Katie Meyer

Matt Rourke / AP

Every year after Pennsylvania’s governor makes his budget pitch to the House and Senate, lawmakers hold weeks of budget hearings with state departments and agencies to get a sense of the way money is being spent, and what should change.

They kicked off this week with the Independent Fiscal Office, which is tasked with issuing reports on state finances.

Over the two hours IFO officers sat before the House Appropriations Committee Monday, one subject kept coming up: the minimum wage.

Steven Senne / AP

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is kicking off his statewide recreational marijuana listening tour Monday just a few miles from the state capital, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A legislative fight may be looming on an issue near and dear to many rural Pennsylvanians’ hearts: hunting on Sundays.

A bill that could allow Sunday hunting has passed through the Senate’s Game and Fisheries Committee and is awaiting consideration before the full chamber.

The hunting restriction is one two so-called “blue laws” that remain on the books in Pennsylvania—measures rooted in religious tradition that ban certain Sunday activities.

The other prohibits buying and selling cars.

Matt Rourke / AP

The day after Gov. Tom Wolf pitched lawmakers on raising the minimum wage as part of the state budget, the House started hearings on the issue.

Matt Rourke / AP

Governor Tom Wolf is kicking off his fifth trip through the state budget wringer.

AP

Governor Tom Wolf is asking the Republican-controlled state House and Senate to sign on to a sweeping new infrastructure plan.

Matt Rourke / AP

A handful of state senators want to upend the way Pennsylvania conducts its elections.

Katie Meyer / WESA

As a new state legislative session dawns, gun control advocates are renewing their call for change.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

A group of state lawmakers is launching a proposal to make several major changes to Pennsylvania's probation and parole laws.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf and state House Republicans are calling on a GOP lawmaker to resign over a reported allegation of rape.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Thanks to a law passed two years ago, Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office is now required to periodically create what are known as performance-based budget reports on state agencies—basically, analyses measuring program funding against actual outcomes.

Michael Rubinkam / AP

Hundreds of furloughed federal workers are turning to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to help make ends meet as the partial federal government shutdown drags on.

From 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, every week until the shutdown ends, the food bank is turning its two primary hubs in Harrisburg and Williamsport into central locations for shutdown-affected people to come—work badge in hand—to receive packages of food.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Sands says in the three days the program has been in effect, they’ve handed out food to around 400 people.

Pennsylvania State Senate

A Republican state senator is stepping down at the end of February—just two months into a new legislative session.

Senator Richard Alloway’s announcement came unexpectedly, and with few additional details.

He first joined the Senate a decade ago, and now serves as the chair of the chamber’s Game and Fisheries Committee. His southcentral Pennsylvania district covers Adams County and parts of Franklin, Cumberland, and York.

In his retirement announcement, he said only that “the time has come” for him to “move on to other endeavors and pursue new opportunities.”

Matt Rourke / AP

A group of abortion providers is suing Pennsylvania in an attempt to get the procedure covered by state Medicaid dollars.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

More than 12,000 federal workers are furloughed in Pennsylvania as lawmakers in Washington struggle to figure out a way to end the longest-ever partial government shutdown.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The start of a term two is imminent for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

He’s being sworn in Tuesday in a day-long series of events.

The day will be capped with a celebration at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, featuring Pennsylvania-made food and drinks, Philadelphia’s own the Roots, and a whole bunch of sports mascots—though the Flyers’ infamous Gritty is apparently skipping the event.

But before that can all start, the official stuff has to happen.

Jacqueline Larma / AP

Pennsylvania’s incarcerated population is shrinking—down by more than 1,000 people over last year. That’s great news to the increasingly bipartisan coalition that’s trying to both keep people free and cut down corrections costs.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

About a $1 million is going out to 38 colleges around the commonwealth to fund efforts against campus sexual assault.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced the allocation Wednesday, and also took a moment to weigh in on federal campus assault policy.

This is the fourth year Pennsylvania has given colleges grants as part of the national It’s On Us campaign.

The schools use the grants for things like training on consent, and programs to teach students about bystander reporting processes.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Spend much time at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and you might get a feeling that tradition rules the place.

Families tend their animals together. Men in 10-gallon hats still dominate the buyers in the audience at livestock sales. Many of the handmade goods wouldn’t have looked out of place a century or more ago.

But farming is constantly changing.

One way that’s happening? Women are finding their own, nontraditional routes into the business.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

With the start of the new year, the commonwealth is working to roll out a law aimed at protecting sexually exploited children.

Act 130, known as the Safe Harbor law, ensures child victims of human trafficking won’t be prosecuted for prostitution or other crimes.

Among other things, it sets up a fund for those victims to get back on their feet.

Shea Rhodes, who directs the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation at Villanova University, said the money would come directly from the state prosecuting traffickers.

PA Senate

Senate Republicans have announced their slate of committee chairs for the coming two-year legislative session.

These powerful positions give lawmakers in the majority party a lot of leeway to decide which bills come up for debate.

One of the biggest changes to the slate of chairpeople is in the powerful Judiciary Committee.

For 30 years it has been helmed by Montgomery County Republican Stewart Greenleaf, who retired last year. Greenleaf was known as a moderate who pushed to depart from the state’s tough-on-crime criminal justice approach.

Matt Rourke / AP

As one of its first actions of a new legislative session, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed some updated rules governing internal procedures.

Matt Rourke / AP

As the 2019 legislative session dawns, a new slate of committee chairs is taking over in the state House.

These chairs—all Republicans, as they control the House—have considerable sway on the legislation the chamber considers. They decide which bills are granted debate, ergo, which ones make it to the floor for votes.

It is difficult for lawmakers in opposition to circumvent committees.

One of the biggest questions ahead of committee assignment announcements was where Butler County Republican Daryl Metcalfe would be placed.

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

As 2018 turned to 2019, a bunch of new laws took effect in Pennsylvania.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

One of the first things you notice when you walk into the Case Management Unit in Dauphin County is the boxes, piled up in offices and between rows of cubicles.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania is the fourth- biggest producer of Christmas trees in the country. The commonwealth cuts and sells around a million a year, according to the state growers’ association.

But before those trees can be sold, they have to be painstakingly grown and maintained for almost a decade.

That’s where people like Rod Wirt come in.

He and his wife Jodi own Blue Ridge Christmas Tree Farm in Annville, about 20 miles from Harrisburg.

Chris Knight / AP

Pennsylvania’s treasurer, governor, and a group of lawmakers unveiled a new report Thursday that recommend a slew of changes for the state’s two largest public pension funds.

The State Employees Retirement System and Public School Employees Retirement System are—thanks in large part to political decisions to boost pensions more than a decade ago—extremely underfunded.

The state officials think the situation will at least improve if the funds stop paying exorbitant fees to private funds and investment managers.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A new audit shows Pennsylvania’s economic development program has improved its return on investment.

The review is a follow-up to a 2014 study that found the department wasn’t always keeping tabs on the companies it gave money to.

Bret Hartman / AP Images for Marsy'sLawForAll.org

When a new state legislative session starts next month, a group of crime victim advocates plans to hit the ground running to finish a longstanding effort.

Matt Rourke / AP

Though the new legislative session doesn’t start until next month, state lawmakers are already staking out some of their key positions.

Many of those are related to the state’s finances.

A top Republican, for one, is repeating his guarantee that his party will refuse to raise any taxes or fees.

York County Representative Stan Saylor, who heads the pivotal House Appropriations Committee, noted in a new press release that returns are stronger than expected, and the state’s on track for a surplus.

So, he said, he plans to “hold the line” on new revenue-builders.

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