Government & Politics

Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Moratorium Discussions at DCNR Raise Questions

Pipeline clearing for Marcellus Shale development in Tiadaghton State Forest in 2011.
Credit Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

In February, Governor Tom Corbett announced his intention to balance the state budget, in part, using millions of dollars in projected revenues from new oil-and-gas drilling leases in state parks and forests. It was the first public acknowledgment of Corbett’s plans to lift a 2010 moratorium on leasing.

But records uncovered in an investigation by 90.5 WESA and the Allegheny Front suggest the issue may have been under active discussion much earlier.

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Government & Politics
9:39 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

County Council Votes Against Displaying 'In God We Trust' in Council Chambers

Some speakers and Councilmembers pointed to the the presence of "In God We Trust" on American currency as evidence of the phrase's inherent connection to patriotism and democracy. Others said referencing God on money secularizes and therefore diminishes the importance of religion and spirituality.
Credit Flickr user Kevin Dooley

Despite an impassioned speech from Republican Allegheny County Councilwoman Sue Means, an initiative to place the words “In God We Trust” above the Bill of Rights in Council Chambers failed Tuesday night.

Six members of Council voted for the bill, while eight voted against it. A bill needs eight affirmative votes to pass.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:02 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

What’s the Way Forward for the U.S. and Iran?

Credit World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh

It has been months since President Obama announced an interim deal had been struck between the group known as P5+1 and Iranian leadership over Iran's nuclear program. Many open questions remain as the deliberations move forward and the details of the agreement emerge. How will this play out?

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Government & Politics
8:10 am
Tue September 9, 2014

State Police Say Proposal To Change PA Liquor Laws Misses The Point

Pennsylvania State Police tasked with enforcing the commonwealth's liquor code say a new proposal to make it OK to buy booze across the state border misses the point.

A new state House plan would allow Pennsylvanians to buy alcohol across state lines and bring it back for personal consumption — or to be reimbursed for the now-contraband beverages they buy for friends and family.

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Election 2014
8:03 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Wolf Contends He Can Gain Support From GOP-Dominated Legislature

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf speaks at a campaign stop in Dauphin County Monday.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

At a campaign stop in Dauphin County, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf said he’s not concerned about the prospect of working with a Republican-dominated Legislature.

“It’s leadership. It’s bringing people together,” he said. “It’s actually getting up out of your chair, getting out from behind your desk, walking down, bringing people together, giving people a compelling vision about what we need to do to make Pennsylvania better, and working with them to come up with solutions – not just sitting back at your desk.”

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Allegheny County
7:51 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Republican County Councilwoman Says Dems Won’t Hear Her Ideas

Tucked away in Allegheny County’s administrative code is a rule saying that all bills introduced in County Council must be voted upon within 90 days.

In contrast, the rules of Allegheny County Council state that bills can only be pulled from committee and put on the council’s agenda for a final vote if they get a two-thirds affirmative majority in committee within 60 days of being introduced.

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Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Tue September 9, 2014

DCNR Ex-Chief's Calendar Shows Gaps

Fracking operations in Tiadaghton State Forest in 2011.
Credit Martha Rial / Special to 90.5 WESA / The Allegheny Front

As the agency that oversees 2.5-million acres of public land in Pennsylvania formed policy on drilling in state forests, the agency's head met frequently with oil and gas lobbyists in the capitol, including stops at upscale restaurants.

That's according to the calendar of Richard Allan, former Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

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Government & Politics
4:42 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Peduto, Fitzgerald Support Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Push for Constitutional Voting Rights Amendment

Rev. Jesse Jackson was in Pittsburgh Monday to drum up support for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (left) and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (right) have signed on to the effort.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Imagine for a moment that the Steelers had lost to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. As difficult as that would have been for die-hard fans, most would have accepted the outcome without questioning the integrity of the game.

That was the analogy Rev. Jesse Jackson used during a news conference with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald Monday morning.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:28 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

40 Years Later, the Watergate Pardon Remains Controversial

President Gerald Ford appearing at the House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on pardoning former President Richard Nixon, Washington, D.C.
Credit Library of Congress / wikipedia

The Duquesne University School of Law will commemorate one of the most controversial presidential decisions of the 20th Century when it presents President Ford's Pardon of Richard Nixon: A 40-year Retrospective Monday on the Duquesne campus. 

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Government & Politics
2:47 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

This Week in PA Politics 9/8

This Week In PA Politics

PA State Senate candidate supports taxing natural gas industry. An issue that Democrats hold near and dear is now receiving some support on the other side of the aisle. Republican candidate for state Senate Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware) is the latest Republican to voice his support for an extraction tax placed on natural gas companies “in order to raise money for schools, infrastructure or pension obligations,” reports 90.5 WESA's Mary Wilson.

