Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Pa. State Police will escape budget scrutiny


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
February 17, 2021
Budget hearings, vaccine delays, speaking out, political brothers, another special, foreclosure ban, and remembering "Teenie" Harris. It's Wednesday.

Budget hearings got underway in Harrisburg yesterday, with plenty of scrutiny on the governor's seventh and penultimate budget proposal.

One agency that will be excluded from the annual transparency exercise? The Pennsylvania State Police, Spotlight PA reports, shielding the department from lawmakers who have used the forum in the past to question officials and hold them accountable. It's an especially glaring departure in a year marked by growing calls for police accountability and reform. 

“To not have them come before us during this critical time in our country and state is a missed opportunity,” said state Rep. Donna Bullock (D., Philadelphia), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and is chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

THE CONTEXT: Neal Lesher, spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee, called the police budget straightforward and said the decision not to hold a hearing was in the interest of saving time. 

But state police funding streams — including the Motor License Fund that covers costs and salaries and a coverage fee proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf — remain the subject of much debate in Harrisburg, with plenty of questions still unanswered and the agency facing chronic funding issues exacerbated by the dissolution of small, municipal departments. 

Meanwhile, Wolf's proposed income tax hike on higher-bracket earners — one meant to shore up funding for public schools and offset deep pandemic revenue losses — is drawing plenty of pushback from Republicans who question the constitutionality and wisdom of the plan, per the Associated Press. Democrats, on the other hand, argue there's no time to waste. 

» If you learned something from today's edition, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can tomorrow.


“Other than racism, what was it that made them not to come to us? It can’t be qualification. It can’t be our inability to respond to the application."

—Voffee Jabateh, CEO and executive director of the African Cultural Alliance of North America, on Philadelphia's failure to enlist racial equity groups in its COVID-19 testing push
VACCINE UPDATE: Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, is adjusting his timeline for ubiquitous vaccine eligibility and availability in the U.S. Fauci recently predicted an "open season" for vaccine distribution would begin by April but now says it's more likely to be May or June. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: A cold morning in Derry Township. Thanks, Robert N., for another shot! Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
RE-TRAUMATIZED: Pa. clergy abuse victims are reeling from the procedural blunder that further delayed their decades-long push for greater legal recourse. “[It] was a real dark wave that came over,” Jay Sefton, who was abused by a Havertown priest in 1985, told WHYY. Spotlight PA first reported on the fallout from the bungled rollout of a ballot question that could have seen litigation restrictions loosened in such cases. 
IN THE FAMILY: Montgomery County Commissioner and Trump loyalist Joe Gale plans to seek the Republican Party's nod for governor in 2022, the Capital-Star reports, making him the first candidate from either major party to declare. Gale, whose comments about the Black Lives Matter movement led to calls for his ouster last year, expects to be joined on Republican primary ballots by his younger brother, Sean, who plans to run for outgoing U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's seat.

THE SPECIAL: Lackawanna County-based Democrat John Blake will resign his state Senate seat to join U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright’s staff, setting up a special election in the process, the Times-Tribune reports. The special election will likely coincide with the May 18 primary, that is unless the primary is delayed because of this year's census slowdown, a possibility highlighted by Spotlight PA earlier this week.

LONGSHOTS: LancasterOnline contacted all 18 of the county's EMS companies and found only around half of first responders there have received or plan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite their public-facing jobs, there is no policy in place requiring they do so. It's a similar story in Allegheny County, where WESA found numbers hard to pin down and officials calling vaccinations a "personal decision and a personnel matter." 

FORECLOSURE BAN: A nationwide ban on housing foreclosures has been extended to June 30 by President Joe Biden, NBC News reports, with The White House citing an estimated 10 million Americans who are currently behind on their mortgage payments. A federal moratorium on evictions of tenants who’ve fallen behind on rent is still set to expire on March 31. 
CLOSEUP: Pittsburgh Courier photographer Charles "Teenie" Harris produced likely the most definitive visual account of the Black experience in 20th-century Pittsburgh. The Post-Gazette has an enthralling remembrance, as told by a handful of his many subjects.

GOOD DESIGN: A new approach to architecture is taking root at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University, with students learning a more holistic and community-centric approach to planning, and when to ask "what" and "why" instead of "how."

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED: Alfredo Carrion Jr. spent years trying to find the owners of 70-year-old love letters from a U.S. soldier stationed in Germany that Carrion discovered while cleaning out his Lancaster attic. Then he turned to Facebook for help: "What I couldn't do in 15 years was done in less than two hours."

MR. FREEZE: A man-made, 25-foot ice tree in Lehigh County is the work of Schnecksville resident TJ Stellar, who told WFMZ the painstaking craft is a family tradition, passed down from his great-grandfather, that actually began as a protest against a new local water tax

HELLO, CLARICE: The serial killer's house from "Silence of the Lambs" is now a real-life bed and breakfast. The new owner of Buffalo Bill's Fayette County home is hosting a contest to choose who will be the first to spend the night. Lotion will be provided.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Expeditious 

Congrats to our daily winners: Bob R., Theresa T., Jill G., Dixie S., Sharon K., Craig W., Neal W., Craig E., Mary Ellen T., Sandra G., Beth T., Thomas B., Susan D., David I., Dan E., John C., Art W., Theodore W., Bruce B., Rick K., Irene R., Mark O., Stephanie J., Neil G., Joel S., George S., John H., Kim C., Gail H., Carolyn T., Patricia M., Ron P., Chris W., Patricia R., Karen W., William F., Debbie D., Keith F., Carol D., Jill A-S., Cheryl F., Heidi B., Sherri A., Steve D., Jessica K., Lex M., Lucille M., Hugh B., David W., Jimmy N., Christine M., Tish M., Kathy W., Jill K., Suzanne S., George S., Rita B., Mary Ann M., Bill C., Chris M., Becky C., Anna T., Sue B., Donna W., Lance L., Tracey B., John A., Daniel M., Cathy S., and Fred O. 
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, which has combined with Spotlight PA to create Pennsylvania's largest statewide newsroom dedicated to accountability journalism.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.