Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Flickr user Joseph Novak

City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, who represents much of the Hill District, wants to make that the history of the area does not repeat itself.

In the mid-1950s, redevelopment of the Hill District and construction of the Civic Arena displaced 8,000 residents, most of whom were black and more than a third of whom ended up in public housing.

Now, that same area is slated for redevelopment by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Plans include housing, mixed-use retail, a hotel and an outdoor plaza.

As more awareness and excitement builds around eating and buying local, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board hopes commonwealth residents will drink local. This October, Wine and Spirits stores will be encouraging you to buy wine made and bottled in-state.

Pennsylvania wine sales account for a small percentage of all wine sales – in 2012, wine sales were $821 million – five million of that was wine produced in-state. But those are numbers that have been rising – over the last 30 years, Pennsylvania wineries have grown from a couple dozen to more than 200.

For the past week, Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane has released information in a piecemeal fashion about bawdy e-mails exchanged by current and former state employees years ago. Some say the office has done little to quell criticism that the bit-by-bit disclosures show political motive.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille called it a “show and tell” last week — the way the attorney general revealed raunchy images sent or received by eight men who worked under Gov. Tom Corbett when he helmed the AG’s office. All the men named by Kane’s office are Republicans.

A widening scandal over the exchange of emails containing pornography by current and former members of the attorney general's office has gripped the Pennsylvania Capitol all week.

Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court chief justice demanded information on whether any judges were part of the exchanges. Gov. Tom Corbett, who was attorney general when the emails were exchanged, was forced to defend his management of the office as he campaigns for a second term.

Chris Abruzzo has turned in his resignation as head of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, one week after the attorney general’s office named him among state employees who swapped sexually explicit e-mails on state computers years ago while working for then-attorney general Tom Corbett.

In a letter to the governor, Abruzzo says assertions made by the attorney general’s office have become a “distraction” from the governor’s administration.

State tax revenues for the first quarter of the fiscal year are up…slightly.

The Revenue Department reports that for the first three months of FY 2014-15, the state pulled in $6.6 billion— just $500,000 above expectations, or 0.007 percent. General fund collections in September totaled $2.6 billion, $11 million more than projected.  

Democratic Congressional candidate Dan LaVallee said Pennsylvania’s 3rd district is “ready for new leadership” as he gathered supporters outside of the incumbent’s district office in Sharon, Pa.

LaVallee said Mike Kelly (R- PA 3) is out of touch with voters. “He hasn’t been spending time with the voters. He said previously that he doesn’t have time to glad-hand with voters.”

LaVallee is on the offensive with just a little more than a month before the election, denouncing what he describes as Kelly’s proclivity for lavish trips and his votes to cut education funding.

AP Photo/The Philadelphia Inquirer, Tom Gralish, Pool

A lively second debate between Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf became tense Wednesday as Wolf sought to assign blame to Corbett for budget deficits and struggling schools while Corbett tried to frame Wolf as the candidate who will favor labor unions over taxpayers.

Corbett and Wolf met during the one-hour "Breakfast with the Candidates" event at KYW-TV and KYW-AM in Philadelphia.

Gov. Tom Corbett heads into his second debate with Democratic challenger Tom Wolf with renewed energy, after a strong performance in the candidates’ first debate last week.

But Wednesday morning’s debate will air on radio and TV stations in the Philadelphia area, where most of the state’s Democratic voters reside.

“The geography of this certainly favors Wolf,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll and a political science professor.

It’s not clear how much debates can shake up a statewide gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania.

A New Municipality In Antietam Valley?

Sep 30, 2014
Kate Lao Shaffner / WPSU

Pennsylvania has more local governments than any other state except Texas and Illinois. There are some downsides to this, including the inefficiency and expense of duplicated services, and the potential for competition among municipalities.

State law allows municipalities to consolidate or merge, but it doesn't happen all that often because the process can be fraught with tension. But two communities in Berks County are trying to give it a shot— this November, residents will vote on whether they should consolidate and form a new municipality.

State lawmakers are working out the details of a plan to overhaul Act 47, shorthand for the much-maligned program that to rehabilitate municipalities with money problems.

Cities lingering in the state program would be given deadlines to exit. The state would expand early intervention efforts for municipalities sailing toward fiscal cliffs. Smaller communities would have new ways to disband if residents agree they’re just not viable.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

 It's been a busy week in Harrisburg, PennLive and Patriot-News editorial and opinions Editor John Micek joins us to lay it all out.

Topics include: the eight former and current state officials alleged to be involved in an exchange of hundreds of racy emails using state computers, calls for protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians and the Senate passing legislation to legalize certain kinds of marijuana.

To earn a living wage for a family of four while only making minimum wage, the two adults in that family would each have to work 68 hours a week. Another option, according to state Rep. Dom Costa (D-Allegheny), is to raise the current $7.25 minimum wage so that families in Pennsylvania could buy groceries and live comfortably while earning minimum wage.

Corbett exudes confidence in front of business-friendly crowd. In the first of three scheduled gubernatorial debates, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett came out aggressively against Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, attempting to make up ground in the polls that have him behind by double-digit margins.  Corbett benefited from the pro-business crowd in Hershey, 90.5 WESA’s Mary Wilson reports, but he also exceeded expectations by appearing candid and experienced compared to political newcomer Wolf.

