Katie Meyer

Jacqueline Larma / AP

Pennsylvania’s incarcerated population is shrinking—down by more than 1,000 people over last year. That’s great news to the increasingly bipartisan coalition that’s trying to both keep people free and cut down corrections costs.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

About a $1 million is going out to 38 colleges around the commonwealth to fund efforts against campus sexual assault.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced the allocation Wednesday, and also took a moment to weigh in on federal campus assault policy.

This is the fourth year Pennsylvania has given colleges grants as part of the national It’s On Us campaign.

The schools use the grants for things like training on consent, and programs to teach students about bystander reporting processes.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Spend much time at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and you might get a feeling that tradition rules the place.

Families tend their animals together. Men in 10-gallon hats still dominate the buyers in the audience at livestock sales. Many of the handmade goods wouldn’t have looked out of place a century or more ago.

But farming is constantly changing.

One way that’s happening? Women are finding their own, nontraditional routes into the business.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

With the start of the new year, the commonwealth is working to roll out a law aimed at protecting sexually exploited children.

Act 130, known as the Safe Harbor law, ensures child victims of human trafficking won’t be prosecuted for prostitution or other crimes.

Among other things, it sets up a fund for those victims to get back on their feet.

Shea Rhodes, who directs the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation at Villanova University, said the money would come directly from the state prosecuting traffickers.

PA Senate

Senate Republicans have announced their slate of committee chairs for the coming two-year legislative session.

These powerful positions give lawmakers in the majority party a lot of leeway to decide which bills come up for debate.

One of the biggest changes to the slate of chairpeople is in the powerful Judiciary Committee.

For 30 years it has been helmed by Montgomery County Republican Stewart Greenleaf, who retired last year. Greenleaf was known as a moderate who pushed to depart from the state’s tough-on-crime criminal justice approach.

Matt Rourke / AP

As one of its first actions of a new legislative session, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed some updated rules governing internal procedures.

Matt Rourke / AP

As the 2019 legislative session dawns, a new slate of committee chairs is taking over in the state House.

These chairs—all Republicans, as they control the House—have considerable sway on the legislation the chamber considers. They decide which bills are granted debate, ergo, which ones make it to the floor for votes.

It is difficult for lawmakers in opposition to circumvent committees.

One of the biggest questions ahead of committee assignment announcements was where Butler County Republican Daryl Metcalfe would be placed.

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

As 2018 turned to 2019, a bunch of new laws took effect in Pennsylvania.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

One of the first things you notice when you walk into the Case Management Unit in Dauphin County is the boxes, piled up in offices and between rows of cubicles.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania is the fourth- biggest producer of Christmas trees in the country. The commonwealth cuts and sells around a million a year, according to the state growers’ association.

But before those trees can be sold, they have to be painstakingly grown and maintained for almost a decade.

That’s where people like Rod Wirt come in.

He and his wife Jodi own Blue Ridge Christmas Tree Farm in Annville, about 20 miles from Harrisburg.

Chris Knight / AP

Pennsylvania’s treasurer, governor, and a group of lawmakers unveiled a new report Thursday that recommend a slew of changes for the state’s two largest public pension funds.

The State Employees Retirement System and Public School Employees Retirement System are—thanks in large part to political decisions to boost pensions more than a decade ago—extremely underfunded.

The state officials think the situation will at least improve if the funds stop paying exorbitant fees to private funds and investment managers.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A new audit shows Pennsylvania’s economic development program has improved its return on investment.

The review is a follow-up to a 2014 study that found the department wasn’t always keeping tabs on the companies it gave money to.

Bret Hartman / AP Images for Marsy'sLawForAll.org

When a new state legislative session starts next month, a group of crime victim advocates plans to hit the ground running to finish a longstanding effort.

Matt Rourke / AP

Though the new legislative session doesn’t start until next month, state lawmakers are already staking out some of their key positions.

Many of those are related to the state’s finances.

