PA Senate


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

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.

PA Budget Becomes Law; Some Lawmakers Cry Foul

Jul 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state officially has a budget.

The $31.5 billion spending plan went into effect at midnight on Monday, without Governor Tom Wolf’s signature. But negotiations still aren’t finished on the revenue plan to back it up.

Deadline notwithstanding, lawmakers did seem to have a productive day of talks on the spending plan.

Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher called the progress “encouraging.” She said it seems likely a vote could come soon.

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.

Right-Wing Group Chalks Up More Election Wins

May 2, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 An advocacy group focused on bankrolling conservative candidates for the state Legislature is flexing its muscles after the Pennsylvania primary.

The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as CAP, has run afoul of top Republican lawmakers for its “purist” views opposing organized labor and eschewing lawmaker perks, like pensions. But being likened to dictators hasn’t slowed CAP down.  

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Democrats in Pennsylvania chose their party establishment's choice for a U.S. Senate candidate and rejected an ex-congressman who six years ago nearly won the office.

Katie McGinty, who spent more than a decade as a state and federal environmental policy official, got millions of dollars from the party and its allies that helped her side heavily outspend her rivals. She received endorsements from top Democrats, from President Barack Obama on down.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Sunday to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, ending a nearly two-year effort to approve use of the drug. 

Pennsylvania is now the 24th state to make it legal.

Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, said it will take up to 24 months to implement the program.

“This includes the process of finding and setting up the growers and distributors, setting up dispensaries and identifying and certifying patients and providers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Robinson said.

David Amsler / Flickr

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is backing new proposals to give a person’s low-level criminal offenses a limited shelf life in Pennsylvania.

Plans in the House and Senate would automatically seal low-level criminal records in Pennsylvania after a person has had no criminal activity for five to 10 years. The legislation builds on a plan enacted into law this year to let people with minor offenses ask a judge to seal their criminal records.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr


Senate backers hope medical marijuana legislation in Pennsylvania will get to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk this week.

A Senate committee made changes to the bill Monday, and the bill's backers say they hope it can win passage in the House and Senate this week.

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.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

When the state’s finances are the subject of partisan debate, it helps to turn to the analyses of the ratings agencies that judge creditworthiness – and two of the three major credit ratings agencies are warning that Pennsylvania’s fiscal problems aren’t over, even if its budget impasse is.

In Key Vote, Medical Marijuana Passes House

Mar 17, 2016
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

A plan to allow certain forms of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania has cleared a major hurdle, passing the state House and now heading to the Senate, where a similar proposal was approved last year.

Budget Plan Puts GOP, Wolf On Collision Course

Mar 16, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

State lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf could be headed for another clash over the Pennsylvania budget, now more than eight months late.

Top Republican lawmakers say they’ll pass a plan this week to restore funds vetoed by the governor late last year. The more than $6 billion proposal would bring the total state budget to about $30 billion, and the supplemental funding aims to make a variety of line items whole again – like the schools, rural hospitals, and agricultural programs on the brink of closing because they haven’t received all their state money.

Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill to increase the penalty for attacking a health care practitioner.

Under House Bill 1219, the legal charges in such assault cases would be elevated from misdemeanors to felonies.

Pennsylvania Medical Society President Scott Shapiro said health care workers face a disproportionate amount of violence in the workplace.

On Kane's Removal, Senate Panel Equivocates

Jan 28, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

A state Senate panel tasked with exploring the unprecedented removal of a sitting state attorney general included some major hedges in its final recommendations Wednesday.

Plan Would Take Politicians Out Of Redistricting

Jan 25, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania’s next redistricting effort is five years away, but one state lawmaker is already thinking about changing how it’s done.

Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria) plans to propose an overhaul that would take politicians out of the process of redrawing district lines to accommodate population changes.

Wozniak echoes the observations of pollsters and political science professors when he talks about partisan redistricting, and how Republican control of the process for the past two cycles has yielded GOP pickups and, Wozniak believes, more ideologically extreme candidates.

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.

Higher Phone Fees For 911 Centers Heads To Governor

Jun 25, 2015

The state Senate has approved a measure to make sure Pennsylvanians’ emergency 911 calls are answered. By a unanimous vote, the chamber sent the plan to Gov. Tom Wolf, who supports the legislation.

Backers of the plan say county emergency dispatch centers are underfunded and disorganized. Their proposal would hike monthly fees on phones to shore up the system.

Senate Democrats

  Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate have offered a compromise plan that would shift school funding from property taxes to a mix of sales and income taxes but would not make the payments directly to school districts.

“We are trying to change the culture. I call it a paradigm shift in how we pay taxes,” said Sen. Jim Brewster (D-McKeesport). “The burden of school property taxes has fallen on a group of folks and it’s now time to look at that and change that methodology so that everyone shares in that burden for education.”

Flickr user daveynin

A group of state senators is hoping toughen traffic laws around cell phone use.

Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) earlier this year introduced a bill to make using a cell phone while driving a secondary offense.

“There would be no violation of this law, if it were to pass, unless the person was convicted of another traffic offense,” Teplitz said.

Republican Patrick Stefano has won the 32nd District Senate seat in southwestern Pennsylvania over Democrat Deberah Kula.

The 32nd District encompasses Somerset and Fayette counties, as well as a section of Westmoreland County. Democrats have held this seat for 67 years, but Patrick Stefano will interrupt that legacy. Stefano is a business owner and it was his first time running for office.

He said he will prioritize three big issues.

The death of a 55-year-old mother of seven has led to the proposal of new legislation in the PA Senate, which would eliminate sending parents of frequently truant children to jail.

Some school districts in Pennsylvania have a policy where a child who is absent without an excuse for an excessive number of days must appear before a magisterial district judge, and the parents of the child could be fined.