Episode 20: Stack’s snacks get attention, but budget stays stalled

Apart from House members flitting in and out of various low-profile meetings, the state Capitol has been mostly deserted this week, and devoid of official legislative activity.

The only exception was Wednesday, when House State Government Committee chairman Daryl Metcalfe convened an “informational meeting” on Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack’s heavy use of government money. Paula Knudsen and Brad Bumsted, of L&P’s The Caucus, have been reporting on Stack’s spending for several months, and their stories provided much of the fodder for Metcalfe’s meeting. They join us to discuss this week’s developments, as well as implications for the largely-symbolic lieutenant governor’s office.

The AP’s Marc Levy also stops by to talk through the ways various factions of House Republicans are looking to deal with the state’s $2.2 billion budget gap, and the prospect of a rapidly-dwindling bank account.

Episode 19: Social unrest; fiscal distress

Violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia dominated this week’s news cycle, and have inspired a wave of intense discussions over the way Americans think about hate.

In the first half of this week’s podcast, we’ll discuss the partisan differences that have colored the conversation—both in Pennsylvania, and more broadly. And we’ll explain why Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast without explicit protections from hate crimes committed on the basis of sexual and gender orientation, disability, or race.

In the second half, we’ll turn to something completely different: the state Treasury’s reluctance to bail the general fund out of fiscal distress. Want to know what’ll happen if the fund runs dry? Trying to make sense of the budget standoff’s tangled politics? Listen on.

Episode 18: We have a water problem

The Pennsylvania constitution is clear: residents of the commonwealth have a right to clean, safe drinking water.

But that doesn’t mean the funding to make sure that happens is always available.

Over the last decade, cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection have drastically reduced Pennsylvania’s complement of water quality inspectors. That means the onus of making sure drinking water meets health and safety standards is falling on fewer and fewer people.

The situation is bad enough that the federal government has sent multiple notices warning that water inspections aren’t up to par. But with the state already having trouble paying for its daily expenses, there’s not much money left to improve DEP staffing and infrastructure.

PennLive’s Wallace McKelvey walks us through the situation.


State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play

Episode 17: Money, power, and not many rules

With the legislature on an indefinite recess and budget negotiations effectively paused, this week we focus on a different—but ever-present—part of state politics: the often-tangled web of money and influence that, to a considerable extent, shapes policy.

Veteran reporter Brad Bumsted, who does investigative works for L&P’s The Caucus, talks us through a few stories he has reported lately. How did one of the state’s top union officials also became involved with deciding unemployment compensation appeals? Who are the most powerful lobbyists in Harrisburg, according to politicians? Why are Pennsylvania’s ethics laws so lax?

State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play