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.
ALBANY (WSKG) - The leader of the Independent Democrats in the state Senate denies that he forcibly kissed a former staffer, and says he intends to remain as leader of the breakaway democratic faction. Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and his colleague, Sen. Diane Savino, issued a preemptive strike Wednesday against an article in the Huffington Post, where the former female staffer, 30-year-old Erica Vladimer, says Klein forcibly kissed her on the sidewalk outside an Albany bar on March 31, 2015, the night the state budget was approved. Klein said the incident did not occur. “I want to be crystal clear,” Klein told reporters on hastily arranged conference call. “This alleged incident never happened, nor did anything inappropriate happen that evening in any fashion.
Part of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address last week was an expansion of his shared services plan. That’s a push by the state to get local governments to be more efficient to ease property tax burden. Cuomo said property taxes have been a major burden on taxpayers for a long time, but a change to the federal tax law limits what people can deduct on their state and local taxes to $10,000. There had been no limit. “Our property taxes have long been an obstacle to growth, but today with the federal SALT provision, it’s an economic cancer,” Cuomo said during his State of the State speech.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.