Politics

Pennsylvania Loses Billions Under GOP Bill, Analysts Say

Sep 22, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Independent analysts say Pennsylvania would be one of the hardest-hit states under Senate legislation that would take federal health care subsidies provided under President Barack Obama's 2010 law and redistribute it among states.

On Friday, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf urged Pennsylvania's U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to reject the bill that's scheduled for a vote next week. Analysts including the Kaiser Family Foundation and Avalere Health say Pennsylvania would lose billions of federal health care dollars, while some other states would get billions in new federal dollars.

Fred Vuich / AP

Federal prosecutors have taken over the case of a National Guardsman who allegedly threatened Vice President Mike Pence before his visit to Pennsylvania for the annual observance of the Flight 93 crash on Sept. 11.

State prosecutors have dropped terroristic threat and disorderly conduct charges now that prosecutors in Johnstown have charged 22-year-old William Robert Dunbar with threats against the vice president. The charge against the Berlin man carries up to five years in prison.

Pennsylvania Takes Credit Ratings Hit Amid Budget Fight

Sep 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's credit rating took its latest hit Wednesday, another black eye in a nearly three-month budget stalemate that has pitted Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Senate against the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The credit rating agency Standard and Poor's lowered its rating on Pennsylvania's debt, citing the state's stubborn post-recession deficit and its history of late budgets, as well as Standard and Poor's belief that the pattern could continue.

Pennsylvania On Edge Of Missing Payments In Budget Stalemate

Sep 15, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state government appeared on the edge, for the first known time, of missing a payment as a result of not having enough cash on hand amid a feud over how to patch a $2.2 billion budget gap.

Gov. Tom Wolf's office has not revealed how the Democrat will manage through a cash crunch that he has said will leave his administration unable to pay every bill on time, three months into the fiscal year. Beginning Friday, the state's main bank account was projected to go below zero.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate's Republican majority leader is pledging fast action following the House's passage of a plan to help plug state government's $2.2 billion budget gap almost three months into the fiscal year.

Sen. Jake Corman said in a statement late Wednesday night that senators recognize the situation's urgency. Thursday is the last day that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says his administration has enough cash to pay bills on time until the spring.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House of Representatives has narrowly voted to move a budget plan built largely on one-time fund transfers.

Although it represents the first action on the overdue budget in well over a month, it’s unclear how much it’ll move the needle toward a resolution.

The Senate and the administration of Governor Tom Wolf both support a very different plan that raises several taxes—something the House majority wants to avoid completely.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

According to the state constitution, congressional districts should be compact, contiguous and respect county lines. But that isn’t exactly the case for Pennsylvania’s 12th.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

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

casey.senate.gov

Statewide political party leaders are starting to hone their messaging for—and against—candidates, more than a year before the midterm elections

Particular attention is already being paid to Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race, between incumbent Democrat Bob Casey and one of several Republican challengers.

The emails have been coming steadily for a few months now.

Salvos from the state Republican Party criticize Casey’s votes against cutting funds to sanctuary cities, or his shifts to the left on abortion and gun control.

Messages from the Democrats are similar.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta will announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

Campaign spokesman Jon Anzur told The Associated Press on Monday night that Barletta will release a video announcing his run for the Senate seat held by two-term Democrat Bob Casey.

The Pennsylvania Republican's entry into the race was widely expected after the AP reported last month that Barletta had relayed his plans to GOP officials and activists.

Matt Rourke / AP

A commission created by President Donald Trump asked him to declare a state of emergency over the nation’s opioid epidemic. Earlier this week, he declined. On Thursday, according to a White House pool report, he changed his mind.

The declaration would free the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant additional funding for resources, address leadership shortfalls and make changes to Medicaid coverage.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Protesters around Pennsylvania spent Wednesday urging the commonwealth’s Republican US senators and congressional representatives not to support a budget bill that routes significant dollars toward enforcing immigration laws—including $1.6 billion to build a wall on the Mexican border.

One group braved torrential rain to bring the message to Congressman Lou Barletta’s office in Harrisburg—and they even brought props.

Wolf Not Alarmed By Lack Of Budget Progress

Jul 24, 2017
Peter Crimmins / WHYY

While touring a cancer immunotherapy developer at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf insisted budget negotiations in Harrisburg are progressing well, even though House members came in on Saturday and then failed to strike a deal.  Wolf visited Adaptimmune, which received state money to build a new, LEED-certified medical manufacturing facility in the Navy Yard, two days after Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai called an emergency weekend session to hash out a way to fund the newly-approved state budget plan.

