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

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

(Harrisburg) -- Democratic state lawmakers are criticizing the Trump Administration over its proposed plan to restrict Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for certain people.

They say the change amounts to a punishment for the poor. 

Right now, people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—or TANF—are also considered eligible for SNAP.

But the US Department of Agriculture is proposing limiting that eligibility to people who get at least $50 in TANF benefits per month.

In this file photo, Movita Johnson-Harrell was a supervisor of the Philadelphia district attorney's Victim/Witness Services unit. An invocation given before Johnson-Harrell's swearing-in to the state House was broadly construed as Islamophobic.
Tom MacDonald / WHYY

(Harrisburg) -- The state House swore in its first-ever Muslim woman on Monday.

Movita Johnson-Harrell won her Philadelphia seat in a special election earlier this month. A mother and grandmother, she arrived in Harrisburg with 55 guests, more than half of whom she said were fellow Muslims.

But she said her first day in office was marred by an "offensive" invocation before her induction.

An exhibit at the Farm Show aimed at getting non-farmers interested in joining the industry.
Katie Meyer / WITF

(Harrisburg) -- Spend much time at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and you might get a feeling that tradition rules the place.

Families tend their animals together. Men in ten-gallon hats still dominate the buyers in the audience at livestock sales. Many of the handmade goods wouldn't have looked out of place a century or more ago.

But farming is constantly changing.

One way that's happening? Women are finding their own, nontraditional routes into the business.

Katie Meyer / Katie Meyer

 (Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania’s House and Senate swore in their newly-elected members on New Year’s Day and are now gearing up to start a two-year legislative session.

As the Capitol flooded with lawmakers’ friends, families, and supporters, legislative leaders spoke on the floor about their priorities for the new session.

In the Senate, GOP Majority Leader Jake Corman advocated bipartisan efficiency, telling members it
“doesn’t matter what we’re for, doesn’t matter what we want to do. If we don’t get it done, we’ve failed.”

olf and Fetterman, soon after the primary election that made the Braddock mayor the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
Dawn J. Sagert / York Daily Record

When a new legislative session starts in January, embattled lieutenant governor Mike Stack, who lost the Democratic primary, is exiting the Capitol.

Stack's also leaving his state-provided residence. But his replacement, John Fetterman, isn't moving in.

That decision might save the commonwealth a little money. But what's even more important to the new lieutenant governor is how it looks politically.

Former Attorney General Kathleen Kane after her conviction.
Photo by AP

Former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane is likely headed to jail soon.

More than two years ago, Kane was convicted of leaking secret grand jury information and lying about it.

She's been free on bail since then. But now Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has rejected her appeal, and she's out of legal options.

The Montgomery County District Attorney's office has indicated it will ask a judge to revoke Kane's bail on Tuesday.

She'll either be told to report to jail immediately, or will have a date set.

A courtroom sketch depicts Robert Bowers being brought into court via wheelchair on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.
DAVE KLUG / AP

The anti-Semitic gunman who allegedly killed 11 and wounded six others in Pittsburgh this weekend is facing 29 federal charges.

22 of them carry a potential death penalty.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Robert Bowers will be put to death.

Bowers is facing both state and federal charges. It’s unclear when he’ll be arraigned on the state ones, but he already had his first hearing on federal counts.

This combination of October 2017 file photos shows Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf, (left), and Republican Scott Wagner.
(Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

With under a month until the general election, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and his Republican challenger Scott Wagner appear to be locked in an uneven contest.

Their latest financial disclosures show Wolf with $8.9 million on hand to Wagner’s $1.8 million. The incumbent is also leading by almost 17 points in an average of recent independent polls.

And the candidates’ divergent campaign styles are reflecting that divide.

Pennsylvania Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, one of the most prominent voices for reforming Pennsylvania's public defense system, in his office in Montgomery County.
Emma Lee / WHYY

If you hunt hard enough around Harrisburg, it is possible to find lawmakers who are on board with allocating state money for the public defense of the poor.

Possible, but not easy.

One of the most prominent voices on the issue is State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf. The 78-year-old lawmaker, whose Harrisburg tenure dates back nearly four decades, has an issue with Pennsylvania’s system of public defense that is rooted in the U.S. Constitution.

Advocates for changing the statute of limitations for child sex crimes embraced.
Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to hold abusers accountable.

The measure’s fate now rests with the state Senate, whose leaders say they have no intention of passing it without significant changes.

Both chambers agree on the proposal’s basic features.

It would get rid of criminal statute of limitations on all child sex abuse cases and extend the cap for victims to file civil suits against institutions.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018.
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Updated: 5:52 p.m.

A long-awaited grand jury investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania was released Tuesday in an interim, redacted form — detailing decades of alleged misconduct and cover-ups in six of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses.

Updated at 4:33 p.m. ET

A long-awaited grand jury investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania was released Tuesday in an interim redacted form. The report detailed decades of alleged misconduct and cover-ups in six of the state's eight Roman Catholic dioceses.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

 (Harrisburg) -- Efforts to overhaul the state’s redistricting process are faltering.

Earlier this month, the legislature looked like it might be on track to approve a sweeping plan to establish a citizen’s commission to draw the maps — plus change how Pennsylvania elects judges.

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.
Matt Rourke / 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.

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