Politics & Government

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

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 A proposed bill is looking to change how Pennsylvania draws its legislative and congressional districts

The bill’s sponsor, Monroe County Republican David Parker said the measure would cut down on gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is prevalent in Pennsylvania—it’s when legislative maps are drawn to benefit a political party.

Parker said the ultimate results don’t benefit constituents.

“When these districts become so large and kind of snake around and are odd shapes, it’s difficult for them to truly represent everybody in the whole district,” he said.

AP

Pennsylvania has a long history as an important swing state in presidential elections. But over the last decade, approximately, political shifts have kept the state swinging left again and again—Republicans haven’t won Pennsylvania since 1988.

Nevertheless, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are fighting hard for Keystone State votes this year.

According to Chris Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania has been like “fool’s gold” for Republicans in recent years: tantalizing, but just out of reach.

HelenCobain / flickr

Despite having a balanced 2016-2017 budget, Pennsylvania has taken out a loan to pay its bills. 

The state's $31.5 billion budget approved in June created revenue increases, including a new tax on video streaming services and higher taxes on tobacco, but some of those have yet to start flowing into the state.

Fearing the Revenue Department’s check book, officially known as its general fund, would hit zero before those new taxes arrived, the department asked the state treasurer to give it a $2.5 billion line of credit.

Clinton, Trump Battle In The Field

Aug 18, 2016
Bastiaan Slabbers / NewsWorks

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a voter registration rally Tuesday, packing several hundred supporters into the gym at West Philadelphia High School.

Looking ahead 85 days, Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are beginning to focus on the field effort they hope will help them win Pennsylvania on Nov. 8.

Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool

With Kathleen Kane stepping down as state attorney general after her felony conviction, the focus is now turning to how to restore public confidence in the scandal-ridden office.

Kane’s former first deputy Bruce Castor is taking over the AG duties for the time-being.

He said his first priority is to move the office forward.

“It’s what I’ve been trying to address since I got here, and that’s restore confidence in the public in the work that the Office of the Attorney General does,” Castor said.

Joe Raedle / Getty via NPR

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign will begin airing its first television ads of the general election in the coming days, the campaign confirms to NPR.

The ads will air in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and North Carolina — all key battleground states where Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has taken leads or grown her leads in recent polls. 

Toomey, In Fight For Political Life, Abandons TPP Trade Deal

Aug 17, 2016
AFGE / Flickr

In a fight for his political life, Pennsylvania's U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is abandoning a major international trade deal that has emerged as a divisive campaign issue.

Toomey, a Republican, wrote in an editorial published Wednesday that he's brought problems with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to the attention of the Obama administration, but they remain unfixed.

He said the agreement, as it stands now, isn't a good deal for Pennsylvania and he can't support it.

Matt Rourke / AP

 

During his campaign, Tom Wolf pitched himself as "a different kind of governor." He made good on a promise to donate his salary to charity and refuses to drive a state car. Upon taking office, he swiftly enacted a gift ban for the executive branch and has been known to refuse freebies, such as a bottle of water.

But the Wolf administration has continued one political tradition--nepotism.

Ted Murphy / Flickr

The fight between the City of Pittsburgh and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, involving millions of dollars in gaming revenues, is over. 

Mel Evans / AP

 

 

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has belatedly reported receiving $160,000 in gifts from friends, including $45,000 worth of roof repairs and other home improvements.

Philly.com reports the Democrat omitted the gifts on annual statements of financial interest he filed from 2010 to 2015.

Williams issued a statement through his 2017 re-election campaign citing "the need for greater transparency."

His attorney, Samuel Stretton, called the omissions a "terrible mistake."

Attorney General Kane Resigns A Day After Felony Conviction

Aug 16, 2016
Clem Murray / Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool

Kathleen Kane, Pennsylvania's first elected female attorney general, announced her resignation Tuesday, a day after being convicted of abusing the powers of the state's top law enforcement office to smear a rival and lying under oath to cover it up.

Kane, A Convicted Felon, To Address Job Status As Wolf Calls For Her Resignation

Aug 16, 2016
Jessica Griffin / The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool

 

Pennsylvania's attorney general showed little emotion as a Montgomery County jury convicted her late Monday on all nine counts, including two felony perjury counts, for leaking secret criminal files and lying about it.

Misty Johnson / Flickr

Pennsylvania plans to use a $250,000 federal grant to spend more than a year studying options for paid family leave programs.

The grant comes from money the federal Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau awarded to several states and cities to look into how paid family leave impacts workers and businesses.

Department of Labor and Industry Secretary, Kathy Manderino, said the state doesn’t yet have concrete plans for what it will do with the data. 

Kathleen Kane Found Guilty Of Nine Charges In Perjury Case

Aug 15, 2016
Bill Fraser / Bucks County Courier Times/AP

 

 

The state's attorney general was convicted Monday of all nine counts against her in a perjury and obstruction case related to a grand jury leak.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s credit rating has improved, though only slightly, with Moody’s Investor Service upgrading the commonwealth’s financial outlook from negative to stable.

