Politics & Government

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

Racial Inequality Of Pot Arrests Spurs ACLU Call For Legalizing Drug In PA

Oct 23, 2017
Carolyn Kaster / AP

Backed by a new report showing stark differences in arrest rates for possessing marijuana, the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the state to legalize the drug.

Voter Advocates Urge PA Senate Leader To Reform Redistricting Process

Oct 20, 2017
Min Xian / WPSU

Fair Districts PA delivered postcards collected from constituents to State Senator Jake Corman’s office in Bellefonte on Thursday, urging the Republican majority leader to to pass legislation to reform the redistricting process in Pennsylvania.

About 25 members and supporters of Fair Districts PA gathered in the parking lot outside Corman’s office with over 500 postcards stapled onto a giant board.

“The districting process in Pennsylvania is rigged and we need to stop that,” said Toby Short, a volunteer for the advocacy group.

Pennsylvania GOP Governor Hopefuls Face Off For First Time

Oct 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

With primary campaign season starting up, Pennsylvania's three announced GOP candidates for governor auditioned Thursday night for Montgomery County Republicans, whose members may be the state party's most generous campaign donors.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Pennsylvania is getting yet another extension to comply with a federal law that requires driver's licenses meet anti-terrorism standards.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's announced Friday that the state received another deferment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Pennsylvania residents can use their current drivers' licenses to continue accessing federal facilities like courthouses and prisons through next Oct. 10, when a new restriction that also affects commercial air travel takes effect.

Off-Year Election, Political Frustrations Contribute To Dip In PA Voter Registration

Oct 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Less than three weeks until Election Day, voter registration is down by about 2.5 percent in Pennsylvania compared with 2016.

Both major political parties — Democrats and Republicans — have lost members across the commonwealth.

Terry Madonna, director at the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, said a drop in voter registration after the 2016 presidential election follows a typical pattern.

Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania's governor is moving to consolidate parts of the state's prison and parole systems in hopes of saving money by eliminating duplicated functions.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday that the Corrections Department and the Board of Probation and Parole will sign a memorandum of understanding that will outline their combined operations.

The two entities will remain separate but share employees, land, facilities and equipment.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House has now sent the Senate most of the revenue components necessary to finish Pennsylvania’s budget—more than three months behind schedule.

Senate leaders say they’ll make a good-faith effort to pass them, despite their flaws.

But the budget’s completion might still hinge on whether the chambers can agree on a gambling expansion.

The main component of the House proposal is a $1.5 billion in borrowing against the state’s Tobacco Settlement fund. That money would be paid back with interest over 20 years.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennslvania

State House lawmakers have moved a bill onto the floor calling for a severance tax on natural gas drilling.

It's a big step for Democrats and moderate Republicans, who have pushed the tax for years. But there's a good chance the measure will languish without a vote for the foreseeable future.

It would create a tax on the volume of gas taken from the ground, on top of an existing fee for new wells drilled.

Its sponsor, moderate Bucks County Representative Gene DiGirolamo, estimated annual revenue between $200 million and $250 million, depending on gas prices.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Some state lawmakers are trying to get restitution for what they see as bad U.S. Federal Reserve policies during the recovery of the housing market.

The ask? Around $20 billion dollars.

The state Treasury would be required to lobby the federal government for those funds under a resolution that recently passed committee in the House.

The practice at the core of the resolution is quantitative easing, or QE.

Matt Rourke / AP

House lawmakers narrowly passed part of a proposal Tuesday night to finish Pennsylvania’s overdue state budget—their first significant action since talks melted down two weeks ago.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

A licensed grower and processor of medical marijuana in western Pennsylvania is the first with state approval to begin operating.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said Tuesday that the Department of Health has approved Cresco Yeltrah to begin growing and processing medical marijuana at its Jefferson County location. That makes it the first facility to be deemed fully operational in Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House and Senate are back in session after taking time off following the collapse of budget negotiations earlier this month.

There’s no concrete strategy moving forward.

But some lawmakers say they hope opposition to Governor Tom Wolf’s unilateral budget-balancing plan will eventually spur the body into action.

Wolf has announced that he intends to bring the state’s books in line by borrowing against liquor control board revenues, leasing out the state Farm Show complex, and not passing funding for state related universities.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

This week is Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s last in Congress. The embattled politician is resigning with one year left in his term, meaning Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District must hold a special election to fill the vacancy.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

A fifth Democrat, and eighth candidate overall, has announced his run for a southwestern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by GOP Congressman Tim Murphy.

Conor Lamb announced his candidacy Saturday. He recently resigned as an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh and is the nephew of Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb. This will be the first run for public office by 33-year-old Conor Lamb.

Murphy is resigning effective Oct. 21 after the anti-abortion lawmaker urged his former mistress to get an abortion.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

There are two more people entering the field vying to succeed Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta in 2019.

