Government & Politics

Government
9:01 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

One Pittsburgh Urges Congressman Doyle to Support Raising the Minimum Wage

The current federal minimum wage $7.25 per hour. A group of Pittsburgh residents marched on the South Side Thursday, urging Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) to support a bill that would raise that to just under $10 over a three year span. The group marched to the congressman’s Southside Works office, where 12 of them had been granted a face-to-face meeting. Before that meeting, Doyle came out to address the crowd.

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Government
4:34 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Controller Finds Pittsburgh’s Equal Opportunity Review Commission Failing in its Mission

In the first audit of the agency that “assists Minority Business Enterprise/Women Business Enterprise (MBE/WBE) with prime contracting opportunities,” city Controller Michael Lamb found it is not living up its mission. The Equal Opportunity Review Commission (EORC) is required by law to produce an annual report and three quarterly reports.

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Government
6:29 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

Reaction to Voter ID Court Ruling Roll in

Lawmakers and non-profit groups across the state are responding to Wednesday’s court ruling against a request to prevent the implementation of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law.  The law requires all voters in the state to show a government-approved photo ID before stepping into the voting booth.  Supporters say it is needed to prevent voter fraud, opponents say it will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.

Senator Jay Costa

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Government
6:10 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

State Representative Jake Wheatley Appointed To Property Tax Committee

State Representative Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) has been appointed to a new committee focused on property taxes and funding for public education. The House Select Committee on Property Taxes will meet for the first time on Monday, August 13 and will begin hearing ideas for a solution to the issue.

Established in June, the purpose of the committee is to investigate, review, and propose changes regarding the relationship between school districts and local government tax and funding levels from federal and state programs.

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Government
5:15 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

ACLU Will Appeal Voter ID Ruling

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania will file an appeal of a Commonwealth Court decision in favor of the state's new voter ID law. 

Judge Robert Simpson's ruling Wednesday allows the state government to continue with its mandate that voters present valid photo identification before casting ballots.

The ACLU now turns to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to block the voter ID law with an injunction for the November 6 general election.

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Government
1:30 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

Judge Won't Halt Voter ID Law

A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday refused to stop a tough new voter identification law from going into effect, which Democrats say will suppress votes among President Barack Obama's supporters.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said he wouldn't grant an injunction that would have halted the law requiring each voter to show a valid photo ID. Opponents are expected to file an appeal within a day or two to the state Supreme Court as the Nov. 6 presidential election looms.

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Government
8:52 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Lamb Bashes “Unfortunate and Sloppy” Management of City

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb is using news of the filing of a suit by three Pittsburgh firefighters claiming they were denied overtime payments as an opportunity to criticize the Ravenstahl administration. The suit comes a year after the city paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to Pittsburgh Police officers in a similar suit.

“It really just comes down to the day-to-day operation of the city and the unfortunate and sloppy management that we have here right now,” said Lamb.

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Government
8:00 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Facebook, Twitter Will Be Used To Inform Voters About Pennsylvania's Voter ID Law

Pennsylvania’s Department of State is calling attention to its social media efforts to spread the word about the new voter ID law. The agency is using Facebook and Twitter to post information and field questions regarding the law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls this November.

Critics say it will take more than tweets and Facebook posts to reach the people least likely to have the proper photo identification that will be required to vote under the controversial new law.

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Government
7:56 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Report: Seniors Could Be Disenfranchised by Voter ID Law

A Pittsburgh-based labor group has released a report that estimates 13% of Pennsylvania seniors currently lack the photo identification required to vote under the state's new voter ID law.

However, the Pennsylvania Department of State said it's undertaking a grassroots campaign to educate seniors about the new voting requirements.

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Government
1:22 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Corbett Defends Voter ID Efforts While State Awaits Court Ruling on Injunction

Gov. Corbett is chiding the parties suing the state, implying they’re wasting time trying to block the law he said is being implemented to ensure it doesn’t negatively affect registered voters. “What we heard in the testimony in the courtroom were the people saying, ‘well we can’t – they can’t get their photo ID,’ and they were there in the courtroom, rather than, ‘We can help you get a photo ID,’” said Corbett on the Radio Pennsylvania show, “Ask the Governor.”

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Government
12:45 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Pittsburgh Mayor Fails to File Required Diversity Reports

The mayor’s office has been required since 2006 to produce an annual report showing at least the gender, age and zip code of members appointed to Pittsburgh boards, authorities and commissions.

Six reports should be part of the public record. But none exist.

Each report would have been the responsibility of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl who took office eight months after the passage of the “Fair Representation law, which outlines efforts toward diversity and transparency in board appointments.

Government
8:53 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

No Help in Sight for PennDOT Money Woes

http://2cccd5dfe1965e26adf6-26c50ce30a6867b5a67335a93e186605.r53.cf1.rackcdn.com/PennDOT Funding Wrap_Mary Wilson_SOC.mp3

An update to Pennsylvania’s Transportation Program reveals PennDOT will likely have to deal with lower funding levels for the next dozen years.  The report recently released by the State Transportation Commission estimates $41.6 billion dollars will be available for transportation projects, which is about $10 billion less than the previous update two years ago.

