Government & Politics http://wesa.fm en A Pitt Professor’s Inside Look into Ukraine http://wesa.fm/post/pitt-professor-s-inside-look-ukraine <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">University of Pittsburgh assistant professor of economics </span><a href="https://sites.google.com/site/tmylovanov/" style="line-height: 1.5;">Tymofiy<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> </span>Mylovanov</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> is in Kiev participating in talks with the Prime Minister of Ukraine to try and help stabilize the country after this <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2013/03/25/russia-ukraine-s-neverending-winter-continues/">past winter's events</a>.</span></p><p>Mylovanov’s<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> visit is at a time of extreme tension after a<a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-23/mh17-likely-shot-down-by-accident-by-russian-separatists/5616748"> civilian plane was shot down</a> as it was flying over Ukraine.</span></p><p>Mylovanov said Kiev was&nbsp;surprisingly quiet when he arrived.</p><p>"It's a little bit of a surreal feeling. It is as if there was no war. There are no military or uniformed police on the streets and everything was very, very quiet."</p><p>To add to this surreal feeling,&nbsp;Ukrainian government officials&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">still can't view the crash site because separatists&nbsp;have closed off access. It's believed that they may be clearing the site so there will be no evidence that they were responsible for shooting down the plane.</span></p><p>The officials&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">appear to have accepted that separatists are responsible for the&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">downed plane</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;and instead of&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">discussing the&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">plane,</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Mylovanov said officials are focusing on reform efforts.</span> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 23:43:04 +0000 Essential Pittsburgh 33085 at http://wesa.fm A Pitt Professor’s Inside Look into Ukraine City Council Preliminarily Approves Adding Gender Identity as a Protected Class http://wesa.fm/post/city-council-preliminarily-approves-adding-gender-identity-protected-class <p>Pittsburgh City Council took preliminary steps Wednesday to add gender identity and expression as an explicitly protected class with regard to housing, employment and public accommodation.</p><p>Council President Bruce Kraus sponsored the legislation and said the issue was brought to his attention by Jason Goodman, executive director of the <a href="http://pennsec.org/">Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition</a>, or PSEC.</p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:29:50 +0000 Liz Reid 33098 at http://wesa.fm City Council Preliminarily Approves Adding Gender Identity as a Protected Class Pittsburgh City Council Votes to Continue Funding for Crime Reduction Initiative http://wesa.fm/post/pittsburgh-city-council-votes-continue-funding-crime-reduction-initiative <p>Pittsburgh City Council has approved a measure for a professional service agreement between Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the city for the continuation of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime (PIRC).</p><p>This comes with a $150,000 price tag, which Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith questioned.</p><p>“I don’t mind funding anything if we see results, but I don’t want to fund something if we don’t see results, and I have not seen results from this program,” she said.</p> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:12:34 +0000 Deanna Garcia 33022 at http://wesa.fm U.S. Faces Backlog of Black Lung Benefits Claims http://wesa.fm/post/us-faces-backlog-black-lung-benefits-claims <p>Health professionals, lawyers and U.S. senators met in Washington Tuesday to explore the challenges faced by coal miners suffering from black lung disease.</p><p>The U.S. Department of Labor will look to hire two administrative law judges and bring back a retired judge in Pittsburgh in 2015 to handle growing black lung claims, according to Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu.</p> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:33:53 +0000 Michael Lynch 33019 at http://wesa.fm Corbett Shrugs Off Possibility Lawmakers Will Sue Over Blocked Earmarks http://wesa.fm/post/corbett-shrugs-possibility-lawmakers-will-sue-over-blocked-earmarks <p>Gov. Tom Corbett is shrugging off the possibility state lawmakers will sue him for blocking their earmarks earlier this month.<br /><br />Legislative leaders say the line-item veto of seven-point-two million dollars in projects was unconstitutional.<br /><br />They could try to override the veto with a two-thirds vote, or sue the administration.<br /><br />Corbett said he doesn’t think a court battle is likely, though he’s not troubled by the possibility.<br /><br />"Let them sue me," he said. "Last time I looked, that’s in the constitution, isn’t it?"