Government & Politics

Government & Politics
3:24 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Pigeon Shoots, Dog and Cat Meat Processing Could End in PA

The umpteenth effort to ban pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania has cleared a state Senate panel.

Animal rights activists have been trying for decades to end pigeon shoots – private events during which hunters take aim at live pigeons released from traps. Activists call it barbaric, though judges and prosecutors have said it breaks no animal cruelty laws.

Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Adams) counts himself among the traditional sportsmen against the practice. He called it a wasteful “blood sport” before voting for the ban during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.

Read more
Law
3:28 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

An Uncertain Future For Pittsburgh's Abortion Protest Buffer Zone

It’s uncertain what will happen to that the yellow semi-circle marking a 15-foot buffer zone outside Planned Parenthood’s downtown Pittsburgh location.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling Thursday striking down the 35-foot protest-free zones outside abortion clinics in Massachusetts, saying that law violates the First Amendment Rights of protesters.

But the question remains if the high court’s decision will have on Pittsburgh’s eight-year-old law.

Read more
Government & Politics
10:55 am
Thu June 26, 2014

House Sends Budget To Senate As Tax Talks Continue

The state House passed a $29.1 billion spending plan Wednesday, five days before the July 30 budget deadline. The measure now heads to the Senate, which looks likely to make big changes to the revenue sources assumed in the plan, if not the final spend figure.

House Republicans heralded the proposal as a reflection of their priorities: holding the line on spending, without raising taxes, and passed before July.

Read more
City Government
5:07 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Debt Is Down and Spending Is Up, Says Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb

City of Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb says an interactive version of the Popular Annual Financial Report will be available online for the first time this year.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

There’s good news and bad news.

That was the message from city of Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb Wednesday, as his office released its 2013 Popular Annual Financial Report. Lamb called the report the “layman’s version” of the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which was released early this year.

The good news, said Lamb, is that the difference between the city’s liabilities and its assets shrunk by $4.1 million in 2013, to $423.8 million. In 2007, the gap was close to $600 million.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
1:31 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

How Pittsburgh Plans to Get Out of Act 47 in 5 Years

Kevin Acklin, the mayor's Chief of Staff and Chief Development Officer, believes the collaboration between Mayor Peduto and City Council is key to the success of Pittsburgh.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

On Tuesday, with a 7-2 vote, the Pittsburgh City Council approved Mayor Bill Peduto's Act 47 recovery plan. The five-year plan includes recommendations for a possible property tax increase and bond issues to improve deteriorating infrastructure.

Kevin Acklin, the mayor's Chief of Staff and Chief Development Officer explained how the City plan is different from past plans.

Read more
Government & Politics
7:53 am
Wed June 25, 2014

House Panel Links Budget To Liquor Privatization

With about a week left before the state budget deadline, House lawmakers have advanced an actual spending plan.

Until now, the House has been teeing up a bill referred to merely as vehicle - last year's budget in new legislation, a placeholder for whenever the Republican majority put together the plan it intended to send to the Senate.

And in some ways, the $29.1 billion spending plan voted out of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday is still just a vehicle. It's likely to undergo some big changes before heading to the governor's desk.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
6:33 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Attorney General Kane: Corbett Did Not Drag Feet Over Sandusky Investigation

Even though the report did not find any evidence of Corbett mishandling the case for political reasons, his chances of re-election may still be hurt.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a report Monday regarding Tom Corbett's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse investigation when he was Attorney General. Patriot News opinions editor John Micek talked about how the findings of Kane's office could impact Governor Corbett's chances of re-election.

The Attorney General’s report found no evidence of Corbett mishandling the investigation due to political influence. Micek said even though the report was issued well before voting begins, for Corbett's re-election campaign, the report may hurt his chances in the polls.

Read more
Government & Politics
5:15 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

City Council Members Tackle City’s Parking Woes

Whether in Lawrenceville, Downtown, the South Side or the Strip District, many Pittsburghers and visitors to the city complain about parking; either the lack of it or the cost of it.

City Councilman Dan Gilman held a post agenda on the issue Tuesday. Pittsburgh Acting Police Chief Regina McDonald said one of the problems is crowded neighborhood streets.

Read more
Government & Politics
11:23 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Nothing But Questions As the June Budget Deadline Nears

State lawmakers are heading into the final stretch of June, and for the first time in four years, a budget agreement doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who ran for office promising timely state budgets, has said he’ll forgive a late spending plan in return for passage of two other legislative priorities: an overhaul of public pensions and changes to how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania.

Read more
Pennsylvania
8:08 am
Tue June 24, 2014

In Review of Sandusky Case, Kane Sees Flaws in Prosecution, But No Politics

A long-awaited review of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case has exonerated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of suggestions the investigation was slowed by political calculations. But state Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she still sees flaws in the prosecution and is openly inviting speculation on how it was handled.

