Katie Meyer

Baastian Slabbers / NewsWorks

This year saw the end of one of the most dramatic political roller-coasters in recent Pennsylvania history: the tenure of former state Attorney General, Democrat Kathleen Kane.

Kane was convicted of perjury this summer and stepped down from her post, but the controversy surrounding her far predates that.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state health department plans to start accepting applications for growers and dispensers in Pennsylvania’s newly-formed medical marijuana program on Feb. 20.

Gov. Tom Wolf / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s mid-fiscal year budget report has confirmed what the Independent Fiscal Office has been warning for well over a month: underperforming revenues are putting the commonwealth on track for a shortfall of around $600 million.

So how bad is that?

By all accounts, it’s a tenuous place for the state’s bank account to be. But it’s not without precedent.

Matt Rourke / AP

As the state legislature and governor contend with a mounting structural state deficit of more than two billion dollars, the topic of government spending—and the need to make it more efficient—has become inescapable around the Capitol.

Katie Meyer / WITF

The state Department of Banking and Securities has issued a progress report on a year-old program intended to educate Pennsylvanians about financial risks and management.

Katie Meyer / WITF

More than 500 people employed at three of Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation offices are losing their jobs right before Christmas.

The reason was political, and has erupted into a partisan battle.

But behind the scenes at the Altoona, Lancaster, and Allentown UC centers, the furloughed employees and state officials are working make sense of the situation.

The news of the layoffs came November 16th, after the GOP-led Senate declined to vote on a funding bill that had been supported by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Professors at Pennsylvania’s 14 state colleges and universities have voted to approve a contract agreement between the union that represents them and the state school system that employs them.

That contract was hard-fought—a standoff over its terms culminated in a three-day faculty strike in October.

Gerry Broome / AP

 

As the Green Party pushes for election recounts in key states, leaders of Pennsylvania's Republican Party have expressed concerns the delays could ultimately hold up President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.

But, those fears now appear to be eased — a lawyer for the state GOP has said he's confident Pennsylvania's results will be validated on time.

States are federally required to settle controversies surrounding the appointment of their electors on Dec. 13. Otherwise, their electoral votes may not be deemed valid by Congress.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Green Party supporters were in Harrisburg on Monday to vocally back Jill Stein’s quest for a presidential vote recount in the commonwealth.

Stein, the Green Party candidate, has now filed suit in both federal and Philadelphia city courts.

David Amsler / Flickr

Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner is filing a Right-to-Know request over the layoffs of several hundred state employees.

The York County lawmaker is being blamed by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and union leaders for being a major cause of the layoffs.

But Wagner contends that Wolf is at fault.

At the end of the 2016 legislative session last month, the GOP-led Senate decided not to vote on a funding bill for the state’s unemployment compensation program.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a yearlong review of more than 6 million emails sent in and out of the state Attorney General’s office, interim AG Bruce Beemer said Tuesday that there’s no evidence any of the emails would have impacted the fairness of the justice system.

“There is no evidence that prosecutors engaged in improper communication or contact with judges in this commonwealth that have affected the administration of justice or the outcome of cases,” he said.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

 

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives held leadership elections Tuesday in preparation for the impending end of the legislative session. Republican leaders new and old said they're looking forward to having their largest majority in decades next session.

Most of the major changes in the House's majority GOP leadership are due to retirements—the chamber's appropriations chair William Adolf, of Delaware County, is stepping down, as is Susquehanna County Caucus Chair Sandra Major.

Patrick Semansky / AP

 

On Election Day, many Pennsylvania voters from both sides of the aisle watched in surprise, and in some cases, shock, as Donald Trump won the commonwealth and was elected the next president of the United States.

They weren't the only ones. Lots of political analysts in the state were also taken aback.

Most major polls never showed Trump winning Pennsylvania, let alone the election. The state was thought to be part of opponent Hillary Clinton's so-called "blue wall."

So what went wrong?

Elaine Thompson / AP

As the 2016 legislative session gets down to the wire in Pennsylvania, lawmakers are rushing bills large and small.

One of the measures that made it through the House Consumer Affairs Committee on Monday would make it illegal to tax plastic shopping bags in Pennsylvania.

The measure will likely face pushback from Democrats.

Bucks County Republican Frank Farry is sponsoring the bill and argues that bag taxes—which have become more popular in recent years—could compromise jobs.

Katie Meyer / WITF

 

Faculty members from Pennsylvania's state university system are rallying over the continuing lack of a contract agreement.

The professors at the 14 state-owned schools have been without one for more than a year, and negotiations between the system and the union aren't going well.

A walkout is scheduled for Oct. 19, and many think it's looking like a very real possibility.

As hundreds of faculty members carried signs in front of state higher education headquarters in Harrisburg, several students also milled around.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a long summer break, the state House is back in session—for now. But lawmakers aren’t expecting to tackle anything too divisive before Election Day.

