State House Sound Bites Podcast Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes in Pennsylvania politics? Join WITF's Capital Bureau Chief Katie Meyer as she takes you behind the headlines with in-depth conversations about the news of the week, featuring a rotating panel of Capitol correspondents, lawmakers, and others who have a hand in shaping the policies that affect the Commonwealth.
State House Sound Bites Podcast

State House Sound Bites Podcast

From WITF

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes in Pennsylvania politics? Join WITF's Capital Bureau Chief Katie Meyer as she takes you behind the headlines with in-depth conversations about the news of the week, featuring a rotating panel of Capitol correspondents, lawmakers, and others who have a hand in shaping the policies that affect the Commonwealth.More from State House Sound Bites Podcast »

Most Recent Episodes

Episode 55: Amendments for all

This week had everything: major bills moving, last-minute amendments, a little back-room plotting, and a lot of yelling on the Senate floor. A bill to create a citizen's commission on redistricting has passed the Senate and is now awaiting House action—but it looks very different than it did just a few weeks ago. Now, a number of changes have given the legislature more power in the process, plus an entirely new clause has been added that seeks to elect appellate judges by region. Confused about how those things go together? Reporter Jan Murphy and columnist John Micek, both of PennLive, join us to hash out the details. Plus, we'll discuss House Speaker Mike Turzai unexpectedly shoehorning his own abortion-restricting language into a human trafficking bill, an effort to keep judges safe from dogs, addressing sexual harassment in the legislature, and more. State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play

Episode 54: Too many redistricting bills, not enough time

It's crunch time for the House and Senate to get a redistricting overhaul passed in time for congressional reapportionment in 2021. But you wouldn't be able to tell there's a month to the deadline by spending time in the Capitol. No less than seven (at least) bills on the subject are floating around both chambers. And though the Senate has made progress toward a compromise, the House is nowhere close. Stephen Caruso of the PLS Reporter and Liz Navratil of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette join us to talk about the fate of the map-drawing process. Plus, they give the latest updates on the gubernatorial race, and a recent executive order from Governor Tom Wolf.

Episode 54: Too many redistricting bills, not enough time

Episode 53: Election retrospective, medical marijuana transparency

This week, Pennsylvania had an election. If you're a person who noticed this happened, you may have also noticed that some of the outcomes were expected, others were not, and various partisans and pundits still seem pretty divided about whether Democrats can expect a proverbial "blue wave" come November. Lots to take in! So, Steve Esack of the Morning Call and Wallace McKelvey of PennLive join us to talk through the various important threads still hanging loose post-primary, and preview what's likely to come in a very (very!) important election year. Plus, some down-low changes took place in the commonwealth's medical marijuana program this week, and we unpack what it might mean for open records laws/general transparency statewide.

Episode 53: Election retrospective, medical marijuana transparency

Episode 52: Primary primer

Pennsylvania's primary elections are this coming Tuesday, and there's a lot to pay attention to. Three GOP candidates for governor are facing off to see who will take on Tom Wolf in November. York County Senator Scott Wagner, who also owns a trash-hauling company, is seen as an apparent frontrunner after clinching the important state Republican Party nomination. But, since there's been little external polling, it's difficult to say for sure whether fellow candidates Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth have a shot at the nomination as well. There are also a number of very crowded congressional races to pay attention to—and they're especially chaotic because this is the first election that'll use the commonwealth's brand new congressional map. The primary also features a weirdly-competitive democratic primary for lieutenant governor, with a truly colorful cast of characters involved. Philly Inquirer and Daily News columnist John Baer and AP reporter Marc Levy join us to break down the many moving parts.

Episode 51: Meek Mill and more

Marc Levy of the Associated Press and Liz Navratil of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette join us for a roundup of a whole bunch of initiatives kicking around the Capitol That includes a move to expand background checks for gun purchases, and a hearing on creating an independent citizens' commission for redistricting. Plus, we'll recap a recent debate between the three GOP candidates for governor. And in related news, rapper Meek Mill was released from a Pennsylvania prison this week. His controversial sentence began in November, when he was arrested for violating a parole stemming from a more than decade-old weapon and drug possession conviction. The case called attention to what many say is a systemic problem with Pennsylvania's judicial system. We'll discuss a push in state government to change that, and whether it'll get past a conservative legislature.

