Tom Wolf

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.

Email Indicates Pennsylvania Election Chief Forced Out

Nov 20, 2017
Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania's former elections chief indicated in an email sent last month to Gov. Tom Wolf that he was forced out of his cabinet-level job, although he resigned.

The Associated Press on Monday obtained an Oct. 11 email from ex-Secretary of State Pedro Cortes in which he told Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that he could not understand why he was being pushed out.

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.

Matt Rourke / AP

After months of deliberation, state House Speaker Mike Turzai has announced he is running for the Republican nomination for Governor.

The Pittsburgh-area lawmaker is now the fourth GOP challenger to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, who’s seeking a second term.

The field also includes conservative Republican state Senator Scott Wagner, lawyer Laura Ellsworth, and former health care systems consultant Paul Mango.

Turzai has served in the House since 2001, and became speaker two years ago.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State lawmakers are running into legal issues over a component of the budget plan they passed last month.

Some $200 million of the plan is slated to be appropriated from a group that insures healthcare providers against malpractice claims.

However, the group has sued to keep that money.

The state established the Joint Underwriting Association in the 1970s, so lawmakers say they have the authority to appropriate its funds as needed.

But the JUA contends its money are private, because it comes from investments and premiums from policyholders.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

State Senator Scott Wagner is taking an unorthodox step in his campaign for governor.

The conservative York County Republican has named a running mate—real estate developer and political outsider Jeff Bartos.

In some ways, the decision is only symbolic.

Pennsylvania’s primary system requires candidates for lieutenant governor to campaign separately from gubernatorial hopefuls. The winners from each party are automatically paired together.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A sweeping school code bill will become a state law without Gov. Tom Wolf's signature. 

In addition to providing funding for public schools, the GOP-penned legislation suspends the traditional seniority rules that dictate furloughing teachers, opting instead to eliminate teachers based on who scores the worst on the state's teacher effectiveness rating.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will allow a bill to become law that weakens teacher seniority protections and gives school districts more flexibility in their rationale for making layoffs.

School districts now will be able to cite “economic reasons” as a rationale for furloughing teachers.

Previously, districts could only slash staff by closing schools, cutting whole academic programs, or pointing to enrollment declines.

State Rep. Steven Bloom, R- Cumberland, said that’s bad public policy.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the state budget wrapped up, lawmakers can turn their attention to a few fast approaching deadlines--including the renewal of funding for unemployment compensation.  

Philadelphia Moves To Retake Control Of City School System

Nov 2, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

The mayor of Philadelphia on Thursday took steps to take control of the city's struggling public school system after 16 years of state oversight.

Mayor Jim Kenney said that it is time for the city to be accountable for the education of its 200,000 schoolchildren.

"If we don't take responsibility for the fate of our schools, then we will continue to relegate generations of Philadelphia's families to poverty," he said.

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.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

One of the biggest parts of the budget plan that Governor Tom Wolf has now mostly signed into law is $1.5 billion worth of borrowing.

But Wolf said Monday it’s not yet set in stone where that money will come from.

The legislature’s plan called for borrowing from the Tobacco Settlement Fund—which gets yearly payments from a settlement states made with tobacco companies in the late 1990s.

But while he was waiting for lawmakers to pass it, Wolf came up with his own approach — deciding to borrow the money against future revenue from the state-run liquor industry.

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.

Governor OKs Online Gambling, More Casinos In Pennsylvania

Oct 30, 2017
Julie Jacobson / AP, file

Pennsylvania's governor has approved legislation authorizing a major expansion of gambling in what's already the nation's second-largest commercial casino state.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday he's signed a bill that will make the state the fourth to allow online gambling. The measure also will allow the state's current 10 casinos to apply for the right to operate satellite casinos and put video gambling terminals inside truck stops. It also would allow gambling parlors in airports.

Budget Bills Are Ugly, But Wolf Has Little Choice But To Sign

Oct 30, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's House of Representatives had passed an aggressive, bipartisan gambling expansion bill an hour earlier when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's top budget adviser walked by the chamber's Democratic leader in the Capitol's ornate Rotunda.

"Thank you," he told Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny.

It was perhaps the most polite thing said about Pennsylvania's ugly budget process and a Frankenstein-like assortment now sitting on Wolf's desk: The gambling bill, a $140 million tax package and $1.5 billion borrowing measure to bail out the state's finances.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Treasury has authorized a major $1.8 billion loan to keep Pennsylvania's general fund from running out of money.

Matt Rourke / AP

The cash-strapped Pennsylvania state government is getting another loan to pay its bills on time.

Pennsylvania state Treasurer Joe Torsella said Friday he's authorizing a $1.8 billion credit line that must be paid back by April 2.

It comes as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers are patching up a deficit, primarily by borrowing, tapping off-budget programs and expanding casino gambling.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State funding for Penn State, Pitt and three other Pennsylvania universities is on its way after being held up for months by the Legislature's dispute over fully funding the state budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s state House has sent a gambling expansion bill to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk — effectively finishing the budget lawmakers have labored over this entire fiscal year, four months past the due date.

The long, complex measure prompted hours of debate over the course of two days.

It significantly broadens Pennsylvania’s 13-year-old gaming industry.

Gambling in airports and over the internet will now be legal. Truck stops across the commonwealth will be able to install video gaming terminals — or VGTs — and up to 10 new miniature casinos are authorized.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would alter a wide range of state policies related to public education — including the weakening of seniority protections for teachers.

The chamber agreed to the omnibus school code bill, as passed last week by the House of Representatives, by a vote of 35 to 15.  Now it will go before Gov. Tom Wolf, who says he has “serious concerns” about some of its provisions.

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.

Senate Eyes House Budget Plan That's Short Of What It Wanted

Oct 23, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Amid a four-month budget standoff, the Pennsylvania Senate is returning to the Capitol to confront a House budget-balancing plan that falls well short of what Senate leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf had sought.

Monday's session day could start a long week for senators.

The budget fight largely revolves around the size of a tax increase to help plug Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances. That's pitting Wolf and the Senate against the House Republican majority. The sides are agreeing to borrow more than $1 billion to help backfill the deficit.

Pennsylvania GOP Governor Hopefuls Face Off For First Time

Oct 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

With primary campaign season starting up, Pennsylvania's three announced GOP candidates for governor auditioned Thursday night for Montgomery County Republicans, whose members may be the state party's most generous campaign donors.

Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania's governor is moving to consolidate parts of the state's prison and parole systems in hopes of saving money by eliminating duplicated functions.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday that the Corrections Department and the Board of Probation and Parole will sign a memorandum of understanding that will outline their combined operations.

The two entities will remain separate but share employees, land, facilities and equipment.

Tony Talbot / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is using $4 million in federal aid to help start up four regional medication-assisted programs to treat people struggling with drug addiction.

The $1 million grants announced Tuesday will be anchored by four health systems in Pennsylvania.

They are going to Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, Danville-based Geisinger, York-based WellSpan Health and Harrisburg's Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, a collaboration between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth.

Matt Rourke / AP

House lawmakers narrowly passed part of a proposal Tuesday night to finish Pennsylvania’s overdue state budget—their first significant action since talks melted down two weeks ago.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

A licensed grower and processor of medical marijuana in western Pennsylvania is the first with state approval to begin operating.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said Tuesday that the Department of Health has approved Cresco Yeltrah to begin growing and processing medical marijuana at its Jefferson County location. That makes it the first facility to be deemed fully operational in Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program.

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.

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