Politics

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.

Listen Live: 90.5 WESA Election Coverage 2014

Oct 30, 2014
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

90.5 WESA will have live election night returns and analysis starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

From 8-10 p.m., Essential Pittsburgh will be live in studio with guests outgoing state Rep. Erin Molchany of the South Hills, Republican At-Large County Council Member Heather Heidelbaugh, and former county commissioner and state legislator Mike Dawida will join host Paul Guggenheimer in breaking down the numbers.

Why have Democrats and Republicans become so divided? And why can’t Congress seem to agree on anything?

These are the questions that American voters have been asking themselves for years, and new research might finally have an answer.

According to a report released by Carnegie Mellon University, these extreme political differences are the result of close and heated elections.

Researchers have found voters on opposite ends of the political gamut tend to favor more polarizing candidates when an election is thought to be close.

Social Media and the Gubernatorial Election

Oct 22, 2014
Tom Corbett/Tom Wolf Campaigns / Twitter

Do Governor Corbett and his challenger Tom Wolf have as many followers on Twitter and Facebook as their campaigns would lead you to believe? We’ll look at the role social media is playing in this year’s gubernatorial election with Pittsburgh Tribune Review reporter Andrew Conte.

Bob Herbert on How We’re “Losing Our Way”

Oct 7, 2014
Justin Garland / Flickr

For nearly 20 years Bob Herbert was an award-winning columnist for the New York Times. His book, titled "Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America, " chronicles ordinary Americans struggling for survival in a nation that has lost its way. We’ll talk with Bob Herbert prior to his upcoming appearance at Carnegie Mellon University’s McConomy Auditorium on Thursday, October 9 and discover the Pittsburgh ties to the book.

Herbert’s book centers on the idea that the United States has been heading in the wrong direction when it comes to the economy and the stakes of ordinary people. In the face of “perpetual war and economic decline,” Herbert stresses, leadership in America seems unwilling or unable to make forward progress.  Part of the problem, Herbert argues, is that America’s leadership has become preoccupied with short-term thinking. 

Reading Between the Lines of Political Messaging

Aug 29, 2014

As campaign season shifts into high gear, Pennsylvania voters are being inundated with political messaging. From television commercials to social media to live debates... it can be hard to find the truth behind messages so carefully crafted to win hearts and minds... and ultimately votes. 

Jerry Shuster teaches Political Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. He talks about the strategy and the psychology behind political messaging.

Watch some of the positive and negative campaign ads from this year's Gubernatorial candidates

Governor Tom Corbett's ad against Tom Wolf

A Tribute to Sophie Masloff

Aug 18, 2014
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff died Sunday at the age of 96. In the spring of 1988 she became Pittsburgh's first female and first Jewish mayor, after the death of Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri.

Joseph Sabino Mistick was Masloff's longtime friend and former top aide. He spoke about the legacy she left behind in Pittsburgh.

“I guess the best way to remember Sophie is, she was always Sophie. She was the mayor of the city of Pittsburgh, but when she was herself, when she could be herself, which she learned to do after the first few months in the mayor’s office, people began to appreciate what a remarkable leader they had. … I think what’s important now is to celebrate her life.”

Read more about Sophie Masloff and her role in Pittsburgh government.

Tom Wolf Campaign

In one week, Democratic Party members from across the state will choose their candidate to face Governor Tom Corbett in November’s gubernatorial election.

Last night, the remaining Democratic candidates for governor; state treasurer Rob McCord, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, Katie McGinty and front-runner Tom Wolf faced each other for a final debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Capitol correspondent Mary Wilson covered the debate.

Trevor Potter Connects Politics and Market Forces

Mar 17, 2014

Former FEC chairman Trevor Potter, founding president of the Campaign Legal Center and general counsel to John McCain's 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns, speaks on how market forces affect the political process, specifically with regard to campaign financing and Super PACs.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Nonprofits in the region must redefine their community relevance for the Millennial generation as these young adults enter society with a completely different approach to giving.

According to Linda Jones, Vice President of Workplace Campaign for the United Way of Allegheny County, Millennials prefer to give consistently in small amounts as well as volunteer at the organizations they support. They also approach politics differently, rejecting polarized politics and increasingly registering as independents.

How Will History Look at Mayor Luke Ravenstahl?

Oct 28, 2013
Deanna Garcia

As Pittsburghers gear up to elect a new mayor, a week from now, Luke Ravenstahl seems to be ramping up his public appearance schedule in an effort to clean up his image.

“It’s like he’s almost trying to spin the last seven years into something that reads better on his epitaph,” says Bob Oltmanns, President of OPR Group, LLC, an independent public relations consultancy.

Madame Presidenta: Why Not Us?

Oct 18, 2013
wikipedia

As the granddaughter of a woman who fought for women’s rights in the suffragist movement during the early 20th century, the work that Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation, has done is enough to make any grandmother proud.

Her newest project, a documentary titled Madame Presidentá: Why Not Us?, examines the global power of women and specifically, the work of the first female president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff.

The goal for the film, she says, was not to point out how America has not succeeded in putting a woman in the White House. Her aim, as her grandmother so pointedly says in the film, was to figure out “How the hell did they do that?” and look at the eighteen countries worldwide who do have women in power. 

Syrian American Medical Society / Facebook

Dr. Basel Termanini, Syrian American Medical Society Pittsburgh Chapter President, was born and grew up in Aleppo, Syria. Dr. Termanini has lived in Pittsburgh for 16 years and has visited his home country almost every summer with his family.

During his most recent visits, he says security and government corruption have been worse than ever before. Dr. Termanini feels much more comfortable in areas that are not controlled by the Syrian government. One of the biggest problems Syrian citizens face is government issued air strikes at medical facilities.

The newest member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to be sworn in July 30th.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s nominee, Correale Stevens, was confirmed by the Senate on a 50-0 vote on June 30, returning the court to a four-to-three Republican majority and filling the vacant seat left by the resignation of Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

The 66-year-old judge from Luzerne County will serve through 2016 — the end of Melvin’s term.

Political Commentary on Essential Pittsburgh

Jun 7, 2013

A former Pittsburgh police detective who served on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's security detail has been approached by the FBI about using debit cards tied to an unauthorized account at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union. Will his testimony open Mayor Ravenstahl to federal investigation?

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris changed her party affiliation from democratic to independent in April. Many wonder if she's planning to make a play for mayor

And State Representative Jesse White is under investigation for using a fake online identity to bash his political opponents.

Guests: Eric Heyl of the Tribune-Review and Bram Reichbaum of the Pittsburgh Comet discuss these political topics and more.

Political Commentary on Essential Pittsburgh

May 31, 2013

Law professor and political analyst Joe Sabino Mistick and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman discuss presumptive mayor elect Bill Peduto and his plans for Pittsburgh. Also, with summer recess coming up, it's crunch time for the state legislature. What's the outlook on medicaid expansion?

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