Politics & Government

We cover politics and government with an eye to providing to voters clear, in-depth, nonpartisan information. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday will debate a heavily amended version of Theresa Kail-Smith’s Bike Lane Advisory Board legislation.

Last week, Kail-Smith asked that her legislation to be held for a week to allow council members to review the changes.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Seven months after the board of the state-appointed authority that oversees Pittsburgh’s budget fired its executive director amid concerns of financial mismanagement, the board still does not know exactly where its money was going in 2015 and 2016.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Protesters have gathered at Philadelphia International Airport to protest President Donald Trump's travel ban.

The protesters began waving signs and chanting "Let them in!" and other slogans Sunday afternoon. 

Emily Cohen / NewsWorks

At 5:30 in the morning of November 9, 2016, Natasha Taylor-Smith crept into her 13-year-old daughter's bedroom. 

She picked up her daughter's smartphone, typed "CNN.com" into the browser and saw a large picture of now-President Donald Trump.

Taylor-Smith put down the phone and woke her daughter up.

"As soon as she opened her eyes, she says, 'Did Hillary win?' and I said, 'No,'" Taylor-Smith recalled. 

Her daughter gave her a confused look. 

"'Donald Trump's going to be our president?" she asked.

"Yes," Taylor-Smith replied.

PA Auditor General

A sixth-grader from Lycoming County has collected 750 signatures on a petition calling for all of the unprocessed rape kits in the state to be tested and the state’s auditor general wants to stand behind her effort.

A 2015 Pennsylvania law required all new rape kits collected by police to be tested within six months. But many of the older DNA specimens are still sitting on shelves. In fact, End The Backlog estimates 3,000 rape kits are sitting untested in Pennsylvania. Some of them have been on shelves for more than a decade.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

A package of bills in Pittsburgh City Council intended to help immigrants and refugees living in the city drew its first opposition during debate Wednesday.

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said since Councilman Dan Gilman introduced the suite of six bills last week, her office has gotten calls both for and against the measures.

Katie Meyer / WITF

In one of the state Capitol’s busy lobbies, there’s a clock that tracks unfunded pension liabilities. All day and night, that clock ticks upwards, adding billions of dollars to Pennsylvania’s debts every year.

The clock’s overseen by a small, dedicated group of pension overhaul advocates and on Tuesday, they dragged it up to the Capitol’s main rotunda to make a renewed call to lawmakers: find a way to halt the clock’s rising numbers, once and for all.

Ex-Harrisburg Mayor Pleads Guilty In Wild West Museum Artifacts Case

Jan 23, 2017
Diana Robinson / Keystone Crossroads

A former mayor pleaded guilty Monday to 20 counts of receiving stolen property related to his ill-starred effort to bring a Wild West museum to his central Pennsylvania city.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed, 67, faces serious health problems and felt pleading guilty was the right thing to do, his lawyer said.

"We think this is an opportunity now to move on with his life and get the treatment he needs for his illness," said attorney Henry Hockeimer Jr.

Corrections Officials Tell Senators Prisons Can Close Safely

Jan 23, 2017
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Pennsylvania corrections officials are telling state senators they can close two prisons without jeopardizing the security of staff, inmates or the public.

Monday's joint Senate committee hearing comes four days before the Department of Corrections is to announce which two prisons it'll close. The hearing in the state Capitol is packed with corrections officers and their supporters.

The two prisons are to be chosen from a list of five prisons: Frackville, Mercer, Pittsburgh, Retreat and Waymart.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 FM WESA

Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Planning Commission rejected plans to redevelop the former Penn Plaza site in East Liberty, saying not enough public input was given. Last week, the developer filed an appeal saying there had been ample opportunity for public input.

Before the appeal was filed, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff Kevin Acklin said the administration stood behind the commission’s decision and will stay involved.

John Minchillo / AP

 

While Washington, D.C. prepared for the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, more than 300 mayors gathered blocks from the White House for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

They chatted, they swapped cards, they exchanged insight on engaging seniors, dealing with hunger, and and how to pay for infrastructure.

While Pennsylvania mayors said they’re largely hopeful that the new administration will work with cities, they’re not holding their breath.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Nearly three weeks into the new year, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority has given final approval to Pittsburgh’s 2017 budget.

The ICA approved Pittsburgh’s budget in October with the condition that the city find a way to replace $10 million in gaming revenues that would no longer be flowing into the city’s coffers.

evans.house.gov

Four out of Pennsylvania’s five Democratic congressmen have declared they’re sitting out President-Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

They join a growing contingent of more than 50 Democrats opting out of Trump’s ceremony.

One after another this week, Brendan Boyle, Dwight Evans and Bob Brady of Philadelphia, and Mike Doyle of Pittsburgh variously expressed opposition to Trump’s rhetoric and policies, and support for Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis.

