Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

State Commission Digs Deeper into Liquor Sales

Dec 2, 2011

Liquor sales will be included in the items of interest for a commission charged with examining which state services could be better handled by the private sector, though that doesn't mean that the liquor privatization proposal will move any faster this year.

The bill to close the more than 600 state liquor stores and sell some 1,200 private liquor licenses has the support of the House Majority Leader and Governor Corbett. But, even proponents say that the proposal's prospects for passing this year are dim.

Mayor Defends Plan to Borrow $80 Million

Dec 1, 2011

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl stood behind his $467 million operating budget proposal this morning, despite city council criticism of his plan to borrow $80 million over two years for capital improvements.

Councilman Bill Peduto has said that he wants to know what specific improvements that money will be funneled towards before accepting the largest bond allocation in Pittsburgh's history.

Ravenstahl said that his operating and capital budgets need to both pass unchanged.

State Senator Runs For Pennsylvania Attorney General

Dec 1, 2011

Montgomery County Republican John Rafferty has thrown his hat into the ring for a state row office that has been held by the GOP since it was made an elected post in 1980. The state Senator says that he is running for Attorney General, the state's top law enforcement official.

"I believe that the Republicans are often looked at as the 'law and order' party. And that bodes well for attorney general candidates or district attorney candidates. And I continue to carry that mantra and that banner as we go forth in this election," said Rafferty as he announced his candidacy.

The Pittsburgh City Council started the 2012 budget process on Tuesday with an overview from City Council Budget Director Bill Urbanic. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's $467 million budget doesn't include any tax hikes or layoffs, but does propose borrowing $80 million over the next two years for capital improvements. Urbanic said that this is the largest bond allocation in Pittsburgh's history. Many council members expressed concern about that proposal.

Democrats Roll Out Anti-Romney Videos Online

Nov 28, 2011

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has unveiled two videos targeting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that are available online immediately.

Party chairman Jim Burn says that their 30-second ad shows how Romney has taken different positions on the same issue. The short clip, available on YouTube and on some local cable and broadcast outlets, parodies a movie trailer of "two men trapped in one body," showing clips of Romney arguing for and against healthcare reform and abortion.

A political analyst does not expect any more "name" candidates will emerge for Pennsylvania's April Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Former State Representative Sam Rohrer of Berks County was the latest to join the fray when, last Tuesday, he announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination to take on U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

Electoral Reform Might Be Stalling

Nov 24, 2011

The Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Leader is backing off a proposal that threatened to upset how Pennsylvania's electoral votes are allocated. Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester County) has signaled that his electoral reform proposal can wait until after the Legislature passes other top-priority bills.

In the wake of the alleged sexual abuse cover-up involving a former Penn State football coach and the University brass, a Pittsburgh state lawmaker hopes to learn from the tragedy and urges state government to create a special committee to investigate.

Governor Corbett's National Profile Rises in Wake of Penn State Scandal

Nov 15, 2011

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's national profile is on the rise as he addresses the ongoing scandal involving Penn State and former Nittany Lions Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

The governor isn't known for shooting the breeze with reporters at every opportunity, which might be the most talked-about difference between him and his predecessor, Ed Rendell. Corbett may not be a natural media hound, but he has fared well over the past week under the national spotlight.

Four weeks after the state oversight panels approved it, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl presented his 2012 Operating Budget to City Council on Monday. The $467 million spending plan is 3.7 percent higher than this year's budget, but calls for no tax hikes nor layoffs.

Under the requirements of Act 47, the mayor delivered his 2012 budget to the state-appointed Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority on September 23, which then approved it 4 weeks later.

Republican D. Raja accepted defeat in the race for Allegheny County Executive. He addressed a crowd of supporters in Greentree, thanking them for their support and acknowledging the challenge he faced in a county where registered Democrats far outnumber registered Republicans.

Incumbents Fare Well in Pittsburgh School Board Races

Nov 9, 2011

Mark Brentley will be entering his fourth four-year term as the Pittsburgh School Board member in District 8 with Tuesday night's win. He beat Rosemary Moriarty, a retired principal. The incumbent gather 60% of the vote. Brentley said that his concerns are the district's budget and ensuring that all children in the city have the same opportunities.

Democrats Hold Allegheny County Row Offices

Nov 9, 2011

Democrat Chelsa Wagner claimed victory in the County Controller race over Robert Howard with 61 percent of the vote. It was one of two Allegheny County Row office races that were contested.

Wagner said her new role brings the potential to make changes.

"I think that the power of this office [is] where you have access to the different departments through the audits that you're doing, through seeing every contract in county government. You really are perhaps in one of the best positions to help effectuate policy," Wagner said.

O’Connor Wins Council Seat

Nov 9, 2011

Corey O'Connor, the 27 year-old son of the late mayor Bob O'Connor, defeated Republican opponent Josh Wander to win his father's old District 5 city council seat. O'Connor received 78 percent of the votes, leaving Wander with only 20 percent.

O'Connor said that it is an honor to be representing his father's district. "It was 20 years to this week that he was elected city councilman in 1991," said O'Connor. "And just to see my family here, our friends, people that were with my dad on his very first campaign — it's just very humbling that we sort of came full circle."

Incumbent Futules Retains County Council Seat

Nov 9, 2011

Councilman Nicholas Futules will retain his District 7 council seat, the only contested County Council seat in this fall's election, with 56 percent of the vote. Futules topped GOP candidate Mike Dell of Plum.

Futules says that he plans to continue to work closely with the other council members, and outlined some of his goals shortly after declaring victory.

