Government & Politics

Government & Politics
6:50 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Anti-Property Tax Sentiment in PA Remains Passionate, Diffuse

Calls to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania stretch back decades, but the latest effort is moving at cross-purposes with other bills.

More than 100 people rallied on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday in support of a plan to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania once and for all.

The plan, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks) would replace the levy controlled by school districts with higher rates of the personal income tax and the sales and use tax (the sales tax would also be broadened to apply to more items).

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Environment & Energy
3:00 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Package of Marcellus Shale Bills Still Up in the Air in Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania General Assembly gaveled into session this week after a long summer break, and on the agenda are items related to the use of natural gas from Marcellus Shale.

But the package of bills aimed at expanding use of the resource has some environmental groups concerned.

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Pittsburgh Police
1:33 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Police Probing Ravenstahl Bodyguard's Hours

Pittsburgh police say they're reviewing the timecard records of an officer who formerly worked as a bodyguard for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and who testified against the mayor before a federal grand jury earlier this year.

At that time, the attorney for Fred Crawford said the investigation will eventually show that tax dollars were "wasted so the mayor could have a designated driver ... while he went out to bars."

That attorney, Robert Stewart, didn't return a call for comment Tuesday on the newest information about Crawford provided by acting Chief Regina McDonald.

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Government & Politics
10:40 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Lawmakers Call on Corbett to Sever Any Ties Between Two Legislative Proposals

Two legislative leaders are calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to dispel the rumors once and for all that two of his top priorities from the spring are linked as some grand strategy.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa is again asking the administration to announce there is no effort to keep transportation funding hostage in order to pass a liquor privatization bill, or vice versa.

The GOP House Majority Leader agreed that it falls to Corbett to de-couple the two items.

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Government & Politics
7:44 am
Tue September 24, 2013

House GOP Leader Plans Vote on Transportation Funding Bill

The leader of the state House Republicans plans to seek a floor vote on a transportation funding proposal passed by the Senate last May.

Majority Leader Mike Turzai doesn't support the $2.5 billion proposal, but he notes that since Democrats are clamoring for it and the governor has noted his support for it, the measure should be brought to a vote.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Act 47 Task Force Expected to Recommend Legislation

A task force charged with revising the state's more than 25-year-old program for fiscally distressed municipalities is getting ready to recommend legislation.

The Act 47 program, established in 1987, was meant to take in cities that were on the brink of financial ruin. It has just shown to be not so adept at ushering stabilized cities out.

Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester) is co-chair of the panel suggesting changes. He said the group will likely recommend creating a deadline for Act 47 municipalities to leave the program.

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State Senate
3:30 am
Mon September 23, 2013

State Senator to Introduce Legislation Against Frivolous Lawsuits

State Sen. Larry Farnese of Philadelphia will introduce legislation meant to protect community and civic organizations from frivolous lawsuits.

Farnese was spurred into action by the dissolution of the Old City Civic Association in Philadelphia, which he says was overwhelmed by lawsuits that steadily increased their insurance premiums until they could not afford them anymore.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 23, 2013

State Lawmaker Pushes Bill to Prevent Cyber Harassment of Children

Among the many lower-profile issues before state House lawmakers when they return to the Capitol this week is cyber bullying. At a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing, one representative pressed the case for tighter rules to reduce online harassment of children.

"The consequences can be, we found out, very devastating to a child," said sponsoring Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin). "In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has characterized cyber bullying as an emergency public health problem."

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Voter Registration
3:30 am
Sun September 22, 2013

Are You Registered? Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day

The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh want you to spend your Tuesday exercising “one of our most basic rights” and register to vote.

Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day, and the group will hold registration drives at the North and Allegheny Community College campuses.

To register, Mark Wolosik, Allegheny County elections division manager, said you need to be a resident of the election district for at least 30 days before the Nov. 5 election.

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Government & Politics
4:13 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Sen. Casey Pushes Health Care Bill For Retired Veterans

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is co-sponsoring a bill to help more than 4,000 retired Pennsylvania veterans keep their health care plans.

On Oct. 1, a new policy from the Department of Defense will force some retired veterans off of TRICARE Prime, the most affordable option in the Military Health System for people under 65.

According to the new policy, only veterans living within 100 miles of a Military Treatment Facility or a BRAC site will be able to stay on TRICARE Prime. Now, more than 171,000 people nationally are at risk of losing the military health care.

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Government & Politics
10:15 am
Fri September 20, 2013

State Lawmaker Calls for Investigation into Prescription Drug Abuse in PA

One state lawmaker’s call to investigate the proliferation of prescription drug abuse in the commonwealth could be the opening salvo in a war on drug companies, or a blip on the radar in the Legislature.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) says he’s had it.

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Health Insurance
7:46 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Advocates: Financial Assistance Available for Health Exchange Plans

With less than two weeks until Pennsylvania's online health insurance marketplace opens to the public, advocates are trying to spread the word about its offerings.

For people who feel the slightest pecuniary pinch and don't have significant health coverage, the soon-to-launch state exchange offers a chance to shop at a discount.

Financial assistance will be available to some purchasing health care plans through the marketplace opening Oct. 1, allowing those individuals to greatly reduce the percentage of their income spent on coverage.

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Health
4:56 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Corbett Wraps Up 'Healthy Pennsylvania' Tour in Pittsburgh, Touts CHIP

Gov. Tom Corbett has been traveling the state, raising awareness of Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

As part of the push to get all Pennsylvania children enrolled in CHIP, the governor is convening a Healthy Pennsylvania Summit in the spring and continues his effort to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program. Included in the 2013-14 budget is $8.5 million for enrollment and outreach efforts for CHIP.

