Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A total of 3,383 drug-related overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania in 2015. That’s nearly 25 per cent more than the number of deaths in 2014. Governor Tom Wolf has called it a crisis and made dealing with it a priority. The governor spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Paul Guggenheimer about initiatives he and the legislature are working on in the handful of voting days that remain.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


Marcus Charleston / WESA

The Confluence – where the news comes together is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalists, and host, Kevin Gavin. They’ll go behind the headlines, taking an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week it was announced that beginning in December Pittsburgh will become a one newspaper town. We'll look at the impact the Tribune Review dropping its print edition has on the city's journalism landscape. Health issues are also in the news. We'll  discuss Governor Tom Wolf's urging of state lawmakers to combat PA's opioid epidemic and Mylan CEO Heather Bresch's  Epipen profits testimony on Capitol Hill. Our look ahead, looks back at golf legend Arnold Palmer.  

States Suing Over Climate Change Plan Get Their Day In Court

Sep 29, 2016
Dennis Hendricks / Flickr


Climate change barely got a mention in Monday’s presidential debate, but it was a big week in the history of the nation’s climate policy.

On Tuesday, a panel of ten judges on a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. heard arguments on the Clean Power Plan — the cornerstone of President Obama’s effort to curb climate change.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr


When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf brings his message on combating the opioid epidemic to a joint session of the state legislature Wednesday, he will be speaking to a group that for the most part is already aware of the issue.

“They’re all fed up with this,” said State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver, Greene, Washington) of her constituents.  “It’s a scourge and they know that we have to all stand together and try every angle we possibly can.”

Last year, more than 3,000 Pennsylvanians died of an opioid overdose including 424 in Allegheny County.

Lawmaker With Secret Criminal Case Pressured To Resign

Sep 21, 2016
PA House of Representatives

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says a public official shouldn't be in office if they're guilty of a crime, as questions swirl around whether a state lawmaker secretly pleaded guilty to a federal felony.

Wolf's comments Tuesday came four days after a Philadelphia Inquirer report revealed state Rep. Leslie Acosta's criminal case.

The Philadelphia Democrat is running unopposed for a second term in the November election. Her lawyer Christopher Warren says Acosta won't resign, despite Democratic Party pressure.

Matt Rourke / AP


Last June, nearly 200 members of the state House of Representatives and Gov. Tom Wolf pushed for a special legislative session to address the opioid crisis that has killed more than 5,000 Pennsylvanians in the past two years.

House Speaker Mike Turzai stood inside the Capitol rotunda just a few months ago.

"We will be asking the Governor to give this heightened attention by calling the General Assembly into special session," he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Key changes are being made among the top staff of the state attorney general’s office. New Attorney General Bruce Beemer announced Robert Mulle is taking over as First Deputy Attorney General and James Donahue III will be Acting Chief of Staff. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said it will save $214 million over the next three years by changing health benefits and long-term non-paid leave rules for government employees.

“This is the first health plan design change in over 12 years for the state and the changes represent the most significant health plan savings in Pennsylvania in recent history,” said Spokesman Jeff Sheridan.

Much of the savings will be generated through having employees and retirees in PPO plans cover deductibles and make co-pays for some in-network services and prescriptions.

 Liquor Reforms
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A Wegmans supermarket in Cumberland County has become the first such store in the state to sell wine. And the inaugural bottle was purchased by none other than Governor Tom Wolf.

Wolf was joined by state House Speaker Mike Turzai, as well as members of the Liquor Control Board and other lawmakers.

Turzai played a significant role in supporting the state’s liquor expansion, which went into effect early last month.

He says the change was a long time coming — it’s been commonly called the commonwealth's biggest liquor reform since prohibition. 

Wolf Still Searching For New Environmental Chief

Sep 1, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania


More than three months have passed since the controversial resignation of Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, John Quigley, and Governor Tom Wolf is still looking for a permanent replacement.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

  Gov. Tom Wolf created a new charter school oversight body through the state Department of Education on Wednesday, nearly two years after his gubernatorial campaign promised charter reform.

The Division of Charter Schools will be composed of a director, who has yet to be hired, plus three staffers. They're tasked with making sure the laws, processes and information already in place are followed, and that the data charter schools submit to the department is accurate and timely, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said.

Bastiaan Slabbers / Newsworks

Pennsylvania continues to wrestle with an essential question for the future of its people and its economy: What should a high school diploma mean, and what should it take to earn one?

Matt Rourke / AP


During his campaign, Tom Wolf pitched himself as "a different kind of governor." He made good on a promise to donate his salary to charity and refuses to drive a state car. Upon taking office, he swiftly enacted a gift ban for the executive branch and has been known to refuse freebies, such as a bottle of water.

But the Wolf administration has continued one political tradition--nepotism.

