Politics

Matt Rourke / AP

The FBI has reason to believe U.S. Rep. Bob Brady unlawfully concealed a $90,000 payment made by his campaign to get an opponent to quit a 2012 primary race, according to court documents that confirm the Philadelphia Democrat is under investigation in a widening campaign finance probe.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a year of fights over how to pay for Pennsylvania’s claims system for jobless workers, lawmakers say they’re getting close to a bipartisan solution.

A standoff last year over financial mismanagement in the unemployment compensation program resulted in nearly 500 layoffs.

Some workers have since been brought back, but not all.

A new plan passed through the House Labor and Industry Committee on Monday would give the UC program $115.2 million, which would be gradually phased out over four years.

Wolf Starting To Look Like A 'Two-Term Tom' As 2018 Approaches

Nov 20, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

He's starting to look like two-term Tom.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf likely has wrapped up his biggest first-term fights with the Legislature's huge Republican majorities and his record is largely set a year before voters decide whether to give him a second term. He now heads into the 2018 election year with political winds at his back.

An-Li Herring / WESA

Democrats have chosen former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon) to run in the March 13 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

A widely-shared Politico article used Johnstown, Pa. as a lens to showcase the loyalty of President Trump’s supporters one year after his election. But local residents are balking at the portrait of Johnstown that emerged from the story. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania is already on track to have a significant budget gap to fill next year.

A study from the Independent Fiscal Office shows lawmakers will likely need to come up with about a billion dollars to keep the books balanced.

They only just finished this year’s budget, four months behind schedule.

It was mostly filled with borrowing, expected revenue from a gambling expansion and a number of internal fund transfers.

Much of the money isn’t recurring, and that’s a big reason why the IFO is predicting the state will have to find more cash next year.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

A Democratic state senator is introducing legislation to bar non-disclosure agreements in Pennsylvania from attempting to stop people from reporting claims of sexual misconduct.

The bill introduced Wednesday by Berks County Sen. Judith Schwank would also prohibit Pennsylvania courts from enforcing such agreements in civil lawsuits over sexual misconduct allegations.

It would void pre-existing agreements when a party to it entered it while under duress, impaired or a minor.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is threatening to sue a Pittsburgh city councilwoman for blocking constituents on Facebook.

ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak says City Councilwoman Darlene Harris is censoring critical comments from her Facebook page, and is thus violating the First Amendment. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Walczak wrote a letter Tuesday asking Harris to unblock four residents from her Facebook page by Dec. 4.

Two Fast-Tracked Court Cases Could Change The Political Face Of Pennsylvania

Nov 15, 2017
Keystone Crossroads

With drastic changes to Pennsylvania’s political landscape hanging in the balance, two lawsuits challenging the state’s congressional map are moving forward at rapid speed — one in state courts, the other in federal.

Jeff Roberson / AP

Pennsylvania is going to borrow against its Tobacco Settlement Fund to fill in last year’s deficit and finish this year’s budget

The Wolf administration confirmed Tuesday that it will tap into the stream of money states have received from tobacco companies since the 1990s.

The borrowing will give the commonwealth money to balance its books up front, and will then be paid back over several decades.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority approved the plan Tuesday. However, Budget Secretary Randy Albright noted that it’s not finalized yet.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Several activists were arrested Monday while blocking a hallway during a rally at the state Capitol.

Many had just finished a three-day walk from Lancaster to Harrisburg—the second one they’ve done this year.

The group’s goal is to call attention to stalled bills that would ban gifts to lawmakers and seek to make the redistricting process less partisan.

The walk to the Capitol was 36 miles, and temperatures fell below freezing at times.

But when the March on Harrisburg group reached the Capitol, their energy was high

Why Pennsylvania Is Home To Some Of The Worst Gerrymanderers

Nov 13, 2017
Katie Meyer

In most states, the legislature is in charge of designing Congressional and state voting districts.

Pennsylvania isn’t unique in that respect.

An-Li Herring / WESA

State Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth), 59, will be the GOP’s nominee in the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. He won the nomination at a convention the Republican Party of Pennsylvania held in Canonsburg Saturday.

 

Heather Ainsworth / AP

Pennsylvania is starting the lengthy process of making far-reaching expansions to its gambling industry.

Among the law’s major provisions are legalization of video gaming terminals—or VGTs—in truck stops, and licensing of 10 new miniature casinos.

Counties can opt not to allow VGTs, and municipalities can do the same for mini-casinos.

State Gaming Control Board Spokesman Doug Harbach said those moves have to happen by December 29 and 31, respectively, but they haven’t heard from anyone yet.

Graphic via Sarah Kovash

Check in throughout the day for 90.5 WESA's continuous coverage of Election Day locally and around the state. 

Matt Rourke / AP

After a tumultuous budget process that saw state lawmakers pass a plan they couldn’t fully pay for, many are looking into changing how the system works entirely.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Tuesday’s election may be in an off-year, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have statewide implications.

