Politics

Chelsea Beck / NPR

After passing their respective tax overhaul bills, the U.S. House and Senate are trying to reconcile the differences in their legislation. While they do that, President Trump is making a renewed pitch to the American people about the importance of overhauling the tax code. Watch the speech live as it happens, and read President Trump's remarks with context and analysis from journalists across NPR.

Keystone Crossroads

The gerrymandering case that could force a new congressional map continued Tuesday in Harrisburg.

Eighteen Democrats are suing, alleging Pennsylvania’s map – considered the nation’s most gerrymandered, by some measures – was drawn unfairly by state GOP leaders to advantage Republicans.

So far, the minutiae of mapmaking have dominated testimony.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state legislature has approved a bill that would make Pennsylvania’s abortion laws among the most restrictive in the country.

But this is likely the end of the road for the measure—at least this session.

Governor Wolf will veto the bill, and its supporters don’t appear to have quite enough sway to override it.

Senate Bill 3 would ban late-term abortions after 20 weeks, except in a medical emergency. The current limit is 24 weeks.

Expert Testifies Pennsylvania Congressional Map Shows 'Extreme Partisan Intent'

Dec 12, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

A political scientist serving as an expert for voters challenging Pennsylvania's congressional districts testified Monday that "extreme partisan intent" by Republicans appears to have been the predominant factor in producing a map that has disproportionately favored GOP candidates.

University of Michigan professor Jowei Chen said during the first day of a Commonwealth Court hearing over the 2011 maps that none of the hundreds of computer simulations he has run has produced a map so favorable to Republicans.

Matt Rourke / AP

This is the last scheduled session week for state lawmakers this year, and they’re working long days to try and push through several bills that are either time-sensitive, or political priorities.

A few of the measures on the agenda have been a long time coming.

A compromise bill to restore a temporary cash stream to the state unemployment compensation program has been in the works since nearly 500 workers were laid off a year ago over funding concerns.

It has passed the House, and is now on its way through the Senate.

Jim Mone / AP

A contentious proposal to let students use state money to pay for private school is getting another chance to make it onto the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 2 would create education savings accounts—a similar concept to private school vouchers—that would let students in the lowest-performing public schools use the money the state would have spent on their education for alternative school options, as well as related expenses like textbooks.

An-Li Herring / WESA

After outperforming expectations in the 2017 election, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, endorsed two candidates for the 2018 election Monday night.

Second Pennsylvania Gerrymandering Challenge Heads To Trial

Dec 11, 2017
Keystone Crossroads

A state court trial over congressional district boundaries is about to get underway in Pennsylvania as a parallel case awaits a decision in federal court.

The Commonwealth Court proceeding Monday in Harrisburg was put on a fast track by the state Supreme Court a month ago.

The lawsuit by a group of voters says the 2011 Republican-drawn map is too partisan and violates the state constitution. They want a new map.

A separate challenge was the subject of a federal trial last week in Philadelphia.

Matt Rourke / AP

A rating agency has deemed Pennsylvania’s credit stable.

That’s an improvement from several months ago, when the commonwealth received a downgrade from a different agency in the midst of an extended budget impasse.

But it doesn’t mean the fiscal woes are over.

Even though Fitch Ratings’ has taken Pennsylvania off its Rating Watch Negative list, it still has a negative outlook. 

Fitch analyst Eric Kim said while the commonwealth has a healthy amount of fiscal flexibility, is has almost no reserves, and recent budgets have included little recurring revenue.

Compelling Closing Arguments Bring Federal Trial Over PA Gerrymandering To An End

Dec 8, 2017
Keystone Crossroads

The federal trial over Pennsylvania’s congressional district map wrapped up in a Philadelphia courtroom on Thursday with a string of stirring closing arguments before a three-judge panel.

During four days of deliberations, a group of more than 20 Pennsylvania voters challenged the way Republican lawmakers drew the state’s congressional districts in 2011, asserting a gerrymandering scheme that violates the U.S. Constitution.

Matt Rourke / AP

A conservative Pennsylvania lawmaker is doubling down on comments he made suggesting a fellow lawmaker might be gay for touching him on the arm.

The incident occurred Tuesday in the House State Government Committee between chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, and minority chair Matthew Bradford, D-Montgomery.

During a discussion on a land use bill, Bradford briefly touched Metcalfe’s arm while making a point.

Julie Jacobson / AP, file

Two hundred Pennsylvania municipalities have already opted out of hosting a new miniature casino.

The option is part of a gambling expansion lawmakers passed at the end of October, which was designed to raise revenue to help fix the commonwealth’s chronically underfunded budget.

Municipalities have until January to decide whether they want to play host to a mini-casino, and more are expected to opt out this month.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

Republican-penned legislation in Pennsylvania to prohibit coverage for gender or sex reassignment surgery and services under taxpayer-paid insurance programs is on ice after lawmakers realized their own health insurance covers it.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jesse Topper, said Wednesday he decided to pull the bill from the House's debate calendar a day earlier so he could find out more about the coverage.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

A former Pennsylvania lawmaker who served prison time for corruption has won his appeal to get his $20,000-a-month pension restored.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported Tuesday the State Employees' Retirement System board voted 6-5 to return former Democratic State Sen. Robert Mellow's pension.

