Politics

Effects Of Supreme Court Voter Roll Decision Appear Limited

Jun 12, 2018
Jacquelyn Martin / AP

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has cleared the way for states to take a tougher approach to maintaining their voter rolls, but will they?

Ohio plans to resume its process for removing inactive voters after it was affirmed in Monday's 5-4 ruling. It takes a particularly aggressive approach that appears to be an outlier among states.

Few appear eager to follow.

"Our law has been on the books. It hasn't changed, and it isn't changing," said Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Bryan Dean.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

After more than a year of on-and-off negotiation, the state Senate has moved a congressional redistricting overhaul to the floor of the full chamber.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

On Tuesday, a state House bill that would overhaul congressional map-drawing was assigned to an unusual committee—circumventing a different panel where such proposals have repeatedly been struck down.

It’s the latest in a series of spasms toward changing Pennsylvania’s oft-disparaged redistricting process.

But lawmakers are quickly running out of time to close the deal.

The new bill is the brainchild of Dave Reed—the GOP majority leader who is departing the House at the end of this year.

Michael Rubinkam / AP

For several years, a hog farm in Luzerne County has been under legal fire for emitting a stench that people say can make the surrounding area almost unlivable.

A lawsuit is now awaiting consideration before the state Supreme Court.

But the outlook isn’t good—and that’s largely because Pennsylvania law makes it near-impossible to sue farms for nuisances like smells.

Scott Wagner Leaves Senate, Vowing To Work To Fix PA's Problems

Jun 4, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

Scott Wagner, who once warned that he would carry a baseball bat into Pennsylvania's Senate to get things done, bid farewell Monday to the institution that he had barged into as a write-in candidate four years earlier to concentrate on his Republican campaign for governor.

Wagner, who will challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's re-election bid in November, told the chamber's members in a 15-minute farewell speech that he had gone to the Senate to change the culture.

Now, he said, he can do more as governor.

June Is Final Frontier For Pennsylvania Redistricting Bill

Jun 4, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

An issue that, for years, had little oxygen keeping it alive could become the talk of Pennsylvania's Capitol during June's long, humid days of budget-making.

Some top Republican lawmakers have joined an effort to overhaul how Pennsylvania draws its legislative and U.S. House district boundaries, now that the state's highest court dealt those same Republican lawmakers a stinging loss in a congressional gerrymandering case that made national headlines.

Courtesy of Chelsa Wagner and Lisa Bennington

Across the U.S. and in western Pennsylvania, women appear poised to post major victories in the 2018 elections. But two local women who once served in the state legislature said winning the election is often the easy part.

Katie Blackley / WESA

Now that the primary is over and the 2018 campaigns are well underway, we checked in with U.S. Senator Bob Casey. On a recent trip through Pittsburgh, Casey sat down with 90.5 WESA's government and accountability editor, Chris Potter.

Casey discussed how issues like trade with China and steel and aluminum tariffs will affect Pennsylvania. 

Members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee will choose their party leaders on June 9. And whether they vote for current county chair Nancy Patton Mills or challenger Eileen Kelly, this may be the last time they choose by secret ballot.

For a while, in fact, it appeared committee members wouldn’t be allowed to vote in secret this time, either.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Scott Wagner says he's resigning from his Senate seat on Monday to focus on the governor's race.

Wagner submitted his resignation letter on Wednesday to Senate President Joe Scarnati.

Wagner's spokesman Andrew Romeo says the senator realized the best way to "bring about the most change and do the most good for the commonwealth" is by devoting all of his time and energy to the election.

He will face Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is seeking a second, four-year term.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the commonwealth’s budget deadline a month away, negotiations haven’t begun in earnest.

But talks are ongoing behind the scenes—and that means a familiar tug-of-war between Democrats trying to bolster state programs, and Republicans determined to limit spending.

Centerpieces of Gov. Tom Wolf’s February budget proposal included funding hikes for education and services for the elderly and people with disabilities, plus new cash from a natural gas severance tax and fees for state police coverage.

Matt Rourke / AP

A bill that would end elections for Pennsylvania’s three statewide courts is making its way through the state House. HB 111 would establish a “merit selection” process, where a bipartisan commission would choose judges and justices to serve on the state Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts.

 

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Activists in other states are looking to Pennsylvania’s redistricting case as they attempt to get their own congressional districts overturned.

In particular, lawyers involved in an Ohio case say their situation has a lot in common with the one in the commonwealth.

The Ohio lawsuit differs from Pennsylvania’s in that it’s a federal matter, not a state one.

But attorney Freda Levenson, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said a lot of the principles underlying the situations are the same—and that means the successful PA suit is a learning opportunity.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The General Assembly has passed a second version of a measure designed to fix a hole in Pennsylvania’s sex offender law.

The issue dates back to a state Supreme Court ruling last year.

Justices ruled the state couldn’t impose punishments on offenders whose crimes had happened before those penalties were enacted.

That had a potential side-effect of knocking more than 10 thousand offenders off the registry, according to state police.

Keith Srakocic / AP

State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler won't know until November whether he will be a Congressman, but already a top Republican has expressed interest in replacing him in Harrisburg.

