Government & Politics

Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Asset Forfeiture Powers Expanded in Human Trafficking Bill

Proposed legislation to tighten Pennsylvania’s law against human trafficking would also expand law enforcement’s ability to seize the assets of people accused of the crime.

Greg Rowe is with the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, which helped write the measure that passed the state Senate and is before the House.

He said it adds “trafficking of persons” to the list of activities that can subject someone’s property to seizure.  

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Government & Politics
4:11 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Corbett Spokesman: Governor Has Not Changed Position on Medical Marijuana

Gov. Tom Corbett isn’t budging from his stance against legalizing medical marijuana.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News recently reported the governor had “softened” his position after a spokesman said Corbett would consider changing his mind if the Food and Drug Administration deemed the drug a valid medicine.

But the spokesman later said Corbett’s stance is unchanged.

Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County, who is running for Congress, said Corbett should know the ball isn’t in the FDA’s court on this issue.

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Government & Politics
10:18 am
Fri January 10, 2014

State DPW Concludes Hearings on Medicaid Overhaul Proposal

About 40 members of the public spoke out at the seventh and final hearing on the Corbett's administration's Medicaid overhaul plan Thursday in Harrisburg.
     
State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo was among them.
     
The Bucks County Republican said the state should accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars now while it continues to negotiate an alternative plan with the federal government.
    
But Department of Public Welfare Secretary Bev Mackereth suggested it's not a financially viable option without the reforms they're proposing.
     

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:22 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Interpreting the Fourth Amendment in the 21st Century

Credit David Glover / flickr

Last month judges in New York and Washington DC issued two different opinions on the controversial bulk metadata collection program being done by the NSA.

In light of these conflicting decisions, many wonder if the Supreme Court will take up the issue.

David Harris, Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law University of Pittsburgh School of Law says the opposite rulings were products of the environments where the judges preside, as well as the radically different views of the Fourth Amendment.

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Government & Politics
4:04 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

It's Back: State Lawmakers Talking About Liquor Privatization Again

Republican state lawmakers are in talks to keep the issue of liquor privatization alive in the coming months.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, the most dogged legislative supporter of the push, said Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley is once again leading the effort to phase out state wine and spirits stores.

He said the fact that it’s an election year will work to the advantage of supporters.

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Government & Politics
12:06 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Peduto to Gov. Corbett: Pittsburgh Should Remain Under Act 47 Oversight

Updated 3:53pm 1/8/2014

The City of Pittsburgh has been under Act 47 state oversight since 2003. Back then, Pittsburgh was operating with a debt burden of more than 20% of its operating budget, pools and recreation centers had to close and hundreds of city employees, including police officers, were laid off. In late 2007, former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl along with Act 47 coordinators said the city was ready to be released. Even at that time, then Councilman Bill Peduto said the city wasn’t ready.

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Government & Politics
10:25 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Senate Dems Urge Caution in PA Lottery Debate

As state lawmakers consider taking a legislative approach to making the Pennsylvania Lottery more profitable, Senate Democrats are sounding warnings that any changes shouldn’t be too drastic.

The Corbett administration had pursued a deal with a British firm to take over management of the lottery.

The same now-discarded contract would have also expanded the lottery’s offerings to include keno terminals in restaurants and online gaming.

Senate Democrats say they’re opposed to privatization, but they’re not committing to a position on the fast-paced keno drawings.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:52 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Pittsburgh's New City Council President Focused on Open Communication

New Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Bruce Kraus was sworn in as the new President of the Pittsburgh City Council on Monday. Although Kraus has often been allied with former council member and now Mayor Bill Peduto, he vows to be an independent voice in city government.

Moving forward, he says he's especially interested in bringing more collegiality to a somewhat factioned city council.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:50 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Tom Wolf Hopes to Bring Diverse Experiences to Governor's Office

PA Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Tom Wolf speaks with Essential Pittsburgh producer Marcus Charleston
Credit Mark Nootbaar/90.5 WESA

Nicknamed “the compassionate businessman,” Tom Wolf is one of eight people looking to become the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

He plans to spend $10 million dollars of his own money to achieve that goal. While he has never held elected office, the York County businessman is the former secretary of revenue under Governor Ed Rendell. He talks about why his diversity of experiences make him suited to be the next Governor.