A top Republican, for one, is repeating his guarantee that his party will refuse to raise any taxes or fees.

York County Representative Stan Saylor, who heads the pivotal House Appropriations Committee, noted in a new press release that returns are stronger than expected, and the state’s on track for a surplus.

So, he said, he plans to “hold the line” on new revenue-builders.

Mary Altaffer / AP

Eighty locations across Pennsylvania are getting ready to hand out free naloxone this Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

PA House of Representatives

An embattled State House Democrat convicted of accepting a bribe has resigned under pressure from legislative leaders.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

With six months left in the fiscal year, state lawmakers are already looking ahead to potentially difficult budget discussions.

Julio Cortez / AP

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court recently ruled that a group of current and former clergy members could not be named in a grand jury report implicating them in child abuse and coverups in six Roman Catholic dioceses.

The decision wasn’t just a victory for those plaintiffs; it may make grand jury reports like that one much less common.

In general, grand juries compile evidence in sensitive criminal cases to decide whether charges should be filed. They don’t make rulings, but their findings are often widely publicized.

Katie Meyer

As retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Bill Davey played taps at the state Capitol’s annual Pearl Harbor commemoration, Richard Schimmel, Isaac George, William Bonelli, and Hank Heim rose slowly to their feet and saluted.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

As lawmakers in Washington debate a proposal to ease harsh federal sentencing guidelines and shorten some prison terms, Pennsylvania is being cited as a role model.

AP

When a new legislative session starts in January, embattled lieutenant governor Mike Stack, who lost the Democratic primary, is exiting the Capitol.

Stack’s also leaving his state-provided residence. But his replacement, John Fetterman, isn’t moving in.

That decision might save the commonwealth a little money. But what’s even more important to the new lieutenant governor is how it looks politically.

Ever since Braddock Mayor John Fetterman won the Lieutenant Governor nomination, he and Wolf have presented themselves as a unit.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Though the new state legislative session hasn’t technically started, lawmakers are already filing memos for the bills they plan to sponsor.

One of the first issues on the agenda has already commanded lawmakers’ attention for nearly a year: redistricting.

Last winter, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled the state’s congressional map unfairly benefited Republicans and redrew it. The move inflamed a debate that had smoldered for a long time: that the map-drawing process has to be less political.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The state Supreme Court has decided to permanently redact the names of nearly a dozen current and former Roman Catholic clergy who were implicated in a sweeping grand jury report on sexual abuse of children.

Jason DeCrow / AP

This weekend, the commonwealth’s politicos are headed out-of-state for the annual Pennsylvania Society gala.

The expensive gathering is a longstanding tradition—and so is criticizing it.

Matt Slocum / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf said this week that he wants to change the way Pennsylvania pays for transportation.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania is in the midst of launching its sports betting industry—becoming part of the first wave of states to do so.

Matt Rourke / AP

Former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane is likely headed to jail soon.

Carlos Osorio / AP

As others in the state Capitol prepared to bring in the building’s annual Christmas tree, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held his own version of a holiday celebration.

He hosted several representatives from the Pennsylvania chapter of the Public Interest Research Group, who recently released its 33rd  annual holiday toy advisory, available here.

This one includes warnings about 15 different toys, out of 40 tested.

Rick Callahan / AP

Cases of Hepatitis A are in the rise in Pennsylvania.

The commonwealth’s Department of Health said Monday that over the last several years, there have been between 40 and 60 Hepatitis A cases annually.

This year, 81 have been reported.

And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is heightened risk for people who are homeless, men who have sex with other men, people who use drugs, or recently-incarcerated people.

Other states are experiencing outbreaks too—including neighboring Ohio and West Virginia.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Though Pennsylvania’s state legislative elections are over and done, one Senate race is still under contention.

Democratic state Representative Tina Davis sought to unseat incumbent Republican Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson in the 6th Senate District.

Now, she is going to court over what her campaign says are restrictive election laws. 

Pages