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Government
7:50 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

Public Comment Period for Toxics Ends With Gathering of Local Businesses, Groups

To mark the end of the public comment period for Allegheny County's proposed new air toxics guidelines, local community groups and businesses gathered outside of the Allegheny County Courthouse and delivered a letter to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald encouraging him to sign-off on the new guidelines.

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Government
5:22 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

State Lawmaker Wants Commonwealth to Consider All-Mail Elections

With the ongoing debate over the state’s new Voter ID law, at least one state lawmaker thinks it would be easier to move to mail-in ballots in the future. Representative Nick Kotik (D-Allegheny) introduced a bill months ago that would allow for all-mail elections. That is needed, he said, as the state’s voting system becomes antiquated, “we need to a whole host of options to make it easier and more convenient for people to vote, especially in today’s technological world, I mean I can envision a system down the road where there will be no more polling places.”

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Government
7:00 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Juvenile Court Judges' Commission Making Changes to System

The Pennsylvania Juvenile Court System has been working the last few months to make changes so that it will comply with legislation passed in May. The law now requires the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission to collect and analyze data to identify trends and determine the effectiveness of programs to ensure reasonable administration in the system.

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Government
7:00 am
Mon August 13, 2012

City Expands Energy Efficiency Grants

Small businesses in Pittsburgh have a new option when it comes to financing energy efficiency upgrades.  The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Board of Directors voted to expand its pilot Business Energy Savings Program citywide.

The program begins with a dollar for dollar matching grant of about $400 for an energy audit.  URA special projects manager Paul Svoboda says the goal is to make sure there is enough savings to be had before moving forward with the low interest loan of up to $50,000 to institute any upgrades.

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Government
6:15 pm
Sat August 11, 2012

Ryan Boosts Romney's Conservative Credentials, But Also Mobilizes Opponents

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney discarded his increasingly inert better-safe-than-sorry campaign strategy Saturday when he named budget hawk and Democratic bete noire Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate.

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Government
6:00 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Statewide Billboard Campaign Raises Awareness about Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the second most pervasive crime in the world behind drug trafficking. In an effort to bring the issue to the minds of more Pennsylvanians,  State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) has launched a statewide billboard ad campaign.

“It is a huge problem, not just in other countries, but here in the United States. A lot of people don’t know that because it’s sort of a crime that’s in the shadows and it’s difficult to prosecute sometimes. So the most important thing we can do is raise awareness of the crime,” he said.

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Government
5:00 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Open Records Director Says State Workers Given Misinformation

Some 58-thousand state workers have been receiving training on a new telephone system and the head of the Office of Open Records says the employees are receiving wrong information regarding the commonwealth's Right to Know law.  

Office of Open Records Executive Director Terry Mutchler says trainers told state workers that they could avert public records requests by using instant messaging. Mutchler says since she and lawyers and staff in her office are state employees, they underwent the phone training and heard the "misinformation" themselves.

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Government
4:45 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

PA Mortgage Assistance Program is Revived

A successful mortgage assistance program in Pennsylvania that began nearly 30 years ago, but was zeroed out this fiscal year, is being revived. The Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) will receive funds from a $25 billion national mortgage settlement with five of the country's largest loan servicers. Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo were found to routinely sign foreclose notices without make sure their documentation was correct.

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Government
7:15 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Downtown Preservation Project Underway

A ceremonial removal of storefront tiles marked the beginning of restoration work on four different blocks in downtown Pittsburgh. The plan is to integrate old buildings with the construction of new facilities for retail and residential use.

Arthur Zeigler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, said the $4 million Downtown Preservation Project will begin in earnest soon and be completed in 22 weeks.

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Government
8:30 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

DeWeese Fighting to Remain on November Ballot

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is suing to remove former Greene County Representative Bill DeWeese from November’s general election ballot, arguing the convicted felon should be replaced with another Democrat because the candidate would be ineligible to serve if elected.

However, DeWeese’s lawyer said it would be premature to remove the former House Speaker from the election, because he’s pursuing appeals to his five felony convictions for using state workers and resources in a political campaign. State law prohibits convicted felons from holding public office.

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Government
7:15 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

ACLU Requesting Information On Automatic License Plate Readers

15 police departments, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and the state police have received requests from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) for information regarding how police use automatic license plate readers (ALPR) to track and record the movements of drivers. ACLU affiliates in 34 other states have also requested information as part of a coordinated, nationwide effort.

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Government
7:23 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Testimony: Staffers Handled Orie Melvin's 2003 Campaign

In the corruption trial of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, the defendant's former judicial staffers testified on Monday that they worked on her political campaigns while on the state's clock.

Two of Melvin's former law clerks testified that they helped Melvin run her unsuccessful campaign for the state Supreme Court in 2003.

Law clerk Molly Creenan and chief law clerk Lisa Sasinoski said they wrote material for speeches and campaign stops. Sasinoski said she also handed out pro-Melvin cards at a Penn Hills polling place on election day in 2003.

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Government
7:00 am
Mon July 30, 2012

Report: Pennsylvania Voting Systems Could Be Improved

A new report [PDF] delves into the verity and safeguards surrounding the country's electronic voting systems. Three non-partisan organizations — Common Cause, the Verified Voting Foundation, and researchers at Rutgers University — created the study, which measures each state's ability to audit and verify voting records.

The report asked five questions in its assessment of the states:

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