Government & Politics

Essential Pittsburgh
3:46 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

In the Case of Nate Harper, Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, believes that the sentencing was right for Nate Harper.
Credit University of Pittsburgh Law School

Roughly one year ago Nate Harper resigned from his post as Pittsburgh Police Chief. Soon after his resignation, Harper was indicted with conspiracy charges and failing to file tax returns.

Yesterday US District Judge Cathy Bissoon sentenced Harper to 18 months in prison as well as repayment of the $31,986 for the slush fund that he spent on himself.

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Government & Politics
7:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Corbett Administration Urges Caution on Film Tax Credit Expansion

The Corbett administration is still cautioning lawmakers against uncapping a tax credit for the film industry.

Several Republican legislative leaders, along with Democrats, have voiced support for increasing the state’s annual $60 million in tax credits. Supporters say it would attract more big-budget films to the commonwealth and support a growing industry.

But Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said there are complications to consider.

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Government & Politics
4:28 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

State DPW Head Calls for Agency to be Renamed

The head of the commonwealth’s Department of Public Welfare is telling state lawmakers she’d “love” for her agency to be renamed.

Supporters of changing the name to the Department of Human Services have long said the switch would show more sensitivity to benefit recipients.

DPW Secretary Bev Mackereth has previously cited concerns about the cost of the makeover.

"But in the year that I’ve been here and I’ve watched people who again believe we’re something we’re not, that becomes a concern because it becomes a barrier," she said.

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Public Safety
3:28 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Peduto Seeks Quality Over Speed in Filling Public Safety Positions

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Mayor Bill Peduto said he is not rushing to fill two of the most high profile vacant positions in the city: public safety director and police chief.

In a Monday interview with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer, Peduto said it is more important to find the right person for those positions than it is to get them filled right away.

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Government & Politics
7:47 am
Mon February 24, 2014

New Website Design Aims to Make Campaign Finance Reports Easier to Find

The Pennsylvania Department of State has redesigned the portion of its website that contains campaign finance reports. Spokesman Ron Ruman said the old site design was confusing.

“It was set up in a way that perhaps made sense to candidates or people that file campaign finance reports and that sort of thing,” said Ruman, “but to the average citizen that doesn’t deal with those things a lot it was kind of confusing, it wasn’t necessarily intuitive in the way it did the searches.”

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Government & Politics
5:00 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

PA Supreme Court Won't Revisit Gas Drilling Case

Pennsylvania's highest court said Friday it would not revisit its decision striking down a state law that took zoning decisions about natural gas drilling out of the hands of local governments.

The state Supreme Court denied a request by Gov. Tom Corbett's administration to vacate its decision and send it back to a lower court for a new round of briefs and fact-finding process.

Instead, the justices left in place the Dec. 19 decision that said new industry-friendly rules violated the state constitution.

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Government & Politics
4:35 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Citing Funding Crisis, Nursing Facilities Ask for More State Aid

Nursing homes across Pennsylvania say they’re facing a funding crisis exacerbated by longer life expectancy, sicker patients as compared to two decades ago, and less federal aid for patients on Medicaid. Now they’re asking for state lawmakers for additional financial aid.

Managers of long-term care organizations say they’ve cut costs as much as they can. If they don’t get more state aid, they say more institutions will have to turn away Medicaid patients because reimbursement rates don’t match the costs of care.  

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:03 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Reducing Mandatory Prison Sentences

Credit Martin / flickr

In an effort to mitigate overcrowding in American prisons, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has proposed the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Critics of the bill say these sentences are necessary because they provide prosecutors the leverage to seek cooperation from criminals.

Angus Love of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project explains this overpopulation is due in part to the residual effects of the government’s “war on drugs” as well as a shift in case management and the way sentences are given. 

