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

Meek Mill-inspired probation bill has its critics

Plus, how to help Broad Street Market.

The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Bad to worse, austerity plans, tax status, data decision, RTK win, bar tabs, and how to help Broad Street Market. Thanks for checking in.

A bill intended to reform Pennsylvania's outdated probation system and "give people a better pathway out" is on the move, but critics say it fails to go far enough and could actually make matters worse.

The legislation, the latest in a yearslong reform push initiated after rapper Meek Mill's case drew national attention in 2018, would mandate courts tailor probation to individual circumstances. Supporters say it would also direct judges to keep people out of jail for small infractions.

But opponents, including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, say the exceptions are too broad and the "faux reform" bill's impact too limited.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Why some say an effort to fix Pa.’s outdated probation law does more harm than good.

THE CONTEXT: Critics of Senate Bill 838 have also raised constitutional concerns with its separate category of “administrative probation” for people who have met the terms of their probation but still owe restitution.

The new category intends to lessen burdensome check-ins with officials, but ACLU Legislative Director Liz Randol said it could violate a constitutional ban on punishments based solely on unpaid restitution or court debts.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled state Senate last month and is ready for a vote whenever the Democratic-controlled state House returns to session. If it passes the lower chamber, it must return to the state Senate for another vote before going to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro for final approval.


"I am doing more than enough. It’s just that I’m not making enough."

Tydricka Lewis of North Carolina, who received cash from a guaranteed basic income program, the kind Philly is set to use to address systemic racism; elsewhere, the city's Poverty Action Plan is sputtering three years later
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania: The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now to Spotlight PA.
» What you need to know about the Pa. budget impasse, via Inky (paywall)

» Pittman presses House Dems on budget-related bills, via @marley_parish

» Bipartisan recreational pot bill would cap potency, via pamenus.com

» Trans people in Pa. struggle with name rules, via Courier Times (paywall)

» Pa. Dem floats state protections for pregnant workers, via Capital-Star

» State rep. wants to ban "legislative plagiarism," via @StephenJ_Caruso

» Fla. alum tapped to deliver a Dem-controlled Pa. Senate, via PoliticsPA

» David McCormick's financial ties to the Saudi government, via HuffPost

A heart-shaped rock along the Clarion River, courtesy of @samanthasearsmusic. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A closeup of a large heart-shaped rock on a riverbank.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MONEY PROBLEMS: Pennsylvania schools are preparing for the worst amid a state budget impasse that could imperil vital funding into the fall. While the state Senate preps for ancillary budget work, the chamber's GOP leaders — who need to sign off on a deal — have no plans to return to Harrisburg until September, leaving some districts eyeing cash reserves or loans to cover costs, LNP (paywall) reports.
  • RELATED: Fresh off the high of a successful I-95 rebuild, Gov. Shapiro hits a budget low, via The Inquirer (paywall)
  • Pa. House has set its next voting session day for Sept. 26, which is roughly 11 weeks from now, via @marley_parish
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.'WARNING SHOT': When Pottstown Hospital was made a nonprofit in 2018, the local school district sued over a resulting tax revenue hit, leading to a favorable court ruling some called "a warning shot" for the nonprofit hospital industry writ large. Now, Pottstown's story is the anchor of a new KFF Health News piece on similar scrutiny of major tax breaks for monied nonprofit hospital systems nationwide.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.VOLUNTARY INFO: A Pennsylvania agency dedicated to improving health care here has decided it won’t try to force hospitals to provide information on injuries and deaths of newborns. PennLive (paywall) reports the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority recently voted 6-2 to make the sharing of such data optional on the heels of a surge in reports of unexpected injuries or deaths of newborns in 2022.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.AUTOPSY REPORTS: A legal victory for a Pittsburgh news outlet means autopsies on deaths that occur in Allegheny County Jail custody, documents long kept hidden from the public, must be released. The reports were already public in much of the state, but not Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties, prompting a now-successful legal appeal by the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CORNER BARS: A Philly Mag piece published over the weekend reports Pennsylvania's antiquated liquor laws and increasing competition have driven the price of a liquor license to never-before-seen highs — from $30,000 at the turn of the millennium to more than $200,000 just before the pandemic. That's cost-prohibitive for many, and some say a surefire way to hasten the demise of the neighborhood dive.
Investigative journalism that gets results: Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

MARKET AID: Ways to help after Monday's devastating fire at Harrisburg's historic Broad Street Market: There's a GoFundMe for workers, a donation portal for the market itself, and the market's Stone Building — unaffected by the blaze — will be open for business tomorrow through Saturday

PA MANHUNT: The manhunt for Michael Burham continued in northern Pennsylvania Tuesday after his escape from Warren County Jail last week. Officials are also focused on how he managed the breakout.

PHILLY PHLUSH: Philadelphia unveiled one of its new public toilets, named the Philly Phlush, on Tuesday and Inquirer scribe Stephanie Farr said it was clogged almost immediately: "This was great, for like an hour."

ECON EXITS: Axios, citing reporting by Bloomberg, says the U.S. economic center of gravity is shifting away from states like Pennsylvania and toward the south in what it calls a "$100 billion wealth migration."

CAPSTONE GIFT: The gifting of Lancaster news outlet LNP to Harrisburg public radio station WITF is officially complete, creating "a first-of-its-kind" combo in a rural-suburban region of the United States.

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. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Malfeasance

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Stacy S., Susan D., Barbara F., Becky C., Elaine C., Ronnee G., Daniel M., Susan N.-Z., Jon W., Dan A., Don H., Dennis M., Eric F., Daniel S., Nancy S., Kim C., David W., Karen W., Elizabeth W., Jane R., Doug W., Ben P., Tom M., Eddy Z., and William Z.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Support it with a tax-deductible gift.

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
PO Box 11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.

This email was sent to: <<Email Address>>

Receiving too many emails from Spotlight PA?

To change your newsletter subscriptions and frequency, you can update your preferences.

To stop receiving fundraising messages, you can update your preferences and select "Opt out of Fundraising."

To stop receiving ALL EMAILS from Spotlight PA, including all of our investigations and newsletters, you can completely unsubscribe here.