Politics & Government

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

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf has signed an executive order to change certain hiring practices in select state government jobs, in an effort to cut down on gender-based wage discrimination.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

On Tuesday, a state House bill that would overhaul congressional map-drawing was assigned to an unusual committee—circumventing a different panel where such proposals have repeatedly been struck down.

It’s the latest in a series of spasms toward changing Pennsylvania’s oft-disparaged redistricting process.

But lawmakers are quickly running out of time to close the deal.

The new bill is the brainchild of Dave Reed—the GOP majority leader who is departing the House at the end of this year.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The current Pennsylvania budget, which ends June 30, was more than four months late in being completed. Two years earlier, in Gov. Tom Wolf’s first year in office, the budget impasse lasted nearly nine months.

In February, Wolf unveiled a $33 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2019. That’s a $1 billion increase, or 3 percent over the current budget. 

There’s been little political rancor over the budget this year, compared to last when the governor and legislature were wrestling with a $2 billion deficit.

Courtesy of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney

A controversial judicial nominee from Pittsburgh is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing Wednesday. David Porter was nominated to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Trump in April.

Michael Rubinkam / AP

For several years, a hog farm in Luzerne County has been under legal fire for emitting a stench that people say can make the surrounding area almost unlivable.

A lawsuit is now awaiting consideration before the state Supreme Court.

But the outlook isn’t good—and that’s largely because Pennsylvania law makes it near-impossible to sue farms for nuisances like smells.

Scott Wagner Leaves Senate, Vowing To Work To Fix PA's Problems

Jun 4, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

Scott Wagner, who once warned that he would carry a baseball bat into Pennsylvania's Senate to get things done, bid farewell Monday to the institution that he had barged into as a write-in candidate four years earlier to concentrate on his Republican campaign for governor.

Wagner, who will challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's re-election bid in November, told the chamber's members in a 15-minute farewell speech that he had gone to the Senate to change the culture.

Now, he said, he can do more as governor.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania state government is heading into the final month of its fiscal year with stable tax collections as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature prepare to assemble an election-year budget.

The Department of Revenue reported Friday that collections through 11 months for the state's main operating account were $31.5 billion, or about $121 million above estimate.

June Is Final Frontier For Pennsylvania Redistricting Bill

Jun 4, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

An issue that, for years, had little oxygen keeping it alive could become the talk of Pennsylvania's Capitol during June's long, humid days of budget-making.

Some top Republican lawmakers have joined an effort to overhaul how Pennsylvania draws its legislative and U.S. House district boundaries, now that the state's highest court dealt those same Republican lawmakers a stinging loss in a congressional gerrymandering case that made national headlines.

Courtesy of Chelsa Wagner and Lisa Bennington

Across the U.S. and in western Pennsylvania, women appear poised to post major victories in the 2018 elections. But two local women who once served in the state legislature said winning the election is often the easy part.

Katie Blackley / WESA

Now that the primary is over and the 2018 campaigns are well underway, we checked in with U.S. Senator Bob Casey. On a recent trip through Pittsburgh, Casey sat down with 90.5 WESA's government and accountability editor, Chris Potter.

Casey discussed how issues like trade with China and steel and aluminum tariffs will affect Pennsylvania. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Several groups intent on raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage are rallying in Harrisburg Thursday in an effort to nudge the General Assembly—once again—to consider raising pay for workers.

Every year of his tenure as governor, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has proposed a wage increase above the federal $7.25 minimum.

It never made much progress—thanks largely to conservative lawmakers who argue the hike would drive out businesses.

Members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee will choose their party leaders on June 9. And whether they vote for current county chair Nancy Patton Mills or challenger Eileen Kelly, this may be the last time they choose by secret ballot.

For a while, in fact, it appeared committee members wouldn’t be allowed to vote in secret this time, either.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Scott Wagner says he's resigning from his Senate seat on Monday to focus on the governor's race.

Wagner submitted his resignation letter on Wednesday to Senate President Joe Scarnati.

Wagner's spokesman Andrew Romeo says the senator realized the best way to "bring about the most change and do the most good for the commonwealth" is by devoting all of his time and energy to the election.

