill Peduto once referred to as the mayor of the East End, invites the whole city to take part in his administration.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

As Bill Peduto rolls out ideas for his new administration, Pittsburgh City Paper editor Chris Potter notes that the transition is an interesting honeymoon time period for the city and the mayor-elect. Diversity, accountability, and transparency have been common buzzwords for the emerging team.

He symbolically embraced the diversity of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods when he chose to hold his election night victory party at Homewood's Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum.

From there Potter says the Peduto cabinet is shaping up to be more diverse than the city of Pittsburgh itself, and not just for racial and ethnic reasons.

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Government & Politics
9:43 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Proposal to Legalize Gambling in Bars Heads Back to Senate

A proposal to legalize small-time gambling in bars has cleared the state House and will go back to the Senate for approval.
               
The measure would allow thousands of bars and taverns to offer small games of chance, like raffles and drawings.
               
The state would get 60 percent of revenue, and the hosting municipality would get a five percent cut.
               
The hosting bars and taverns would keep the rest.
               

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Government & Politics
6:22 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

House Committee Passes Endangered Species Legislation

A proposal to add regulatory oversight to the commissions designating endangered species and protected wild trout streams in Pennsylvania has passed out of a key state House committee.

It would give a regulatory review board of political appointees final approval over decisions to allow the state to protect certain species and streams.

Supporters, including natural gas companies and home builders, say it would provide a check and balance to the state’s independent commissions now in charge of the process.

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Government & Politics
6:15 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Arguments Continue Over Church, Health Care Law

Lawyers for the federal government and two Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses say a central question in a lawsuit over Affordable Care Act mandates is how to define a "substantial burden" as it relates to religious beliefs.

The oral arguments took place Wednesday in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh and Erie dioceses object to the new federal health care law and are suing the federal government to seek an exemption.

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Communications
6:10 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Report: Phone Deregulation Bill Would Hurt Rural Broadband Access

While people continue to drop landlines in favor of cell phones, especially in urban areas, many households in rural areas still rely on landline service.

Pennsylvania House Bill 1608 would allow phone companies to stop offering landline service if at least two other companies offer services in the area. A report from the Keystone Research Center states such a move would be harmful in rural areas.

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Government & Politics
10:50 am
Wed November 13, 2013

State Lawmakers Considering Expanding DNA Collection By Law Enforcement

A plan to expand the state’s DNA collection is under consideration by a state House committee.

The proposal would allow law enforcement to take DNA samples from people arrested for felonies and certain misdemeanor crimes before they are convicted.

Right now, state law allows only for such collection after conviction.

Supporters say the move would help close cases and exonerate innocent individuals.

But the state’s public DNA labs are already swamped, and Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. Scott Snyder is urging lawmakers to proceed with caution.  

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