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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

 

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his Capitol offices, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his Capitol offices, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

1) Randy Albright, budget secretary for Gov. Tom Wolf, got to spend some quality time with the state Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and we learned … pretty much nothing. Mr. Albright was steadfast in his claims that Governor Go Time’s tax proposals would improve the state’s economy, bolster its general fund and make it more competitive as it tries to land new businesses; meanwhile, the Republicans running the committee were equally insistent that the governor’s tax plan would do the opposite. Don’t be discouraged, though. There are plenty of bargaining chips on the table for both sides – booze sales, pensions, bits and pieces of the administration’s tax plan – and we’ll see what they’re willing to tinker with as the budget deadline approaches this summer.

2) Sean Ramaley, the former Beaver County legislator who was one of the first to get caught up in the Bonusgate scandal – he was acquitted of corruption charges, but not before he called off a promising campaign for the state Senate – has landed a job in the Wolf administration as deputy secretary for safety and labor management relations.

3) Our friends at the Patriot-News tracked down information from a study that shows liberals are happier – marginally, at least – than conservatives.

4) Republican wunderkind Aaron Schock has resigned from Congress while questions about his spending and what appear to be sweetheart business deals followed him from Illinois – his home state – to Washington. We first heard of Mr. Schock when the Washington Post started asking questions about the new Downton Abbey décor in his Capitol Hill office; since then there have been many more questions, some of which may continue to trail him after his resignation.

5) We can’t get enough of Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com, when we’re looking for the best data we can find about politics and elections. This week, we’re spending time there for a much different reason.

6) As a bonus: It's either a candidate tracker from Associated Press, or a bunch of meaningless code. Enjoy!

 

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom Ridge discusses education funding with state Sen. Jay Costa, left, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzpatrick while touring facilities at the Community College of Allegheny County. (Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette)Gov. Tom Wolf discusses education funding with state Sen. Jay Costa, left, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzpatrick while touring facilities at the Community College of Allegheny County. (Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette)

1) Here's a number that should at least make you think about what Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing to change school funding in the state: per-pupil spending in Pennsylvania's poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than in the state's richest districts – and that, according to the Washington Post, is the highest disparity in the country. Even worse? When factoring in federal education funding – a source of money that evens out that disparity in most cases – Pennsylvania is still one of just five states that spends less on poor districts than wealthy ones.

2) Seamus McCaffery may be done with the state Supreme Court, but we may not be done with him. Documents show that Mr. McCaffery – who retired from the court last year as part of the fallout from our infamous pornographic email scandal – appears to have had a hand in securing referral fees for his wife, Lise Rapaport, something that experts say is a violation of judicial ethics.

3) We can buy clothing without paying sales tax in Pennsylvania – and so can people from any other state who travel here. That's turned shopping – particularly at outlet malls not far from the state's borders – into a tourist attraction. And that's why folks in Grove City and Washington County are happy that Mr. Wolf's proposed tax changes don't include taxing the sales of clothing.

4) There are pretty much just two groups that don't like the net neutrality rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission – big Internet service providers and Congressional Republicans – and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler will get to spend a lot of time in the next two weeks debating with the latter.

5) We love politics, but c'mon – these are the contests we're most concerned about this week.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane walks from the State Supreme Court room, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, at City Hall in Philadelphia. The court heard arguments on the legality of a special prosecutor who led a grand jury investigation. The grand jury has recommended perjury, obstruction and other charges against Kane. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane walks from the State Supreme Court room, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, at City Hall in Philadelphia. The court heard arguments on the legality of a special prosecutor who led a grand jury investigation. The grand jury has recommended perjury, obstruction and other charges against Kane. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

1) Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane will likely have to wait a while for a state Supreme Court ruling on whether an investigation of her activities can proceed. In the meantime, Ms. Kane – along with the rest of us – can read the story on how we arrived at this point.

2) One of the reasons why Pittsburgh weathered the recent recession reasonably well was a steady real estate market, one that avoided the extreme peaks and valleys that drove the collapse in other areas. But is that still the case? Our Diana Nelson Jones looks at what's going on in Lawrenceville, where housing prices are surging while 30 percent of the neighborhood's population lives at or near poverty.

