Government & Politics

Government
4:19 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Smoke and Suspicious Package Closes Portion of Pittsburgh International

<strong> UPDATED 4:15pm 12/06/12 <strong/>

The “D” concourse at Pittsburgh International Airport was closed for a few hours this morning as the Allegheny County bomb squad and county fire marshal investigated a suspicious package.

Airport spokesperson Joann Jenny said the Airport Authority received an emergency call at 7:30 Thursday morning that there was smoke around gate D80. 

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Government
12:23 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Is the 2013 Allegheny County Millage Rate Right?

It's a tricky bit of business to set a millage rate in any circumstance, according to one Allegheny County Council Member, but the county's court-ordered property reassessment has injected even more guesswork into the process for 2013.

On Tuesday, County Council approved a $799 million operating budget with a millage rate of 4.73. Council reduced the millage rate nearly 17 percent from the current level of 5.69 based on a web of estimates and projections tied to the reassessment. 

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Government
12:08 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Corbett Budget Sec. Says State is Working to Avoid More Cuts

The state is on-track to complete its current fiscal year with a surplus. But it’s the coming budget year Governor Corbett’s budget secretary is worried about.

Set aside, for a moment, the fact that the commonwealth has no clue what will happen with the so-called fiscal cliff. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said at his mid-year budget briefing that he’s still expecting to get less federal funding.

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Government
2:42 am
Thu December 6, 2012

Dozens Demand UPMC Start Paying Property Taxes

At a public hearing before Allegheny County Council on Wednesday night, scores of residents thronged the County Courthouse to testify that they believe UPMC should no longer be considered exempt from property taxes.

UPMC was there to contest that notion, reminding Council that it performs millions of dollars worth of charity work each year and employs 36,000 residents of Allegheny County alone.

The large regional health system would have to pay out tens of millions of dollars to 21 local taxing bodies if the property tax exemption were to be lifted.

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Government
8:37 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Castor: "Corbett Unable to Fulfill Promises;" Considers a Challenge

Just about halfway through his first term in office, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett could be getting a challenge for reelection--from within his own party.

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Government
7:59 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

County Gets $44 and $21 Million Bids for Airport Shale

A pair of well-known energy companies have submitted multi-million dollar bids for the right to drill into the Marcellus Shale under Pittsburgh International Airport.  It’s the second time the Allegheny County Airport Authority went out for bids for the more than 9,000 acres available at the Allegheny County and Pittsburgh International airports.

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Government
1:17 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Capitol Christmas Tree Moves Outside

The state Christmas tree has been lit on the Capitol steps, a return to the commonwealth’s holiday tradition of the symbol of the holidays outdoors.

Despite carolers’ best efforts, the weather outside was far from frightful – the temperature hovered just below 60 degrees at the time of the tree lighting Tuesday.  Three machines spewing artificial snow and foam whirred to life to conjure up a more wintry mood.

Gov. Corbett joked with Harrisburg Catholic Bishop Joseph McFadden about the balmy evening.

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Government
1:13 am
Wed December 5, 2012

County Council Passes 2013 Budget, Cuts Controller Funding

Allegheny County Council passed a $799 million operating budget for 2013 on Tuesday night. The spending plan includes a deep funding cut to the County Controller's office, though the cut was not as large as originally proposed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

The budget legislation passed on a 13-1 vote, with Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh as the only dissenter. The councilwoman said she voted against the plan because she did not want to cut funds for Controller Chelsa Wagner's office, and because she thought the plan could be more streamlined.

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Government
9:05 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

No More Winner-Take-All for PA's Electoral College?

It’s been nearly a month since the election and state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is taking a second run at changing the way Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes.

Pileggi said he’d introduce a bill next year to allocate them based on a candidate’s percentage of the popular vote.

He sponsored a similar proposal last fall, and spokesman Erik Arneson said some thought that was suspicious timing.

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Government
8:46 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Casey Holds Fiscal Cliff Hearing: Don't Break Promises

Senator Bob Casey

The Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress will convene Thursday to search for a way to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff and the chairman, Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) says he thinks a solution can be found. 

Casey said the first step is for the Republican-led House to pass a middle-class tax cut that allows income tax rates on the nation’s top earners to increase.  “Most people who are making a lot of money understand that we have a big debt and deficit and they want to help us,” said Casey.

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Government
1:10 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Toomey Returns to Ideas in Super Committee

The state’s junior U.S. Senator is working on attracting bipartisan support for a plan to avert the fiscal cliff.

Republican Pat Toomey said the framework is based on what he proposed while serving on the so-called congressional “super committee” to reduce the national deficit last year. That panel failed to reach a consensus, which triggered the 2013 automatic spending cuts and tax hikes involved in the fiscal cliff. But Toomey said he’s pushing for his super committee proposal once more.

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Government
8:58 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Pittsburgh May Hire Contractor to Launch, Manage Emergency Alert System

If City Council passes the necessary legislation, Pittsburgh would hire a company to set up and manage an emergency alert system for its residents rather than build the system itself.  The Alert system would have the capability to send out mass phone calls, emails, and text messages.

Sponsoring Councilman Corey O'Connor said the new alert system probably would cost between $50,000 and $100,000 each year, depending on the number of city residents who sign up for the alerts and the level of competition in the bidding process.

