The Associated Press

A Pennsylvania judge is promising to rule quickly on whether a county clerk should be ordered to stop handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini did not signal what direction he might rule as lawyers debated the actions of Bruce Hanes, who issues licenses in suburban Philadelphia.

Arguments lasted over an hour, with lawyers for Gov. Tom Corbett's administration saying Hanes' decision is not allowed under state law.

State lawmakers say they plan to hold hearings to look into Pennsylvania's method of inspecting amusement park, carnival and fair rides — a system that usually relies on inspectors employed by or hired by ride operators.

Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Lawrence County, told The (Johnstown) Tribune-Democrat that House and Senate agriculture committees may hold a joint session or may convene separately.

Attorneys for Pennsylvania's Republican governor say marriage licenses given to same-sex couples in the state are invalid because the couples were barred from marrying — just like "12-year-olds."

Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has filed a lawsuit seeking to block same-sex marriage licenses in Montgomery County.

State attorneys say in a Wednesday court filing the licenses have no "legitimacy." They compare gay and lesbian couples to children, who can't marry because a 1996 law says marriage is between a man and a woman.

Gov. Tom Corbett has dismissed another education secretary, the second in three months.

Corbett's office said Monday that the governor has asked for and received the resignation of his nominee for the job, William Harner, less than three months after he started.

A Corbett spokeswoman says Harner's removal is because of a personnel matter that doesn't involve his service to the state, but she declined to elaborate.

A lawsuit by a visiting professor who suffered permanent hearing loss when Pittsburgh police used a Long Range Acoustic Device to disburse Group of 20 summit protesters has formally ended.

The city agreed last year to pay Karen Piper, the visiting University of Missouri professor, $72,000 to settle her claims. But city officials also agreed to meet with a consultant selected by Piper's lawyers who could advise the city on how to use the device, which produces high-intensity sounds and amplifies commands to disburse.

Former Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner says he's giving serious thought to entering the already crowded 2014 Democratic race for governor.

Wagner said Monday that his 20 years in state government has instilled in him a passion for good government and that he would offer common-sense solutions to politically thorny issues like transportation funding and public-school reform.

The 65-year-old Wagner won two statewide races as auditor general but lost the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination to former Allegheny County executive Dan Onorato.

A state judge on Friday barred enforcement of Pennsylvania's strict voter-identification law in the Nov. 5 general election.

The state also cannot require local elections officials to verbally tell voters at the polls that photo IDs could be required in future elections, but officials can distribute written material about the law, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said.

McGinley's ruling marked the third consecutive election in which enforcement of the law has been blocked by court order.

Marcellus Shale natural gas production is rising even faster this year than energy experts had predicted, and that's having a national impact on energy.

Bentek, a Colorado company that analyzes energy trends, said 2013 production in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is up about 50 percent compared with last year. Figures for the pipelines that take gas out of the Marcellus show that in the first six months of the year, Pennsylvania produced about 1.5 trillion cubic feet of gas, with projections for a year-end total of about 3.2 trillion cubic feet.

A man who took a hostage at a downtown Pittsburgh skyscraper and posted to Facebook during the six-hour ordeal has been sentenced to between six and 15 years in state prison.

Twenty-three-year-old Klein Michael Thaxton, of McKeesport, was sentenced Wednesday on kidnapping, ransom, aggravated assault and other charges.

Police say Thaxton was off his medication for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression when he held a 59-year-old businessman hostage in September. He later surrendered peacefully.

The state's political elite turned out Wednesday to pay respects to William Warren Scranton, a former Pennsylvania governor, presidential candidate and one of the last of a vanishing breed of moderate Northeastern Republicans.

Scranton, who died last month at age 96, was remembered as a selfless public servant who focused his considerable energy and ambition on improving the lives of others. He served a single term as governor before becoming the GOP's elder statesman in Pennsylvania and a trusted adviser to presidents and aspiring politicians alike.

Flickr user roeyahram

Food company H.J. Heinz Co. is eliminating 600 jobs across the U.S. and in Canada, including 350 in Pittsburgh.

Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen says in a statement that employees were notified of the cuts Tuesday morning, about two months after the company was sold to private investors. Mullen says Heinz regrets the impact on Heinz employees and is offering enhanced severance packages.

Mullen says the cuts will better position Heinz for growth in a highly competitive global food market.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy wants Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski to rescind more than $100,000 in bonuses given to VA leaders in the wake of a Legionnaire's disease outbreak at Pittsburgh's Veterans Affairs hospitals.

At least five patients died and 21 were sickened from water that wasn't properly treated between February 2011 and November. The family of a sixth veteran who died last year claim in a lawsuit that he was a victim, too, and Murphy included his name among the victims in Thursday's letter to Shineski, asking that the bonuses be rescinded.

Frank T. Brogan, a higher-education executive and former Florida lieutenant governor, was picked Wednesday to be the next chancellor of Pennsylvania's 14-university State System of Higher Education.

The system's board of governors unanimously selected Brogan, a Republican who was Florida's lieutenant governor from 1999-2003 under then-Gov. Jeb Bush and chancellor of the State University System of Florida since 2009.

A judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit in the fatal mauling death of a 2-year-old boy who fell into a wild African dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Zoo attorneys argued a strict liability claim should not go forward, saying there's no "abnormal risk to the public" when people have a chance to view wild animals.

But Allegheny County Judge Paul Lutty agreed with attorneys for the Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh that the risk can't be determined until both sides exchange evidence before trial.

The number of abused or neglected Pennsylvania children in foster care or similar settings is down about a third over the past year. Officials say the reduction is the result of a concerted effort by the court system, county child welfare officials and the state government.

Figures released this week by the state courts show the number of dependent children placed in temporary care fell from 21,400 in 2006 to 14,100 in March.

Officials say a number of systemic changes are behind the numbers, as more than half the state's counties are now participating in the effort.

The Andy Warhol Museum is launching a live feed from the artist's gravesite in Pittsburgh to honor his upcoming birthday.

The museum says in a release that the partnership with EarthCam will go live Monday at midnight. The project is titled "Figment" because of a Warhol quote in which he said he'd like his own tombstone to be blank, or just say the word figment.

The Warhol museum says hundreds of people visit the artist's grave every year, often leaving pop culture items such as Campbell's Soup cans or Coca-Cola bottles.

Closing arguments in the trial of Pennsylvania's voter-identification law have been postponed for a day, but the state's legal team filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley scheduled the arguments for Thursday and said he'd review the motion.

Penn State's ex-president and two former top school administrators were ordered Tuesday to stand trial on charges accusing them of a cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Prosecutors showed enough evidence during a two-day preliminary hearing to warrant a full criminal court trial for ex-President Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley, Judge William Wenner concluded.

Wenner called it "a tragic day for Penn State University."

Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, and Rep. Dave Camp, a Republican from Michigan, have teamed up and taken a message of tax reform on the road.

The pair spoke in Philadelphia Monday as part of their “Tax Reform Tour,” an effort to eliminate loopholes in the federal tax code. Former governors Tom Ridge, a Republican, and Ed Rendell, a Democrat, are adding their support to the movement.

William Warren Scranton, a former Pennsylvania governor, presidential candidate and ambassador to the United Nations, has died. He was 96.

Scranton died of a cerebral hemorrhage Sunday night at a retirement community in Montecito, Calif., where he lived with his wife, a family spokesman said Monday.

Scranton, a progressive Republican from the northeastern Pennsylvania city named after his wealthy family, was elected to Congress in 1960. He served one term before he was elected as Pennsylvania's 38th governor in 1962.

A landmark federal study on fracking shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers at the Department of Energy in Pittsburgh, found that the chemical-laced fluids used to release natural gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water. That's according to geologist Richard Hammack.

Gov. Tom Corbett says he's hiring his third chief of staff and his third secretary of legislative affairs in as many years as he struggles to improve his public image and his clout inside the Capitol.

Corbett made the announcement Wednesday.

Veteran Republican lobbyist and political strategist Leslie Gromis Baker will replace Steve Aichele as Corbett's chief of staff. Aichele was Corbett's chief counsel when he took office in January 2011, but became chief of staff last year in a separate shake-up.

The University of Pittsburgh board of trustees has voted to raise tuition 3.25 percent for students attending its main campus, and 2 percent for students at three of its satellite campuses.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Wednesday's vote means in-state students at the main campus school of arts and sciences will pay $15,985 this year, an increase of $255. Out-of-state students at the same school will pay $413 more, or $25,420 next year.

A judge says he is sending a case alleging corruption in Pennsylvania Turnpike business to county court for trial.

District Judge William Wenner ruled Tuesday that prosecutors had presented enough evidence to warrant a jury trial. He ruled following four hours of closing arguments in the preliminary hearing against former Sen. Bob Mellow and five other defendants.

They're trying to keep a stiff upper lip in Missouri, but the ruggedly handsome truth is that the American Mustache Institute is relocating from St. Louis to Pittsburgh.

The Mustache Institute released the news Friday morning. The group calls itself the world's only facial hair advocacy and research organization.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith says in a statement that attracting the Mustache Institute is a significant win "from an economic development and good looks standpoint." A press conference at City Hall is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Thursday that she will not defend the state law effectively banning same-sex marriage from a legal challenge in federal court, meaning the task will be left up to Gov. Tom Corbett.

"I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's (law), where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional," Kathleen Kane announced Thursday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage says nothing about the validity of Pennsylvania's ban.

Despite the Supreme Court's decision Wednesday, gay marriage bans still stand in Pennsylvania and roughly three dozen other states. Pennsylvania's constitution, however, does not ban gay marriage.

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.

The court's 5-4 vote Wednesday leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional. California officials probably will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex unions in about a month's time.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

The court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that has prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people. The vote was 5-4.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

A federal judge on Thursday threw out the governor's lawsuit against the NCAA over sanctions against Penn State related to Jerry Sandusky, calling his argument "a Hail Mary pass" that easily warranted dismissal.

U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane's decision puts an early end to the anti-trust lawsuit Gov. Tom Corbett filed in January in which he sought to overturn a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, scholarship limits and other penalties.

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