The highest-profile race is for a seat on the state Supreme Court, and seats are also open on the Superior and Commonwealth courts.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court leans heavily Democratic right now, with a 5 to 2 majority.

The Republican candidate, Sallie Mundy, currently holds one of those seats and is seeking a full 10-year term. She was appointed as an interim justice by Governor Tom Wolf last year.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf has signed the majority of the revenue plan passed by the legislature last week —four months past the deadline.

But he hasn’t signed the public school code yet, and in a briefing Monday, appeared to leave open the possibility of vetoing it.

The rest of the revenue package fills a $2.2 billion hole in the $32 billion budget.

Pennsylvania House Passes Massive Gambling Bill

Oct 26, 2017
Julie Jacobson / AP, file

*UPDATED: Oct. 26, 2017 at 12:48pm

The Pennsylvania House is sending a just-unveiled plan to expand casino-style gambling to truck stops, online portals, airports and 10 new mini-casino sites to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf.

The chamber approved it 109-72 on Thursday, as lawmakers hope to squeeze a couple hundred million more from license fees and gambling losses to help stitch together Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After almost four months of false starts and negotiation breakdowns, the state legislature has passed most of a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s budget—almost entirely through borrowing and internal transfers.

Matt Rourke / AP

The legislature is crawling closer to finishing its four-months-late state budget—with the House and Senate both saying they’re aiming to finalize a plan based mostly on borrowing this week.

“It’s been a long three months, so hopefully there’s more optimism than there was for most of the time,” House Republican Leader Dave Reed said.

“But,” he added, “we’ll wait and see.”

So far, the legislature has sent the governor its fiscal code, which implements the overall budget, and which Wolf said he still has to review.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

This week the state Senate is expected to consider a budget proposal that’s already been approved by the House, and leaders say the borrowing-heavy plan might be the only avenue to finding consensus.

But disagreements remain on a key component of the revenue package: how to expand gambling.

Many House members have long wanted to legalize remote video gaming terminals—or VGTs— in bars and taverns. They argue illegal terminals already exist, and should be regulated.

Off-Year Election, Political Frustrations Contribute To Dip In PA Voter Registration

Oct 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Less than three weeks until Election Day, voter registration is down by about 2.5 percent in Pennsylvania compared with 2016.

Both major political parties — Democrats and Republicans — have lost members across the commonwealth.

Terry Madonna, director at the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, said a drop in voter registration after the 2016 presidential election follows a typical pattern.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House has now sent the Senate most of the revenue components necessary to finish Pennsylvania’s budget—more than three months behind schedule.

Senate leaders say they’ll make a good-faith effort to pass them, despite their flaws.

But the budget’s completion might still hinge on whether the chambers can agree on a gambling expansion.

The main component of the House proposal is a $1.5 billion in borrowing against the state’s Tobacco Settlement fund. That money would be paid back with interest over 20 years.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House and Senate are back in session after taking time off following the collapse of budget negotiations earlier this month.

There’s no concrete strategy moving forward.

But some lawmakers say they hope opposition to Governor Tom Wolf’s unilateral budget-balancing plan will eventually spur the body into action.

Wolf has announced that he intends to bring the state’s books in line by borrowing against liquor control board revenues, leasing out the state Farm Show complex, and not passing funding for state related universities.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania lawmakers might be close to a bipartisan agreement that gets a natural gas severance tax to the House floor.

Similar efforts have failed repeatedly over the last several years—and as recently as this month. But a slightly friendlier committee might make this time different.

Most House severance tax bills end up in the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which is stacked with conservative Republicans who tend to oppose tax hikes or new taxes.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

This week is Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s last in Congress. The embattled politician is resigning with one year left in his term, meaning Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District must hold a special election to fill the vacancy.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

A fifth Democrat, and eighth candidate overall, has announced his run for a southwestern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by GOP Congressman Tim Murphy.

Conor Lamb announced his candidacy Saturday. He recently resigned as an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh and is the nephew of Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb. This will be the first run for public office by 33-year-old Conor Lamb.

Murphy is resigning effective Oct. 21 after the anti-abortion lawmaker urged his former mistress to get an abortion.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

There are two more people entering the field vying to succeed Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta in 2019.

Former state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff will seek the Democratic Party's nomination, and U.S. Army veteran Andrew Lewis will seek the Republican nomination.

The 66-year-old Wolff is also a fifth-generation dairy farmer in Columbia County and served on the World Trade Organization's agriculture technical committee. The 30-year-old Lewis helps run a family construction services firm in Dauphin County and ran unsuccessfully for state Senate last year.

Pennsylvania Explores New Territory In Budget Fight

Oct 16, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances are in new territory, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf assembles a package to balance the state's budget without involvement from a Republican-controlled Legislature riven by ideological and provincial disputes.

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