The House will have just 12 voting days before lawmakers retire to their districts for the election. The Senate, which returns next week, will have nine.

Major items on the docket include decisions on expanded gambling and a state pension overhaul. Governor Tom Wolf is also seeking a joint session to address the opioid crisis.

AP

Officials with the Department of Human Services announced increased oversight for its major programs and said it’s paying off financially.

The department reported Thursday that savings increased by $65 million over the last fiscal year.

As DHS Secretary Ted Dallas explained, its programs can be complicated. 

Things like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and other state benefits involve a lot of paperwork, and Dallas said administrative errors are relatively common.

AP

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled a virtual charter school in Pennsylvania should be classified as a private corporation, not a public institution. The decision only directly impacts that one school, but it could have farther-reaching legal implications.

 Liquor Reforms
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A Wegmans supermarket in Cumberland County has become the first such store in the state to sell wine. And the inaugural bottle was purchased by none other than Governor Tom Wolf.

Wolf was joined by state House Speaker Mike Turzai, as well as members of the Liquor Control Board and other lawmakers.

Turzai played a significant role in supporting the state’s liquor expansion, which went into effect early last month.

He says the change was a long time coming — it’s been commonly called the commonwealth's biggest liquor reform since prohibition. 

Katie Meyer / WITF

Recent polls are showing Hillary Clinton leading by 8 points in Pennsylvania, and by even wider margins in and around big cities.

Clinton has focused much of her Pennsylvania ground time on those liberal urban areas. But on Tuesday, vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine ventured out to Lancaster to make an appeal to voters there.

Kaine gave a pointed speech at the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster, making several overtures to small business owners, and pledging support for people struggling in the still-sluggish economy.

Rich Schultz / AP

It’s been a bumpy few weeks for leadership in the state Attorney General’s office.

Kathleen Kane resigned, and her first deputy Bruce Castor has taken over. But Governor Tom Wolf has nominated his inspector general to the position.

The candidates for the November AG election are taking pains to distance themselves from the tumult.

Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican John Rafferty both independently called the Kane scandal a “sad chapter” for the state.

Dick Thomas Johnson / Flickr

  An audit of the state Department of Education has found that the process to address appeals of charter school payment is unclear, and should be reexamined.

Matt Slocum / AP

U.S. Democratic Senate contender Katie McGinty went on the offense Monday, seeking to paint her opponent, incumbent Republican Pat Toomey, as an insincere flip-flopper.

Throughout her campaign, McGinty has played up her own working-class angle, presenting herself as a first-generation college grad—a claim she recently edited into a first generation four-year­ college grad—and a champion of the working class.

Toomey is the opposite, she said. 

Legislative Data Processing Center

 A proposed bill is looking to change how Pennsylvania draws its legislative and congressional districts

The bill’s sponsor, Monroe County Republican David Parker said the measure would cut down on gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is prevalent in Pennsylvania—it’s when legislative maps are drawn to benefit a political party.

Parker said the ultimate results don’t benefit constituents.

“When these districts become so large and kind of snake around and are odd shapes, it’s difficult for them to truly represent everybody in the whole district,” he said.

AP

Pennsylvania has a long history as an important swing state in presidential elections. But over the last decade, approximately, political shifts have kept the state swinging left again and again—Republicans haven’t won Pennsylvania since 1988.

Nevertheless, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are fighting hard for Keystone State votes this year.

According to Chris Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania has been like “fool’s gold” for Republicans in recent years: tantalizing, but just out of reach.

Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool

With Kathleen Kane stepping down as state attorney general after her felony conviction, the focus is now turning to how to restore public confidence in the scandal-ridden office.

Kane’s former first deputy Bruce Castor is taking over the AG duties for the time-being.

He said his first priority is to move the office forward.

“It’s what I’ve been trying to address since I got here, and that’s restore confidence in the public in the work that the Office of the Attorney General does,” Castor said.

Misty Johnson / Flickr

Pennsylvania plans to use a $250,000 federal grant to spend more than a year studying options for paid family leave programs.

The grant comes from money the federal Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau awarded to several states and cities to look into how paid family leave impacts workers and businesses.

Department of Labor and Industry Secretary, Kathy Manderino, said the state doesn’t yet have concrete plans for what it will do with the data. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s credit rating has improved, though only slightly, with Moody’s Investor Service upgrading the commonwealth’s financial outlook from negative to stable.

Since 2014, Moody’s rating of Pennsylvania’s credit has been a relatively mediocre AA3.

Dan Seymour, Moody’s lead analyst for Pennsylvania, said that’s relatively low for a state.

Katie Meyer / WITF

The commonwealth's newly-expanded liquor law is ramping up.

The law went into effect Monday, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is already ushering in a few of the first concrete changes.

At the grand opening of a new Fine Wine and Good Spirits store in York County, the PLCB announced lottery tickets will now be sold at 300 state stores.

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