Lewis prominently tangled with Trump over his own inauguration boycott.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A small group of women camped out in Station Square Wednesday with an SUV filled with feminine hygiene products and read from the 45-year-old seminal women’s health book Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Andrew Harnik / AP

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department hopes the more than 3,000 police officers from across the country heading to D.C. this week to help secure the inauguration will learn some things while they’re there.

Thirteen Pittsburgh police officers and two supervisors left for D.C. Wednesday, will be sworn in as federal marshals Thursday and then put to work Friday providing security along the inaugural parade route.

Chris Knight / AP

The three top state row officers—all Democrats—have taken their oaths of office in separate ceremonies.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is beginning his second term, while Treasurer Joe Torsella and Attorney General Josh Shapiro are new to their respective offices.

Thanks in large part to the last elected Attorney General—Kathleen Kane, who has been convicted of perjury and obstruction—Shapiro’s election to the office has had the highest profile.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman is not calling Pittsburgh a sanctuary city.

He referred to the term as a "buzzword" and said legislation he introduced to council Tuesday will impact families in a more profound way. 

Chris Gardner / AP

President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration is just a week away, and there's no shortage of local rallying points, parties, meetups and protests to ring in our newest commander in chief.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Pennsylvania Health Access Network is urging lawmakers against repealing the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, saying it would intensify the state’s opioid abuse epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic is devastating families across Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Health Access Network Executive Director Antoinette Kraus. “Congress’s plans to repeal the ACA without a replacement will leave them out in the cold.

Pennsylvania AG Settles With Law Firm Over Email Review Bill

Jan 11, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania attorney general's office says it's settled a dispute with a Washington, D.C., law firm over its bill for reviewing explicit and objectionable emails on the agency's computers.

The office said Wednesday it will pay an additional $1.4 million to BuckleySandler, about $400,000 less than the firm had sought. That's on top of about $380,000 already paid to BuckleySandler.

Attorney General Bruce Beemer says the deal will help in the transition to a new attorney general, Josh Shapiro. He'll be sworn in next week in Harrisburg.

Gerry Broome / AP

The NPR Politics team and reporters across the newsroom will be live-annotating a news conference with President-elect Donald Trump, expected at 11 am ET/8am PT on Wednesday. We will be fact-checking and providing background to his remarks in real-time. We will be paying special attention to any comments about conflicts of interest, health care and national security.

Loading...

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will be in Washington D.C. next week, but not for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

The NPR Politics team and reporters across the newsroom will be live-annotating President Obama's farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday night, scheduled to begin at 9 pm ET/6pm ET. The team will be adding fact-checks and background to Obama's comments as he gives them. We'll be watching in particular for remarks on his legacy, national security, health care and foreign policy, among other topics.

Loading...

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

One year ago, Margaret Pietz was almost the victim of fraud when a man claiming to be a lawyer called her and said her grandson owed $4,000 in car repairs related to a traffic accident. He even put a young man on the phone who addressed her as “grandma.” 

Pietz started to realize something was up when she was asked to send the funds in the form of Target gift cards and to not tell anyone else in the family.

“He thought he was calling a gullible grandma,” Pietz said. “The more I thought about it, the more I knew it was a scam.”

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban the city from asking job applicants for their salary history.

Gilman said asking for salary history perpetuates wage gaps based on gender and race.

“Rather than paying someone based off either the budget, their qualifications or the job role, people use it to give a small increase in salary but still not pay someone the wage they deserve,” he said. “We’re taking the lead in the region and banning that from our job application and calling on the private sector to join us.”

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

In a surprise announcement last week, the state said it would close two of its prisons.

And while lawmakers and local leaders have begun discussing how the closures could affect their economies, civil rights groups have turned their attention to the conditions inside the prisons.

The state still hasn’t decided which two prisons will close, but the changes will push several thousand inmates into other facilities across the state.

Andy Hoover, with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it’s hard to know exactly how to interpret this.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

The state House has passed a resolution that makes significant changes to its ethics rules.

Scott Petri, a Bucks County Republican and former chair of the Ethics Committee, said the updates have been in the works for the past two years and provide some very necessary clarification. 

He also said it’s conceivable the new rules could have prevented a recent debacle surrounding Democratic Representative Leslie Acosta.

She secretly pleaded guilty to embezzlement in March, kept her seat and then finally resigned on Tuesday after being reelected.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

Pittsburgh leaders hope the city continues to grow as a testing ground for Uber’s self-driving cars and other companies, aiming for the federally-recognized status of "automated vehicle proving ground." 

The U.S Department of Transportation put out a call for states to apply for the designation in November. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

When Pittsburgh’s public safety officials asked for volunteers to help staff the Presidential Inaugural Parade, more than 50 police officers raised their hands, according to acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert.

Matt Rourke / flickr

Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane says her nine-count perjury and obstruction conviction should be overturned because of trial errors and overlapping charges.

Kane has been sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail but remains free while she appeals the August conviction.

Her lawyer in a filing Tuesday challenges the use of a special prosecutor to investigate the leak of grand jury material. The jury found that Kane orchestrated the leak to embarrass a rival.

Pages