Radio PA Roundtable – January 6-8, 2017

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, we kick off the new year on the tragic note of bagpipes, as the Pennsylvania State Police mourn the loss of 23-year old Trooper Landon Weaver. State lawmakers kick off the 2017-2018 legislative session and Governor Tom Wolf talks about his goals for 2017.

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Radio PA Roundtable – November 14, 2014

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Radio PA’s Brad Christman is joined by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Brad Bumsted. Topics include the recent legislative elections, new leadership in the Republican caucuses in Harrisburg, the pornographic email scandal in Harrisburg, Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s mysterious car accident and political corruption in Pennsylvania.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting, commentary and analysis on the top news stories of the week.

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Guns, Seized Guns

Lawmakers Make Case for Gun Safety Measures

Three Democratic state representatives say there’s more willingness to discuss gun safety measures after the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

Citing gun violence statistics, Representative Ron Waters (D-Philadelphia/Delaware)  is again calling for a number of new laws designed to improve gun safety.  Emphasizing that point, Waters says they want to dispel the idea they’re calling for gun control.

The bills include a military style assault weapons ban, a firearms liability insurance requirement for those licensed to carry and a child safety lock requirement.   Other bills in the package would roll back the expansion of the Castle Doctrine, call for mandatory sentences for those carrying firearms without a license and require neighborhood watch groups to register with the Attorney General’s office.

Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) believes they can do something to reduce gun violence while honoring constitutional rights.

Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) believes there has been a mood change in Harrisburg after Sandy Hook. He says he senses a difference among his colleagues with respect to a willingness to have a conversation about the issue.

Lawmakers Want to Upgrade General Assembly’s Web Site

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi

Do you visit the General Assembly’s web site to look up bills or get information on your senator or representative?    Over the past five years, upgrades to the site have increased public access to the legislative process. Now, lawmakers want to know how they can improve the user experience.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says they want the public’s input to make the site as advanced, intuitive and valuable as possible.

People can send their comments by social media, using the Twitter hashtag #PAGAwebideas, they can also send emails to Senator Pileggi or tweets ( or @SenatorPileggi), or they can do it the old fashioned way,  by telephone or postal service.  There will be a hearing on the topic on March 7th. Written testimony will also be accepted.

Senator Pileggi hopes to have most of the suggestions implemented by the start of the next fiscal year.

President’s Approval Numbers Remain Weak in Pennsylvania According to New Poll

The job approval rating for President Obama is more negative than positive in Pennsylvania and more than half of the voters believe it’s time for a change according to the latest Franklin and Marshall College poll.

The President’s approval rating rose slightly from the August poll to the October poll, from 34% to 37%.   52% of the state’s voters believe it’s time for a change than believe the President deserves re-election (42%).

The President still comes out ahead in match ups against Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. But poll director Terry Madonna says Pennsylvanians are not focused on the presidential election yet, since the primary is not until April. He says the Republican candidates are not well known and there has not been a lot of activity by the candidates in Pennsylvania.  He says the Republican field is still unsettled.

Madonna says the president, in a sense running against himself, is in trouble.  He says typically when they find this situation in polls; they find an incumbent who is going to have a tough fight on his hands.  He expects Pennsylvania to remain very competitive and play its role as a battleground state.

The poll shows President Obama leading Rick Perry in Pennsylvania 40% to 20%. In a match up with Mitt Romney, the president leads 35% to 26%. Going head to head with Rick Santorum, President Obama leads 38% to 25%. Against Herman Cain, the President’s lead is 38% to 24%. There were a large number of voters who were undecided.

Madonna says President Obama’s weak job performance is directly related to the continuation of the recession and the lack of optimism voters have about getting out of it anytime soon.  He says the American people tend to hold the party in power and the President of the United States responsible.

Pennsylvania’s two U. S. Senators also have approval ratings that are more negative than positive.  Senator Bob Casey’s approval rose 6 points from August to 38%, Senator Pat Toomey’s approval; rating was 32%, up 3 points from August.

The poll also looked at Pennsylvania issues.  The state legislature’s approval rating is only 22%, compared to 38% for Governor Corbett.  Half of those polled think the state is headed in the wrong direction.

While Governor Corbett’s approval rating is still below where Ed Rendell or Tom Ridge ranked at this point in their tenures, Madonna says it’s not as markedly low as previous surveys.  The rating rose 6 points from August.

Madonna says they have seen a steady erosion in support for the legislature somewhat influenced by the pay hike grab in 2005.  He says the prosecutions known as Bonusgate have also had an impact. But it’s the most positive rating for the legislature since the summer of 2009 and it’s almost twice as high as the rating Congress gets in most polls, which hovers around 12%.

The poll also asked voters to prioritize some of the top issues facing the state, and more than half pointed to fixing the roads and bridges as the most important or one of the most important issues. 43% ranked passing a tax on natural gas as an important priority, followed by school vouchers (39%), changing the way electoral votes are distributed (30%) and privatizing state stores (17%).

Tougher Teen Driver Law Wins Final Legislative Approval

The house has concurred with senate amendments, giving final approval to a bill to boost teen driver safety.   Representative Kathy Watson (R-Bucks) has been trying to strengthen the teen driver law since 2005, she says the greatest distraction is other teens in the vehicle. 

The senate watered down the key provision limiting passengers for new drivers; it will apply to the first six months of a junior license instead of the full term. However, the senate added a reporting requirement. There will be a biannual report done on the legislation to see how it’s working, and whether the state has reduced the number of crashes and deaths for 16 and 17 year old drivers and passengers.

HB9  limits teen drivers to a single non family passenger for the first six months. If they have a clean driving record at that point, they’d be allowed to have up to three young people who are not their family members in the vehicle with them.

The bill also makes seatbelt violations a primary offense for drivers and passengers under 18. Watson says that means a police officer can stop a young driver if they or their passengers under age 18 are not buckled up.  She says 50% of those who have died in crashes in this age group were not wearing seatbelts.

The measure also adds 15 hours-10 of night time and five of inclement weather driving-to the current 50 hour training requirement for a junior license.

Watson   says studies show a 16-year-old’s chance of dying in a crash increases with each passenger added to the vehicle. She believes the bill gives families a better tool to construct whatever rules they feel are important for their teen driver. She expects the governor will sign it into law.