Government & Politics

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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Government & Politics
3:14 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Ravenstahl Releases Final Budget of Mayoral Tenure

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is applauded following his announcement of the 2014 city budget.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl released his proposed 2014 operating and capital budget Tuesday.

The $480 million budget and five-year plan is balanced, and it contains no tax increases or layoffs.

Before getting into specifics of the proposed spending plan, Ravenstahl outlined successes of his time as mayor. He said in the last seven years Pittsburgh has received 10 bond rating upgrades, and its investment status has moved from junk to grade A status.

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City in Transition
12:49 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Peduto Floats Early Retirement for Some City Employees

Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto has introduced legislation in City Council that would temporarily amend they city’s pension laws. The measure would allow employees whose combined age and years of service equals or exceeds 70 to retire with a full pension. Currently, age and experience must add up to 80 to qualify.

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Government & Politics
3:29 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Proposal to Limit 'Agritainment' Liability Meets Resistance

A state House proposal to limit the liability of farmers hosting so-called “agritainment” on their property has run into some resistance.

The latest plan would limit the kind of lawsuits that can be filed against owners of agritourism attractions like hayrides, farm tours and pick-your-own-crop operations — but only if those attractions charge zero fees or ticket prices.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau spokesman Mark O’Neill said the amendment, narrowly adopted on the House floor, defeats the purpose of the legislation.

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City in Transition
1:06 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Peduto Seeks City Residents for Roles on Transition Teams

Eight transition teams have been formed around the executive team announced by Mayor-elect Bill Peduto last week. The application period is now open for any city resident interested in participating.

“His (Peduto’s) vision for this administration is to build a new Pittsburgh, and we want to provide an opportunity for resident and community leaders and others to come to the table and be a part of that,” said Kevin Acklin, Peduto’s chief of staff.

The transition teams are:

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Education
3:30 am
Mon November 11, 2013

State Senate Charter School Proposal Faces Criticism

Some education advocates are criticizing a state Senate proposal to revamp how public charter schools start, expand and receive funding because it would remove a check on the growth of the alternative schools.

A plan before a key legislative committee would allow charter schools to increase their enrollment without the approval of the school district that first authorized their charter.

David Lapp is a former charter school teacher and now a staff attorney with the Education Law Center.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 11, 2013

PA National Guard Encourages Soldiers to Seek Mental Health Treatment If Needed

On this Veterans Day, the Pennsylvania National Guard is encouraging service members to seek mental help if they need it — and disclose when they’re doing so.  

At a forum in Harrisburg recently, guard members acknowledged a “prevalent” misconception among soldiers that reporting they’re seeking help could disrupt their career or mean losing their security clearance.

Capt. Sarah Lambert is a coordinator for the Guard’s Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention program.

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Veterans
3:30 am
Sun November 10, 2013

PA Treasury Department to Return Forgotten War Medals

The Pennsylvania Treasury Department wants military veterans or their heirs to get the military medals they rightfully deserve.

The Treasury is trying to return some of the 300 military medals the department has acquired over the years.

In conjunction with Veterans Day, State Treasurer Rob McCord is urging his Return Team to renew their efforts in finding the rightful owners or heirs to unclaimed war medals.

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Environment
4:07 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

House Committee Vote on Endangered Species Bill Likely Next Week

Environmentalists are standing firm in their opposition of adding more oversight to the process of designating endangered species in Pennsylvania.

The proposal is scheduled for a House committee vote next week.

It would make the two independent agencies charged with designating endangered species get approval from a state review board, as well as panels made up of state lawmakers.

Jeff Schmidt, with the Pennsylvania Sierra Club, says it will gut Pennsylvania’s process for protecting wildlife.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:44 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Examining the John F. Kennedy Assassination: Half a Century Later

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Cyril Wecht, world renowned forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County coroner, remembers exactly what he was doing when he heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

“Ironically I was standing in an autopsy room looking at a gunshot victim, a victim of homicide,” says Wecht.

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Government & Politics
3:26 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

City Property Tax Collections Come Up Short

Fall property tax collections for the city of Pittsburgh are $3.7 million below projections, according to the second-quarter report published this week by the mayor's finance office.

The millage rate may now need to be raised in order to correct the shortfall, though budget officials say it's too soon to say whether that will be necessary.

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City in Transition
11:34 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Peduto's 'Wide Net' Cast for More Positions

Pittsburgh Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto is going to lean a little more heavily on the Pittsburgh Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh Institutes of Politics when it comes to filling out non-union city staff positions and appointments to boards, commissions and authorities. 

It was announced Oct. 22 that the Pittsburgh Foundation was funding an effort to run a website to take applications for the top position in each city department and their direct reports. Those applications would then be put through an assessment process with the help of the Institutes of Politics.

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City in Transition
12:44 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Mayor-Elect Peduto's Cabinet Comes Together

Bill Peduto announces the members of his cabinet Thursday at the second news conference he has held as Mayor Elect.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto has rolled out the names of those who will fill key positions in his administration and the list is a mix of well-known political names, high-profile business leaders, and a few new faces.

“It reflects the most diverse mayor’s office in Pittsburgh’s history,” said Peduto of his “executive team,” which is majority minority.  “But more importantly, it’s the highest level of talent that a mayor’s office has been able to recruit.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:45 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Following Landslide Win, Peduto Looks Ahead

Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Bill Peduto does not move into the mayor's office until January, but he said his work has already begun.

