Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Senate Democrats Introduce Budget Proposal

Apr 3, 2012

When Pennsylvania lawmakers return from their Easter and primary election recess, the emphasis will be on the state budget.

Governor Tom Corbett has proposed a $27.1 billion spending plan for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. It holds the line on taxes and closes a projected deficit of $700 million, in part by trimming appropriations to the 14 state-owned universities by 20%, and cutting funding to the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State and Temple by 30%.

DeWeese Says Goodbye

Apr 3, 2012

Former Pennsylvania House leader Bill DeWeese (D-Greene County) had his last hurrah on the chamber floor Tuesday after being found guilty on corruption charges for requiring staff members to work on election campaigns as part of their state paid jobs.

DeWeese took the podium, outlining the three parts of his farewell address to the House: gratitude, humility, and friendship.

During his speech, DeWeese said the House should be more about partnership than partisanship in the future. He acknowledged he has played the partisan role.

New Poll Shows Santorum's Lead Slipping

Apr 3, 2012

The latest poll in the run-up to Pennsylvania's April 24 primary shows Rick Santorum with a smaller lead over Mitt Romney among Republicans in the state compared to two weeks ago.

The Quinnipiac University survey shows the former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator has a 41% to 35% edge over Romney, down from a nearly 14-point lead in that university's March 20 poll. This survey focuses only on Republicans who are likely to vote in the primary.

Santorum Begins Push for Pennsylvania Primary Win

Apr 3, 2012

The Pennsylvania Republican Presidential Primary is still three weeks away but Rick Santorum is starting what's expected to be a concentrated campaign effort in his native state.

The court-ordered reassessment process for Allegheny County has been fraught with confusion and anger, with vocal opponents saying their property values jumped up to 300% in some cases, while comparable neighboring properties increased modestly or not at all. Some elderly residents worry that drastically increased property values will, in essence, tax them out of their homes.

To address that, Pennsylvania Senator Wayne Fontana has introduced a bill that would enable the county council or citizens to eliminate property taxes altogether.

Rookie Lawmaker Wants to End Legislative Road-Naming

Apr 2, 2012

A freshman state House lawmaker is calling on his colleagues to spend less time naming roads and bridges.

Representative Warren Kampf (R-Chester) said when he first arrived in the General Assembly he was amazed by the number of bills House and Senate members pass to put plaques on structures and roadways throughout the commonwealth.

"It didn't strike me as a core function for the General Assembly," he said.

He said that shouldn't fall under the legislature's duties, although he said he's not dismissing the naming process.

The U.S. is ranked 71st in the world for the number of women in elected office. A Thursday afternoon panel at Duquesne University examined the role of women in politics and activism.

The vote on whether the city of Pittsburgh should require institutions with whom they invest to reinvest into the community will wait another week.

City Council discussed the legislation Wednesday but Councilman Bruce Kraus, in addition to others, motioned to hold the vote for an opportunity to discuss the policy with members of the city's law department, the city controller, and representatives from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Romney and Santorum Neck and Neck Heading into Primary

Mar 28, 2012

Pennsylvania Primary “Counts” in 2012

Mar 26, 2012

The April 24th Pennsylvania primary is less than one month away and, unlike most years, it could actually play an important role in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Front-runner Mitt Romney is still far from gathering the number of delegates needed to avoid a brokered convention, and both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are hoping to make sure he never gets to the magic number of 1,144 delegates. Despite the high interest in the race in Pennsylvania, it is still unclear if it will be much of a contest.

Gingrich, Santorum Make Campaign Stop in Pennsylvania

Mar 25, 2012

Nationally, Republicans may be turning up the heat on the party to unite around Mitt Romney as the GOP's presidential nominee.

But not at this year's Pennsylvania Leadership Conference of staunch conservatives in Cumberland County, where candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich touted their Republican values.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania US Senator, took a moment to dismiss criticism that losing his reelection in 2006 makes his electability doubtful.

