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NEWS
June 12, 2015 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Key senators are reconsidering a plan to give railroads five more years to finish installing a mandated new safety system - signaling a potentially tougher stand to speed up work in the aftermath of the Amtrak Train 188 derailment in Philadelphia last month. "If we can figure out a way to get there sooner, we certainly want to be open to that," Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), chairman of the Senate committee overseeing railroads, said after a hearing Wednesday. "If that entails something that doesn't require a blanket five-year extension, then we're open to that.
NEWS
June 11, 2015 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - After claims of political stalling, a Senate panel on Wednesday will finally take up the nomination of Philadelphia-based Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The hearing before the Judiciary Committee could be a key step in advancing Restrepo's nomination, which liberal groups and other advocates say has been slowed by political gamesmanship, a charge Republicans have denied. Sens. Robert P. Casey (D., Pa.) and Patrick Toomey (R., Pa.)
NEWS
June 11, 2015 | By Chris Palmer, Inquirer Staff Writer
A state Senate committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would create a state-run system to take over low-performing Pennsylvania schools, sending to the full chamber a measure that Philadelphia's superintendent said could be devastating to city schools. Modeled after similar legislation in states such as Louisiana and Tennessee, Senate Bill 6 mandates that the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools - as defined by the state's school performance profile - transform themselves within three years, either by contracting with outside providers or converting to charters.
NEWS
June 10, 2015 | By Angela Couloumbis and Chris Palmer, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG - In its sharpest rebuke yet to Pennsylvania's first-term governor, the Republican-led Senate on Monday rejected Gov. Wolf's controversial choice to lead the state police and signaled it would be unlikely to reconsider. Hours after Wolf tried to withdraw the nomination, the chamber ignored his request and voted, 26-22, against the permanent appointment of acting Commissioner Marcus Brown. Observers said it was the first time they could recall the full Senate shooting down a governor's cabinet pick.
NEWS
May 25, 2015 | By Thomas Fitzgerald, Inquirer Politics Writer
Montgomery County Commissioner Chairman Josh Shapiro has told national Democratic Party leaders that he will not run for the nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Pat Toomey next year. "I am incredibly humbled and flattered by their interest, but ultimately concluded I am not interested in going to Washington to be a legislator at this stage in my career," Shapiro said Friday in a brief interview. Senior Democrats had been encouraging Shapiro to jump into the primary against Joe Sestak, a retired Navy rear admiral and former Delaware County congressman who lost a close race to Toomey in 2010 but who also has a strained relationship with members of the party establishment.
NEWS
May 21, 2015 | By Rita Giordano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Don't go scraping off the "Jersey Girls Don't Pump Gas" bumper stickers just yet. Two state senators - soon to be joined by an assemblyman - are sponsoring legislation to end New Jersey's more-than-six-decade-long ban on self-service gas. If the bill were to pass, Oregon would be the only state to ban self-serve. However, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), an ardent supporter of full service, said Tuesday that there was no way he would allow a vote on the bill. "As long as I am Senate president, the ban on self-serve will stay in place," Sweeney said in a statement.
NEWS
May 21, 2015 | BY STEPHANIE FARR, Daily News Staff Writer farrs@phillynews.com, 215-854-4225
IN A SPECIAL election held yesterday that coincided with the primaries, voters chose state Rep. John Sabatina Jr., a Democrat, to fill the state Senate seat for Philadelphia's 5th District that was vacated when Mike Stack resigned in January to take his current position as lieutenant governor. Given that it was a special election, all registered voters within the 5th District in Northeast Philadelphia were able to vote, regardless of party affiliation. Sabatina received more than 75 percent of the votes, easily beating out his Republican challenger, Tim Dailey, a high-school teacher.
NEWS
May 14, 2015 | By Jessica Parks, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
Pennsylvania lawmakers are again taking a crack at legalizing medical marijuana, with the Senate passing a bill Tuesday to allow the drug to be prescribed for epilepsy, chronic pain, cancer, and other ailments. A previous effort failed in the fall. Backers hope that by delivering it to the House earlier in the legislative session, with a supportive governor and a window of compromise surrounding the budget, it can pass this year. Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who cowrote the bill, said having a governor who is enthusiastic about medical marijuana "changes the dynamic completely.
NEWS
May 8, 2015 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Sens. Robert P. Casey and Pat Toomey called Wednesday for an audit of every regional Veterans Affairs office nationwide - the latest round of scrutiny aimed at an agency already facing sharp questions for its management in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Under a bill unveiled by Pennsylvania's two senators and supported by members of a bipartisan working group cochaired by Casey, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office would be required to review regional VA offices within a year of passage for "consistency" in decision-making, and to find and share best practices at facilities that are doing well.
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