Politics & Government

We cover politics and government with an eye to providing to voters clear, in-depth, nonpartisan information. 

Office of the Governor

In contrast to last year to last year’s nine month impasse, Pennsylvania legislators and Governor Tom Wolf have reached an agreement on the state budget less than two weeks after the July 1st deadline.

Governor Wolf attributed this partly to the momentum built up by passing medical marijuana, liquor reform, and a new education funding formula.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The city is moving forward after the plan to turn the former Hunt Armory in Shadyside into an indoor ice rink was withdrawn this week.

The developer, Krasta Properties, said bank lenders declined to invest in the facility after it couldn’t secure leases with any health care companies for sports medicine ventures.  

City Councilman Dan Gilman said there are still plenty of development options for the building, which takes up an entire city block in Shadyside.

Megan Fair / 90.5 WESA

A large, three-story structure in Allegheny West where college students used to learn how to paint and sculpt would become the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police's temporary training facility under a bill given tentative approval by City Council this week.

If the bill becomes law after a final vote Tuesday, the city would pay the Community College of Allegheny County as much as $2.1 million to rent its former visual arts building for police training over the next three to six years.

PA Budget Becomes Law; Some Lawmakers Cry Foul

Jul 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state officially has a budget.

The $31.5 billion spending plan went into effect at midnight on Monday, without Governor Tom Wolf’s signature. But negotiations still aren’t finished on the revenue plan to back it up.

Deadline notwithstanding, lawmakers did seem to have a productive day of talks on the spending plan.

Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher called the progress “encouraging.” She said it seems likely a vote could come soon.

Margaret J. Krauss / Keystone Crossroads

 

"Are you registered to vote?" Dave Tessitor asked a man as he walked past the library in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

"Yes," the man said, not stopping.

Tessitor fell in step. "We're collecting signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot," he said, walking up the street with the man. He only turned back several blocks later, the cargo pocket of his shorts one pamphlet lighter. He shrugged and smiled. And then a young couple came out of the library. "Excuse me, are you registered to vote?"

Espen Sorvik / flickr

Pigovian taxes, such as Philadelphia's new soda tax, create very mixed reactions among consumers. University of Pittsburgh Katz Business School professor Cait Lamberton explained an individual's’ view of the issue depends on their perception of how certain personal behaviors impact the whole community.

Tobacco Opponents Tout Cigarette Tax Benefits

Jul 11, 2016
fried dough / flickr

Anti-tobacco advocates from the American Cancer Society are calling on state lawmakers to levy an increased cigarette tax as part of the 2017 budget.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says he'll let a roughly $31 billion spending bill become law without his signature, even though lawmakers are struggling to figure out how to pay for some of it.

dmva.pa.gov

An audit of the commonwealth’s veteran affairs program has turned up preventable admissions delays in state homes for elderly vets.

Over nearly two years, investigators found admission to the six veterans’ homes could range anywhere from one day, to 443 days, depending on location.

The homes are located in Chester, Lackawanna, Erie, Allegheny, Philadelphia and Blair counties.

Medill DC / Flickr

Pennsylvania's junior U.S. senator watched his anti-sanctuary city legislation come up short on Wednesday.

Republican Pat Toomey’s proposal is seen by some as largely a byproduct of running for office in an election year dominated by partisan issues. 

The measure would have cut off certain federal funding to cities, like Philadelphia, where jails and police don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

In the past, Toomey was best known for his fiscal conservatism.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

With little news of progress on the 2017 state budget coming out of Harrisburg, school advocates around the state are crossing their fingers a resolution comes soon.

If not, Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said state-funded institutions will be in bad shape come fall.

Robinson said schools used up a lot of resources during last year’s nine-month budget impasse.

Kelly DeLay / flickr

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland is still two weeks away, but local citizens are already preparing for it.

Peretz Partensky / flickr

Last month’s shootings at an Orlando nightclub reignited the debate over gun control. Here in the commonwealth, gun advocates feel money can be saved by doing away with the background check system. By leaving this up to the federal government, gun opponents feel public safety could be at risk if this is left up to the federal government. We’ll address the issue with Public Source reporter Jeffrey Benzing.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s Fourth of July celebrations were punctuated by gunfire on Monday, as four people were shot downtown following the fireworks. Mayor Bill Peduto attributed it in part to the ease with which young people are able to obtain guns.

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Residents of Allentown and the South Side Slopes are about one week away from seeing a former hillside dump site given special status as Pittsburgh’s newest greenway.

Matt Rourke / AP Images

Despite a Wednesday deadline, Pennsylvania is still without a budget. The State House and Senate have agreed to a $31.6 billion spending plan, but Gov.Tom Wolf has refused to sign it without an accompanying revenue plan.  

 

 

Plan To Pay For $31.6 Bil Budget Still Unclear

Jun 30, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

In this year’s budget negotiations, state legislators seem eager to show their constituents that last year’s nine-month deadlock is behind them.

After receiving the House’s nearly $31.6 billion spending plan Wednesday, the Senate quickly passed its general appropriations in a bipartisan vote, just a day before the Thursday deadline.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Republican Patrick Browne, said the Senate proposal contains only minor changes, notably adding money for higher education.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

On the heels of the sit-in staged by Democrats in the House of Representatives last week, one Pennsylvania Congressman took to the steps of Pittsburgh's City-County Building on Wednesday to renew calls for lawmakers to hold a vote on proposed gun reforms.

Julio Cortez / AP Images

The deadline for Pennsylvania's 2016-17 budget is Friday and a compromise is looking more likely this year than last. We'll ask Majority Leader Dave Reed what's included in this year's budget and how negotiations are different in this session.

President Obama says he agrees with Donald Trump on one thing: There are "parallels" between the U.S. election and the United Kingdom's dramatic vote to leave the European Union.

Trump Takes On Trade Deals In Pennsylvania Speech

Jun 28, 2016
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Republican Donald Trump took aim at U.S. free trade deals in a speech delivered in Western Pennsylvania Tuesday that painted his likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as a champion of the kind of globalization that has pushed manufacturing jobs overseas.

Alex Brandon / AP Images

Elements of a Texas abortion law were struck down Monday by the Supreme Court. Among the provisions in the case was a requirement that abortion clinics must meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers as well as a mandate that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges to a hospital no more than 30 miles away. Now that the Court has struck down the provisions, what could this mean for Pennsylvania, who is also debating parts of its abortion laws? We’ll ask Susan Frietsche, she’s a senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project here in Western Pennsylvania.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

  After a nine-month-long standoff over last year’s state budget, Pennsylvania lawmakers seem committed to getting a verdict out quickly this year. But there is still little information from the Capitol on what exactly the budget contains, and advocates from across the commonwealth are concerned the speed will come at the expense of quality.

Ralliers with the campaign Pennsylvania’s Choice congregated in the Capitol rotunda Monday to push for more spending in education, human services, and the environment.

Matt Rourke / AP Images

In contrast to last year’s lengthy impasse, Pennsylvania lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf appear to be close to an on-schedule budget deal. State Senator Jay Costa says neither party wants a repeat of 2015 and joins us to talk about what can be found in this recent budget, including pension reform, gambling tax changes and education funding formula changes.

CJ Dawson Photography

 

  Early-stage companies need cash. The state is helping them get it, by giving them tax credits they can sell.

On Thursday, the Department of Community and Economic Development spoke to about 35 people, many of them early stage tech company CEOs, about the Keystone Innovation Zone program. 

pahouse.gov

The mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. earlier this month spurred the national discussion on gun control yet again.

U.S. Senate Democrats led a successful filibuster and in Allegheny County, two of the nine state representatives are pushing legislation on the issue, Democrats Jake Wheatly and Ed Gainey.

Rebellious Democrats Stage Sit-In Protest In The U.S. House

Jun 22, 2016
C-SPAN / house of representatives, U.S. House, house, john lewis, congress, sit in, protest, gun control

Rebellious Democrats shut down the House's legislative work on Wednesday, staging a sit-in on the House floor and refusing to leave until they secured a vote on gun control measures. Exasperated Republicans were forced to recess while cutting off cameras that showed the protest.

Judge Strikes Down Ban On Renting To Felons

Jun 21, 2016
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

A Cambria County judge has overturned a borough's prohibition against renting to drug felons.

Judge Tamara Bernstein issued the ruling Thursday, more than four months after Darcy Smith sued the borough of Gallitzin.

Smith, 38, filed her lawsuit after getting an eviction notice upon moving into a new home with her three children. She'd been living elsewhere in the Gallitzin since her release from prison over a year prior.

Michael Lopreste imagines it would be easier if he had the sort of job that allowed him to simply walk away from a co-worker's political diatribe. But as sales manager of a high-end furniture chain, he often can't afford to.

"Being in sales, we're kind of this captive audience," Lopreste says. "You know, you want to make the client feel at ease, you want to make them feel important, you want to be able to have a good rapport with them. And a lot of times that manifests itself by being able to mirror back what they're saying, or perfecting the nod and smile."

whatleydude / flickr

Recycling electronic devices remains unpopular despite the passage of legislation meant to streamline the process, according to new research.

Pennsylvania’s Covered Device Recycling Act was passed in 2010 and prevented residents from discarding certain electronics, such as televisions, with normal garbage.

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