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Friday, October 12, 2012

Heads Up: Morning headlines for Oct. 12

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 6:58 AM

Story of the day: Joe Biden brings it in last night's vice-presidential debate. The conventional wisdom is that VP debates never change anyone's mind. But what Democrats needed, after President Obama's disastrous performance last week, was some assurance that their standard bearers were actually going to put up some kind of fight. Biden's toughest sledding was right at the outset of the debate, when moderator Martha Raddatz focused on the embassy attack in Libya. But Paul Ryan's later dithering on Afghanistan was cringe-worthy. And this debate offered a game plan for Obama: The Romney ticket is great at attacking ... because that's all they've got. Also, for the record, after three hours of debate: no questions about climate change. No questions about LGBT issues. One question about abortion -- and that in the context of a discussion of religious belief.

Closer to home ... Depending on who you ask, Democratic Senator Bob Casey either has a 10-point lead over challenger Tom Smith, or a 4-point lead or maybe a 3-point lead. Those last two estimates are from Republican-leaning pollsters, but there's no question this race is tighter than most people expected ... and that Casey sets a standard for listless campaigning that makes Obama's debate performance look positively energetic by comparison.

Our state legislators, ever-alert to the opportunities to fatten the wallets of business, are considering a bill that would let the companies opt out of paying state income tax garnered by new employees. The measure, House Bill 2626, allows employers to pocket the income tax taken from an employee's wages. Supposedly this is goign to encourage job creation, but essentially, you'd be paying your boss for your job. Just like the good old days!

And the best part about legislation like House Bill 2626 is not just that you'd be paying your boss to work -- you're also paying the salaries of the legislators who come up with this stuff. And a new survey of legislative per diem expenses suggests they are putting in hours on weekends to do so. Lawmakers charged us more than $100,000 in weekend expenses last year: Among the biggest recipients are Pittsburgh state reps Dom Costa and Harry Readshaw. A large chunk of he expenses relate to weekend travel, so that representatives can get to Harrisburg the night before a session, and be all bright-eyed for their legislative session. Philadelphia Inquirer codger John Baer is happy to explain why that's a joke.

Legendary college football analyst Beano Cook has died. And Pittsburgh loses another connection to an earlier, more colorful era of outsized characters.

The Busman, WTAE's Bob Mayo, hand-cranks his old blog into operation, with some great business about Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's take on a threatened strike by city paramedics.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley is sued by a mother and daughter who say he owes them $100 for a prize-winning cake. There is nothing not to love about this story.

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