June 27, 2014 |
HARRISBURG - The state House on Wednesday approved a $29.1 billion spending plan for 2014-15 that will serve as the framework for final budget negotiations ahead of the Monday deadline. The GOP-crafted budget, which passed on a near-party-line vote of 110-93, calls for increasing spending on education and human services. But as the bill heads to the Senate, the lingering question was how to pay for it and close an estimated $1.5 billion deficit. The Senate could approve the bill as early as Friday and send it to the governor's desk.
June 24, 2014
HEY, budget watchers, there's good news and bad news. OK, I'm kidding, there's no good news. Your governor and Legislature are wandering Dante's circles of hell en route to some agreement certain to be late, contain new taxes and meet all the low expectations that Pennsylvanians learn to live with. Current status? The first circle, limbo: Nobody has a clue how it all turns out. Philly schools, pension reformers, free-market boozers and others reliant on action from Harrisburg can do nothing at this stage but wait.
June 21, 2014 |
TRENTON - The New Jersey Senate on Thursday confirmed Gov. Christie's two picks to the state Supreme Court, sealing a breakthrough in a years-long impasse over the court's composition. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner was confirmed on a 29-6 vote after months of speculation about whether Christie would renominate him. The Republican governor had criticized Rabner's court as liberal and activist. The Senate also confirmed Lee Solomon, a Haddonfield Republican and state court judge, by a 34-2 vote.
June 12, 2014 |
A report sought by New Jersey's top elected Democrat in a campaign to change the governance of Rutgers University did not specifically support the changes he has proposed. Legislation sponsored by State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) to increase the number of political appointees to Rutgers' main governing body has been scheduled for a full Senate vote Thursday. The Assembly Budget Committee will take up the corresponding bill the same day. The report was the product of a Rutgers task force appointed in August to evaluate the university's two-board governance structure and make recommendations for the future.
June 5, 2014 |
HARRISBURG - No one quibbles about the size and cost of Pennsylvania's government. The numbers speak for themselves: With a budget of roughly $280 million and about 2,600 staffers, the state legislature is among the biggest and costliest nationwide. Proposals to shrink it bubble up every now and then, but none have gone this far before: On Tuesday, a Senate committee passed resolutions to eliminate 55 legislative seats, four judgeships - even the office of lieutenant governor. The vote was an incremental step on a path that could take years.
May 21, 2014 |
TRENTON - Senate panels advanced legislation Monday that would impose a tax on electronic cigarettes and change New Jersey's criminal justice system so judges can deny bail in certain circumstances. Gov. Christie, a Republican, has expressed support for both ideas. His $34.4 billion budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 projects that imposing the tobacco-product wholesale tax on e-cigarettes would generate $35 million in revenue for the state. The bill that advanced Monday would impose a wholesale sales tax rate of 75 percent on e-cigarettes.
May 20, 2014 |
A scion of a famous political family faces two challengers, one representing a rising clan making a play for power, the other with a mighty, behind-the-scenes ally. No, this isn't a plot from the HBO drama Game of Thrones. This is Pennsylvania's Second Senatorial District, where the most diverse legislative district in Philadelphia is hosting the most intriguing battle in Tuesday's Democratic primary. The three-way race has story lines as interwoven and complicated as any cable-television series, and, unsurprisingly, things have gotten nasty.
May 14, 2014 |
TRENTON - The New Jersey Senate voted Monday to pass a bill that would ban high-capacity magazines, despite Republican opposition and reservations voiced by some Democrats. The bill, which would reduce maximum ammunition capacity from 15 rounds to 10, now heads to the Assembly, which passed an earlier version but now must consider amendments by the Senate. Proponents said the legislation was in response to the December 2012 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, in which the assailant used guns equipped with high-capacity magazines to kill children and educators.
May 10, 2014 |
Facing fights in the courtroom and at the polls, State Sen. LeAnna Washington has gone underground. The Fourth District senator, who has two challengers in the May 20 Democratic primary, was in Harrisburg last week for committee meetings and floor votes. Looming is a Montgomery County Court hearing on charges that she used taxpayer-funded staff and resources to plan her annual birthday party campaign fund-raiser. Her reelection campaign, on the other hand, has flown below the radar.
May 6, 2014
State Sen. LeAnna Washington has told voters in the state's Fourth District all they need to know to bounce her from office in the May 20 Democratic primary. The question is, were they listening? And if so, do they care? Washington has been charged with misuse of office for requiring taxpayer-funded staff to raise money for her campaigns. According to a grand jury report, when a staffer questioned the activity, she replied, "I'm the f-ing senator. I do what the f- I want. " Voters have no reason to reward such arrogance.