Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Push to End Pennsylvania Property Taxes Gets New Life

Apr 9, 2012

State lawmakers will make another attempt to get rid of property taxes statewide.

A Republican-proposed bill would do away with the real estate taxes by funding school districts through sales and income taxes. The income and sales tax rates would be increased by about one percent each, an arrangement that Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks County.) said is a more fair way to fund schools.

Romney Calls Obama An “Anti-Energy President"

Apr 6, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney blasted President Obama's energy policies during a campaign appearance in Marcellus Shale country.

Speaking at a Wyoming County company that supplies water for natural gas drilling, Romney called Mr. Obama an "anti-energy president." Romney pointed out states have typically taken the lead on regulating hydraulic fracturing.

Presidential Campaigns Pick Up Steam In Pennsylvania

Apr 6, 2012

The presidential candidates are staking their claims on campaign headquarters in Pennsylvania, with the primary less than 20 days away.

Republican front-runner Mitt Romney breezed through Harrisburg to christen his capital city campaign headquarters and visited with a rope line of supporters.

"I understand there's not enough room for everybody to come inside. The roof is going to crush if you come down. So thanks for coming down, so thanks for coming down. Wish you could come inside. You could hear me speak for an hour or two," Romney said.

The Pennsylvania State Senate unanimously approved a bill to help reform the Commonwealth's juvenile justice system. The legislation requires children to have a lawyer present at their hearings. If they do not have one, counsel will be provided for them.

First Step Toward Trimming Pennsylvania Legislature

Apr 5, 2012

State House members have approved a bill that could eventually eliminate 50 seats in their own chamber and 12 seats in the state Senate.

Both Democrats and Republicans voiced opposition to the proposal in a floor debate that stretched on for three days. They say cutting the number of House lawmakers from 203 to 153 will mean constituents have a harder time getting a hold of their representatives.

House Republicans Sue Over Education Funding Law

Apr 4, 2012

Two state House lawmakers are preparing to file a lawsuit against the commonwealth to force a change in education funding. They say the rules behind which districts get a bigger piece of the pie are unfair to areas that have experienced huge population growth.

The lawsuit is centered on a state law that in 1991 made it illegal for any school district to get less state money than it got the year before.

Many of the people eating at Bob's Diner in Carnegie weren't expecting to see a presidential candidate on Wednesday, but several said they were pleasantly surprised to see Rick Santorum there, eating breakfast and chatting with customers.

The state House Finance Committee has passed a corporate tax reform package that will attempt to close a loophole, but opponents warn the method will hurt the state if it becomes law.

"Multi-state companies can send money to other states with lower tax rates, or no taxes, and in that way avoid paying taxes in Pennsylvania," said Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

State Lawmakers Seek Justice for Trayvon Martin

Apr 4, 2012

More than a month after the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Pennsylvania lawmakers are joining in the nationwide wave of demonstrations calling for an investigation into the shooter.

House and Senate lawmakers have donned hoodies on the state Capitol steps to show their outrage. Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) says Martin's death is symptomatic of systemic discrimination.

Santorum to Stay in Race – Vows to Win Pennsylvania

Apr 4, 2012

Despite a three-way loss in primary races on Tuesday, Rick Santorum told a crowd gathered in Marshall Township that he's not backing down. The former Pennsylvania Senator appealed to supporters in his home state, and said he's confident he can catch up in the delegate count.

"We have now reached a point where it's half time," said Santorum. "Half the delegates in the process have been selected, and who's ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for strong second half?"

Senate Democrats Introduce Budget Proposal

Apr 3, 2012

When Pennsylvania lawmakers return from their Easter and primary election recess, the emphasis will be on the state budget.

Governor Tom Corbett has proposed a $27.1 billion spending plan for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. It holds the line on taxes and closes a projected deficit of $700 million, in part by trimming appropriations to the 14 state-owned universities by 20%, and cutting funding to the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State and Temple by 30%.

DeWeese Says Goodbye

Apr 3, 2012

Former Pennsylvania House leader Bill DeWeese (D-Greene County) had his last hurrah on the chamber floor Tuesday after being found guilty on corruption charges for requiring staff members to work on election campaigns as part of their state paid jobs.

DeWeese took the podium, outlining the three parts of his farewell address to the House: gratitude, humility, and friendship.

During his speech, DeWeese said the House should be more about partnership than partisanship in the future. He acknowledged he has played the partisan role.

New Poll Shows Santorum's Lead Slipping

Apr 3, 2012

The latest poll in the run-up to Pennsylvania's April 24 primary shows Rick Santorum with a smaller lead over Mitt Romney among Republicans in the state compared to two weeks ago.

The Quinnipiac University survey shows the former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator has a 41% to 35% edge over Romney, down from a nearly 14-point lead in that university's March 20 poll. This survey focuses only on Republicans who are likely to vote in the primary.

Santorum Begins Push for Pennsylvania Primary Win

Apr 3, 2012

The Pennsylvania Republican Presidential Primary is still three weeks away but Rick Santorum is starting what's expected to be a concentrated campaign effort in his native state.

The court-ordered reassessment process for Allegheny County has been fraught with confusion and anger, with vocal opponents saying their property values jumped up to 300% in some cases, while comparable neighboring properties increased modestly or not at all. Some elderly residents worry that drastically increased property values will, in essence, tax them out of their homes.

To address that, Pennsylvania Senator Wayne Fontana has introduced a bill that would enable the county council or citizens to eliminate property taxes altogether.

Rookie Lawmaker Wants to End Legislative Road-Naming

Apr 2, 2012

A freshman state House lawmaker is calling on his colleagues to spend less time naming roads and bridges.

