Government & Politics

Government
7:13 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

State Democrats Want to Know How Many School Districts are in Financial Trouble

The ranking Democrat on the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee asked the Department of Education for a list of school districts that are financially distressed or on the brink of bankruptcy. Only one district was named: the Duquesne School District in Allegheny County. Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis said that's the only district that falls under the legal definition of financially distressed.

Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester County) said the department is interpreting the law too narrowly, and there are many more districts in financial distress than just the one.

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Government
5:40 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Critz Campaign Challenges Validity of Altmire’s Petition Signatures

The campaign for Congressman Mark Critz has filed objections to Congressman Jason Altmire's nominating petition, challenging the validity of more than half of the signatures on the petition that would place him in the April Democratic Primary. A spokesman for Critz said there are numerous irregularities found on the petition, including 385 signatures they said came from a circulator from outside the congressional district, which goes against state law.

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Government
8:13 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

County Controller: Give Weights & Measures Duties to State

Controller Chelsa Wagner wants to let the state handle the auditing of weights and measures in Allegheny County, rather than relinquish control of the duty to the County Executive's office.

At Tuesday night's County Council meeting, Wagner plans to offer up a bill that would authorize the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to inspect scales, parking meters, gas pumps, and UPC price scanners in Allegheny County.

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Government
9:20 am
Tue February 21, 2012

Public Education Group Analyzes Pittsburgh Schools

An independent study by A+ Schools reports the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) has made "solid progress" towards financial stability.

Carey Harris, executive director of A+, said the city school system took decisive action to cut its budget deficit from a projected $100 million to $30 million.

She said the report also notes the Governor Corbett's proposed state budget for 2012-2013 has not restored funding cuts made last year to public schools.

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Government
8:00 am
Mon February 20, 2012

New Bill Focuses on Reforming Teacher Hiring

Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia and Delaware) has introduced legislation that would close a "loophole" in the public school code known as "passing the trash."

"Passing the trash" occurs when a school district gives an educator accused of sexual misconduct incentives for resigning such as health benefits, letters of recommendation, and confidentiality agreements.

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Government
8:00 am
Mon February 20, 2012

David Freed Unopposed as GOP State Attorney General Candidate

Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed is the only Republican in the race to become Pennsylvania's next state attorney general. His candidacy was made official last week when he filed more than 7,000 signatures, seven times what he needed to be on the ballot. The deadline to submit nominating petitions passed February 15.

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Government
4:26 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Republican Race for Nomination Kept Close by Super PACs

Former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's underfunded campaign is posing a challenge to Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney and a Pennsylvania political analyst thinks super PACs are proving to be a big benefit for less-resourced candidates.

Shirley Anne Warshaw, a political science professor at Gettysburg College, said the everyone-gets-a-turn surges of presidential candidates in this year's race can be traced back to these new funding sources.

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Government
8:00 am
Mon February 13, 2012

State Cardiac Arrest Bill Aims To Save Student Athletes

Cardiac arrest is the number one killer of student athletes across the country, but currently there is no policy in Pennsylvania to screen athletes and possibly prevent unnecessary death. A new bill in committee in the state Senate addresses that discrepancy.

Sponsor state Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna) said the goal of this bill is to protect student-athletes without overstepping the government's boundaries.

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Government
8:50 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Allegheny County Democrats to Endorse Candidates Using 2001 Legislative Map

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee will meet this weekend to endorse candidates for U.S. Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly for the primary. But the ongoing dispute over state legislative maps has caused some confusion in the party and beyond.

"We set up our endorsements based upon the 2011 lines, then after the Supreme Court decision, we were instructed by the court to return to the 2001 lines, which we have done," said Nancy Patton Mills, chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

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Government
7:04 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Majority Leader Wants Capital Funding Assistance to Promote Jobs

State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) is sponsoring legislation to reform the process for state assistance in capital project funding.

Turzai said the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project's debt ceiling has ballooned in the past two gubernatorial administrations, and he hopes to lower that ceiling.

"It takes the limit immediately down from $4.05 to $3.5 billion and then over the next eight years it takes it to $3.1 billion, and then it takes it down further over the remainder of the 20 years to $1.5 billion," Turzai said.

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Government
11:30 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

City Council Blasts Senate Shale Bill

Pittsburgh City Council Members sharply criticized state Senate legislation that would set a comprehensive policy for Marcellus Shale exploration in Pennsylvania.

The bill, which is expected to clear the state House soon, would assess an "impact fee" on each Marcellus Shale gas well drilled in the state, and set zoning laws regarding where such infrastructure could be built within municipalities.

Both of those points drew heated words from City Council Members, who unanimously passed a resolution that denounced Senate Bill 1100.

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Government
6:58 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Corbett Budget Holds Line on Taxes

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has proposed an essentially flat budget in order to close a projected deficit of more than $700 million.

As expected, there are no tax increases in the $27.1 billion dollar spending plan, and the departments that pundits considered to be least likely to see cuts have stayed more or less level. However, higher education is seeing double-digit reductions.