<br /> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:02:49 +0000 Mary Wilson 33004 at http://wesa.fm Another Investigation Into Lawmakers Implicated In Corruption Sting http://wesa.fm/post/another-investigation-lawmakers-implicated-corruption-sting <p>Yet another governmental body appears to be investigating four Philadelphia Democrats for allegedly accepting cash or gifts from an undercover informant.<br /><br />A letter from the State Ethics Commission indicates an investigation into the four state lawmakers implicated in a corruption sting.<br /> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:55:26 +0000 Mary Wilson 33003 at http://wesa.fm Peace Corps to Revamp Application Process http://wesa.fm/post/peace-corps-revamp-application-process <p>Since its creation over 50 years ago, the <a href="http://www.peacecorps.gov/">Peace Corps</a> has been sending Americans overseas. Volunteers are sent to countries where their work can make a difference in the lives of others. However, applications for the Peace Corps are at an all time low.</p><p>Karen Corey, a recruiter for Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, talks about changes the Peace Corps is making to the application process, in order to attract more volunteers.<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Corey says there are three main changes to the application process to make it easier to enroll. The first step was making the <a href="http://files.peacecorps.gov/openings/PC_Process_infographic.pdf">initial online application</a> easier. </span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“The actual application used to take about eight hours to fill out. What we’ve done is we’ve looked at the application again, we’ve thought about ‘what do we really know from our applicants right up front?’ We’re only asking for that most essential information, so now the application really only takes about an hour. We’re trying to eliminate the application itself as a barrier to Peace Corps service.” Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:16:22 +0000 Essential Pittsburgh 32946 at http://wesa.fm Peace Corps to Revamp Application Process Corbett Not Letting Up On Public Pension Overhaul http://wesa.fm/post/corbett-not-letting-public-pension-overhaul <p>Gov. Tom Corbett is not giving up the ghost of a public pension overhaul proposal — saying he may still call a special session of the state Legislature to address the issue.<br /><br />The measure still does not have enough support in the House and Senate, Corbett said at a roundtable discussion in Hummelstown Friday.<br /><br />The governor has been making daily statements about the plan, which would reduce retirement benefits of future public workers.<br /><br />Supporters say the changes would reign in long-term costs of public pensions.<br /> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 32850 at http://wesa.fm Property Tax Reform Efforts Spring Eternal http://wesa.fm/post/property-tax-reform-efforts-spring-eternal <p></p><p>State lawmakers have snubbed two different efforts to reduce property taxes buoyed by recent activism on the issue. But for every season, turn, turn, turn.</p><p>Recently proposed tax shifts fit into one of two categories: statewide or local. But a nascent effort from Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) combines both approaches.</p><p>"With the increased discussion on property taxes, over the last year or so, I thought maybe it's the right time to try to put together another proposal that kind of meshes some of the different thoughts together," Reed said.</p> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 32848 at http://wesa.fm Partial Veto of Projects Could Prompt Lawsuit http://wesa.fm/post/partial-veto-projects-could-prompt-lawsuit <p>Lawmakers think the governor overreached when he vetoed not just parts of the state budget, but parts of another related piece of legislation, and House and Senate leaders are weighing their options to retaliate.<br /><br />The state constitution allows the governor to partially veto “appropriations.” Lawmakers have interpreted that to mean specific sections of a state budget can be struck down by the governor.<br /><br />Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett did that.<br /> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:11:23 +0000 Mary Wilson 32847 at http://wesa.fm Right-Sizing Supporters Eye House Reductions After Spring Fiasco http://wesa.fm/post/right-sizing-supporters-eye-house-reductions-after-spring-fiasco <p>The past several weeks saw much action, but little advancement, on proposals to reduce the number of seats in the state House and Senate.<br /><br />Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the country, with 253 state lawmakers. Efforts to thin the ranks ground to a halt over the past several weeks.<br /><br />Opponents argue that membership cuts will lump more constituents in each district, leaving them with representation of lesser quality. They say a big shrink would concentrate legislative representation in more populated urban areas.