Read more
Health
3:30 am
Tue June 24, 2014

As Allergy Attacks Increase, PA Senate Considers Bill To Protect Students

About one in 13 children in the United States have a diagnosed food allergy, but according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, there are many who remain undiagnosed and unprotected against the risks of a sudden, severe reaction.

PA House Bill 803, which would allow schools to stock and administer epinephrine, is an attempt to protect children with undiagnosed allergies who have reactions at school. Epinephrine is the primary treatment for anaphylaxis, a serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction which can cause throat-swelling, a rash, and a drop in blood pressure.

Read more
City Government
3:37 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Peduto Issues Executive Order Aimed At Keeping Better Track Of Expenditures

Though he’s in Denmark for the week, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has issued an executive order which is meant to help city finance managers better keep track of where and how money is being spent.

“Effective immediately, and until further notice, all explanatory departmental expenditures, those are expenditures under $2,000, other than those that are done pursuant to an approved contract, must be pre-approved by OMB,” said Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief of staff.

Read more
City Government
2:22 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Mayor’s Office Exploring How To Keep City From Getting Trashed After Large Events

Mayor Bill Peduto's Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin outlined some options being examined to help reduce the cleanup costs to the city following large events.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Following the weekend’s Luke Bryan concert at Heinz Field, the Internet has been abuzz with pictures and videos of people tailgating, people falling in the road drunk and garbage the crowds left behind — not unlike the aftermath of last year’s Kenny Chesney concert.

On Monday, the message from Mayor Bill Peduto's office was that the trashing of Pittsburgh needs to stop.

Read more
Government & Politics
11:45 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Historic Preservation As Economic Development: Peduto Says Yes, Please

The YMCA building in East Liberty plans to use preservation tax credits to develop a hotel.
Credit Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced that he wants to use the city’s stock of aging buildings as a tool for economic development.

Beyond Pittsburgh, too, Pennsylvania has no shortage of old buildings and some cities have long used them as a selling point. 

A new study measured the impact of maintaining older buildings in urban areas and concluded that for cities lucky enough to have them, leveraging them can bring development.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Despite Bipartisan Backing, LGBT Protections Stalled

Passage is looking unlikely this year for a bill to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians.

The measure would outlaw firing someone from his or her job, evicting someone from his or her home, or not seating people at a restaurant on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gov. Tom Corbett supports it, as do a bipartisan group of state lawmakers.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
5:58 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

An Update on PA's Non-Discrimination Legislation

PA Democratic State Representative Erin Molchany
Credit Erin Molchany / Twitter

“Marriage equality is now a reality in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but at the end of the day you can still be fired for putting your wedding photo on your desk,” says State Representative Erin Molchany.

With a lack of legislative protections, same-sex couples in many parts of PA still face legal discrimination in the workplace, when it comes to housing, and in public accommodations.

“I would imagine that a state that does not have these kinds of protections would not be marketable to attracting talent, for businesses, employees,” Molchany said.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:38 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

A Hybrid Approach to Pennsylvania Pension Reform

Credit 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett recently aligned with State Representative Mike Tobash and other legislators who have developed a new way to administer public employee pensions in an effort to save taxpayer money.

However, a report from left-leaning Keystone Research Center economist and executive director Stephen Herzenberg says,

"The proposed plan would make little progress reducing the state’s pension debt, while forcing Draconian benefit cuts on future teachers, cafeteria workers, nurses, and state employees."

The Corbett-Tobash proposal would replace Pennsylvania’s largest pension plan with this new hybrid system for all new state and school employees entering the workforce.

Herzenberg and Rep. Tobash both discussed the new approach and how best to tackle the state pension crisis.

Read more
Government & Politics
4:15 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Casey Calls on Lawmakers to Extend Funding for Children’s Health Insurance

Approximately 271,000 Pennsylvania children have health care coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and millions are covered nationwide.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is calling on his fellow lawmakers to extend funding for the program through fiscal year 2019.

“The basic problem we’ve got is the program is authorized through fiscal year 2019, but not funded,” said Casey. “We can’t say that we’re doing what we should be doing for children if we don’t match the funding with the authorization.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
8:51 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Contradictory Court Rulings on Expert Witnesses

Credit Lucy Skywalker / Wikipedia Commons

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court could not make up its mind on the usage of expert testimony in criminal cases, handing down two contradictory decisions recently.

In the first case, on eyewitness testimony, a majority changed the longstanding rule that no experts on the problems with eyewitness testimony were allowed; from this point forward, the Supreme Court ruled, trial courts in PA may permit experts.

But in the other case, the court ruled the exact opposite, stating expert testimony can create a false confession.

Pitt Law Professor David Harris believes he can help clarify the cases.

Read more
City Government
3:13 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

From Data Sharing To Street Paving, Council Proposes Amendments To Act 47 Recovery Plan

The city of Pittsburgh is one step closer to approving its third Act 47 Recovery Plan, after City Council on Wednesday presented and gave preliminary approval to 17 amendments.