There are only six session days left on the calendar this session for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and municipal police are lobbying for a set of bills that would allow them to use radar guns.

Senate Bill 1340 and House Bill 1272 would allow all police officers in the state to use the devices, not just state troopers, who have been using radar for more than 50 years. Neither has received a vote.

Municipal police departments have multiple options when it comes to catching speeders.

Even in 2014, fulfilling a request for service made to the city of Pittsburgh’s 311 Response Center involves data entry and paper printouts. But all that is about to change.

The city’s 311 Response Center system, which allows citizens to request that potholes be filled, buildings be inspected, or streetlight bulbs be changed, is slated to get a major upgrade.

Following Eric Holder's Resignation, A Look Back at His Career

Sep 26, 2014
US Department of Education / Flickr

On the heels of the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Duquesne University Law School Dean Ken Gormley joins us for an assessment of Holder's tenure as AG.

Gormley moderated a Q & A session with Holder during his 2011 visit to Duquesne to deliver the School of Law's Centennial Address.

Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional district race features a Republican incumbent campaigning against a Democratic political newcomer.

Mike Kelly (R- PA 3) is seeking his 3rd term and seems poised to win again in November.

Former state senator Jane Orie promised Wednesday to file a federal court appeal now that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge of her campaign corruption conviction and prison sentence.

"I have always been known to be a fighter — and I fight for what I believe in and in what is right," Orie said in an emailed statement. "My case is by no means over, and I will aggressively pursue my appeal in federal court."

Democrat Tom Wolf has moved on from his self-financed primary campaign days according to the most recent campaign finance report.  The numbers from “cycle 4” has Wolf actually out raising his opponent, Republican Tom Corbett, by landing plenty of outside money from wealthy donors and PACs.

Wolf raised an impressive $9.6 million during cycle 4 – stretching from June 10th to September 15th – while carrying over $3.1 million from last cycle.  Wolf spent $6.3 million of that money leaving him $6.5 million on hand two months before the general election.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana has passed the state Senate with overwhelming support and now heads to an uncertain future in the House.

The GOP House majority leader opposes the measure.

But one Republican in House leadership is on the record in favor of medical marijuana. And within the past week, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) has scaled up his ambition for pushing the plan. It used to be a next-year priority. Now, Vereb is trying to send it to the governor within the next month.

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed a long-awaited measure to let Philadelphia levy a tax on $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes to raise money for its schools.

Supporters heralded the bipartisan effort required to pass the tax authorization. The tax, along with a city sales tax increase and borrowing, will help the Philadelphia school district bridge an $81 million deficit.

A relatively small city expenditure of $167 led to a fervent critique of Mayor Bill Peduto by City Councilwoman Darlene Harris Wednesday morning.

In its committee meeting, City Council received a list of invoices to be paid this week, as it does in every weekly committee meeting. For the most part, these invoices are paid without incident.

But a charge for unpaid parking tickets attributed to the Ravenstahl administration caught the eye of City Councilman Dan Gilman.

Pittsburgh has been chosen as one of seven cities nationwide to house Code for America fellows, who will spend a year delving into a city issue and developing applications to tackle it. The issue the city has chosen to take on is procurement.

“Procurement refers to all the money the city spends on everything,” said Laura Meixell, analytics and strategy manager for the city, “from services and dealing with properties that we own to thinking about the contracts that we have, to the technology and the goods that we purchase as a city.”

A proposal to legalize certain kinds of medical marijuana will go to the full Senate for consideration Wednesday.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he expects the measure to pass after it received overwhelming and bipartisan approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday afternoon.

The panel's lengthy debate revealed concerns that there hasn’t been sufficient medical research on marijuana. But supporters said their sympathies are with parents of children afflicted with seizures who are desperate for a better treatment.

The biggest project yet under the public-private partnership, or P3 law, passed in 2012, will replace 558 of Pennsylvania's 4,200 structurally deficient bridges by 2018. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has released the final list of bridges, whittled down from 2000, and has reached out to private companies to submit bids for the project. PennDOT says this approach will get the job done quicker and more economically. 

Round One: Pennsylvania Gubernational Debate

Sep 23, 2014
Matt Rourke / The Associated Press

The first of three Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate debates were held last night. Republican Governor Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf had their face off at a Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and Industry dinner in Hershey. We'll talk with journalist John Baer of Philly.com who covered round one.

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker made it public that he's gay while at a news conference with other Democrats to urge passage of legislation that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's hate crime law.

Tuesday's announcement by Allegheny County Sen. Jim Ferlo makes him the first sitting Pennsylvania state senator who is openly gay, and the third state lawmaker.

Ferlo isn't running again, and he'll leave the Senate on Nov. 30 after 12 years. Ferlo also notes that he's never denied being gay.

In the state of Pennsylvania, it’s technically legal for employers to refuse pregnant workers accommodations like a place to sit, access to water and more frequent breaks.

State lawmakers in March attempted to change that by introducing a bill to require such accommodations, but that bill has languished in the Senate Labor and Industry committee ever since.

Now, city of Pittsburgh lawmakers are moving to codify such protections for pregnant city workers.

Matt Rourke / The Associated Press

The stakes were high for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett going into his first debate with Tom Wolf, his Democratic challenger.

An averaging of recent polls shows the governor trailing by double digits.

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