Screengrab by WESA

Christopher Wray, President Trump’s nominee for FBI Director, faces the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday for his confirmation hearing. Wray would replace James Comey, whom Trump fired in May. Wray served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush and currently works on white-collar crime at an international law firm. Given Comey's dismissal and ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. election and potential ties to the Trump campaign, senators are expected to press Wray on his independence and integrity.

Kathy Willens / AP, file

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted images of emails regarding his 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer on Tuesday. An intermediary said he could connect Trump Jr. with people who had information "that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton]... and would be very useful to your father." Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting, which former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner also attended in June 2016.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Aaron Anthony, his wife Lauren Kokai, two-year-old daughter Adelaide, and their long-haired cat Cyrus recently moved into a single family home in Anthony’s hometown, Shaler. It’s just north of Pittsburgh, along the Allegheny River.

“A hidden gem,” Kokai said. “There’s lots of kids running around, rugrats on bikes.”

Casey Heads To Pennsylvania To Hammer Senate Health Bill

Jun 23, 2017
Alex Brandon / AP

Pennsylvania's Democratic Sen. Bob Casey is in the state hammering the Republican health care bill in the U.S. Senate.

Casey, speaking after a Friday rally in the Pennsylvania Capitol, warned that the bill would change society radically because the country will stop taking care of people who need it most.

Casey and others say Pennsylvania stands to lose more than many other states. Also against it are Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania's hospitals, the Arc of Pennsylvania, the AARP of Pennsylvania and labor unions.

Evan Vucci / AP

The Trump administration has promised a return to "tough on crime" criminal justice policies, including a recent memo that instructs federal prosecutors to reverse Obama-era reforms meant to curb mandatory minimum sentences.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Results from a University of Pittsburgh survey published last week found that the presidential election impacted women's decisions about their contraception.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Tuesday’s voter turn out of 17.2 percent in Allegheny County was slightly down from four years ago and about 6 percentage points down from eight years ago. 

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Around the state, advocates and frustrated Pennsylvanians are pushing lawmakers to change the rules governing how district lines are redrawn every 10 years.

The current process lets politicians the skew districts in their political favor—a process known as gerrymandering.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Over the last several years, three separate scandals involving three separate judges have hit the commonwealth’s Supreme Court.

These and other issues have prompted nonpartisan group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts to release a report detailing the judicial discipline system’s shortfalls—and what the state can do to fix it.

The high-profile problems came one after another.

In 2013, Justice Joan Orie Melvin was found guilty of multiple felonies related to her use of state employees for campaign work.  

Pennsylvania Primary Features Appeals Court, Local Contests

Apr 17, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Numerous contests for school boards and county and municipal government, as well as a handful of appeals court races will be on the ballot next month in Pennsylvania's primary election.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Eight weeks after Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a $32.3 billion budget proposal for the new fiscal year, the Republican-controlled state House Tuesday approved its own version, a $31.5 billion spending plan.

The GOP plan was introduced Monday and was approved quickly along party lines with four Republicans joining all Democrats in voting “no.”  The Republican budget includes no tax hikes and cuts $800 million from Wolf’s proposal.

The governor called the Republican version “an opening conversation.”

Maryland To Pennsylvania (And 4 Other States): We'll Redistrict When You Do

Apr 4, 2017
Googlemaps

President Donald Trump, a Republican, won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin of 68,000 votes. The state has about 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. 

Matt Rourke / AP

The 2018 gubernatorial election is still well over a year away. But already, Republicans are announcing intentions to contest Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf’s bid for reelection.

It’s likely that GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai—long rumored to be interested in higher office—will soon be among them.

Pittsburgh-based political agency Cold Spark Media has confirmed it’s working with the Allegheny County Republican. Mark Harris, a partner with the agency acting as Turzai’s strategist, said the politician may explore a run more seriously after the state budget is finished.

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.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

After eight years on Pittsburgh City Council, Natalia Rudiak said she is “a bit burned out.”

“I'm looking forward to really spending some time on some self-care and spending some time with my family,” she said.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

One of Harrisburg’s perennial headaches is heading back to the legislative spotlight as Senate Republican leaders work to push a familiar pension bill through the chamber.

Last session, GOP lawmakers made a late-in-the-game attempt to pass a pension overhaul that would have offered state employees three retirement options—two so-called “hybrid” plans, and a 401k-style plan.

At the time, Governor Tom Wolf indicated he’d sign it. But the plan didn’t get full votes because House and Senate Democrats refused to support it, saying they hadn’t gotten enough input.

Renee Rosensteel

NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro wasn’t always in the news business. Though, he pursued journalism in college and worked for a newspaper after graduation, he also spent three years as a high school English teacher. 

He stopped by 90.5 WESA and spoke to Larkin Page-Jacobs about his work as a broadcast journalist and how it’s similar to teaching students.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

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