“They don’t impact anything financial,” said council president Bruce Kraus. “They really are more philosophical in nature, more or less, about how we want to plan the next five years.”

Read more
Government & Politics
2:30 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Controllers Wagner And Lamb: City Should Implement Joint Payroll System To Save Money

At a meeting this week of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner urged the city of Pittsburgh to implement a joint financial management system that she said is already-built and ready to go. Wagner said by not utilizing the payroll module, the city is taking a financial hit.

“There’s already a cost to past delays, we’re incurring a cost presently because of present delays and will continue to in the future if there are future delays,” she said.

Read more
Veterans
7:48 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Plan For Statewide Veterans Courts Met With Some Skepticism

Veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse could ping-pong through the criminal justice system for years without a support system that recognizes common problems facing former members of the military.

That’s the premise of Pennsylvania’s veterans treatment courts, which started as county initiatives several years ago to help the state’s veteran population — the fifth largest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  

Read more
Government & Politics
10:52 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

County Councilwoman Wants to Explore Privatization of County Nursing Homes

Allegheny County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh said she was bothered by a recent advertising campaign for the Kane Regional Centers, the county’s assisted care facilities.

It was that two-year, $187,000 ad campaign that got Heidelbaugh thinking about whether the Kanes could be partially or fully privatized.

Tuesday evening, Heidelbaugh introduced legislation in County Council to create a working group to study such a possibility.

Read more
Government & Politics
5:20 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Obama Touts Manufacturing, Access For Entrepreneurs In Pittsburgh Stop

President Obama holds a town hall on manufacturing at Pittsburgh's TechShop Tuesday.
Credit whitehouse.gov

American manufacturing was the focus of President Obama’s visit to Pittsburgh Tuesday.

The president stopped at TechShop in Bakery Square, a facility that allows start-up businesses, tinkerers and hobbyists to use high-end instruments they may not otherwise have access to. Obama said part of continuing the manufacturing boom in the country will be finding ways to make resources of the federal government more available to the general public.

Read more
Government & Politics
4:47 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Corbett Shrugs Off June 30 Budget Deadline

Gov. Tom Corbett says he’ll make do with a late budget this year and possibly renege on his no-taxes campaign pledge.  

“Given the difficulty of this budget, I have allowed — I have informed — the legislators, we need to get this done and we need to get it done right, rather than quickly,” said Corbett at a news conference Tuesday. “So, if we are not able to finish by June 30, we are not able to finish by June 30.”

Read more
City Government
11:28 am
Tue June 17, 2014

What Pittsburghers Need To Know About Act 47

Credit Illustration courtesy of Pittsburgh City Paper

What is Act 47?

Act 47 is a state oversight program for “financially distressed” cities in Pennsylvania. The state tries to help cities turn around their finances and operations. The name comes from the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act (Act 47 of 1987).

What’s the history of Act 47?

Pittsburgh has been “financially distressed” for 10 years. The plan that the mayor and city council are currently considering will guide the city from 2014 through 2018.
Who prepares the five-year plan on the state's behalf?

Read more
Government & Politics
7:58 am
Tue June 17, 2014

House, Senate GOP Leaders Not Expecting To Meet End-Of-June Budget Deadline

It’s shaping up to be a longer-than-usual work calendar for state lawmakers negotiating the commonwealth’s budget.

House and Senate Republican leaders aren’t expecting to meet the state constitution’s end-of-June budget deadline.

“It’s unlikely that we will finish our work by June 30,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he told his caucus’s members. “Certainly be prepared for at least the first week in July.”

When pressed for more details (for example: just how far should lawmakers and staff push back holiday plans?), Pileggi was reticent.

Read more
Government & Politics
4:49 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Underfunded 9-1-1 Call Centers Will Wait Another Year For Surcharge Hike

More than a year of negotiations has yielded little fruit when it comes to increasing the monthly phone line surcharge that funds 9-1-1 call centers in Pennsylvania.

Instead, the state Legislature will likely extend the existing surcharge for one year. Land line customers will continue to pay between $1.00-$1.50 each month, while wireless and VOIP customers will pay $1.00/month.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:51 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

City Council Hears From Public On Act 47 Amended Plan

Pittsburgh City Council members heard from the public Monday about the third amended recovery plan for the city.

Pittsburgh has been under financial oversight for a decade. The amended plan, aimed at getting the city out of Act 47 status and closer to financial solvency, sets novel goals: to reduce the city’s deficit and debt burden, maintain the fund balance at an appropriate level, increase pension contributions and spend more on capital construction.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon June 16, 2014

In Harrisburg, The Debate Over Construction Codes Persists

A debate is raging over ways to update the various codes that govern construction in Pennsylvania.

A new code requiring sprinklers in a building — is it a life saver or a costly mandate? The answer to that question depends on whether you make your living building homes or selling sprinklers.

Every three years, a state review panel is faced with hundreds of new model codes to adopt or reject. The state Senate has passed a proposal to give the panel more time (two years instead of one) to consider each code.

Read more

Pages