Liz Navratil & Jonathan Lai| Friday, September 13, 2019, Spotlight PA
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the nation and its lawmakers are among the highest-paid in the country, yet, increasingly, they’re doing less and less actual lawmaking.
The number of bills introduced in the legislature has fallen by more than 20% from its peak in the early 1990s, and the number of bills actually passed into law has fallen even more dramatically in the years since, according to an analysis of four decades of legislative data by The Inquirer and Spotlight PA.
Nicole Brambila | Tuesday, September 10, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Pennsylvanians seeking to vote by absentee ballot can apply online starting next week, rather than making the request by mail or in person.
Absentee voters can apply for a ballot starting Monday, Sept. 16, at votesPA.com/ApplyAbsentee. After approval by the voter’s county election office, the absentee ballot is delivered by mail to the voter.
Elizabeth Behrman | Thursday, September 5, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pennsylvania Department of Education now will charge service fees in an attempt to “recoup the costs of thousands of hours of staff time” incurred as the agency implements the state’s Charter School Law.
Gov. Tom Wolf discussed the new fee-for-service model Wednesday during a stop at Twin Rivers Elementary School in McKeesport. The change is part of a larger plan he announced last month to use a combination of executive action and new legislation to overhaul Pennsylvania’s more than 20-year-old charter school law and hold charter schools to the same accountability, “ethical and transparency” standards as traditional public schools.
Jill Daly | Thursday, August 29, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gov. Tom Wolf came to Pittsburgh Thursday to shine light on his statewide initiative to tackle the serious health problem of lead exposure in young children, starting with a call for mandated blood testing throughout Pennsylvania.
Even low levels of lead have been linked to a child’s IQ and ability to pay attention, how well he or she does in school and other behavioral issues. Mr. Wolf said about 30% of children are tested in the state.
Deb Erdley | Tuesday, August 13, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday vowed to level the playing field between Pennsylvania’s traditional public schools and charter and cyber charter schools.
He said the latter lack accountability and transparency and are draining millions of dollars from struggling school districts.
Jan Murphy | Thursday, August 8, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News
Pennsylvania state lawmakers are making overtures once again about attempting to address the intractable issue of school property tax relief this fall.
A bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers along with administration officials are meeting behind closed doors later today to informally discuss possible pathways to lead to a new way to fund public schools.
Jan Murphy | Monday, August 5, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News
To say Gov. Tom Wolf struck a nerve with the charter school community when he recently referred to their schools as “private” is putting it mildly, but his administration is not backing away from that description.
An organization representing those schools sent Wolf a letter on Thursday voicing their “grave concerns” about his comments as well as his perception of charters, which are public schools that operate independently of school districts.
Bennett Leckrone | Thursday, July 18, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News
Despite pushback from the legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf still says that a gas severance tax is the best way to fund his proposed $4.5 billion infrastructure plan.
Flanked by business and government leaders from rural Pennsylvania, Wolf said at a Thursday press conference that he’s “all ears” to any other way the state can come up with $4.5 billion for his Restore Pennsylvania initiative, but added state funding was the only way to ensure the initiative’s broadband expansion.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019, The (Allentown) Morning Call
Pennsylvania has allocated an additional $3 million in its budget toward the containment of the spotted lanternfly, bringing the total to more than $10 million to protect businesses and agriculture in the state.
The funding was announced Tuesday at a joint press conference held by Gov. Tom Wolf, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Penn State University, and U.S. Department of Agriculture at a Harrisburg site populated with spotted lanternflies.
Charles Thompson | June 27, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News
In a flurry of pre-summer recess action, the General Assembly gave final approval Thursday to a bill that calls for the state to borrow up to $90 million to help counties defray the cost of buying new voting machines.
But that bill also would end the time-honored option of casting a straight-party vote.
Charles Thompson | Thursday, June 20, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News
After years of hesitancy, the Wolf Administration is testing support for joining Pennsylvania into the Northeast’s regional cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions, and the benefits could possibly extend beyond the fight to stem climate change.
Sources familiar with this year’s budget discussions say administration officials are also promoting how such a move could create an alternative funding source for the governor’s $4.5 billion “Restore PA” infrastructure program.
Mark Scolforo | Wednesday, June 19, 2019, The Associated Press
HARRISBURG — Republicans in the state House voted Wednesday to end a Pennsylvania cash welfare program, a year after it was revived following a court decision.
The Republican-majority House voted 106-95 to eliminate the $54 million in payments, bundled in the bill with a subsidy for Philadelphia hospitals.
Jan Murphy | Wednesday, June 5, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News
When it comes to investing in infrastructure improvements in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers from both parties agree there are some critical needs across the commonwealth that are crying for attention.
Flood control is needed in some communities. Blighted areas need addressed in others. Broadband access is needed in rural areas as well, among other projects that the governor has drawn attention to during a nearly five-month tour of the commonwealth.
Emily Previti and Ed Mahon | Tuesday, May 28, 2019, PA Post
UPPER MERION TWP. – As Jeff Frank strode out of his polling place on a recent Tuesday morning, poll watchers thanked him for voting.
“Have a great day – enjoy the complaints as they come out the door,” Frank responded.
Municipal elections tend to be relatively quiet – even in Montgomery County, which consistently turns out a higher number of voters than any other county in the state but more-populous Philadelphia and Allegheny counties.
Wallace McKelvey | Monday, April 29, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News
Pennsylvania is getting ever closer to legal recreational marijuana but policymakers still face tough questions about what this potentially multi-billion-dollar industry would look like.
In December, Gov. Tom Wolf signaled he’s open to it after years of ambivalence and caution. Newly elected Lt. Gov. John Fetterman subsequently embarked on a 67-county listening tour to collect public input.
Ed Blazina | Thursday, April 25, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pennsylvania governors and legislative leaders of both parties for years have tapped various cash cows to pay for transportation services and avoid a general tax increase.
But now some of that revenue is endangered, leaving leaders scrambling.
State police, for example, are receiving more than $700 million this year from the state’s Motor License Fund to patrol state-owned highways. The primary use of the fund, which gets most of its money from the 57.6-cents-a-gallon state gasoline tax, the nation’s highest, is to build and maintain the state’s roads and bridges.
Laura McCrystal | Wednesday, April 24, 2019, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Taxes on internet sales have created a small windfall for Pennsylvania, according to state officials — thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and the rapid growth of online retail.
The state’s Department of Revenue initially estimated that tax revenue from marketplace sales would total $50.5 million in the current fiscal year. But between the start of the fiscal year in July and the end of March, the state has already raised $151.4 million.
Steve Twedt | Wednesday, April 17, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Last week, an attorney in Gov. Tom Wolf’s office informed Pennsylvania’s highest court that two departments that were instrumental in creating the UPMC-Highmark consent decrees would not take a position for or against Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s petition to modify those agreements.
The three-sentence letter gave no reason why state Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine and Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman are sitting this one out.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019, Associated Press
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania is getting an official amphibian, a nocturnal salamander that can grow to be more than two feet long.
The House voted 191-6 on Tuesday to grant the honor to the Eastern hellbender, and Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said he plans to sign it.
The path to legislative recognition was not smooth, as the Eastern hellbender faced a stiff challenge from Wehrle’s salamander.
Jan Murphy | Wednesday, March 27, 2019, Harrisburg Patriot News
Legislation that seeks to end permanently a program that provides $200 in monthly general cash assistance to low-income Pennsylvanians starting on July 1 withstood six attempts to give the program at least a partial lease on life.
After a House debate on Wednesday, the bill is teed up for a vote by the full House when members return to legislative session the week of April 8.