Episode 50: Philly soda tax / Capitol roundup

When Philadelphia wanted to combat obesity and reduce its impact on health care early last year, it turned to a controversial measure: the soda tax. Since then, the 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax has inspired equally passionate support and opposition. Detractors of additional food, beverage and container taxes say they result in job loss, harm communities and adversely impact lower income families. Proponents, meanwhile, cite health benefits, and say the additional tax revenue is an investment in neighborhoods and public education. More than a year after its implementation, Philadelphia's tax is now coming back to the fore in Harrisburg, as a number of lawmakers move to kill it, plus prevent any new levies on food, beverages and food containers. Allegheny County Republican Mark Mustio, the lead sponsor of that legislation, joins Smart Talk to explain why he thinks the tax is such a bad idea. And representing the other point of view is Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), a Greater Philadelphia child advocacy organization. Cooper believes the tax is doing a world of good for the Philly community and the programs that serve it. In other news, this week was a busy one in the state Capitol. With WITF State Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer hosting, Capitolwire Bureau Chief Chris Comisac stops by to discuss the major events: including the House passing contentious bills on abortion and Medicaid work requirements, new rules for medical marijuana, some inter-legislator tension, and much more. Chris Comisac

Episode 50: Philly soda tax / Capitol roundup

Episode 49: TV ad-pocalypse

On this week's podcast, we catch up on a slew of nasty ads that have been circulating on TV—a sign the GOP gubernatorial primary is heating up. Paul Mango and Scott Wagner are taking turns calling each other liberal and (in Mango's case) "violent," a slumlord," and a "deadbeat dad." Paula Knudsen and Brad Bumsted of The Caucus and John Micek of PennLive join us to discuss why those unusually personal attacks are happening, and what they may do for the two candidates' prospects. Plus, we recap the latest on sexual harassment in the legislature, as well as a potentially ill-fated push to overhaul Pennsylvania's justice system. State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play

Episode 48: A perfect storm for change

Pennsylvania's not a state that changes course easily. But over the past few months of redistricting chaos, not to mention wider, national unrest over guns and sexual assault, the commonwealth has seemed on the brink of some major shifts. That's what John Baer is hypothesizing, anyway. The longtime columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer joins us to discuss why he thinks the battle over Pennsylvania's congressional districts might be the catalyst needed to complete long-gestating initiatives to reform the judiciary and the redistricting process. Plus, we'll discuss how all these factors may be playing into the November election.

Episode 47: Dang property taxes!

The Morning Call's Steve Esack recently co-authored a series investigating Pennsylvania's little-discussed Clean and Green program, which essentially shifts property tax burdens off large landowners and onto regular homeowners—particularly in rural areas. (You should read it). We'll discuss why the heck this policy exists, and how the billions and billions of dollars it functionally reroutes play into the commonwealth's already-fraught property tax landscape. Plus, we'll answer a bunch of questions WITF listeners and readers have submitted over the past few weeks. Steve and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Liz Navratil also recap a number of new developments in two of Pennsylvania's highest-profile stories of the moment: the ongoing battle over the state's redrawn congressional map, a lawmaker's domestic violence allegations against a fellow caucus member.

Episode 46: Small races writ large

Pennsylvania had an election this week. Though it was only a special election to replace a resigned congressman in a single district, it received wall-to-wall national coverage. Like several other small or special contests this year and last, PA18 is seen as a signifier of how well democrats will do in this year's midterms. Also, for better or worse, it's seen as a referendum on President Trump. The AP's Marc Levy joins us for a look at what we can actually take from Democrat Conor Lamb's (apparent) victory in a district that was seen as safe for Republicans. We'll discuss why the commonwealth's voters are unique, which outcomes might actually translate to future elections, and why the race had much more to do with unions than it did Donald Trump. Plus, we'll recap the other major thing that happened this week: state Rep. Tarah Toohil has gotten a restraining order against fellow GOP Rep. Nick Miccarelli, after alleging he abused her when the two dated. It's a situation that—as far as anybody has been able to figure out—is totally unprecedented. State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play

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