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Government & Politics
6:07 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

PA Governor Tom Corbett Increases Spending by Three Percent

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett laid out a budget Tuesday that would boost core state government spending by nearly three percent.  It would most notably increase support for public schools, cut business taxes and call for long-term changes to public pensions. 

The full budget presentation as submitted can be read below.

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Government & Politics
12:52 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

PA Lawmakers Want Details From Gov. On Medicaid Expansion

Some state lawmakers are prodding the governor to announce a final decision on whether he’ll agree to expand Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program for the poor.

Gov. Corbett’s office wouldn’t comment on whether the budget address will include a final decision on whether to expand Medicaid, but Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said Monday he doesn’t think such an announcement is likely.

“We’re still trying to get more information from the federal government over the full costs and reimbursement and terms of expansion,” he said.

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Government & Politics
12:47 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Federal Prosecutor Picked to Lead Sandusky Probe

Former federal prosecutor Geoff Moulton has been tapped by Attorney General Kathleen Kane to lead an investigation into the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case. Moulton signed on with Kane’s office last week, said a spokeswoman, and his first day on the job was Monday.

In addition to Moulton’s 8 years’ cumulative experience in a U.S. attorney’s office, he prepared the U.S. Treasury report reviewing the failed government raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

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Government & Politics
8:33 am
Tue February 5, 2013

Family Relationships Deter Crime

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The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative has instituted programs and systems to reduce the number of former inmates who commit new crimes and return to jail.  Yesterday, we looked at how addiction and criminal thinking contribute to recidivism.  Today we look at the role the family can play in motivating an inmate to turn around his or her life.

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Economy & Business
10:14 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Pittsburgh Launches First Edible Gardens Program

Pittsburgh residents who live a significant distance from grocery stores or farmers' markets are being encouraged to apply to grow fruits and vegetables on a nearby city-owned lot in their neighborhood. Volunteers will work side-by-side with Pittsburgh’s Green Team on vacant properties to create, design and plant produce.

Community garden stewards will be responsible for maintenance, weeding, harvesting and distribution throughout the season.  

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Government & Politics
10:06 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Wheatley Draws Attention to Black AIDS

One in ten Pennsylvanians is African American, yet blacks account for about 50% of state residents afflicted with AIDS.

As part of an effort to raise awareness of AIDS and HIV in the black community, State Representative Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny County) has introduced a resolution proclaiming February 7th as Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The day is part of a national movement to get members of the black population tested and educated about the disease’s prevention.

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Education & Learning
8:20 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Pittsburgh Schools Report Slipping Test Scores

In its annual report to parents, the Pittsburgh Public School District said that on average, reading and math scores in all types of schools fell in 2012 with the worst scores going to the district’s four high schools where 50.5 percent of all students scored “proficient” in reading and just 36.1 percent hit the “proficient” mark in math.

The report has been posted on the district’s website and will be mailed out to all parents in March.

Moving on, Moving up

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Economy & Business
8:15 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Volunteers Increase at Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

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The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s volunteer program increased dramatically in 2012.  The group links the growth to a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation that facilitated staffing and the purchase of supplies.  

President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup said the number of volunteers increased by 860%, and the number of hours volunteered went up 332%.

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Education & Learning
8:03 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

College Success Forum Focuses on State Education

What does it take to make successful Pennsylvania students?  Money, for one thing, said the keynote speaker at a forum held at Robert Morris University Monday.  Ron Cowell, president of the Educational Policy and Leadership Center, said the Corbett administration's $900 million slash to educational funding for the 2011-12 school year influenced the chances of a student succeeding.

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Government & Politics
7:29 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Amtrak Service May be Derailed

Officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Amtrak are in talks about the future of the Pennsylvanian – that’s the route from Pittsburgh to New York, which also makes stops in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The train currently runs once a day each way. Amtrak is paying the $5.7 million to operate the route, but the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 forces Amtrak to transfer the cost of certain routes to the state. As a result, PennDOT will have to foot the bill starting in October 2013.

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Environment & Energy
7:14 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Pollutants Continue to Hamper Wildlife, Fishing, Recreation in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers

Pittsburgh's three rivers remain heavily tainted with metals, harmful chemical compounds, pathogens, and silt, according to a report released last week by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Some of the most common sources of pollution are abandoned mines, as well as the "urban runoff" that results from a lack of vegetation along the riverbanks. Both of these are known to suppress aquatic life. The Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers are all experiencing problems from mine drainage and runoff. 

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Government & Politics
12:52 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Corbett to Flat-fund PA Higher Education

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett said Friday he won’t propose a funding cut for state-supported and owned colleges and universities next fiscal year.

The governor’s announcement comes with strings attached: the schools will receive level funding, but they’ve promised to keep tuition hikes as low as possible. Last year, when lawmakers worked a similar deal with colleges and universities, the rule was to keep hikes within the rate of inflation – about three percent.

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Science & Technology
12:49 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Duquesne Semiconductor Research Wins Federal Grant

Despite earning a $431,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study semiconductors, Duquesne University associate chemistry professor Dr. Jennifer Aitken has no delusion that her research team will find the next important synthetic material to hit the markets.

"The odds are that we won't find the next best material," said Aitken. "More people fail than will succeed."

