Katie Meyer

Capitol Bureau Chief

Katie Meyer is WITF’s Capitol bureau chief, and she covers all things state politics for public radio stations throughout Pennsylvania. Katie came to Harrisburg by way of New York City, where she worked at Fordham University’s public radio station, WFUV, as an anchor, general assignment reporter, and co-host of an original podcast. A 2016 graduate of Fordham, she won several awards for her work at WFUV, including four 2016 Gracies. Katie is a native New Yorker, though she originally hails from Troy, a little farther up the Hudson River. She can attest that the bagels are still pretty good there.

Ways to Connect

Senator Lisa Boscola asks for support for her redistricting bill before the chamber's Appropriations Committee.
Katie Meyer / WITF

After more than a year of on-and-off negotiation, the state Senate has moved a congressional redistricting overhaul to the floor of the full chamber.

However, the compromise measure is expected to undergo significant changes before it heads to the House as soon as next week.

In this May 21, 2018 photo, a sign opposing an industrial hog farm is displayed at a home in Berwick, Pa. Residents who complain about foul smells from the nearby hog farm have taken their fight to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
AP Photo/Michael Rubinka

For several years, a hog farm in Luzerne County has been under legal fire for emitting a stench that people say can make the surrounding area almost unlivable.

A lawsuit is now awaiting consideration before the state Supreme Court.

But the outlook isn't good--and that's largely because Pennsylvania law makes it near-impossible to sue farms for nuisances like smells.

Pittsburgh lawyer and gubernatorial candidate Laura Ellsworth talks with a potential supporter at a Bryn Mawr farmers' market.
Katie Meyer / WITF

(Harrisburg) -- It's a Tuesday evening in early May, and an elaborately-decorated lobby in Malvern is swarming with Republicans.

A number are state officials, or officers for the Pennsylvania GOP. Many more are members of the Chester County Republican Party--the group behind this particular dinner.

But the keynote speaker, and the name on most of the signs, banners, and lapel buttons, is a guy who still describes himself as a political outsider, even after four years in the state Senate.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner is promoting himself as strongly pro-life.
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- With less than a week before the primary elections, GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner is voicing his support for a restrictive abortion bill.

The stance is in line with a recurring theme in the race—the York County Senator’s apparent battle with rival Paul Mango over who is farther right politically.

Shippensburg University is one of the 14 schools that make up the troubled PASSHE system.
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- A group of independent researchers has released a report recommending dramatic changes to Pennsylvania’s public higher education system—including consolidating or totally reorganizing the 14 state-owned universities.

The legislature commissioned the study by public policy research group the RAND Corporation in response to years of mounting difficulty keeping universities in the system open. Rapidly changing demographics, declining enrollment, and stagnant state funding have all played a role in the problem.

Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the country.
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- While he was working on the US Constitution, James Madison realized there was a pretty fundamental part of state governments that seemed useless to regulate.

In the Federalist Papers, he noted, “No political problem is less susceptible of a precise solution than that which relates to the number most convenient for a representative legislature; nor is there any point on which the policy of the several states is more at variance.”

State Representatives Hanna and Markosek are both stepping down, and want their sons to succeed them.
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- Two top Democrats are retiring from the state House this year--and have more in common than just their high-ranking positions.

Minority Appropriations Chair Joe Markosek and Minority Whip Mike Hanna both want their sons to take their place.

Markosek and Hanna are from Allegheny and Centre Counties, respectively, and have served in their leadership positions since 2011.

They announced their retirements and their sons' plans to replace them within a few days of each other.

In this Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at his office in Harrisburg, Pa.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf has rejected a Republican-drawn congressional map designed to replace the one the state Supreme Court declared unconstitutional late last month. 

The Democratic administration says the map is still too partisan--though House and Senate Republicans maintain it follows the court's order exactly. 

House Speaker Mike Turzai hinted for months that he might be running for governor, but waited until after the state budget was finished to announce.
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- After months of deliberation, state House Speaker Mike Turzai has announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for Governor.

The Pittsburgh-area lawmaker is now the fourth GOP challenger to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, who's seeking a second term.

The field also includes conservative Republican state Senator Scott Wagner, lawyer Laura Ellsworth, and former health care systems consultant Paul Mango.

Turzai has served in the House since 2001, and became speaker two years ago.

House
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- Along with electing a number of judges Tuesday night, Pennsylvania voters agreed to a ballot measure that will amend the constitution to let municipalities stop charging property taxes.

