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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, speaks to members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg Pa. Tuesday, June 30, 2015. (Chris Knight/Associated Press)

1) After the least surprising veto in state history, Gov. Tom Wolf and Harrisburg Republicans are starting all over on a state budget.

2) One component of those discussions likely will be privatization of booze sales in the state. House and Senate Republicans agreed upon a plan to give those who hold licenses to sell beer to pay new fees to expand sales to liquor and wine. Mr. Wolf has said he's not in favor of privatization – and the union that represents those who work for the current booze monopoly expects Gov. Go Time to keep his promise – but this could be a hefty bargaining chip for the broader budget talks.

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3) Today's Trumpdate: As promised, the Trumpernator has filed a hefty lawsuit against Spanish-language TV network Univision for dumping the broadcast of the Trump-owned Miss USA pageant coming up later this month because of the Republican presidential candidate's remarks about Mexicans being "rapists" and "criminals." But fear not, pageant fans; the Reelz network – yes, that's apparently a real thing – will broadcast the July 12 pageant. But that's not our favorite bit of Donald Trump news today. For that, we have to thank our own Tracie Mauriello, who shared the above photo on Facebook. Think Mr. Trump has any idea what irony is?

4) We've written previously about Chris Christie's plummeting approval numbers in his home state, but this is something else entirely: "Hey, Gov. Christie – don't let the door hit your substantial behind on the way out."

5) Happy Fourth of July Weekend, boys and girls. If you're headed to Chicago, know that we're filled with envy.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Yvonne Edmunds, of Pittsburgh, making signs as groups concerned with funding of education, wages, and cuts to social programs set up tents on the steps of the state Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, June 29, 2015. Pennsylvania's large Republican majorities in the House and Senate on Monday went through the procedural moves needed to set the stage for a wave of floor votes on the budget and other major legislation despite the specter of looming vetoes at the hand of the state's Democratic governor. (Daniel Zampogna/PennLive.com via AP)Yvonne Edmunds, of Pittsburgh, making signs as groups concerned with funding of education, wages, and cuts to social programs set up tents on the steps of the state Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, June 29, 2015. Pennsylvania's large Republican majorities in the House and Senate on Monday went through the procedural moves needed to set the stage for a wave of floor votes on the budget and other major legislation despite the specter of looming vetoes at the hand of the state's Democratic governor. (Daniel Zampogna/PennLive.com via Associated Press)

1) Hey, look, we have a state budget! Or, we have a state budget – the one initially proposed in the House – until Gov. Tom Wolf vetoes at least portions of it. And if that portends a protracted fiscal standoff in Harrisburg, what happens to the folks – employees, school districts, etc. – who rely on state funds?

2) If you had asked us just after the 2012 presidential election about the chances of Chris Christie to win the Republican nomination this time around, we would have called him a favorite. Since then though, the New Jersey governor – who announced his candidacy this morning – has had to deal with the thing about the George Washington Bridge, going to Dallas Cowboys games with Jerry Jones picking up the tab and a constituency in his home state that seems to be growing weary of the tough-guy act. If you're asking us now? We'd politely posit that he's a long shot.

3) Greece is teetering on the brink of financial disaster, and Greeks in Pittsburgh are concerned.

4) As the end of its current session approaches, the United States Supreme Court issued several new rulings Monday, including a couple – the approval of Oklahoma's lethal injection cocktail and a rejection of President Obama's executive order on mercury in power plants – that should remind us that this isn't a liberal court by any stretch. But that side got a couple boosts as well on Monday, as the court moved to remove politics from Congressional redistricting and allowed Texas abortion clinics to remain open while a lower court rules on that state's controversial new law that would force nearly all of them to close.

5) Donald Trump says the Mexicans who are entering the United States illegally are "criminals" and "rapists." He is then surprised whenUnivision and then NBC cuts loose the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, both of which are owned by Mr. Trump. We've read in a couple different places that the loudmouthed presidential candidate has learned a lesson about consequences; frankly, we doubt Mr. Trump has learned a thing.

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Toomey's up with first ad

Published by James O'Toole on .

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Fifteen months before he will face voters in the November 2016 general election, Sen. Pat Toomey is airing the first television commercial of his re-election campaign beginning Tuesday.

The Republican's ad highlights his efforts to enact legislation designed to make it easier for schools to identify sex offenders among their potential employees. Mr. Toomey has co-sponsored a measure with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would prod school districts to conduct more extensive background checks on employees and volunteers who work with students.

