Keystone Crossroads

Keith Srakocic / AP

Mike McGrenehan thought he was headed for a life in the suburbs.

Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, not far from the city limits, McGrenehan always figured he’d marry, have kids, and ship off to the open spaces of suburbia. The “McMansion push,” he called it.

He moved to Montgomery County when he and his wife first married, but it never quite felt like home.

“When we left, we were out on an island,” he said.

After a few years, they moved back to Northeast Philly, had three kids, but reached another turning point when their oldest turned five.

Gov. Wolf Calls For Drastic School Funding Shake-Up In Surprise Announcement

Jul 2, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf called for a major change to the way Pennsylvania funds schools Friday, advocating for the state to distribute its largest pot of school money in a way that would benefit the majority of students in the state, but would likely cause deep cuts in many districts.

During questions at a press conference in Philadelphia, Wolf said the state should push all basic education money through the formula it adopted two years ago.

PA’s Population Increase In 2017 Was The Most Dramatic In 5 Years

Jun 1, 2018
Pennsylvania State Data Center

Pennsylvania’s population is on the rise again, after declining in 2016 — but growth remains concentrated in certain spots, and most communities keep losing residents.

On Primary Day, Both Parties Agree New Congressional Map May Cause Confusion

May 14, 2018
Joseph Kaczmarek

Days before Pennsylvania’s primary election, about 25 Democrats gathered for a meeting a few blocks away from the border of two recently reshaped congressional districts in North Philadelphia.

On a table with campaign literature, flyers that said, “re-elect Congressman Dwight Evans” were neatly tucked away and replaced with others that support Congressman Brendan Boyle.

PA Legislature Has Long History Of Inaction On Redistricting Reform Bills

Mar 29, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

Now that legal challenges to Pennsylvania’s new court-drawn congressional map have been rejected, state lawmakers have turned their attention to the typical process by which the state reapportions congressional districts every decade.

But some stakeholders are skeptical about whether any current proposals will ever make it to a vote.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

On a Monday morning in February, people packed the Pittsburgh mayor’s conference room to witness the city’s successful transition to financial independence — an event lauded as a turning point for the city’s future.

New Congressional Districts In Philly Suburbs Could Help Democrats Win In DC

Feb 27, 2018
Dan Gleiter / Pennlive.com

Pennsylvania’s new court-ordered congressional map has thrust the commonwealth into the national spotlight, and the readjusted political calculus in the Philadelphia suburbs is a big reason why.

Map from the office of Lt. Gov. Mike Stack

Next week, the state Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit claiming Pennsylvania’s congressional map is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Top state Democrats chimed in Wednesday in an attempt to sway the court in favor of the plaintiffs.

In a press conference held in the capitol, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack offered an alternative map he referred to as the “Stack map.”

With The Path To End Property Tax Now Open, New Data Sets Stage For Policy Debate In PA

Dec 22, 2017
Jessica Kourkounis / for Keystone Crossroads

In the past month-and-a-half, Harrisburg’s nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office has released four research briefs or special reports.

Three of those four have been about property taxes, and they may soon factor into a major policy debate.

Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

Some of the communities experiencing the most rapid changes in Pennsylvania are those that abut colleges and universities.

State College, for instance, has boomed in recent years largely due to the growing influence of Pennsylvania State University’s Main Campus. In general, this development has been positive for surrounding Center County, where there’s been a 10 percent rise in median household income since 2009.

But this growth hasn’t necessarily been a tide that’s lifted all boats, leaving fewer options for affordable housing in the area.

Compelling Closing Arguments Bring Federal Trial Over PA Gerrymandering To An End

Dec 8, 2017
Keystone Crossroads

The federal trial over Pennsylvania’s congressional district map wrapped up in a Philadelphia courtroom on Thursday with a string of stirring closing arguments before a three-judge panel.

During four days of deliberations, a group of more than 20 Pennsylvania voters challenged the way Republican lawmakers drew the state’s congressional districts in 2011, asserting a gerrymandering scheme that violates the U.S. Constitution.

WITF

In the wake of recent high-profile sexual harassment allegations coming to light, lawmakers in Pennsylvania are proposing to reform how state government handles allegations concerning legislators.

State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-Delaware) plans to introduce a bill that would ban non-disclosure agreements and prohibit use of taxpayer money for settling claims in sexual harassment or assault cases that involve lawmakers.

PA Hotline Links Those In Need With Help To Confront Opioid Addiction

Nov 28, 2017
Toby Talbot / AP

One of the most frequent complaints that Jennifer Smith, acting secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, hears from family and friends concerned about loved ones’ opioid abuse is that they don’t know how to access treatment.

“I heard over and over and over again … my child needs treatment, but I have no idea how to get him or her there. I don’t know who to call,’” said Smith last month at a hearing on the state of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Pennsylvania recently legalized online gambling with a new law that also provides for 10 mini-casinos and standalone gaming terminals throughout the state.

This expansion will take some time to be implemented.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

A widely-shared Politico article used Johnstown, Pa. as a lens to showcase the loyalty of President Trump’s supporters one year after his election. But local residents are balking at the portrait of Johnstown that emerged from the story. 

