HERSHEY (WSKG) — At its annual winter meeting Saturday, the Pennsylvania Republican Party endorsed York County state Senator Scott Wagner for governor. The hat-tip gives Wagner a powerful new talking-point as he attempts to unseat Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Republican leaders in Pennsylvania’s House and Senate said Thursday evening it is impossible for them to pass a new congressional map before the state Supreme Court’s Friday deadline. However, they do have a backup plan. It’s just not clear if it will work.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Pennsylvania has struggled for a decade to pass balanced state budgets, and this year was no exception. A funding plan finally made it to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk four months after it was due, though like all his previous budgets, Wolf let it become law without a signature. Many fiscal watchdogs say it doesn’t do much to address the commonwealth’s underlying issues anyway. Off the bat, lawmakers were at a disadvantage when creating it. Revenue had come in more than a billion dollars less than expected the year before, and all told, they were on the hook to fill a $2.2 billion hole.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Pennsylvanians have started receiving identification cards to get medication through the commonwealth’s new medical marijuana program. More than 10,000 people have registered, but only about 1,188 have been approved so far. Medical marijuana ID cards started going out to patients in mid-December, with 435 released in the first wave. The Department of Health says more are being issued as we speak. Acting DOH Secretary Rachel Levine said people can actually start getting medication sometime during the next four months–though it’s still unclear exactly when.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Congress has adjourned for the year without fully finishing its spending plan–holding off a government shutdown by passing a few months of stopgap funding. It includes some money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program–something the deadlock had called into serious question. But Pennsylvania officials say that doesn’t help much. In the days leading up to the stopgap agreement, they had warned the program would have to end sometime early next year if federal lawmakers didn’t act. The agreement hands down $3 billion to states.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — On the heels of recent Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette stories on alleged sexual harassment by state lawmakers, a number of officials are calling for a change. The latest story concerns 40-year veteran lawmaker Thomas Caltagirone, a Berks County Democrat. The House Democratic caucus paid a quarter million taxpayer dollars to settle a harassment complaint a staffer made against him. A non-disclosure agreement kept the whole thing under wraps. A few weeks before that was reported, fellow House Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky, of Delaware County, said a different news story made her realize the settlements were happening and being kept secret.
EASTON (WSKG) — On the eastern border of Pennsylvania, north of the Philadelphia suburbs, a cluster of state Senate districts appear — at first glance — to be arbitrarily drawn. They twist and tangle their way through Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Chester and Monroe Counties. It’s an area that’s long been a Republican enclave, but has more recently started to lean further left. But the way the districts are drawn happens to give many Republicans wide margins, while sometimes making things confusing for individual cities and communities. The 24th Senate District, which has been represented by Republican Bob Mensch since 2009, looks kind of like a sailboat. Or maybe some kind of bird.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — The field for the 2018 lieutenant governor election is filling up, with a number of Democrats jumping into the often-low-key race. That could mean a tough battle for incumbent Mike Stack, who has struggled through public conflicts with fellow Democrat, Governor Tom Wolf. State representative Madeleine Dean, who has served part of Montgomery County since 2012, is the latest entry to the race. So far, she has avoided bashing other candidates. But asked if the Lieutenant Governor’s office has used more resources than it warrants, she offered some criticism that seemed aimed at Stack. “You know, the current climate shows that it has not,” she said.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Several Republican state senators plan to introduce legislation that would require Pennsylvania to use zero-based budgeting–a standard specifically designed to save money. The idea comes from lawmakers’ annual, unsuccessful struggles to balance the commonwealth’s books. However, other states that have attempted to use the method have often opted not to stick with it. Zero-based budgeting basically requires a rotating percentage of state agencies to re-justify all their operations and expenses every five years, and estimate the minimum amount of money they need to continue them. The author of the new measure, York County Republican Scott Wagner, said he’s taking cues from the private sector.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court is deciding whether Governor Tom Wolf overstepped his authority with an executive order letting the state organize home healthcare workers under a union-like structure. A lower court already decided against the governor once. But lawyers for the Wolf administration argue the governor’s directive merely gives workers an option to voice their concerns. The 2015 order–one of Wolf’s first in office–targets independent workers who care for elderly and disabled people in their homes. It has them pick representatives to meet with the state human services secretary about issues like pay and benefits. It also gives their contact information to representative groups, which opponents say could facilitate future organizing.