Politics

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The mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. earlier this month spurred the national discussion on gun control yet again.

U.S. Senate Democrats led a successful filibuster and in Allegheny County, two of the nine state representatives are pushing legislation on the issue, Democrats Jake Wheatly and Ed Gainey.

Bill Maher / Facebook

Bill Maher, who has been hosting “Real Time with Bill Maher" for 13 years on HBO, joins us by phone. Maher started his career as a standup comedian and still performs at least fifty dates a year. He’ll be in Pittsburgh on Friday, July 8 at Heinz Hall. We'll ask him about politics, religion and all of the things people aren't supposed to discuss.  

Michael Lopreste imagines it would be easier if he had the sort of job that allowed him to simply walk away from a co-worker's political diatribe. But as sales manager of a high-end furniture chain, he often can't afford to.

"Being in sales, we're kind of this captive audience," Lopreste says. "You know, you want to make the client feel at ease, you want to make them feel important, you want to be able to have a good rapport with them. And a lot of times that manifests itself by being able to mirror back what they're saying, or perfecting the nod and smile."

Governor Wolf Calls For Reimagining Of Pennsylvania Cities

May 16, 2016
Keystone Crossroads

How does a man who has spent his life in a town of fewer than 1,400 people become a big fan of cities? Well, he becomes a businessman — and then the governor.

Charlie Neibergall / AP

Well, of course. But it's been a long time.

Pennsylvania has become a fairly solid blue state since then-candidate George H. W. Bush won the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, but that didn’t stop GOP hopeful Donald Trump from winning a substantial number of votes on Tuesday.

Trump, Clinton Take Presidential Primary In Pennsylvania

Apr 26, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

New York businessman Donald Trump won the Republican presidential primary in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, pulling in support from a majority of men and women, high-income and low-income earners and voters from cities, suburbs and rural areas.

Hillary Clinton defeated rival Bernie Sanders, taking another step in her march to the Democratic presidential nomination.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Republican John Kasich became the latest presidential candidate to make a stop in the Steel City with a quick appearance in Market Square on Tuesday.

Court Upholds Total Population Count In Electoral Districts

Apr 4, 2016
supremecourt.gov

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can count everyone, not just eligible voters, in deciding how to draw electoral districts.

The justices turned back a challenge from Texas voters that could have dramatically altered political district boundaries and disproportionately affected the nation's growing Latino population.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state has an entire agency dedicated, at least in part, to the men and women who have served in the military.

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs boasts 22,000 military and civilian personnel. It manages veterans homes and administers a variety of veteran benefits and outreach initiatives.

But for Joe Peters, Republican candidate for state attorney general, “it’s simply not enough.”

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

The state spending stalemate is ending, but lawmakers could face some unfinished budget business.

While Governor Tom Wolf will let the rest of a state budget take effect, he’s vetoing companion legislation known as the fiscal code.

The fiscal code is often referred to as the budget’s instruction manual. Wolf’s office said this one had directions the governor didn’t appreciate – like wiping out new gas drilling regulations and authorizing borrowing to reimburse school construction costs (the governor said the debt service will be too expensive at this point).  

Pennsylvania Lawmakers To Take Up Medical Marijuana Proposal

Mar 14, 2016
Brett Levin / Flickr

 

A proposal to allow marijuana to be prescribed for a list of medical conditions is heading to the Pennsylvania House floor, where it could face changes before a final vote.

The House planned to take up more than 220 amendments to the bill on Monday, and it could be Wednesday or later before the chamber decides whether to approve the legislation.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

State budget hearings for the governor’s most recent spending proposal have drawn to a close, but not without an unusual bit of advice from a House lawmaker.

Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-Philadelphia) said it’s time for legislative leaders and the governor’s office to bring in some outside help to end the budget impasse: a third-party mediator.

“I am calling for mediation,” said DeLissio, testifying to the final, sparsely attended budget hearing by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday. “I am concerned that things have been said that cannot be unsaid.”

Governor Tom Wolf / 90.5 WESA

The state hasn’t had a full spending plan for more than eight months, but top lawmakers haven’t yet had a budget meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration in 2016, the House Appropriations Committee chairman said Thursday.

“We haven’t met since December,” said Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware). “And we should have been.”

What Are Sanders And Clinton’s Positions On Fracking?

Mar 10, 2016
Carlos Osorio / AP

 

At a recent CNN debate in Flint, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred on a range of environmental issues, including a hot-button issue for many in her party’s base: fracking. While Sanders’ response was brief and unequivocal—“No, I do not support fracking”—Clinton’s required a bit more explanation.

Clinton gave a list of conditions that would have to be met in order for her to support hydraulic fracturing—including full disclosure of chemicals used, pollution controls and local approval for any projects.

Eric Norris / Flickr

Three Pennsylvania senators will soon introduce legislation to limit the quantity of opioid products dispensed in emergency rooms to no more than a seven-day supply.

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.

Wolf Still Hopes For Budget Deal As Next Proposal Nears

Jan 14, 2016
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says he's hoping to finish a budget deal for the half-finished fiscal year before he delivers a spending proposal for the year starting next July 1.

Matt Rourke / AP

One legacy of Pennsylvania’s 2015 budget gridlock may prove to be the wave of retirement announcements from longtime state lawmakers.

More than a dozen House and Senate members are calling it quits, most of them with more than a decade of service under their belts.

Their reasons vary.

“Let me put it this way: the impasse didn’t convince me to stay,” said Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery), elected in 2006.

“The art of compromise needs to be revisited in the Capitol,” Vereb said, “and I think the art of the deal – someone should read up on it.”

Ken Marshall / Flickr

State lawmakers are bracing for a dizzying prospect: planning the next fiscal year’s spending before the current year’s budget has been finalized.

Dates are set for Governor Tom Wolf’s February budget address and the legislative hearings that follow.

“I will say it will be a little bit different if we don’t have a budget concluded,” said Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed.

PA House of Representatives

 

A veteran Democrat state lawmaker from Pittsburgh's western suburbs is retiring.

State Rep. Nick Kotik, of Robinson Township, says he won't run to retain his 45th District House seat this year.

Kotik was elected in 2002 and is the House Democratic Chairman of the Gaming Oversight Committee. He is known for leading the contingent of Blue Dog Democrats, socially conservative lawmakers mostly from western Pennsylvania.

Kotik recently turned 65 and says seven terms in the House is long enough to serve.

Kotik lives in Robinson Township.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

State House and Senate Republicans are at odds over what the commonwealth should pay into its retirement systems.

Tight finances compelled the Senate to approve a plan last week that would cut roughly $170 million from scheduled state payments to its pension funds.

House Republicans have always said they would fight such a move, since the commonwealth’s pension systems are already so underfunded. On Tuesday morning, a House committee reversed the Senate’s proposed payment reductions (or “collars,” in pension-speak).

Senate Republicans were irked by the change.

Mic Smith / AP

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter wants to ban Donald Trump from the city after the Republican presidential candidate called for a national ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Nutter calls Trump's proposal "ignorant" and says if he had the power, he'd ban Trump from the city. He saysPhiladelphia doesn't have "any room for that kind of stupidity."

Counties May Sue PA Over 5-Month Budget Standoff

Nov 25, 2015
David Flores / Flickr

Pennsylvania's cash-strapped counties are saying enough is enough as the budget impasse in Harrisburg nears its sixth month. They are exploring a lawsuit to force the state to release funds, and at least one already declared it will protest by withholding millions of dollars it collects in state real estate transfer taxes and court fees.

The stalemate between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers has meant a lack of state funding for school districts, counties and nonprofits, which in turn have reduced staff, slashed services and borrowed money to cover costs.

Marc Levy / AP

A tentative outline for a state budget looks like it could crumble this week, dealing a bitter reality check to Governor Tom Wolf and the top lawmakers who said they could deliver a spending plan by Thanksgiving.

Matt Rourke / AP

Perhaps what Attorney General Kathleen Kane needs is an asterisk – a footnote, or some other kind of small explanation of her current situation.

That’s what one legal ethicist advised in testimony Tuesday to the state Senate committee considering Kane’s removal in light of her law license suspension last month.

David Amsler / Flickr

 

One of the many victims of Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is domestic violence organizations that rely on government funding.

With the impasse well into its fourth month, organizations that rely on state or federal funding aren’t getting either, and there are fears that some may have to temporarily shutter their doors. That means victims of domestic violence may not get the help they need.

Trying To Control The Message During The Budget Standstill

Jul 20, 2015
Dave Newman / flickr

  

As the budget stalemate continues in Harrisburg, Republicans in the legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf are engaged in a battle to make sure the voters get their message about who is responsible. Essential Pittsburgh broke down how the media war is being waged with Jeff Ritter, chair of media, communications and technology at La Roche College.

Women and Girls Foundation

One hundred high school girls are in Harrisburg this week shadowing legislators and participating in their own mock congress to kick off this year’s GirlGov program.

GirlGov was created in 2009 as an offshoot of the Women and Girls Foundation’s Girls as Grantmakers program.

Heather Arnet, CEO of the foundation, said they set aside $10,000 in grant money and asked the girls to work out how to appropriate the funds during their pseudo-congressional session.

Rob McCord website

Former Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord pleaded guilty Tuesday to two federal counts of attempted extortion, admitting that he tried to use the position of his office to strong-arm state contractors into donating money to his failed gubernatorial campaign.

WESA's Capitol correspondent Mary Wilson joins us to discuss McCord's steep and fast fall from public office.

The Role of the Attorney General

Feb 4, 2015
The US Department of Justice

Last week Senate confirmation hearings began for Loretta Lynch. She's President Obama’s nominee to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. In light of the hearings, Pitt Law Professor David Harris talks about the role and responsibilities of the office of the Attorney General.

Harris first explains that the Attorney General is the top lawyer for the US government. Their role is to advise all of the departments of the executive branch, including the office of the President. He or she is also the administrator and chief of the US Justice Department. Harris says while the AG serves as a lawyer for the office of the President, it's not the same as representing the President. He offers Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon as examples.

"There has to be, there should be a separation between the white house and the political interests of the president," says Harris, which is why Janet Reno did not represent Bill Clinton in his impeachment hearing.

Harris says the office of the Attorney General has existed pretty much from the start of the nation in 1789, and the Justice Department was created in 1870. Read more at the Department of Justice website.

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