Government & Politics

Courts
10:44 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Schuylkill County Judge Seeks More Information in Assisted Suicide Case

A Schuylkill County judge has asked for legal briefs from both sides of a case involving the prosecution of a woman charged with assisting in her father’s suicide.

Barbara Mancini of Philadelphia is charged with a felony for handing her 93-year-old father a bottle of morphine.

Her father died days later in a hospital.

Lawyers are asking a judge to drop the case, which was referred to the state attorney general’s office after a county district attorney cited a conflict of interest.

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Government & Politics
11:56 am
Thu October 10, 2013

911-Style Hotline For Child Abuse Debated

A few local lawmakers are teaming up with a Democrat from Luzerne County in an effort to make it as easy to report child abuse as it is to report a fire. 

The Child Abuse Hotline Bill has made it out of the State Senate Aging and Youth Committee and is now before the Communications and Technology Committee. Senate Bill 26 would create a three digit, toll-free number similar to 911 that would be reserved for reporting child abuse.

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Government & Politics
11:13 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Schwartz Adds to List of Things Natural Gas Tax Could Buy

The early frontrunner in the Democratic race for governor is adding to the list of things a tax on natural gas could buy.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz says she would set aside money for large-scale transportation projects that can attract private investment.

Schwartz says the so-called infrastructure bank would not substitute PennDOT, but it would supplement the agency in order to launch things like rail and subway expansions as well as port development.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:13 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

The Future of Anti-Discrimination Laws in Pennsylvania

State Reps. Erin Molchany of Allegheny County and Brian Sims of Center City Philadelphia
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

When the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June, a number of Pennsylvania couples began challenging the state’s defense of marriage law in the courts.

If the law is struck down without legislation, according to two state legislators, certain protections will need to be in place.

In many Pennsylvania towns, the LGBT community is faced with a catch-22: although there are anti-discrimination laws for race, religion, sex, ethnicity etc., sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected. Cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have their own specific laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, but a large portion of the state does not.

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Same-Sex Marriage
3:06 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Rep. Sims: Same-Sex Marriage 'Inevitable' in PA

State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), the first openly gay member of the General Assembly, said same-sex marriage “will become law” in Pennsylvania, either through legislation or judicial action.

Sims spoke Wednesday with Essential Pittsburgh about his LGBT anti-discrimination legislation and marriage equality bill.

He said most believe gay marriage will someday become legal in Pennsylvania, which is the only state in the Northeast without laws providing for civil unions or same-sex marriage.

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Allegheny County
7:52 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Fitzgerald Releases 2014 Budget Proposal for Allegheny County

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented his 2014 budget to the County Council Tuesday evening.

Fitzgerald was visibly proud of the fact that Allegheny County will not be increasing property taxes in the county for the 12th time in 13 years.

He said the stabilized millage has contributed to the region’s success over the past few years.

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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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