Pennsylvania Politics

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania's Nov. 7 general election.

The biggest statewide contest for voters is between Supreme Court Justice Sallie Mundy and challenger Dwayne Woodruff, an Allegheny County judge who formerly played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Judge Races, Property Tax Issue Go Before Voters Next Month

Oct 9, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

A year ago, Pennsylvania voters were in the national spotlight and being fed a daily barrage of television ads for close presidential and U.S. Senate races.

PA Court Weighs Delaying Gerrymander Lawsuit Similar To Case Before US Supreme Court

Oct 6, 2017
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pelligrini heard arguments Wednesday over whether to stay a lawsuit over the state’s congressional district map until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a similar case out of Wisconsin.

Marc Levy / AP

A Republican state senator running for governor is on a recording telling a crowd that he's urged House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor to block a tax on Marcellus shale natural gas production to hurt Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's re-election chances.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

GOP leaders say they’re optimistic they’ll have some kind of budget framework to present to members this week.

The House and Senate are both scheduled to convene Monday.

The potential deal comes after a week of closed negotiations between chamber leaders, as well as at least one rare in-person meeting with Governor Tom Wolf.

It’s unclear when or if major votes will happen.

But in a memo sent to GOP members, House Leader Dave Reed said it “might be a good idea to pack for a long week.”

Evan Vucci / AP

Dozens of groups around Pennsylvania—united by their opposition to President Donald Trump -- are rallying under the loose coalition of PA Resist.

Organizers say they just held the largest so-called Day of Action yet in support of a broad pro-immigration platform.

Protesters turned out in nearly 20 cities across the commonwealth to call on their congressional representatives to support what’s being dubbed a “clean DREAM Act."

It's a proposal to protect young people brought into the country illegally, without immigration enforcement language tied to it.

Property Assessment Reform Bill Clears Pennsylvania House

Sep 28, 2017
Emily Previti/OpenStreetsMap

Pennsylvania counties can go decades without updating their property values due to relatively lax state laws, with results that are inequitable for taxpayers.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

State House Democrats and a handful of Republicans are trying to figure out the best way to bring a natural gas severance tax up for a vote.

The group briefly tried to bring a bill to the floor Tuesday, but had to drop the effort because they were short on support.

The version of the severance tax under consideration has been sitting in the GOP-controlled House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee since January.

The panel's leaders haven’t seemed inclined to act on it.

Wagner Gets Bannon's Stamp Of Approval In Governor's Race

Sep 26, 2017
Marc Levy / AP

President Donald Trump hasn't endorsed a candidate in Pennsylvania's gubernatorial election next year, but Scott Wagner might have something close to it: Steve Bannon's stamp of approval.

Bannon, the divisive ex-Trump strategist, urged a conservative gathering at a St. Louis hotel on Sunday to support the Republican state senator from York County.

Emily Cohen / for NewsWorks

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County may be an endangered species — a moderate Republican who makes a point of working with Democrats. 

In 2017, the Republican majority in both houses means controversial bills, most notably one to repeal the Affordable Care Act, can pass without a without a single Democratic vote.

Matt Rourke / AP

State Treasurer Joe Torsella has found himself at the center of contentious battles over funding Pennsylvania’s unbalanced budget and paying the commonwealth’s bills.

Last month, Torsella decided he wouldn’t loan money to cover short-term expenses until the budget is done. The state has since had to delay some payments

He maintains his decision was responsible.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The GOP-controlled state Senate has formally rejected a conservative budget plan passed by the House—essentially resetting negotiations nearly three months past the deadline.

Now, Republicans in the House and Senate will attempt to work with Governor Tom Wolf to figure out a compromise.

Wolf has said he wants to get the budget done by October first.

But the general consensus from the House and Senate has been that that’s a stretch.

Matt Rourke / AP

Senators are trying to figure out how to move forward on the stalled state budget.

They’re planning to formally vote against a conservative House funding plan Wednesday in hopes of kick-starting an expedited process known as a conference committee.

However, there’s no guarantee that will happen.

After receiving it last week, Senate leaders quickly made it clear they don’t support a House proposal that would close the $2.2 billion budget gap primarily with one-time fund transfers instead of taxes.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate is back in session, and is gearing up to respond to a budget package the House passed last week.

Senate leaders aren’t revealing much about their plans—though they indicate they have fundamental disagreements with House leaders.

Meanwhile, the standoff is prompting credit rating agencies and budget experts to put the commonwealth on their watch lists.

Senate To Confront No-Tax Package In 80-Day Budget Fight

Sep 18, 2017
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate is due to reconvene in Harrisburg on day 80 of an increasingly ugly budget fight.

The Senate's chief piece of business Monday is sorting through the House's no-new-taxes plan approved last week amid a three-month stalemate over plugging a projected $2.2 billion budget hole.

Sen. Pat Toomey A Key Player In Trump Tax Overhaul Effort

Sep 18, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

As President Donald Trump and Congress undertake an overhaul of the U.S. tax code this fall, Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is likely to be a key player in the effort.

