Harrisburg

Harrisburg Ramping Up Lead Testing, Remediation Efforts

May 12, 2016
Emily Previti / WITF

Lead-based paint remains in homes in cities nationwide, including many in Pennsylvania, despite long-standing awareness of health risks to young children.

So Hamilton Health Center, located in one of Harrisburg's most distressed neighborhoods, already does free lead-exposure screenings for children under six.

But a new partnership with the city will mean the health center gets new equipment that will mean faster testing and response.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

Harrisburg has a corruption problem. The current trial against former mayor Stephen Reed, who is fighting 449 counts of theft, bribery and racketeering that he accumulated during his nearly three decades of public service, is only the latest example of a public official misbehaving in our state's capital.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The state House is poised to consider major changes to the statutes of limitations on child sex abuse cases in Pennsylvania, one month after the release of a grand jury’s findings that the clergy of the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese covered up child sex abuse allegations for decades.

The bill, passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, would eliminate the time limit for bringing criminal charges in a child sex abuse case. It expands the timeframe for bringing civil suits, giving victims until they’re 50 years old, instead of 30.

Jessica Kourkounis / NewsWorks

 

Concentrated poverty is growing across the country, according to a report from the Brookings Institution.

Since the recession, more people live in neighborhoods where at least 20 percent of residents fall below the poverty line. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A plan to allow medical marijuana in Pennsylvania may be further away from becoming law than supporters had hoped.

The legalization plan is before the Senate, after passing the House overwhelmingly two weeks ago. But key Senate supporters told Philly.com last week that the House made changes to the proposal that could prove to be problematic.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic state lawmakers who were reliable backers of Governor Tom Wolf’s agenda during the budget impasse say they may not stick so closely to his side in the next year.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said his caucus will do some soul-searching ahead of the next round of budget negotiations, after coming away with so little from the budget impasse.

“We might go down a different path,” Costa told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t know where we’ll end up.”

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

 

Surrounded by state health officials and fellow lawmakers, Senator Vincent Hughes said, "The only thing good that came out of the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., is a renewed, intense effort from states around the country to attempt to address what's going on with lead in their respective communities."

Pennsylvania Lawmakers To Take Up Medical Marijuana Proposal

Mar 14, 2016
Brett Levin / Flickr

 

A proposal to allow marijuana to be prescribed for a list of medical conditions is heading to the Pennsylvania House floor, where it could face changes before a final vote.

The House planned to take up more than 220 amendments to the bill on Monday, and it could be Wednesday or later before the chamber decides whether to approve the legislation.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Harrisburg's happy ornithological two-some are back in the nest this week, just in time for Valentine's Day. 

State Department of Environmental Protection officials announced the return of a pair of peregrine falcons to their nest on the 15th floor ledge of the Rachel Carson State Office Building with redesigned falcon website on Friday.

David Amsler / Flickr

The holidays didn’t do much to ease Pennsylvania angst about state government, according to a new Franklin & Marshall College survey, showing most respondents take a dim view of the state’s future.

The poll found that 67 percent of registered voters surveyed said Pennsylvania is headed “off on the wrong track” – a record figure in the past five years of polling.

And 38 percent said the state’s “most important problem” is government and politicians.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate is in a bit of a pickle as it advances its analysis of whether or not to boot Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office due to the suspension of her law license last year pending her trial on perjury and other criminal charges.

Ken Marshall / Flickr

State lawmakers are bracing for a dizzying prospect: planning the next fiscal year’s spending before the current year’s budget has been finalized.

Dates are set for Governor Tom Wolf’s February budget address and the legislative hearings that follow.

“I will say it will be a little bit different if we don’t have a budget concluded,” said Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed.

Special elections are now scheduled to fill four open seats in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Michael Stack said Wednesday he scheduled a special election April 26 to replace Dominic Pileggi in the Senate's 9th District in Delaware County. Pileggi, a Republican, resigned Tuesday after being elected to a county judgeship.

April 26 is also the date of the Pennsylvania primary election.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf looked determined to start the New Year off on the right foot.  

His first Monday of 2016 was packed with public events – the inauguration of Philadelphia’s new mayor, followed by two business tours nearby.    

But Wolf couldn’t outrun the unfinished business of yesteryear.  

After touring a cold storage and processing facility in Chester County, he was peppered with questions about the state budget.  

“Yeah, we need one,” Wolf said in response. “We still need one.”

Matt Rourke / AP

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane is expected to appear in a Dauphin County court Wednesday, but not for the criminal case against her. 

She’s being called to testify at the pre-trial hearing in the corruption case against state Rep. Louise Bishop (D-Philadelphia). The Office of Attorney General filed a motion to quash the subpoena issued to Kane, requesting that she not be asked about “confidential deliberations of law or policymaking.” 

Jim Bowen / Flickr

State House and Senate Republicans are at odds over what the commonwealth should pay into its retirement systems.

Tight finances compelled the Senate to approve a plan last week that would cut roughly $170 million from scheduled state payments to its pension funds.

House Republicans have always said they would fight such a move, since the commonwealth’s pension systems are already so underfunded. On Tuesday morning, a House committee reversed the Senate’s proposed payment reductions (or “collars,” in pension-speak).

Senate Republicans were irked by the change.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Rank-and-file state House lawmakers returned to the Capitol this week hoping for specifics of a budget deal.

