Politics & Government

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

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Around the state, advocates and frustrated Pennsylvanians are pushing lawmakers to change the rules governing how district lines are redrawn every 10 years.

The current process lets politicians the skew districts in their political favor—a process known as gerrymandering.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Mayor Bill Peduto acknowledged there may be some merit to Democratic challenger Rev. John C. Welch's plan to limit lead in Pittsburgh's drinking water at a mayoral forum hosted by 90.5 WESA and The Incline on Tuesday.

Some Of PA's Wealthiest Communities Get State Police Coverage At No Cost

May 9, 2017
Gene Puskar / AP

About half of communities home to 21 percent of the state’s residents don’t have their own police force, instead relying on state troopers.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Activists across Pennsylvania planned protests Monday to express their disapproval of the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote to appeal the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, May 16, three candidates will be on the ballot to become the next mayor of the city of Pittsburgh. Voters will decide who will oversee city government for the next four years and who will serve as Pittsburgh's ambassador. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

When voters in Allegheny County go to the poles May 16, they will see the names of at least 14 candidates hoping to become a judge.

While it is often difficult for parties to find candidates to run for other offices, it is virtually never a problem to fill the slate with lawyers looking to earn a seat on the bench.

So why is that?

Gov. Tom Wolf / 90.5 WESA

It’s been more than three weeks since it was revealed that the state Office of Inspector General was investigating Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack about allegations of abuse of staff.

On April 11, Stack acknowledged the investigation for what he called “staffing issues.”

In a rare, if not unprecedented move, it was Gov. Tom Wolf who ordered the investigation.

Gubernatorial Candidate Wagner Grabs Opposition Researcher's Camera

May 4, 2017
Marc Levy / AP

A Republican legislator who is running for Pennsylvania governor grabbed a camera away from a man who works for a liberal opposition research group, and police are investigating.

State Sen. Scott Wagner said Wednesday he "assisted in removing" the camera because the man had no business filming him during a speech at a private country club the day before.

Washington-based American Bridge 21st Century, the man's employer, said the camera was returned but not the memory card. The group says on its website its goal is to hold Republicans accountable.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health Wednesday shows the backlog of untested rape kits is shrinking, but is still far from gone.

The report found there are 3,217 rape kits in the state waiting to be processed. Of those, 1,214 were more than a year old, which the state defines as backlogged.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Dr. Trina Peduzzi has been working with babies as a community pediatrician for the last 16 years and has taken care of hundreds of children with lead poisoning.

“Most parents who get the phone call from me are completely unaware that their child was exposed to lead,” she said. “If we do not look for this problem we will not find it.”

The Allegheny County Board of Health on Wednesday approved a regulation requiring children in Allegheny County to be tested for lead in their blood.

Urged On By Trump, Barletta Eyes U.S. Senate Run Against Casey

May 4, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

President Donald Trump is encouraging Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a prominent crusader against illegal immigration, to challenge Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in next year's election, a Barletta campaign consultant said Wednesday.

Flickr user Nick Normal

Pittsburgh City Councilmen Daniel Lavelle and Ricky Burgess on Tuesday introduced bills to finance the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

One of the bills proposes a 1 percentage point increase in the total realty transfer tax buyers would pay. But that increase, from 4 to 5 percent, wouldn’t go directly to the fund.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania is on track to have medical cannabis on dispensary shelves come next April, according to Gov. Tom Wolf.

However, the legally permissible forms of medical marijuana might be more varied than originally thought.

The law, as passed, allows medical cannabis in pills, oils, topical treatments and liquids. 

“There is no THC in (those) forms of the marijuana,” Wolf said. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the part the creates a high.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

While waiting for his bus downtown, Melvin Dawson said he doesn’t dislike Mayor Bill Peduto.

“He’s OK,” he said. “But I think they messed up when they let that police chief go."

George Widman / AP

At least four Pennsylvania cities are urging state Senators to reject a bill that would prevent municipalities from banning plastic shopping bags or imposing fees to curb their use.

Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, York and Erie say that single-use plastic shopping bags are environmentally damaging, and increase waste-disposal costs for cities around the Commonwealth. They also argue that the bill, HB1071, would infringe on cities’ rights to run their own affairs.

Pennsylvania Sees Biggest Shortfall Since Recession

May 2, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania is heading into the 2017 budget season with its biggest revenue shortfall since the recession.

The state Department of Revenue is reporting that it has a shortfall in excess of $1 billion, now 10 months into the fiscal year. That's more than 4 percent, a bigger margin than at any point since 2010.

