Government & Politics

Election 2014
7:37 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Corbett Approval Could Hinge on Medicaid

A new statewide poll shows there could be light at the end of a tunnel lined with low job performance ratings for Gov. Corbett.

The Franklin & Marshall College survey indicates Corbett's vision for health care may win over some sorely needed voters in advance of next year's gubernatorial election.

64 percent of respondents support expanding the state's Medicaid program to hundreds of thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians using federal money.

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Community
3:07 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Allegheny County Residents to DPW Head: Fix the Department!

Department of Public Works Secretary Bev Mackareth (left) and adviser Heather Hallman listen to community concerns about the department at a forum in Pittsburgh.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Lost paperwork, benefit delays, being hung up on or treated rudely – those are just some of the problems faced by some residents of Allegheny County as they try to navigate through the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare for either food assistance or health benefits. On Wednesday, Just Harvest, an agency which helps connect people to services, held a meeting with DPW Secretary Beverly Mackareth and concerned residents who outlined problems they’ve had and some of what they’d like to see going forward.

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Lottery
5:35 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Lottery Bid Extended Again

Gov. Tom Corbett's keeping his option alive for at least two more months to hire a private manager for the $3.7 billion Pennsylvania Lottery.

The administration said Tuesday that the British national lottery operator, Camelot Global Services, agreed to extend the company's bid through Dec. 31.

Corbett began searching for a private manager in April 2012, but Attorney General Kathleen Kane rejected the contract with his eventual choice, Camelot, as illegal.

Corbett hasn't said whether he's asking state lawmakers for help or whether he'll resubmit the contract to Kane.

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Government & Politics
4:12 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Food Stamp Funding Drops as of November

SNAP benefits, also know as food stamps and EBT funds, will be reduced starting Friday.
Credit Clementine Gallot / Flickr

Starting November 1, families receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also referred to as food stamps, will see the amount of assistance drop. That’s because a boost in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal stimulus, expires.

“We have 1.8 million individuals who receive the SNAP benefit in Pennsylvania,” said Carey Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. “We would expect that there would be about a 5 percent reduction to those individual SNAP benefits.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:36 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

What Would the Pennsylvania Dream Act Mean for PA?

Senator Lloyd Smucker is a leader in trying to pass the Pennsylvania Dream Act Bill.
Credit senatorsmucker.com

At best estimate, tens of thousands of children of undocumented immigrants live in our state today. The Pennsylvania Dream Act  would give children of undocumented immigrants who have attended high school in the state, an opportunity to apply for admission to state owned colleges and universities, or related universities, at in-state rates.

The Dream Act bill is led by Pennsylvania State Senator Lloyd Smucker, a Republican who says, “This is not a partisan issue this is about, what is the right thing to do for this group of kids.”

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Lottery
3:20 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Lottery Deal Fees Under Review by Auditor General

The state's top fiscal watchdog says his office will scrutinize state payments made to consultants working on a plan to lease the Pennsylvania Lottery to a private firm.

"The money that was paid to these firms, what did it actually go to?" said Democratic state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale Tuesday about the planned review. He said more than $3.4 million has been paid to firms associated with the effort to lease the lottery. The money has come from the state's Lottery Fund, which supports programs benefiting seniors.

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Small Games of Chance
10:19 am
Tue October 29, 2013

American Legion Opposes Plan to Let Bars Offer Small Games of Chance

A controversial bill to allow raffles, drawings, and pull-tab games in bars in Pennsylvania is getting pushback from veterans associations and fraternal clubs that have had such small games of chance for decades. 

Bar and tavern owners see themselves as winners under a proposal that would let them offer small-time gambling. But private clubs say that proposal could hurt them.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:37 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

How Will History Look at Mayor Luke Ravenstahl?

Credit Deanna Garcia

As Pittsburghers gear up to elect a new mayor, a week from now, Luke Ravenstahl seems to be ramping up his public appearance schedule in an effort to clean up his image.