<br /> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:32:03 +0000 Mary Wilson 32757 at http://wesa.fm Peduto and Staff to Participate in Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' Forum Thursday http://wesa.fm/post/peduto-and-staff-participate-reddit-ask-me-anything-forum-thursday <p>From pension plans to Act 47 and dog parks to bike lanes – many Pittsburghers have questions about the future of the city and Mayor Bill Peduto and his staff hope to have the answers.</p><p>That’s why he is taking to popular social media forum Reddit Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for the city’s first “Mayor’s Night On(line).”</p><p>Peduto has used Reddit in the past to connect to the community – especially while campaigning – but this is the first time he’s done so as mayor, and this time he’s doing it differently.</p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:04:09 +0000 Jessica Nath 32714 at http://wesa.fm New Law Gives Legal Aid for the Poor a Boost http://wesa.fm/post/new-law-gives-legal-aid-poor-boost <p>Legal aid for the poor and disadvantaged is slated to get more funding under a measure approved by the legislature and signed by the governor this month.<br /><br />Court fees are slated to increase in order to set aside more money to help eligible Pennsylvanians pay their legal bills when settling basic needs regarding things like housing, health and safety. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tara Toohil (R-Luzerne), passed with nearly unanimous support in the House and Senate.<br /> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 02:14:12 +0000 Mary Wilson 32688 at http://wesa.fm Charters Dodge Special Education Funding Changes http://wesa.fm/post/charters-dodge-special-education-funding-changes <p>A recently approved tweak to special education funding won’t apply to charter schools, after all. State lawmakers shied away from the changes after charters argued it would have been unfair.<br /><br />There will be changes to the way traditional public schools receive any new funding for special education — it’ll be based on the needs of individual students and school districts, instead of being tied to an average special needs cost across the state.<br /> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:47:22 +0000 Mary Wilson 32634 at http://wesa.fm Corbett Touts Tobash's Pension Reform Plan in Shaler Township http://wesa.fm/post/corbett-touts-tobashs-pension-reform-plan-shaler-township <p>Less than a week after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett ended the <a href="http://wesa.fm/post/explaining-governor-corbetts-budget-battle">budget standoff</a> with the state Legislature, he’s setting a new deadline for <a href="http://wesa.fm/post/corbett-withholds-signature-budget-pension-overhaul">pension reform</a>: election season.</p><p>Corbett was in Shaler Township Monday afternoon pushing an overhaul of the public pension system, which he said is necessary to help struggling school districts and stem the wave of rising property taxes.</p> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 21:34:04 +0000 Liz Reid 32616 at http://wesa.fm Corbett Touts Tobash's Pension Reform Plan in Shaler Township Veterans to Receive Priority with Public Housing http://wesa.fm/post/veterans-receive-priority-public-housing <p>Homelessness among veterans has increased in Pennsylvania by 46.2 percent since 2009 according to the <a href="https://www.onecpd.info/resources/documents/ahar-2013-part1.pdf">National Coalition for the Homeless</a>.&nbsp;To combat this growing number, a bill was just passed unanimously by the state Senate which would give veterans preferential treatment for public housing.</p> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Jess Lasky 32191 at http://wesa.fm New Law Raises Minimum Sentences For Hit-And-Run Drivers http://wesa.fm/post/new-law-raises-minimum-sentences-hit-and-run-drivers <p>Drivers who flee the scene of a vehicular homicide now face a stiffer sentence after Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation last Monday that raised the sentence to a minimum of three years in jail.</p><p>“Kevin’s Law” is to honor a 5-year-old boy, from Wilkes-Barre, who was killed 18 months ago by a driver who drove away after the accident. Authorities finally caught the man who killed the boy, but he was sentenced to less than a year because of a loophole. Kevin Miller’s parents advocated for change.</p> Sun, 13 Jul 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Jess Lasky 31899 at http://wesa.fm Legislation Addresses Affordable Housing Needs http://wesa.fm/post/legislation-addresses-affordable-housing-needs <p>As the housing market continues to rebound after the 2008 recession, some Pennsylvanian residents are still in need of affordable housing.</p><p>Currently in Pennsylvania there is a shortage of about 268,000 affordable housing units, according to Liz Hersh, Executive Director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.