Politics & Government

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

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

One year after Pittsburgh’s Wage Review Committee released its report detailing the hardships faced by low-wage workers in the city, Councilman Ricky Burgess said there is still more work to do.

Burgess counted among the victories of the last year the unionization of workers at Allegheny General Hospital and UPMC’s pledge to raise wages for service workers to $15 per hour by 2021.

In addition, workers at four other hospitals in the Pittsburgh region will see starting wages increased by $15 per hour over the next three to five years.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Donna and Steve Dzurilla live in a single-story home on a quiet street in Lincoln Place. They’re just barely in the city limits, surrounded by neighboring West Mifflin.

The walls of their home are lined with photos of places not far from their house, places that mean a lot to their families: the steel mills.

  

Evan Vucci / AP

 

On Monday afternoon, the line to enter the Donald Trump rally in Ambridge, a small town near Pittsburgh, stretched for blocks. The rally was held in the field house of the Ambridge Area High School. 

Before the speech, protesters stood on the other side of the street chanting, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump go away.” Several young women held signs that read, “Students against bigotry.”

James Thomas Finley was visiting Ambridge, and watched from a nearby porch. He said he can't believe Donald Trump is running for president.

Patrick Semansky / AP

 

A western Pennsylvania school district is ending classes early over concerns about more protesters arriving for Donald Trump's scheduled rally at its high school field house.

Trump is scheduled to speak at 3:30 p.m. Monday at Ambridge Area High School before he travels to northeastern Pennsylvania for a rally at Mohegan Sun Arena near Wilkes-Barre at 7 p.m.

NPR

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton face off in the second presidential debate Sunday night at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

NPR's politics team, with help from reporters and editors who cover national security, immigration, business, foreign policy and more, is live annotating the debate. Portions of the debate with added analysis are highlighted, followed by context and fact check from NPR reporters and editors.

  

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Cliff Owen / AP

 

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's rating from the National Rifle Association has dropped after the Pennsylvania Republican went against gun-rights groups and voted to support expanded background checks.

Toomey's new C-rating is a downgrade from the A-rating and hearty endorsement the NRA gave him when he last ran in 2010.

Toomey is being challenged by Democrat Katie McGinty, who favors a broad range of gun-control measures and has drawn an F-rating from the NRA. The neck-and-neck race could help decide control of the Senate.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh has nearly 25,000 vacant lots, according to GTECH Strategies. 

GTECH Project Manager James Snow said blight is hard to define, but it could be an empty lot or an abandoned house.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Sara Middleton and Catlyn Brooke both teach cross fit at the Allegheny YMCA on the North Side.

 

They renovated the upstairs studio themselves. Middleton built the barbell racks, as well as a huge structure for pull up rings and high bars.

 

  “I fell in love with it and I got certified to teach,” Brooke said.

 

Ally Aubry / flickr

Tuesday, Oct. 11 is the final date to register to vote in Pennsylvania. Over the course of 2016, more than 40,000 Allegheny County residents have submitted their registration applications online since the state launched the system a little over a year ago.

Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images

 

Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence square off in the vice-presidential debate Tuesday night.

NPR's politics team, with help from reporters and editors who cover national security, immigration, business, foreign policy and more, is live annotating the debate. Portions of the debate with added analysis are highlighted, followed by context and fact check from NPR reporters and editors.

Follow highlights of the debate in NPR's updating news story at npr.org.

Brad Larrison / Newsworks

Last month, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed the only way he would lose Pennsylvania in the presidential election would be through voter fraud.

"The only way we can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on," he told a rally in Altoona in August.

WITF

The city of Harrisburg's near-bankruptcy led to Pennsylvania's first and only local government takeover, the ousting of a seven-term mayor and his pending criminal trial - and aggressive, expensive parking enforcement in the state capit

Biden Attacks Trump In PA Visit Over House Collapse Comments

Sep 27, 2016
David Goldman / AP

 

 

Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday questioned Donald Trump's "moral center" as a result of the Republican presidential candidate's comments about America's housing collapse.

At a rally for Hillary Clinton at Drexel University, Biden said that Trump had bragged at Monday's presidential debate about profiting from the failed housing market. He said Trump's policies are not helpful for the country, calling the candidate "painfully uninformed."

Morry Gash / AP Photo

First lady Michelle Obama will be in Pennsylvania on Wednesday to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

She's attending a late afternoon rally for Clinton at the University of Pittsburgh following a Democratic Party event at noon at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.

Obama will speak at Fitzgerald Field House at 3:30 p.m. Doors open at 1 p.m. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf brings his message on combating the opioid epidemic to a joint session of the state legislature Wednesday, he will be speaking to a group that for the most part is already aware of the issue.

“They’re all fed up with this,” said State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver, Greene, Washington) of her constituents.  “It’s a scourge and they know that we have to all stand together and try every angle we possibly can.”

