Politics & Government

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

Alex Brandon / AP

President Donald Trump will hold a Make America Great Again rally in Wilkes-Barre next week and urge voters to support Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta's campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

The Republican president is to discuss the economy, including jobs for Pennsylvanians, and his efforts to protect American manufacturing jobs. The rally is at 7 p.m. Aug. 2 at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

Martin Meissner / AP

The Wolf administration is voicing concerns that the federal government will reduce states’ abilities to use a vehicle emission standard that’s tougher than the federal one.

Pennsylvania is one of more than a dozen states that abides by California’s separate standards. Under Barack Obama’s administration, federal emission targets for vehicles were ramped up to match the West Coast state’s more aggressive ones.

Matt Rourke / AP

A conservative group is calling out lawmakers who they say tucked about $35 million in spending for specific local projects and causes into the state budget’s dense fiscal code.

It’s a practice that, in various forms, has a long history in Pennsylvania and around the country.

At one time, lawmakers reserved cash for constituent causes through WAMs—or Walking Around Money—shoehorned into the main state budget.

But WAMs have been officially phased out, under scrutiny for being too secretive.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania Democrats are pressuring Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner to release his tax returns. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s campaign said in a statement Monday that voters deserve to know more about the Republican’s business interests.

Wagner owns the York-based trash hauling company, Penn Waste, and his financial disclosure suggests he also has holdings in hotels, freight companies, and other enterprises.

PA House of Representatives / legis.state.pa.us

Rep. Flo Fabrizio, a veteran state lawmaker from Erie, is dead at age 73 after battling pancreatic cancer.

Orlando Funeral Home in Erie said the eight-term Democrat died Tuesday while under hospice care. Arrangements are pending.

Fabrizio was a gregarious presence in the Capitol, a passionate but respectful debater with a distinctive shock of white hair and a broad smile.

He was the ranking Democrat on the Health Committee.

Office of Conor Lamb

A poll out Tuesday morning shows Democrat Conor Lamb with a double-digit lead over Republican Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania’s closely watched 17th Congressional District.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Vice President Mike Pence visited Philadelphia Monday to support fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta — and to tout how the Trump administration’s tax cuts are working in Pennsylvania.

Speaking in front of a crowd of about 300 people at the Sheraton Hotel, Pence praised the Trump administration’s policies on immigration, the canceled Iran nuclear deal, and low unemployment.

“Confidence is back. Jobs are coming back. In a word, America is back,” said Pence, to a room full of applause. “And we’re just getting started.”

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

An effort to create a countywide civilian police review board has gained momentum since a police officer shot and killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose last month.

Two weeks ago, a closely divided Allegheny County Council voted to hold up to four public meetings on how to form such a board.

But as the city of Pittsburgh has learned, establishing such a board may be the easy part.

Matt Slocum / AP

U.S. Senator Bob Casey brought his quest for a third term to Harrisburg on Monday.

In a talk to the Pennsylvania Press Club, the historically moderate Democrat drew distinctions between himself and his opponent, Congressman Lou Barletta, on a range of issues—from the economy to immigration.

Barletta is among President Donald Trump’s strongest backers. In his last Harrisburg visit he was navigating the fallout from the administration’s curtailed policy of separating children from their undocumented parents at the southern border.

David Zulabowski / AP

Demonstrators dressed as characters from the novel-turned-TV series "The Handmaid's Tale" are planning to descend on downtown Philadelphia to protest Vice President Mike Pence's visit.

Pence is scheduled to speak at a hotel in the latest event promoting the administration's tax-cutting law. It is organized by America First Policies, a nonprofit that promotes President Donald Trump's agenda.

Afterward, Pence is headlining a fundraiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Lou Barletta.

As Trump Weathers Firestorm, Barletta Picks Up A Sheild

Jul 23, 2018
Carolyn Kaster / AP

As President Donald Trump found himself under pressure from his own party this past week, Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania reached for his shield.

Barletta, who is running for Senate with the expectation of substantial support from Trump, hails from a northeastern Pennsylvania congressional district that strongly backed Trump in 2016. He was one of Trump's earliest backers in Congress in the presidential primary, co-chaired Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania and served on Trump's transition team.

A GOP congressman and former FBI agent says he thinks President Trump was manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick told NPR's Michel Martin on All Things Considered that he drew that conclusion after the two leaders appeared in Helsinki.

"The president was manipulated by Vladimir Putin," Fitzpatrick said. "Vladimir Putin is a master manipulator."

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Producer's Note: This is the final *weekly* episode of 90.5 WESA's The Confluence. The team is taking a short hiatus and returning as a daily program Monday, August 27, 2018. Look for it live Monday through Friday from 9-10 a.m. Eastern.

