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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Workers clear snow from a roof in Boston, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. (Associated Press photo)Workers clear snow from a roof in Boston, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. (Associated Press photo)

1) If you're a Democrat in Pennsylvania, you haven't had a ton of great news since the election of Gov. Tom Wolf in November. Sure, Philly landed the 2016 Democratic National Convention, but otherwise the news has been pretty bleak: state Attorney General Kathleen Kane is still in trouble, former state Treasurer Rob McCord is contemplating the possibility of a long prison sentence and even Governor Go Time – who was one of just a few bright spots for the Dems nationally last year – is facing challenges over firing people and his death penalty moratorium. Whew – this weekend's Democratic retreat in Hershey is going to be a blast.

2) Another thing that's bound to come up in Hershey this weekend? Trying to figure out what the party is going to do about the 2016 race against Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Joe Sestak – the former Congressman who lost to Mr. Toomey in 2010 – is apparently excited about jumping in the race; the trouble is, no one else seems to be especially excited about Mr. Sestak. No less than former Gov. Ed Rendell has said the state Dems need to track down a "really good" candidate to run against Mr. Toomey -- so Mr. Sestak probably shouldn't count on a whole lot of support from the party this time around.

3) An eye-opener from the Pennsylvania Independent: the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission recently levied fines against 10 lobbying firms for failing to file lobbying disclosure forms on time, a number that the commission's executive director said was a "fairly common amount."

4) Call it the Jane Byrne effect: Could the perception in Boston that the city and state hasn't done a good job of managing this winter's prodigious snowfall mean trouble for newish Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker?

5) And then you consider the Pittsburgh weather forecast for Saturday, which varies from snowfall of 1 to 3 inches (National Weather Service in Moon) to 3 to 6 inches (way to go out on a limb, Accuweather), as of Friday morning. Ready to go, Mayor Bill Peduto?

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

(Associated Press photo)(Associated Press photo)

1) Next up for a seemingly contrite Rob McCord? Sentencing in a federal court in Harrisburg on the charges that he attempted to extort money from campaign contributors a year ago. Mr. McCord, who formally pleaded guilty to the charges on Tuesday, faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

2) The state Senate has approved a Constitutional amendment that would give the legislature the authority to decide when nonprofits receive tax exemptions and sent the measure on to the House. The amendment – backed by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and criticized by local government folks, including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald – needs to be approved by the House this year or next to send it on to the state's voters for their approval.

3) The oil train derailment in Mount Carbon, W.Va., has Chris Briem wondering – again – why there is no public accounting of what rail cargo is going where.

4) That noise you hear coming from the east is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lathering up for a presidential run.

5) We can't blame Gov. Tom Wolf for being unhappy that his counterpart in Florida – Republican Gov. Rick Scott – is visiting Pennsylvania on a job-poaching mission. But maybe Mr. Scott isn't pulling our legs when he says it's just a coincidence that he didn't make a similar visit when we had a Republican governor.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom Wolf announces his Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act Monday in Monroeville. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)Gov. Tom Wolf announces his Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act Monday in Monroeville. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)

1) We're still not sure about the mechanics that could bring it to fruition, but Gov. Tom Wolf has made it clear that he's going to push hard for a severance tax on gas drilling in the state. In an appearance Monday in Monroeville, Governor Go Time said his proposed tax – which would be levied at 5.8 percent – is competitive with taxes in bordering states and would be lower than Ohio's proposed 6.5 percent tax.

2) A federal judge in Texas has issued an injunction that halts President Obama's executive order on immigration, just a day before the first provision of the order – the one that protects children who were brought to the country from deportation – was to take effect. The White House will appeal the decision, which sided with a lawsuit filed by more than half of the states in the country.

3) Recent statements by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul turned a public health question – immunization – into a political issue; a new website, released today by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, should bring us all back to the idea that maybe politics shouldn't play a role here. The site, an adaptation of the Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics -- or FRED -- simulates the spread of a measles outbreak in areas with a 95-percent immunization rate versus those with an 80-percent rate. Spoiler alert: an 80-percent immunization rate doesn't do much to stop an outbreak.

4) Actually, it's endorsement season, and the candidates for seats on the Pittsburgh Public Schools board are lined up to seek a nod from the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

5) There's no denying the lofty position of Pennsylvania in the history of the United States, but there's one area in which we don't fare so well. For all of our illustrious history, we've produced just one president – sorry, Rick Santorum – and a new survey of political scientists ranks him as the worst president ever. James Buchanan -- the pride of Cove Gap, Pa. -- waffled over the legalities of Southern secession and going to war to stop it; that indecision is cited in the survey as the biggest factor in the ranking.

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Former jury commissioner to seek higher office

Published by Janice Crompton on .

Former Washington County jury commissioner Judith Fisher will seek the Democratic nod for county commissioner, she recently announced.

Ms. Fisher, 75, of South Strabane, served as the Democratic jury commissioner for 20 years, until the position was eliminated in 2013.

In her announcement, Ms. Fisher said she would use revenue from the county's share of oil and gas drilling to fund an education initiative.  The internship would teach students the workings of county government.

Ms. Fisher also advocated establishing a scholarship fund for children in conjunction with the Washington County Community Foundation.

"Since the arrival of the gas and oil industry, the need has definitely arrived for us as a community to seriously consider offering our own children and residents a Washington County Community College, to further advance their training and education so that they can achieve promising careers right here at home," she said.  "I want to offer our residents a brighter tomorrow because our future depends on their success."

Ms. Fisher has served as a Democratic committee member for years and previously mounted an unsuccessful campaign for prothonotary in 2007.

Incumbent commissioners, including Democrats Larry Maggi and Harlan Shober, have announced their intention to run for re-election, along with a slate of other candidates.

 

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Rudiak to circulate petitions for controller's race

Published by Mike Pound on .

Natalia Rudiak (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)Natalia Rudiak (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)

By Chris Potter

Natalia Rudiak is gearing up for a potential challenge to City Controller Michael Lamb in the May 19 primary, political consultant Matt Merriman-Preston confirmed this morning.

"She'll be circulating petitions tomorrow," said Mr. Merriman-Preston. February 17 is the first day that candidates can do so.

Ms. Rudiak currently represents the South Hills neighborhoods of District 4. Rumors of her candidacy have been circulating for some time, though there has been little outward sign of a campaign bid. Mr. Lamb, for example, is the only candidate seeking the Democratic Party endorsement.

Mr. Merriman-Preston, who has worked with Ms. Rudiak since her initial successful 2009 run for council, said she made the decision to circulate petitions after the deadline for seeking the endorsement passed.

Ms. Rudiak was not immediately available for comment this morning. But today, for the first time, her office began circulating a copy of her daily schedule to reporters, much as Mayor Bill Peduto has been doing since taking office last year.

Mr. Peduto won that office in 2013, in a campaign where Mr. Lamb was a rival who later dropped out. The two men also ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2005, and Mr. Lamb, who was elected to his current post in 2007, has sometimes been critical of the administration.

Mr. Lamb said he wasn't surprised by the news. "I've been assuming all along I would have a challenger," he said. "We're ready to go."

Will the mayor be supporting Ms. Rudiak, a longtime ally, against his former foe?

Mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty deferred questions to Mr. Merriman-Preston. "I can't speak for the mayor," Mr. Merriman-Preston said. "But you could probably make an educated guess."

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