Attorney General Kane Resigns A Day After Felony Conviction

Aug 16, 2016
Clem Murray / Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool

Kathleen Kane, Pennsylvania's first elected female attorney general, announced her resignation Tuesday, a day after being convicted of abusing the powers of the state's top law enforcement office to smear a rival and lying under oath to cover it up.

Kane, A Convicted Felon, To Address Job Status As Wolf Calls For Her Resignation

Aug 16, 2016
Jessica Griffin / The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool


Pennsylvania's attorney general showed little emotion as a Montgomery County jury convicted her late Monday on all nine counts, including two felony perjury counts, for leaking secret criminal files and lying about it.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s credit rating has improved, though only slightly, with Moody’s Investor Service upgrading the commonwealth’s financial outlook from negative to stable.

Since 2014, Moody’s rating of Pennsylvania’s credit has been a relatively mediocre AA3.

Dan Seymour, Moody’s lead analyst for Pennsylvania, said that’s relatively low for a state.

Sue Seecof / Flickr

Pennsylvania's alcohol regulators are taking applications for permits under the expanded sales of booze approved by the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this summer.

The Liquor Control Board said the law that went into effect Monday lets about 11,000 businesses that currently have what's called restaurant or hotel licenses, which let them sell beer to go, apply for permission to also sell takeout wine.

Eating place licenses that sell beer to go, typically pizza shops or similar establishments, can apply to upgrade to a restaurant license.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to save $150 million in state money by this fiscal year has exceeded its goal, netting a total of $156 million in efficiencies.

Now the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Innovation, Management and Efficiency has a new, more ambitious plan for the next three years. GO-TIME is aiming to increase those efficiencies to $500 million by fiscal year 2020.

GO-TIME Director Sharon Ward said much of the money saved will come from 154 programs that were already part of the initial initiative.

Office of the Governor

In contrast to last year to last year’s nine month impasse, Pennsylvania legislators and Governor Tom Wolf have reached an agreement on the state budget less than two weeks after the July 1st deadline.

Governor Wolf attributed this partly to the momentum built up by passing medical marijuana, liquor reform, and a new education funding formula.

PA Budget Becomes Law; Some Lawmakers Cry Foul

Jul 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state officially has a budget.

The $31.5 billion spending plan went into effect at midnight on Monday, without Governor Tom Wolf’s signature. But negotiations still aren’t finished on the revenue plan to back it up.

Deadline notwithstanding, lawmakers did seem to have a productive day of talks on the spending plan.

Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher called the progress “encouraging.” She said it seems likely a vote could come soon.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says he'll let a roughly $31 billion spending bill become law without his signature, even though lawmakers are struggling to figure out how to pay for some of it.

Matt Rourke / AP Images

Despite a Wednesday deadline, Pennsylvania is still without a budget. The State House and Senate have agreed to a $31.6 billion spending plan, but Gov.Tom Wolf has refused to sign it without an accompanying revenue plan.  



Plan To Pay For $31.6 Bil Budget Still Unclear

Jun 30, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

In this year’s budget negotiations, state legislators seem eager to show their constituents that last year’s nine-month deadlock is behind them.

After receiving the House’s nearly $31.6 billion spending plan Wednesday, the Senate quickly passed its general appropriations in a bipartisan vote, just a day before the Thursday deadline.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Republican Patrick Browne, said the Senate proposal contains only minor changes, notably adding money for higher education.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

  After a nine-month-long standoff over last year’s state budget, Pennsylvania lawmakers seem committed to getting a verdict out quickly this year. But there is still little information from the Capitol on what exactly the budget contains, and advocates from across the commonwealth are concerned the speed will come at the expense of quality.

Ralliers with the campaign Pennsylvania’s Choice congregated in the Capitol rotunda Monday to push for more spending in education, human services, and the environment.

Wolf Signs Bill Allowing Wine To Be Sold In Grocery Stores, Internet

Jun 8, 2016
Bradley C Bower / AP


A new law gives Pennsylvania consumers many more options about where to purchase their favorite varieties of wine.

Mark Goebel / flickr

Following the resignation of former DEP secretary John Quigley, many are trying to evaluate the environmental climate of Pennsylvania. While some claim Quigley was ousted for political reasons, others believe his actions were disrespectful and ill-mannered. We’ll hear thoughts from PennFuture President and CEO Larry Schweiger as well as Kevin Moody, General Counsel & Vice President Government Affairs of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association. We’ll also look at the motivation behind the emails that reportedly prompted Quigley’s resignation, including regulations on oil and gas industry drilling.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania parents will soon have to keep their children in rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old or until they outgrow the height and weight limits of the seats.

Alan Levine / Flickr


The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board granted nine more beer sales licenses to gas stations on Wednesday, including three in Western Pennsylvania. 

Daveynin / Flickr

Fifteen community projects in Pennsylvania are being funded by the state’s Keystone Communities program, Gov. Tom Wolf announced today. 

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.