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|Today: Medical debt, server mishap, investigation reveal, pollution limitation, impersonation texts, a supernatural pub, and dancing through the decades.
Up to $400 million in medical debt held by Pennsylvanians would be cleared under Gov. Josh Shapiro's new budget proposal, with relief targeted at the state’s poorest and most underwater residents.
The Democrat’s pitch calls for $4 million in taxpayer money to be used to buy up obligations accrued by people who couldn’t afford necessary care such as MRIs and ambulance trips, and to forgive those unpaid bills.
Such debt, Shapiro said in his Tuesday speech before the Pennsylvania General Assembly, is “an anchor holding those families and communities back.”
Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. could wipe out up to $400M in medical debt under proposal from Gov. Josh Shapiro.
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“You are investing in the people of Philadelphia, you’re investing in people of southeastern Pennsylvania, and you’re investing in all of Pennsylvania.”
—State Rep. Joe Hohenstein (D., Philadelphia) on the statewide benefits of funding SEPTA as proposed by Gov. Josh Shapiro.
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|FEW ANSWERS: A Pennsylvania Senate panel sought information from the Shapiro administration this week about the accidental deletion of records from state servers but got few answers. The head of the Office of Administration said the agency did not want to disclose details for cybersecurity reasons, PennLive reports. As Spotlight PA previously reported, data belonging to two state agencies, including the State Police, was deleted in an incident officials blamed on "human error."
DERAILMENT FINDINGS: Federal investigators will release the cause of last year's train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border, at a hearing this June, the AP reports. The National Transportation Safety Board, which will approve the findings, said in its preliminary report the incident was likely caused by an overheating bearing on one of the railcars. President Joe Biden plans to meet with residents impacted by the derailment this month.
AIR REGULATION: Federal regulators have finalized a new rule aimed at cutting soot pollution, the first time in over a decade that the EPA has tightened such standards. Parts of Allegheny County do not meet the stricter limits — which states will have years to comply with — because of major particle pollution from emitters like U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, WESA reports.
AI FUTURE: Pennsylvania’s attorney general was one of several officials who sent a warning letter to a company that is allegedly using artificial intelligence to impersonate politicians and provide inaccurate information about future elections, WTAJ reports. AI was the topic of a legislative policy meeting held Thursday that featured testimony from experts including … ChatGPT itself.
FIRE INVESTIGATION: Delaware County’s district attorney warned residents to brace for tragic news as investigators searched for at least six people who are unaccounted for after a fire in East Lansdowne. Fox29 reports that law enforcement was met with gunfire when responding to a call claiming a young girl had been shot inside the home, which caught fire; it’s unclear what caused the blaze.
|PREZ SEARCH: PennWest University has finalized its 25-member search committee to find a successor to founding president Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, who stepped down last February.
MIRACLE MYSTERY: A Lehigh Valley pub owner is crediting a supernatural figure for saving his restaurant from burning down, via LehighValleyNews.com.
EAGLES ELEMENTARY: Hit sitcom Abbott Elementary had a star-studded season three premiere Wednesday with three Philadelphia Eagles players including quarterback Jalen Hurts making a guest appearance.
DANCING DECADES: These older Pittsburghers are not letting their age stop them from having a good time and holding social dances, City Paper reports.
EX REPELLANT: Philly-area shelters are offering Valentine-themed promotions for people looking to get back at their exes, Billy Penn reports.
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