Katie Meyer

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

If you want to get a conviction scrubbed in Pennsylvania, you had better have at least $63 set aside. Eight bucks to download the application. $20 for a criminal background check, another $10 for a driving record, and then a $25 processing fee.

Mark Scolforo / AP

Three weeks ago, the state prison system settled a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other groups who said the Department of Corrections was violating inmates’ constitutional rights by making copies of legal mail.

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.

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.

PA Department of Corrections

The Department of Corrections has arrested three staff members at three different state prisons for trying to smuggle in drugs.

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.

Photo by Matt Peyton/Invision for Zachys Wine Auctions

In recent years, pressure has been building for Pennsylvania to privatize its state-run liquor industry.

One of the common arguments against continued state control is that wine and liquor selection and quality in stores run by the Liquor Control Board can’t keep pace with independent stores in other states.

The PLCB has done a lot to change that perception over the years, from redecorating, to mixing up the available booze, to adding the word “fine” to their ubiquitous Wine and Spirits stores.

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.  

Matt Slocum / AP

Lawmakers grilled state transportation officials over the turnpike’s ongoing funding issues in a budget hearing Tuesday.

The Turnpike Commission is behind on payments to the state amid a lawsuit over its rising tolls.

Every year, the commission pays $450 million to the state for transit projects. To afford it, it's hiked tolls around 200 percent in the last decade and taken on a lot of debt.

Even when the payments scale down in 2022, tolls will have to keep rising.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

One of Governor Tom Wolf’s perennially-unsuccessful policy suggestions may face better odds this year.

A day after Senate GOP Leader Jake Corman said his caucus would be willing to consider increasing the state minimum wage, a high-ranking House Republican said the prospect isn’t out of the question for his caucus either. 

Earlier this month, Gov. Tom Wolf included a minimum wage hike in his proposed budget for the fifth year in a row.

It would raise Pennsylvania’s wage from $7.25—the federal minimum—to $12 an hour, and then gradually up to $15.

AP

After a day in federal court, the state Corrections Department is settling a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups over a boost in legal mail security the groups say violated inmates’ First Amendment rights. 

Jacqueline Larma / AP

Planned testimony has been halted in a federal case contesting the legal mail policy used in Pennsylvania’s prisons.

Instead, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups bringing the case say they’re likely headed toward a settlement.

Marc Levy / AP

Hearings have begun in a federal case over whether Pennsylvania’s prison system is violating inmates’ First Amendment Rights.

Legal mail is at the center of the debate.

The prison system changed its policy concerning privileged communications between inmates and their attorneys in October of 2018.  

It was one of many security-tightening measures the Department of Corrections took in response to what they say is an increasing problem with synthetic drugs getting into prisons.

AP

A trial is slated to start Tuesday in a federal court in Harrisburg over the way the state prison system delivers legal mail to prisoners.

The Department of Corrections policy was changed over fears drugs could get in, but the American Civil Liberties Union and three other prisoner-advocacy groups say it's infringing on inmates' rights.

The problem started late last summer.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania first launched its Job Creation Tax Credit back in 1996. According to state officials, it was one of the first credits of its kind—a measure intended to give employers incentives that neighboring states were already providing.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania’s dairy industry woes are finding their way to a national stage.

Milk sales are down. And in Pennsylvania and other major dairy states, the situation is getting difficult for farmers.

That’s why last year, state Senator Ryan Aument sponsored a resolution urging federal lawmakers and the Food and Drug Administration to axe the word “milk” from drinks made from things like nuts, oats or soy.

Matt Rourke / AP

Every year after Pennsylvania’s governor makes his budget pitch to the House and Senate, lawmakers hold weeks of budget hearings with state departments and agencies to get a sense of the way money is being spent, and what should change.

They kicked off this week with the Independent Fiscal Office, which is tasked with issuing reports on state finances.

Over the two hours IFO officers sat before the House Appropriations Committee Monday, one subject kept coming up: the minimum wage.

Steven Senne / AP

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is kicking off his statewide recreational marijuana listening tour Monday just a few miles from the state capital, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A legislative fight may be looming on an issue near and dear to many rural Pennsylvanians’ hearts: hunting on Sundays.

A bill that could allow Sunday hunting has passed through the Senate’s Game and Fisheries Committee and is awaiting consideration before the full chamber.

The hunting restriction is one two so-called “blue laws” that remain on the books in Pennsylvania—measures rooted in religious tradition that ban certain Sunday activities.

The other prohibits buying and selling cars.

Matt Rourke / AP

The day after Gov. Tom Wolf pitched lawmakers on raising the minimum wage as part of the state budget, the House started hearings on the issue.

Matt Rourke / AP

Governor Tom Wolf is kicking off his fifth trip through the state budget wringer.

AP

Governor Tom Wolf is asking the Republican-controlled state House and Senate to sign on to a sweeping new infrastructure plan.

Matt Rourke / AP

A handful of state senators want to upend the way Pennsylvania conducts its elections.

Katie Meyer / WESA

As a new state legislative session dawns, gun control advocates are renewing their call for change.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

A group of state lawmakers is launching a proposal to make several major changes to Pennsylvania's probation and parole laws.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf and state House Republicans are calling on a GOP lawmaker to resign over a reported allegation of rape.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Thanks to a law passed two years ago, Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office is now required to periodically create what are known as performance-based budget reports on state agencies—basically, analyses measuring program funding against actual outcomes.

Michael Rubinkam / AP

Hundreds of furloughed federal workers are turning to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to help make ends meet as the partial federal government shutdown drags on.

From 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, every week until the shutdown ends, the food bank is turning its two primary hubs in Harrisburg and Williamsport into central locations for shutdown-affected people to come—work badge in hand—to receive packages of food.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Sands says in the three days the program has been in effect, they’ve handed out food to around 400 people.

Pennsylvania State Senate

A Republican state senator is stepping down at the end of February—just two months into a new legislative session.

Senator Richard Alloway’s announcement came unexpectedly, and with few additional details.

He first joined the Senate a decade ago, and now serves as the chair of the chamber’s Game and Fisheries Committee. His southcentral Pennsylvania district covers Adams County and parts of Franklin, Cumberland, and York.

In his retirement announcement, he said only that “the time has come” for him to “move on to other endeavors and pursue new opportunities.”

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