Peduto said Wednesday his first order of business was to notify all directors to hold off on hiring new people and not to move forward with plans that would impact future years without consulting his chief of staff Kevin Acklin.

The 49-year-old Peduto captured 84 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election, easily defeating a pair of opponents in a city where Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:24 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Post-Election Day Wrap Up

Former Pittsburgh city councilman Bill Peduto wins the mayoral election.
Credit Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

It may be no surprise that Bill Peduto is now Pittsburgh mayor-elect. But some may be surprised that Peduto celebrated in Homewood last night as the results were tallied.

According to 90.5 WESA's Mark Nootbaar and Kevin Gavin, the Homewood location could be an attempt to show a focus on neighborhoods that Peduto feels have been ignored by previous administrations.

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Government & Politics
4:20 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

PA Settles Lawsuit Challenging Execution Witness Policy

Pennsylvania has settled a lawsuit that sought to force the commonwealth to allow witnesses to view the entire execution of condemned prisoners.

The agreement follows a federal judge’s order last fall that the state shall not prevent witnesses, including reporters, see the entire lethal injection process.

Vic Walczak is legal director for the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, which worked on the case.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:18 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

A Review of the Pennsylvania Governor Race

Governor Tom Corbett officially announces that he is running for a second term as Pennsylvania's governor.
Credit 90.5 WESA

Governor Tom Corbett officially announced Wednesday that he will be running for a second term.

“Why?" he says "Because we’re not done yet.”

According to John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News, many Democrats may argue that Corbett is done. Corbett is taking a multi-city tour throughout Pennsylvania, which Baer says will make him more visible to the public.

No matter what happens, Baer says Corbett will make history with his re-election campaign.

“He is either going to be the first ever incumbent governor to lose in Pennsylvania or he is going to be the Lazarus of Pennsylvania politics.”

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Allegheny County
3:44 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Macey: Fracking, Working with New Mayor on County Council Agenda

Democrats retained control of Allegheny County Council in Tuesday's election, but they did lose one seat (District 3) and now have a 10-5 majority.

County Councilman Bob Macey (D-9) won another four-year term and is looking ahead to issues in the upcoming year, including fracking on county property and building a relationship with Pittsburgh's mayor-elect Bill Peduto.

Macey said the decision to drill for natural gas on Allegheny Airport property is a great chance to observe the benefits fracking could bring to the region.

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Government & Politics
12:20 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Speaking in Pittsburgh, Corbett Makes His Bid For Re-Election Official

A day after the general election and in his first stop on a tour announcing his bid for re-election, Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday he intended to be governor again.

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Government & Politics
11:05 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Advocacy Group Says PA Needs a New Way to Select Judges

Advocates for a new way of selecting appellate court judges say the one statewide contest for Superior Court underscores their case that voters have too little information to responsibly elect judges.

The advocacy group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is pushing to replace elections with a new process called merit selection.

Under the proposed system, appellate judges would be vetted by an independent commission, nominated by the governor, and confirmed by the state Senate, before ultimately facing voters in retention elections.

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Election 2013
8:14 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Pittsburgh Voters Asked to Vote on Residency Rules

When voters in Pittsburgh head to the polls Tuesday they will be asked if they want to change the city’s home rule charter to require all city employees to live within the 58 square miles that make up the municipality.

The question was placed on the ballot by City Council in July following brief debate among council members and a long public hearing. 

Councilman Ricky Burgess represents several mostly-African American neighborhoods and pushed for the referendum.

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Government & Politics
7:41 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Former Congressman Bill Coyne dies

Former longtime Pittsburgh Democratic Congressman William Coyne has died at the age of 77.

Coyne's executive assistant, Jamie Rooney, said Coyne died Sunday at UPMC Mercy hospital following complications from a fall two months ago.

Coyne was a state representative from 1971 to 1973 then spent six years on Pittsburgh City Council before he became a Congressman in 1981. He served in that post until retiring in 2003.

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Government & Politics
1:59 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

State Lawmakers Examine New Water Treatment Technologies

Keeping the water that comes out of your tap clean for as little cost as possible is not always easy.
Credit Tim Camerato / 90.5 WESA

There are nearly 9,100 public water systems in Pennsylvania and roughly 2,000 municipal or community water systems of all sizes. Each has unique needs when it comes to water treatment. The Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee heard testimony from several people Friday in Collier Twp. about treating such water systems.

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Government & Politics
1:15 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

County Councilmember Calls On Fitzgerald To Release Fracking Proposals

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and County Councilman Bill Robinson (D-Hill District) are butting heads over access to proposals from energy companies to drill underneath Deer Lakes Park.

Robinson sent a letter to Fitzgerald asking that he make proposals submitted to the county last week public. Fitzgerald believes negotiations need to be conducted privately, and opening the discussion to the 15-member council could muddle the project’s success.

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Government & Politics
1:21 am
Fri November 1, 2013

State Points to Better Dog Law Enforcement

After being blasted by animal rights advocates last year for lax enforcement of tough new dog kennel regulations, state officials are now touting their more recent record of regular inspections and frequent citations for illegal practices.

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