They left Tuesday evening disappointed.

Kane Turns To Former Maryland AG To Lead Porn Email Probe

Dec 1, 2015
Matt Rourke / AP

A team of Washington-based lawyers will comb through thousands of emails on government computers. 

Matt Rourke / flickr

Embattled state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s intermittent campaign against pornographic emails on public computers is about to intensify.

Counties May Sue PA Over 5-Month Budget Standoff

Nov 25, 2015
David Flores / Flickr

Pennsylvania's cash-strapped counties are saying enough is enough as the budget impasse in Harrisburg nears its sixth month. They are exploring a lawsuit to force the state to release funds, and at least one already declared it will protest by withholding millions of dollars it collects in state real estate transfer taxes and court fees.

The stalemate between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers has meant a lack of state funding for school districts, counties and nonprofits, which in turn have reduced staff, slashed services and borrowed money to cover costs.

Budget Negotations Drag On Through Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2015
Marc Levy / AP Images

It’s been almost 150 days since the July 1st budget deadline and after the protracted budget stalemate between Governor Wolf and the legislature began dragging on for months, we heard it would all be worked out by Thanksgiving.  With Thanksgiving tomorrow and little prospect for a compromise, we turn to 90.5 WESA Capitol reporter Mary Wilson to see what’s happening in Harrisburg and what issues are tying up budget negotiations.

Matt Rourke / AP

Cases are being dragged out due to legal challenges in the Office of the Attorney General without Kathleen Kane’s personal involvement.

It’s not clear who should sign off on the state’s next bond and top lawyers of the office aren’t sure who has ultimate control over hiring and firing decisions.

Screengrab / Twitter

As the state budget impasse continues, organizations that provide assistance to those in need across Pennsylvania are going into debt to cover costs.

Victim Outreach Intervention Center (VOICe) is one of those. The Butler County organization provides services to individuals and families who are survivors of sexual, domestic and other types of violence. Executive Director Heidi Artman said the organization relies heavily on state funding and she sums up the last few months as such.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Legislative aides are beginning to hammer out the details of a state budget, now that top lawmakers and the governor have agreed on the general shape of the plan.  

The sprawling, tentative package includes a 1.25 percent hike in the state sales tax, a reduction in state retirement benefits for future hires and some kind of change to the state liquor stores.

The deal promises to be unwieldy.

Marc Levy / AP

Champions of Cheyney University filled the state Capitol rotunda Tuesday, bringing a decades-long fight for more funding to lawmakers’ doorsteps.

The historically black state-owned university has been plagued by an enrollment slump, administrative turnover and what one federal judge called “historic neglect” by the state.

Tim Lambert / WITF

As Governor Tom Wolf prepares to introduce his first budget as Pennsylvania’s governor, two state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would limit state spending – with the ultimate goal of leaving the issue up to the voters. The bill, introduced by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Greene) would tie the spending limit to the growth of the population and inflation.

“That percentage is all that the budget can grow,” said Bartolotta, “when there’s an excess in that, 25 percent of that will go back to the taxpayers, 25 percent will go to Rainy Day Fund and 50 percent of that excess will go to pay down the pension problem.”

The change is needed, according to Bartolotta, because general fund spending has more than tripled over the past 30 years.

“The population’s only grown by 7.7 percent and unfortunately the budget has grown to over 1,010 percent in that amount of time,” she said.

Ken / Flickr

Harrisburg was the first city to face a challenge to its gun laws under a new Pennsylvania law targeting gun measures.

It comes from a gun rights group representing a state police corporal. City officials have been bracing for lawsuits in the wake of Governor Corbett's signing of legislation that allows gun owner groups to challenge local ordinances. 

And now, Pittsburgh faces a lawsuit on its own that has emerged from the National Rifle Association. Patriot News editorial page editor John Micek offers his analysis of the issue.

According to Micek, the community "lost and stolen" ordinances have been challenged by gun-rights advocates in part because they feel the Commonwealth should avoid a “patchwork” approach to gun legislation, wherein gun ordinances vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction -- even neighboring ones.

But at the same time, Micek says that the state supreme court has, in some cases, argued that municipalities should have the right to specify their own gun ordinances.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

 It's been a busy week in Harrisburg, PennLive and Patriot-News editorial and opinions Editor John Micek joins us to lay it all out.

Topics include: the eight former and current state officials alleged to be involved in an exchange of hundreds of racy emails using state computers, calls for protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians and the Senate passing legislation to legalize certain kinds of marijuana.

How to Own a Piece of Pennsylvania History

Feb 12, 2014
PA Historical and Museum Commission / Cordier Auctions

This weekend citizens of the Commonwealth will get the opportunity to purchase a piece of Pennsylvania history.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will auction off items which include a Conestoga Wagon, prints and antique tools.

Mary Jane Miller is collections manager for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission. She says this Saturday's auction includes a diverse variety of items.

A bill to be introduced in Harrisburg would allow parents of newborn children to receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

“This is a policy that’s in effect in almost the entire industrialized world and in a number of states in America as well," said sponsor Sen. Daylin Leach. "It’s a standard benefit of employment.”

The bill would only apply to companies with more than 20 employees and to employees who work more than 20 hours per week. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but that is not an option for many low-income workers.