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Government & Politics
4:20 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Scarnati Calls for Action on Public Pension Overhaul

The state Senate president pro tem is beginning his eighth year with a call to action for some kind of public pension system overhaul.   

Sen. Joe Scarnati, a Republican of Jefferson County, has been re-elected unanimously to his position.  

In his first address to the Senate this year, he said the budget outlook demands lawmakers grapple with rising public pension costs.

"The choices we need to make will be many but the largest cost and growth in next year’s budget will be pension cost and we need to make choices," Scarnati said.

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City in Transition
5:12 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Bill Peduto Sworn in as Pittsburgh’s Newest Mayor

Bill Peduto takes the oath of office at Heinz Hall. Judge Justin Johnson administered the oath, the Bible was held by Max and Sue Sciullo, the parents of a slain Pittsburgh police officer.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

It’s official – Pittsburgh has a new mayor.

Bill Peduto took the oath of office during a ceremony at Heinz Hall Monday. The city’s 60th mayor vowed to help build the next Pittsburgh.

“Pittsburgh has grown and changed and grown again from the day a small campfire burned at the confluence of our three rivers and heralded the new boundaries of the American nation,” Peduto said in his inaugural speech. “But we did not only inherit this city from our forbearers, we are also borrowing it from our children.”

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Government & Politics
4:08 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Sen. Casey Hopeful a Long-Term Farm Bill Within Reach

Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. senator is hoping the next few months bring a long-term farm bill to fruition in Congress.

Bob Casey is optimistic about the legislation, which sets the nation’s food and agriculture policy.

Last year, Congress passed a short-term extension of the farm bill, which expires every five years.

During a visit to the 98th annual Farm Show in Harrisburg, Casey said the House appears to be more amenable to approving a longer-term fix in the next few months.

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City Government
4:01 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Bruce Kraus Elected President of Pittsburgh City Council

Council President Bruce Kraus addresses the crowd in Council chambers.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Bruce Kraus said he couldn’t get the old song “It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It’s Spring)” out of his head this morning, as he prepared for the vote that would confirm him as president of the 138th Pittsburgh City Council on Monday.

“It may be the coldest day that the city has seen in the last 10 to 20 years, but in our hearts it is spring, because we are experiencing a true and genuine rebirth,” Kraus said.

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City Government
3:54 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

City Council to Hold Meeting on Illegal Dirt Bike and ATV Riding

It is illegal in the state of Pennsylvania to ride dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, on city streets.

But Carrick resident Donna Williams said that hasn’t stopped a group of teenagers from tearing down Kirk Avenue on their dirt bikes and ATVs.

Williams said the young men also have made a habit of riding their vehicles in Birmingham Cemetery.

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City Government
1:59 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Pittsburgh's 138th City Council Sworn In

Pittsburgh City Council chambers overflowed with elected officials, city employees, community leaders, friends and family as the newly elected and re-elected members of the 138th City Council were sworn in.

Natalia Rudiak, Theresa Kail-Smith and Daniel Lavelle all won re-election in their districts in November, while Bill Peduto’s former chief of staff, Dan Gilman, took over the new Mayor’s seat on Council.

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Government & Politics
10:58 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Corbett Optimistic Legislative Support for Lottery Privatization is Growing

Gov. Tom Corbett is optimistic that legislative support for privatizing the state lottery is growing.

For the first time in more than a year, the Corbett administration has no obligation to a British firm that bid on a deal to manage the Pennsylvania Lottery.

The bid from Camelot Global Services expired at the end of 2013.

But Corbett says state lawmakers are still in talks over legislation to allow lottery privatization.

"Nothing’s public," he said. "There’s more discussion and I think there’s more look at getting more funds into Pennsylvania.

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City in Transition
3:30 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Peduto to be Inaugurated as Mayor of Pittsburgh

Bill Peduto is congratulated by supporters during his election night victory. He's holding a broom because he wants to make a "clean sweep" of city government.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Bill Peduto takes the oath of office Monday afternoon in Heinz Hall as Pittsburgh's 60th mayor. The ceremony had been planned for outside City Hall but was moved because of concern over frigid temperatures. 