Last year, more than 3,000 Pennsylvanians died of an opioid overdose including 424 in Allegheny County.

J. Dale Shoemaker / PublicSource

“Would you like to register to vote?”

Nearly every time Elaine Harris-Fulton asks the question, she gets a version of, “I’m already registered.”

The Men And Women Of Pittsburgh's Sewers

Sep 23, 2016
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

Damon “Hop” Hopkins only needs three words to tell you about the grossest thing that’s ever happened to him working in Pittsburgh’s sewers. That—and a lengthy, well-timed pause between words two and three.

“Chest high. Feces.”

‘Nuff said.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

David Zak didn't know Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was supposed to speak in Pittsburgh today. The 33-year-old Friendship resident said he ran into protesters while walking to work Downtown and felt compelled to follow the action.

"I've never actually been this radical before," he said. "But I think this his happening for a reason."

Lawmaker With Secret Criminal Case Pressured To Resign

Sep 21, 2016
PA House of Representatives

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says a public official shouldn't be in office if they're guilty of a crime, as questions swirl around whether a state lawmaker secretly pleaded guilty to a federal felony.

Wolf's comments Tuesday came four days after a Philadelphia Inquirer report revealed state Rep. Leslie Acosta's criminal case.

The Philadelphia Democrat is running unopposed for a second term in the November election. Her lawyer Christopher Warren says Acosta won't resign, despite Democratic Party pressure.

Donald Trump To Speak Thursday At Shale Insight Downtown

Sep 20, 2016
Keith Srakocic / AP

  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will speak Thursday at the annual Shale Insight conference at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center, organizers said Monday.

Conference officials told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was also invited but declined, citing a scheduling conflict.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a long summer break, the state House is back in session—for now. But lawmakers aren’t expecting to tackle anything too divisive before Election Day.

The House will have just 12 voting days before lawmakers retire to their districts for the election. The Senate, which returns next week, will have nine.

Major items on the docket include decisions on expanded gambling and a state pension overhaul. Governor Tom Wolf is also seeking a joint session to address the opioid crisis.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Under a tent in a Canonsburg parking lot Wednesday, the free hamburgers and chips flowed like shale gas through Washington County.

The food was there to feed a few hundred supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at his new volunteer center, located in an office building.  

Many of them held hand-made signs reading, “Deplorables for Trump.”

AP

Officials with the Department of Human Services announced increased oversight for its major programs and said it’s paying off financially.

The department reported Thursday that savings increased by $65 million over the last fiscal year.

As DHS Secretary Ted Dallas explained, its programs can be complicated. 

Things like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and other state benefits involve a lot of paperwork, and Dallas said administrative errors are relatively common.

Katie Meyer / WITF

This year, state legislators determined that the Department of Health would be responsible for reducing the backlog of untested rape kits. So far, department of health officials said that effort has not been successful.

Part of that agreement also stipulated that the Department of Health would ensure that local police departments submitted all of the untested kits.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Motorcycles revved and a crowd marched by the line wrapping around the Homewood Coliseum on Friday where former President Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife and Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton’s visit fell on the same day as the funeral for a beloved pastor from the neighborhood. He offered condolences for the friends and relations of Reverend Eugene “Freedom” Blackwell, who died last month from cancer at the age of 43.

Rose Tileston / Hidden Harvest

There are 600 fruit-bearing trees in Pittsburgh, according to the most recent municipal forest analysis in 2008. They line streets and grow in parks, but Hana Uman with the nonprofit 412 Food Rescue said much of that fruit rots.

“When we go and check out some of these trees, there’s just often fruit all over the ground,” she said. “So that is fruit that could have been used and just goes to waste.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Key changes are being made among the top staff of the state attorney general’s office. New Attorney General Bruce Beemer announced Robert Mulle is taking over as First Deputy Attorney General and James Donahue III will be Acting Chief of Staff. 

Russell Lee (Public Domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Roughly 100,000 retired coal miners across the U.S. are collecting pensions, but there isn’t enough money left in the system.

Some coal miners are planning to rally in Washington D.C. Thursday in an effort to convince lawmakers to release nearly $300 million in federal funds needed to shore up deleted pension programs. About 12,000 retired miners in Pennsylvania stand to benefit from it.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said it will save $214 million over the next three years by changing health benefits and long-term non-paid leave rules for government employees.

“This is the first health plan design change in over 12 years for the state and the changes represent the most significant health plan savings in Pennsylvania in recent history,” said Spokesman Jeff Sheridan.

Much of the savings will be generated through having employees and retirees in PPO plans cover deductibles and make co-pays for some in-network services and prescriptions.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

By 2050, 70 percent of the world's population will be living in cities, according to a United Nations estimate. Mayors could be more influential than ever.

That's why it's important to start training city leaders now, says Jorrit de Jong, faculty director for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

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