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Government
8:43 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Senators' Wives Advocating For Completion Of Flight 93 Memorial

Eleven years after 9/11, the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Somerset County remains unfinished, and the spouses of Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senators are working to raise the remaining funds to complete the project.

Kris Toomey, wife of Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Terese Casey, wife of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)  will co-host an event tomorrow in Shanksville to raise awareness and funds.

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Government
8:42 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Pennsylvania Republican House Representative Comes Out As Gay

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The Head of the State’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens lobby is applauding the decision of a Republican state House lawmaker to come out as openly gay. Representative Mike Fleck of Huntingdon County told his local newspaper the decision was part of his effort to be authentic, and that he does not expect it to change his voting pattern.

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Government
5:58 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

51 Year Old Law for Libraries Gets Modernized

Pennsylvania libraries are being given more latitude as managers try to catch up with modern patrons with a new state code that updates old requirements involving staff education, collection requirements, facilities and technology. 

“Technology continues to change,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said.  “It changes the way we are learning and advancing our learning, and it changes our libraries,” Corbett said as he signed the legislation.

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Government
8:23 am
Mon December 3, 2012

City Councilwoman Critical of Mayor's Capital Budget Plan

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak says the $64 million capital budget proposed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is amorphous and needs serious refinement.

Rudiak said many of the budget line items are devoid of important details.

"We look at bike infrastructure, we look at bridge repairs, we look at building improvements, we look at pool rehabilitation -- there's no detail in any of these categories about which pools, or which buildings, or which playgrounds are going to be focused on next year or in the next five years," said Rudiak.

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Government
8:19 am
Mon December 3, 2012

2 Year Head Start on PA's Gubernatorial Election

The 2014 gubernatorial race is officially on, with Democrat John Hanger as the first officially declared candidate.  But is it too early?

The short answer according to Terry Madonna, pollster and political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College, is, "no."

The general election is two years away, but Democrats considering a run have to get their act together for the primary, scheduled in May 2014. Candidates will have to pass around petitions for getting their name on the ballot even sooner.

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Government
2:21 pm
Sun December 2, 2012

Former State Democratic Leader Sentenced to Prison for Corruption

A federal judge has sentenced former Democratic state Senator Robert Mellow to 16 months in prison for corruption charges.

On Friday, the judge also ordered Mellow to pay nearly $80,000 in restitution to the state Senate, along with a $40,000 fine to the federal government.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Joel Slomsky orders Mellow, long one of the most powerful figures in state government, to have supervised release after his prison sentence as well.

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Government
3:30 am
Sun December 2, 2012

Bring More Hollywood, And More Money, To Pennsylvania

To make money, you sometimes have to spend money, and the Pennsylvania film industry holds to that adage.

The Pittsburgh Film Office and the Greater Philadelphia Film Office believe the commonwealth could attract more film and television production if the legislature would consider increasing the state’s $60 million film tax credit program.

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Government
8:46 pm
Fri November 30, 2012

Ravenstahl Undecided on Billboard Tax

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says he is still reviewing the billboard tax legislation passed this week by the city council.  The measure would levy a 10 percent tax on the revenue generated by any billboard within the city limits.

Currently the billboards are subject only to a property tax based on the value of the land on which they sit.

“Our law department is examining the legalities of it,” said Ravenstahl. 

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Government
8:43 pm
Fri November 30, 2012

President Obama Visits Suburban Philly Toy Factory, Urges Action to Avoid Fiscal Cliff

President Obama brought his message about the fiscal cliff to a toy manufacturer in Montgomery County Friday.  The visit is an attempt to leverage public opinion to get his way on a deal with Congressional Republicans. 

The president says he’s hopeful that, come January first, the country won’t wake up to more austere budgets and higher tax rates across the board. But that’s not stopping him from asking people to tweet their members of Congress to come up with a deal soon.

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Government
12:22 pm
Fri November 30, 2012

DA Reveals Security Findings in Western Psych Shooting

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. has released consultant reports recommending security upgrades in the wake of a shooting at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in March.

A spokesman for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center didn't immediately comment on the findings by two private security consultants. They recommend $2.1 million worth of upgrades, including adding a command and operations center, a new security card access system for employees, video surveillance, panic buttons and emergency call stations.

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Government
9:17 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Corbett Tackles the Lottery and Agrees to Cooperate with Sandusky Investigation

The governor’s office is still reviewing the lone bid submitted to run the Pennsylvania Lottery.  The bid came from a British company after months of behind the scenes work.         

Governor Corbett is downplaying his misgivings about gambling when discussing its potential expansion in the state.

“The question is, is there more gambling?  Yes.  Is there a benefit to it?  Yes.  Am I concerned about gambling addiction?  Yes,” said Corbett. “But it is going on.  And I’m looking at, you know, can we get more revenue for senior projects, for senior programs.”

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Government
5:20 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Pennsylvania Opens First Trade Office In Indonesia

Pennsylvania this week became the first state to open a trade-based office in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) new center will provide support and resources to business throughout the state looking to develop viable international markets and increase sales.

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Government
3:53 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

President Obama Fights the Fiscal Cliff in PA

The nice thing about bully pulpits is they’re terrifically mobile. President Obama is bringing his to Montgomery County Pennsylvania this Friday to promote his plan for averting the fiscal cliff.

Christopher Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College, says after a first term marked by deep conflict, a trip like this is fuel for the Republican critique that the president hasn’t been easy to work with.

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