Katie Meyer

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.

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.

AP

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is digging into its reserves to keep money flowing into a grant program for Pennsylvania college students in the coming fiscal year.

However, they’re warning this could mean little or no money for the effort the following year.

PHEAA manages hundreds of billions of dollars in federal and commercial student loans, and pumps some of the revenue from it into the grant program.

But money is tight right now, so the group had planned to cut its $100 million contribution in half.

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.

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.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the state House and Senate both back in Harrisburg, lawmakers are turning their attention to a number of gun control and school safety bills.

The effort comes in the wake of a Texas school shooting that killed ten last week—the nation’s largest since the Florida shooting that killed seventeen in February.

When House lawmakers finish up a series of public hearings on gun control, House GOP Spokesman Steve Miskin said a number of stalled bills will start moving—likely in the “first week or two in June.”

AP

State House Republicans are increasing Representative Nick Miccarelli's punishment after deciding his actions constitute retaliation against two women who accused him of physical and sexual abuse--fellow GOP representative Tarah Toohil and another woman who has remained anonymous.

However, they're not moving to expel Miccarelli.

And meanwhile, in a memo detailing the latest sanctions, House GOP leaders included a pointed message to the Democrats in the chamber.

YouTube

The race for governor is only a few days in, but the negative ads are already starting.

Only minutes after Scott Wagner clinched the Republican nomination for governor, the Wolf campaign sent out a press release calling the York County Senator “the worst of Harrisburg.”

They also released an ad deriding Wagner as a bully, and included footage of various speeches in which he used violent-sounding metaphors.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Auditor General is urging Governor Tom Wolf and the General Assembly to pump more money into the commonwealth’s child welfare services.

In the wake of a report his office released on child welfare last year, DePasquale has been repeatedly calling the system “broken.”

Now, he has issued his own series of recommendations for correcting a range of issues.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Eight of Pennsylvania’s universities have received the go-ahead to start studying medical marijuana.

Governor Tom Wolf’s administration is billing the move as the commonwealth’s “first step towards clinical research” on the drug.

The eight medical universities and colleges in question are:

Matt Rourke / AP

Of all the crowded races in Tuesday's primary election, perhaps none is odder than the one for lieutenant governor.

Usually, a sitting LG is in a pretty safe spot once primaries roll around.

But no less than four Democratic challengers are giving incumbent Mike Stack a run for his money.

For Stack, a former Democratic Senator from Philadelphia, the trouble seemed to really start with a press conference.

Matt Rourke / AP

With less than a week before the primary elections, GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner is voicing his support for a restrictive abortion bill.

The stance is in line with a recurring theme in the race—the York County Senator’s apparent battle with rival Paul Mango over who is farther right politically.

Jessica Kourkounis / AP

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania is raising some alarm over a fee hike Governor Tom Wolf wants to include in next year’s budget.

Right now, hospitals pay $220 million annually to the state’s general fund under the Quality Care Assessment law, which started as a partnership to ease budget shortfalls after the Great Recession.  

The law is up for renewal this summer. And in his proposal released earlier this year, Wolf called to raise the contribution about 60 percent, to $350 million.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

It's a Tuesday evening in early May, and an elaborately-decorated lobby in Malvern is swarming with Republicans.

A number are state officials, or officers for the Pennsylvania GOP. Many more are members of the Chester County Republican Party--the group behind this particular dinner.

But the keynote speaker, and the name on most of the signs, banners, and lapel buttons, is a guy who still describes himself as a political outsider, even after four years in the state Senate.

Kim Paynter / WHYY

As state lawmakers prepare for budget negotiations, Governor Tom Wolf is once again trotting out a natural gas severance tax proposal in hopes of slipping it into the final deal. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Several state lawmakers are trying to boost a proposal that would qualify women with postpartum depression for support through Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention program.

Matt Rourke / AP

It’s almost time for lawmakers to start work on the state budget.

But after several cycles of tortuous negotiations made more difficult by persistent revenue shortfalls, it looks like this year might be smoother sailing.

Thanks to last year’s weak revenue collections, lawmakers were faced with a nearly $1.5 billion hole.

They finally filled it through—mostly—borrowing. But it took until late October, three months past the deadline.

This year, the shortfall is much smaller.

Matt Rourke / AP

In recent weeks, proponents of overhauling Pennsylvania’s redistricting process with an independent citizens’ commission have been frustrated as their bills have been repeatedly gutted by the Republican majority in a prominent state House committee.

But now, those advocates may be getting an unexpected new ally in House GOP Leader Dave Reed, who told reporters Tuesday, this is an issue he wants to address before he departs the legislature at the end of this year.  

Currently, congressional redistricting is done by the legislature, and the governor signs off on it.

Matt Rourke / AP

For the second time this month, a state House panel has stripped a bill that would have established an independent redistricting commission made up of citizens, and replaced it with language that gives the legislature even more power over the process.

Katie Meyer / AP

After commissioning an independent study on how to fix Pennsylvania’s higher education system, House and Senate lawmakers held a joint hearing Monday to debate which solutions are actually viable.

Fundamental differences remain.

Matt Rourke / AP

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati may not have to pay more than $29,000 out of pocket for legal fees in a redistricting case.

At least, not yet.

A federal judge has put a hold on the order he made after deeming the GOP lawmaker’s actions in the case frivolous.

The case in question was initially brought to the Commonwealth Court last summer by the League of Women Voters, who argued the state congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill that would have created a drug formulary for the state workers’ compensation program.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania is starting the process of replacing its voting machines. And at the state Farm Show complex this week, election administrators and the public got a chance to see what the new ones might look like.

The display comes soon after Governor Tom Wolf handed down a mandate that all counties upgrade their election equipment by the end of next year, leaving officials scrambling to figure out how to afford it.

Heng Smith / AP

A coalition of advocates is trying to get lawmakers to act on what they're calling a "horrific parental alienation crisis."

Marc Levy / AP

A GOP-controlled state Senate committee is making slow, careful progress at changing Pennsylvania’s justice system to focus on reforming the convicted and reducing prison populations.

The effort is led by the GOP Committee Chair Stewart Greenleaf, who is trying to pass as many justice overhaul proposals as possible before his retirement at the end of the year.

Greenleaf, of Bucks County, often acknowledges that his desire to change the system came later in his long career, after years of taking a tough-on-crime approach.

Matt Rourke / AP

As part of its announced effort to curb sexual harassment and abuse in the legislature, and in Pennsylvania workplaces generally, a House committee has held a public hearing on the subject.

AP

A new poll from Muhlenberg College is giving Democrats reason to feel hopeful about their midterm chances in November.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The commonwealth’s Independent Fiscal Office has released its yearly assessment of Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal.

It reports that most of the revenue estimates check out. That is, if Wolf can figure out how to get his ideas past the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

The Democratic governor’s fourth budget proposal—and the final one of his first term—brings back a lot of the ideas he’s been trying unsuccessfully to pass for his entire tenure.

Key components are a natural gas severance tax, a minimum wage increase to $12 an hour, and a corporate tax overhaul.

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