Pennsylvania state senate

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On today's program: David Dausey from Duquesne University outlines precautions for keeping students and families safe ahead of the holidays; A judge has ruled to count ballots cast in a hotly contested state senate race; and scientists have modified the American chestnut to survive blight, but some disagree GMO trees are the answer.

Courtesy of the Committee to Elect Jim Brewster and Friends of Nicole Ziccarelli

State Senator Jim Brewster, of McKeesport, is one of Allegheny County’s last old-school Democrats — friendly to labor, but socially conservative — to serve in Harrisburg. And now, after his district went narrowly for President Donald Trump in 2016, the lawmaker faces a reelection challenge from first-time Republican candidate Nicole Ziccarelli, of Lower Burrell.

A win for Brewster is considered essential to enabling Democrats to flip control of the Pennsylvania legislature.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Legislation introduced by State Senators Randy Vulakovich (R- Allegheny County) and Judy Schwank (D- Berks County) would criminalize "sextortion" in Pennsylvania. 

*Warning: This story contains graphic information that some readers may find offensive. 

Bradley C. Bower / AP

A Pennsylvania state senator who is the subject of allegations published by The Philadelphia Inquirer that he behaved inappropriately toward female employees and campaign aides hopes to continue serving in office, his lawyer said.

*UPDATE: This story was updated at 2:05 p.m., Dec. 18. 

Governor Tom Wolf is expected to sign legislation to allow people with low-level criminal convictions to have their records sealed from public view.

The plan, approved nearly unanimously by the Legislature, would let people petition the court to wipe minor, nonviolent crimes from their public criminal records. Charges like vandalism and trespassing could be erased from view of potential employers, landlords, and lenders, removing the handcuffs people live with long after they’ve served their time or paid the fines for low-level criminal convictions.

Pennsylvania residents can only buy “novelty fireworks,” such as party-poppers and sparklers under current law, but a trio of lawmakers wants that to change.

A bill will soon be introduced in the Senate that would make it legal for residents to purchase larger “consumer fireworks,” such as Roman candles, mortars and bottle rockets, according to co-sponsor Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver).