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State of the State
13 minutes | May 26, 2020
When the State Stopped: Episode 1
March 3 – March 16 The word “coronavirus” enters the lexicon: Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine holds her first press conference warning about the potential arrival of COVID-19. As the first cases are confirmed, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration moves to contain community spread — including ordering all non-essential business closed across the commonwealth.
17 minutes | May 26, 2020
When the State Stopped: Episode 2
March 18 – April 3 The state confirms the first death from COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. The rapid spread of the coronavirus leads to a rapid pace of events — bringing the state to a standstill as Governor Tom Wolf orders all Pennsylvanians to stay-at-home.
25 minutes | May 26, 2020
When the State Stopped: Episode 3
April 8 – May 12 The economic toll from the pandemic hits the state hard. At least 12 percent of Pennsylvanians file for unemployment, as Governor Tom Wolf faces a rebellion from some counties to re-open.
12 minutes | Dec 31, 2019
Episode 54: The headlines of 2019
As the year draws to a close, the reporters at WITF and PA Post been looking back at some of the state politics stories that have shaped it. From legislative fights over guns and the minimum wage, to the closure of Three Mile Island, to election angst, to the return of hemp farming, we have you covered.
12 minutes | Nov 25, 2019
Episode 53: Legislative avalanche
Lawmakers spent a packed four days in Harrisburg before leaving town for the holidays. Here’s what they did. Last week was a big one in Harrisburg. The House and Senate both convened for an unusual four-day session and passed a lot of bills—so many that we weren’t able to file stories on all of them. But in this episode, we recap some of the biggest ones. A long fight to overhaul Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on child sexual abuse may be over, thanks to the legislature passing a package of bills that drastically expand the amount of time people abused as children have report that abuse. Plus, after years of pressure from advocates, lawmakers are moving to stop…themselves…from accepting so many expensive gifts. The state House spent several hours debating, then passing, a controversial bill that would require medical facilities to bury a fetus after a miscarriage or an abortion. It wasn’t the only abortion-related bill on the docket—both chambers worked together to send a measure to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk that would ban abortions that are performed on the basis of a Down Syndrome diagnosis. Wolf has said he would veto both. In addition, a group of pro-natural gas legislators got together to tell Wolf he went too far in ordering the commonwealth to join a regional effort to cut power plant emissions, a moderate Democratic state senator left his party, and we bring you an update (from outside the Capitol) on election officials experimenting with new post-election audits. And more.
17 minutes | Nov 21, 2019
Episode 52: Pipeline problems
This week, we’re re-airing five stories you should hear. In one, Governor Tom Wolf learns the FBI is looking into his administration’s environmental permitting practices. Plus, reporters in Philadelphia look into badly contaminated drinking water in a charter school, PA Post reports on a proposed community college in Erie, WITF follows up on problems with the state unemployment compensation system, and StateImpact Pennsylvania takes a trip to Scotland to track some of the commonwealth’s shale gas. Also, here’s a reminder that NewsMatch is ongoing — it’s a matching gift campaign for independent, nonpartisan newsrooms like PA Post, running now until the end of the year. Every dollar is matched three times, so a $10 donation nets $40 for PA Post. If you like this podcast and the work of the entire PA Post team, please take a moment to make a contribution.
11 minutes | Oct 28, 2019
Episode 49: Elections, abortions, booze and more
The House and Senate were both in session last week, resulting in a number of notable developments on issues our newsroom follows closely—from long-awaited election reforms to controversial abortion proposals. We’ll also bring you the latest on a proposed constitutional amendment being challenged in court, the one-year anniversary of a major shooting in Pittsburgh, and the commonwealth looking to give out money to people who grow craft-brew-friendly crops. If you have questions or comments about these stories, or any others, shoot us a note through our Listening Post tab. And don’t forget to subscribe to our free daily newsletter, The Context.
17 minutes | Oct 22, 2019
Episode 48: More on Marsy’s Law
This week we’re focusing on a topic that has come up a lot lately, and with good reason: Marsy’s Law. If you’re not familiar, Marsy’s law is a proposed amendment to Pennsylvania’s constitution that will be on the ballot for a statewide referendum on November 5th. Versions of the proposed law have been adopted in a bunch of states. In Pennsylvania’s case, it would basically insert an existing bill of rights for crime victims into the state constitution. As it stands, that bill of rights already does a lot for victims. It gives them the ability to make impact statements, to almost always be present at trial, and to be notified if a perpetrator gets out of prison. Putting those rights in the constitution is designed to give a victim more recourse if they feel they’ve been mistreated. They would be able to motion a court for a new or extended trial if, say, they weren’t given time to make an impact statement. But the American Civil Liberties Union is adamantly opposed to Marsy’s Law—saying it’s too broad, too vague, and could set up conflicting rights between victims and the accused. The state chapter of the ACLU is also bringing a lawsuit, arguing Marsy’s should be multiple amendments, and is unconstitutional in its current form. WITF’s morning show Smart Talk, hosted by Scott Lamar, recently had on several of the people who have been most vocal on Marsy’s. So in the interest of spreading the word on this potential amendment as much as possible, we’re re-broadcasting a particularly informative part of that episode.
