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Politics & Government

This Week in Politics 9/22

 This Week in PA Politics

To cover costs, the state budget office borrows from the Treasury. In order to avoid a financial deficit, the state has said that it will borrow perhaps as much as $1.5 billion dollars from the state Treasury. Despite the large size of the loan and its earlier-than-normal implementation in the fiscal year, the Corbett administration sees it as the smartest move: borrowing state money avoids fees, transaction costs, and large interest payments. 90.5 WESA’s Mary Wilson reports on the maneuver.

Medical marijuana advocates receive support from GOP House Republican. Although medical marijuana legislation has received bipartisan support in the state Senate, the House has been far more resistant to the idea. However, Republican Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery), the House GOP caucus secretary, said he supports medical marijuana legislation, reports 90.5 WESA’s Mary Wilson. Perhaps this means more House supporters will emerge in the coming weeks.

New human trafficking laws receive support from advocates. State law enforcement agencies now have the power to seize the assets of those convicted of human trafficking, and this has many advocates outspokenly optimistic about the future, 90.5 WESA’s Mary Wilson reports. Pennsylvania is one of the last states to “crack down” on human trafficking.

State Senate Finance Committee votes to abolish property taxes. By a 6-5 margin the committee voted to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania, reports 90.5 WESA’s Michael Lynch. In response, state and possibly local sales taxes as well as income taxes would increase to offset the loss in revenue. The majority support, however, did not come without specific reservations, namely whether the proposed tax increases would indeed cover the loss in property tax revenues.

Audit highlights tenuous relationship between charter and public schools. Rachel Martin of Watchdog.org reports on an Erie-based charter school’s fight to remain open despite poor performance and claims of lack of oversight. Martin’s report discusses how charter and public schools constantly compete for state education dollars, and how reimbursements for public schools seems to have dried up in recent years.

Philadelphia education funding: an interactive timeline. Following the recent battles over Philadelphia public education dollars, Kevin McCorry of WHYY breaks down what was lost, what was gained, and how there is less money this year than there was last year. In addition to the breakdown, McCorry’s article includes a timeline of who did what in regards to budget legislation and proposals, and why the budget is where it is today.

Department of Public Welfare set to change name and image. The state legislature has approved changing the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services, reports 90.5 WESA’s Mary Wilson. Support for the change is due to the multiplicity of services that the Department is in charge of overseeing -- including child protection services, mental health services, and health care -- and how the word “welfare” carries a negative tone. The new title is supposed to more accurately describe the role of the department as a whole.

Marcellus shale conference to be held in Pittsburgh. For the first time the Marcellus shale conference will be held in Pittsburgh rather than Philadelphia, reports Marie Cusick of Stateimpact Pennsylvania. The conference will be held on September 24th and 25th at the David Lawrence Convention Center.  

Wolf and Corbett battle over education funding. Has Tom Corbett cut education by $1 billion or is education spending at the highest its ever been in Pennsylvania? Well, that’s really up to interpretation. In this ongoing saga over education spending, the Governor attacked Tom Wolf in his latest ad, calling Wolf a liar and claiming that he has mislead voters about education spending. In a much appreciated, level-headed article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Mike Pound, the question of whether Wolf is a liar is answered definitively: no, he is not. The argument, although the candidates would like you to think otherwise, is not that simple.

Mike Fitzpatrick’s seat deemed safe Cook Political Report. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, representing Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District, seems to be headed to an easy general victory in November. Cook Political Report has deemed the seat “Solid Republican,” a step up from “Likely Republican,” which is a clear indication that Cook believes that Fitzpatrick will win re-election easily, reports Nick Field of PoliticsPA.

State Senator White wants teachers to be armed in schools. State Senator Don White (R-Indiana) is proposing legislation to allow teachers to carry weapons on school grounds, reports Melissa Daniels of the Tribune Review. WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh also looked into the issue, interviewing both Sen. White and Ceasefire PA’s executive director, Shira Goodman.