Politics & Government

We cover politics and government with an eye to providing to voters clear, in-depth, nonpartisan information. 

New Measure Would Cut Taxes, Close Loophole for Businesses

May 7, 2012

House lawmakers have passed a business-friendly tax measure that would bring the corporate net income (CNI) tax rate down by 3% over the next several years. Whether it's possible to implement such a bill and still balance the budget, however, remains unclear.

"I, at this point today, don't know that we're in any position to reduce the CNI in order to balance this budget," said Governor Tom Corbett. While Corbett said he is still mindful of his campaign promise to consider lowering the CNI rate, he maintained his priority now is on passing a balanced budget.

Romney Speaks in O'Hara Township

May 4, 2012

Presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney brought his campaign back to the Pittsburgh region today.

Nearly 200 supporters showed up to hear Romney deliver his message of job creation at Sauereisen, a construction materials company in O'Hara Township.

"This is a sad time in America when people who want work can't find jobs," Romney said.

In 2007, the College Affordability Plan gradually reduced interest rates from 3.4% to 6.8% on Federal Direct Stafford loans. If allowed to expire on July 1st, the interest rates on the student loans will return to 6.8%. U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) is calling on Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) to pass H.R.4816, known as Stop the Rate Hike Act of 2012.

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a bill that would divert parking tax revenue from the former Civic Arena site into a special fund for Hill District redevelopment.

After hours of discussion, the heated debate was cut short and a six-member majority approved the bill. A few Council Members had raised concerns as to the legality and fairness of a special fund to benefit just one neighborhood.

Councilman Patrick Dowd disagreed with that notion.

Long-time PA House Republican Hopeful for Primary Win; Awaiting Absentee Ballot Count

Apr 27, 2012

Five state House incumbents have lost their seats in the primary, according to the latest vote counts. But one longtime Republican lawmaker is holding out until the absolute last vote is counted.

Rick Geist has been in the Legislature for 33 years, and if you thought his Tuesday night concession speech was the last word, well, think again. The House Transportation Committee chairman is down by 196 votes to Republican opponent John McGinnis. But there are some-470 absentee ballots that have yet to be counted.

Parks Confident About Write-In Campaign Results

Apr 25, 2012

Greg Parks, the Pleasant Hills Democrat running for State Senate in the 37th district, believes enough people wrote his name on the ballot to make him eligible for a run in the general election.

The 50-year old Parks is a former member of the Pleasant Hills Council, and currently works as an instructional assistant at McKeesport High School.

No Extra Cash for Prisons

Apr 25, 2012

The man leading Pennsylvania's prison system says it can handle the governor's proposal to hold the line on the agency's budget.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said Pennsylvania's state prisons are enormously inefficient. He said the prison system was set up for major violent offenders, but now, one third of its inmates are short-termers entering a lengthy processing system as if they were major offenders.

As a result, said Wetzel, they end up serving several months longer than their original sentence.

In a primary battle between two incumbent Democrats, Mark Critz defeated Jason Altmire to claim the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District.

The two Democrats were forced against one another due to recent redistricting. Pennsylvania Republicans essentially stitched together Altmire's 4th District and Critz's 12th District in December.

Critz said his victory was delivered largely by two voting blocs: labor unions, and residents of Cambria and Somerset Counties.

D. Raja lost his bid to become Allegheny County Executive last year, but voters got to know him and apparently enough liked his ideas, some of which he'll take to Harrisburg. He said he will lead by example by not taking a pension, and he wants to lower corporate taxes to make the state more business friendly.

The Mt. Lebanon resident and former Mt. Lebanon commissioner beat Fellow Republicans Mark Mustio and Sue Means in the 37th Pennsylvania Senate District Republican Primary by a wide margin, 44%, 25% and 32% respectively.

Armstrong County Tea Party leader and former coal company owner Tom Smith won the five-person race in Pennsylvania to become the Republican Nominee for the U.S. Senate. Smith garnered 40% of the vote. Two of his opponents, Sam Rohrer and Steven Welch got 22 and 21 percent of the vote respectively. David Christian grabbed 10% and Marc Scaringi rounded out the field with 7%.