“It’s like he’s almost trying to spin the last seven years into something that reads better on his epitaph,” says Bob Oltmanns, President of OPR Group, LLC, an independent public relations consultancy.

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Election 2014
6:28 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate John Hanger Releases Agenda for Women

Self-described Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hanger has released his policy agenda for women, which includes initiatives to expand healthcare, close the wage gap, legalize same-sex marriage, and protect women from domestic and sexual violence.

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Government & Politics
2:27 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

Sen. Casey Calls On Congress To End Sequestration

Equipment used by researchers at the Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh is a direct result of NIH funding, which US Sen. Bob Casey says is in jeopardy if the sequester cuts are allowed to continue.
Credit Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is calling on Congress to prevent the latest round of sequester cuts that could impede medical research.

A bipartisan conference committee, created in the agreement to end the government shutdown, has until December to decide whether to keep or reduce cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Last year the Pittsburgh region received 1,132 NIH awards totaling more than $503 million. As a whole, Pennsylvania was given 3,369 grants worth more than $1.4 billion.

The commonwealth ranked fourth in federal research funding in 2012.

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Budget
2:59 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Pittsburgh 2014 Budget and Five-Year Plan Approved

The ICA has approved the city's 2014 budget that holds the line on taxes and does not include any layoffs.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

The state-appointed body charged with overseeing Pittsburgh's finances has given the green light to a $479 million dollar city budget.

Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) approved the amended 2014 spending plan and its accompanying five-year fiscal plan.

According to the Mayor’s office, the budget and fiscal plan calls for the continued investment in public safety, public works, technology upgrades and quality-of-life improvements for residents.

It will not increase taxes, cut services or lead to lay-offs.

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Government & Politics
2:10 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

ACLU Threatens Robinson Twp.

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue a Pittsburgh suburb for allegedly singling out Republican campaign signs in a crackdown to remove such items from public rights of way.

The ACLU sent a letter Wednesday to Robinson Township officials. Township manager Jeffrey Silka says he isn't commenting because "it is a legal issue and a subject of potential litigation."

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Government & Politics
5:40 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

New State Law Allows Medical Providers To Say 'Sorry'

A new state law will allow medical providers to do something many take for granted: say they’re sorry for a bad outcome.

The law will be effective in about two months.

In the past, an apology from a doctor or midwife has been admissible as evidence of liability.

Republican Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County says the law will finally let medical professionals express their sympathies in the event that something goes wrong in the course of care.

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Government Transparency
5:31 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Chelsa Wagner Calls for More Transparency with Authorities

County Controller Chelsa Wagner has issued a letter to Allegheny County authorities asking them to increase their transparency.

Brad Korinski, county controller chief of staff, said the public needs and wants more transparency and supervision over authorities and how they spend taxpayer money.

“Authorities affect any number of aspects of our daily life as citizens,” Korinski said. “But I think that even the most engaged of our citizens would be hard-pressed to describe exactly how authorities do what it is that they do.”

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Government & Politics
4:48 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

PA House Bill Would Require Schools to Display 'In God We Trust'

A bill that would require all public school buildings in Pennsylvania to display the national motto, “In God we trust,” passed in the House Education committee Wednesday morning.

Republican Rick Saccone, who represents parts of Allegheny and Washington counties, is the bill’s sponsor. He said the bill is meant to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the U.S. mint printing the motto on our nation’s currency.

Saccone called the tale of how the motto got onto the currency “a Pennsylvania story.”

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Government & Politics
4:03 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

House Vote on Transportation Funding Will Likely Wait Until November

A transportation funding proposal isn’t quite ready for a vote before the full state House.
               
Negotiations are expected to continue into next month as state lawmakers try to secure public works payment-related concessions from labor unions that can woo Republican votes without losing support from Democratic members.
               
But House Speaker Sam Smith won’t even say he’s cautiously optimistic that a plan could pass in November.

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Business
3:42 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Sen. Casey Calls For Lower Taxes For Small Breweries

Lower taxes may be brewing for small beer makers if the state’s Democratic U.S. senator has any pull.

Bob Casey is calling for a reduction in taxes for the breweries.

