Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Matt Rourke / AP

A close confidant to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane remains on the job, despite having been criminally charged for allegedly accessing secret grand jury information on her behalf.

Patrick Reese, a special agent who is part of Kane’s protection detail, was charged by Montgomery County prosecutors over a week ago in connection to the criminal case against Kane.

State Sen. John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) is urging the Senate to take action before a program that provides a financial benefit to Gulf War veterans expires at the end of August.

State legislature isn’t scheduled to officially reconvene until Sept. 21. 

“[I’m] asking the Senate to come back prior to Aug. 31 and pass this no-brainer of a bill so that the veterans don’t have a lapse in benefits,” Sabatina said.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A grand jury judge says he won't take any legal action responding to Attorney General Kathleen Kane's public plea to release pornographic e-mails she says are being suppressed by people who want to force her from office.

"Kane has not filed with me any petition, pleading, motion or other request for Court action," said Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter in a written statement. "Accordingly, I will take no official action at this time."

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto issued an executive order Wednesday tightening up some of the rules on city spending and budgeting procedures.

“Kinds of things that affect our city department citywide: personnel, technology, hiring, that kind of stuff, and he’s kind of centrally locating the oversight of all of that into our budget office,” said Tim McNulty, Peduto's spokesman.

The order outlines nine provisions and covers a variety of topics.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane Says Charges Against Her Are Tied To Porn Emails

Aug 12, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania's attorney general said Wednesday that criminal charges threatening to end her career were filed as part of an effort by state prosecutors and judges to conceal pornographic and racially insensitive emails they circulated with one another.

"I am innocent of any wrongdoing," Kathleen Kane said in her first public comments on the case. "I neither conspired with anyone nor did I ask or direct anyone to do anything improper or unlawful."

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The engineers of the current state budget impasse are sitting down for another design meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The new fiscal year began July 1. Negotiations between the governor and top lawmakers have been held about once a week since then.

"We had productive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai after a budget confab last month. "We really rolled up our sleeves."

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

An activist is petitioning the state’s high court to suspend state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s law license.

Dauphin County resident Gene Stilp filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board in light of criminal charges filed against the attorney general last week.

Emma Gross / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Pittsburgh on Monday as part of the nationwide Community Policing Tour that highlights cities taking innovative and effective steps to build trust between the police force and the community.

AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane plans to take reporters’ questions Wednesday, days after she was arraigned on charges including perjury.

Kane has said she’s innocent and will not resign, but she did not address the media when she turned herself in on Saturday.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane Arraigned On Criminal Charges

Aug 8, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania's top prosecutor barely spoke at her arraignment Saturday on charges including a felony count of perjury, but her attorney stressed afterward that she has no plans to resign, despite growing pressure even among her fellow Democrats.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane did not enter a plea during the brief proceedings via closed-circuit television in suburban Philadelphia and only responded to the judge with yes or no.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane was charged Thursday for leaking secret grand jury information to seek revenge on her rivals and then lying about it to a separate investigating grand jury.

A list released recently names Tom Wolf as the most liberal governor in the country. He prefers the term “practical.”

The ranking came from InsideGov, a product of data visualization company FindtheBest. Governors were evaluated using their campaign platforms, public statements, and voting records.

Wolf demurred on his first-place finish, saying on WITF’s Smart Talk that people should judge him by what he’s done.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

Economists are questioning a top Senate Republican’s claims that a new tax proposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would devastate the natural gas drilling industry.

On WITF’s Smart Talk, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati responded to a comment about polls showing the majority of Pennsylvanians support a severance tax on natural gas drillers.

Katie McGinty / facebook

Katie McGinty confirmed Tuesday that she will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

McGinty's announcement was expected. She stepped down from her role as Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff last month after fellow Democrats lobbied her to run.

"As Governor Wolf's chief of staff, I've seen that as he is working hard for our families, we need partners in Washington to help solve problems, not make them worse," said McGinty in a web video released by her campaign.

The governor’s nominee to run the Pennsylvania State Police says one of his goals will be workforce diversity.  

Major Tyree Blocker said Tuesday that, in addition to community outreach and superb training, the state police needs “a long-term recruitment and retention program to attract qualified individuals.”

If confirmed by the state Senate, Blocker would be the second black commissioner of the state police. But he said his concerns about recruitment and retention extend beyond minority and female troopers.

Courtesy photo

Gov. Tom Wolf has picked retired Major Tyree C. Blocker to be the next commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, after the governor’s first nominee failed to win the state Senate’s confirmation in June.

