Pennsylvania State Legislature

Matt Rourke / AP Images

Does Pennsylvania have too many state legislators? That’s what Brian O’Neill, columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, believes. He has been advocating shrinking the legislature since 1994. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with O’Neill to discuss the idea and how to make it a reality.

Is Pennsylvania's Primary Relevant?

Feb 9, 2016
John Minchillo / AP Images

As New Hampshire holds its' first in the nation presidential primary, voters in Pennsylvania are waiting until late April to cast their ballots for their preferred Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. We'll talk with Terry Madonna, Director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, about the chances that the Pennsylvania Primary will still be relevant.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

No women represent Allegheny County in the Pennsylvania state legislature, and only 18 percent of the state seats are filled by women at all. The situation is more than a diversity problem, argued Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner. She called it a crisis. As a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, she’s advocating for more women to run for office, to improve the political process and better reflect the actual demographics of the Commonwealth.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

As state lawmakers struggle to agree on a budget, a coalition of 32 community organizations has banded together to push for changes in the budget-making process for future years. 

Max King, president of The Pittsburgh Foundation, said he wants there to be a hard deadline in which no state employees gets paid until a budget is in place. The state is supposed to have a new budget by July 1 each year.

PA Budget Talks Turn Sour As Both Sides Dig In

Jun 23, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The tentative optimism about a timely state budget is giving way to partisan backbiting as lawmakers enter the last week before their deadline to approve a state spending plan.

Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-controlled Legislature appear to be stuck, both sides unwilling to compromise major priorities tied up with the state’s spending plan due June 30.

The Pennsylvania state Legislature has 253 members. Currently, only 46 of them are women.

The League of Women Voters will discuss this problem, among other issues, at its state convention, which they recently announced will take place in Pittsburgh next month.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania legislators are again trying to reduce the size of the state House of Representatives and Senate, with a pair of bills that would be the first steps toward amending the state constitution.

House Bill 153 proposed to reduce the House of Representatives from 203 members to 153, while House Bill 384 would shrink the Senate from 50 to 37 seats.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

Today 90.5 WESA presented live coverage of Governor Wolf's budget address to the Pennsylvania Legislature in Harrisburg from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

House Votes to Phase Out PA Liquor Stores

Feb 26, 2015
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

By a vote of 114-87, the state House has passed a proposal to take apart the state’s liquor system, though the measure is heading to an unenthusiastic Senate and an opposed governor.  

The measure would phase out most state-owned wine and spirit stores and put the state in charge of selling licenses to private retail and wholesale vendors.

House debate went for hours on the merits of the bill – despite the fact that it’s headed for almost certain changes in the Senate.

Flickr user Grumpy-Puddin

If you have hemophilia, multiple sclerosis or any number of other hard-to-treat diseases, the cost of your medications alone could reach into six figures, depending on your insurance coverage.

“It’s roughly $15,000 a month, and from that I’m lucky to have good insurance so we have good co-pay structure, co-insurance," said Nick Vizzoca, whose 13-year-old son has hemophilia.

The Pittsburgh resident said he is worried his son’s medication could be placed into a specialty tier and the co-pay could sky rocket.

State Sen. Larry Farnese of Philadelphia will introduce legislation meant to protect community and civic organizations from frivolous lawsuits.

Farnese was spurred into action by the dissolution of the Old City Civic Association in Philadelphia, which he says was overwhelmed by lawsuits that steadily increased their insurance premiums until they could not afford them anymore.

Tim Lambert / WITF

In the wake of Governor Corbett’s budget signing and the Supreme Court’s overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act, John Micek Opinions Editor of the Harrisburg Patriot-News explains the many pressing issues at the state level. 

Ed Rendell couldn't sit this debate out.

The former Democratic governor has penned a letter to all the state House members pleading for their votes on the $2.5 billion transportation funding plan — and not to let it be linked to other issues, like liquor privatization.

In years past, top lawmakers have talked about such deal-making as perfectly acceptable. The Senate President Pro Tem calls it the "Rendell school of leverage."

But the school's namesake said the stakes are too high now.

State AG: Proposed Funding Increase Not Enough to Stave Off Furloughs

May 31, 2013

Pennsylvania’s top fiscal watchdog isn’t sure an offer from state House Republicans to hike his agency’s funding could prevent some of the layoffs planned for mid-June.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the proposed $2.6 million increase wouldn’t be enough to bring back all 67 people throughout the state who are slated to lose their positions.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Cities throughout Pennsylvania, regardless of size, are facing similar issues such as blight, aging infrastructure and unsustainable pension systems. To learn more about the future of municipalities, the state Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee held a hearing Wednesday to better assess needs.

The first person to address the committee was Pittsburgh’s 8th District City Councilman and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Peduto. He said there are four main issues facing the city: pensions, economic development, education, and infrastructure and transportation.

State Sen. Daylin Leach of eastern Pennsylvania is supporting two pieces of legislation designed to combat human trafficking in Pennsylvania.  

Leach said too often, minors are arrested for prostitution and treated as criminals when they are, in fact, victims.  

"They're forced into doing this by pimps and traffickers, yet the pimps and traffickers are never there when the person's arrested," Leach said. "So we charge the young lady and she has a criminal record, and she has to deal with that, whereas the person who's actually responsible faces no consequences."