Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

President Barack Obama incited a lot of excitement among young voters in 2008, but at a young professionals round table in downtown Pittsburgh Tuesday, a worry about voter apathy was expressed. Actor and former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Kal Penn spoke to the small group and asked for input on what the Obama campaign can do to energize young voters. He said the president has been a tireless proponent of issues important to young people, while Republicans have been focused on other issues.

PA Republicans say Romney has a Good Chance

Jun 12, 2012

The 2012 Presidential Election campaign is intensifying in Pennsylvania.

President Barack Obama will appear this evening at 8:00 o'clock at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia to raise money for the Obama Victory Fund Campaign, a joint fundraising committee of the Obama re-election campaign, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties.

Governor Tom Corbett is expected to sign legislation that takes away the Port Authority of Allegheny County's ability to review applications to provide bus service in the county. Interested parties would still have to get approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and live under that entity's regulations.

The Senate last week approved House Bill 10, which the lower chamber passed in the fall.

The five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission this afternoon approved a second plan to redraw the legislative districts in the commonwealth.

The Board of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) selected Veolia Water North America to provide Executive Management services to the Authority for twelve months with a possible six-month extension.

Jim Good will serve as the PWSA's Executive Director and fill the 18-month vacancy left by the resignation of Michael Kenney in 2010. Another Veolia executive, Doug Amos, will serve as Study Manager for PWSA.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, visited the 911th Airlift Wing Thursday to meet with senior and civic leaders who lobbied him to keep the base open. While there he thanked the airmen for their contributions to national security and continuing focus on their mission.

Governor Corbett Holding Private Budget Meetings With Republicans

Jun 8, 2012

Budget talks continue in Harrisburg among legislative leaders and the governor. However, those negotiations are happening behind closed doors and without the input of Democrats. Gov. Tom Corbett has not avoided the fact that budget talks have been a Republicans-only affair so far.

"This, it has to be passed by a majority. The Republicans are in the majority in both houses. The discussions that the Democrats have put out there is that they want to continue to spend and at least I have the Republicans trying to save money in some areas," Corbett explained.

House Lawmakers Approve So-Called Payday Loan Regulations

Jun 8, 2012

The lending industry calls them small-dollar loans. Opponents call them payday loans. State House lawmakers approved a measure to regulate and expand the short term loan industry in the commonwealth.

Such loans tend to be issued with a two-week payback period, and they often come with high interest and fees. The small loans tend to be taken out for a couple weeks at a time, and they often come with high interest rates and fees.

A committee of Allegheny County Council has given an affirmative recommendation to a bill that would transfer the Weights & Measures Division from the Controller's office to the administration. The bill now heads to the full Council for a final vote.

State Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) and Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) have introduced legislation aimed at breaking financial ties with companies that do business with Iran. Stack's Senate Bill 1543 and Frankel's House Bill 2427 would specifically go after businesses with direct investment in Iran's energy sector and bar them from bidding on Pennsylvania state contracts.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Jane Orie has been sentenced to serve between 2 and a half to 10 years in prison. The Republican from McCandless was convicted in March of using her legislative staff to do campaign work, and for forging documents to cover up the criminal activity.

The judge will decide within the next 30 days what monetary penalty Orie must pay. That number could go as high as $2 million in legal fees and restitution to the state.

Republican Lawmakers To Propose Joint Spending Plan Next Week

May 31, 2012

Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania state legislature are meeting with Governor Tom Corbett early next week to present a joint spending plan with the intention of passing a budget in mid-June. Procedurally, it falls to the state House to make changes to the Senate's $27.7 billion budget plan, which contains a half-million dollars more than what the governor proposed.

It seems Allegheny County Council is the rope in a political tug-of-war between the County Executive and the County Controller. A pending Council vote will determine which office will have command of the county's Weights & Measures Division.

Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) has introduced a bill that would require all Pennsylvania school districts to teach students in grades 6-12 about the Holocaust. The Bill would also require schools to teach about genocide, human rights violations, anti-Semitism, racism, and the abridgement of civil rights.

Senator Williams said if today's youth is not educated about this event, it could pave the way for something similar to happen in the future.

Corbett Names New Chief of Staff

May 24, 2012

Gov. Tom Corbett's top aide is leaving his job as the first-term Republican battles criticism from opponents over his cost-cutting agenda and from allies over his ability to forge policy and broadcast a persuasive and strong public message.

Corbett made no mention of pressure when he announced Thursday that he is nominating his chief of staff and longtime friend William Ward to fill a vacant seat on the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court after 16 months in Harrisburg with Corbett.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said Governor Tom Corbett's proposed budget compromises the tax payers of the county. According to Wagner, the budget will lead to Allegheny County residents being double-taxed by a governor who's from Allegheny County and has a background in law enforcement.

"Yet his budget is cutting our courts, and cutting law enforcement here in Allegheny County, forcing us to pay for those services here in Allegheny County and statewide," said Wagner.

Even as Pennsylvania's Voter ID law goes through legal challenges, one lawmaker is introducing a package of bills aimed at "fixing" parts of the bill. The so-called "Every Voter Counts" package contains three parts. The first part would create an online voter registration system. The second would require the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to use new technology and mobile outreach to help registered voters obtain needed photo identification.

