Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

David Amsler / Flickr


Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf isn't saying whether he'll sign a budget bill sent to him by the Senate in a last-ditch bid to break a six-month stalemate before Christmas and get money flowing to schools and social service agencies.

Matt Rourke / AP

As House and Senate leaders move toward a state budget agreement in fits and starts, one piece of the compromise appears to have fallen by the wayside: changes to the state’s wine and spirits stores.

It happened gradually.

For the past year, House Republicans insisted that revamping the system should be part of a budget compromise. But earlier this month, the lawmaker trying to draft the proposal said he didn’t see a “path forward right now.” 

Paul Chamberlain / Flickr

Pittsburgh's Department of City Planning has proposed the use of a zoning tool called an Interim Planning Overlay District, or IPOD, to harness greater public participation in determining the future use of its riverfronts.

Shores wrapping from Hazelwood to the Strip District, across the North Shore and along the South Side have transformed in recent years from industrial hubs to places to live, work, shop and play.

Jennifer England / Pink Coat Communications

An Allegheny County judge has struck down Pittsburgh’s mandate that employers provide paid sick days to employees. 

Matt Rourke / AP


There are signs of a potential breakthrough in Pennsylvania's budget stalemate just three days before Christmas.

House GOP, On An Island, Readies Stopgap Budget

Dec 21, 2015
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr


Governor Tom Wolf warned House Republicans on Monday not to bother with a short-term budget, saying such a measure would receive his veto.  

The House GOP is charging ahead anyway, positioning an 11-month interim budget for a final vote this week before the Christmas holiday.  

The Senate is signaling it won’t approve the plan, and Governor Wolf removed any shadow of a doubt about his intentions when he wrote to House members and told them a partial budget plan would be swiftly rejected if it landed on his desk.  

Robert Nelson / Flickr

Pennsylvania Sen. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia) called on fellow legislators last week to harness the heartbreak and outrage that followed the recent San Bernardino attack and Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting anniversary to support his handgun licensing legislation.

Nothing has been done to address the underlying access to guns, he said.

“Nothing," he said. "Nothing to respond to the killing of innocent children and adults: be it in schools, offices, movies, neighborhoods, walking up and down the street.”

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The governor’s office says it has the votes in the state House to pass a tax package that could be the key to ending the state’s five-and-a-half-month budget impasse.

“We are confident that we have the votes to pass a final budget,” said spokesman Jeff Sheridan, “and we are hopeful that this is over soon.”

The announcement signals a major development for budget talks in the Republican-controlled House, where anti-tax sentiment threatened to take negotiations back to square one earlier this month.

Jonathan / Flickr

Following the Thursday arrest of a 19-year-old Harrisburg man accused of aiding the terrorist group ISIS, U.S. Senator Bob Casey said Congress has a lot of work to do in combating what is referred to as homegrown extremism.

Casey was briefed Thursday on the months of work that went into the arrest of Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz. Casey said knowing the methods terrorists or potential terrorists use is imperative in preventing future violence.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a measure that would establish the Office of Early Childhood within the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and Equal Opportunity, and hire an early childhood manager.

The ultimate goal is to ensure every child in the City of Pittsburgh has access to quality pre-K programs. During about an hour of public testimony, speakers voiced overwhelming support for an office dedicated to the education of some of the city’s youngest residents.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Long-time Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. announced his official bid for state attorney general at a luncheon for the Pittsburgh Building Trades Council on Wednesday. 

The event was held at the Sheraton at Station Square.

With his wife, Mary, and one of four sons, Steve, by his side, Zappala vowed to stand up to injustice and emphasized his desire to be a voice for Pennsylvania families.

Prosecutor To Kane: What About Your Emails?

Dec 16, 2015
Matt Rourke / flickr

The Philadelphia district attorney’s office is accusing state Attorney General Kathleen Kane of being part of the same inappropriate email chain her office uncovered.  

The statement came as a bombshell in an ongoing vendetta between the state’s top law enforcement official and her critics in the office of Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams.  

Kane is facing criminal charges she says have been trumped up to stop her from releasing pornographic and offensive emails exchanged by judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and others.

Matt Rourke / AP

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane is expected to appear in a Dauphin County court Wednesday, but not for the criminal case against her. 

She’s being called to testify at the pre-trial hearing in the corruption case against state Rep. Louise Bishop (D-Philadelphia). The Office of Attorney General filed a motion to quash the subpoena issued to Kane, requesting that she not be asked about “confidential deliberations of law or policymaking.” 

House & Senate Tussle Over Pension Payments

Dec 16, 2015
Jim Bowen / Flickr

State House and Senate Republicans are at odds over what the commonwealth should pay into its retirement systems.

Tight finances compelled the Senate to approve a plan last week that would cut roughly $170 million from scheduled state payments to its pension funds.

House Republicans have always said they would fight such a move, since the commonwealth’s pension systems are already so underfunded. On Tuesday morning, a House committee reversed the Senate’s proposed payment reductions (or “collars,” in pension-speak).