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Government & Politics
12:29 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

County Councilman Asks For $15 Million For August Wilson Center

Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson (D-Hill District) is asking for $10 million to $15 million in capital funds from the city and county to bail out the financially strapped August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

About $7 million would be used to pay off the center’s unpaid bills, including its mortgage, and keep the facility, which is facing liquidation. The legislation was introduced in County Council by Robinson who did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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Millennials in Pittsburgh
8:45 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Councilman Dan Gilman on Being a Millennial in Pittsburgh

Dan Gilman
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Councilman Dan Gilman is no stranger to Pittsburgh City Council.

From his college days as an intern, to his 10-year stint as chief of staff for now-Mayor Bill Peduto, Gilman is familiar with the city’s political atmosphere.

Now serving the residents of District 8, he is one of the council's youngest members.

Dan Gilman on Pittsburgh's Millennial Generation:

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Government & Politics
7:41 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Proposals For New Community College in NW PA Prompt Concerns About Funding, Fairness

Community college presidents are questioning proposals to create a new community college in northwestern Pennsylvania.

They say it comes down to money – and fairness.

Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges are funded in part by a local sponsor – either school districts or county governments.

Plans to create a new northwestern community college would not require local sponsorship, allowing the school to be funded with state aid and tuition alone.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:00 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Straight Talk with Gubernatorial Candidate Rob McCord

Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

While there is no clear cut favorite in the Pennsylvania Democratic race for governor, polls indicate that State Treasurer Rob McCord has emerged as the “de facto” front runner.

The Ardmore, PA native says he is fortunate to have a useful blend of knowledge when it comes to running the Commonwealth.

He says his financial cognizance along with his desire and ability to communicate with constituents statewide will set him apart from the other candidates.

“I intend to be the governor that loves Pittsburgh back,” says McCord. Here are some of his views on energy, green jobs, public schools, and working with Pittsburgh's politicians.

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Election 2014
1:39 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Former PA Auditor General Jack Wagner Seeks State Office Again

Former Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner says he's running for the Democratic nomination for governor after all.

Wagner confirmed Thursday that his supporters are gathering voters' signatures for his nomination petition and predicted they will gather more than the required 2,000 signatures.

Wagner becomes the eighth candidate in a Democratic field that's been static for five months and has raised more than $25 million. He concedes that he's likely to be outspent, but says he hopes to offset that by being aggressive on issues and forthright to the voters.

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Gambling
4:35 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Senator: Small Games Rollout 'Worse Than Obamacare'

What if you threw a gambling party and nobody came? State lawmakers are nervous they’re about to find out.

Small games of chance were legalized in Pennsylvania bars and taverns last fall, and the licensing process began in late January. But applications for licenses aren’t rolling in.

Only six of the 16,000 eligible bars and taverns in Pennsylvania have applied to offer games like raffles and drawings in their establishments. The stakes are high — lawmakers were hoping tens of millions of dollars from barroom gambling would help balance the state budget.

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Government & Politics
3:17 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

City to Implement Nighttime Transportation Solutions Along Carson Street

City Council President Bruce Kraus has been working to find ways to mitigate the negative effects of a bustling nightlife economy on the South Side and other neighborhoods.
Credit Flickr user michaelgoodin

According to City Council President Bruce Kraus, between 15,000 and 20,000 people stream out of South Side bars, venues and pubs around 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night.

That creates public safety problems and significant transportation issues, Kraus said, which is why for the last two years he’s been working with the Responsible Hospitality Institute, or RHI, to find ways to manage the nightlife economy in the city.

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Government & Politics
3:50 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Councilwoman Wants Swift Repurposing of Vacant School Buildings in the West End

Finding new uses for vacant school buildings can be difficult.

According to a study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts last year, empty school buildings can cost millions of dollars to maintain and are often sold below market value. The study also found that buildings are easier to repurpose if they have not been vacant for long.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Civil Rights Group Holds Hearing On Voter Issues

As primary elections draw near, the National Commission on Voting Rights has been holding a series of hearings across the country to address issues such as voter registration, voting discrimination and ballot accessibility for those with disabilities.

