Harrisburg

Nonbelievers Sue Over Pennsylvania House's Opening Prayers

Aug 25, 2016
Ken Marshall / Flickr

A group of people who don't believe in God are challenging the way prayers are handled before sessions of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Harrisburg federal court says nonbelievers are treated like a disfavored minority who can be discriminated against, and that House officials denied their requests to make an opening invocation.

Five people and three organizations are suing House Speaker Mike Turzai, the parliamentarian and five lawmakers.

Ben Allen / WITF

Authorities say a 20-year-old man was holding a knife to his mother's throat before a police officer shot him once and killed him inside the bedroom of the family's Harrisburg home.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said at a news conference Monday that police responding to a child's 911 call found Earl Pinckney holding a knife with a 4-inch blade against the throat of his mother, Kim Thomas.

Thomas is disputing that account, insisting her son didn't have a knife. She said Pinckney, the father of a newborn, was not dangerous.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Ride-hailing service Uber is expanding its reach in Pennsylvania.

The San-Francisco-based company says it will begin operating in the seven-county region surrounding Pittsburgh, including Washington, Greene, Westmoreland, Indiana, Armstrong and Butler counties Thursday evening.

The expansion also includes DuBois, Gettysburg, greater Williamsport, Johnstown and Altoona.

Company officials said the service will now cover 90 percent of residents in the state.

Uber allows people to use a smartphone app to book and pay for a car service.

Tobacco Opponents Tout Cigarette Tax Benefits

Jul 11, 2016
fried dough / flickr

Anti-tobacco advocates from the American Cancer Society are calling on state lawmakers to levy an increased cigarette tax as part of the 2017 budget.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says he'll let a roughly $31 billion spending bill become law without his signature, even though lawmakers are struggling to figure out how to pay for some of it.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

With little news of progress on the 2017 state budget coming out of Harrisburg, school advocates around the state are crossing their fingers a resolution comes soon.

If not, Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said state-funded institutions will be in bad shape come fall.

Robinson said schools used up a lot of resources during last year’s nine-month budget impasse.

Plan To Pay For $31.6 Bil Budget Still Unclear

Jun 30, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

In this year’s budget negotiations, state legislators seem eager to show their constituents that last year’s nine-month deadlock is behind them.

After receiving the House’s nearly $31.6 billion spending plan Wednesday, the Senate quickly passed its general appropriations in a bipartisan vote, just a day before the Thursday deadline.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Republican Patrick Browne, said the Senate proposal contains only minor changes, notably adding money for higher education.

Julio Cortez / AP Images

The deadline for Pennsylvania's 2016-17 budget is Friday and a compromise is looking more likely this year than last. We'll ask Majority Leader Dave Reed what's included in this year's budget and how negotiations are different in this session.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

  After a nine-month-long standoff over last year’s state budget, Pennsylvania lawmakers seem committed to getting a verdict out quickly this year. But there is still little information from the Capitol on what exactly the budget contains, and advocates from across the commonwealth are concerned the speed will come at the expense of quality.

Ralliers with the campaign Pennsylvania’s Choice congregated in the Capitol rotunda Monday to push for more spending in education, human services, and the environment.

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.

House Mulls Major Changes To Child Sex Abuse Law

Apr 6, 2016
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. 

For Medical Marijuana Bill, An Unexpected Lull

Mar 28, 2016
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.

Poll Shows Steady Disdain For PA Government

Jan 28, 2016
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.

On Kane, Senate In Wait-And-See Mode

Jan 18, 2016
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.

Like Budgets That Pass In The Night

Jan 13, 2016
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.

New Year, Same Budget Squabble

Jan 5, 2016
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.” 

House & Senate Tussle Over Pension Payments

Dec 16, 2015
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.

Budget Talks Consider Expanding Sales Tax

Dec 2, 2015
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.

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