Government & Politics

Education
4:52 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Pennsylvania's Struggling Schools Identified for Extra Help

For the first time, Pennsylvania is identifying its poorest-performing public schools that will receive extra help from the state to get up to speed on reading and math scores.

The names of the 92 so-called priority schools are being released Tuesday in an effort to comply with the commonwealth’s federal waiver from the No Child Left Behind education law.

Under the new requirements, as many as 10 state contractors called academic recovery liaisons will be hired to assist priority schools.

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Labor
4:31 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Rudiak Condemns UPMC for Latest Labor Violation Allegations

Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said in a news conference Tuesday that workers at UPMC are fighting the same fight many of their grandparents and great-grandparents fought many years ago.

“We should take a page from history," she said. "We shouldn’t have to wait for decades and fight those same battles over and over. We need to stand up now, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Rudiak was joined by City Council President Darlene Harris and Councilman Bruce Kraus as she condemned the latest labor violations that the National Labor Relations Board claims UPMC has committed.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:09 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Time is on John Hanger's Side

John Hanger plans to run for Governor in 2014.
Credit Hanger for governor website

John Hanger, former head of the PA Department of Environmental Protection,  announced his candidacy for Governor shortly after the 2012 Presidential election.  

Hanger says he made his announcement early because he believes an Incumbent is unofficially running for re-election as soon as they take office.

One of Hanger’s biggest issues with the Corbett Administration is  education funding. He says the top two areas of concern for the budget should be education and public safety.

"Pennsylvania schools have never been worse off than they are today,” says Hanger.

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Government & Politics
3:05 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Cash Management at Pittsburgh Bureau of Animal Control Found Lacking

As part of a series of audits of departments within the city of Pittsburgh, Controller Michael Lamb has released a report on the Bureau of Animal Control. It found that the department’s cash management practices could lead to misappropriation of funds and a lack of ability to detect such a problem.

“Basic record keeping, bookkeeping type problems are what we’ve seen,” Lamb said. “We have not suggested that there’s been theft. What we’re suggesting is that we need a better system of record keeping.”

There are 10 findings total:

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Government & Politics
7:49 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Top Openly Gay State Official Denounces Corbett's Same-Sex Marriage Remarks

Pennsylvania state government's top-ranking openly gay official says she's saddened by Gov. Tom Corbett's comments about gay marriage.

"I work for a governor that, I believe, has done a great disservice to the commonwealth," said Terry Mutchler, head of the Office of Open Records, veering from her typical talking points about government transparency in a speech she gave to archivists and historians Monday.

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Government & Politics
3:22 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

ICA Chairman Steps Down, New One Appointed

The Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority has a new chairman.

The resignation of former chair, Dana Yealy, was announced at the group’s October meeting. The board appointed member Nicholas D. Varischetti as the new chair.

“I think you’re going to see the ICA working very closely with all the city stakeholders to come up with smart solutions on how we can be an asset and not a hindrance to helping the city,” Varischetti said.

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Government & Politics
11:44 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Breast Cancer Legislation Illustrates Tension Between State Lawmakers, Doctors

With October being breast cancer awareness month, state lawmakers have queued up a couple proposals they think address problems in treatment.

But pushback from the medical profession shows a long-observed tension between doctors and the state lawmakers who try to regulate them, over and above the state’s Health Department.

A proposal before the House and Senate would require that women who undergo mammograms be told by radiology facilities if they have dense breasts.

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Pennsylvania Lottery
3:30 am
Mon October 7, 2013

2 State Senators Want Corbett to End Lottery Privatization Bid

Two Democratic state senators want Gov. Tom Corbett to pull the plug on his efforts to privatize Pennsylvania's Lottery and turn his attention to what they say are more pressing issues including transportation funding, Medicaid expansion and education funding.  

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Government & Politics
1:12 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Corbett: Gay Marriage Remarks Not Meant to Offend

Pennsylvania's governor says he's sorry if anyone was offended when he compared gay marriage to the marriage of a brother and sister during a TV interview.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett issued a statement Friday saying his "words were not intended to offend anyone" and apologizing if they did.

Corbett says his comment during the WHP-TV morning news interview was meant to provide an example of the categories of people who aren't legally entitled to obtain marriage licenses in Pennsylvania.

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Government & Politics
9:21 am
Fri October 4, 2013

State Lawmaker Seeks to Outlaw 'Revenge Porn'

State lawmakers are already considering efforts to tamp down bullying online, but one Democrat wants to quash a very particular kind of harassment.

Sexually explicit photos or videos that are posted without the consent of the person they feature have become known as “revenge porn.”

It’s illegal in New Jersey and was just banned in California.

Sen. Judy Schwank of Berks County said she’s talked to people whose reputations, job opportunities and safety has been affected by material their ex-spouses or ex-lovers posted online.

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Government & Politics
7:45 am
Thu October 3, 2013

House Lawmakers Pass Property Tax Relief Bill

A proposal to provide school property tax relief has passed in the state House, but it faces only middling indicators of success in the Senate.

The bill would let school districts opt to reduce or replace property taxes with other levies on earned income and businesses. The measure passed without debate in a legislative body whose members rarely turn down chances for comment.

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Community
1:51 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Report: Blighted Properties Costing Allegheny County Millions of Dollars Each Year

Blighted properties not only are an eyesore for neighborhoods and communities, but also they cost homeowners and local governments millions of dollars, according to a new report from Delta Development Group Inc.

