Pennsylvania Legislature

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

As states grapple with how to respond to protests over pipelines and other infrastructure projects, Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a bill that would establish tougher penalties against people who vandalize “critical infrastructure” facilities like pipelines and power plants.

Lawmakers Leave State Capitol For Summer With Bills Dangling

Jun 27, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Of all the bills that stalled this week in Pennsylvania's Capitol, perhaps the most remarkable is the derailing of a measure designed to force people with a domestic violence conviction or restraining order against them to forfeit their firearms more quickly.

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.

Feggy Art / Flickr

Legislation in the Pennsylvania House would prohibit health insurance companies from changing benefits or adding restrictions to coverage plans mid-year.

Pennsylvania Legislature Roiled By Sexual Misconduct Claims

Apr 11, 2018
Tim Lambert / WITF

Sexual misconduct allegations have roiled the Pennsylvania Legislature this past year, including the revelation that two cases resulted in sizeable payouts.

A sitting state senator gave up plans to run for Congress in late February, following accusations of inappropriate behavior.

And an investigation is underway into claims a House member was abusive toward two women, including a fellow state representative.

AP

While he was working on the US Constitution, James Madison realized there was a pretty fundamental part of state governments that seemed useless to regulate.

Republicans Seeing Lion’s Share Of Turnover In Legislature

Jan 29, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

Retirements and other departures are poised to hit Republicans in the Pennsylvania Legislature particularly hard this year, as most of those who have already announced they are leaving belong to the GOP.

Opioid Crisis, Redistricting On State Lawmakers' 2018 Agenda

Jan 5, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that the Pennsylvania Legislature will accomplish much in 2018.

Ben Finley / AP

In a story that has drawn national attention, Virginia chose a member of its House of Delegates by randomly picking the name of a candidate Thursday.

An-Li Herring / WESA

After outperforming expectations in the 2017 election, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, endorsed two candidates for the 2018 election Monday night.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state legislature has received its yearly audit, which looks at reserves lawmakers keep on hand in case their pay gets cut off during a budget impasse.

This year’s review showed a smaller surplus than last year’s, with overall legislative reserves decreasing from $118 million and change last year, to around $95 million as of this June.

However, the surplus could be significantly bigger than it appears in the report.

Lawmakers are often pressured to cut down on their excess cash, particularly in the face of the commonwealth’s recent budgeting woes.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Recently, the East Allegheny School District broke ground on its first charter school.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

When the state’s finances are the subject of partisan debate, it helps to turn to the analyses of the ratings agencies that judge creditworthiness – and two of the three major credit ratings agencies are warning that Pennsylvania’s fiscal problems aren’t over, even if its budget impasse is.

Matt Rourke / AP Images

Does Pennsylvania have too many state legislators? That’s what Brian O’Neill, columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, believes. He has been advocating shrinking the legislature since 1994. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with O’Neill to discuss the idea and how to make it a reality.

Is Pennsylvania's Primary Relevant?

Feb 9, 2016
John Minchillo / AP Images

As New Hampshire holds its' first in the nation presidential primary, voters in Pennsylvania are waiting until late April to cast their ballots for their preferred Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. We'll talk with Terry Madonna, Director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, about the chances that the Pennsylvania Primary will still be relevant.

Lennart Tange / Flickr

A 20-member task force of health and research professionals released a report last week on Lyme and related tick-borne diseases to help guide the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the General Assembly's strategy in addressing the growing issue. 

PA School Districts Brace For Prolonged State Budget Battle

Aug 26, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The school year is soon to begin, and districts across the state of Pennsylvania are faced with a troubling proposition: How do you stay afloat when a very large chunk of your budget is nonexistent?

Late Budget Taxes Pennsylvania Schools

Aug 25, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Many Pennsylvania public schools are starting the school year with a worried eye toward Harrisburg.