It leaves budget makers with an even bigger budget gap than expected with just nine weeks left in the fiscal year.

The Department of Revenue attributes April's poor tax collections, in part, to the U.S. economy recording its slowest quarter in three years.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s median home price is up more than 9 percent since this time last year, according to Zillow. It also estimated the city's median monthly rent is more than $1,300 -- a jump from 2016. As the city’s real estate market and apartment rates boom, some lower earners haven’t been able to keep up.

Mike Groll / AP

A state House panel is considering a plan to help fill significant budget gaps that have been left open for gambling revenue.

The Gaming Committee held a public hearing Monday on a longstanding proposal to legalize video gambling terminals in bars and other businesses.

The bill being discussed is House Bill 1010, which would allow up to 35,000 terminals in bars, social clubs, and other such businesses.

Proponents say it could earn $100 million in its first year, and $500 million annually once it’s fully implemented.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

On May 16th, Allegheny County primary voters will choose their party’s nominees to run for Allegheny County Council. Democrats, who have a two-to-one registration majority in the county, are expected to retain their majority during the general election this November. That leaves Republicans and some critics frustrated.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board of directors on Friday approved a cooperation agreement with the City of Pittsburgh to enter into a contract for consulting on the potential restructuring of the authority.

Rick Bowmer / AP

A bill that could potentially eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania has passed a state Senate committee. 

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Regulators say Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program remains on schedule after hundreds of applications poured in from those who want to grow, process and dispense the drug.

Health Secretary Karen Murphy said Wednesday her agency has received more than 500 packages, some containing multiple applications.

Teams are sorting, evaluating and scoring the applications with a goal of issuing permits by the end of June. Licensees will have six months to get up and running.

House Approves Bill To Sell Pennsylvania's Liquor Wholesale System

Apr 26, 2017
Larkin Page-Jacobs / 90.5 WESA

House Republicans on Tuesday pushed ahead a set of changes to how alcohol is sold in the state, moving to privatize wholesale wine and spirits sales and expand the retail outlets where booze is available.

Lawmakers voted 105-84 in favor of the wholesale divestment proposal, sending it with other proposals to the Senate for its consideration.

The House voted to allow more grocery stores to seek permits to sell wine, no longer restricting the permits to stores with seating capacity, and retailers would be able to buy wine from brokers in the private sector.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf and state Treasurer Joe Torsella say they have a way to cut down on Pennsylvania’s mountainous pension costs: change investment strategies to cut down on fees to outside money managers.

Spokespeople for the state’s two biggest pension funds say they’re open to considering the idea, though they note, they’ve already been doing it to some extent.

The fees Pennsylvania pays to outside investors are among the highest in the country. In 2015, they made up almost $600 million of the money spent by the systems for retired state and public school employees.

Is The Nation's Only Lt. Governor Mansion Worth Its Cost?

Apr 26, 2017
Pennsylvania Department of General Services

Nestled on a wooded hillside at Fort Indiantown Gap is a one-of-a-kind home - and it comes with a one-of-a-kind price tag to taxpayers.

The 2,400-square-foot Lieutenant Governor's residence off Fisher Avenue in East Hanover Township may be the only residence that any state provides to its second in command.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A GOP-proposed bill currently sitting in the state House is raising questions about who should be responsible for keeping Pennsylvania students safe.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The fight between the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and the company that managed its operations for three-and-a-half years has entered a new and more combative stage.

Veolia Water North America has decided to withdraw from mediation with PWSA and instead enter into a formal arbitration proceeding. Arbitration and mediation are both provided for in the contract signed by both parties in 2012.

Real Estate Investor To Challenge Casey In Pennsylvania's US Senate Race

Apr 24, 2017
Matt Slocum / AP

There's a new face in the crowd that's vying to challenge the re-election bid by Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

Real estate investor Jeffrey Bartos announced Monday that he'll seek the Republican Party nomination to challenge Casey in 2018.

The 44-year-old Bartos lives in Montgomery County and has never run for office before.

Those already announcing their candidacy or filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission include Republican state Reps. Rick Saccone and Jim Christiana, Republican Andrew Shecktor and Libertarian Dale Kerns.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Nearly 10 years ago, the manager of the Borough of Monaca started making the municipality a little more environmentally friendly. 

90.5 WESA's Mark Nootbaar spoke to Borough Manager Mario Leone how he started by getting a grant to convert all of the traffic signals to LED lights. 

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Mel Evans / 90.5 WESA

Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller wants more control over how patients are billed for air ambulance services and is calling on the U.S. Senate to take action.

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