“The annual impact of these problem properties for our 41 communities is actually over $254 million a year, which is enormous,” said An Lewis, executive director of the Steel Valley Council of Governments, one of the groups that commissioned the report.

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Government & Politics
11:30 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Bipartisan Coalition Pushing Online Voter Registration in PA

A bipartisan array of groups wants registering to vote to be as simple as a few clicks and an Internet connection. Their members urged state House lawmakers Tuesday to advance a proposal allowing online voter registration in Pennsylvania.

It's already legal in 17 states and available in 11.

In Pennsylvania, the state Senate unanimously approved an online voter registration measure. It is now before the House State Government Committee.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), said there are no plans at this time to hold a vote on the bill.

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Government & Politics
11:19 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Plan Before State Senate to Raise Judges' Age Limit

A plan to bump up the mandatory retirement age for state judges is nearing the next step on the long path to changing the state constitution.

Pennsylvania's state judges are forced into retirement at the age of 70, with a few exceptions for those who are younger than 78 and want to keep serving on a per diem basis.

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Pittsburgh Police
5:25 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

City Council Passes Bill to Outsource Secondary Employment of Police Officers

The Special Events Office at the Pittsburgh Police Department will officially no longer schedule secondary employment of officers, nor will it handle payment for such employment.

Pittsburgh City Council passed a bill Tuesday that will outsource both duties to the North Carolina-based company Cover Your Assets.

The change comes after allegations that some officers received preferential treatment from the other officers who scheduled the moonlighting gigs.

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Pittsburgh City Council
3:46 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

All City Departments May Soon Accept Credit Cards

This winter, you may finally be able to pay for your ice skating at Schenley Skating Rink or your indoor swim at Oliver Bath House with a credit card.

Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution Tuesday recommending that all city departments begin accepting credit and debit cards.

“Most governments have already come around to using debit cards and credit cards, but the city (of Pittsburgh) hasn’t,” said City Council President Darlene Harris. “This will bring the city into the 21st century.”

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Health
5:58 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

State's Exchange Will Reveal Plans, Premiums

Federal health care exchanges go live Tuesday, giving people without insurance a chance to sign up for coverage that could begin in January.

Health advocates are already hailing greater access to care - insurance plans offered in the exchange will have to cover bases like preventive medicine.

For Lynn Keltz, director of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers Association, it means she should be able to find plans providing mental health care, something that hasn't been true for the plan she's found on the private market.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:33 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Sen. Casey on Looming Government Shutdown

Senator Bob Casey talks about the looming government shutdown
Credit Wikipedia

In the early hours of Sunday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would continue to fund the federal government.

Essentially this bill does three things: it temporarily keeps government operations funded through the middle of December, delays the affordable care act for a year and it repeals a tax on medical devices as part of the health care law.

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Government & Politics
4:33 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Lawmaker Presents Alternative Plan for State's Pension Debt

A state House Republican is presenting a plan to deal with the state’s growing public pension debt.

The proposal by Cumberland County Representative Glen Grell differs significantly from ones offered by the Corbett administration and Republicans in the Legislature by making potential benefit reductions optional for current employees.
    
It relies heavily on borrowing to bring down pension payments scheduled to eat away at state and school district budgets, a move viewed with skepticism by the Corbett administration.  

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Government Shutdown
3:14 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Sen. Casey Says Shutdown is 'More Likely Than Not'

As a possible government shutdown inches closer to reality, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is hoping a last-minute resolution can avert the crisis.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 30, 2013

State House Leaders Prepare for Possible Transportation Funding Showdown

State House leaders are gearing up for a possible showdown on transportation funding as soon as this week.
    
The Republican Majority Leader has said he would bring the long-stymied funding bill up for a vote in his chamber.
    
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said the governor would sign whatever can pass in the House, provided it doesn’t go below a $1.8 billion plan he offered earlier this year.

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Government & Politics
11:51 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Congresswoman Schwartz Unveils Beginnings of Education Plan

One of the expected front-runners among the eight Democratic candidates for governor is unveiling the beginnings of an education plan that focuses on early learning.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that, if elected, she would build on state and federal programs in place to encourage pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds and expand access to full-day kindergarten.

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Government & Politics
9:35 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Sen. Casey: Government Shutdown Would Affect PA

Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. Senator is warning the threatened federal government shutdown would be felt in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Bob Casey is denouncing the move by House Republicans to send to the Senate a resolution that would fund the federal government past October first, but only if the Affordable Care Act is defunded.

The stakes: a federal government shutdown beginning next month.

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Government & Politics
10:23 am
Thu September 26, 2013

State Treasurer McCord 8th Democrat to Enter Race for Governor

State Treasurer Rob McCord is now the eighth Democratic candidate to throw his hat in the ring for governor.

But just days into his campaign, he’s still aiming most of his venom at Gov. Tom Corbett.
    
The former venture capitalist has, as treasurer, challenged Corbett’s plans to privatize the state lottery and overhaul the public pension systems.

He also dings Corbett for signing a “no new taxes” pledge, saying such promises aren’t the source of good public policy.

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Government & Politics
4:55 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

State Senate Votes to Remove CHIP Waiting Period

The state Senate has voted to remove a waiting period that’s snarled enrollment in the commonwealth’s nationally recognized Children’s Health Insurance Program.
    
It would be eliminated as part of a bill to reauthorize CHIP through 2015.

Republican Sen. Don White of Indiana County says the waiting period has long been the source of complaints.  

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