He will face Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is seeking a second, four-year term.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the commonwealth’s budget deadline a month away, negotiations haven’t begun in earnest.

But talks are ongoing behind the scenes—and that means a familiar tug-of-war between Democrats trying to bolster state programs, and Republicans determined to limit spending.

Centerpieces of Gov. Tom Wolf’s February budget proposal included funding hikes for education and services for the elderly and people with disabilities, plus new cash from a natural gas severance tax and fees for state police coverage.

Chris Knight / AP

Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner says he wants Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to join him in a town hall-format appearance in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties before the November election, although Wolf's campaign is dismissing it as a "political gimmick."

Matt Rourke / AP

A bill that would end elections for Pennsylvania’s three statewide courts is making its way through the state House. HB 111 would establish a “merit selection” process, where a bipartisan commission would choose judges and justices to serve on the state Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts.

 

Matt Rourke / AP

Usually midterm elections see low voter participation. But 2018 might be a little different.

City of Pittsburgh District 9

On Thursday, Pittsburgh's Wage Review Committee gathered in an East Liberty church to discuss wages at grocery stores. And while Giant Eagle was once praised for offering good wages and benefits, critics testified that its reputation was past its sell-by date. 

Summer Lee for PA/Sara Innamorato for PA / Facebook

In November, women will be on the ballot in eight of Pennsylvania's congressional districts—a record-breaking number for the commonwealth. The candidates claimed multiple victories in the May 15 primary. 

Former State AG Kane Loses Appeal Of Criminal Conviction

May 25, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

A Pennsylvania appeals court on Friday upheld the conviction of former state attorney general Kathleen Kane for leaking secret grand jury information and lying about it, saying among other things she wasn't entitled to use evidence of a pornographic email scandal in her defense.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Activists in other states are looking to Pennsylvania’s redistricting case as they attempt to get their own congressional districts overturned.

In particular, lawyers involved in an Ohio case say their situation has a lot in common with the one in the commonwealth.

The Ohio lawsuit differs from Pennsylvania’s in that it’s a federal matter, not a state one.

But attorney Freda Levenson, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said a lot of the principles underlying the situations are the same—and that means the successful PA suit is a learning opportunity.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The General Assembly has passed a second version of a measure designed to fix a hole in Pennsylvania’s sex offender law.

The issue dates back to a state Supreme Court ruling last year.

Justices ruled the state couldn’t impose punishments on offenders whose crimes had happened before those penalties were enacted.

That had a potential side-effect of knocking more than 10 thousand offenders off the registry, according to state police.

Keith Srakocic / AP

State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler won't know until November whether he will be a Congressman, but already a top Republican has expressed interest in replacing him in Harrisburg.

Alex Brandon / AP

As he completes his sixth week in office, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D - Mt. Lebanon) is straddling the partisan divide with two votes on bank rules.

 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania voters chose Republican and Democrat nominees for U.S Senate, 18 seats in the U.S. House,  governor and lieutenant governor, plus half the state Senate and the entire state House.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The number of women in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Allegheny County will likely triple after November’s general election—from one to three. That’s because Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee upset longtime Democrat incumbents Dom Costa and his cousin Paul Costa in the May 15 primary election. 

PA Lawmakers Advance Redistricting Reforms As June Deadline Looms

May 23, 2018
Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania lawmakers have advanced a bill that would change the state’s constitution to put its congressional district map in the hands of a citizen commission, one whose 11 members would be chosen by elected officials.

Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania / Facebook

The Trump administration is considering policy changes that would cut government funding to health clinics that either provide abortions, or refer patients to clinics that do.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Crowds of students and activists flooded Harrisburg Tuesday, calling for changes to help halt school shootings.

Mary Wilson / WITF

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati is throwing his weight behind a few measures that have, of late, been more commonly championed by Democrats.

The top Republican official, of Cameron County, said in a wide-ranging speech Monday that he wants to see the redistricting process overhauled, and also switch the commonwealth to open primaries.

Scarnati made it clear, his anger over the state Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate and redraw Pennsylvania’s congressional map hasn’t abated.

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