Election Night Wrap Up

Nov 9, 2011

Democrats will hold onto the Allegheny County Executive's office. Former County Council President Rich Fitzgerald cruised to a victory over Republican D. Raja, a Mt. Lebanon businessman by 62% to 37%. Democrats enjoy a 2 to 1 voter registration edge in the county.

"We're going to do things with transit," Fitzgerald told supporters at the IBEW Hall on the city's South Side. "We're going to do things with our airport, we're going to do things with human services."

Fitzgerald will succeed Dan Onorato who decided not to seek a third term as chief executive.

Two State Republican Lawmakers Found Guilty in Corruption Scandal

Nov 8, 2011

The first Republicans to be tried in a state corruption trial have been found guilty of 40 criminal charges for their involvement in a state House GOP scheme to illegally spend millions of public dollars on campaign activities.

District Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania are urging state lawmakers to close loophole that allows some sex offenders to go without registering.

Megan's Law requires sex offenders to register, but Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed said that the bill doesn't specifically apply to offenders without a fixed address or offenders from out-of-state.

County Executive Race Centers on Job Creation

Nov 7, 2011

The two candidates running for the Allegheny County Executive's office have certainly slung mud at one another in recent weeks, but their priorities actually appear to be very similar.

Both Democrat Rich Fitzgerald and Republican D. Raja hope to fill the seat soon to be vacated by Democrat Dan Onorato, who's held the office for eight years. Both said they'd focus their efforts primarily on job creation, if elected.

Fitzgerald and Raja have attacked each others' records as well, in a race that has become increasingly heated as it draws to a close.

John Weinstein (D-Kennedy) faces his first general election challenge since he was first elected Allegheny County Treasurer in 1999.

In his three terms, Weinstein believes he has modernized the Treasurer's office by prioritizing customer service and implementing paperless billing, among other initiatives. "I have transformed this office into a professional operation," Weinstein said.

Shale Commission Angered Over Setbacks

Nov 3, 2011

Two Marcellus Shale Impact Fee bills are under fire for the buffer zones between gas wells and water supplies. The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission argued the measures don't go far enough to protect water sources.

A 61-page amendment to Senate Bill 1100, approved by the Appropriations Committee unanimously, calls for increased penalties on drillers who violate regulations and broadens buffer zones or setbacks between natural gas wells and water sources. The measure requires a 1,000 foot setback from private water wells and 500 feet away from public water supplies.

Democrats Rally for Raja

Nov 3, 2011

A group of Democrats gathered at the Allegheny County Courthouse on Thursday to rally for their favored candidate in the County Executive race.

Only, the candidate they're throwing their support behind is not a Democrat.

Republican County Executive hopeful D. Raja enjoyed the backing of several local Democrats, including some former elected officials.

A Diverse Group of Supporters

The candidates for Pittsburgh Public Schools Board District 2 differ on their main priority. For incumbent Dara Ware Allen, who won the Republican nomination, the budget is a top priority. She said that trimming the budget will entail closing some schools.

"And looking at administration, already some cuts have come forward, painful, there will be more in that area that will still be coming. A third area is the capital budget and capital projects, suspending those," said Allen.

State Moves Forward in Effort to Ban Texting While Driving

Nov 2, 2011

With near unanimous support, a ban against text messaging while driving has passed the General Assembly and now awaits Gov. Tom Corbett's signature.

The bill allows police to pull over drivers suspected of texting while driving and issue a $50 fine. Democratic Senator Jim Ferlo of Allegheny County said that after years of debate, final passage is better late than never.

"So I'll just conclude and say O-M-G and hallelujah," Ferlo joked.

One thing that sets the incumbent District 8 school board candidate apart from the other incumbents is his belief that the school board is moving in the wrong direction. Mark A. Brentley Sr. is seeking a fourth term on the board and, after facing three challenges in the primary, is running as both a Democrat and a Republican.

"I do believe we are moving too fast. I do believe that we as a district and as a board and as an administration have not worked hard enough to truly get parental involvement," said Brentley.

Government Watchdog: District Maps are Absurd

Nov 1, 2011

A government reform advocate says that the approval of a preliminary plan to redraw House and Senate districts in Pennsylvania shows that the whole system needs to be changed.

At a meeting on Monday, the chairman of the redistricting panel called a half-hour recess to get legislative caucus leaders to share their final proposed maps. But Democrats and Republicans emerged still split on their respective plans.

The race for the District 6 seat on the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education pits the incumbent against a teacher with 16 years' experience in the classroom. Current board president, Sherry Hazuda, won the Democratic nomination. She was first elected to the board in 2007, and elected president in December. She said she wants to finish the job she's started.

Panel Passes New District Map

Oct 31, 2011

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission voted Monday 3-to-2 in favor of Republican-designed preliminary plans for the 50 seats in the state Senate and 203 in the House. Democrats say the proposals are politically partisan and hope they'll change before the final plan is adopted in the coming months.

The Senate plan moves Democratic incumbent Jim Brewster's 45th district from McKeesport to Monroe County in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Politicians and Educators Debate Voucher Vernacular

Oct 31, 2011

In the state legislature, debates regarding school vouchers that could allow students to escape Pennsylvania's worst-performing public schools, word choice matters. What some politicians may refer to as "failing schools," most educators prefer to call "underperforming" or "low-achieving."

Education professionals say the "failing" is too definite a label on a school whose students may have performed poorly on tests for a wide range of reasons.

Wagner and Howard vie for County Controller

Oct 31, 2011

The two candidates for Allegheny County Controller frame the race as a contest between competing visions of the office and its role in local government.

Bob Howard (R-Marshall) touts his 34 years as an accountant and controller at PPG Industries, and his accounting degree from Penn State, as qualifications for what he says is a highly technical job that requires specialized education and experience.