Former state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff will seek the Democratic Party's nomination, and U.S. Army veteran Andrew Lewis will seek the Republican nomination.

The 66-year-old Wolff is also a fifth-generation dairy farmer in Columbia County and served on the World Trade Organization's agriculture technical committee. The 30-year-old Lewis helps run a family construction services firm in Dauphin County and ran unsuccessfully for state Senate last year.

Pennsylvania Explores New Territory In Budget Fight

Oct 16, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances are in new territory, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf assembles a package to balance the state's budget without involvement from a Republican-controlled Legislature riven by ideological and provincial disputes.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says he's joining his counterparts in at least a dozen states to sue the Trump administration over its decision to stop paying cost-sharing subsidies to insurers.

Cliff Owen / AP

 

It’s been less than a week since U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) announced he’s resigning from Congress, and the field for a special election to fill his seat is already highly contested. Murphy was forced to resign amid revelations of an extramarital affair in which the anti-abortion lawmaker allegedly urged his mistress to get an abortion.

Mel Evans / AP

 State Treasurer Joe Torsella has decided to authorize a five-day, $700 million loan to keep Pennsylvania from missing Medicaid payments while its general fund runs low.

The move is politically fraught.

For two months, Torsella, a Democrat, refused to lend money until the legislature passed a plan that would balance the state's finances.

Now, Governor Tom Wolf is taking unilateral steps to try and bring the three-months-late budget in line. But critics of Torsella and Wolf say not enough has actually changed to justify the shift in position.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania Treasury is extending a five-day, $700 million credit line to tide over the state government's deficit-ridden finances.

Alex Brandon / AP

President Donald Trump took to the midstate Wednesday to pitch his tax plan to a cheering crowd of blue-collar workers and conservative Pennsylvania politicians.

He’s selling the proposal as one that would boost the middle class and small businesses—though many opponents say it would be a better deal for the rich. 

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

Mayor Bill Peduto says the relationship between cities across the country and the presidential office has changed drastically since Donald Trump was inaugurated, citing infrequent check-ins compared to the Obama administration.

"The Obama administration, all the way down to each of the departments in the White House, reached out on a weekly basis and we worked with them very closely," Peduto said. "With this administration, they obviously have chosen to go a different route."

GOP Gubernatorial Stakes Grow With Pittsburgh Lawyer's Entry

Oct 11, 2017
screengrab via ellsworth2018.com

The Republican race for the nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's re-election bid drew a third contestant Tuesday with the entry of Laura Ellsworth, a lawyer who ran her firm's office in Pittsburgh and has played a prominent role in steering the city's civic and business institutions.

It is the 59--year-old Ellsworth's first run for public office, after years spent raising money for Republican candidates and serving in prominent positions at the intersection of public policy and the private sector, including gubernatorial appointments.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that the Treasury is loaning money to cover the commonwealth’s short-term expenses—including upcoming payments to public schools.

That was news to Treasurer Joe Torsella, who said the loan still isn’t authorized and won’t be until Wolf provides more details on how he plans to balance the state budget.

The loan in question has been a point of political tension.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented his 2018 budget proposal to County Council on Tuesday, totaling $905.7 million, a 2.8 percent growth from the year before.

Rick Bowmer / AP

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to outlaw devices known as bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting that allow semi-automatic weapons to mimic the rapid fire of an automatic weapon.

Wolf's statement on Tuesday comes on the heels of several lawmakers saying they will introduce legislation to outlaw the devices. Wolf calls them "unnecessary and dangerous."

No Charges For Man Who Was Kicked Out Of Toomey Town Hall For Kidnapping Question

Oct 10, 2017
Marc Levy / AP

A man who was kicked out of a televised town hall for asking Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey an unsettling question about whether his daughter had been kidnapped won't face charges, a prosecutor said Monday.

Simon Radecki's question was inappropriate and offensive but was within the bounds of free speech, District Attorney John Morganelli said, overruling police who initially planned to charge him.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania's Nov. 7 general election.

The biggest statewide contest for voters is between Supreme Court Justice Sallie Mundy and challenger Dwayne Woodruff, an Allegheny County judge who formerly played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State lawmakers are grappling with the implications of Governor Tom Wolf’s unexpected decision to balance part of the state budget himself by borrowing against the liquor industry.

House and Senate members are currently trying to figure out whether Wolf’s allowed to do that. And meanwhile, the commonwealth’s short-term cash-flow issues still aren’t resolved.

House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said while most of his caucus prefers borrowing $1.2 billion against Liquor Control Board profits over tax increases, they’re still not sold on the idea.

Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the Pennsylvania legislature to make birth control coverage a mandate in the state after the Trump administration pledged to roll back Obama-era requirements that most employers cover birth control for employees through their health insurance.

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