Online Voter Registration Coming to Pennsylvania

Photo by Derek Hatfield/Shutterstock.com

Photo by Derek Hatfield/Shutterstock.com

Pennsylvanians can now register to vote online by going to register.votespa.com.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced the policy change at a press conference today. He said online voter registration did not need legislative approval.

The National Conference of State Legislatures told the AP Pennsylvania will be the 23rd state to implement such a measure.

“Online registration… improves accuracy, increases the integrity of voter rolls,” Wolf said. “This online voter registration is also going to help our democracy. Judged by our voter turnout rates, we’re not as good as we used to be.” Read more »

Pennsylvania Republicans Say They May Raise Taxes for Education

After a summer-long impasse between Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislators, it appears a compromise on the Pennsylvania state budget could be in the offing.

GOP leaders said Wednesday they would be willing to grant Wolf’s biggest wish — to raise taxes and increase state funding to schools by $400 million. But, PennLive reports, they have a condition: Approval of a state pensions reform package that Wolf has already vetoed.

“The significance of this, I think, can’t be stated enough. This is a huge move,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County.

“We started these conversations with the idea that I would be willing to make some big concessions and compromises on pensions which is important to them, I need them to move into my camp on education and so they’ve done I think a pretty good job there,” Wolf told PennLive. Read more »

Big State Oil Train Report Calls for Positive Train Control, 26 Other Safety Measures

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Norfolk Southern and CSX crude by rail routes through Pennsylvania (denoted by darker lines).

A new report is offering 27 recommendations on how the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the companies that use trains to transport volatile crude oil across the state can both make those shipments safer.

The issue has been of increasing concern here the last two years thanks to several derailments locally — including one on the tracks above the Schuylkill River — as well as several deadly explosions elsewhere in the country.

“Every week, roughly 60 to 70 trains carrying crude oil travel through Pennsylvania destined for Philadelphia or another East Coast refinery,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in releasing the report, “and I have expressed grave concern regarding the transportation of this oil and have taken several steps to prevent potential oil train derailments.” Read more »

Gov. Tom Wolf Names Marcus Brown to Head State’s Homeland Security

Marcus Brown

Marcus Brown

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced today he was naming Col. Marcus Brown — the man he couldn’t get confirmed as head of the Pennsylvania State Police — the state’s Director of Homeland Security.

Brown was nominated by Wolf as state police commissioner in January, but was unpopular as an outsider. He attracted controversy for several issues that could maybe have been dismissed as minor for a more popular nominee, including wearing a state police uniform without having been confirmed, removing signs critical of his choice to wear the inform and some financial issues. “My family has been surveilled and harassed,” he wrote in an op-ed, “and I have been personally attacked.”  Read more »

Report: Tom Wolf Is Nation’s Most Liberal Governor

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Tom Wolf has been ranked as the nation’s most liberal governor by InsideGov, a website that tracks and analyzes government data.

Wolf, Pennsylvania’s governor, achieved the ranking after being compared to peers based on “public statements, press releases, campaign platforms and voting records to score each governor’s view on important issues.” Butch Otter of Idaho was ranked most conservative.

With Wolf, though, it seems, the ranking is a bit premature. Yes, he’s been through a campaign — and barely tested, either in the primary or general elections. But halfway through his first year in office, at least, he doesn’t have much in the way of accomplishments, liberal or conservative, to factor in. Read more »

Katie McGinty Resigns as Tom Wolf’s Chief of Staff

Katie McGinty has made up her mind.

According to Governor Tom Wolf‘s spokesperson, Jeffrey Sheridan, McGinty has resigned today as the governor’s chief of staff. Effective as of close of business today, said Sheridan, “Katie McGinty is no longer chief of staff and no longer on payroll.”

A report earlier today by National Journal‘s Alex Roarty said that she would resign tomorrow in an attempt to run for Pennsylvania Senator against Pat Toomey in the 2016 general election. McGinty will not make a formal Senate declaration tomorrow, Roarty writes, but the resignation after seven months — when she was appointed Chief of Staff by Governor Wolf when he took office in January — would seem to be a strong indication that she’ll throw her hat in the Senate ring. He added that his own sources expect a formal announcement on that front in the coming weeks. Read more »

The Brief: Another Water Main Broke in West Philly

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

1. It’s the summer of water main breaks.

The gist: A 12-inch water main broke in West Philadelphia on Tuesday evening, according to 6ABC. It led to interruptions in SEPTA’s trolley service, and traffic had to be shut down in some areas surrounding 33rd and Market streets. Not much information beyond that is currently available in media reports. Read more »

GOP Will Try Again to Let NRA Sue Pennsylvania Cities

Background | Shutterstock.com

Background | Shutterstock.com

If at first you don’t succeed…

A Republican legislator is trying to revive a bill that would allow third-party organizations like to NRA to sue Pennsylvania towns and cities for having overly restrictive gun laws. An earlier version of the law was struck down in March by a Commonwealth Court panel that said the legislature had passed the bill in an unconstitutionally opaque fashion.

“The court’s decision was based merely on technical procedural rules, meaning that the substance of the legislation itself was never called into question,” Rep. Mark Keller, a Republican from South Central Pennsylvania, said in a memorandum to colleagues. Read more »

Report: Katie McGinty Close to Deciding on Senate Challenge to Pat Toomey

Katie McGinty

The wooing of Katie McGinty has apparently become quite serious.

When last we checked in, McGinty — Gov. Tom Wolf‘s chief of staff — had been approached about running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Pat Toomey by Democratic leaders desperate not to have Joe Sestak represent the party on the ballot next fall. But Ed Rendell pooh-poohed the whole thing and that, we figured, was probably that.

Think again.

“This weekend the DSCC held a retreat at Martha’s Vineyard. Dozens of Senators and Senate candidates were there. So was Katie McGinty,” PoliticsPA reports. “PoliticsPA has learned she flew to the event on a chartered flight with over fifteen Senators. We were also able to confirm with McGinty’s top political strategist Mike Mikus that she left on Friday night and returned Sunday.”

She’s apparently generating enthusiasm that Sestak, who lost to Toomey in 2010, hasn’t been able to muster.  Read more »

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