GOP Lawmaker's 'I Don't Like Men' Comment Stirs Protest

Dec 6, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

An outspoken and conservative Pennsylvania state lawmaker has stirred calls to resign or be demoted after he interrupted a committee meeting to accost his Democratic counterpart for touching his arm and suggest the man might be gay.

*UPDATED: This story was updated at 7:20 a.m., Dec. 7, 2017. 

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday called Rep. Daryl Metcalfe's comments offensive and discriminatory, and said it is "part of a disturbing pattern of behavior."

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House has kicked forward a proposal to outlaw automatic deductions from state workers’ paychecks for union dues that contribute to political activity.

Supporters call it a “paycheck protection” bill.

Lawyer: 'Voter-Proof' Pennsylvania Congressional Map Favors GOP

Dec 5, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

A lawyer for a group of Democratic voters in Pennsylvania told a federal court Monday that it should throw out the state's congressional district map favoring Republican candidates because it was created to be "voter-proof."

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

In September, a report from the state auditor general’s office declared Pennsylvania’s child welfare system “broken.”

Now, lawmakers have begun considering how to improve it. 

The first committee hearing on the report focused largely on how to keep qualified case workers on the job.

On average, those employees don’t make a huge salary. The audit showed the average entry level pay is just over $30,000 per year.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said that might be why some counties see up to half of their case workers quit within in a year.

Matt Rourke / AP

A bill narrowing the window to get an abortion in Pennsylvania could be on a fast track to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk sometime soon.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Two women have chained themselves to the doors of a downtown Pittsburgh building that houses U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's office to protest the Senate's tax bill.

They tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette they have a host of objections to the Senate Republicans' passing of their $1.5 trillion tax bill early Saturday.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Former Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders tells a Pennsylvania audience that America is drifting toward "oligarchy."

Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, came to Reading on Sunday to address the $1.5 trillion GOP tax overhaul.

The Senate voted Saturday to advance the legislation.

Pennsylvania Case Takes New Approach To Redistricting Rules

Dec 4, 2017
Keystone Crossroads

Judges have been asked repeatedly to decide whether the lawmakers in charge of drawing congressional district lines have gone too far to favor their parties.

WITF

In the wake of recent high-profile sexual harassment allegations coming to light, lawmakers in Pennsylvania are proposing to reform how state government handles allegations concerning legislators.

State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-Delaware) plans to introduce a bill that would ban non-disclosure agreements and prohibit use of taxpayer money for settling claims in sexual harassment or assault cases that involve lawmakers.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

On the eastern border of Pennsylvania, north of the Philadelphia suburbs, a cluster of state Senate district appear — at first glance — to be arbitrarily drawn.

Susan Walsh / AP

An outspoken county commissioner from northern Pennsylvania says he'll challenge U.S. Rep. Tom Marino in next year's Republican primary, citing Marino's role in writing a law that critics say weakened the government's authority to stop drug companies from distributing opioids.

Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko announced his candidacy Thursday and accused Marino of soliciting campaign contributions from drug companies and then sponsoring legislation that allowed them to flood communities with opioids.

Chris Knight / AP

The field for the 2018 lieutenant governor election is filling up, with a number of Democrats jumping into the often-low-key race.

That could mean a tough battle for incumbent Mike Stack, who has struggled through public conflicts with fellow Democrat, Governor Tom Wolf.

State representative Madeleine Dean, who has served part of Montgomery County since 2012, is the latest entry to the race.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court is deciding whether Governor Tom Wolf overstepped his authority with an executive order letting the state organize home healthcare workers under a union-like structure.

A lower court already decided against the governor once.

But lawyers for the Wolf administration argue the governor’s directive merely gives workers an option to voice their concerns.

The 2015 order—one of Wolf’s first in office—targets independent workers who care for elderly and disabled people in their homes.

Matt Rourke / AP

Several Republican state senators plan to introduce legislation that would require Pennsylvania to use zero-based budgeting—a standard specifically designed to save money.

Pennsylvania State Officials Will See A Pay Raise In 2018

Nov 28, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The salaries of Pennsylvania's 253 state lawmakers, more than 1,000 judges and several dozen top executive branch officials will rise in 2018.

The increase amounts to 0.8 percent, a figure tied by state law to the year-over-year change in the consumer price index published by the U.S. Department of Labor for urban consumers in the mid-Atlantic region.

The bump takes effect Friday for lawmakers and Jan. 1 for judicial and executive branch officials. It is slightly smaller than last year's increase of 1.3 percent.

Matt Rourke / AP

A judge has issued an injunction that will at least delay state lawmakers from getting some of the money they planned for in the revenue plan they finished last month.

The cash is tied to a pending case about whether the state can constitutionally force the Joint Underwriting Association—a medical malpractice insurer—to give up $200 million.

This is the second year lawmakers have tried to take surplus money from the JUA to help balance perennial budget gaps.

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