Pennsylvania Readies for Primary

Mar 23, 2012

Monday is the final day for Pennsylvanians to register to vote for the primary election. On April 24th voters can cast ballots for president, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representatives, state attorney general, auditor general, treasurer, state legislators, and delegates to Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Voters in the primary will be asked to show a photo ID, but it will only be required of first time voters. A voter ID will be required when voting in this November's general election.

Perzel Sentenced in BonusGate Scandal

Mar 21, 2012

John Perzel, the self-professed architect of a state House Republican scheme to pay for political campaign computer software with taxpayer dollars was sentenced today to up to five years in prison. The former state House Speaker was also ordered to pay $1 million in restitution, as well as thousands in fines.

Perzel, from Philadelphia, pleaded guilty last fall to charges of theft, conspiracy, and conflict of interest.

Chief Deputy state Attorney General Frank Fina said his decision to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors made his sentence lighter.

As state attorney general, Gov. Corbett's investigations into the state House netted dozens of prosecutions. Last week, the charges filed by federal prosecutors against former Democratic state Sen. Bob Mellow brought the total of state Senators prosecuted for public corruption to three. But those charges aren't coming from the state attorney general's office, raising questions about the fate of the sweeping investigation Corbett once headed up.

Pennsylvania's state government operations received a "C-" in integrity, but the state still ranked 19th in the nation.

The Center for Public Integrity sent a journalist to each state capitol to do the research, using 330 questions in 14 categories to determine how transparent a state is in its justice department, campaign finance disclosures, budgeting process and most importantly the condition of the organizations in the state which monitor ethics issues. Pennsylvania does have an Ethics Commission, however its funding has been cut in recent years.

Health Care Referendum Passes Committee

Mar 19, 2012

Pennsylvanians could see a referendum by next year's primary to opt out of the federal health care mandate.

The legislation, which passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee along party lines, would amend the state constitution to block any penalties to those who do not purchase health care insurance, as required by the federal Affordable Care Act.

The bill's sponsor Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson County) said he's not trying to debate "Obamacare."

Two Sides Battle Over Gun Control Bill

Mar 15, 2012

A coalition against gun violence is standing in opposition to state House bill 1523 which allows for the National Rifle Association to take to court any municipality that uses gun control law more strict than the state.

Max Nacheman, executive director for CeaseFirePA, said the rights of local municipalities to require reporting lost or stolen guns are in the language of the law. While they are prohibited from superseding state legislation when it comes to lawful gun use, ownership, transfer or transportation, but he said this is a different case.

New Poll Shows Obama Up, GOP Down in Pennsylvania

Mar 14, 2012

According to a new poll, President Obama leads Republican challengers in Pennsylvania, and his approval ratings are on the rise.

The Public Policy Polling survey has the president with a 47% approval rating in Pennsylvania, up from 42% in 2011.

PPP Director Tom Jensen said Obama leads Republican frontunner Mitt Romney by seven points in the Keystone State, 49-42. The president also leads home-state candidate Rick Santorum by two points in the poll, 48-46.

Voter ID Passes PA House

Mar 14, 2012

Pennsylvania's House of Representatives has approved a measure establishing one of the nation's toughest photo identification laws for voters. The vote comes less than eight months before the presidential election.

The 104-88 vote Wednesday in the Republican-controlled chamber came after three days of debate. The measure heads to Gov. Tom Corbett, also a Republican, who says he'll sign it into law immediately. The ACLU of Pennsylvania says it will mount a court challenge.

Corbett Mum on Presidential Pick

Mar 13, 2012

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's longtime political advisor has been named to lead the Pennsylvania ground game for Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

However, Corbett himself hasn't made any endorsements yet.

Brian Nutt ran Corbett's campaigns for Attorney General and governor. Rick Santorum's campaign has tapped Brian Nutt to be the Pennsylvania state campaign director, but Corbett says that doesn't affect his presidential pick in the slightest.

