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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

The Pub Chip Shop, South Side.

Happy Friday, everyone.

1) Given the recent attention paid to ethics – what with Gov.-elect Tom Wolf forbidding members of his administration from accepting gifts and the announcement of charges against two Philadelphia lawmakers for accepting too many – Lloyd Smucker his compadres in the General Assembly should have much tougher rules about accepting gifts. The Republican state senator from Lancaster County said he is set to introduce a ban of nearly all gifts for public officials and employees in Pennsylvania; the sweeping ban would include local government employees as well The AP notes that stuff like this has been proposed before, but Mr. Smucker's proposal might have some momentum behind it. And we'll be genuinely curious to see what kind of public support this gets.

2) It's probably not necessary to justify shameless self-promotion, but in this case, the public discussion of ethics in government comes at a perfect time. Once you're done with Early Returns, you'll want to head over to the P-G's main site and take a look at the ongoing series on ethics and government. Our Joe Smydo started on Thursday with a look at legislators whose committee appointments might pose conflict-of-interest problems; in today's story, he looks at the effectiveness – or lack thereof – of the state's ethics commission. And if you're curious about how the committee appointments of your favorite legislators might dovetail with their outside business interests, you'll want to take a run through the accompanying interactive.

3) The latest charges against the two Philly-area state representatives were brought by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams – and not state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who refused to follow up on the investigation after deciding the evidence didn't support further action. Ms. Kane took heat for that decision then, and she's weathering more for it now, notably from U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the dean of the state's Congressional caucus and the chairman of the Philly's Democratic committee. Kane wasn't the party-endorsed candidate in the Democratic primary in her first run for the AG's chair, so she may not be too worried about support for her 2016 re-election bid. But holding on to that office without the backing of Philadelphia's most powerful Democrat would be a chore.

4) Mayor Bill Peduto's first budget made nearly everyone on Pittsburgh City Council happy – hello, Darlene Harris – but it remains to be seen if Mr. Peduto's spending plan will gain the support of the perpetually grumpy Intergovernmental Cooperation Board, which is scheduled to vote on the budget today.

5) We're about to begin the last weekend before Christmas, so we're not especially focused on what we're supposed to be doing, and getting through four of our alotted five things on point seems to be good enough. How we're going to finish instead: Spend a good bit of our Friday going through the Munchies, the 2014 Best of Munch awards. And with references to many of our favorite things – Rochester's Hollywood Gardens, Slice on Broadway, The Pub Chip Shop and a Phish song set halfway between Erie and Pittsburgh – why not?

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

jeb bush twitter

We hope you're hungry – today's breakfast is steak and eggs, not tea and a fruit cup.

1) We're not quite at the point when the heavy-hitters of the Republican party will be ready to declare their presidential aspirations; we are, however, at the point where they will declare that they're thinking about declaring. And that's how we're going to re-introduce everyone to Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and the son and brother of two former presidents. Mr. Bush announced Tuesday on Facebook and Twitter that he is actively exploring the possibility of a presidential run; he also said he'll start a Leadership PAC to help "expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans."

2) How will Mr. Bush's announcement play? We'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, we can take a look at a Monmouth University poll – released on Tuesday, prior to the announcement from the Florida Bush – that shows the Republican side of the coming presidential race is something of a mess. Responding to an open-ended question about unnamed potential candidates, those participating in the survey placed Mr. Bush fourth in the group, behind 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, conservative author Ben Carson and New Jersey Gov. (and noted Dallas Cowboys fan) Chris Christie. It's worth noting that none of the candidates – the list also includes Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Mark Rubio and our own Rick Santorum – garnered double-digit support. Compare that with the Democratic side, where Hillary Clinton led with 48 percent in a Monmouth Poll released Monday.

3) Who looks worse: state Reps. Ronald Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown, the latest legislators facing bribery charges in an ongoing investigation by the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, or state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who declined to pursue the investigation which has now netted charges against three legislators?

4) Allegheny County Controller Chelsea Wagner has been a thorn in the side of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, so when Mark Patrick Flaherty, the former county controller who announced on Tuesday he would again seek the office, says he hopes to restore respect to the office, he's taking a shot at Ms. Wagner. We know that Ms. Wagner isn't shy; true to form, she fired back on Tuesday, saying county residents deserve better than a candidate "who is running at the direction of the county executive and answers to him."

