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Even Santa is feeling effects of Pa. budget delay

Plus, the impact of a court ruling on undated ballots.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Tuesday, November 28, 2023
In today's edition: Feeling the pinch, stop and frisk, undated ballots, long-distance votes, eviction counts, DA complaints, and winter weather.
Nonprofits are caught in the middle of a state budget-related stalemate in Harrisburg and increasingly feeling the financial pinch as they wait for vital funding without knowing when it will come or how much it will be.

The impacted include: a Philadelphia nonprofit that provides wardrobes to low-income people and has had to let go of staff; preschools and community colleges that have taken on debt to pay bills; and a library in the Poconos that has cut back on programming including a visit from Santa.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: How the ongoing state budget impasse is hurting Pennsylvania colleges and libraries.

THE CONTEXT: The funding delay is a direct result of the legislature's failure to adopt code bills that green-light funding within the larger $45 billion budget Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro signed into law in August. 

After a school voucher-inspired dustup, Shapiro enacted the main budget bill while agreeing that it would not authorize spending on several Democratic priorities without the bicameral passage of connected code bills.  

Lawmakers have managed to pass some small code bill items seen as more immediately pressing, but consensus remains elusive on a host of others as eager recipients wait and eye emergency contingencies. Lawmakers aren't due back in Harrisburg until the second week of December.

“I feel like it's all OK for them to [argue over] politics until stuff stops working,” said Ann Shincovich, the library director at the Pocono Mountain Public Library in Monroe County, where Santa's visit was scrapped this year. “In your home, say your parents are fighting with each other. That doesn't mean that they can stop paying the bills. They still need to make it happen.”

"It's nine years, so you start to get used to it. It's like, all of a sudden, where's the money? It's a shock. It was a blow.”

—Kristen Fernitz, director of the Strasburg-Heisler Library, one of two Lancaster County libraries that recently learned West Lampeter Township had quietly cut thousands of dollars in funding almost one year ago
It's #GivingTuesday, one of the most important of the entire year to the future of Spotlight PA. Last year, 200 people contributed more than $13,000 on #GivingTuesday. But today, we must go bigger!

That's why, for a limited time, Spotlight PA's Board of Directors will TRIPLE every gift made in honor of Giving Tuesday.

Support Spotlight PA on Giving Tuesday this Tuesday, November 28.Do your part and lock in your matching dollars now »

Thank you to the 604 people who have given so far during our year-end drive, including Deb C., who said, "I love great, local journalism. You are fantastic!"

Join Deb and make a tax-deductible gift now »

You can also give via PayPal or Venmo, or send a check to: Spotlight PA, PO Box 11728, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728.

Autumn road, via Rob J. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PARKER'S POLICE: Cherelle Parker was elected the next mayor of Philadelphia during a gun violence crisis. But the Trace reports her soon-to-be constituents are divided over Parker's embrace of the controversial police tactic known as stop and frisk to help stem the bloodshed. When Parker's pick for police chief was asked about his stop-and-frisk stance, the Inquirer (paywall) reports Parker intervened
  • RELATED: Kenyatta Johnson to be Philly’s next City Council president a year after corruption acquittal, via the Inquirer (paywall).
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.INSTANT IMPACT: Last week's court ruling ordering Pennsylvania counties to include undated or improperly dated mail ballots in vote tallies is already having an impact. Politico editor and Inquirer alum Jonathan Lai reports this month's Towamencin Township supervisor race is tied after Montco officials added undated ballots to totals there. In Delco, undated ballots will be included in four recounts.
  • RELATED: Mail ballot ruling could affect thousands of ballots in the upcoming 2024 presidential election, via Votebeat.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
LONG DISTANCE: Three Pennsylvania lawmakers cast several votes on state business nearly 8,000 miles from Harrisburg this month. PennLive (paywall) reports state Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R., Montgomery), and Reps. David Rowe (R., Union) and Rob Leadbeter (R., Columbia) were in Taiwan on an economics-focused "legislative leave" that chamber leaders approved under a generous set of related rules.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.EVICTION FILINGS: Looked to as part of the solution to a growing homelessness crisis, SRO (or single room occupancy) housing facilities are ramping up evictions in Pittsburgh, PublicSource reports. The outlet adds: 43 people, currently or recently living in three of the city's SRO facilities, have been subjects of eviction-initiating complaints this year — all brought by the same Florida-based property manager.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DA SCRUTINY: A state disciplinary board has sided with Elk County's former DA, Tom Coppolo, over claims he withheld information that could have benefitted defendants in several cases, one involving a St. Marys man charged with killing his wife, the Bradford Era reports. Further disciplinary review is possible, and a federal civil suit stemming from the St. Marys case goes to court this Thursday.
Support Spotlight PA's vital investigative journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be TRIPLED.

VERMONT ARREST: An arrest has been made after three men of Palestinian descent — one from Pennsylvania — were shot near the University of Vermont over the weekend. VICE News trawled social media accounts linked to the suspect and found "a number of troubling posts."

SNOW DAY: Snow is in the forecast for Pennsylvania today, and while totals are expected to vary, the National Weather Service had this warning for travelers in the north: "If you plan to be driving in the I-80 corridor on Tuesday afternoon, we urge you to stay tuned for forecast updates!"

BEER BUSTS: A spate of craft brewery closures in Pennsylvania has some wondering if the beer bubble is about to burst. The Breweries in PA blog says years after a historic boom: "What goes up must come down."

MUSIC CITY: Country rocker Gram Parsons played Philly shortly before his death in 1973 and the gig can be heard for the first time in 50 years on a new concert album. Also recommended: Grand Theft Parsons.

CREEK CRAWLER: Keith Williams of Lancaster County has perfected the art of creek snorkeling and told the Bay Journal: "The diversity, the beauty rivaled the things I saw in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia."

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.

Yesterday's answer: Laggardly

Congrats to our daily winners: Kim C., Marty M., Richard A., Barbara F., Kimberly D., Don H., Stacy S., Jon W., Vicki U., John P., Elaine C., Stanley J., William Z., Judith D., James B., Susan N.-Z., Craig E., Wendy A., Alan B., Daniel S., and Jeffrey F.
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