Episode 36: Happy holidays, time to talk about harassment

Over the last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have published two stories on sexual harassment that have caused some uproar.

One reported complaints of chronic sexually-tinged misconduct by Montgomery County Democratic Senator Daylin Leach. And another uncovered a secret quarter-million-dollar settlement on a sexual harassment complaint against longtime Berks County Representative Thomas Caltagirone, also a Democrat.

Governor Tom Wolf and a number of others have since called for both men to step down from their elected positions. Neither has, though Leach has said he’s taking a “step back” from his Congressional run.

The Inquirer’s Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil of the Post-Gazette are two of the primary journalists behind the reports in question, and join us to talk through their meticulous fact-checking process, the fallout that’s happened since they published the stories, and why they believe it’s important to take harassment complaints seriously.

Episode 35: Holiday bedlam

This was the legislature’s last session week of the year, and they made the most of it.

Dozens of bills were passed between chambers and onto the governor, including a contentious abortion restriction measure, GOP-backed proposals to change the budgeting process, and funding reauthorization for the state’s CHIP and unemployment compensation programs.

There were also notable failures and deadlocks, like a defeated bill to keep unions from deducting political contributions from state workers’ paychecks, or the seemingly-unending debates over a natural gas severance tax.

Plus, there was plenty of non-legislative action, like a mid-year budget report that conflicts with the Independent Fiscal Office’s findings, some controversy over an investigation into the Lieutenant Governor, and a questionable committee change.

Jason Gottesman of the PLS Reporter and City and State PA joins us to explain all this, and more.

Episode 34: Why we need to talk more about gerrymandering

Over the last month or so, WITF and other public media stations have been rolling out a series of stories in collaboration with PennLive about the weird ways Pennsylvania draws its electoral maps.

Reporting these stories has taken us across the state, from coal mines to cornfields to cities to suburbs to random nursing homes. And the reason we’ve spent all that time and those tanks of gas is that we believe gerrymandering is one of the most important, far-reaching issues facing the commonwealth right now.

PennLive’s Wallace McKelvey and WITF and Keystone Crossroads’ Emily Previti were both leaders on the project, and they join us this week to discuss their main takeaways, and the new directions their reporting will be taking as we continue to follow the issue.

Episode 33: Political games

This week’s episode was recorded live for WITF’s morning show, Smart Talk. It’s about twice as long as usual, plus features calls from listeners.

With the year winding down, lawmakers are still entrenched in talks on a few major bills. Marc Levy of the Associated Press and the Morning Call’s Steve Esack join us in the WITF studio to discuss one of the most controversial ones: a natural gas severance tax currently on the House floor, which may or may not be a purely political ploy with no chance of passing.

We also discuss the contested race for Lieutenant Governor, the legislature’s aversion to cutting its own spending, some major redistricting lawsuits, and the congressional races to watch in 2018.