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Shapiro's first month: Crisis, gridlock, budget prep

Plus, see how your county ranks on voter friendliness.

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Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Thirty days in, voter-friendly, graduation paths, crash clinic, suspect police, dangerous jobs, 'universe breakers,' and the end of a shopping mall.

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The first 30 days of Gov. Josh Shapiro's tenure saw a high-profile rail disaster, a landmark school funding ruling, and zero bills reach his desk.

In a sit-down with The Inquirer, the Democrat discussed the next stretch of his term amid an ongoing push to deliver legal relief for survivors of childhood sex abuse and preparations for his first-ever budget address. 

Shapiro declined to say whether he'll call a special Senate session on the abuse bills, two of which passed the state House last week.

He did say it's unlikely he'll propose a different school funding system in his budget address after a judge ruled the state's current one unconstitutional. Pending any appeal of that ruling, it could take years for the governor and lawmakers to land on a fix, which could cost the state billions.

Read The Inquirer's full (paywalled) report: We sat down with Gov. Josh Shapiro to talk about his first month. Here are our takeaways.

THE CONTEXT: Shapiro will deliver his first budget address on March 7, and while he's withholding details, he confirmed increased access to mental health professionals in Pennsylvania schools will be a part of his plan. 

The Inquirer notes Shapiro's predecessor, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, clashed with lawmakers in the General Assembly over his ideas and it took nearly nine months to pass a budget during his first year in office.

Shapiro said he's building support for his, adding, "You're going to see the things I campaigned on come to life in this budget."

Spotlight PA is tracking Shapiro's biggest campaign promises through budget season and beyond. Learn more about that project here.


"I do not think preparing a (15-year-old) for a murder trial by Skype is appropriate."

—Attorney Ken Noga on juvenile defendants who are being shipped across Pennsylvania by Westmoreland County while awaiting trial

Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all new monthly gifts will be matched 12X!

A 160-year-old photo of Dickinson College janitor Henry Spradley by Charles Himes, via Library of Congress archives for Black History Month. Spradley escaped slavery to Carlisle, fought in the Civil War, and became a community leader. When he died in 1897, the college canceled classes and hosted his memorial. Read more about him here, and see the original photo here.

Henry Spradley is pictured among school and cleaning supplies.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.VOTER SCORECARD: A first-of-its-kind review by Spotlight PA and Votebeat found that where you live in Pennsylvania determines many of the options you have to cast a ballot and ensure it's counted, resulting in vastly unequal access. Use this interactive scorecard to find out how your Pennsylvania county ranks on voter friendliness when it comes to mail voting, in-person voting, and election board transparency. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.NEW ALTERNATIVES: PublicSource reports a law passed four years ago is about to change the way graduation is determined statewide. Act 158 introduced four alternative pathways for graduation that students can take instead of gaining a score of proficient on all three Keystone exams. But some teachers and education advocates question the accessibility given the state's continued school funding challenges

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.OPENING DAY: The Pennsylvania Department of Health is opening a health resource center today for residents living near the toxic train crash in East Palestine, Ohio, KDKA-TV reports. The center is available to residents of Beaver and Lawrence Counties and is set to be open through March 10. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is canvassing East Palestine for symptoms and concerns.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.'PREDATOR IN BLUE': The Inquirer (paywall) reports longtime Philadelphia homicide detective Philip Nordo sexually assaulted witnesses, misdirected funds, and locked up an unknown number of innocent men. Nordo was sentenced to up to 49 years in prison in December by a judge who said the ex-detective "weaponized his power and influence." Listen to a podcast on Nordo here.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CHILD LABOR: A (paywalled) New York Times article on the migrant children working dangerous jobs across the U.S. — "a new economy of exploitation" — includes a reference to Pennsylvania, where one case worker told the paper he went to check on a child released to a man who applied to sponsor 20 other minors, but the boy had vanished. Caseworkers say they rush through sponsor vetting.

CHURCH PROTEST: Protesters say Elk County District Attorney Beau Grove was forced out of his roles at a Ridgway church because he's gay. WJAC reached out to the church and Erie Diocese, but both declined to comment. Grove is running for a full term as DA in May's Republican primary.

END OF AN ERA: After 45 years, the Lycoming Mall locked its doors on Friday for the last time. NorthCentralPa.com gathered reader reactions to the closure; many recall a bustling Pennsdale galleria that's now poised to become a mixed use residential and commercial center. 

LOCAL NEWS: A hedge fund is pressing on with its plan to aquire TV station operator Tegna Inc. — owner of WPMT in Harrisburg and WNEP in Wilkes-Barre — amid FCC scrutiny. In a piece focused on the latter local news station, Morning Call (paywall) reports the potential impacts are unclear.

'UNIVERSE BREAKERS': Penn State professor Joel Leja was part of the study that found apparent mega-galaxies that formed much closer to the Big Bang than our own, adding, "It turns out we found something so unexpected it actually creates problems for science."

CANDY SALE: If you're looking to buy a third-generation candy company, Wertz Candies in Lebanon County is up for sale. Chuck Wertz, one of three sibling owners, told Lebtown there aren't any potential heirs for the business after them, adding, "We want to keep a good thing going."

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 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Exquisite

Congrats to our daily winners: Vicki U., Susan D., Becky C., Michelle T., Kimberly D., Betty B., Ted W., Jodi R., Lisa H., Marty M., Jeanlu R., Susan N.-Z., Daniel M., Karen W., Cindy G., Judy M., Eric F., Mary D., Dana D., Sue B.-W., Don H., Sherri A., Jon W., Beth T., Barbara F., Al M., Elaine C., Mike B., Bill S., Moon M., Jane R., Irene R., Daniel S., Keith W., Rick L., Bette G., Craig W., Joel S., Mark O., Tricia M., Richard A., Bruce B., Judith D., Steve D., Chuck M., Kim C., Stanley J., Adrien M., Elayne B., Tish M., John P., Fred O., Marla C., Ronnee G., Kathee M., Liza Jane B., Nancy S., Starr B., Kathleen K., Mary Jo J., Jerry G ., James L., Jodine M., Michael K., Ada M., Dennis M., Lawrence L., John A., Amy Z., Burnetta S., Dianne K., Kathleen O., Alexander G., John W., Frederick H., Rick A., Myles M., John H., Maryjo S., David W., Virginia P., and Garrett S.
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