Smith will face Senator Bob Casey in the November election. Casey defeated Joseph Vodvarka, of Robinson Township, 80% to 20% for the Democratic nomination.

Mt. Washington resident and former Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project executive director Erin Molchany defeated Martin Schmotzer in the 22nd Pennsylvania house district Democratic primary for Pennsylvania representative on Tuesday, 52 to 39 percent. The remainder of the vote went to Shawn Lunny, who had been tossed from the ballot by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but not in time for his name to be removed from the voting machines.

Republican Tim Murphy faced his first challenge from within his own party since taking office in 2003. Murphy handily defeated Tea Party-backed opponent Evan Feinberg, winning 63% of the vote. The Congressman thanked supporters at a gathering in Greentree, and said it's now time to move forward.

Mark Mustio failed in his attempt to claim the seat left by good friend State Sen. John Pippy in Tuesday's primary election.

Mustio, aiming for the 37th District Senate seat, fell short, coming in third behind winner D. Raja and grassroots candidate Sue Means. Raja claimed 44% of the vote and Means claimed 31%. That left just 25% for Mustio.

Joe Preston Falls to Ed Gainey

Apr 25, 2012

State Representative Joe Preston has been a member of the Pennsylvania state legislature for nearly three decades, but that will come to an end in December. Preston fell in the 24th Legislative District Democratic Primary Tuesday to one-time employee Ed Gainey by a 66% to 34% margin.

Gainey said he won the race by out-campaigning Preston. "It's hard work, but it is also good work to go door to door and talk to the people," said Gainey, "find out what their concerns are and find out where you can assist them."

Maher Wins GOP Race for Pennsylvania Auditor General

Apr 25, 2012

"A CPA for PA, an auditor for Auditor General," those were the refrains heard time and again at John Maher's campaign headquarters Tuesday night in Bethel Park. As the GOP Auditor General candidate, Maher is already looking toward November, when he will face Democrat and Pittsburgh native Eugene DePasquale. Maher said he'll need to get the word out, explaining that "we'll need about a million Democrats to win."

Veteran Pennsylvania lawmaker Joe Preston will not be serving a 16th term in the House. With 99.5% of precincts reporting, Ed Gainey has defeated Preston 65.8% to 33.9%.

In the special election in legislative district 22, Democrat Martin Schmotzer will succeed Chelsa Wagner who resigned after being elected as Allegheny County Controller. Schmotzer defeated Republican Chris Cratsley in the special election 51.7% to 38.2%.

However, Schmotzer won't serve beyond the 8 months remaining in Wagner's term because Erin Molchany defeated him in the Democratic primary 53.1% to 38.9%.

Maher Wins GOP Nomination for Auditor General

Apr 24, 2012

Nearly two thirds of the precincts have checked in statewide…and in the race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, Kathleen Kane has 54.5% of the vote and Patrick Murphy 45.5%.

The winner will take on David Freed who is unopposed for the GOP nomination.

Also on the GOP ballot, in the race for auditor general, John Maher has captured the Republican nomination with 67.5% of the votes to Frank Pinto's 32.5%. The victor takes on Democrat Eugene DePasquale in the fall.

Bill DeWeese Resigns

Apr 24, 2012

Convicted state Rep. Bill DeWeese has handed in his resignation from Pennsylvania's House of Representatives.

A spokesman for House Speaker Sam Smith says Smith received the letter yesterday and that DeWeese's resignation takes effect at noon Tuesday, less than two hours before he is scheduled to be sentenced on corruption charges. Legislative offices were closed Tuesday for the primary election.

Smith Versus Casey for Senate in the Fall

Apr 24, 2012

Armstrong County Tea Party founder and former coal company owner Tom Smith emerged as the winner from a 5-member field for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

With 99% of precincts counted across the commonwealth, Smith has 39% of the votes compared to Sam Rohrer's 22%, Steven Welch with 21%, David Christian with 11% and Marc Scaringi's 7%.

Smith will face Senator Bob Casey in the November election. Casey defeated Joseph Vodvarka, of Robinson Township, 80% to 20 for the Democratic nomination. Casey is seeking a second 6-year term.