Alex Brandon / AP

As he completes his sixth week in office, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D - Mt. Lebanon) is straddling the partisan divide with two votes on bank rules.

 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The number of women in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Allegheny County will likely triple after November’s general election—from one to three. That’s because Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee upset longtime Democrat incumbents Dom Costa and his cousin Paul Costa in the May 15 primary election. 

PA Lawmakers Advance Redistricting Reforms As June Deadline Looms

May 23, 2018
Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania lawmakers have advanced a bill that would change the state’s constitution to put its congressional district map in the hands of a citizen commission, one whose 11 members would be chosen by elected officials.

Mary Wilson / WITF

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati is throwing his weight behind a few measures that have, of late, been more commonly championed by Democrats.

The top Republican official, of Cameron County, said in a wide-ranging speech Monday that he wants to see the redistricting process overhauled, and also switch the commonwealth to open primaries.

Scarnati made it clear, his anger over the state Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate and redraw Pennsylvania’s congressional map hasn’t abated.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the state House and Senate both back in Harrisburg, lawmakers are turning their attention to a number of gun control and school safety bills.

The effort comes in the wake of a Texas school shooting that killed ten last week—the nation’s largest since the Florida shooting that killed seventeen in February.

When House lawmakers finish up a series of public hearings on gun control, House GOP Spokesman Steve Miskin said a number of stalled bills will start moving—likely in the “first week or two in June.”

Not All GOP Candidates Want Trump To Stump

May 21, 2018
Evan Vucci / AP

He is the Republican Party's most powerful political weapon. Yet as the GOP fights to defend its delicate House and Senate majorities, President Donald Trump is not welcome everywhere.

AP

State House Republicans are increasing Representative Nick Miccarelli's punishment after deciding his actions constitute retaliation against two women who accused him of physical and sexual abuse--fellow GOP representative Tarah Toohil and another woman who has remained anonymous.

However, they're not moving to expel Miccarelli.

And meanwhile, in a memo detailing the latest sanctions, House GOP leaders included a pointed message to the Democrats in the chamber.

YouTube

The race for governor is only a few days in, but the negative ads are already starting.

Only minutes after Scott Wagner clinched the Republican nomination for governor, the Wolf campaign sent out a press release calling the York County Senator “the worst of Harrisburg.”

They also released an ad deriding Wagner as a bully, and included footage of various speeches in which he used violent-sounding metaphors.

Bibiana Boerio for Congress / YouTube

Republicans got most of the attention in Tuesday’s primary in the 14th Congressional District, where state Senator Guy Reschenthaler scored an 11-point victory over state Representative Rick Saccone. But Democrat Bibiana Boerio of Unity Township won by an even larger margin – 19 points – in a primary that featured a total of four candidates.

 

Women Win U.S. House Primaries, GOP Makes Picks For Gov, Senate

May 16, 2018
Matt Slocum / AP

Pennsylvania Republicans picked a tough-talking state senator and a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump to be their party's nominees for governor and U.S. Senate, as a big splash in U.S. House primaries made it more likely that women will break the all-male hold on Pennsylvania's congressional delegation.

scanlonforcongress.com

Mary Gay Scanlon has won a 10-way Democratic primary in a southeastern Pennsylvania congressional district that's likely to flip to the Democrats following a court-ordered redrawing of the state's political maps.

She will face Republican Pearl Kim in November's general election. The 5th Congressional District, which now leans Democratic, has an open seat following the resignation of Rep. Pat Meehan amid allegations he used taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment allegations by a former aide.

Trump Supporter Barletta Wins GOP Nod To Take On Sen. Casey

May 15, 2018
Susan Walsh / AP

Four-term U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump who first got national notice as a small-city mayor for his attempted crackdown on illegal immigration, on Tuesday won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

Barletta had paid little attention to his Republican rival, state Rep. Jim Christiana, during the primary campaign. Instead, he focused his attacks on the candidate he hopes to unseat in the fall, two-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

Summer Lee for PA

Summer Lee of Swissvale has won the Democratic primary as a newcomer to the 34th State House District in a wide victory against incumbent Paul Costa.

 

It’s a win for local progressives who have set their sights on unseating Democrats they say have become listless from multiple terms in office.

 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Republican and Democratic voters are heading to the polls today to select their champions for November's general election, and Mark Wolosik, who heads Allegheny County's elections department, is expecting light turnout for today's primary. 

"We're predicting about 20 percent on both sides -- 20 percent Democratic and 20 percent Republican registered voters," he says.

Voters Cast Ballots In Pennsylvania's New Congressional Districts

May 15, 2018
Susan Walsh / AP

Tuesday's primary elections will begin to settle swing state Pennsylvania's chaotic congressional landscape after a court fight ended with redrawn districts just three months ago.

Pennsylvania primary voters will also decide the fate of President Donald Trump's pick for U.S. Senate. Idaho voters are set to pick their Republican gubernatorial nominee, while heavily Republican Nebraska and Democratic-leaning Oregon are also holding primaries Tuesday.

A look at some of the key races:

PENNSYLVANIA SCRAMBLE

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