Politics & Government

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

Chris Potter / 90.5 WESA

In 2017, when Magistrate District Judge Mikhail Pappas and Allegheny County Councilor Anita Prizio beat well-established incumbents in the fall, many observers figured the candidates – who’d each been backed by the Democratic Socialists of America – had merely caught incumbents sleeping in low-interest races. 

Rachel Gobep / 90.5 WESA

On today’s program: How to prevent infectious diseases; a breakdown of yesterday’s primary election results; Mayor Bill Peduto on cybersecurity, postponing gun control ordinances and legalizing recreational marijuana; and an old amusement park near Lake Erie searches for its place in the 21st Century.

Matt Rourke / AP

In order to be a hairdresser in Pennsylvania, you need a license from the state.

In fact, the state gives out around 250 different varieties of professional license, for everything from massage therapy to funeral direction. And under Pennsylvania law, people convicted of crimes who are trying to rejoin the workforce can be denied those licenses for a broad range of reasons. 

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala held off challenger Turahn Jenkins in one of the more closely watched races this primary season. The 21-year incumbent scored a resounding victory, with about 59 percent of the vote.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Bobby Wilson toppled Pittsburgh’s District 1 City Councilor Darlene Harris, following a sometimes bitter election fight, likely removing the sharpest critic of Mayor Bill Peduto from the nine-member body. 

Chris Potter / 90.5 WESA

Challenger Bethany Hallam toppled John DeFazio in the race for the Democratic "at-large" seat on Allegheny County Council — the latest case in which an upstart progressive challenger toppled a well-established Democrat. 

Amanda Green-Hawkins via Facebook

A longtime steelworkers' union lawyer from Pittsburgh has been nominated by Democrats to run for one of two open seats on a statewide appellate court.

Amanda Green-Hawkins won a spot on the fall ballot in Tuesday's primary election for the state Superior Court.

Races among two other Democrats and three Republicans remained too close to call Tuesday night. The 15-seat court handles civil and criminal appeals from Pennsylvania's county courts.

Matt Rourke / AP

Voters have picked Republicans to fill three open seats in the state Legislature in heavily Republican districts in south-central and western Pennsylvania.

Michelle R. Smith / AP

A group tasked with getting Pennsylvanians counted in the 2020 census is asking for state funds to make it happen.

The Complete Count Commission, which Governor Tom Wolf formed late last year, began behind-the-scenes negotiations in earnest last month. Now the group has settled on what it sees as a moderate ask: one dollar per person, or about $12.8 million.

“We need to act together,” said Keystone Counts head Erin Casey. “This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. This is about all of Pennsylvania.”

Matt Rourke / AP

Voting is underway in this year’s primary elections, even if it is hard to tell. 

Although offices including county executive, county controller and county treasurer are on the ballot, they are not contested on either the Republican and Democratic ballot. 

In Pennsylvania, Trump Touts 2020 Chances, Swipes At Biden

May 21, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

President Donald Trump voiced confidence Monday in his ability to win a repeat victory in Pennsylvania in 2020 and took a fresh swipe at one of his leading Democratic rivals, telling rallygoers that native son Joe Biden had abandoned them by representing Delaware in the Senate.

Avi Wolfman-Arent / WHYY

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey wants the full weight of the law to come down on criminals who kill or target police officers.

The Republican from Pennsylvania recently reintroduced the Thin Blue Line Act, an attempt to increase the likelihood that those convicted of killing law enforcement officers receive the death penalty in federal cases.

Keith Srakocic / AP

The city of Pittsburgh is postponing enforcement of its controversial gun legislation, a move made amid multiple lawsuits surrounding the bills. 

Ted S. Warren / AP

Pennsylvania's Real ID identification system is now in compliance with federal regulations, more than a year before the IDs will be needed for commercial airline passengers and those entering secured federal facilities.

The state Transportation Department said Monday it received the notification from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Pennsylvania is in compliance with anti-terrorism standards.

Pennsylvania has issued more than 138,000 Real IDs since they became available on March 1.

5 States Announce New Suits Over Prescription Opioids

May 17, 2019
Jessica Hill / AP

Five more state attorneys general announced legal filings Thursday seeking to hold the company that makes OxyContin responsible for an opioid addiction crisis that's now the leading cause of accidental deaths across the country and in many states.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

A group of activists spent Thursday evening projecting images of immigrant families on a building near the state Capitol.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A handful of candidates are hoping to replace Pittsburgh's District 9 City Councilor Ricky Burgess in next week's primary, but he says it takes years to make the connections he's made over the past three terms. 

Michael Dwyer / AP

Former Vice President Joe Biden is choosing Philadelphia to base his 2020 presidential campaign, opting for his native Pennsylvania over the state of Delaware that sent him to the Senate for 36 years.

The choice is both practical and symbolic for Biden. Philadelphia is convenient to his homes in Wilmington, Delaware, and northern Virginia.

The site of the nation's founding also highlights Biden's campaign promise to "restore the soul of this nation" as he casts President Donald Trump as a threat to U.S. values.

Matt Rourke / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf is raising the alarm over the impact Chinese tariffs are having on Pennsylvania’s farmers.

President Donald Trump’s tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel may have boosted the domestic steel industry, but China’s retaliatory tariffs on American crops have hurt exports from Pennsylvania farms.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Since January, Governor Tom Wolf has been traveling around the state shopping his new infrastructure plan to municipal and county officials. 

Carla K. Johnson / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is devoting $5 million in federal grants to a student-loan repayment program in high opioid-use areas where there's a shortage of substance-abuse treatment professionals.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

For the second year in a row, House lawmakers have voted for a bill that would punish doctors who perform abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

In recent years, Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris has frequently opposed Mayor Bill Peduto's agenda. But if she's sometimes alone around the council table, she is now in a three-way race for reelection in City Council District 1, north of the rivers.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilors Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle are unveiling legislation to address racial inequality on Tuesday, the latest in a series of moves intended to include marginalized communities in the city’s much-touted resurgence. The legislation will require additional reporting from city officials and developers about their efforts on behalf of, and their impacts on, low-income residents and racial minorities in the city.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A state House committee has moved a group of bills that would significantly change how Pennsylvania oversees its charter schools.

Pennsylvania Primary Features A Couple High-Profile Matchups

May 13, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's primary election will decide nominees or officeholders for several high-profile offices, including mayor of the nation's sixth largest city and one of the state's 18 members of the U.S. House.

Pennsylvania's primary election is May 21.

It features primary elections for Philadelphia mayor and two statewide appellate court seats. It also features special elections to fill three open seats in the Legislature and one in Congress.



Matt Rourke / AP

The state House is torn over how to update the system Pennsylvania uses to get judges onto its three highest courts.

A proposal to elect them by district seems to have an edge—but supporters of merit selection say they aim to put up a good fight.

Currently, candidates for the Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme courts run as representatives of political parties and are chosen in statewide elections.

Ariel Worthy / WESA

"All of those in favor of adult recreational cannabis use in Pennsylvania, raise your hand and please say aye," Lt. Gov. John Fetterman asked a Pittsburgh crowd. 

Chris Knight / AP

Pennsylvania's treasurer is accusing PPL Corp. of frustrating efforts by his designated auditors to get unclaimed property back into the hands of rightful owners.

Steven Senne / AP

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is bringing his statewide marijuana listening tour to Allegheny County this weekend. He’ll visit the Community Empowerment Association in Homewood and then the Penn State McKeesport campus, both on Saturday.