Harrisburg

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Calling the case "an American tragedy," a federal judge has sentenced a heroin dealer to serve more than two decades in prison for his role in the overdose death of a 20-year-old Pennsylvania man.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The last month of the fiscal year was a decent one for Pennsylvania, revenue-wise, with returns coming in slightly higher than expected. But it comes at the end of a year of unexpectedly dismal earnings.

The commonwealth ended 2016-17 with its revenues over a billion dollars below projections. Its expectations for the new fiscal year are more modest.

Pennsylvania Budget Talks Drag Into Day 5 Of Fiscal Year

Jul 5, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A top Pennsylvania senator says compromise legislation to expand casino-style gambling is forthcoming as a stalemate enters its fifth day over paying for a $32 billion budget package.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said Wednesday that gambling legislation is a step toward raising $2.2 billion to fill a deficit. The Capitol is quiet this week as top lawmakers talk privately outside the Capitol.

Scarnati and the Legislature's other Republican leaders say they're considering borrowing most of the money.

Pennsylvania Budget Work Likely To Drag Into New Fiscal Year

Jun 28, 2017
Screengrab from Senatorcorman.com

A top Republican state senator says it's looking more like Pennsylvania's budget package won't be finished by the start of the new fiscal year in three days as lawmakers grapple with the state's biggest cash shortfall since the recession.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Wednesday that the only agreement with House GOP leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is on a spending figure, a number around $31.9 billion. That's about $600 million more than this year's budget figure, including money necessary to balance this year's books.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

State lawmakers have made no secret of the fact that next fiscal year’s state budget, which is due Friday, will be a hard one to enact.

Why Is Pennsylvania Called A Commonwealth?

Jun 27, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Ever wonder about something you see or hear in the region that you wish our reporters would explore? Now's your chance!

Here's how it works: Share your questions with us. Then, we'll let the public vote on the one they want us to investigate. Finally, if your question wins — and if you're game — work with us to get to the bottom of it.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Lawmakers in Washington are still reading through the finer details of the Senate GOP's new healthcare bill, but opponents are already warning it’ll give states an impossible choice—either cut services, or spend billions more on healthcare.

Matt Rourke / AP

According to Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, he and other Democrats haven’t so far been party to many of the budget negotiations that are heating up in the Capitol.

Matt Rourke / AP

An impassioned group of advocates and lawmakers are pushing for two controversial pieces of legislation that would make it harder for women to access abortion services in Pennsylvania.

Gubernatorial Candidate Wagner Grabs Opposition Researcher's Camera

May 4, 2017
Marc Levy / AP

A Republican legislator who is running for Pennsylvania governor grabbed a camera away from a man who works for a liberal opposition research group, and police are investigating.

State Sen. Scott Wagner said Wednesday he "assisted in removing" the camera because the man had no business filming him during a speech at a private country club the day before.

Washington-based American Bridge 21st Century, the man's employer, said the camera was returned but not the memory card. The group says on its website its goal is to hold Republicans accountable.

FBI Corruption Probe In Pennsylvania Had More In Its Sights

Apr 3, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Fresh revelations show how federal authorities tried to use disgraced former state Treasurer Rob McCord to implicate others in a broad pay-to-play investigation of Pennsylvania government, but it leaves the question of whether the FBI probe is effectively finished.

The investigation dates to 2009, when the FBI set up a fake company with phony executives who began hiring lobbyists in Harrisburg and making campaign contributions. It has thus far produced charges against four people, including McCord and John Estey, a onetime chief of staff to former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Gene J. Puskar / AP File Photo

Population data has a way of freaking people out. After all, population determines federal allocation dollars, which trickle down to the state, county, and local levels, said Peter Borsella, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, which released county and metro-area population estimates on Thursday. 

So let’s get this over with: From 2015 to 2016 Pennsylvania waved goodbye to just fewer than 8,000 people. Most counties lost population, though 19 posted some growth.

Jacqueline Larma / AP

Jewish centers in York and Harrisburg were among those affected by a wave of bomb threats in at least 11 states Monday. This came the day after more than 100 headstones were knocked over at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The state Senate has been closed for a day following a vandalism incident.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports an email was forwarded to all Senate employees on Sunday announcing the closure of the Senate side of the Capitol on Monday. Drew Crompton, counsel to Sen. Joe Scarnati, says a man gained access to the Capitol early Sunday and sprayed a fire extinguisher in the hallways by the Senate's offices and chambers.

