Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Republican leaders in the state House have pledged to try again to privatize liquor stores in the fall, but that's not stopping one GOP lawmaker from trying to squeeze a little wine license reform out of the state.

Fitzgerald Expounds on PAT Cuts, Budget, Shale

Jul 11, 2012

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald gave his quarterly budget address to County Council Tuesday evening, touching on subjects from transit cuts to Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

Fitzgerald said the county had just $6 million in its fund balance when he took office, but he pledged not to raise taxes. Instead, Fitzgerald said he instituted a hiring freeze. County Council raised the county's property tax millage by 21% in December, just before Fitzgerald took office.

No Special Election For Pippy's Old Seat

Jul 10, 2012

The seat in the Pennsylvania's 37th Senate district will remain vacant for the next six months.

Turzai: Liquor Privatization Not Dead Yet

Jul 10, 2012

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania went home for the summer without voting on a plan pushed by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) to privatize liquor sales in the state, but he said the idea will be back under consideration in the fall.

Turzai's plan calls for the state to close its more than 600 Wine & Spirits Stores and then issue 1,600 licenses to sell wine and distilled spirits. Beer distributors will be given first crack at purchasing the licenses. The remainder would be sold to the highest bidders.

The One Young World Summit will be held in the United States for the first time this fall and right here in Pittsburgh. The conference provides an opportunity for aspiring leaders to represent their respective businesses and showcase their talent.

Katie McSorley, President of the Mid-Atlantic region for Euro RSCG, one of the largest marketing and public relations firms in the world, said the event is not only a meeting of the best and brightest youth, but a networking opportunity as well.

City Finances Could Be Headed for Trouble

Jul 9, 2012

The city of Pittsburgh ended 2011 with a surplus of $20 million. That's according to the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) released today by City Controller Michael Lamb. That may sound like good news, but Lamb said the surplus was due to one-time revenue sources.

In the face of what they call "unnecessary regulations" from the federal government, two large coal industry organizations have merged to form the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance (PCA).

Former state Senator John Pippy will lead the new lobbying group, which comprises the Pennsylvania Coal Association and Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy (FORCE).

"We're bigger, we're stronger, and we're going to be louder," said Pippy.

Obama Adds Energy for Pittsburgh Audience

Jul 6, 2012

Several hundred gathered on the Carnegie Mellon Campus Friday under the hot sun to see President Barack Obama wrap up a two-day tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania, but dozens of them swooned even before the president took to the stage. Medical teams were handing out water to the sun-baked crowd, but there was a steady stream of supporters who were hitting the grass and being taken away in ambulances.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty made a stop in Pittsburgh Friday, day two of their two-day bus tour of northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The pair was following the two-day campaign tour of President Barack Obama.

Jindal, Pawlenty and some area Republicans addressed a modest crowd gathered at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland. Chairman of the Republican Party in Allegheny County Jim Roddey said a Pennsylvania win is a must for Mitt Romney.

The number of voters in Pennsylvania without the IDs they need to cast votes this fall is about 9 times larger than the 1% originally estimated, according to a new report by state officials.

By comparing voter registration rolls with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation databases, the Department of State determined 91% of commonwealth voters have PennDOT identification numbers. The original estimate cited by the Corbett administration was 99%.

President Visits Pittsburgh Friday

Jul 3, 2012

President Barack Obama will conclude a two-day campaign bus tour in Pittsburgh Friday afternoon with a public event at Carnegie Mellon University.

Mr. Obama's "Betting on America" tour will make stops in Maumee, Parma and Sandusky, Ohio before coming to Pennsylvania. Ben LaBolt, the national press secretary for the Obama campaign, said the president will speak to the need to continued investment in America.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are able to call upon expert witnesses in sexual assault trials, under a new state law.

Kristen Houser of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape said Pennsylvania is the last state to allow expert testimony in sexual assault cases.

She said social workers, psychologists, counselors, and other experts can now tell jurors about "the range of normal behaviors that a victim may exhibit" following sexual assault.

Senator Jay Costa: Don't Hold Speical Election

Jul 3, 2012

In a letter to Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, State Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) requested there not be a special election held in Pennsylvania's 37th District to replace Senator John Pippy (R-Allegheny). Pippy resigned this past weekend after the 2012-2013 budget was signed.

The Allegheny County Council this evening will consider an ordinance that would ask voters to decide if its members can stay in office while seeking another elected position. Currently the home rule charter stipulates that if any of the part-time councilmembers want to run for higher office, they must resign.

Last week, as the U.S. House was preparing to take a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal and civil contempt for refusing to turn over documents related to the bungled gun-trafficking investigation known as Fast and Furious, more than 100 congressional members walked off the floor in protest. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) was among them.

Pippy Resigns From Senate

Jul 2, 2012

John Pippy is ready for a new career. Pippy, a Republican from Moon Township, resigned his state Senate seat over the weekend after seven years in the House and nine in the Senate. Pippy announced in January that he would not run for reelection in the 37th district and leaves with five months remaining in his term.

"I felt like now was the time," said Pippy. "[When] you're realizing how much you're missing in the family life, I think that's probably a good indicator that it's time to try something different."

Corbett Signs $27.7 Billion PA Budget

Jul 1, 2012

After days of long meetings and last-minute bills flying, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a $27.7 billion no-new-taxes budget just before midnight Saturday that was the centerpiece of several long-term victories for his legislative agenda.