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Transportation
8:22 am
Mon February 4, 2013

PennDOT Expects Thousands Of Bridges, Roads Undocumented

For the first time, PennDOT is conducting an inventory of all the bridges in Pennsylvania. Previously, the agency was only required to keep a log of any state or locally owned bridge more than 20 feet in length.

PennDOT spokesperson, Erin Waters-Trasatt, said only numbers and not conditions would be reported. “This initiative is taking a bridge and local road inventory. It is not assessing or inspecting these roads and bridges,” Waters-Trasatt said.

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Environment & Energy
8:22 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Phipps 'Living Building' Will Open to Public in February

Visitors will soon be able to mosey about in one of the greenest buildings in the world, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory.

Starting February 12, general admission will include access to the research and education facility situated behind Phipps' glasshouse gardens. Any Phipps visitor will be able to simply walk about and read up on the building's environmentally-friendly features.

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Government & Politics
8:22 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Efforts to Curb Recidivism at the Allegheny County Jail

With support and rehabilitation in every aspect of their lives, some people have been able to build new lives and avoid going through a revolving door at the jail.  It's not easy, and it takes a lot of resources:  GED and job training; interview skills; drug and alcohol addiction treatment; cognitive behavioral therapy to identify and modify "criminal thinking" and "risk thoughts"; parenting classes and interaction with family specialists; and services for a year after release.

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Government & Politics
7:23 pm
Sun February 3, 2013

Panetta: 'My Mission Has Always Been To Keep The Country Safe

For more than 40 years, Leon Panetta has split his life on two coasts: his home in California and his work in Washington, D.C. It's a career that included 16 years in Congress, stints as White House chief of staff for President Clinton, and as the head of the CIA and the Pentagon under President Obama.

As Panetta prepares to leave his job as defense secretary, he sat down with Rachel Martin, host of Weekend Edition Sunday, to talk about his years in Washington and serving in the Obama administration.

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Government & Politics
7:15 pm
Sun February 3, 2013

Education to be Highlighted in Corbett Address

The plight of Pennsylvania's public schools will dominate many of the Legislature's debates this spring as the politics of education grows increasingly volatile.

It'll start with Gov. Tom Corbett releasing his budget proposal Tuesday.

Corbett has left open the possibility that he'll propose more aid for public schools. School districts continue to struggle a year after Republicans pushed through deep reductions in state support.

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Education & Learning
7:12 pm
Sun February 3, 2013

Union: 'Framework' Reached with PA Universities

Negotiators for Pennsylvania's state university system and the union representing about 5,500 faculty members say they have reached "framework" for a new contract to resolve a prolonged dispute.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said the accord with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education was reached early Sunday after two full days of negotiating.

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Environment & Energy
8:35 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Monongahela River Runs Away With Award

Even rivers get awards.

The Monongahela River, flowing through Greene, Fayette, Washington, Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, has been named Pennsylvania’s 2013 River of the Year following online voting across the state.

Terry Brady, spokesperson for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), said the Mon won because of the strong voter turnout.

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Government & Politics
8:13 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Pension Reform: Big Part of PA Budget Debate?

Governor Tom Corbett is expected to focus in part on the state’s rising public pension costs in his budget address Tuesday.  

Corbett has suggested he’s interested in a reform package that includes reducing the unearned benefits of current state and school employees.

But Dave Fillman, director of Council 13 of the Pennsylvania American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the state’s largest public sector union, said his group will definitely take the commonwealth to court if legislation is passed to change the benefits of current employees.

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Education & Learning
6:25 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Diocese Of Pittsburgh Launches Catholic Schools Network

Pennsylvania’s third largest school system, the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Catholic Schools, has a fresh outlook on education. The launch of The Catholic Schools Network is a marketing initiative to create a universal platform to promote enrollment, retention, vitality of curriculum and awareness, and the benefits of a Catholic education.

The Network will include all 91 Catholic schools in the diocese, ranging from pre-K through 12th grade, in the six counties of the western Pennsylvania region. The formalized network was introduced to school administrators in January.

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Government & Politics
5:59 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Port Authority CEO Steve Bland Fired - National Search for Replacement Underway

The Port Authority of Allegheny County voted 5 -3 Friday to oust CEO Stephen Bland.  Bland has served as head of the Port Authority since 2006, but recently, rumors of friction between him and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald have circulated. Fitzgerald has been critical of Bland over budget numbers, union relations, and service cuts. 

The “no” votes came from board veterans Mavis Rainey, Eddie Edwards Jr., and Amanda Green Hawkins.

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Government & Politics
4:36 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Casey Urges Passage of Gender Pay Equity Bill

Nearly fifty years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of gender, women still earn significantly less than men for doing the same work.

How much less? In 2012 in Pennsylvania, women were paid $694 per week while their male peers received $849, a pay gap of 18.3 percent.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on Congress to pass pay equity legislation citing a recent report on the continuing gender pay gap.

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Economy & Business
8:02 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

New Coke Battery Expected to Reduce Emissions from US Steel Clairton Plant

After more than four years of construction, US Steel Corp. welcomed government and labor officials Thursday to officially commission its newest coke battery. C Battery, along with new low-emissions quench towers are expected to reduce emissions from the Mon Valley Works Clairton Plant.

US Steel has invested more than $500 million in the project, which replaces ovens that were more than 50 years old in some cases. Officials say C Battery meets all regulations set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Allegheny Department of Health.

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