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Freshman Democratic Sen. Katie Muth On The 'Transactional Morality' Of Harrisburg

Matt Rourke


On today's program: Efforts to crack down on sexual harassment in state government have stalled; a local incubator is supporting Hispanic businesses; student reporters investigate barriers to unionization at Pitt; rural hospitals are at risk of closing; and with the rules finalized, the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is set to begin. 

Credit Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Sen. Katie Muth represents parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties. She's currently serving on Pennsylvania's finance; health and human services; intergovernmental operations; state government; and urban affairs and housing committees.

  Sen. Katie Muth reorients in victims’ rights legislation
(00:00 — 12:01) 

Freshman Sen. Katie Muth says she’s shifting her strategy after legislative efforts to crack down on sexual harassment in state government have stalled. Muth, a Montgomery County Democrat, says legislators shouldn’t be trusted to hold themselves accountable. 

“I think it’s been an epic failure since the beginning of time,” she says. “It shows how this abuse of power has been perpetuated cycle after cycle with no accountability.”

Among the bills Muth has sponsored is a measure to eliminate the statute of limitations in sexual asswault cases resulting from the clergy abuse scandal. Despite dealing with equity issues within the Capitol itself, Muth says she remains hopeful and dedicated in pushing legislation to make Pennsylvania “a more updated, informed and protective state,” though she admits there’s been a learning curve. 

“I may have been a little bit foolish or you know, naive to think that there would be some sort of soul within these people,” she says. “Unfortunately transactional morality is the name of the game.”

Incubator helps entrepreneurs learn the language of business
(13:19 — 17:50) 

A business incubator in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood is working to help Hispanic-owned businesses hit the ground running. In the last three years, the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation has helped more than 70 small business owners get their businesses going, offering help with marketing plans, licensing, permitting, payroll and taxes. 

90.5 WESA’s Maria Scapellato spoke with Guillermo Velazquez, executive director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation. He says the new office inside the Beechview Healthy Active Living Center on Broadway Avenue gives people a safe space to meet with experienced staff.

The Pitt News reports on faculty and graduate unionization efforts
(17:51 — 26:13) 

The University of Pittsburgh paid over $1 million to the law firm Ballard Spahr in the 2018-2019 fiscal year to contest unionization efforts in addition to other legal services, The Pitt News reports. News editor Jon Moss and senior staff writer Neena Hagen report Ballard Spahr’s payday has spiked since union campaigns began in earnest in January 2016. University officials declined to provide The Pitt News with the legal spending breakdown.

Faculty organizers are still waiting to hear whether they have enough eligible votes to move forward with a union election, pending a decision by National Labor Relations Board examiner Stephen Hallmark. Graduate student union organizers plan to hold another election this semester.


With locked doors, the future of Ellwood City Hospital is uncertain
(26:16 — 34:05)

Rural hospitals across the U.S. are struggling financially. Last year 19 of these facilities closed—the most in more than a decade—including Ellwood City, which served patients in southern Lawrence, northern Beaver and southwestern Butler Counties

90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports on what the loss of this hospital means for the town and surrounding area, plus how a new budget model could be a balm for some facilities in the future.

U.S. Senate agrees to rules for impeachment trial
(34:08 — 38:40)

After 13 hours of debate Tuesday, U.S. Senators, voting along party lines, approved a resolution that sets the rules for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. 

The agreement calls for 24 hours of opening statements for each side, to be spread over three days, after rejecting efforts by Democrats to subpoena documents the Trump administration has refused to turn over. 

Jalila Jefferson-Bullock, a constitutional law professor at Duquesne University, takes a look at the procedure for impeachment trial, much of which she says was set by precedent during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. 

90.5 WESA’s Caroline Bourque, Caldwell Holden and Rosa Williamson-Rea contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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