There were defeats for the governor too, though his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature tried to squeeze out as many victories for Corbett as they could in the waning moments of the fiscal year. Minority Democrats staunchly opposed elements of the budget as well.

Governor Corbett Signs $27.7 Billion 2012-13 Pennsylvania Budget

Jul 1, 2012

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed a state budget plan into law at the eleventh hour last night.

The $27.7 billion dollar spending plan was approved with minutes to spare as budget negotiations continued very close to the cusp of the new fiscal year that began at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Democratic Greg Parks has withdrawn from his Pennsylvania State Senate race. Parks earned a write-in nomination in April but has decided to step down due to "personal reasons."

Parks, the now former candidate from District 37, said despite removing himself from the campaign, he will continue to stay active in public service. "I will closely follow the nomination process to fill the Democratic slot in this race, and will offer my full support as Chair of the Pleasant Hills Democratic Committee to whoever is nominated," Parks said.

Lawmaker Wants Better Oversight of Provider's Budgets

Jun 28, 2012

Language to shine a light on executive pay at nonprofits that contract with the state is now in the mix of budget-related legislation. State Representative Scott Petri (R-Bucks County) said after past state budget cuts to the Department of Public Welfare, and with more cuts looming, lawmakers were getting an earful from groups that contract with the DPW.

The Pittsburgh City Council is on path to reach another multi-year agreement with the city's largest non-profits to provide payments in lieu of taxes. Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a measure that would authorize the city to enter into an agreement with the Pittsburgh Foundation, which will collect and manage the payments.

Rare Voices: Pittsburgh Women in Politics

Jun 27, 2012

Women's voices are uncommon on the Pennsylvania political scene.

In fact, the state ranks 47th in the nation in terms of female representation and participation in politics.

That's one reason photographer Martha Rial took a closer look at the political lives of three women of different generations in the region.

From them, she found that the issue of gender in politics hasn't changed much in 50 years.

Details of State Budget Still Murky

Jun 27, 2012

Senate and House Republicans released spreadsheets Tuesday afternoon detailing their negotiated $27.7 billion spending plan, and said the House Appropriations Committee would vote on the amended plan Wednesday morning, but some budget matters are still fuzzy.

Turzai’s Voter ID Comment Draws Democratic Fire

Jun 26, 2012

Democrats are pouncing on Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai's (R-Allegheny County) statement that Pennsylvania's new voter identification law will allow Mitt Romney to win the state in November's presidential election. Turzai made the statement over the weekend while he was listing legislative accomplishments to the crowd at a state Republican Party gathering in Hershey.

Democratic state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny County) countered by saying the statement finally makes it clear why the voter ID law was passed.

Human Service Block Grant Fight Grows in Pennsylvania

Jun 26, 2012

A budget tussle in Harrisburg is heating up over the fate of seven county-run human services programs that serve people with intellectual disabilities and substance abuse problems. Both the funding method and the amount of state assistance are at issue.

An original 20% cut for the human services programs became a 10% cut after budget negotiators used improving revenue reports to persuade Governor Tom Corbett to soften his earlier proposal.

Democrats Continue Fight for Education Funding

Jun 25, 2012

In the final days of state budget negotiations, state House Democrats aren't letting up on their push for an increase in public schools funding.

Democratic Representatives Eddie Day Pashinski of Luzerne County and James Roebuck of Philadelphia headed to the governor's office today to lobby the Corbett administration to earmark more money for public education. They had petitions containing some 15,000 signatures, but they were met at the door by Education Secretary Ron Tomalis and that was as far as they were able to get.

Senate Set To Vote On Corrections Reform

Jun 25, 2012

The state Senate is expected to give its approval today to prison reform legislation, which is receiving bipartisan support.

Senate minority leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said SB100 is a "solid step" toward improving the corrections system in Pennsylvania and includes ideas proposed by his caucus, "including increased programming for short term nonviolent offenders to help effectuate their timely release back into the community, aggressively utilizing alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders and increasing the use of treatment programs," Costa said.

State Budget Likely To Be Approved This Week

Jun 25, 2012

State lawmakers this week are expected to approve a $27.7 billion budget for the new fiscal year that begins Sunday, July 1.

In his February budget address, Governor Tom Corbett outlined a $27.14 billion spending plan, but after closed-door discussions with Republican legislative leaders, he agreed to come up to the $27.66 billion level proposed by the Senate. Some of the addition $500 million would go to reducing the governor's proposed cuts to education.

Proposed Legislation Blocks Employers Asking For Passwords

Jun 25, 2012

Companies in Pennsylvania could be barred from digging into their workers' social media profiles. A state House proposal sponsored by Representative Jesse White (D-Washington) would ban employers from requesting passwords to sites like Facebook and Twitter as a condition of employment.

"They can't ask you in a job interview about your religious orientation, about your sexual orientation, those sorts of things, because they're not allowed to use them as a basis for employment," White said.

City Council President Darlene Harris said she is investigating whether the city could legally challenge the tax-exempt status of large nonprofits in Pittsburgh.

If organizations like Highmark, UPMC and city universities don't measure up to state nonprofit criteria, Pittsburgh could stand to gain tens of millions of dollars more in revenue from real estate and payroll taxes that are currently waived.