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Where historic public defense funding is going

Plus, a fringe legal theory returns.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2024
Today: New money, fake electors, campus amnesty, life without parole, abandoned plans, council controversy, and how to live to 101.

For the first time, Pennsylvania has dedicated money to criminal defense for people who can't afford a lawyer. But where will the historic funding go?

Counties have long been the sole funders of public defense, a setup that has resulted in varied quality statewide. A noncompetitive grant program will allow each county to access a formula-based slice of the $6.75 million investment.

Mifflin and Philadelphia are among the counties entitled to the largest maximum awards, $141,720 and $111,973, respectively. Philadelphia spent around $30.20 on criminal defense per person in fiscal year 2019. Mifflin County, in rural central Pennsylvania, spent just $3.20 per person.

Counties have until May 23 to apply. Experts say more state funding will be needed to put public defenders on the same footing as prosecutors offices that have received millions of dollars from the state for years.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: State advisory committee releases plan for historic public defense money.

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"This to me seems like a campaign who’s saying, 'Holy sh--, we've got to get out, and early, and we have to be in front of people.'"

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Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
FRINGE THEORY: Election-related executive orders by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro and President Joe Biden are at the center of a renewed push by Republicans to get the U.S. Supreme Court to endorse a fringe legal theory that would give state legislatures near unchecked power over election rules. 
  • Pennsylvania charges against pro-Trump fake electors unlikely as Arizona makes the move, via USA Today.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
STUDENT PROTESTS: A pro-Palestinian encampment near Pitt's campus was set to be disbanded Monday night after a nearly weeklong protest, per WESA. Protests continue on other campuses in Pennsylvania, including UPenn, where faculty called on administrators to grant amnesty to participating students.
  • Penn journalism professors among dozens calling on The New York Times to review its Oct. 7 reporting, via WaPo.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
AUTOMATIC LIFE: Gov. Shapiro is among those supporting a challenge against mandatory life sentences for second-degree murder now before Pennsylvania's highest court, the Abolitionist Law Center reports. Shapiro says the sentence given to Derek Lee of Allegheny County is unconstitutional. Read his full statement here.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
ON ENCINA: The company behind an abandoned plan to build one of the largest plastic recycling facilities in the U.S. on the banks of the Susquehanna said the site turned out to be too small. But one expert told Inside Climate News the project had three strikes against it: unproven technology, local opposition, and short funding.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
BLOCKED PICK: Philadelphia City Council on Monday withdrew Joyce Wilkerson's school board nomination following opposition from charter school supporters, including Council President Kenyatta Johnson’s charter school-aligned wife, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. But Wilkerson still has a board seat, at least for now.
'PERMANENT SCAR': The Turnpike Commission's plan to cut a "permanent scar" through Allegheny Mountain in Somerset County has attracted a growing coalition of opponents, the Tribune-Democrat reports.

MLB MISTAKE: The Easton-made uniforms behind a Major League Baseball "fiasco" are getting fixed, ESPN reports. The manufacturing company has been absolved by the player's union, but Nike hasn't. 

BACK ON: A canceled May 22 appearance by 30 Rock star and author Maulik Pancholy is back on at Mountain View Middle School in Cumberland County following backlash over the board's "lifestyle"-related decision.

FOR RENT: A cousin to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, Lynn Hall in McKean County is now on Airbnb, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. You can also explore Wright's "unrealized" Pennsylvania projects in D.C.

SECRET SAUCE: The secret to 101-year-old Bryn Mawr resident Anne Foley's longevity? A Manhattan before dinner each night.
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