Katie Meyer

Pennsylvania's Senate Democrats are calling for reforms to the commonwealth's long-standing system of using property taxes to pay for public schools.

It's an initiative that's renewed nearly every session. But now, the group is calling for a special legislative session.

School property tax collections this fiscal year are in the range of $14 billion.

The system has long been criticized for allowing the state's wealthiest school systems to collect far more tax money than their lower-income peers.

AP Photo

At U.S. Senator Pat Toomey's various offices in Pennsylvania and Washington, the phones have been ringing off the hook for days.

Constituents are calling in droves, filling voice mailboxes with pleas for the Republican not to confirm President Donald Trump's cabinet appointees--particularly education secretary pick Betsy DeVos.

But the newly reelected Toomey seems to have his mind made up.

Katie Meyer / WITF

In one of the state Capitol’s busy lobbies, there’s a clock that tracks unfunded pension liabilities. All day and night, that clock ticks upwards, adding billions of dollars to Pennsylvania’s debts every year.

The clock’s overseen by a small, dedicated group of pension overhaul advocates and on Tuesday, they dragged it up to the Capitol’s main rotunda to make a renewed call to lawmakers: find a way to halt the clock’s rising numbers, once and for all.

Ex-Harrisburg Mayor Pleads Guilty In Wild West Museum Artifacts Case

Jan 23, 2017
Diana Robinson / Keystone Crossroads

A former mayor pleaded guilty Monday to 20 counts of receiving stolen property related to his ill-starred effort to bring a Wild West museum to his central Pennsylvania city.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed, 67, faces serious health problems and felt pleading guilty was the right thing to do, his lawyer said.

"We think this is an opportunity now to move on with his life and get the treatment he needs for his illness," said attorney Henry Hockeimer Jr.

Corrections Officials Tell Senators Prisons Can Close Safely

Jan 23, 2017
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Pennsylvania corrections officials are telling state senators they can close two prisons without jeopardizing the security of staff, inmates or the public.

Monday's joint Senate committee hearing comes four days before the Department of Corrections is to announce which two prisons it'll close. The hearing in the state Capitol is packed with corrections officers and their supporters.

The two prisons are to be chosen from a list of five prisons: Frackville, Mercer, Pittsburgh, Retreat and Waymart.

Matt Rourke / AP

The 2017 legislative session has yet to begin, but some lawmakers are already making plans for the new year, and casino-related laws are among those at the top of the list.

A closed-door meeting on Jan. 3 has been planned between lawmakers and representatives from all of the state’s 12 casinos.

When it was passed this summer, the state’s operating budget included $100 million in new gambling revenue, but no bill was ever passed to provide the money.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Sure, everyone in the family bundles up, squishes into the family car and drives to the one street with the good Christmas lights each year. 

Demonstrators Greet Pennsylvania Electors At Capitol

Dec 19, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

 

More than 200 demonstrators are on the steps of Pennsylvania's Capitol to greet members of the state's 58th Electoral College, with the faint hope that they'll persuade them not to vote for Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

The demonstrators were waving signs and chanting in 25-degree weather Monday morning as delegates began arriving at the state Capitol to cast the state's electoral votes for president. Monday's ceremony starts at noon in the state House of Representatives' chamber.

Brad Larrison / Newsworks

Last month, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed the only way he would lose Pennsylvania in the presidential election would be through voter fraud.

"The only way we can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on," he told a rally in Altoona in August.

WITF

The city of Harrisburg's near-bankruptcy led to Pennsylvania's first and only local government takeover, the ousting of a seven-term mayor and his pending criminal trial - and aggressive, expensive parking enforcement in the state capit

Harrisburg Shares In Autonomous Vehicle Testing Excitement

Sep 30, 2016
Commonwealth Media Services

Driverless vehicle technology has made its way to the state Capitol, complete with first-time passengers.

In Pennsylvania an autonomous vehicle went on display outside Pittsburgh for the first time since testing began.

Researchers made their way to the city of Harrisburg, with Mayor Eric Papenfuse among the first people take a ride.

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.

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