3) State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held a hearing in Pittsburgh Thursday on the potential consequences of a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature more control over how nonprofits are regulated. As one might expect, the folks at UPMC had some thoughts.

4) As we're all aware, a vote of confidence is almost always anything but.

er green-beer

5) Enjoy your St. Patrick's weekend, boys and girls, and always keep this in mind: friends don't let friends drink green beer.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane walks to the State Supreme Court room, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, at City Hall in Philadelphia. The court is set to hear arguments on the legality of the special grand jury probe of Kane, which recommended charges against her.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane walks to the State Supreme Court room, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, at City Hall in Philadelphia. The court is set to hear arguments on the legality of the special grand jury probe of Kane, which recommended charges against her. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

1) It's the gift that keeps on giving for detractors of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane: Three more people – including sitting state representatives Louise Williams Bishop and Michelle Brownlee and former legislator Harold James, all Democrats – have been charged in the sting operation that Ms. Kane declined to pursue. The thoughts of Philly District Attorney Seth Williams on Ms. Kane abandoning the investigation: "It makes me sick." We'd bet it doesn't make Ms. Kane feel especially good either.

2) While Mr. Williams was hammering the attorney general in Philadelphia, she was fielding softballs in Harrisburg. As part of a series of budget hearings, Ms. Kane appeared before the House Appropriations Committee to ask for a 5.7 percent increase in her office's budget for 2015-16. One of the few references to Ms. Kane's ongoing issues? One legislator asked if any state money has been used to defend her in an investigation of grand jury leaks; "This is probably the quickest answer I'll have all day: None," Ms. Kane replied.

3) The attorney general has another important day on tap today. The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over whether a special prosecutor appointed by Montgomery County has standing to continue the investigation.

4) Medical marijuana? More of us like the idea, according to a new Robert Morris University Polling Institute poll. A whopping 67.5 percent of Pennsylvanians polled favor legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, up from 56.1 percent a year ago.

5) If our Penguins are suffering from fatigue towards the end of their West Coast road trip, it could be that the addition of Gary Roberts to the team's training staff – Mr. Roberts will oversee off-ice training – will not do anything but help.

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Perry on Politics: True American exceptionalism on display in Selma

Published by Mike Pound on .

President Barack Obama speaks near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Selma, Ala. (Associated Press photo)President Barack Obama speaks near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Selma, Ala. (Associated Press photo)

By James M. Perry

Those who doubt Barack Obama loves America should read the brilliant speech he delivered in Selma, Alabama, on the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." Google it, at Obama transcript Selma.

Mr. Obama said that what has not changed in 50 years since those innocent protesters were brutally attacked on the Edmund Pettus bridge over the Alabama River "is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26-year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five to decide they loved this country so much that they'd risk everything to realize its promise.

"That's what it means to love America. That's what it means to believe in America. That's what it means when we say America is exceptional."

That, to be sure, is not the way millions of Americans see it. Americans are exceptional, they tend to agree, because God made them that way. Many of these devout and sincere Americans no doubt would agree with the great naval hero, Stephen Decatur, who in a toast at an early 19th Century dinner, said, "Our country ... may she always be in the right, but right or wrong, our country."

God had little to do with our good fortune. Our first colonists, landing on North American shores, were lucky (though they surely didn't think so). Spread out before them were thousands of miles of what would one day be rich farm and factory land. Minerals abounded, and so did buffalo. These early Americans were opposed by Native Americans -- startled Indians who took umbrage at what eventually became a crushing invasion by millions of white settlers spreading out across what had been a huge, virginal continent.

Rigid adherence to the exceptional theory means that we did no wrong, and to say we did is unpatriotic.

In a new book, "Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country," Shelby Steele, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, says American liberals are torn by shame and guilt "about the nation's past sins -- slavery, racism, sexism, imperialism, Vietnam -- that exaggerates inequality and unfairness in American life in order to justify" heavy-handed government policies and programs.

That, it seems to me, is nonsense (How is it possible to exaggerate the cruel fact of slavery?). It's not what Mr. Obama was talking about in Selma on Bloody Sunday.

Mr. Obama asked, "What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people -- the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many -- coming together to shape their country's course" in Selma 50 years ago?

"What greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation more closely align with our highest ideals."

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.

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