It's a step forward in an ongoing fight to lower the commonwealth's controversial, high property tax rates.

But it's not likely to have a practical impact anytime soon.

Under previous constitutional language, local governments could only exempt up to 50 percent of their median home value from property taxes.

Now, they can technically exempt all homeowners.

A group of Dauphin County Democrats gathered in Harrisburg to watch election returns come in.
Katie Meyer / WITF

(Harrisburg) -- Tuesday night saw some big wins for Democrats around the country--but Pennsylvania's elections were mostly lower-profile, and ended with more of a political mixed bag.

Onlookers in the commonwealth say they're already ahead looking to 2018.

The commonwealth's top-of-the-ticket race was for a term on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, between Republican interim justice Sallie Mundy and Democratic family court judge Dwayne Woodruff, who's also a former Pittsburgh Steeler.

Mundy, who outstripped Woodruff in fundraising and endorsements, won the seat.

PA politicians around a table
Katie Meyer / WITF

(Harrisburg) -- The state House of Representatives has narrowly voted to move a budget plan built largely on one-time fund transfers.

Although it represents the first action on the overdue budget in well over a month, it’s unclear how much it’ll move the needle toward a resolution.

The Senate and the administration of Governor Tom Wolf both support a very different plan that raises several taxes—something the House majority wants to avoid completely.

House Republican Leader Dave Reed speaks to reporters after Wolf's announcement that he'll let the unbalanced budget pass.
Katie Meyer / WITF

(Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf has allowed an incomplete state budget to become law without his signature after a marathon negotiating session yielded no agreements between his administration and GOP leaders.

Talks broke down over a few hundred million dollars of revenue out of the $32 billion spending plan.

Nearly $30 billion of the 2017-18 package is already accounted for. It's the remaining $2 billion or so that's causing lawmakers a headache.

Harrisburg capitol building with an American flag in the foreground.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

You can tell it’s budget week in Pennsylvania because, on any given day, you’ll find the Capitol packed with lobbyists and advocates from around the commonwealth, pushing for a piece of the pie.

They mill around the rotunda, waiting for news from lawmakers deliberating in chambers upstairs.

This year, there’s been precious little information getting out.

Harrisburg capitol building.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

State budgets have two basic parts: one outlines how much government will spend on its programs and expenses, and the other details where lawmakers are getting the money to pay for it.

Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature compromised on a $31.5 billion spending plan, and then took two more weeks to come up with a revenue framework to fit it.

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf let it become law without his signature, declaring at the time that “our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.”

Harrisburg Capitol building.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

State lawmakers have made no secret of the fact that next fiscal year’s state budget, which is due Friday, will be a hard one to enact.

The commonwealth’s contending with a roughly $3 billion structural deficit, and its reserves are tapped out. It’s also facing skyrocketing pension and human services costs, and for the last year, it’s been relying on a line of credit from the Pennsylvania Treasury to pay off immediate expenses.

So how did we get here?

Many of these fiscal issues can be traced back to the 2008 housing market crash.

photo: AP

(Harrisburg) -- Thanks to months of behind-the-scenes negotiation, a significant pension bill is on a fast track through the state legislature.
It easily passed the Senate Monday, though even its supporters acknowledge that it doesn't come close to fully fixing Pennsylvania's pension woes.
The commonwealth is carrying about $70 billion in unpaid pension debts, and the costs of paying it off have put significant strain on the state's budget, as well as school districts' spending plans.

photo: AP

(Harrisburg) -- State senators gathered in the Capitol on Sunday evening to move a bill that’s been dogging the legislature for the last four years, in various forms.

It would rework the structure of the state’s two heavily indebted public pension systems, a change the bill’s supporters say mitigates risk to taxpayers.

However, the proposal does little to reduce the state’s massive pension debt.

Like several previous GOP pension proposals, it would shift the state’s retirement plan to a three-tiered 401-k-style system—effectively reducing benefits for new hires.

Graham Spanier walking up courthouse stairs, surrounded by TV cameras
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- After over 6 hours of discussion and several questions to the judge, the jury in former Penn State President Graham Spanier’s child endangerment case ended its first day of deliberation without a verdict.

They’re deciding if Spanier knowingly endangered children when he and colleagues failed to report football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children to authorities.

The 12 men and women are reconvening Friday morning. Judge John Boccabella has said he aims to have a decision before the weekend.