The 30-second commercial includes a narrator's description of Mr. Toomey's work on the child predator bill alternating with a woman's expressions of gratitude to the freshman Republican for his work on the proposal. Initially, it will run in the Pittsburgh market only, but his campaign said it could appear in other areas of the state in the future. The campaign would not disclose the planned extent of the ad buy, but a spokesman said it would be, "a substantial effort to get the word out.''

The early appearance of the ad underscores the financial strength of the Toomey campaign five years after he won his seat in a hotly contested 51 percent - 49 percent victory over Democrat Joe Sestak. It also suggests, and aims to counteract, one potential vulnerability of the candidate -- his relatively middling poll numbers with female voters compared to his much stronger showing among male voters.

In the ad, a narrator's voice state's that, "Last year, over 400 school employees were identified as sex offenders.''

The ad switches to a shot of Kristen Pfautz Woolley, identified as a trauma therapist from York, who says, "As a survivor of child abuse and as a mother, I am very grateful for Sen. Pat Toomey's leadership on this very important issue.''

After the narrator state that the senator "is leading a national fight against predators in schools,'' Ms. Woolley says, "I am proud to work with Sen. Pat Toomey to help change our laws and to make this world safer for our children.''

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Perry on Politics: Once lost, Obama now is found

Published by James M. Perry on .

The casket of Rev. Clementa Pinckney sits beneath the podium as President Barack Obama delivers the eulogy during his funeral service, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)The casket of Rev. Clementa Pinckney sits beneath the podium as President Barack Obama delivers the eulogy during his funeral service, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

Pundits and commentators agreed that Barack Obama, in his second term in office, was a lame duck, a tarnished president who would spend the rest of his time in office in trivial pursuits.

Until last week.

Last week was a triumph for the much-maligned president. It began modestly enough when Congress passed a trade bill, requested by Mr. Obama, that would empower him and his trade negotiators to cut deals with 11 countries in the so-called Pacific Rim, including Japan, always reluctant to open its markets to foreign goods. But what happened next was anything but modest. On Thursday,  the normally conservative Supreme Court ruled, 6 to 3, in support of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a dirty word to millions of grumpy Republicans, and then ruled, 5 to 4, on Friday to legalize same-sex marriages everywhere in the United States.

When he first ran for office, Mr. Obama supported the idea that marriage was strictly between a man and a woman. Most Americans, polls demonstrated, felt the same way. But then he and the rest of the country began a rapidly moving shift. The latest polls show that 60 per cent of Americans now support same-sex marriages and among young people the figure is 80 per cent.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, concluded by saying that same-sex couples "should not be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal treatment in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."  Powerful words, momentous words. words that one day will be carved into granite. Mr. Obama called the decision "a victory for America," and in no time at all the White House was illuminated in the colors of the rainbow.

Then, right after celebrating the same-sex decision, he and his wife and one or two staffers boarded a helicopter for the short hop to Andrews Air Force, where they would board Air Force One for the flight to Charleston, S.C. There, he was scheduled to give the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, one of nine African-Americans killed by a young white racist while attending a Bible class in the basement of their church.

"I may sing," he told his wife and friends.

Mr. Obama appeared at the podium, with six or seven church elders, in brilliant blue robes lined up behind him  and with 5,000 parishioners and supporters filling the College of Charleston hall. Suddenly, well into his eulogy, he fell silent, for 13 seconds, and anyone watching on TV could see the elders looked a little puzzled. But then, in what the Washington Post called "a rich baritone," he began singing.

"Amazing grace," he sang slowly, "how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me" and soon the elders and everyone in the auditorium were on their feet joining him in joyful singing of this glorious 200-year-old gospel. "Once I was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see."

I have watched and written about presidents for years, but I have never seen anything like Mr. Obama's eulogy in Charleston, S.C. It was, I thought, wonderful.

And, like that wretch in the song, President Obama, who not so long ago appeared lost, seems now to have found himself. Once, he might have been blind, but now he sees.

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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'I didn't say I would definitely veto'

Published by Karen Langley on .

Gov. Wolf has said for a while that he wants a state budget with three major components: a severance tax to provide school funding, property tax relief for the middle class and a closing of the shortfall without gimmicks.

So what will he do if Republicans deliver a spending plan without those policies, as they increasingly are expected to do?

The Post-Gazette caught up with Mr. Wolf today, as he was climbing the stairs to his office, and asked if he had told Democratic legistators he would veto a Republican budget that didn't contain his priorities.

"Yeah, if it doesn't contain the things that I think are important, yeah, I would do that," the governor said. "But I don't know if their budget does or not, so I didn't say I would definitely veto."

If it came to a veto, would he reject the budget as a whole, or just line items?

"I just said I want to see my stuff in."

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