Senate Republicans were irked by the change.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Every seat in the gallery of City Council chambers was filled during Tuesday’s public hearing on a proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Students, grandparents, veterans, cancer patients, activists and young professionals were among those who spoke in favor of the bill. 

PA Governor Says 'It’s Time To Stop Negotiating'

Dec 15, 2015
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf and conservative House Republicans are clashing over a state budget now five and a half months late.

The House’s speaker, Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) is demanding changes to a budget proposal passed by the Senate a week ago. His caucus says the $30.8 billion plan spends far too much money.

But Wolf said he won’t stray from the Senate’s proposal, the result of a tentative deal reached before Thanksgiving.

“It’s time to stop negotiating,” Wolf said. “Let’s get a budget. I want a budget.”

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Enough is enough. That was the message from Pittsburgh leaders gathered Friday in the Strip District rallying against the state budget stalemate.

Organizations that rely on state funding have spoken out during the five-month budget delay, bringing in citizens and experts alike to describe the damaging effects they've endured, from minimizing services and prompting layoffs to temporarily shutting down.

Democrats Turn Their Fire On Turzai

Dec 11, 2015
Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Something changed in the past week for Democrats watching the state’s budget impasse drag on.

They found a villain in House Speaker Mike Turzai.

It began last Saturday, when House Republicans said they would withdraw their support for the tentative budget agreement reached with Governor Tom Wolf and the Senate. And it intensified in the days that followed, as Turzai repeated his concerns about the 6 percent spending increase included in the spending plan approved by the Senate with the governor’s blessing on Monday.

Budget Stalemate Thins The Guest List At PA Society

Dec 11, 2015

The state budget impasse is giving lawmakers a reason to rescind their RSVPs to the annual out-of-state political bash this weekend known as PA Society.

The days-long string of parties and receptions held every December at Waldorf Astoria, a luxury hotel in Manhattan, takes its name from the Pennsylvania Society dinner held in New York every year since 1899. The constellation of events around the Saturday banquet gives political heavies time to mix and mingle with business executives, lobbyists, campaign masterminds and potential donors.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA News

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh voted Thursday to take the next step in converting the Hunt Armory in Shadyside into an indoor ice rink.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo


Gov. Tom Wolf says the 500,000 Pennsylvanians who have signed up for health care under the Medicaid expansion are part of keeping a campaign promise he made in last year's election campaign.

Wolf joined state Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas and health care advocates to mark the milestone Thursday at a news conference at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Wolf, a Democrat who expanded Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Health Care Act soon after he took office in January, says he hopes the number of enrollments will continue to grow.

Matt Rourke / AP


Environmentalist groups are protesting provisions advancing through the Pennsylvania Legislature as part of budget-related bill.

More than a half-dozen organizations signed a  statement on Thursday as senators overwhelmingly approved the 76-page bill Thursday, barely 24 hours after it became public.

Ken Marshall / Flickr


The Pennsylvania Senate's Republican leaders say they're going to send more budget-related bills to the House and then leave Harrisburg, with plans to return within six hours if needed.

President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Majority Leader Jake Corman didn't report any concrete progress during a Thursday morning meeting with House Republican majority leaders over how to end a 5-month-old budget stalemate.

But Scarnati says the tenor of their discussions is good as they try to resolve their differences.

Mark Moz / Flickr

Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to the rental property registration program, which was first introduced more than a year ago.

Garry Knight / Flickr

The state auditor general said Wednesday that the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) delayed the distribution of funding for two federal programs that would have helped homeless individuals and families.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said that a performance audit of the DCED found that it did not distribute funds in a “timely manner” from $5 million in Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and $15 million from the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which both offer financial assistance for housing homeless and displaced individuals.

Rift Deepens Between House And Senate

Dec 9, 2015
Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Republicans in the state House and Senate remain at odds over how to resolve the state’s five-month-long budget impasse. 

Mic Smith / AP

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter wants to ban Donald Trump from the city after the Republican presidential candidate called for a national ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Nutter calls Trump's proposal "ignorant" and says if he had the power, he'd ban Trump from the city. He saysPhiladelphia doesn't have "any room for that kind of stupidity."

House GOP Tries Again To Resolve Standoff With Own Budget

Dec 8, 2015
David Amsler / Flickr


Pennsylvania House Republicans tried again to solve the state's 5-month-old budget stalemate with a spending plan of their own on Tuesday, a day after a bipartisan Senate vote that approved a rival approach supported by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Wikimedia Commons

A new report shows that heroin abuse in Pennsylvania continues to grow and recommends that treatment be a priority.   

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania just released its second report titled, “Heroin: Combating this Growing Epidemic in PA.” It includes testimony from public hearings held over the summer and focuses on the growing problem of heroin abuse, pointing out that the drug affects a diverse demographic.

David Flores / Flickr


Pennsylvania’s House and Senate Republican majorities are rowing in different directions toward a spending plan, fueling fears the state budget won’t be safely docked anytime soon.