Voters and voting rights activists gathered in Philadelphia last week to share their experiences and the challenges they face when going to the polls.

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Medicaid
3:30 am
Mon February 17, 2014

State to Hire 720 Employees to Expand Medicaid

Pennsylvania is excepting to add 720 new employees to accommodate the influx of new healthcare enrollees if Healthy PA goes into effect. 

According to the Department of Public Welfare, the additional jobs would be permanent and spread across the state. Funding for the new hires would come from the federal government.

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Government & Politics
3:00 am
Mon February 17, 2014

PA Treasurer Weighs in on Corbett's Proposed Changes to Unclaimed Property Law

The state treasurer says part of the governor’s proposal to change the unclaimed property law should come with ramped-up enforcement of the state’s property law.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget assumes $150 million from a plan to shorten the holding time of unclaimed and inactive property, like bank accounts and insurance policies.

Treasurer Rob McCord, a Democrat also running for governor, said there are upsides and downsides to the plan.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:01 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Does Legislation Combating Revenge Porn Go Far Enough?

The organization, End Revenge Porn, has talked to thousands of victims of Revenge Porn and that is just scratching the surface according to founder Holly Jacobs.
Credit lizzardo / Flickr

A bill to punish revenge porn has been passed by the Pennsylvania Senate. How big a problem is this issue and could the Commonwealth’s bill be a model for other states to follow?

City Paper reporter Charlie Deitch, investigated the topic for this week's cover story. He spoke with Holly Jacobs for the article. She's a revenge porn victim and founder of the organization End Revenge Porn.

The new legislation gives victims retribution for the initial posting of graphic imagery, but Deitch says this legislation is not enough.

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Government & Politics
2:30 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Adjutant General Says Proposed Funding Cuts Won’t Put Suicide Prevention At Risk

The Corbett administration is assuring lawmakers federal programs can pick up the slack left by reduced state spending on veterans programs.

The governor’s budget proposal would reduce outreach services by 13 percent, or about $350,000.

In response to questions about suicide prevention efforts, Adjutant General Wesley Craig, commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard, says a two-year-old federal effort is doing the lion’s share of the work.

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Government & Politics
10:38 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Department of Corrections Requesting $77 Million Increase For Next Fiscal Year

The head of the state prison system is reminding state lawmakers they’ve had a hand in the growing inmate population.

The Department of Corrections is requesting about $77 million more for the next fiscal year beginning in July, with most of the boost tied to personnel costs.

At a budget hearing, House lawmakers noted concern with the steady rise in spending at the agency.               

But Secretary John Wetzel said lawmakers shouldn’t be surprised, since many of them have helped pass legislation beefing up prison sentences.

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Government & Politics
7:50 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Rep. Doyle: Bill to Restore Military Pensions Pits Veterans Against Seniors

United States Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Allegheny) said in a statement Wednesday that he is disappointed with the passage of a bill to restore cuts in early military retirees’ cost of living adjustments.

Doyle said he is in favor of restoring the $6 billion in cuts, which were the result of a bipartisan budget deal reached in December, but that it shouldn’t have been achieved by extending the Medicare sequester for an additional two years, beginning in 2024.

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Government & Politics
7:40 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Allegheny County Controller Condemns Performance of Jail Healthcare Provider

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner this week sent a letter to Corizon Health, Inc. detailing her concerns about allegations that the company is providing substandard healthcare to inmates at the Allegheny County Jail.

Those allegations first surfaced in a Dec. 8 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which revealed internal e-mails between jail staff and Corizon.

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Government & Politics
8:00 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Kane Pressed on Timeline of Sandusky Case Review

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane is being pressed for answers on when she’ll wrap up an investigation of the prosecution of Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State assistant football coach and convicted child molester.

The internal review began a year ago when Kane hired an outside deputy attorney general, Geoff Moulton, to helm the investigation. Kane told the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday that releasing findings will take more time, since document recovery and scheduling interviews have slowed down the review.

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