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Wolf's veto tally grows, first-of-its-kind trans sports rule, and an 'unusual victory' for progressives

Plus, weigh in on a government transparency test.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
July 14, 2022
Veto veteran, salary snapshots, gender policy, home improvement, war games, union endorsed, and new state parks are coming. It's Thursday.

The ink is still drying on Pennsylvania's new $45 billion state budget deal, and Gov. Tom Wolf's signature remains in high demand. 

In addition to signing that budget deal into law, Wolf has approved bills in the past week that ban third-party election grants, expand affordable housing incentives, ship $600 million in funding to state-related universities, and one that formally rescinds PennDOT's contested bridge tolling plan.

Capital-Star has the complete list of legislative updates.

Wolf has also used his veto pen in recent days to quash GOP-backed bills dealing with transgender athletes in schools, poll watcher limits, and all-electric building codes, adding to his already notable veto tally.   

THE CONTEXT: Wolf had vetoed 54 bills at the beginning of this year, his final in office, Spotlight PA reported in January. 

The total was higher than Democrat Bob Casey Sr.'s 50 vetoes between 1987 and 1995, but lower than that of Democrat Milton Shapp, who rejected more than 70 bills during his two terms in the governor's office. 

Wolf's veto count grew extensively during the pandemic, illustrating the ideological schism and institutionalized gridlock between the Democrat and the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Veto power is on the minds of Democrats headed into the November election as well. Wolf is term-limited and cannot run again. If the legislature remains under Republican control, a Democratic successor would remain a bulwark against some of the GOP's most contested policy goals.


"By the time I graduated and saw the totals, I was like 'Oh no.' It's a lot of money to agree to pay back when you're 18 years old."

—Sarah Cutshall, 23, one of many indebted graduates of Pennsylvania colleges now awaiting Biden's decision on student loan forgiveness
"A Greek grave relief carving, circa 375-350 B.C., at the Penn Museum," courtesy of @noraodendahlSend us your Pennsylvania photographs, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
PAY PATTERNS: With an eye on transparency, pay equity, and the local government employees earning the greatest shares of taxpayer money, Spotlight PA's new State College Bureau requested 2021 employee salary data from Centre County and its 35 municipalities. The reporting on this data is just getting started, and we want to hear from you: Tell us what you want us to look at as the project continues.

GENDER RULES: Hempfield's school board has approved a policy preventing transgender student athletes from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity. It's believed to be the first such policy adopted by a school board in Pennsylvania and could have statewide implications, LNP reports. Legal action and impacts on federal funding under Title IX, a law banning sex discrimination, could follow.

FIXER-UPPERS: Pennsylvania's new budget bankrolls a blight- and affordability-focused program that offers grants and loans of up to $50,000 to homeowners and landlords for property upgrades. WHYY explains how the Whole Home Repairs Program works and the rare moment of bipartisanship in the state legislature that made it possible, calling it an "unusual victory for progressive Democrats."

REVEAL RULING: A judge says a prominent law firm must turn over internal documents that could shed new light on Pennsylvania's war over unregulated "skill games," the ruling coming in a lawsuit filed by a former client that says the firm improperly worked for interests on both sides of the hot-button issue, PennLive reports. The case has already raised a host of political questions, as Spotlight PA first reported.

FORMAL NOD: Philly's firefighters' union has endorsed Democrat Josh Shapiro for governor, which is notable considering its far-right candidate endorsements in the not-so-distant past. WHYY explains Shapiro backs Act 111, which gives police and firefighters who can't go on strike added binding arbitration rights in return. Shapiro's GOP opponent, Doug Mastriano, meanwhile, is seen as hostile to union interests.
NEW PARKS: Pennsylvania is getting three new state parks thanks to the newly adopted 2022-2023 budget, which includes $56 million in backing for the endeavor. The locations are TBD, but Twitter had some ideas.

MONOPOLY MEDS: A Johnstown medical marijuana grower is laying off dozens of workers and threatening to sue the state for failing to prevent medical marijuana monopolies here, per the Tribune-Democrat.

WHODUNNIT: A months-long mystery in Media — in which strangers' shoes, newspapers, and toys kept piling up at one perplexed home — has been solved, with the foxes responsible caught red-handed, per 6ABC.

STILL WASTED? Philly is recycling again ... or is it? The city says crews are back to actually recycling recyclables after a pandemic pause. But Billy Penn reports some residents say that's not what they're seeing.

SOUND ON: Bars and other purveyors of booze in Pennsylvania can now play music that's audible beyond their property lines under an update to the state's liquor code. Altoona Mirror explains the finer points of the rule.
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: Wedding season

Yesterday's answer: Elopement

Congrats to our daily winners: Mike B., Cindy M., Art W., Mark O., Craig W., Barbara F., Becky C., Patricia M., Jim H., Hugh M., Kim C., Susan D., Don H., John W., Mark C., Doris T., Alice B., Jill M., Bette G., Kimberly D., westmalle, Joe D., Irene R., Al M., Bob T., Ronnee G., Jodi R., Carol Y., Susan R., David S., Deb N., John F., Nancy S., Elaine C., Vicki U., Marilyn G., Kevin M., Jude M., James B., Susan N.-Z., George S., Lynne E., Fred H., Beth T., Ana G., Judy M., Johnny C., Wilson S., Sandy S., Bill S., Cheryl T., Rick A., David W., Karen W., Dianne K., Ruth M., Mary Jo J., Eugene M., Craig E., Moon M., Daniel M., Marsha B., Beth B., Carole W., Jane R., Ted W., John H., Janet C., Judy M., Michelle T., and Sharon P.
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