5) No one really asked him, but U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab – of the federal district court in Pittsburgh – issued a ruling on Tuesday that said President Obama's recent executive orders on immigration overstepped the authority of the White House. It's not clear if Judge Schwab's opinion will have any weight beyond the local immigration case – the U.S. Department of Justice dismissed it in a statement Tuesday – but we'd bet we're going to hear more about in the coming days.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Stevie Ray Vaughan rehearses for a 1986 appearance on Saturday Night Live. (Associated Press photo)Stevie Ray Vaughan rehearses for a 1986 appearance on Saturday Night Live. (Associated Press photo)

Want some breakfast? Plan to spend a little more on parking when you go.

1) Mayor Bill Peduto was able to hold off a wide expansion of parking enforcement hours when Pittsburgh City Council approved his $516.6 million budget on Monday. The initial plan was to add evening enforcement hours Downtown and in the South Side, a change that Mr. Peduto had opposed, both as a councilman and as mayor; the plan as adopted Monday forgoes evening enforcement Downtown and provides for dynamic parking – rates based on demand trends – in the South Side. The new plan does raise rates for on-street parking throughout the city.

2) The hot rumor of the Pennsylvania Society weekend was that recently ousted state Senate majority leader Dominic Pileggi was going to run for the state Supreme Court turned out to be only that – a rumor.

3) The relationship between state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and the state Department of Education appears to be improving. Mr. DePasquale hammered the ed department earlier this month because he said the agency was dragging its feet in providing information related to his ongoing audit. But Mr. DePasquale told WITF in Harrisburg the department has since sped up its responses.

4) John Micek pointed us towards an interesting Politico story about the renewed debate in the Republican party over who is conservative-ish (in the current debate, that would be any GOPer who voted to adopt last weekend's spending plan) and who is truly conservative (that would be U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and his supporters).

5) It's not something that we can vote on but we'd imagine that politics abound in the annual selection of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland – and even if that's not true, that's the justification we're using to congratulate a couple of our favorites, the late Lou Reed – punk's godfather -- and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan —the best guitarist we've ever seen-- on being named to the hall. Others in the Class of 2015? The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Green Day, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Bill Withers.

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Pileggi won't run for state Supreme Court

Published by Mike Pound on .

2Pileggi-er

State Sen. Dominic Pileggi won't run for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, even after apparently fielding many requests to do so.

Mr. Pileggi, a Repubican who was just ousted from his position as Senate majority leader, said on Facebook late this afternoon that he planned to remain in the Senate. His candidacy for the state's higest court was a hot rumor during last weekend's Pennsylvania Society activities.

Mr. Pileggi's full FB update:

Over the past few weeks, many people have asked me to consider running for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. While I'm honored by the support and encouragement, I will not be a candidate for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 2015.

I look forward to continuing my service in the Senate to address the significant issues facing our Commonwealth, and will continue to fight for government transparency, meaningful pension reform, and a fair basic education funding formula.

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Wolf on the "gospel of fairness"

Published by Karen Langley on .

NEW YORK -- Gov.-elect Tom Wolf had finished his speech at a session of The Forum for a Better Pennsylvania, a group committed to increasing civic and economic participation by African-Americans, when a man asked him to expand on his remarks about fairness.

What were the incoming governor's thoughts about mass incarceration, about policing in Philadelphia?

Wolf said those are topics that concern him, and that he believes concrete steps can be taken to reduce trends in imprisonment: changing sentencing guidelines and decriminalizing marijuana, for example.

Too many people make stupid mistakes when they are young, he said, and "end up paying prices much greater than they should pay."

"There are just too many people in prison," Wolf said. "If we spent the same amount of money, invested the same amount of money in schools, we'd do a much better job..."

He was interrupted by applause, and a woman proclaimed "Amen."

But the governor-elect suggested Pennsylvania should be made more equitable in a broader sense.

"We need to create a fair society so that we don't have Ferguson," Wolf said.

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