Toomey brings a passion for tax policy and years of experience as president of the conservative group, Club for Growth.

Pennsylvania's Ugly Budget Fight Gets Personal And Regional

Sep 18, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The feel-good bipartisan spirit that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf tried to instill last year in Pennsylvania's Capitol is gone, stomped to bits in an increasingly ugly budget stalemate.

Matt Rourke / AP

The commonwealth is putting off paying over a billion dollars to insurers who administer Medicaid benefits, because its main bank account is almost out of money.

It will be at least a week before the state can afford to pay, and the delay will probably mean the insurers will charge interest.

In some ways, this is a recurring problem for the commonwealth: bills come due at the beginning of the fiscal year, but revenue doesn’t come in until later.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state House is still working on a plan to fill a $2.2 billion dollar gap in a budget that is almost three months late.

But negotiations took an unexpected turn Tuesday when the chamber adjourned suddenly without holding an expected vote on a plan from a conservative faction of members.

On Monday, House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin had appeared fairly sure a vote would happen the next day.

But something happened in the hours since then that stalled the process.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Advocates for overhauling the redistricting process packed the Capitol rotunda Tuesday hoping to persuade lawmakers to take their quest seriously.

Pennsylvania's congressional districts are considered among the most unfair in the country.

Matt Rourke / AP

Heated speeches could be heard from the House GOP’s closed caucus room Monday night, as a conservative faction attempted—for several hours—to rally support for a budget funding plan that wouldn’t raise taxes.

They’ll probably vote on the proposal sometime Tuesday—whether or not it’ll actually pass.

House GOP leaders largely avoided commenting on the situation.

House GOP To Test Budget-Balancing Plan In Growing Stalemate

Sep 11, 2017
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will return to session Monday for the first time in seven weeks as a lengthening budget stalemate is drawing warnings by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that he is out of options to make payments on time.

Hanging in the balance is $2.2 billion in program funding — about 7 percent of approved spending — and another downgrade to Pennsylvania's battered credit rating.

Matt Rourke / AP

Agencies are raising alarms over a GOP-backed House plan to redirect billions of dollars to fill gaps in the state’s badly unbalanced budget.

The proposal comes from a conservative faction of the House.

Supporters say it wouldn’t impact state departments, because the money to be transferred is all surplus that has increased over the last few years without being spent.

But a number of agencies say they’d be profoundly affected.

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said the funds identified as “surplus” are virtually all committed for future projects.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP, file

One of Congress’s most vocal moderates has announced he’s stepping down.

Pennsylvania’s 15th District representative, Republican Charlie Dent, announced late on Thursday that he won’t seek reelection next year—a decision he said he came to in mid-summer.

Dent has cut a distinct path over the course of his seven terms in Congress.

Recently, he opposed a GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—a move that reportedly led President Donald Trump to tell Dent he was “destroying the Republican Party.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says a plan assembled by a group of House Republicans to balance Pennsylvania's budget is "nonsense" and urged House members to approve a $2.2 billion bipartisan plan that passed the state Senate in July.

Wolf said Wednesday the House GOP plan would divert aid from other programs, such as volunteer fire companies, highways and county emergency response agencies.

Wolf also repeated an earlier warning that he'll have to start freezing some spending on Sept. 15 to prevent the state's main bank account from going below zero.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A group of House Republicans has unveiled a plan to balance the more than $2 billion budget deficit by, primarily, raiding dozens of state funds.

Eighteen rank and file House Republicans said they spent most of the summer working on the plan, which they named “The Taxpayers’ Budget.”

It would transfer cash from the so-called “special” funds that help pay for a number of state programs and services. Supporters of the plan said they limited the transfers to funds with “inordinately high” balances.

Matt Rourke / AP

Election officials across the country are trying to make sure voting infrastructure is up to date, after concerns over potential hacking in the 2016 election.

Pennsylvania is no exception.

In 2002, the federal government handed down almost $4 billion for states to update their voting machines and other election equipment. Most states—including Pennsylvania—have long since drained their share.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

In Southwestern Pennsylvania, there’s a congressional district that looks like a hammer.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

For several months, the state Health Department has been refusing to disclose who is on the panels that scored applications for medical marijuana licenses.

But now, the Department of Open Records is ordering the agency to release the information. 

The Open Records decision comes after protracted back-and-forth between the DOH and PennLive.

After releasing permits to grow, process and sell medical marijuana to select applicants, the department wouldn’t name the panelists who had made those decisions.

Wolf: Pennsylvanians Will 'Get Hurt' If Budget Isn't Funded

Sep 5, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is warning that Pennsylvanians will "get hurt" if state lawmakers don't pass a revenue package to balance a nearly $32 billion budget bill they approved more than two months ago.

Wolf also told interviewers on KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh on Tuesday that his decision day is Sept. 15, when he'll have to start freezing some spending to prevent the state's main bank account from going below zero.

Wolf says freezing spending could affect roads, schools and emergency response systems.

No House votes are scheduled this week.

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