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3 ways Shapiro's budget would change public health

Plus, a special election with Pa. House control on the line.

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Monday, May 8, 2023

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In today's edition: Budget breakdown, J6 sentence, majority watch, PSU promises, Carluccio claim, dueling bids, and a pasta mystery solved.

Pandemic-era public health shortcomings, Black maternal mortality rates, and revenue from yet-to-be-legalized recreational cannabis sales in Pennsylvania are all part of Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's inaugural budget ask. 

Lawmakers and the governor have until June 30 to reach a deal.

Read Spotlight PA's full breakdown: Three ways Gov. Shapiro's $44B budget plan would change public health in Pennsylvania.

THE CONTEXT: With gaps in public health infrastructure highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Shapiro's plan would add $1.2 million to the operating budgets of county and municipal health departments, where they exist, and back the creation of a new one in Lackawanna County.

Not everyone is sold: State Rep. Eric Nelson (R., Westmoreland) said his county doesn't have its own health department and he's concerned about a "massive increase" for the small number of localities that do.

Shapiro's budget also calls for $2.3 million to implement recommendations from the Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Committee and establish a Division of Maternal Health in the state's health department.

The number of pregnancy-associated deaths rose in Pennsylvania from 84 in 2013 to 102 in 2018, per a 2020 study, with non-Hispanic Black people disproportionately impacted: They accounted for 14% of Pennsylvania births during that time and 23% of pregnancy-related deaths.

And finally, Shapiro's budget proposes a 20% tax on the wholesale price of adult-use cannabis products, and assumes sales will begin in 2025. That would eventually bring more than $188 million to the state annually, according to his administration's estimates, but legalization of recreational cannabis is far from a given here, even as more neighboring states go for it.


"If what I did today could bring your daughter back, it would be a very easy decision. Nothing that I can do can make you whole."

Delaware Co. Judge Margaret Amoroso to the family of Fanta Bility; Amoroso sentenced police charged in the 8-year-old's shooting death to probation
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

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» How to vote, find your polling place, understand mail ballots

» A guide to vetting candidates for school board, judge, and more

» A guide to the Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» High court candidates with party backing show fundraising edge

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary BY TOMORROW
Support Spotlight PA's trusted, nonpartisan election reporting.
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🏆 TEST YOUR PA IQ: If you think you've been paying attention to the news, we're here to help you prove it: Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: ‘23 MVP, Star Wars pilgrims, cross-party confusion, and Shapiro’s first law.
Oak Hill and the hallowed ground of Gettysburg from above, via Mark M. Have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Open fields, monuments, and a crossroad at Gettysburg.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.J6 SENTENCE: The longest sentence yet for anyone convicted in 2021's violent pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol was handed down to 49-year-old Peter Schwartz last week. Schwartz, a Kentucky resident who was living and working in Pennsylvania at the time of his arrest, was convicted of attacking police officers with their own chemical spray and sentenced to 14 years. Philadelphia Proud Boys leader Zachary Rehl is facing 20 years in a rare and related sedition case.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.HOUSE CONTROL: With control of the state House on the line, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro is weighing in on the May 16 special election for resigned state Rep. Mike Zabel's former Delaware County seat, highlighting the specter of a GOP-led constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion if Democrats lose. Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso says Republicans have shown little interest in advancing the abortion amendment since losing the chamber. Track amendments here.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.STUDENT SUPPORT: Days before graduation, Penn State’s special adviser to the president accused a group of seniors of harming Penn State and spreading misinformation after the students publicly supported a professor of African American Studies who criticized the school, Spotlight PA reports. Michael West publicly resigned as head of the African American Studies department in April and said the administration was undermining the unit and backtracking on promises.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SCOPA SEAT: The Inquirer (paywall) reports Montgomery County Judge Carolyn Carluccio, the likely Republican nominee for an open seat on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, told the Erie County Republican Party two weeks ago that she wants a chance to rework Act 77, the 2019 law that greatly expanded mail voting in Pennsylvania. Carluccio declared the law “bad for the commonwealth” and pointed to unproven “hanky panky” with mail ballots. Meet the high court candidates here.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.BIG DEAL: A records request by The Morning Call (paywall) reveals there were two $5.5 million bidders for a once-in-a-lifetime redevelopment opportunity at the former Allentown State Hospital site. But only one of the companies was helmed by a childhood friend of then-sitting state Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh), who got a bill passed that abandoned competitive bidding and sold it straight to them.

HOAX CASE: Chloe Stein, 23, of Jeannette, has been criminally charged after police say she faked her own disappearance to hide the fact that she had dropped out of college and wasn't about to graduate from Penn State.

PASTA WHODUNIT: Locals say piles of pasta found creekside in New Jersey last week came from a stockpile in a nearby home that's up for sale. NBC10 reports the pasta was not, in fact, cooked before being dumped.

EX-MAGA MAN: Daily Beast (paywall) reports that Mehmet Oz is slowly re-emerging following last year's U.S. Senate loss: "Gone is the MAGA-acolyte partisan. Back is the famous, friendly TV doctor — or at least Oz hopes."

RUNNING HOME: Congratulations to Pittsburgh-area native and North Hills grad Margo Malone for winning the hometown Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday: "My dad was out there, and I saw my sister ..."

TIMES FOUR: The Hansen siblings, quadruplets from Blue Bell in Montgomery County, all graduated from the University of Alabama this weekend. AL.com reports the group has "always done everything together."

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.

Friday's answer: Nonconformist

Congrats to our weekly winner: Tracy S.

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Wendy A., Elaine C., Eric F., Stacy S., Vicki U., Jon W., Becky C., Don H., Kim C., Jane R., Beth T., Susan D., Susan N.-Z., Michelle T., Anne B., Dennis M., Dianne K., Starr B., William Z., Barbara F., Dan A., Craig E., Keith W., David W., Tom M., and Bob C.
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