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Hopefuls smelling the death of Rep. Jeff Habay's career

| Sunday, April 17, 2005

State Rep. Jeff Habay's body isn't even cold, and already people appear ready to step over it to try to grab the embattled Shaler Republican's House seat.

Word in North Hills GOP circles is that the growing list of people eagerly anticipating Habay's resignation or House expulsion should he fail to resolve his numerous legal difficulties includes:

  • Tripp Oliver, a one-time aide to former Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey.

  • Mike Dolan, the former political director of the county GOP committee.

  • Amy Bianconi, a Hampton political consultant.

  • Dan Anderson , a former state representative and current Indiana Township manager.

    Any of these four also could end up challenging the favorable-publicity-challenged Habay next year even if he is not convicted.

    Habay recently pleaded not guilty to a 21-count criminal complaint filed by the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office. It is alleged he harassed political foes and lied to police about one of them sending him an envelope containing a suspicious white powder.

    Last spring, the state Ethics Commission determined that he had used state-paid workers for political purposes. Habay agreed to repay the state nearly $13,000.

    Habay is awaiting trial June 8 on theft of services and conflict of interest charges filed by the state Attorney General's Office.

    SAVRAN TO C-SPAN• We're not saying it's going to happen. Cooler heads may prevail. But a group of people close to Pittsburgh sportscaster Stan Savran are attempting to persuade him to run for Congress.

    No word yet on whether Savran is seriously considering a challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair in the 18th Congressional District. But since Murphy isn't up for re-election until next year, Savran can spend several months mulling his options.

    Savran has been a fixture on the local sports scene for more than 30 years. He currently hosts a weekday talk show on WBGG-AM 970 and the FSN's Pittsburgh affiliate.

    If Savran does decide to run, we wonder if that will spur his ultracompetitive AM-radio talk show rival, WEAE-AM's Mark Madden, to perhaps challenge Sen. Rick Santorum next year. Hey, with former Steelers hall-of-famer Lynn Swann all but in the 2006 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, stranger things have happened.

    LOSING THE VEGAN VOTE. Speaking of Swann, the all-but-declared Republican candidate for governor took a beating in the "Carrot & Stick" section of the Vegetarian Times.

    The periodical gave Swann the stick for an appearance he made in January on behalf of the National Automatic Merchandising Association -- the people who put junk food in vending machines.

    Swann was criticized because he happens to chair the President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports -- and because the appearance came the day after the federal government issued new calorie-conscious dietary guidelines.

    NOT A CLASSY MOVE. Allegheny County's House delegation was furious last week over legislation requiring Pittsburgh to perform an impact study if it seeks to close any more fire stations.

    So they made darn certain Scranton won't have to perform such studies.

    Say what?

    Here's how it happened. The House was considering legislation mandating the studies in the state's only first-class city, Philadelphia; the only second-class city, Pittsburgh; and the only second-class A city, Scranton; and third-class cities.

    Democrat representatives Dan Frankel of Squirrel Hill and Jake Wheatley of the Hill District were among those strongly objecting to Pittsburgh's inclusion in that requirement. They apparently felt the city's two financial oversight panels could reasonably determine whether the future station closings are justified.

    After much back-and-forth, the bill's sponsors agreed to delete Pittsburgh from the legislation which then was approved without incident. Only after the bill was sent to the Senate for consideration did House members realize the wrong city had been excised.

    Instead of deleting second-class city Pittsburgh from the legislation, someone had accidentally excised second-class city A, Scranton.

    Which means Pittsburgh still has to perform a comprehensive impact study if it wants to shutter more fire stations, but Scranton does not.

    HIDDEN AGENDA. Let's hope the state gambling commission doesn't run casinos across the state as loosely as it runs its own board meetings.

    At last week's commission meeting, no agenda was available until after the meeting began. That's been the case for every commission meeting thus far except one, when a flack for the panel released one at 5 p.m. the day before -- after being badgered by a reporter.

    Spokesman Nick Hays says the board is often deciding which items to place on the agenda until minutes before the meeting begins. The members want the agenda to be as complete as possible, he said.

    And if keeping the public and the media in the dark before meetings is the price to be paid for such thoroughness, it's a price the gambling board obviously is more than willing to pay.

    MAKING WAVES . Westmoreland County Republican Committee Chairman Perry Christopher is as shocked as anyone that his name appears among a purported list of the worst county party chairs in the state.

    After all, Christopher eloquently pointed out, President George W. Bush carried Westmoreland last fall in spite of a 3-to-1 Democrat registration edge, and Republican Bob Regola unseated veteran state Sen. Allen Kukovich , a Manor Democrat, during the first few months of his watch.

    "And I haven't even been in office one year yet. No one in office for less than a year can be deemed best or worst of anything," Christopher said.

    But the Web site was unforgiving on Christopher's leadership.

    "Less than a year into the Chairmanship, Christopher has allowed significant gains for Westmoreland County Democrats. Christopher didn't have a lot to do with State Senator Kukovich's surprise defeat, but he should have," the political insider Web site said.

    It concluded with the caveat: "He's not a bad guy, just a bad chairman."

    Christopher, who was the only western Pennsylvania chairman to make the list, added that no one should take the writing seriously because the author is anonymous.

    "I think it's a baseless claim," Christopher said. "As for me personally, I do not take much stock in anonymous attacks. One person's anonymous ranking is essentially meaningless. Time will winnow out the truth."

    BEER HEAVEN? Pennsylvania is No. 2, according to a recently released poll by the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade and education association for small and craft brewers.

    The Colorado-based organization reported that the Keystone State has five breweries among the top 50 beer producers in the United States. The state trails only California, which has six. However, the rankings also reveal that four of Pennsylvania's breweries rank among the top 20 suds producers while only one from California made that elite list.

    Pennsylvania breweries and their ranking are D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc., of Pottsville, at No. 6; Latrobe Brewing Co., the maker of Rolling Rock Beer, at No. 9; Pittsburgh Brewing Co., the maker of Iron City, at No. 11; Lion Brewery Co., of Wilkes-Barre, at No. 17 and Straub Brewery, of St. Marys, at No. 45.

    The only California brewery to crack the top 20 is Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico, Calif., at No. 10.

    The association reported there are more than 1,400 breweries operating in the country, where the top brewer is giant Anheuser-Busch Inc., of St. Louis.

    GOVERNMENT MANDATE. The huge federal omnibus appropriations bill approved last December includes a little-publicized provision that will impact every public school beginning next fall, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

    The provision requires each school to teach students about the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, which has been designated Constitution Day, to commemorate the signing of the document on that date in 1787. The special provision calls for "every educational institution that receives federal funds to hold an educational program on the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17 for its students," according to the association.

    The U.S. Department of Education is currently developing rules to ensure schools comply with the measure, including developing sanctions for those that don't comply, according to the PSBA bulletin, "School Leader News."

    We wonder what happened to teaching the Constitution as part of the U.S. history curriculum?

    -- compiled by Tribune-Review staff

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