12 minutes | Oct 11, 2019
Episode 47: Abuse in the church, and other stories
In recent weeks, there’s been a lot of talk in Harrisburg about what the legislature might do to reform statute of limitations laws. It’s a discussion that’s been especially active in the last year, in the wake of a massive report on abuse and cover-ups in the commonwealth’s Roman Catholic dioceses. We bring you two angles on that this week: a look at some of the people who have used church-provided compensation funds, from WHYY’s Laura Benshoff, and a story explaining why some abuse survivors can’t do that, from WITF’s Brett Sholtis. We’ll also bring you stories about redistricting, the impact climate change might have on Pennsylvania’s birds, and a new development that affects a contentious proposed constitutional amendment.
10 minutes | Oct 8, 2019
Episode 46: Air quality, child abuse, and the Sacklers’ Pa. resort
We take a look at some of our most important stories of the last week. This week, for your convenience, we have a roundup of the top stories we’ve been following lately. First, we hear from PA Post reporter Ed Mahon, who traveled to Erie last month to talk to the people who live there … Continue reading "Episode 46: Air quality, child abuse, and the Sacklers’ Pa. resort"
11 minutes | Sep 30, 2019
Episode 45: Guns and weed and government regulation
Last week saw the beginning—and end—of a brief whirlwind of activity in the state House and Senate. On this week’s podcast, we’ll recap two of the major developments: Republicans staking out a plan of action on guns, and the governor saying he wants to legalize marijuana. The gun conversations stretched over several days in both … Continue reading "Episode 45: Guns and weed and government regulation"
15 minutes | Sep 24, 2019
Episode 44: The senator has resigned
Former state senator Mike Folmer vacated his seat last week after an arrest for alleged child pornography possession. We discuss what happens now. Late last Tuesday, the state attorney general released a statement saying the office had arrested state Senator Mike Folmer and charged him with possession of child pornography. By the next afternoon, the … Continue reading "Episode 44: The senator has resigned"
20 minutes | Sep 16, 2019
Episode 43: Without parole
If a person is given a life sentence in Pennsylvania, they can be fairly confident that—barring a commutation—they’ll be behind bars until they die. In the commonwealth, life in prison always means life without parole. And if a person is found guilty of non-capital first-degree or second-degree murder, life without parole is the only sentence … Continue reading "Episode 43: Without parole"
18 minutes | Aug 27, 2019
Episode 42: The never-ending quest to kill property taxes
a The commonwealth’s lawmakers are still on their summer recess for another month. But a few are already laying out plans for their return—some more ambitious than others. One of those ambitious legislators? Frank Ryan. He’s a second-term Republican who represents part of Lebanon County and wants to get rid of property taxes once … Continue reading "Episode 42: The never-ending quest to kill property taxes"
28 minutes | Aug 12, 2019
Episode 41: Pennsylvania’s big gun debate
Much of this week’s political conversation has been dominated by questions about guns. Questions like, who should be able to use them? What characteristics should we should allow them to have? And is it ever OK for the government to be able to take them away? The weekend of August 3rd saw two major shootings. One … Continue reading "Episode 41: Pennsylvania’s big gun debate"
19 minutes | Aug 5, 2019
Episode 40: Congressional cash
The 2020 election is still more than a year away, but Pennsylvania’s eighteen congress women and men are already well into the fundraising that they hope is going to get them another two-year term. This week, we took a look at the quarterly reports the commonwealth’s incumbents and challengers have been filing to see how … Continue reading "Episode 40: Congressional cash"
22 minutes | Jul 16, 2019
Episode 39: There’s a reason PA’s congressional maps are weird
By just about every measurement you can make, Pennsylvania is particularly susceptible to gerrymandering. At least, that was PA Post reporter Emily Previti’s conclusion after taking an extremely detailed look at the factors that lead to gerrymandering in various states. Pennsylvania is one of the only states that doesn’t have standards like compactness or contiguity … Continue reading "Episode 39: There’s a reason PA’s congressional maps are weird"
18 minutes | Jul 8, 2019
Episode 38: What a state-run insurance marketplace means for you
Pennsylvania is officially on track to take over the online marketplace that sells health insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a move that will give the commonwealth more control of the exchange, and the state is predicting lower premiums, too. WITF health reporter Brett Sholtis joins us this episode to explain how … Continue reading "Episode 38: What a state-run insurance marketplace means for you"
21 minutes | Jul 1, 2019
Episode 37: The (sometimes tumultuous) path to passing PA’s budget
Pennsylvania officially has a budget for the new fiscal year, and it was—mostly—signed into law two days ahead of deadline. As far as budgets go in Harrisburg, it was a breeze—after all just four years ago, an impasse over funding dragged on for nine months. But still, there were some hiccups this year. An argument … Continue reading "Episode 37: The (sometimes tumultuous) path to passing PA’s budget"
17 minutes | Jun 24, 2019
Episode 36: We ask the governor your questions
It’s been a busy time in Harrisburg. State lawmakers are hoping negotiations on next year’s budget are wrapped up before the end of this week—and that means in the meantime, there are a lot of balls in the air. On Thursday, Governor Wolf stopped by WITF for a live show produced by Keystone Crossroads, in … Continue reading "Episode 36: We ask the governor your questions"
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