</p> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:49:04 +0000 Jess Lasky 32267 at http://wesa.fm Bill Would Give Counties More Help With Blight http://wesa.fm/post/bill-would-give-counties-more-help-blight <p><em style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; border-top-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-bottom-width: 0px; border-left-width: 0px; border-style: initial; border-color: initial; font-size: 15px; vertical-align: baseline; font-style: italic; "><strong style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; border-top-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-bot Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:14:54 +0000 Jess Lasky 32177 at http://wesa.fm Heth's Run Valley Slated for Major Facelift http://wesa.fm/post/heths-run-valley-slated-major-facelift <p>Heth’s Run Valley hasn’t been much of a valley for a while. The area underneath Heth’s Run bridge—a portion of Butler Street between Morningside and Highland Park—had long been a dumping site for industrial waste. City Councilwoman Deb Gross, whose district includes the area, said many of her constituents didn’t even know a bridge was there.</p><p>But that area is slated to get a major facelift, which Gross said has been a long time coming.</p> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:10:16 +0000 Liz Reid 32333 at http://wesa.fm Heth's Run Valley Slated for Major Facelift Strong and Decisive, Corbett Takes A Stand Against the Legislature http://wesa.fm/post/strong-and-decisive-corbett-takes-stand-against-legislature <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">On the eve of the state budget deadline, Governor Tom Corbett announced Thursday that he had signed the $29 billion state spending plan, but </span><a href="http://wesa.fm/post/corbett-signs-budget-cuts-general-assembly-funds" style="line-height: 1.5;">line-item vetoed $65 million</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in legislative spending. </span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Governor is blaming budget problems on pension costs and called on the legislature to come back and enact <a href="http://wesa.fm/post/hybrid-approach-pennsylvania-pension-reform">pension reform</a>.</span></p><p><a href="http://www.pennlive.com">Penn Live</a>’s John Micek said he expected that Corbett’s announcement would include the line-item veto, so he was not surprised with the outcome.&nbsp;</p><p>Micek was instead surprised by Corbett's demeanor.</p><p>“I wondered where this Tom Corbett was four years ago. Very strong, very decisive. You know, not taking any guff, casting the legislature as the bad guy. His approval rating has been lousy, theirs’ is worse than his. So he loses nothing by running against them and making them the bogeyman here.” Thu, 10 Jul 2014 21:45:43 +0000 Essential Pittsburgh 32392 at http://wesa.fm Strong and Decisive, Corbett Takes A Stand Against the Legislature Corbett Signs Budget, But Cuts Off General Assembly Funds http://wesa.fm/post/corbett-signs-budget-cuts-general-assembly-funds <p>Though Gov. Tom Corbett signed the 2014-15 state budget, he line-item vetoed $65 million in General Assembly spending and an additional $7.2 million in legislative designated spending.<br /><br />He said he did this because the lawmakers sent him a budget that was filled with discretionary spending but refused to deal with the unsustainable public pension system.<br /><br />Instead, he said the Assembly increased its $320 million budget by two percent – which he said would cost taxpayers an additional $5 million.<br /> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:57:17 +0000 Jessica Nath 32379 at http://wesa.fm New Bill Allows Isolated Schools to Partner with Nearby Police In Cases of Emergency http://wesa.fm/post/new-bill-allows-isolated-schools-partner-nearby-police-cases-emergency <p><em style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; border-top-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-bottom-width: 0px; border-left-width: 0px; border-style: initial; border-color: initial; font-size: 15px; vertical-align: baseline; font-style: italic; "><strong style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; border-top-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-bot Thu, 10 Jul 2014 11:44:28 +0000 Kaye Burnet 32178 at http://wesa.fm City to Audit Tax Revenue from Pro Sports, Concerts, Conferences http://wesa.fm/post/city-audit-tax-revenue-pro-sports-concerts-conferences <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams are huge drivers of the local economy, but City Councilwoman Natalia </span>Rudiak<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> said in Wednesday’s committee meeting that she’s currently unable to quantify that contribution.</span></p><p>“As we were talking about Act 47, I was talking with constituents and they would constantly ask me ‘How much money do we get out of the stadiums?’” Rudiak said. “To be honest with you, I couldn’t answer that question.”</p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 20:07:22 +0000 Liz Reid 32332 at http://wesa.fm City to Audit Tax Revenue from Pro Sports, Concerts, Conferences New Legislation Redefines Human Trafficking http://wesa.fm/post/new-legislation-redefines-human-trafficking <p><em style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; border-top-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-bottom-width: 0px; border-left-width: 0px; border-style: initial; border-color: initial; font-size: 15px; vertical-align: baseline; font-style: italic; "><strong style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; border-top-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-bot Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:52:46 +0000 Kaye Burnet 32173 at http://wesa.fm