Photo: Clara Ritger
HERSHEY, Pa. -- U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey placed a priority on balancing the budget in a bipartisan fashion at the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania meeting Tuesday.

“We as a collective government are refusing to deal with a completely unsustainable fiscal policy that is courting a financial crisis,” Toomey said.

Earlier this year, Toomey, a Republican, worked with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, to pass a bill that would make it easier for companies to go public. He said in the Senate it is hard to get things done when legislators don't make concessions and work in a bipartisan fashion.

“Now Chuck Schumer and I probably have a hard time agreeing that today is Tuesday,” Toomey said to the laughing crowd. “But nothing’s going to happen in the Senate unless it’s bipartisan.”

Fear not, those worrying over Pa's swing state status. The state may not get much love in recent presidential ad buys -- or appear on most media battleground lists -- but come the end of August the TV bucks should flow out of Mitt Romney's giant war chest.

From Scott Conroy at Real Clear Politics today:

If Romney does capture Pennsylvania in 2012, one line of thinking goes, that result would all but certainly herald a national blowout for the Republican, so why bother investing seriously there when other swing states will make or break a close election?

But Romney strategists envision what they say is a realistic scenario whereby the former Massachusetts governor loses one or two tossup states (where recent demographic shifts have created shaky terrain for a GOP presidential candidate) but more than makes up the difference by pulling off a Pennsylvania upset.

For instance, Romney could negate potential losses in both Nevada and Colorado (whose combined electoral votes total 15) by winning the Keystone State’s 20 electoral votes.

Romney’s commitment to Pennsylvania has been evidenced by his five trips there since May, and campaign strategists say that TV ads might begin after Aug. 29, when the candidate officially becomes the GOP nominee following a roll call vote at the Republican convention in Tampa.

At that moment, Romney’s massive general election war chest will become available for the final two months of the campaign.

Mark your calendars: the state Supreme Court has scheduled a Sept. 13 hearing for the dozen challenges filed against the revised district maps for the state House and Senate

According to the schedule released this morning, the challenges will be heard during the court's session in Philadelphia.

New maps were approved in June after Pennsylvania's top court in January threw out an earlier update to district boundaries, which must be redrawn each decade to account for population shifts.

Earlier protests against the first set of maps -- arguing that mapmakers split too many political subdivisions into separate legislative districts -- drew limited attention during the January court session, but after that historic result, you can expect a closer focus on next month's hearing.

Sorry to inform you, but there is more evidence today of Pa's declining status as a battleground state.

Pennsylvania is not among the six states where the Obama campaign is running its latest ad on Mitt Romney's record on women's rights, according to Politico's Morning Score. (Women voters look to be key in November: the Romney camp has tapped two women governors, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, for key speaking roles at the GOP convention in Tampa; and President Obama has a 20-point edge with women in Wisconsin, helping him greatly in that swing state.)

A conservative nonprofit is passing over Pennsylvania too in a billboard campaign hitting Obama's economic record. It's running in 10 states.

Pittsburgh continues to see some ad spending though. All 4 of the city's broadcast TV stations have now begun loading data from the their public political files onto the FCC's website, and they show the NRCC and the DCCC will duke it out on the airwaves in October, and the Koch brothers' Americans For Prosperity will be on air attacking Obama admin policies from late this month through Labor Day. (We don't have exact numbers as the links are not yet live on KDKA-TV's website.)

It also appears Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith's ads are still running. Bob Casey's first ads of his reelection effort ran over the weekend.

UPDATE: In PA12, Democratic incumbent Mark Critz has reserved about $32K in Pittsburgh airtime from mid-October through the election, and GOP challenger Keith Rothfus has reserved $47K in broadcast spots during the same period. Their district is in the Johnstown/Altoona TV market too but it is not covered by new FCC rules on uploading political files.

There was a whopping $40 million spent on the presidential race across all the battleground states last week. (First Read)

Good morning. A Commonwealth Court judge is due to rule next week on the legal challenge to the state's strict voter ID law. Until then . . .

The P-G's Nikita Lalwani writes that state-issued letters to those possibly facing ID issues are confusing many recipients, even those like Oakmont Democratic party official Paula Calabrese who are well versed in politics:

"I thought it was just a notice sent to everyone saying, 'Don't forget, you need voter ID,' " she said of the letter, which lists valid IDs under the law and explains how to acquire a free PennDOT photo ID. "There was nothing in it to make me think I might be inaccurately registered. And there was nothing that said what I should do next."

The Inquirer does a roundup on challenges to voter ID laws in other states:

In Wisconsin, two judges recently issued injunctions against that state's voter ID law, saying it presented real hurdles to casting a ballot.

Missouri's state Supreme Court struck down the photo ID requirement there. Now the state has a weaker ID law that allows voters to submit utility bills, bank statements, and other documents as identification, without a photo.

Court outcomes have swung so widely that legal experts are wary of predicting how Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson will rule later this month on a challenge to the state's new voter ID law. Simpson heard seven days of testimony that wrapped up Thursday.

"There are both factual and legal differences" from laws and court challenges in other states, said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and author of The Voting Wars, which chronicles the fight over election laws starting with the battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000.

The Pennsylvania case has generated suspense, he added.

"Pennsylvania is the only potential swing state that I'm aware of where the question of whether voter ID laws will be in place is uncertain this close to the election," he said.

In other news the notoriously prickly Pittsburgh City Council looks to be facing some contentious issues when it gets back from its month-long vacation recess, including whether (as Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wishes) the city should get out from under state fiscal oversight. From Joe Smydo:

Citing debt reduction and other financial improvements, Mr. Ravenstahl contends that the city has made enough financial progress to go its own way but hasn't publicly proposed a timetable for doing so.

"We're pleased that council members are working with Mayor Ravenstahl to emerge from state oversight," mayoral spokeswoman Marissa Doyle said in an email last week, adding that Pittsburgh "has rebounded from the brink of bankruptcy to a city with a vibrant and diverse economy, growing for the first time in decades."

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