Politics & Government

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

Mel Evans / AP

Pennsylvania’s primary doesn’t take place until late April, but the election cycle is officially underway in Allegheny County: Yesterday marked the deadline for announcing an interest in seeking the endorsement of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. There were few surprises on the list of candidates vying for the approval of party insiders. But there were some notable omissions — and, as always, some criticism that endorsement filing fees themselves are anti-democratic.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania state House Democrats say they’re trying to “force a vote” on a package of bills meant to serve as a backstop should the Affordable Care Act be repealed nationwide.

(LEFT) PA SUPREME COURT, (RIGHT) OFFICE OF LT. GOV. MIKE STACK

For the first time in three decades, Republicans in Pennsylvania are facing the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts without a friendly state Supreme Court majority to referee disputes, but perhaps not for long.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny Council President Pat Catena rewarded his allies when he named committee chairs Thursday –and along the way he put two first-time progressive councilors, Bethany Hallam and Liv Bennett, in position to advance key items on their agenda. 

Toomey Says Senate Trial Should Be Fair, Mum On Witnesses

Jan 17, 2020
Cliff Owen / AP

Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. Sen Pat Toomey said Thursday the Senate should conduct a fair impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, but he gave no indication of whether he would support calling witnesses.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's governor returned Thursday to the United States after a previously undisclosed trip to Israel that his office said mixed personal travel with state business.

Bloomberg Campaign Hiring Ahead Of Pennsylvania Primary

Jan 16, 2020
Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign has begun hiring dozens of staff members in Pennsylvania, an aggressive move in a late primary state where his chief competitors for the Democratic Party's nomination have inroads.

Annette Elizabeth Allen / NPR

Congress is taking additional steps to prepare for the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. The newly appointed House impeachment managers, who will present the case for impeachment, are reading the articles in the Senate chamber. Senators are also being sworn in as jurors.

Amy Sisk / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania's legislature has been controlled by Republicans for nearly a decade, but progressive organizers hope to shift the balance of power in this year’s election.

Lawmakers Aim To Stop Closure Of 2 Institutions For Disabled

Jan 16, 2020
Carolyn Kaster / AP

A fight to block Gov. Tom Wolf from closing two state centers for the intellectually disabled produced a second large majority in Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Legislature on Wednesday, even as Wolf vowed to continue a decades-old trend away from institutional care.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is among a small chorus of critics of a new North American trade agreement that has drawn bipartisan support in Congress and White House approval. And the Pennsylvania senator raised his voice in opposition to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Matt Rourke / AP

In the state House’s first session week of the new year, the chamber took two different votes that Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) quickly ordered to be struck from the record — an unusual move that prompted vocal concern from Democrats. 

State House Votes To Stop Drivers' Use Of Hand-Held Phones

Jan 15, 2020
LM Otero / AP

A divided Pennsylvania House voted Wednesday to ban the use of hand-held phones for all drivers to make calls, although police would not be allowed to stop motorists for that reason alone.

Matt Rourke / AP

Voters in a south-central Pennsylvania legislative district picked a new state senator in a special election Tuesday, handing victory to Republican Dave Arnold.

Lebanon Valley College history professor Michael Schroeder, a Democrat, conceded to Arnold, the Lebanon County district attorney.

Arnold will replace Mike Folmer, a four-term Republican who resigned in September after being arrested on charges of possessing child pornography.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A group of state House lawmakers is trying to make sure doctors aren’t using patients’ bodies for medical training without consent.

Maggie Young / 90. WESA

At Pittsburgh City Council's first full meeting Tuesday, Distict 9 City Councilor Ricky Burgess offered a bill that may either advance an anti-racist agenda for the future — or settle some old political scores. 

Michelle R. Smith / AP

Pennsylvania's second lady, Giselle Fetterman, will help lead a campaign to raise awareness of this year's Census Bureau count and encourage residents to respond to the census, state officials said Monday.

Fetterman, whose husband is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, said she will tour the state, making stops in Philadelphia and Centre, Erie, Allegheny, Lancaster and Luzerne counties over the next three months.

Keith Srakocic / AP

State House and Senate lawmakers appear poised to pass a bill that would loosen some of the laws that govern certain oil and gas drillers.

But despite a significant amendment intended to win over skeptical Democrats, Governor Tom Wolf and others say the measure still allows too much pollution.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Lawmakers are coming back to Harrisburg this week, and are already setting priorities for the second half of their two-year legislative session.

One of those priorities has been in the works for many years: overhauling the commonwealth’s redistricting laws.

Debate on the issue has moved in fits and starts for years. Many pro-reform lawmakers say they want an independent citizens’ commission to draw the lines, but they frequently differ on details. 

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Earlier this month, three young, progressive-leaning Democrats joined the 15-member Allegheny County Council: Liv Bennett, Bethany Hallam and Tom Duerr. All three spoke about making the county's air cleaner during their campaigns, and Hallam reiterated her commitment to cleaner air during her swearing in.

"We must strengthen enforcement of our existing air quality laws," Hallam said on January 2. "And reduce the amount of toxic pollutants and emissions in our air."

Shapiro Heads Into Reelection Year With $3M In Account

Jan 10, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will report that he headed into his 2020 reelection year with more than $3 million in his campaign bank account, about 40% of what he spent to get elected in 2016 to his first four-year term.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh property owners won't see a new parks tax added to their tax bills just yet. Although first-quarter property tax bills are set to go out to owners next week, the city has yet to pass the legislation necessary to collect the tax, which voters approved in November in an effort to fund parks improvements across the city.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A federal judge assigned a mediator to work with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Teamsters union Thursday, with the intent to resolve a months-long legal battle. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Ranjan named Jed Melnick to mediate the dispute, though past mediators have not been successful in resolving issues between the newspaper company and unions. 

AP

U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey are split on whether the killing of Iran’s top military official was justified, following a classified briefing with senior administration officials Wednesday.

YouTube

Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey was one of just three U.S. Senators to oppose a major new trade deal in a Senate committee meeting Tuesday. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement would overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement, and on Tuesday the Senate finance committee voted 25-3 to send it to the full chamber.

Matt Rourke / AP

Democrats and Republicans in the state House are arguing over the date set for three special elections.

Pennsylvania State House

State Rep. Harry Readshaw, who has represented portions of Pittsburgh and nearby suburbs for a quarter-century, announced that this year would be his last in Harrisburg. And already there are hopefuls seeking to replace him. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

On today's program: Mayor Bill Peduto on the year ahead and a new City Council; an effort to help gun owners surrender their weapons in times of crisis; local television stations reach a deal with cable providers; American Chestnut trees could make a comeback; and how to recycle your Christmas tree. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Voters in Pennsylvania’s 48th state Senate District are going to the polls next Tuesday for a special election.

Maggie Young / WESA

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously voted to make District 2 Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith Council President on Monday. Kail-Smith said her choice to run for the seat was an 11th-hour decision.

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