Redistricting Reformers Make Last Ditch Arguments Ahead of PA Supreme Court Proceedings

 

KEYSTONE CROSSROADS - Next week, the state Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit claiming Pennsylvania’s congressional map is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Top state Democrats chimed in Wednesday in an attempt to sway the court in favor of the plaintiffs. In a press conference held in the capitol, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack offered an alternative map he referred to as the “Stack map.”

It wasn’t drawn by Stack, though. Instead, it’s the first in a series of 1,000 prototypes generated by Jowei Chen, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota who testified earlier in the case, during proceedings in Commonwealth Court nearly a month ago. “There were a number of possible maps that could meet legitimate districting goals: creating compact districts and respecting political subdivisions.

Despite DEP Order To Halt Mariner East 2 Construction, Some Work Allowed

When Danielle Otten woke up Monday morning, she didn’t expect to see men working on the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site that sits about 40 feet from her backyard, along Devon Drive in Uwchlan Township, Chester County. For one thing, work in the area had stalled after drilling dried up and damaged nearby water wells this past summer. And just last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a court order halting construction along the 350-mile long pipeline after Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners continued to violate its permits, causing damage to private water wells, streams and wetlands. Read full story here. 

If Not PA Taxpayers, Who Should Pay Off Sexual Harassment Claims?

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- As new details emerge on at least $1.5 million Pennsylvania has spent to settle sexual harassment cases over the last eight years, calls are increasing for the state to change its policies. But a number of lawmaker are struggling to find solutions that will work for every situation. The latest report--from the Associated Press--concerns a $900,000 sexual harassment settlement the state paid in a 2016 case that involved a Department of Revenue administrator. Other recent stories have revealed similar settlements involving elected officials. Even though all the cases involve shades of harassment, it can be very different to settle one with a lawmaker than with a regular state or legislative employee.

Comptroller DiNapoli Predicts “Problematic” Budget Season

ALBANY (WSKG) - The state’s Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, warns of a “problematic” budget season, as the state faces a structural deficit, changes to the federal tax code, and uncertainty over continued funding from Washington. DiNapoli, speaking at a forum sponsored by the Albany Times Union, says this year’s $4.4 billion dollar budget gap is on top of expected cuts from President Trump and the Republican led Congress. “On health care alone, we still stand to lose billions of dollars,” DiNapoli. “We really could be behind the eight ball.”

Governor Cuomo introduces his budget plan next week, and says he wants to include a plan to shift the state income tax to a pay roll tax, in order to get around the loss of state and local tax deductions in the new federal tax law. DiNapoli says he’ll comment after he sees the governor’s specific plan, but says any proposal would be  “complex” to implement.

State Senate Republicans Push Tax Cut Agenda

ALBANY (WSKG) - Republicans in the State Senate say that, despite the over  $4 billion structural deficit, taxes need to be cut further and a property tax cap must be made permanent. Senate GOP Majority Leader John Flanagan says the state needs to cut income taxes, property taxes and energy taxes, in the midst of a brutally cold winter. And he says some tax cuts for middle class New Yorkers that begin to take effect this year need to be speeded up. “We actually want to accelerate the tax cuts,” Flanagan said. Senate Finance Committee Chair Cathy Young says even though there’s a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and that “budget circumstances may be tough,” she says the GOP will resist any potential efforts by Democrats to roll back the middle class tax cuts that are to be phased in over the next several years.

PA’s Auditor General Renews Calls For Expanded Authority

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is outlining a plan for the new year that includes a request for more authority. The nonpartisan elected officer can't investigate legislative spending or municipal authorities--despite years of pushes to allow it. DePasquale--a former House Democrat who's now in his second term as auditor general--said Monday, a spate of recent revelations that the General Assembly has paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment claims is one of the reasons he wants the ability to audit them. "I guarantee you, 90 percent of the members--if not higher--had no idea that took place," he said. "So if members didn't know, imagine the outrage from taxpayers that that money was being used to settle those lawsuits."

Ex-Governor Looks Back At Sandusky Case, Fallout

HARRISBURG (WSKG) - In a rare interview, former Republican Governor Tom Corbett has returned to one of the issues that dogged him late in his lone term in office--the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. Corbett told Radio PA "mistakes were made" in the handling of the situation. In the aftermath of Corbett's loss to Democrat Tom Wolf, it was a common theory that the Republican's seat on the Penn State Board of Trustees had hurt him politically. The board voted to fire Paterno for under-reporting Sandusky's abuse. Corbett said he certainly sees a connection.