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Government & Politics
2:57 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Legislation to Raise State Minimum Wage to $9 an Hour Enters Senate

California lawmakers recently approved legislation to raise their state minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2015.

State Sen. Tina Tartaglione (D-Philadelpia) has introduced similar legislation that would increase Pennsylvania minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour.

Senate Bill 858 would increase the minimum wage 50 cents this year, another 50 cents in 2014 and 75 cents in 2015. After that there would be annual cost-of-living increases. Tartaglione feels confident of the bill’s approval as it already has a dozen co-sponsors in the Senate, though none are Republicans.

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Courts
12:48 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Man Paralyzed by Pittsburgh Police Claims Profiled

A suburban man who was shot and left paralyzed by one of three Pittsburgh police officers is suing claiming they used excessive force and had racially profiled him during the traffic stop in question.

Attorneys for the city and its police union are defending the officers who encountered 20-year-old Leon Ford in November.

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Government & Politics
8:12 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Corbett Administration Says Medicaid Plan Doesn't Need Legislative Approval

The Corbett administration insists it doesn’t need legislative approval to go forward with its overhaul plan for Medicaid, despite some cries to the contrary.

The governor has linked his acceptance of federal funding for private health coverage for low-income residents to a separate plan to change Medicaid benefits and add a work-search requirement.

Todd Shamash, a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office, says Corbett doesn’t need legislative say-so to go forward, as long as federal officials approve.

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Pittsburgh City Council
4:50 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Bill to Create Registry of Abandoned Properties in Pittsburgh Advances

A bill to create a registry of abandoned properties in the city of Pittsburgh received preliminary approval in City Council Wednesday and is expected to receive final approval next week.

Councilman Daniel Lavelle introduced the legislation in July and said there are more than 400 foreclosed, bank-owned properties in the city.

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Pittsburgh City Council
2:50 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Councilman: Pedestrian Flags Could Make Busy Intersections Safer

If you’ve visited Austin, Salt Lake City, or Seattle lately, you may have noticed bins of brightly colored flags near busy intersections. They’re meant to help pedestrians cross the street more safely, especially at night or in bad weather, when visibility is low.

Now, City Councilman Corey O’Connor wants to bring the idea to Pittsburgh.

“A pedestrian could grab a flag, put it out in front of them as they’re walking, and it’s just another way to alert drivers that you’re attempting to cross the street,” he said.

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Government & Politics
2:12 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Drug Database Proposal Part of Corbett's Health Care Plan

Part of the Gov. Tom Corbett's Medicaid plan includes health care policy changes that remain in the hands of the state Legislature, including one bill supporters say would reduce prescription drug abuse.

The governor called on state lawmakers to expand the state's medication tracking database. The current system monitors only certain drugs, and law enforcement alone has access to the information.

A bill before the state House would expand the database to track all controlled substances. It would also let doctors and pharmacists check the database.

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Pittsburgh Police
9:21 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Residents Voice Concerns About Police Misconduct, Racial Profiling

Pittsburgh residents brought their concerns about police misconduct to City Council Tuesday during an open forum.

Concerned citizens brought up many issues, including a lack of diversity on the police force, racial profiling and overly aggressive policing in communities with high crime rates.

Rashad Byrdsong, president and CEO of the Homewood Community Empowerment Association, said law-abiding citizens of his community are stuck in a difficult situation.

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Government & Politics
2:48 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

With Corbett's Medicaid Plan, a Familiar Rift in His Own Party

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to reform Medicaid and extend federally subsidized private health coverage to half a million more Pennsylvanians is riling up the staunch conservatives within his party.
    
GOP state Representative Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County says he’s calling the proposal an expansion, even if the governor isn’t using the same language.

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Same-Sex Marriage
2:34 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Montgomery County to Appeal Judge's Marriage License Halt

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court could be the next stop for a suburban Philadelphia county's battle to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Montgomery County said Tuesday that its solicitor, Ray McGarry, will appeal a state judge's order stopping a court clerk from issuing the licenses.

McGarry says he'll file the appeal in the next several days on behalf of Bruce Hanes, the register of wills.

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Census
12:59 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Pennsylvania's Poverty Rate Inches Up

Poverty in Pennsylvania has risen slightly, but remains below the national average.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that almost 1.8 million people in Pennsylvania, or 13.9 percent, were living in poverty during 2012. That's up slightly from 13.8 percent in 2011 and 13.4 percent in 2010. Pennsylvania's population is almost 12.8 million.

Nationally, the number of people living in poverty was 15 percent in 2012.

The Census Bureau's annual report offers a snapshot of the economic well-being of U.S. households for 2012.

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Courts
11:43 am
Tue September 17, 2013

Transgender Man Sues UPitt, Alleges Discrimination

A transgender man has filed a lawsuit against the University of Pittsburgh, claiming he was expelled and subject to FBI scrutiny because of a dispute over locker room use.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by 24-year-old Seamus Johnston, of Johnstown. He was born a woman but filed a name change with Pitt in 2011 and enrolled in a men's weightlifting class. Officials told Johnston not to use the men's locker room, and later banned him from the school, according to the lawsuit.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:12 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

The U.S. Constitution 224 Years Later: Why it Endures

The Preamble is one of the most well known phrases in the English language.
Credit National Archives / wikipedia

Some people underestimate just how influential the Constitution of the United States has been to the world.

Constitution Day is September 17 and the US Constitution remains the key document used in deciding important Supreme Court cases. But University of Pittsburgh law professor, David Harris notes that the Justices have very different views on how the Constitution should be read.

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