Orie Resignation Leads to Special Election

May 21, 2012

The criminal conviction and resignation of Republican state Senator Jane Orie leave a political void in the North Hills, with the GOP and Democrats both rushing to fill it.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, a special election must be held by mid-August for the 40th Senate District.

Republican Committee of Allegheny County Chairman Jim Roddey said he's confident about his party's chances this summer.

Pennsylvania Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) is sponsoring a new Certificate of Need (CON) law that would lower health care costs by decreasing duplicate amenities or construction and mold medical facilities' spending based on the needs of the community.

Ferlo said that his proposed CON law would give local governments, unions, corporations, and shareholders a voice in determining whether healthcare expenses are reasonable.

"Despite the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, we're really not meeting the true community need," Ferlo said.

Altmire, Critz Reconcile After Primary Battle

May 7, 2012

Congressman Jason Altmire endorsed Mark Critz for reelection in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District on Monday, despite losing to Critz in the Democratic primary election last month.

The two incumbents were pitted against one another when Pennsylvania Republicans combined their districts in December's reapportionment process.

New Measure Would Cut Taxes, Close Loophole for Businesses

May 7, 2012

House lawmakers have passed a business-friendly tax measure that would bring the corporate net income (CNI) tax rate down by 3% over the next several years. Whether it's possible to implement such a bill and still balance the budget, however, remains unclear.

"I, at this point today, don't know that we're in any position to reduce the CNI in order to balance this budget," said Governor Tom Corbett. While Corbett said he is still mindful of his campaign promise to consider lowering the CNI rate, he maintained his priority now is on passing a balanced budget.

Romney Speaks in O'Hara Township

May 4, 2012

Presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney brought his campaign back to the Pittsburgh region today.

Nearly 200 supporters showed up to hear Romney deliver his message of job creation at Sauereisen, a construction materials company in O'Hara Township.

"This is a sad time in America when people who want work can't find jobs," Romney said.

In 2007, the College Affordability Plan gradually reduced interest rates from 3.4% to 6.8% on Federal Direct Stafford loans. If allowed to expire on July 1st, the interest rates on the student loans will return to 6.8%. U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) is calling on Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) to pass H.R.4816, known as Stop the Rate Hike Act of 2012.

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a bill that would divert parking tax revenue from the former Civic Arena site into a special fund for Hill District redevelopment.

After hours of discussion, the heated debate was cut short and a six-member majority approved the bill. A few Council Members had raised concerns as to the legality and fairness of a special fund to benefit just one neighborhood.

Councilman Patrick Dowd disagreed with that notion.

Long-time PA House Republican Hopeful for Primary Win; Awaiting Absentee Ballot Count

Apr 27, 2012

Five state House incumbents have lost their seats in the primary, according to the latest vote counts. But one longtime Republican lawmaker is holding out until the absolute last vote is counted.

Rick Geist has been in the Legislature for 33 years, and if you thought his Tuesday night concession speech was the last word, well, think again. The House Transportation Committee chairman is down by 196 votes to Republican opponent John McGinnis. But there are some-470 absentee ballots that have yet to be counted.

Parks Confident About Write-In Campaign Results

Apr 25, 2012

Greg Parks, the Pleasant Hills Democrat running for State Senate in the 37th district, believes enough people wrote his name on the ballot to make him eligible for a run in the general election.

The 50-year old Parks is a former member of the Pleasant Hills Council, and currently works as an instructional assistant at McKeesport High School.

No Extra Cash for Prisons

Apr 25, 2012

The man leading Pennsylvania's prison system says it can handle the governor's proposal to hold the line on the agency's budget.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said Pennsylvania's state prisons are enormously inefficient. He said the prison system was set up for major violent offenders, but now, one third of its inmates are short-termers entering a lengthy processing system as if they were major offenders.

As a result, said Wetzel, they end up serving several months longer than their original sentence.

In a primary battle between two incumbent Democrats, Mark Critz defeated Jason Altmire to claim the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District.

The two Democrats were forced against one another due to recent redistricting. Pennsylvania Republicans essentially stitched together Altmire's 4th District and Critz's 12th District in December.

Critz said his victory was delivered largely by two voting blocs: labor unions, and residents of Cambria and Somerset Counties.

D. Raja lost his bid to become Allegheny County Executive last year, but voters got to know him and apparently enough liked his ideas, some of which he'll take to Harrisburg. He said he will lead by example by not taking a pension, and he wants to lower corporate taxes to make the state more business friendly.

The Mt. Lebanon resident and former Mt. Lebanon commissioner beat Fellow Republicans Mark Mustio and Sue Means in the 37th Pennsylvania Senate District Republican Primary by a wide margin, 44%, 25% and 32% respectively.

Armstrong County Tea Party leader and former coal company owner Tom Smith won the five-person race in Pennsylvania to become the Republican Nominee for the U.S. Senate. Smith garnered 40% of the vote. Two of his opponents, Sam Rohrer and Steven Welch got 22 and 21 percent of the vote respectively. David Christian grabbed 10% and Marc Scaringi rounded out the field with 7%.

Smith will face Senator Bob Casey in the November election. Casey defeated Joseph Vodvarka, of Robinson Township, 80% to 20% for the Democratic nomination.