The inauguration is a ticketed event and only a very limited number of seats will be available to the general public. 

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City Government
3:30 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Gilman Says He Won't be a 'Rubber Stamp' for Former Boss Peduto

As Bill Peduto is sworn in as mayor of Pittsburgh, his former chief of staff will move into his old City Council seat.

Dan Gilman won the District 8 seat in a landslide victory in November, clinching 89 percent of the vote.

District 8 includes Shadyside, Squirrel Hill North and North Oakland. Gilman, who worked with Peduto for eight years, says the relative safety and economic stability in his district will free him up to focus on other parts of the city.

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City in Transition
3:30 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Once a Promising Political Novice, Mayor Ravenstahl Leaves Office ... And Politics?

Outgoing Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced on March 1, 2013 that he would not seek reelection, after a tenure marked with a mix of triumphs and stumbles.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

When Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was quietly sworn into office following the 2006 death of Mayor Bob O’Connor, the 26-year-old City Council president became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city. 

Headlines around the time included the following: “Hope surrounds new Pittsburgh mayor, 26” and he made several national television appearances, including a spot on "The Late Show with David Letterman." But as he heads out of office, the last months of his tenure included headlines such as “Luke Ravenstahl Maintains Low Profile Amid Federal Probe.”

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City in Transition
3:30 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Who Will Be The Next Council President?

The first order of business after City Council swears in its newly elected members Jan. 6 is to choose a new president who will run the council for the next two years. The semi-annual election is always fraught with back room deals and unlikely alliances.

“That vote won’t be decided until five minutes before that meeting,” said Jim Motznik, former Pittsburgh City Councilman (2001-2010) and current District Municipal Court Justice.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Councilwoman Deb Gross Hopes to Manage Growth in East End

Pittsburgh’s newest City Council representative, Deb Gross, won out against four other candidates in a special election, after District 7 representative Patrick Dowd vacated his seat in July.

Gross took her seat at the beginning of December, one of the busiest times of the year for the council.

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Capital Punishment
3:30 am
Thu January 2, 2014

PA Task Force Delays Deadline For Possible Death Penalty Reforms

Thirty-two states, including Pennsylvania, have the death penalty. Since 1976 when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment,  Rhode Island (1984),  New York (2007), New Jersey (2007),  New Mexico (2009) Connecticut (2012), and Maryland (2013)  have abolished it. But the repeal in the last three states was not retroactive so they still have prisoners on death row.  Massachusetts' death penalty statute was nullified in 1984 by court rulings.

Could Pennsylvania become the next state to abolish capital punishment?

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Pennsylvania
11:54 am
Wed January 1, 2014

PA Natural Gas Advisory Committee Scheduled To Meet Again

Pennsylvania’s Natural Gas Advisory Committee (NGAC) is supposed to discuss the role of state forest land in energy production — it just hasn’t done it yet.

The commonwealth has already leased about 385,400 acres of forest land for natural gas extraction, according to a report released by the DCNR in October.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Proposal Would Let Teachers in PA Carry Guns on the Job

School shootings across the country have prompted studies on school safety in Pennsylvania, calls to boost security budgets and, now, legislation to allow school staff to carry firearms is on the table.

A year ago, top lawmakers and the Corbett administration said they didn't want to talk about arming teachers in a bid to deter gun violence in schools, but that's exactly the debate state Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) wants to have.

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City in Transition
11:54 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Peduto Gets 'Roadmap to Build the Next Pittsburgh'

Bill Peduto will be inaugurated Monday as Pittsburgh’s 60th mayor, and he takes office with a 5-inch thick binder with 1,100 pages of recommendations from citizens on how to improve the city.

Some 1,200 residents comprising 47 subcommittees delivered their reports and recommendations Monday evening to the mayor-elect and his management team.

“The response was overwhelming,” said Kevin Acklin, chairman of the transition committee and the incoming chief of staff for Peduto. According to Acklin the subcommittees began work Nov. 30 and made about 50 separate recommendations.

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