House District 12

Toomey's Take on the Primary and Budget

Apr 23, 2012

Pennsylvania Republicans will cast votes tomorrow to nominate a U.S. Senate candidate. U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) says it is understandable that many voters do not yet know much about the five men running, and admits that he has not encountered many constituents who are aware of the five GOP candidates: David Christian, Sam Rohrer, Marc Scaringi, Tom Smith, and Steve Welch.

"Well, I mean, my wife knows who's running," Toomey said. "I spoke with her before I got in the car today."

Pittsburgh area voters without access to a vehicle to get to their polling place for tomorrow's primary election can get a ride through a local service.

The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) will have vans running all day to get underprivileged voters to the polls. Tim Stevens, chairman of B-PEP, said there are many reasons to provide the service.

"This is something we do every six months to increase voter participation, voter understanding and the legality of the voting process," Stevens said.

Who’s Running to Face Bob Casey?

Apr 23, 2012

Pennsylvania Republicans will take to the polls Tuesday to choose a U.S. Senate nominee. The five-way GOP primary has flown under the radar this year, generating much less attention than previous campaigns.

Four of the five men running for Senate addressed Philadelphia Tea Party voters with a similar message: the federal government spends too much and taxes too much. They're all opposed to President Obama's policies, particularly the healthcare overhaul.

Latino Group Critical of Plan to Redraw Senate Districts.

Apr 20, 2012

A Latino advocacy group critical of redistricting plans is also making its voice heard on the second round of maps. Latino Lines doesn't have a problem with the preliminary plan for state House districts, as approved by the redistricting panel. The group said it's happy to see the new map includes four majority-Latino districts.

But, the group said the panel's rough plan for Senate districts dilutes the Latino vote by dividing it into two districts.

PAC And Super-PAC Purchases Heat Up Before Election

Apr 20, 2012

Advocacy groups are flooding the airwaves with less than a week to go before the Pennsylvania primary.

In the contested Democratic primary of the 17th congressional district, environmentalists are criticizing incumbent Tim Holden for his votes on energy legislation and calling them out of sync with the party.

Democratic voters will have two choices for Pennsylvania Attorney General when they go to the polls Tuesday in the primary election.

Patrick Murphy, 38, is running against Kathleen Kane in the primary election Tuesday, April 24 with the winner hoping to become the first elected Democratic state attorney general.

Auditor General Candidate Profile: John Maher

Apr 19, 2012

Two candidates are seeking the GOP nomination for Pennsylvania Auditor General in Tuesday's primary election.

State Representative John Maher (R-Allegheny) claims he's the more qualified candidate, in part because he authored the state's Right-to-Know law, which expanded the public's ability to access government documents.

Maher feels that being a CPA is imperative for the office.

Auditor General Candidate Profile: Frank Pinto

Apr 19, 2012

Frank Pinto is one of two candidates running for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania Auditor General in Tuesday's primary election. The 67-year-old Pinto feels he is the right choice for the position because of his "51 years of living, teaching, and working" in politics.

Attorney General Candidate Profile: Kathleen Kane

Apr 18, 2012

Two candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania Attorney General in Tuesday's primary election.

Kathleen Kane from Lackawanna County is running against Patrick Murphy to be the Democratic candidate for the office of State Attorney General.

Kane has run her campaign on the idea of removing politics from the office, both now and if she is elected.

Continued Resistance to Voter ID Law

Apr 18, 2012

The controversial voter identification law passed in Pennsylvania will be fully implemented for the Presidential election in the fall, but not without protest.

Senior citizens, low-income individuals and others in need of photo ID gathered outside of downtown Pittsburgh's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) License Center to rally against the law, claiming it will keep particular demographics away from the polls.

State Simplifies Obtaining Voter ID

Apr 18, 2012

When the state Legislature passed the Voter ID Law requiring people to show photo identification when they go to the polls, critics said it could make it more difficult for seniors to cast votes because the elderly often have expired drivers licenses.

The commonwealth's Department of State announced today that people with expired licenses will not have to provide a proof of residence when receiving a voter ID.