In the wake of President Trump's Supreme Court nomination of D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Democratic senators and civil rights advocates have been quick to voice their opposition.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's governor is bringing together government agencies to help ensure the state's elections are safe and secure.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday he was setting up the Inter-Agency Election Preparedness and Security Workgroup, led by his cabinet member who heads the agency that oversees voting.

The chairmen are acting Secretary of State Robert Torres and John MacMillan, the Office of Administration's chief information officer.

Matt Rourke / AP

House Republican committee chairmen want the Pennsylvania attorney general's office to look into the circumstances surrounding unauthorized changes to the state government website that fields requests for birth and death records.

The four chairmen wrote Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro Thursday, asking for an investigation to ensure personal information wasn't breached.

Keith Srakocic / AP

The mayor of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania’s auditor general held a joint press conference Thursday, arguing that legalizing the recreational use marijuana could generate more than a half-billion dollars in tax revenue each year.

“The time for Pennsylvania legislators to act is right now,” said state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. “The longer we wait to do this, and the more other states go down on this path, the more Pennsylvania will be a follower. ... The train is pulling out of the station.”

Court Throws Out 2012 Welfare Law Over How Bill Was Enacted

Jul 19, 2018
Carolyn Kaster / AP

A Pennsylvania law that ended state cash welfare benefits in 2012 and made other changes to human services programs was thrown out Wednesday over methods used to push it through the Legislature by Republican majorities.

The state Supreme Court unanimously struck down the multi-faceted legislation because its passage violated state constitutional requirements that bills be considered in each chamber for at least three session days before being voted out.

Matt Rourke / AP

State lawmakers—particularly the ones running for office—have spent the last month touting the fact they passed a budget ahead of schedule after a decade of regular impasses.

Their success wasn’t unusual this year—nearly every state passed an on-time budget thanks to strong revenues.

Late budgets have become routine in a number of states since the 2008 recession.

Alex Brandon / AP

In a 45-minute "tele-town hall" with Pennsylvanians Wednesday morning, Pat Toomey made clear -- again -- that he thought the Russians should pay a steep price for trying to shape the outcome of the 2016 election.

At the same time, however, he pushed back on suggestions that there be a cost for the man who won that election, President Donald Trump.  

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The June shooting death of  Antwon Rose, an unarmed black 17-year-old, by Michael Rosfeld, a white East Pittsburgh police officer, continues to have political, policy and policing repercussions.

In addition to protests large and small, as well as various community meetings since Rose's death:

Both photos by Matt Rourke / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf and GOP challenger Scott Wagner have spent much of this month trying to paint one another as supporters of school funding cuts.

And both say the other camp is being misleading.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General says he’s expanding his review of the state voter registration infrastructure, after learning a Russian oligarch is a primary investor in the company that manages Maryland’s system.

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

More than fifty people attended the East Pittsburgh council meeting tonight. They called on officials to institute police reforms and to fire Michael Rosfeld, the officer who shot and killed Antwon Rose last month

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

There has been renewed interest in police-community relations since the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose last month. Nearly 20 Democratic state lawmakers gathered in Wilkinsburg Tuesday for a three-hour hearing on the topic. They discussed a range of issues such as police use of force, diversity education for officers and how to increase public oversight of law enforcement.

Elise Amendola / AP

The state Public Utility Commission is considering taking over jurisdiction of certain utilities from the federal government in an effort to boost efforts to bring high-speed broadband to underserved rural areas.

The PUC said its main goal is resolving telephone pole disputes faster than the Federal Communications Commission can.

One of the main ways broadband gets to customers is through aerial wires on utility poles.

PA Dept. of Health

The state website where people can order birth and death records was recently offline for nearly a full week because someone made unauthorized changes to the site.

No data breach was reported, and no one’s records have been compromised, however.

The Office of Administration declined to comment beyond confirming the outage last month for emergency maintenance, and saying they’re working with law enforcement.

But Republican state Representative John Lawrence of Chester County said he’s gotten a little more information.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for a summit today in in Helsinki, Finland. This is the first stand-alone summit between the two leaders, and comes just days after an American grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers on charges related to Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The two leaders are holding a news conference following their meetings.

Keith Srakocic / AP

In one of the country's most closely-watched House Races, western Pennsylvania incumbents Keith Rothfus and Conor Lamb appear to be on even ground financially. 

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made a pair of stops in Pittsburgh on Sunday, praising progressive candidates at both the American Federation of Teachers National convention and an appearance with Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who is running for lieutenant governor. 

Chris Potter / 90.5 WESA

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke to some 3,000 educators at the American Federation of Labor conference in Downtown Pittsburgh this morning, portraying the labor movement’s struggles as a proof of its importance.

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