Politics & Government

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

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

Protesters gathered outside U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s office in downtown Pittsburgh Tuesday, hoping their presence would push the Republican and his Senate colleagues to take up election security measures.

Matt Rourke / AP

Activists ​who want to rally in the state Capitol’s rotunda have to follow a new rule starting this week: they can’t have more than 450 people in attendance.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said the move is partly about keeping the Capitol accessible to people with disabilities. But some of the people the administration says it's helping say they didn't ask for this.

The rotunda is the Capitol’s main thoroughfare—and it’s also the building’s primary site for big protests and rallies, some of which can pack its floor, stairs, and balconies.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Presidential candidate and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will make her first campaign stop in Pittsburgh Wednesday. She will appear at Stack’d Burgers in Oakland at 6:30 p.m., according to the campaign’s calendar.  

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state legislature is emerging from its long summer recess this month, with the House back in session Tuesday and the Senate returning next Monday.

Lawmakers are about halfway through their two-year session, and they left a lot unfinished when they took their post-budget break. Here’s what to look for during the impending flurry in Harrisburg.

The great energy debate

Ariel Worthy / WESA

State Rep. Dan Frankel says he wants guns to get the same attention that e-cigarettes recently received after President Donald Trump announced an effort to force e-cigarette companies to take flavored vaping products off the market. 

Matt Rourke / AP

A new analysis found the number of bills introduced and the number of laws passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature has fallen since peaking in the early 1990s.

The review of four decades of data by The Philadelphia Inquirer and Spotlight PA found that lawmakers are increasingly introducing resolutions that do not substantively change state law.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

A lawsuit challenging the legality of gun control ordinances in the Pennsylvania capital has gained new momentum in court.

A state lawmaker has been sentenced in Dauphin County for a drunk driving arrest this spring.

The April DUI was the second one for which Representative John Galloway, a Bucks County Democrat, had been convicted. He had a blood alcohol level of around .16.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler had one question for House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee Thursday morning.

Toby Talbot / AP

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has filed a lawsuit alleging that members of the family that owns drug maker Purdue Pharma are personally liable “for the devastation of the opioid crisis,” according to a press release from his office.

Angela Hsieh / NPR

Editor's note: The live fact check will begin when the debate starts at 8 p.m. ET.

September's Democratic presidential debate has been narrowed to one night only, as more candidates have called it quits altogether.

Ten candidates are on stage for three-hour event hosted by ABC News and Univision, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. It's the third debate of the campaign and the first time that former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are all together.


Members of Pittsburgh City Council met Wednesday to discuss a ballot measure that would raise $10 million a year for the city’s 165 parks. 

Matt Rourke / AP

On today's program: Two state legislators want to pass a bill to confront sexual harassment in state government; how the flu shot can strengthen herd immunity; a regulations loophole might be to blame for toxic landfill runoff; and the state plans to close the Polk Center for adults with intellectual disabilities. 

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council approved a future public hearing on possible reparations for black residents. The idea was proposed by the New Afrikan Independence Party, which delivered a petition to council on Tuesday. 


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to outlaw the death penalty because of what critics call the cruel and arbitrary way it's applied to poor and black defendants.

More than half of the 441 death sentences handed down since the death penalty was reinstated in the late 1970s have been deemed flawed and overturned, Assistant Federal Defender Timothy Kane told the court. Among the 155 from Philadelphia, the reversal rate is 72 percent.

Fred Vuich / AP

Vice President Mike Pence returned to the Flight 93 National Memorial outside Shanksville, Pa. Wednesday morning, commemorating the sacrifice of those who died on the aircraft, and promising to continue a “Global War on Terror” that has continued for 18 years since.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is cutting its ranks after 63 legislative employees jumped on the chance to be paid a bonus to quit their jobs.

Ron Edmonds / AP

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was among a bipartisan group of mayors who met in Washington, D.C. on Monday to discuss gun control. Members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors met with White House domestic policy advisors to press the Trump administration on the issue. Specifically, the group wants universal background check legislation signed into law. 

Alan Diaz / AP

Pennsylvanians who won't be able to vote in person this fall will be able to apply online for absentee ballots for the first time.

For years, Democratic voters in Allegheny County have complained of a lack of choice: Incumbent state legislators with familiar names run all but unopposed, returning to Harrisburg year after year. But times may be changing.  In the 20th state House district alone, two 32-year-old female candidates are pledging to be a more visible presence than incumbent Adam Ravenstahl.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

A state commission that creates sentencing policy for Pennsylvania's criminal courts is approving a new risk-assessment formula to help judges determine which defendants aren't likely to be violent reoffenders, but critics say it's based on discriminatory data and could expand prison ranks.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing voted 7-2 on Thursday to approve the formula. The vote comes nine years after lawmakers ordered it to help curb Pennsylvania's then-rising prison population by using alternative forms of punishment for offenders who aren't threats to public safety.


Members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community discussed domestic terrorism with Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday. U.S. Representatives on the Committee on Homeland Security came to Pittsburgh as part of a series of meetings with communities affected by mass shootings.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

The city of Pittsburgh wants to reduce its energy and water use by 50 percent by 2030. And new legislation proposed by Mayor Bill Peduto Tuesday offers one way to help do so: make city-owned buildings more energy efficient by setting a target of "net zero."

Fighting Gun Trafficking Gets Ensared In Political Fight

Sep 2, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

When Pennsylvania lawmakers were rushing to wrap up the session's business in June, aides to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro came to them with a request: expand the office's authority to pursue gun-trafficking crimes across the state.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A majority of House Democrats support beginning an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. 

Provided by the Quincy Kofi Swatson Campaign

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James removed one independent City Council candidate from the ballot this week, and he let a handful of others stay. But more upheaval may be in store for an already chaotic off-year municipal election. 

Report Says Panel, Not Lawmakers, Should Redraw Districts

Aug 29, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

A commission set up by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is recommending Pennsylvania redraw congressional and legislative districts through an 11-person appointed group that would provide a set of options that state lawmakers would choose from.

Toby Talbot / AP

An effort to expand the reach of broadband in Pennsylvania is expected to get rolling again when lawmakers return to Harrisburg next month.

That work will follow a summer some lawmakers have spent holding hearings around the commonwealth. 

Ariel Worthy / WESA

At a Tuesday public meeting in Rankin, state Reps. Summer Lee and Ed Gainey heard from several members of the public on legislative proposals to limit the use of deadly force by police. But the issue was especially personal for Michelle Kenney, the mother of Antwon Rose II.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

A proposal to create an independent civilian police review board in Allegheny County has failed. County council rejected the measure in a 9-6 vote at its meeting Tuesday evening.