He says the same legislation would also increase how much beer companies can sell and still be considered “small.”  

"Taxes as it relates to breweries have really not changed since the mid-1970s," Casey said. "Since that timeframe, breweries have grown substantially in size."

Casey visited Troeg’s Brewing Company in Hershey, Dauphin County to tout the proposal.

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Pittsburgh Police
6:30 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Police Chief: Proposal for Training, Partnership Program 'Improper'

Tensions ran high Tuesday as members of Pittsburgh City Council met to wrestle with the issue of community-police relations.

Up for discussion were three bills sponsored by Councilman Ricky Burgess, one of which would authorize the city to spend up to $150,000 on a police-community partnership program called Unleashing Respect Project, or URP.

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Health
4:50 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

In Harrisburg, a Push to Require More Disease Testing for Newborns

State lawmakers may have the go ahead from the governor for legislation to make sure newborns are tested for a number of degenerative diseases affecting the nervous system.

Krabbe leukodystrophy is on the list of diseases that can go undetected until it’s too late because Pennsylvania doesn’t require newborns to be screened for it.

Vicki Pizzullo knows the pain of hearing such a diagnosis and is urging lawmakers to mandate the testing.

Her 9-month-old daughter Hannah was diagnosed with Krabbe too late to receive treatment.

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Government & Politics
3:54 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Pittsburgh Foundation to Offer Hiring Help for New Mayor

The Pittsburgh Foundation is hoping a website it is launching will help the next mayor choose fresh faces for key positions.

The site, Talent-City.org, will begin posting job openings after the November election for the top position in each city department and their direct reports.

“The website is part of a broader effort to help ensure that the city institutes a new process of hiring with an emphasis on qualifications,” said Grant Oliphant, Pittsburgh Foundation president and CEO.

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Government & Politics
5:37 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

PA's State-Related Universities Defend Open Records Status

Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities are arguing they should continue to receive special treatment under the commonwealth’s open records law.

State lawmakers are working on an update to the government transparency law last revised in 2008, which largely exempts Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln.

Valerie Harrison, general counsel for Lincoln University, says additional oversight would be cumbersome.

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Government & Politics
3:22 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Prescription Drug Database Could Expand In PA, But Who Can Use It?

Pennsylvania could soon track more of the prescriptions you purchase but it is still unclear who will be able to see the database.
Credit stockmonkeys.com

Pennsylvania is not like its neighboring states – it monitors prescriptions most prone to abuse, but turns a blind eye to other categories of drugs.  But that might not be the case for long.  

The program is intended to prevent drug abuse by allowing prescribers and law enforcement to check for patterns in a patient’s prescription history.

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Government & Politics
3:14 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Will PA Politics Be Impacted by Shutdown?

Elected officials and political strategists are trying to assess the effect of the 16-day federal government shutdown on political capital in Pennsylvania and most are finding it hard to see much damage.

Republican strategist Charlie Gerow thinks the shutdown debate will strengthen GOP candidates because it clarified their message.

“One is the incredible increase in the national debt, and two – the disaster of Obamacare,” Gerow said.

But after the shutdown-inducing fight, Republicans seem no closer to changing the Affordable Care Act or reducing the national debt.

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Government & Politics
3:18 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Criminal Expungement Law Passes PA Senate

A measure that would help some convicted criminals clear their record has been passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and is on its way to the House.

Senate Bill 391 would allow individuals who were convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor of the third or second degree and have not been arrested or prosecuted for seven to ten years following the completion of their sentence to have their record expunged. 

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Government & Politics
1:02 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

PA Lowers Debt Limit, Increases Capital Spending Controls

With a unanimous vote, lawmakers in Harrisburg have taken the unusual step of lowering the state’s ability to borrow money.  The House and Senate approved a bill this week that reduces Pennsylvania’s debt ceiling from $4.05 billion to $3.45 billion. 

“Under Governor Rendell the debt limit was increased five times and we felt we needed to reduce our debt service payments and reduce our overall debt,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). 

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