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Government
7:46 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

DeWeese Won't Step Down Despite Guilty Verdict

Former Pennsylvania House Speaker Bill DeWeese has been found guilty on five corruption charges stemming from claims he required staff members, paid with state tax dollars, to work on his election campaigns as part of their jobs.

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Government
9:53 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

Judge Orders Occupy to Go

Occupy Pittsburgh has three days to leave Mellon Green adjacent to BNY Mellon's Pittsburgh headquarters. Allegheny County Judge Christine Ward ruled today that no law "permits a group of people to take over someone else's private property."

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Government
2:14 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

DeWeese Jury Deliberations Begin

The jury in the public corruption trial of former Pennsylvania State House Speaker and sitting state representative Bill DeWeese heard from the Green County Democrat on the last day of testimony and will now begin deliberations. When DeWeese took the stand in his own defense he became the first sitting lawmaker to do so in response to theft and conspiracy charges brought by the attorney general's office in an investigation that goes back more than five years.

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Government
8:19 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Lawmakers Push for Corbett Support of Transportation Funding Plan

On a rare sunny and mild January afternoon, several Democratic state lawmakers gathered at the Greenfield Bridge in Pittsburgh, calling on Governor Tom Corbett to take the lead on transportation funding. February 1st marks the six month anniversary of the governor's Blue Ribbon Transportation Commission releasing its report outlining options for the governor. The report included ideas such as uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax and raising license fees to support investments in highways, bridges, and mass transit.

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Government
6:57 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Would-Be Candidates Plead for District Lines

Don O'Shell is currently the York County Clerk of Courts, but he planned to run as a Republican for the Senate seat being vacated by Dauphin County Republican Jeff Piccola. Now that the state Supreme Court has struck down the new legislative boundaries without issuing comment, O'Shell and others are in a holding pattern.

It may be some time before the state Supreme Court explains how a legislative redistricting map should be fixed.

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Government
6:27 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Pennsylvania House Declares The Year of the Bible

You may have thought 2012 was the year of the dragon, but state House lawmakers have assigned a moniker.

With a unanimous vote last week, House members declared 2012 the "Year of the Bible."

The resolution recognizes the book that has shaped the Commonwealth and the "national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures."

Sponsoring Representative Rick Saccone (R-Jeffrson Hills) said he's been getting a bit of critical feedback on the measure.

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Government
4:30 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Pennsylvania House Speaker Files Federal Suit Over Old District Maps

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Sam Smith has asked a federal judge to rule that district maps from a decade ago no longer be used for elections.

"He believes, as do others, that the 2001 legislative lines are out of whack and are unconstitutional, and violate the one person, one vote standard," said Smith Spokesperson Steve Miskin.

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Government
7:27 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Pennsylvania GOP Makes Predictable Endorsements

All four of Governor Tom Corbett's picks for state and federal offices received the endorsement of the commonwealth's Republican committee over the weekend. Not all of the votes were easy.

During a forum of U.S. Senate candidates this weekend, Corbett could be found outside in the hallway, the top of his head barely visible from behind an armchair facing the wall in the corner. He was "shoring up support," said members of his staff.

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Government
8:40 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

Senate Democrats Outline Priorities for 2013 Budget

Senate democrats called for Governor Tom Corbett to keep certain priorities in mind before making his 2013 budget proposal next month.

The budget address will come on the heels of a state spending freeze announced after commonwealth revenue trailed budget projections by nearly $500 million midway through the fiscal year.

Lawmakers expect more cuts will be made in 2013, but Senate democrats maintained the governor should consider transportation, education, and fair taxes when making the budget.

But the top priority, democrats insisted, should be jobs.

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Government
10:40 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tosses New District Maps

A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court is invalidating a plan to redraw district lines for seats in the state House and Senate, calling the redistricting approach "contrary to law."

The justices voted 4-3 to send the plan back to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. The majority said their opinion in the case would be released later.

The high court's ruling throws into disarray plans by candidates and parties for this year's General Assembly races.

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Government
6:30 am
Wed January 25, 2012

Mt. Washington Democrat to Challenge Incumbent for 27th House Seat

Democrat Erin Molchany has announced she will run against the incumbent, Dan Deasy, for Pennsylvania's newly-drawn 27th state House district.

Molchany said she hopes to take advantage of the reapportioned district.

"It's a virtually new district and I really feel strongly that we as citizens in this area deserve better representation, deserve attention paid to our issues, and deserve resources coming into our community to improve the quality of life," Molchany said.

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Government
8:46 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Plan to Slash Number of State Representatives Advances in Harrisburg

A plan to shrink the ranks of state House lawmakers has made it out of a Pennsylvania House committee.

Several lawmakers say shrinking the legislature from 203 to 153 for the sake of cost-cutting and efficiency sets a good example to the rest of state government. Some have expressed concern the reduction would mean larger districts that make lawmakers rely less on shoe leather and more on big donors to win elections, while others say it's a debate they're ready to have.

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Government
8:32 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Representative DeWeese Corruption Trial Underway

The trial against a former top Democratic leader in the state House for misusing taxpayer dollars for political gain has begun.

Representative Bill DeWeese (D-Greene County) has been charged as part of the Bonusgate political corruption investigation launched by the state attorney general's office in 2007.

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