The nomination represents a homecoming for Blocker, a Chester County resident, who spent 30 years with the State Police. Blocker was a trailblazer as an African-American commander and ran the Bureau of Drug Law Enforcement when cocaine was flooding into Pennsylvania.

Twenty-four years ago, in late July, Joyce David was running out of patience.

The commonwealth's budget was five weeks late, and David's husband, a state auditor, hadn't received a paycheck in a month.

"The paralysis stems from a potential tax increase," reported The Associated Press in 1991.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council on Monday received a standing ovation from activists and workers after it gave final approval to a bill that will require employers to provide paid sick days to workers.

State Sen. John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) believes the Americans with Disabilities Act has greatly improved access to the physical world and employment for those with special needs since its passage 25 years ago, but says it has fallen short when it comes to protecting life.

Individuals with mental or physical disabilities are often denied the opportunity to be listed on organ transplant lists because of their disability, he said. Sabatina introduced legislation to change that as a House member in February, and said he intends to file a similar measure as a freshman member of the Senate.

State Rep. Susan Helm (R-Dauphin) said she believes many students throughout Pennsylvania experience unfair treatment under municipal laws.

Helm’s House Bill 809 would strike down municipal laws in the state that prohibit people from living somewhere based on their current status as a student.

arnet4statesenate.com

Voters in Pennsylvania’s 37th senatorial district now have two candidates from which to choose as they begin to think about the November special election. 

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee chose Heather Arnet as its candidate on Saturday. Last month the Republicans chose Guy Reschenthaler as its candidate.

The seat was left vacant when Democrat Matt Smith resigned to run the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. 

In a bid to establish a safety net for part of the state’s social safety net, the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association is urging state lawmakers to offer some help as the budget impasse hits the one-month mark.

The trade group sent letters to lawmakers in mid-July asking them to consider a short-term funding measure and held a press conference in Pittsburgh last week to drum up support. The group has also suggested that the state provide interest-free loans to social service agencies and nonprofits, “similar to what was done for state employees the last time the budget was not passed on time.”

U.S. Senator Bob Casey said the nation must increase its commitment to inspecting the safety of train bridges to avoid disaster on Thursday.

Casey said he wants an additional $1 million added to the Federal Railroad Administration budget to increase the number of railroad inspectors from eight to 15.

He said the eight inspectors are currently responsible for inspecting more than 70,000 train bridges nationwide.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council got an earful at a public hearing Thursday on paid sick days legislation. The measure was put on hold by council last week to allow for amendments and a public hearing. 

The most visible attendees were pro-sick days legislation, though several came to represent the other side.

Homeowners forced to buy expensive flood insurance through the federal government could have more buying power if a pair of proposals make it through the U.S. House and Senate.

Ron Ruman, Pennsylvania Insurance Department spokesman, said his office would like to see private insurance on a level-playing field with the federal government’s flood insurance offerings.

In a state budget stalemate with few compromises, a left-leaning think tank says focusing on property tax relief could prompt some bipartisan agreement.

Gov. Tom Wolf made his pitch to offer property tax relief central to his proposed budget. In May, the state House passed a GOP-crafted proposal with bipartisan backing.

It included the kind of broad-based tax increases Republican leaders now say they can't support. 

Victims of sexual violence in Pennsylvania may receive more support as the state adopts a new approach to contact them.

The State Police and the Office of the Victim Advocate are now sharing data to identify victims of sexual violence and let them know them about changes in their offenders’ status.

The effort has more than doubled victim registrations in the past two months, according to state officials.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) re-introduced a House resolution to impeach PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane “due to the pattern of misbehavior that we have seen in office for the last two years,” he said.

Metcalfe first introduced the measure in 2013 after she chose not to defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s now-nullified Defense of Marriage Act. He withdrew it after not getting support from the House State Government Committee before the 2013-14 legislative session ended. So Metcalfe is trying again.

The top House Republican says he'll try to override the governor's budget veto if negotiations don't starting yielding consensus.

"We have to look at overriding if we're not going to have a substantive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai, during his appearance at the Harrisburg Press Club luncheon on Monday.

Turzai said an override should be the "goal" of the GOP-controlled Legislature, though he's not sure if such a move would have the votes to pass.

A forthcoming state Senate plan would curb the use of drones by state and local government.

Several other states have enacted laws limiting the use of drones for surveillance or hunting purposes, and federal rules for civil drones are still in the works. But Pennsylvania has no specific laws governing unmanned aircraft systems.

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County) said he wants to limit government agencies’ use of drones. He’s worried they could violate someone’s right to be protected from search and seizure.

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