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier surrounded by reporters
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- In the Dauphin County Courthouse, the child endangerment case against former Penn State President Graham Spanier is entering its second phase. The prosecution has rested, and now it’s the defense’s turn.

The case will resume Thursday, although it’s unclear who Spanier’s lawyers plan to call and whether the defendant himself will speak. 

The information presented over the last two days has spanned nearly two decades, beginning with Penn State’s first child abuse investigation of Sandusky in 1998.

Tim Curley
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) – The primary witnesses for the prosecution are testifying Wednesday in the child endangerment trial of former Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Spanier’s charged with failing to act aggressively enough to prevent football coach Jerry Sandusky from serially abusing young boys.

One of those witnesses—former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley—handled the case alongside Spanier, and has already said he wishes he did more.

Graham Spanier walking up courthouse stairs, surrounded by TV cameras
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) – Both the prosecution and defense have begun laying out their arguments in day two of the trial of Graham Spanier—the former Penn State president whose tenure included the years assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky serially abused young children.

The case being set up revolves around whether Spanier’s decision not to inform child protective services of Sandusky’s abuse was criminal—or just a bad judgment call.

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier surrounded by reporters
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- There’s just one criminal trial left in court related to the child sex abuse case that has surrounded former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky since 2011.

It's the trial of former Penn State President Graham Spanier, who is charged with handling the abuse improperly. 

When allegations that Sandusky was abusing young boys surfaced in 2001, Spanier and others didn't report it to authorities, opting instead to handle it as an internal matter.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

 

For months now, Governor Tom Wolf has been promising a radical departure in his budget proposal for next fiscal year.

On some counts, he delivered on Tuesday.

Gone from Wolf's plan are the broad-based taxes the Democrat attempted to pass in his last two budgets. Instead, the proposal is balanced largely on a little more than $2 billion in efficiency savings.

"Harrisburg," Wolf said in his address at a joint legislative session," has been living beyond its means. Households can't do that, and neither can we."

Kane in handcuffs with police
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- On a fall morning at Widener University in Harrisburg, Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican John Rafferty were trying to make the case for why they should be elected as the commonwealth's new Attorney General.

Both touted their experience, integrity, and commitment to the office. Both listed plans for their tenure--Shapiro wants to hire a diversity officer, for instance; Rafferty advocates creating more specialized units, like one for animal abuse.

And again and again, both returned to a now-familiar refrain: "I'm not like Kathleen Kane."

Torsella and Voit head shots
Photos by AP and via voitforpatreasurer.com

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania's seen some big spending in its political races this election cycle.

Its US Senate race is the most expensive in the country, out-of-state money has poured into its Attorney General race, and millions have been sunk into presidential ads around the commonwealth.

But there's only one contest where the amount of money involved is in the hundred billions: state Treasurer.

The winner of that office will manage all of Pennsylvania's assets and investments, contend with the commonwealth's debts, and inherit an office marked by corruption.

Toomey and McGinty at debate
AP Photo / Matt Rourke

GOP incumbent Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty met in Philadelphia Monday night for a second and final debate.

With two weeks to go until Election Day, the candidates in the country’s most expensive US Senate race are within two points of one another in an average of recent polls.

Tension between the two was high onstage at Temple University.

Amish in front of trucks full of hay.
Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

With Election Day less than two months away, the Trump campaign is doubling down its efforts in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth is on the short list of states the Republican has to win in order to clinch the election.

Trump’s currently lagging in state polls, though the margin may be shrinking. But his campaign is hoping turning out more people who don’t vote regularly may help him out.

One pro-Trump PAC is taking that idea to the extreme. It’s targeting a voting group that doesn’t even use the internet—the Amish.

So, who are these voters?

Gov. Tom Wolf
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Governor Tom Wolf is saying he thinks more can be done to cut down on marijuana arrests in Pennsylvania.

In an interview on WITF’s Smart Talk, Wolf said in some municipalities, decriminalization is already underway. He noted that prosecutors are using their discretion to downgrade punishments for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

However, the governor said more “systematic” action still needs to be taken.

head shots of John Rafferty and Josh Shapiro
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

It’s been a bumpy few weeks for leadership in the state Attorney General’s office.

Kathleen Kane resigned, and her first deputy Bruce Castor has taken over. But Governor Tom Wolf has nominated his inspector general to the position.

The candidates for the November AG election are taking pains to distance themselves from the tumult.

Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican John Rafferty both independently called the Kane scandal a “sad chapter” for the state.

Pages