Politics

David Goldman / AP

 

Pope Francis announced Friday that he has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl from his post as Archbishop of the Diocese of Washington, D.C.

Matt Rourke / AP

In the waning days of the legislative session, House lawmakers are hurrying to push priority bills out of their chamber and on to the governor.

The latest bills queued up to likely become law include revamped graduation readiness standards and an anti-hazing measure.

The hazing bill has been in the works since March—about a year after Penn State Student Tim Piazza died following a hazing ritual at a campus fraternity.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

A bill that would end Pennsylvania’s frequent use of mandatory life-without-parole sentences has hit a wall in the state Senate.

The night before the bill was set to be voted out of committee, sponsor Sharif Street—a Democratic Senator from Philadelphia—got word it didn’t have enough support.

The committee didn’t ultimately hold a vote.

Time Running Out In Effort To Cut Number Of State Lawmakers

Oct 1, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A proposal that's kicked around the Capitol for years to shrink the number of state lawmakers in Pennsylvania may not be dead, but it's at least on life support.

The latest blow came during a committee meeting last week, when Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, was able to get the bill amended — yet again — to restore a provision that would also cut the size of the Senate.

The Senate-House divide on the issue has plagued efforts to amend the constitution to cut the House from 203 to 151 and the Senate from 50 to 38.

Matt Rourke / AP

A group examining election security in Pennsylvania urged Congress and state lawmakers Tuesday to speed up the funding required to replace voting machines, noting most lack a paper record needed to check for fraud and errors.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania's Election Security released interim recommendations and said the estimated $125 million to replace all machines statewide was "a relative bargain."

Releasing Tax Returns An Issue Again – In Governor’s Races

Sep 20, 2018
Jacqueline Larma, Matt Rourke / AP

The candidate had just chided the media minutes earlier for not being tougher on his opponent when the moderator asked him what might be his least favorite campaign question: Why won't you release your tax returns?

It wasn't a scene from the 2016 presidential race. Rather, it was from this year's campaign for governor in Pennsylvania, where the Republican challenger who has made millions from his trash-hauling business has refused to release his tax returns.

Nonbelievers Win Suit Over Pennsylvania House Prayer Policy

Aug 31, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

A federal judge has halted the Pennsylvania House of Representatives' policy banning people who don't believe in God from giving the invocations made at the start of each day's legislative floor session.

U.S. Middle District Judge Christopher Conner on Wednesday sided with atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and humanists who challenged the policy that has limited the opening prayers to those who believe in God or a divine or higher power.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Just about two months from the Nov. 6 election, a new Franklin & Marshall College poll echoes previous surveys of Pennsylvania voters: Democratic voters are fired up, and the two candidates at the top of their ticket have comfortable leads over lesser-known Republican rivals.

Gov. Tom Wolf leads his Republican foe, trash-hauling company executive and former state Senator Scott Wagner, by a 52-to-35 percentage point margin among likely voters. Senator Bob Casey enjoys a similar, if somewhat smaller lead, over Congressman Lou Barletta, with a 47-to-34 margin.

Wolf Calls Wagner’s New Education Funding Proposal ‘Abracadabra Math’

Aug 29, 2018
Emma Lee / WHYY

Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner has a plan to pump an additional $1 billion into public schools without raising taxes.

He says he’d do four things to make that happen: privatize the sale of alcohol, lease its liquor wholesale system, slash corporate welfare “that has no positive economic impact,” and reform the welfare system.

His campaign says the numbers add up, and at least one think tank backs that assertion.

Brad Larrison for WHYY

Pennsylvania is seeing an uptick in voter registration with the number of registered voters up 4 percent since the 2014 midterm elections.

And registered voters under 35 now outnumber those 65 and older, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The election of Donald Trump has energized many younger people on both ends of the political spectrum, according to several organizations.

90.5 WESA

Since the start of last year, The Associated Press has tallied at least 75 state lawmakers who have faced public allegations or repercussions over sexual misconduct claims. Most of those cases became public since the #MeToo movement gained momentum in October, though some of the incidents allegedly occurred several years ago.

Here is a look at those lawmakers who have resigned or been expelled, faced other repercussions such as the loss of party or committee leadership positions, or had accusations made against them:

RESIGNED OR REMOVED FROM OFFICE

Wolf Says 'No' To All But One Debate In Governor's Race

Aug 23, 2018
Chris Pizello / Invision via AP

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is agreeing to participate in just one debate before the November election with his Republican rival, an event to be moderated by "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

As midterms approach, Republicans and Democrats around the country are looking at special election results for clues on how their candidates will do in November.

A new Associated Press analysis shows Democrats, so far, have an enthusiasm advantage.

And in Pennsylvania, Democrats are trying to capitalize on that.

There have been ten special elections since Donald Trump became president. The final one before the midterms was last Tuesday in Ohio.

Charles Krupa / AP

As Pennsylvania’s Democratic Socialists get ready to have some of their own in the state House next legislative session, they’re also looking to broaden their coalition.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The Pennsylvania Republican Party wants an investigation into a promotion by Fayette County Democrats at the recent county fair to get people to register as Democrats or change party affiliation.

The GOP says the offer of Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia and a one-night stay at a western Pennsylvania resort violated the state Elections Code .

No Shortage Of Fall Races For Pennsylvania Voters To Ponder

Aug 6, 2018
Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Midterm elections under a revamped congressional district map are certain to help transform Pennsylvania's delegation to Congress this fall. The governor and a U.S. senator, both Democrats, will learn in three months whether voters think they deserve another term. And the status of Republican majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, large margins by historical measures, hangs in the balance.

Courtesy of Friends of Turahn Jenkins

Former public defender Turahn Jenkins of Churchill will run against Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala in 2019, when the 20-year Democratic incumbent is up for reelection.

 

A Democrat, Jenkins announced his candidacy to scores of people who filled a rainy Freedom Corner in the Hill District early Monday evening.

 

House Votes For Pair Of Workplace Sexual Misconduct Studies

Jun 19, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

 State lawmakers voted Monday to commission a pair of studies about sexual misconduct in the workplace, including in state government, although critics said they would prefer to take more direct action to address the problem.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner supports raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage above $7.25 an hour, but not as high as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed.

During a campaign stop in Robinson Friday, he said Wolf’s proposal to increase it to $12 an hour goes too far.

Instead, Wagner favors a wage in the $8.75 to $9.50 range. At that level, Wagner said, there’s less risk that employers in the service sector will replace workers with automation.

Effects Of Supreme Court Voter Roll Decision Appear Limited

Jun 12, 2018
Jacquelyn Martin / AP

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has cleared the way for states to take a tougher approach to maintaining their voter rolls, but will they?

Ohio plans to resume its process for removing inactive voters after it was affirmed in Monday's 5-4 ruling. It takes a particularly aggressive approach that appears to be an outlier among states.

Few appear eager to follow.

"Our law has been on the books. It hasn't changed, and it isn't changing," said Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Bryan Dean.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

After more than a year of on-and-off negotiation, the state Senate has moved a congressional redistricting overhaul to the floor of the full chamber.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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