Politics

Wolf, Lawmakers Clash Over Emergency Declaration

Jun 10, 2020
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-led Legislature headed toward a legal clash Wednesday over the emergency declaration he issued at the beginning of the pandemic, with lawmakers voting to end it and Wolf insisting he holds veto power.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Counting an avalanche of mail-in votes began a third day in Pennsylvania on Thursday as some races from Tuesday’s primary remained too close to call.

The Associated Press has not called a number of races where the contest was close or had a large number of votes yet to be counted, or both.

Those races included several where incumbent state lawmakers trailed in the count and the only competitive primary among the statewide races, a six-way Democratic primary contest for auditor general.

Pennsylvania Counts Ballots After A Light-On-Drama Primary

Jun 3, 2020
Gene J. Puskar / AP

Election officials faced a mountain of still-uncounted ballots Wednesday after a Pennsylvania primary held amid civil unrest, a pandemic, the introduction of new voting machines in some counties and the debut of mail-in balloting that pushed county bureaus to their limits.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Tuesday marks the 2020 primary, but this year’s will be a little different due to the coronavirus pandemic. In order to help you prepare, we’ve put together this checklist of things to know:

Legislature Sends $25B Budget, Virus Aid Bill To Wolf

May 29, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

A piecemeal, no-new-taxes $25.8 billion budget headed to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk Thursday, as did legislation to distribute about $2.6 billion in emergency federal coronavirus aid to counties, nursing homes and wide range of other causes.

Pennsylvania Preps Short-Term Budget Amid Virus Uncertainty

May 26, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania state government was preparing a temporary no-new-taxes budget plan Tuesday that maintains current spending levels while budget makers watch to see how badly tax collections are damaged by coronavirus-related shutdowns and whether the federal government sends another aid package to states.

Niven Sabherwal / 90.5 WESA

Democratic state House candidate Heather Kass withdrew a request for an injunction against her own political party this morning, but will continue to seek damages in a dispute over access to party voter information.

Alex Brandon / AP

President Donald Trump will visit the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Thursday to tour a distribution center of medical and surgical products for healthcare facilities, including personal protective equipment in the fight against the coronavirus.

Trump's visit is to a warehouse of Virginia-based Owens and Minor in suburban Allentown. The White House said he will also deliver remarks.

It is Trump's second visit to Pennsylvania this year after appearing a town hall-style event hosted by Fox News at the Scranton Cultural Center in March.

Taxpayers Foot Bill To Supply Legislators, Army Of Aides

May 12, 2020
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

It takes hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars a year for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to maintain one of the country’s largest legislative staffs, a small army that needs food, shelter, transportation, office supplies and modern electronics.

An Associated Press review of invoices and more than 6,000 pages of spending line items by the state’s legislative branch last year found lawmakers often use the latitude their own rules provide to decide what to buy and from whom.

Ross Cameron / AP Photo

A federal judge has denied a request to decertify voting machines being used by Philadelphia and two other counties in the battleground state of Pennsylvania before November's presidential election.

In a Wednesday ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond in Philadelphia said the plaintiffs, including former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and several supporters, made allegations that are "baseless and irrational."

Matt Rourke / AP

Republicans are claiming victory and Democrats conceding defeat in three special elections Tuesday to fill empty seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

All three seats had been held by Republicans who vacated them after winning elections to county offices last November, and Tuesday's election maintains the 110-93 Republican majority in the state House.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate is hiding thousands of detailed explanations about its expenses from official records it provided under public records requests about how it spends taxpayer money, news organizations reported Thursday.

Governor Plans To Veto Natural Gas Manufacturing Tax Credit

Feb 5, 2020
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennslvania

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will veto a bill that would provide millions in tax breaks for new construction of facilities that use natural gas extracted in the state to produce fertilizer and other chemicals, his spokesman said Wednesday.

The bill, which passed both legislative chambers this week by veto-proof majorities, authorizes the “energy and fertilizer manufacturing tax credit” for projects that require at least $450 million in construction and start-up costs and that create at least 800 jobs.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf will have at least a couple million dollars to spend in this year's legislative elections to help his fellow Democrats pick up seats and aid his push for priorities that stalled in Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Legislature.

A campaign spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Wolf's campaign had $2.2 million heading into 2020 to help elect Democrats to the state Legislature.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Twenty-four hours over three days - that's how long each side gets to make its case in the Senate impeachment trial.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Matt Rourke / AP

Voters in a south-central Pennsylvania legislative district picked a new state senator in a special election Tuesday, handing victory to Republican Dave Arnold.