Representative Warren Kampf (R-Chester) said when he first arrived in the General Assembly he was amazed by the number of bills House and Senate members pass to put plaques on structures and roadways throughout the commonwealth.

"It didn't strike me as a core function for the General Assembly," he said.

He said that shouldn't fall under the legislature's duties, although he said he's not dismissing the naming process.

The U.S. is ranked 71st in the world for the number of women in elected office. A Thursday afternoon panel at Duquesne University examined the role of women in politics and activism.

The vote on whether the city of Pittsburgh should require institutions with whom they invest to reinvest into the community will wait another week.

City Council discussed the legislation Wednesday but Councilman Bruce Kraus, in addition to others, motioned to hold the vote for an opportunity to discuss the policy with members of the city's law department, the city controller, and representatives from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Romney and Santorum Neck and Neck Heading into Primary

Mar 28, 2012

Pennsylvania Primary “Counts” in 2012

Mar 26, 2012

The April 24th Pennsylvania primary is less than one month away and, unlike most years, it could actually play an important role in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Front-runner Mitt Romney is still far from gathering the number of delegates needed to avoid a brokered convention, and both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are hoping to make sure he never gets to the magic number of 1,144 delegates. Despite the high interest in the race in Pennsylvania, it is still unclear if it will be much of a contest.

Gingrich, Santorum Make Campaign Stop in Pennsylvania

Mar 25, 2012

Nationally, Republicans may be turning up the heat on the party to unite around Mitt Romney as the GOP's presidential nominee.

But not at this year's Pennsylvania Leadership Conference of staunch conservatives in Cumberland County, where candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich touted their Republican values.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania US Senator, took a moment to dismiss criticism that losing his reelection in 2006 makes his electability doubtful.

Pennsylvania Readies for Primary

Mar 23, 2012

Monday is the final day for Pennsylvanians to register to vote for the primary election. On April 24th voters can cast ballots for president, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representatives, state attorney general, auditor general, treasurer, state legislators, and delegates to Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Voters in the primary will be asked to show a photo ID, but it will only be required of first time voters. A voter ID will be required when voting in this November's general election.

Perzel Sentenced in BonusGate Scandal

Mar 21, 2012

John Perzel, the self-professed architect of a state House Republican scheme to pay for political campaign computer software with taxpayer dollars was sentenced today to up to five years in prison. The former state House Speaker was also ordered to pay $1 million in restitution, as well as thousands in fines.

Perzel, from Philadelphia, pleaded guilty last fall to charges of theft, conspiracy, and conflict of interest.

Chief Deputy state Attorney General Frank Fina said his decision to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors made his sentence lighter.

As state attorney general, Gov. Corbett's investigations into the state House netted dozens of prosecutions. Last week, the charges filed by federal prosecutors against former Democratic state Sen. Bob Mellow brought the total of state Senators prosecuted for public corruption to three. But those charges aren't coming from the state attorney general's office, raising questions about the fate of the sweeping investigation Corbett once headed up.

Pennsylvania's state government operations received a "C-" in integrity, but the state still ranked 19th in the nation.

The Center for Public Integrity sent a journalist to each state capitol to do the research, using 330 questions in 14 categories to determine how transparent a state is in its justice department, campaign finance disclosures, budgeting process and most importantly the condition of the organizations in the state which monitor ethics issues. Pennsylvania does have an Ethics Commission, however its funding has been cut in recent years.

Health Care Referendum Passes Committee

Mar 19, 2012

Pennsylvanians could see a referendum by next year's primary to opt out of the federal health care mandate.

The legislation, which passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee along party lines, would amend the state constitution to block any penalties to those who do not purchase health care insurance, as required by the federal Affordable Care Act.

The bill's sponsor Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson County) said he's not trying to debate "Obamacare."

Two Sides Battle Over Gun Control Bill

Mar 15, 2012

A coalition against gun violence is standing in opposition to state House bill 1523 which allows for the National Rifle Association to take to court any municipality that uses gun control law more strict than the state.

Max Nacheman, executive director for CeaseFirePA, said the rights of local municipalities to require reporting lost or stolen guns are in the language of the law. While they are prohibited from superseding state legislation when it comes to lawful gun use, ownership, transfer or transportation, but he said this is a different case.

New Poll Shows Obama Up, GOP Down in Pennsylvania

Mar 14, 2012

According to a new poll, President Obama leads Republican challengers in Pennsylvania, and his approval ratings are on the rise.

The Public Policy Polling survey has the president with a 47% approval rating in Pennsylvania, up from 42% in 2011.

PPP Director Tom Jensen said Obama leads Republican frontunner Mitt Romney by seven points in the Keystone State, 49-42. The president also leads home-state candidate Rick Santorum by two points in the poll, 48-46.

Voter ID Passes PA House

Mar 14, 2012

Pennsylvania's House of Representatives has approved a measure establishing one of the nation's toughest photo identification laws for voters. The vote comes less than eight months before the presidential election.

The 104-88 vote Wednesday in the Republican-controlled chamber came after three days of debate. The measure heads to Gov. Tom Corbett, also a Republican, who says he'll sign it into law immediately. The ACLU of Pennsylvania says it will mount a court challenge.

Corbett Mum on Presidential Pick

Mar 13, 2012

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's longtime political advisor has been named to lead the Pennsylvania ground game for Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

However, Corbett himself hasn't made any endorsements yet.

Brian Nutt ran Corbett's campaigns for Attorney General and governor. Rick Santorum's campaign has tapped Brian Nutt to be the Pennsylvania state campaign director, but Corbett says that doesn't affect his presidential pick in the slightest.