Two Fast-Tracked Court Cases Could Change The Political Face Of Pennsylvania

Nov 15, 2017
Keystone Crossroads

With drastic changes to Pennsylvania’s political landscape hanging in the balance, two lawsuits challenging the state’s congressional map are moving forward at rapid speed — one in state courts, the other in federal.

Why Pennsylvania Is Home To Some Of The Worst Gerrymanderers

Nov 13, 2017
Katie Meyer

In most states, the legislature is in charge of designing Congressional and state voting districts.

Pennsylvania isn’t unique in that respect.

Following Damaging Reports, PA Congressman Marino Defends His Opioid Law

Nov 10, 2017
Susan Walsh / AP

Last month, The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” ran a damaging story about Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tom Marino, (PA-10), which accused him of ushering a bill through Congress that tied the Drug Enforcement Agency’s hands in their effort to stop distributors from flooding the black market with opioid painkillers.

Whistleblowers in the DEA say the bill has directly interfered with their attempts to stem the nation’s opioid crisis.

Democrats Dominate Major Mayoral Races In Pennsylvania

Nov 8, 2017
Emily Previti / Keystone Crossroads

Democrats dominated municipal elections in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, securing the mayor’s offices in Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Lancaster, Erie, State College and Harrisburg.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski won a fourth term despite being the target of a federal indictment accusing him of pay-to-play politics. Under Pawlowski’s oversight, the state’s 3rd largest city has undergone a significant revitalization, with major downtown development.

Emily Previti / WITF

In 2013, Pennsylvania created the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) program in hopes of spurring economic growth by allowing a few select communities in the commonwealth to reinvest tax dollars that normally would go to the state or local government.

The program aims to ignite investment in historically hard-to-develop neighborhoods by, for instance, allowing developers to use tax revenue to pay off things like construction debt.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will allow a bill to become law that weakens teacher seniority protections and gives school districts more flexibility in their rationale for making layoffs.

School districts now will be able to cite “economic reasons” as a rationale for furloughing teachers.

Previously, districts could only slash staff by closing schools, cutting whole academic programs, or pointing to enrollment declines.

State Rep. Steven Bloom, R- Cumberland, said that’s bad public policy.

PA Capital Murder Study Ties Case Trajectory To Defendant Income

Oct 27, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

A new report on death penalty cases in Pennsylvania shows a strong tie between how a case proceeds through the justice system and who a defendant relies on for legal counsel.

Public defenders’ and court-appointed attorneys’ clients were more likely to be convicted in the hundreds of death penalty cases that comprised the study’s sample, compared to those who were able to afford their own private defense.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would alter a wide range of state policies related to public education — including the weakening of seniority protections for teachers.

The chamber agreed to the omnibus school code bill, as passed last week by the House of Representatives, by a vote of 35 to 15.  Now it will go before Gov. Tom Wolf, who says he has “serious concerns” about some of its provisions.

Haven Daley / AP

The implementation of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania was the focus of a session Tuesday during the annual conference of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Planning Association.

The meeting raised more questions than answers regarding the commonwealth’s recent legalization of medical pot.

Questions included:

Who reviews the medical marijuana applications?

What will happen to growers who aren’t up and running in six months?

Will businesses be able to get financial backing from banks?

Voter Advocates Urge PA Senate Leader To Reform Redistricting Process

Oct 20, 2017
Min Xian / WPSU

Fair Districts PA delivered postcards collected from constituents to State Senator Jake Corman’s office in Bellefonte on Thursday, urging the Republican majority leader to to pass legislation to reform the redistricting process in Pennsylvania.

About 25 members and supporters of Fair Districts PA gathered in the parking lot outside Corman’s office with over 500 postcards stapled onto a giant board.

“The districting process in Pennsylvania is rigged and we need to stop that,” said Toby Short, a volunteer for the advocacy group.

Off-Year Election, Political Frustrations Contribute To Dip In PA Voter Registration

Oct 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Less than three weeks until Election Day, voter registration is down by about 2.5 percent in Pennsylvania compared with 2016.

Both major political parties — Democrats and Republicans — have lost members across the commonwealth.

Terry Madonna, director at the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, said a drop in voter registration after the 2016 presidential election follows a typical pattern.

Susan Walsh / AP

After a damaging report on the opioid crisis from “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post, Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino withdrew his name this week as the next possible drug czar under the Trump Administration.

Whistleblowers and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration employees say Marino, a Republican from Lycoming County, lead the way to pass a bill that essentially handcuffed them from doing their job.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

In any contentious debate, getting two sides to agree to the same set of facts can be an elusive, frustrating endeavor.

New Report On PA Charter School Growth Finds ‘Stranded Costs’ Linger 5 Years Later

Sep 14, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY, file

A new study finds that expanding the charter school sector in Pennsylvania creates a significant toll on traditional public school systems, which, based on an array of fixed costs, can't downsize at the same rate that students leave.

Municipal Distress Getting Worse In Pennsylvania, According To New Data

Sep 13, 2017
Pennsylvania Economy League

The Pennsylvania Economy League released a report on Tuesday showing predictions in its last study have borne out.

That's not a good thing.

The league warned in 2007 that the struggles of distressed communities would worsen where they already existed and emerge anew elsewhere — unless local government codes were updated by state lawmakers.

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