Some are putting off bills. Some plan to borrow money. But Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said Monday he's not sure how much longer the budget impasse can continue before school operations are compromised.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A tentative proposal from Gov. Tom Wolf to change state pensions isn't sparking much agreement.

The governor has floated a "scenario" under which he would scale back retirement benefits for state and school workers, but top Republicans say the changes don't go far enough.

"It's just not even in the ballpark of what we would think we could acceptably sell to Republican members in the Senate," said Drew Crompton, chief counsel to GOP Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati.

State Enters Its Seventh Week Without A Budget

Aug 12, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The engineers of the current state budget impasse are sitting down for another design meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The new fiscal year began July 1. Negotiations between the governor and top lawmakers have been held about once a week since then.

"We had productive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai after a budget confab last month. "We really rolled up our sleeves."

Twenty-four years ago, in late July, Joyce David was running out of patience.

The commonwealth's budget was five weeks late, and David's husband, a state auditor, hadn't received a paycheck in a month.

"The paralysis stems from a potential tax increase," reported The Associated Press in 1991.

State Rep. Susan Helm (R-Dauphin) said she believes many students throughout Pennsylvania experience unfair treatment under municipal laws.

Helm’s House Bill 809 would strike down municipal laws in the state that prohibit people from living somewhere based on their current status as a student.

In a bid to establish a safety net for part of the state’s social safety net, the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association is urging state lawmakers to offer some help as the budget impasse hits the one-month mark.

The trade group sent letters to lawmakers in mid-July asking them to consider a short-term funding measure and held a press conference in Pittsburgh last week to drum up support. The group has also suggested that the state provide interest-free loans to social service agencies and nonprofits, “similar to what was done for state employees the last time the budget was not passed on time.”

In a state budget stalemate with few compromises, a left-leaning think tank says focusing on property tax relief could prompt some bipartisan agreement.

Gov. Tom Wolf made his pitch to offer property tax relief central to his proposed budget. In May, the state House passed a GOP-crafted proposal with bipartisan backing.

It included the kind of broad-based tax increases Republican leaders now say they can't support. 

The top House Republican says he'll try to override the governor's budget veto if negotiations don't starting yielding consensus.

"We have to look at overriding if we're not going to have a substantive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai, during his appearance at the Harrisburg Press Club luncheon on Monday.

Turzai said an override should be the "goal" of the GOP-controlled Legislature, though he's not sure if such a move would have the votes to pass.

Every 10 years a fight explodes in Harrisburg over how to redraw state House, Senate and U.S. Congressional districts, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers wrangling over what often becomes a map full of oddly shaped districts drawn in an effort to keep one party or the other in power. 

State Rep. Ted Harhai (D-Westmoreland) wants to end the fight by creating a new independent panel to redraw the districts following the decennial U.S. census.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The political debate over the state budget has hit a lull within the walls of the state Capitol, but it's very much alive on roadside billboards, radio ads, and in mailboxes.

"We're in a messaging war, but that's on both sides," said Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) this week.

GOP ally Americans for Prosperity has radio ads and billboards blasting the governor for trying to raise taxes.

A state House Republican with a reputation for bucking party leaders is trying to loosen up the deadlock that has gripped budget negotiations for weeks.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) is offering his own attempt at a compromise state spending plan. It includes a new tax on natural gas drillers and a higher personal income tax — more than the GOP supported in new spending, but less than Gov. Tom Wolf proposed.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Some see the state Capitol deadlock over a state budget as political dysfunction or theatre. But it's also a social experiment: this is the year Pennsylvanians will see how a court decision ending "payless paydays" affects the budget negotiations.

No 'Illusions' Of Progress In PA Budget Talks

Jul 7, 2015

One week after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP budget curtailing the state’s authority to spend money, negotiations over a new plan are at a standstill.

A Tuesday meeting between Republicans and the governor appeared to yield no progress toward the middle on a mix of tax proposals offered by Wolf and opposed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

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