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Pa.'s budget is officially late. Here's the latest.

Plus, SCOTUS case could reshape Pa. elections.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
July 1, 2022
Officially late, major implications, environmental ruling, budget no-go, toll stop, charges pending, and a long drive for a small coffee. It. Is. Friday.
🇺🇸PROGRAMMING NOTE: We're off for the Fourth of July holiday on Monday but we'll be back in your inboxes first thing Tuesday. 
Pennsylvania's next state budget is officially late.

A new plan must be passed and signed into law each year by June 30 to set spending on everything from education and health care to economic development and public safety for the next 12 months.

But as Spotlight PA reports, talks have been difficult this year due to differing priorities among Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican leaders — despite the state’s multibillion surplus as well as $2.2 billion in remaining federal stimulus money.

THE CONTEXT: There is some agreement among Wolf, Democratic lawmakers, and legislative Republicans.

All sides want to stash some money away for a rainy day. And there also appears to be a consensus to increase education spending — a Wolf priority — in exchange for some items on the GOP's wishlist like banning private donations to help run elections. 

But talks only began in earnest earlier this week, and some major roadblocks remain, like how to fund Pennsylvania's state-related universities — including the University of Pittsburgh, a conservative target over its fetal tissue research

A compromise, however, may be coming soon. The state House and Senate have scheduled voting days for Saturday, and the upper chamber is scheduled to be in Harrisburg on Sunday.

"This is a strong group of people, and we have to stay strong and stand up and push for what we believe and what we know people should have access to."

—Shelby Thayer, a University of Pittsburgh student, on how student leaders in Pennsylvania are responding to the Roe ruling.

» LAW & LOOPHOLE: Join us Thursday, July 7 at 6 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on the limitations of the state's police misconduct database and a discussion on other police accountability efforts. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Raccoons on a morning climb, as seen by Kimberly D. on a morning walk. Send us your Pennsylvania pics, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
FRINGE THEORY: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a fringe legal theory that would concentrate power over election laws in the hands of partisan state lawmakers. GOP officials cited the theory, which asserts that state courts do not have jurisdiction over election policy, after redistricting setbacks in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Spotlight PA explains the potential implications.

NEW LIMITS: On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed broad new limits on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ability to curb greenhouse gas emissions, per CNN. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection criticized the ruling, saying it "undercuts good-faith efforts to fight climate change and protect clean air." The agency vowed to continue pursuing emission checks here.

RGGI TALK: One of those state-level emission checks, the Wolf administration's push to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is a bargaining chip in ongoing budget talks, PennLive reports. GOP state lawmakers who tried and failed to block the plan — which caps power plant emissions — are now asking for a one year delay on its implementation. Wolf is said to be a hard "no" on the ask.

TOLL BLOCK: Commonwealth Court has permanently blocked Gov. Wolf's contested plan to toll as many as nine bridges on interstates in Pennsylvania, the AP reports. The tolls were meant to raise money for upkeep of the bridges as the Wolf administration looks for new and more reliable sources of such funding. It's unclear if PennDOT will appeal. Neither of the candidates running to replace Wolf support the tolls. 

DUI CASE: State Rep. Matt Dowling (R., Fayette) is being charged with DUI following a crash near Uniontown earlier this month. Police say Dowling’s blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit when he rear-ended a car on the afternoon of June 4, per the Herald-Standard. State police said Dowling had his license restored one day before the crash. It had been revoked after a crash in October. 

NOISE COMPLAINTS: In response to complaints about loud consumer fireworks allowed under a 2017 law, the state Senate has approved a bill that would restrict the times of day they can be set off. One senator who voted no said the proposal won't actually fix the issue, per the Capital-Star. 

DINOMITE: TribLIVE explains how a Pittsburgh-based expert helped discover a dinosaur "with a smashed-in, bulldog-like face," small teeth, short arms, and a habit of walking around on its hind legs.

CHEAP FUEL: You've probably been tempted — but also perhaps confused — by cheaper E15 and Unleaded 88 gas. York Daily Record explains what it is and if it's safe to use in your vehicle.

FELINEDELPHIA FREEDOM: According to what we're sure was extremely rigorous research, the ad company Time2play has determined that Pennsylvania is a cat state rather than a dog state. The Inquirer spoke to experts including a cat cafe owner about the finding

TEEN SPIRIT: A group of Pennsylvania teens drove 13 hours from the Pittsburgh area to Iowa in order to redeem a coupon for one small McCafe drink. Per KIMT, they also dressed in suits and brought a tablecloth.

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.

This week's theme: The Great Outdoors
Yesterday's answer: Bushwhacking

Congrats to our daily winners: Ted W., Craig W., Barbara F., Starr B., Becky C., Vicki M., Don H., Susan N.-Z., Diane P., Mark C., Art W., Susan D., Wendy A., Mark O., Karen W., Judith D., Joe D., Elaine C., Bette G., James B., John A., Tish M., Jack F., Lynne E., Chuck M., Michael B., Matt P., Doris T., George S., Dianne K., Eddy Z., Vicki U., Bill S., Daniel M., Patricia M., Al M., Elizabeth W., Mary Jo J., Jane R., Kim C., and David W.
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