Lebanon Valley College history professor Michael Schroeder, a Democrat, conceded to Arnold, the Lebanon County district attorney.

Arnold will replace Mike Folmer, a four-term Republican who resigned in September after being arrested on charges of possessing child pornography.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Lawmakers are coming back to Harrisburg this week, and are already setting priorities for the second half of their two-year legislative session.

One of those priorities has been in the works for many years: overhauling the commonwealth’s redistricting laws.

Debate on the issue has moved in fits and starts for years. Many pro-reform lawmakers say they want an independent citizens’ commission to draw the lines, but they frequently differ on details. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Democrats and Republicans in the state House are arguing over the date set for three special elections.

Grand Jury Urges Action In Wake Of Alleged Tax Credit Fraud

Dec 3, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

A grand jury report released Tuesday found two of Pennsylvania’s tax credit programs are vulnerable to fraud, citing newly unsealed allegations that a couple disappeared in Hong Kong after using bogus front companies to obtain state tax credits they resold for millions of dollars.

The state attorney general’s office announced charges against them and issued the report that found “systemic deficiencies” in the state’s Keystone Innovation Zone and Pennsylvania Research and Development tax credit programs.

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Switches From Democrat To Independent

Nov 19, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

A moderate Democrat in Pennsylvania’s state Senate from an area that shifted decisively to support Donald Trump in 2016’s presidential election is switching his registration to become an independent and said Tuesday that he will caucus with the Republican majority.

In a news conference in his Capitol office, Sen. John Yudichak of Luzerne County said that he had found a growing disconnect with an increasingly liberal Democratic caucus, and that some issues that are important to him will find a better home in the Republican caucus.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

The U.S. House of Representatives is holding open hearings in its impeachment inquiry into President Trump. All hearings will be streamed through this video player as they are live.

90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris is poised to leave office at the end of the year, but before she does, she will gain the distinction of being the defendant in a key test of the city's campaign-finance rules.

House Panel Says Lobbyist Disclosure Law Should Be Improved

Oct 30, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

The first report from a new state House investigative committee says Pennsylvania's lobbyist disclosure law should be overhauled so that lobbyists, rather than the entities they're working for, have to report meals, gifts and other spending meant to influence government.

The House Government Oversight Committee report released Wednesday also recommends changes to how lobbyist spending reports are audited.

The bipartisan committee says it's currently difficult to identify and punish lobbyist registration violations.

Matt Rourke / AP

Several state House lawmakers are trying to pass a package of bills designed to make Pennsylvania’s two massive, underfunded state pension systems more transparent, and a little cheaper.

Judge Tosses Pittsburgh Gun Laws Passed After Massacre

Oct 29, 2019
Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

A judge on Tuesday struck down gun restrictions that the Pittsburgh City Council imposed after last year's synagogue massacre, noting that Pennsylvania state law forbids municipalities from regulating firearms.

Matt Rourke / AP

Lax campaign finance rules allow Pennsylvania state lawmakers to shield spending on food, booze and travel from public scrutiny, and officials often report them as simply credit card payments or expense reimbursements, a report published Tuesday concluded.

Is Ohio In Play? GOP Tilt Working Against Democrats

Oct 14, 2019
David Kohl / AP

Chris Gagin says he hasn't changed much politically, even as so much around him has.

The attorney from rural Belmont County, Ohio, became a Republican in 2013 after Democrats embraced environmental policies that he believed were detrimental to the area's coal mining and fracking industries. As an anti-abortion-rights, pro-gun conservative, he felt unwelcome.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

A bill that aims to let more people with disabilities access a program that gives them medical services appears primed to move quickly through the state Senate.

It may be a rare area where Democrats and Republicans can agree on health care.

Lawmakers Return To Governor’s Fall ‘Conversation Openers’

Sep 23, 2019
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf busied himself in the quiet Capitol over the summer with plans that didn't involve lawmakers: a way to finance new voting machines, new charter school regulations to write, gun violence prevention programs to create and more.

With lawmakers returning to Harrisburg from a nearly three-month break this past week, Wolf called those moves "conversation openers" to inject momentum into a second-term agenda the Democrat insists can get done this fall in an often-skeptical Republican-controlled Legislature.

Matt Rourke / AP

Activists ​who want to rally in the state Capitol’s rotunda have to follow a new rule starting this week: they can’t have more than 450 people in attendance.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said the move is partly about keeping the Capitol accessible to people with disabilities. But some of the people the administration says it's helping say they didn't ask for this.

The rotunda is the Capitol’s main thoroughfare—and it’s also the building’s primary site for big protests and rallies, some of which can pack its floor, stairs, and balconies.

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