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Government & Politics
2:46 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Election 2014 Natural Gas Drilling

90.5 WESA is exploring several of the key issues being debated as part of the 2014 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign.

Natural Gas Drilling

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s stance on natural gas drilling is widely known: the more energy self-sufficient Pennsylvania is, the better the state will be -- and everything should be done to achieve this goal.

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Election 2014
2:46 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Election 2014: What To Know About Medicaid Expansion In PA

90.5 WESA is exploring several of the key issues being debated as part of the 2014 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign.

Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Tom Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania substitute for the federal Medicaid expansion was officially accepted by the Department of Health and Human Services on August 28. The plan would use federal subsidies to offer private insurance plans to more than 600,000 low-income residents who qualify.

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Election 2014
2:45 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Election 2014: What To Know About The Debate Over Education Funding

Students rush through the hallways of the CAPA 6-12 school in downtown Pittsburgh.
Credit Gates Foundation via Flickr Creative Commons

90.5 WESA is exploring several of the key issues being debated as part of the 2014 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign. Here's some background on the issue of education funding.

Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial challenger Tom Wolf has made it abundantly clear he disapproves of the way Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has handled public education during his tenure in office. Wolf has pledged to fund public schools at rates higher than the current governor has as well as put more of a general emphasis on education if elected.

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Government & Politics
2:44 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Election 2014 Taxes and Pensions

90.5 WESA is exploring several of the key issues being debated as part of the 2014 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign.

Taxes and Pensions

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Sandusky Scandal
2:05 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

NCAA: State Can Keep $60 Million Penn State Fine

College sports' governing body says it is willing to let Pennsylvania control the $60 million fine Penn State is paying over its handling of the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal.

The NCAA on Friday asked Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Sen. Jake Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord.

The NCAA says that if Covey agrees, it also will move to end a federal lawsuit against McCord, Gov. Tom Corbett and others that challenges a 2013 state law requiring the money to remain within Pennsylvania.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 8, 2014

URA Decision on Fate of Produce Terminal is Imminent

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has owned the produce terminal for more than 30 years.
Credit Flickr user Allie_Caulfield

When Michael Rubino envisions the future of the Strip District, he sees a grand marketplace at the site of the old Pennsylvania Fruit Auction and Sales building, with a farmer’s market, restaurants, business incubators, Amish craftspeople and closeout vendors.

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Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Flooding the Zone: Gas Industry Pours Millions into Lobbying PA

The Pennsylvania Capitol building.
Credit Wally Gobetz / via Flickr Creative Commons

Barry Kauffman sees similarities between the oil and gas business and the business of ‘government relations’--lobbying.

In fracking, gas companies inject water, sand and chemicals underground to extract gas. In politics, Kaufmann says, you use campaign contributions and lobbying money, “inject it under high pressure under the legislature, to extract public policy, from which you profit. The two processes are actually very much parallel,” says Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, a non-partisan, non-profit government watchdog group.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 8, 2014

LGBT Group Looks to 2015 for Ban on Discrimination

The General Assembly's fall session doesn't begin until Sept. 15, but the state's leading advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pennsylvanians is already closing the book on an anti-discrimination measure that picked up unprecedented, bipartisan support.

"At the current moment, with nine days left in the session, I don't hold out a lot of hope that the bill will pass this year," said Ted Martin, head of Equality PA.

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Pension
10:41 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Report: State Worker Pensions Set 'Arbitrarily'

It seems that every few months Pennsylvania’s famously underfunded public pension systems receive some new low ranking or grade. The latest reproach takes issue with the way pension payouts are determined – based on age and years worked.

A report by the nonpartisan Urban Institute calls the rules setting state retirement benefits arbitrary. It restricted its analysis to employees hired in 2013 who will receive pension benefits through the State Employee Retirement System, or SERS:

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Health
7:55 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Doctors Eye Prescription Tracking Bills

For about a year, state lawmakers have considered how to make it easier to track prescription drug abuse in Pennsylvania. Supporters say a plan to expand a patient database may be close to final passage.

The commonwealth already has a database to track the drugs most prone to abuse. Pending legislation would expand the tool to include prescriptions that treat migraines, seizures, and anxiety, as well as some cough medicines. Once in the database, those prescriptions would be subject to a dragnet by doctors, pharmacists, and (to an as yet unknown degree) law enforcement.

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City Government
7:55 am
Thu September 4, 2014

From Street Signs to Vehicles, Pittsburgh to Auction Old Assets Online

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman said it’s been nearly a decade since he first drafted legislation for then-Councilman Bill Peduto that would allow the city to auction off unneeded assets online.

That idea is finally seeing the light of day as a similar bill received preliminary approval in council’s committee meeting Wednesday. A final vote is scheduled for next week.

Grants Officer Brandon Forbes was on hand to answer questions from City Council about the plan, which would end the practice of selling old vehicles and other large assets once a year at an auction.

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Health Care
8:10 am
Wed September 3, 2014

PA’s Medicaid Enrollees Could See Benefit Cuts

Policy analysts are staying tuned for additional changes to Medicaid benefits for current enrollees in Pennsylvania.

Federal officials set aside Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to curb Medicaid benefits when they considered his overall plan to expand health care coverage for the working poor by using private insurance plans. But the changes still under negotiation could limit things like wheelchairs, homecare visits and physical therapy for Medicaid enrollees.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:08 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Countdown to the Gubernatorial Election

Credit 90.5 WESA

In two months Pennsylvanians will head to the polls. As the gubernatorial heads into its final phase, will Tom Corbett break the streak of PA governors serving a second term? And, what would a win by Democratic challenger Tom Wolf mean for the commonwealth? John Micek, opinion editor for the Penn Live website, talks about what we can expect in the upcoming campaign season.

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Environment & Energy
7:50 am
Tue September 2, 2014

State Senate Candidate Calls For Drilling Extraction Tax

Another Republican, this time a candidate for state Senate, is voicing support for a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers, largely a pet issue of Democrats.

Tom McGarrigle, running for a Delaware County seat, joins several sitting GOP senators who also support an extraction tax  to raise money for schools, infrastructure or pension obligations.

But it doesn’t mean an extraction tax is imminent.

Slapping natural gas drillers with a new tax is something more frequently proposed by Democrats.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 1, 2014

PA Lawmaker Says State's DUI Penalties Are 'Too Slight'

A tragic car accident that claimed the life of a teenage girl in Lancaster County has moved Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) to call on his colleagues to help toughen up Pennsylvania's laws against drunk driving.

"The consequences for offenders still seem far too slight in contrast to the pain of the families who lose loved ones, or who must deal with those whose lives are forever changed and limited by the kind of serious injuries that have been sustained," Smucker said.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 1, 2014

How the Rate of Return Affects State Public Pension Debt

The state owes about $50 billion to its two public pension funds, which pay out retirement benefits to state and public school employees.
               
But the debt would be larger if one little figure were adjusted: the rate of return.

It’s what the pension funds assume they’ll make on investments. The higher it is, the less the commonwealth must pay up front for retirement benefits.

The current rate is seven-and-a-half percent, and some economists say it would be more realistic if it were lowered.

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Government & Politics
6:37 pm
Sat August 30, 2014

Wolf to Lead Pittsburgh Labor Day Parade, Dems Call for Minimum Wage Increase

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf's jeep will be included in this year's Pittsburgh Labor Day parade. The car has been featured in campaign ads from both Wolf and his opponent Gov. Tom Corbett.
Credit Screenshot from Tom Wolf for Governor video

Little more than a week after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was uninvited from this year’s Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County Labor Council has announced that his opponent Tom Wolf will lead the parade.

The council said Saturday that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf’s Jeep, which has been featured in TV ads from both Wolf and Corbett, will also be included in the event.

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Election 2014
3:53 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Wolf Talks Taxes, Job Training and Medicaid Expansion in Pittsburgh Stop

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf made a campaign trip to Pittsburgh Friday, and the topics of discussion were as diverse as the site of his stop.

Wolf toured the Bidwell Training Center in Manchester which offers students career-learning opportunities in fields ranging from chemical laboratory technician to the culinary arts, from horticultural to jazz.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:37 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Reading Between the Lines of Political Messaging

As campaign season shifts into high gear, Pennsylvania voters are being inundated with political messaging. From television commercials to social media to live debates... it can be hard to find the truth behind messages so carefully crafted to win hearts and minds... and ultimately votes. 

Jerry Shuster teaches Political Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. He talks about the strategy and the psychology behind political messaging.

Watch some of the positive and negative campaign ads from this year's Gubernatorial candidates

Governor Tom Corbett's ad against Tom Wolf

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Government & Politics
7:29 am
Fri August 29, 2014

Foreign Students Contribute Knowledge And Billions To Local Economies, Report Says

Foreign-born students studying in the U.S. spend billions in local economies and their talents should be more deliberately harnessed, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution.

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