Politics & Government

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

PA House of Representatives

First responders in Pennsylvania—and elsewhere—have been reporting a recurring problem when reviving overdose victims.

Often, they’re helping the same people, over and over.

A group of state lawmakers is trying to come up with a plan to help break that loop.

Doyle Heffley, a GOP Representative from Carbon County, is sponsoring two proposals. One would help clinics coordinate to find beds for people who need inpatient care.

The other is being called the “warm handoff” measure.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner may be in a running dispute with police in Detroit, where she was detained last week, but she appears to have little to fear at home.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

With 253 members in the House and Senate combined, Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the nation.

Its lawmakers are also the third-highest-paid, behind just New York and California.

Megan Harris / WESA

Activist Leon Ford has suspended his campaign for Pittsburgh City Council.

In an email to campaign supporters Tuesday, Ford said, “My other commitments have become too great for me to be able to fulfill the requirements of this position. I feel it is best for me to make room for someone who has the true ability to devote to this honor.”

Matt Smith / WHYY

John Witzgall and Bob Bolus have a lot in common. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

According to the Detroit News, a police video shows that Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner cursed at Detroit police officers and grabbed at one of them during an incident at a Detroit hotel last week. 

Courtesy of Chardae Jones

Business analyst and writer Chardae Jones says her first one-year term as Braddock's appointed interim mayor won't be her last. Jones, who took over for newly elected Lt. Gov. John Fetterman this year, says she'll seek the Democrat party nomination for a full term in the May primary. 

Fight Over Nuclear Plants Arrives At Pennsylvania Capitol

Mar 11, 2019
Bradley C. Bower / AP

Legislation designed to pump hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars into Three Mile Island and Pennsylvania's other nuclear power plants is being introduced Monday and could usher in heated debate over whether the plants deserve what critics call a bailout.

The debate in Pennsylvania's Capitol will run up against a June 1 deadline. That's when Three Mile Island's owner, Chicago-based Exelon Corp., has said it will begin the monthslong process of shutting down the financially struggling plant that was the site of a terrifying partial meltdown in 1979.

Mel Evans / AP

Members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed their favored candidates at the South Side’s IBEW Local #5 Sunday, casting ballots during a marathon session of glad-handing and eating donuts and other treats provided by candidates.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Voters in two Pennsylvania state Senate districts will pick candidates in May to fill the terms of a couple departed senators.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Matt Drozd has announced a bid for Allegheny County Executive. Drozd is County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's only declared challenger so far. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The failure of a water heater at the Allegheny County Jail this week has brought a county election fight to a simmer – and may lead to increased scrutiny of the facility going forward.

A hot-water system mounted on the jail’s roof failed Monday afternoon, leaving inmates on five of the jail’s eight floors without hot water for showers. Jail officials say a repair will take place this weekend, but in the meantime imposed a modified lockdown.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh's Commission on Human Relations will soon have a job opening for a new executive director. Carlos Torres, the commission's former director, stepped down last week -- for reasons that aren't clear. 

Torres could not be reached for comment, but the commission acknowledged his resignation Wednesday. Commission Chair Mariana Padias said Torres stepped down after the Office of Municipal Investigations concluded an investigation on him. 

Chris Potter / 90.5 WESA

Pam Iovino and D. Raja, who are running in a special election for the 37th state Senate district, are both Mt. Lebanon residents. And both have run for office in the area before. Iovino sought to be the Democratic nominee for a Congressional race in the area last year, but was supplanted by eventual winner Conor Lamb. Raja himself, meanwhile, had an unsuccessful bid for the 37th state Senate seat several years ago. 

Kevin Gavin / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto put his support behind District 1 City Council candidate Bobby Wilson on Thursday. The endorsement distinguishes Wilson in a field that currently includes three other candidates seeking to challenge incumbent Councilor Darlene Harris. 

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary wants to make sure no one’s putting too much stock in Rand Paul’s opinions about vaccines.

In a recent health committee hearing, the Republican U.S. senator said vaccines shouldn’t be mandatory, and suggested they give people a false sense of security.

The morning after those comments, Secretary Rachel Levine called a press conference.

Flanked by pediatricians, she summed up what decades of peer-reviewed studies have shown: vaccines work, they provide herd immunity for those who can’t be vaccinated, and they’re safe for most people.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania lawmakers want to read an internal state watchdog agency's critical report on how county-level agencies investigate thousands of elder-abuse complaints and how the state ensures complaints are investigated adequately. 


Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate announced a bill to restore net neutrality protections on Wednesday.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania is joining 19 other states in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's move to restrict taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro joined the lawsuit filed Tuesday in an Oregon federal court challenging what critics call the "gag rule."

Shapiro, a Democrat, says it imposes unlawful and unethical restrictions on health care professionals. The state of California sued separately, as did the American Medical Association and Planned Parenthood.

Katie Blackley / WESA

Pittsburgh’s trash and recycling policies could soon get a face-lift.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Candidates running for office in the city of Pittsburgh were required to file their first campaign-finance reports of the 2019 primary season on Friday. And if there’s one lesson to be drawn, it’s that it still pays to be an incumbent. That may be especially true in District 9, where Leon Ford, who was one of the most visible challengers to an incumbent, appears to be keeping a far lower profile.

As 2020 Nears, Pressure Grows To Replace Voting Machines

Mar 5, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

Time and money are running short for states to replace aging or inadequate voting machines before the 2020 presidential primaries, according to a report released Tuesday.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

A proposal to ban conversion therapy for minors is set to come before Allegheny County Council Tuesday. The therapy, which targets gay and transgender people, is intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

State lawmakers remain skeptical about a provision in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget plan to transfer money out of special environmental funds to fill financial gaps.

Like the rest of the proposal, it will ultimately need House and Senate authorization.

The multi-year series of transfers Wolf wants to make would cut general fund contributions to two environmental agencies by tens of millions of dollars.

The holes would be filled with cash from several off-budget funds that are supposed to be used for things like municipal recycling and community revitalization.

Pennsylvania State Senate

A top Senate Democrat is launching two bills he hopes will prompt his fellow lawmakers to think more carefully about poverty.

Vince Hughes, of Philadelphia, wants more data on how legislation in the commonwealth impacts the poor.

The first piece of Hughes’s bill package is based on a program in Utah.  

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Friday was the first day for political candidates in the city of Pittsburgh to begin filing monthly campaign-finance reports before the May primary. But one officeholder has made clear she won't comply. 

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

Western Pennsylvania lawmakers voted along predictable party lines Tuesday in a resolution to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration in a 245-182 vote.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale wants to strengthen state laws against accepting gifts after an audit determined that officials in 18 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties accepted gifts, meals or trips from firms competing to sell new voting machines to counties ahead of the 2020 election.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

D. Raja runs a successful technology firm, has been the chair of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County since 2016, and run for prominent public office twice before. But some of his neighbors, at least, are still getting to know the Republican nominee to replace Guy Reschenthaler in the 37th state Senate district. 

James Doyle / NPR

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer, is testifying on Capitol Hill. Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison, to begin in May. He pleaded guilty last year to charges of campaign finance violations and other charges related to his work for Trump.