Corbett Receptive to Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

Mar 13, 2012

A bill in front of Pennsylvania's House would require women to undergo an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.

Unlike similar bills in other states, the Pennsylvania bill would not require an internal probe.

Republican Governor Tom Corbett said he would oppose requiring such invasive procedures, but said he sees no problem with a mandatory ultrasound.

"I don't know how you can make anybody watch, because you just have to close your eyes," said Corbett. "But as long as it's on the exterior, not interior."

State House Expected to Pass Voter ID Bill

Mar 12, 2012

The state House is poised to pass a bill that would require Pennsylvanians to show photo identification before voting, set to take effect this year.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said the bill is about upholding a constitutional principle.

"It's 'one person, one vote,' and I don't think anybody should object to that long-held constitutional principle," said Turzai. "I think voter ID specifically reinforces the notion that each person is entitled to one vote in this country."

Pennsylvania “Important” Republican Battleground

Mar 12, 2012

Now that Super Tuesday has failed to shake any of the four Republican presidential candidates out of the race, it's looking like Pennsylvania's April 24th primary will be hotly contested.

There are five states holding their primary elections on April 24th, including New York and Pennsylvania, with big delegate counts at stake.

Social Services Advocates Decry Corbett’s Block Grants

Mar 9, 2012

A proposed block grant would actually cut funding by 20 percent for programs like mental health services, substance use disorder programs, and homeless assistance while giving counties more flexibility in how they pay for the services. Advocates argue that new leeway could mean their programs are underfunded by the counties.

Charlie Folks, Director of Counseling and Community Integration Services at a substance abuse hospital in Montgomery County, said the block grant proposal is wrong, and must be stopped.

Pennsylvania may become one of the states that require valid photo identification to vote. The State Senate passed a measure that supporters say will help prevent voter fraud. Many civil liberty groups oppose the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania. Legal Director Vic Walczak said arguments that the requirement would be a success if even one fraudulent voter was stopped are misguided.

County Council Passes New District Map

Mar 7, 2012

Allegheny County Council passed a bill on Tuesday redrawing the County's thirteen Council Districts in a way that forces about 10 percent of the county's population into new districts.

The law will go into effect immediately if signed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko headed the committee charged with redrawing the district map. She said the new districts reflect population shifts within the county.

Fitzgerald Tight-Lipped on Dixon

Mar 6, 2012

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is remaining coy about the future of County Health Department Director Bruce Dixon. "We'll see what happens at the [health] board meeting tomorrow, we're not going to comment on personnel issues," said Fitzgerald.

In January the board went into executive session during its regular monthly meeting to discuss Dixon's future but made no comments upon returning to open session. Fitzgerald appoints five of the nine members of the health board.

Altmire to Stay on Ballot

Mar 5, 2012

A state judge says U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire can remain on the primary ballot in a race against a fellow Democratic congressman in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini on Monday denied the challenge by U.S. Rep. Mark Critz.

Voter ID Bill Awaits Senate Action

Mar 5, 2012

Labor unions and voting rights groups are calling a proposal to require state-issued identification at the polls a "voter suppression" bill.

This week, the Pennsylvania state Senate will consider legislation that would require voters to show a state-issued ID at the polls. Currently, only first-time voters and those who are new to a polling place must show photo ID.

Opponents of the bill said minorities, new citizens, the elderly and disabled would be negatively affected by being required to show voter ID every time they vote.

Judicial Elections Debate Rekindled

Mar 5, 2012

The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee is gearing up for a springtime push of bills to overhaul the way appellate court judges are chosen for the bench.

Currently, judges of the Commonwealth Court, Superior Court, and State Supreme Court run for office in partisan elections.

However, some legislators and activist groups have criticized the election of judges as overly political. House Judiciary Committee Chair Ron Marsico said partisan judicial elections give people reason to think judges are being bought and sold.

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