Since 2014, Moody’s rating of Pennsylvania’s credit has been a relatively mediocre AA3.

Dan Seymour, Moody’s lead analyst for Pennsylvania, said that’s relatively low for a state.

Art Gentile / Bucks County Courier Times via AP, Pool

  A political consultant for Attorney General Kathleen Kane says her security agents took him to a parking garage, seized his phone, wallet and keys and searched him for a recording device before he had lunch with Kane at a luxury hotel.

Consultant Josh Morrow is testifying Thursday at Kane's perjury and obstruction trial. The first-term Democrat is accused of leaking grand jury files to the press to embarrass a rival.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Nearly three hours of testimony on the use of police body cameras before a state House committee on Wednesday boiled down to three main issues: when to record, how much to release to the public and how long to retain the files.

Matt Rourke / AP

Donald Trump’s poll numbers are down in Pennsylvania—he currently trails opponent Hillary Clinton by nearly nine points in a recent state average.

But that’s not just bad news for Trump.

In election years, down-ballot races are always affected by the presidential contest. This year’s Senate contest between Democrat Katie McGinty and Republican incumbent Pat Toomey is no exception.

Wes Leckrone, who teaches political science at Widener University, said he is predicting Trump won’t win Pennsylvania.

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After a fiscal record-keeping scandal prompted a board shakeup and reforms of Pittsburgh’s state-appointed financial oversight board earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority and the city are now close to settling a lawsuit to release $18 million in withheld tax revenue to Pittsburgh's pension funds.

“(ICA board members) still have to vote on Tuesday, but that agreement will release all the money that the city is owed," said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Mark Moz / Flickr

Rent abatement, housing renovations and new affordable housing construction projects could be on the agenda if City Council approves a tax increase worth an estimated $10 million.

Gerry Broome / AP

 

**UPDATE: This story was updated at 11:45 a.m. to reflect Pence's Pittsburgh comments. 

The Republican nominee for vice president appeared at two campaign events in two different Pennsylvania cities on Tuesday.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence began a town hall at 3 p.m. at the Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center in Lancaster, continuing running-mate Donald Trump’s focus on winning the Keystone state.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

 

Pennsylvania has more trash in its landfills, per person, than every other state, except Nevada. There are 35.4 tons of trash for each person in the state, according to ananalysis of data from the Environmental Protection Agency's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, conducted by the energy company SaveOnEnergy.com.

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Last year, when the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania held its annual conference, the focus was on the budget stalemate that, at the time, was less than two months into what turned into a nine-month deadlock.

“Who would have ever thought it would go that long,” said Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk. “The angst there this year will be nowhere near what it was last year.”

Matt Rourke / AP

 

 

Former Gov. Ed Rendell and the artists who created 57 painted donkeys installed before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia are at odds over donkey dollars.

Caryn Kunkle, an advocate for the artists, is upset because only four of the donkeys will be auctioned off to pay the artists. Kunkle contends the agreement with the convention's host committee, 
which Rendell headed, called for all of the donkeys to be auctioned off to help pay the artists, who already received $1,000 per sculpture.

Pennsylvania Department of Health

 

Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program has a new director.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration introduced John Collins on Thursday as head of the state Office of Medical Marijuana.

Collins, who joined the state's health department in April as assistant administrator in the Division of HIV Disease, will oversee the state's newly minted program, including cultivation and distribution regulations. He starts on Monday.

  Health Secretary Karen Murphy has said the regulations should be fully in place by early 2018, but that's subject to change.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's highest court has declined to intervene in the criminal case against the state's top prosecutor. Jury selection is set to begin outside Philadelphia on Monday.

The Supreme Court on Friday turned down Attorney General Kathleen Kane's request that it take up her claim that the grand jury that investigated her was unlawful and unconstitutional.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to save $150 million in state money by this fiscal year has exceeded its goal, netting a total of $156 million in efficiencies.

Now the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Innovation, Management and Efficiency has a new, more ambitious plan for the next three years. GO-TIME is aiming to increase those efficiencies to $500 million by fiscal year 2020.

GO-TIME Director Sharon Ward said much of the money saved will come from 154 programs that were already part of the initial initiative.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

When the state budget passed earlier this month, a lot attention focused on whether there was enough revenue to pay for it.

But one part was largely overlooked—the more than $100 million it included in tax credits.

They are basically a tax refund given to certain taxpayers chosen by the state.

Marc Stier, director of the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said the allocation is significant: the industries and companies that receive the breaks are the ones the state’s trying to bolster.

Expert: PA Swing Looking More Realistic

Aug 1, 2016
Darron Cummings / AP

Pennsylvania hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Hillary Clinton's top surrogates are taking aim at rival Donald Trump for criticizing the bereaved mother of a Muslim Army captain, a comment that sparked outrage across the political spectrum on Saturday.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine expressed shock that the GOP nominee would attack Ghazala Khan for not speaking during her husband's address to the Democratic convention.

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