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Shapiro drops school voucher push for budget deal

Plus, new issues arise in troubled Tioga.

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Thursday, July 6, 2023
Budget update, Tioga trouble, violent Fourth, defense strategy, civil forfeiture, and Beyoncé cancels Pittsburgh show. Thanks for checking in.

The Democratic-controlled state House passed a $45.5 billion budget bill on Wednesday, hours after Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro dropped his push for a private school voucher program that imperiled the deal. 

The process is not over. Bills dictating how most of the $45.5 billion will be spent still need to be hashed out. The House reconvenes at 11 a.m.

And while the lower chamber passed the budget bill with a smattering of GOP support, others in the party were outraged at Shapiro's school voucher about-face: "How do we trust anything anybody says in this body?" asked state Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), the House GOP's chief budget negotiator.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: After Shapiro reverses position on school vouchers, Pa. House passes a budget and Senate cries foul.

THE CONTEXT: The budget bill passed the Republican-controlled state Senate last week with $100 million for a first-of-its-kind private school voucher program in Pennsylvania that teachers unions and public school advocates decried. State House Democrats called it a budget nonstarter.

But Shapiro on Wednesday said he was "unwilling to hold up our entire budget process over this issue" and would line-item veto the contested provision within the larger budget bill to ensure House passage.

Spotlight PA reported earlier in the day that several House Democrats had expressed doubts about any plan that would require them to approve a budget with vouchers and rely on the governor to then eliminate them.

In the end, House Democrats unanimously supported the deal. Republicans in control of the state Senate, meanwhile, say they feel double-crossed by Shapiro on vouchers, meaning this year’s budget drama may not be over.


"It is a shame the governor does not have enough respect and standing within his own party to follow through with his promise."

— Pennsylvania Senate Republicans reacting to Gov. Shapiro's school voucher pivot; lawmakers still need to pass code bills to direct budget spending and the presiding officers of each chamber need to sign off
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» Property tax/rent rebate expansion gets final approval, via Center Square

» Secret to Dems' future lies in western Pa., via The New Republic

» U.S. Sen. Casey has his best fundraising quarter ever, via AP

» McCormick’s PAC gets $1M from Pa.'s richest man, via PoliticsPA

» Driver ID'd in fatal crash on Pa. Capitol grounds, via PennLive

» Pa. House advances solar power school grants bill, via Capital-Star

» Official says GOP sidelined at Canonsburg July 4 parade, via PennLive

The C.W. Bill Young Lock and Dam in Harmar, east of Pittsburgh, on the Allegheny River, via Doug W. Have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.

A vast body of water under hazy skies and enclosed by a concrete wall surrounded by green trees.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.TOWN TROUBLE: Deb Relaford became Tioga's council president in the wake of a scandal touched off by the borough's hiring of the police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in 2014. Relaford promised to get Tioga back on its feet, but Spotlight PA reports she now faces questions about misused funds.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.HOLIDAY HORROR: President Joe Biden renewed calls for a national ban on assault rifles following mass shootings in Philadelphia and cities nationwide over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The Philadelphia shooting left five dead and came after a string of "disturbing messages" posted by the person charged with the killings.Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.FIVE BLOCKS: NPR reports: "A recent study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that children within a five-block-radius of a shooting were more likely to end of up in a hospital emergency room in the weeks after the shooting, with symptoms of mental health problems like anxiety and suicidal thoughts."

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.PENALTY PHASE: Defense lawyers for the convicted Tree of Life gunman say his mental state should preclude him from the death penalty, a punishment Pittsburgh jurors are set to weigh in the ongoing trial. But WESA reports prosecutors and their expert say Bowers' own words and actions undermine his legal team's argument.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CIVIL SEIZURE: The state attorney general’s office is trying to acquire $500,000 in cash and property seized from a Lancaster County man in a police search a local judge ultimately deemed illegal. The AG's office says the valuable are linked to drug dealing and fair game, LNP (paywall) reports. Charges against the man were dropped.
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BUILDING BLAST: No one was hurt when a government storage building in Rapho Township, Lancaster County, exploded on Wednesday. A propane leak is suspected. WGAL has impressive drone footage of the aftermath.

LAKE WORK: Shoreline restoration, conservation, and plastic pollution prevention via drone are a few of the federally funded projects coming to Lake Erie on its Ohio side, Inside Climate News reports.

REVOLUTIONARY BAR: Colonial-era Philly had 101 taverns, or about one bar for every 160 citizens, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. The sole survivor, A Man Full of Trouble, plans to reopen its doors as a bar-seum.

CANCELED CONCERT: Beyoncé broke the souls of Pittsburgh BeyHive members when her pit stop in the Steel City on Aug. 3 at Acrisure Stadium was canceled due to "logistics and scheduling issues," via WTAE.

RARE DISCOVERY: A short and unpublished letter written by former President Abraham Lincoln was discovered in a private Pennsylvania collection and is expected to fetch $85,000 at an upcoming online sale

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.

Tuesday's answer: Autonomous

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Eric F., Susan N.-Z., Susan D., Bob C., Beth T., Jon W., Becky C., Julie K., Stacy S., Craig W., Vicki U., Eddy Z., Elaine C., Don H., Johnny C., James B., Starr B., Jane R., Kim C., Dennis M., Dianne K., Tish M., Dan A., William Z., Daniel M., Stanley J., Doug W., and Elizabeth W.
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