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Your guide to fast-approaching Pa. budget deadline

Plus, why John Fetterman voted against the debt deal.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Monday, June 5, 2023
🏆 PA POP QUIZ: Put your news knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: Debt ceiling dealbreaker, Shapiro's secret schedule, and fire in the sky.
On deadline, done debt deal, work requirements, guilty verdict, Tree of Life trial, and a smokestack demolition gets messy. Welcome to the week.  

Budget negotiations are in top gear this month ahead of a June 30 deadline for lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro to reach a spending deal. 

There are points of agreement and contention around Shapiro's $44.4 billion proposal, which calls for $1 billion in new education spendingending transfers of gas tax money to the State Police, and the commonwealth's first-ever investment in public defenders

Read Spotlight PA's explainer: Pa. budget 2023: Your guide to what's on the table, what comes next, and how to follow along.

THE CONTEXT: The next few weeks will see agenda-driven public rallies by interest groups in the Capitol Rotunda, while negotiations will intensify among top lawmakers behind closed doors.

Blowing the June 30 deadline doesn't mean much in the short term, but if an impasse drags on, state funding for everything from schools to domestic violence shelters would be disrupted — as seen in 2015.

Spotlight PA reports it's hard to predict what will happen this year. The state House is under Democratic control for the first time in 12 years, while Shapiro — who ran as a consensus builder — is in his first term.

State Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R., Indiana) has said Republicans in that chamber "are not wed to June 30," adding in April: "Whether it's before June 30, on June 30, or after June 30, our caucus' focus is on making sure it's a responsible product for the taxpayers of this commonwealth."


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The annual contest is a showcase of the best journalism being done across the commonwealth. In addition to winning the Public Service Award for a third straight year, Spotlight PA was also recognized for its coverage of Pennsylvania's broken compassionate release system, the cozy ties between lawmakers and casino lobbyists, and other vital public-interest topics.

Learn more about Spotlight PA's winning entries here.

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"For decades, these companies have known of the dangers and damages these products can inflict on humans, animals, and our natural resources."

Pennsylvania AG Michelle Henry on her complaint filed against DuPont and other manufacturers of PFAS for violating state consumer protection law

A classic car cruising in Pittsburgh. Photo by Cindy P. Submitted by Alyia P. Have a photo to share with the whole state? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

An antique car with a license plate reading "SHERMN" crosses and bridge with a jumble of street signs above.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.DEBT CEILING VOTE: John Fetterman (D., Pa.) was one of four Democratic U.S. senators to vote against the debt ceiling bill that passed both chambers last week, saying, "I won't give Republicans an opening to try and take food from more food insecure Americans." He was referring to new food assistance rules in the debt ceiling bill that President Joe Biden agreed to, blindsiding advocates.Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.WORK RULES: The rules opposed by Fetterman may end up costing, not saving, the government money, per a Congressional Budget Office analysis disputed by Republicans. There were 1.88 million Pennsylvanians using SNAP or food stamp benefits in September. The Inquirer (paywall) says the changes won't take effect for months and states can grant exemptions in areas of high unemployment.
  • RELATED: Work-requirement proponents say the problem is unemployment, but nearly 4 out of 5 households in the SNAP program have at least one person working, via NBC News.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.POWER HOUSE: There is a new possible threat to the Democratic Party's one-seat state House majority. The Inquirer (paywall)'s Clout column reports state Rep. Amen Brown (D., Philadelphia) allegedly threatened to change his party to Republican. The issue? Brown is facing a recall vote as a Philadelphia ward leader this Wednesday. But Brown and local Dem Party Chair Bob Brady deny the defection talk.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.FOUND GUILTY: The chair of the Monroe County chapter of Moms for Liberty — a conservative driving force in the school board warshas been convicted of menacing a member of an opposing group on Facebook. Nicole Prussman has been fined $200. In other news: GOP presidential hopefuls Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley will address a Moms for Liberty summit in Philly this month.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.TREE OF LIFE: The death penalty trial for admitted Tree of Life synagogue gunman Robert Bowers continues in Pittsburgh this week. The jury heard four days of graphic and harrowing testimony from survivors and first responders last week. The attack left 11 people dead. The trial is set to last into July. Artist Andrea Shockling was passed over as a juror and put the experience to paper for PublicSource.

CLEARING CAMPS: Norristown is coordinating with PECO to clear homeless encampments from the utility company's property along the Schuylkill River Trail, per WHYY. Councilman Thomas Lepera wants to bus the people to Villanova University to spite an anti-poverty advocate.

ONE-FINGER SALUTE: Elizabethtown Police Chief Edward Cunningham confirmed to LNP (paywall) that he gave the finger to an officer from another department but says he does it all the time and apologized afterward. Cunningham said he'd had one beer at a Hershey Bears game.

REDLINING CASE: Stroudsburg-based ESSA Bank & Trust has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a federal lending discrimination lawsuit that accused the company of refusing to provide credit services to people in majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Philadelphia area, per WHYY.

COME DOWN: Big smokestacks at the shuttered Cheswick power plant in Allegheny County came down on Friday (here's video from PublicSource's Quinn Glabicki) and caused some damage to the surrounding area in the process, per TribLIVE's Brian Rittmeyer.

NO SKATING: Another landmark American skateboarding spot is leaving Philadelphia. After the loss of Love Park in 2016, the city is now overhauling Thomas Paine Plaza outside the Municipal Services Building. Eulogies are piling up while this person hopped the fence for a goodbye grind.

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.

Friday's answer: Ebullient

Congrats to our weekly winner: William Z.

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Elaine C., Jon W., Lynne E., Susan N.-Z., Vicki U., Don H., Julie K., Bruce B., Karen W., Susan D., Stacy S., Mike B., Craig W., Irene R., Dianne K., Tracy S., James B., Doug W., Dennis M., Jane R., Elizabeth W., Jody A., Daniel S., Cameron T., Tom M., Stanley J., Dan A., Craig E., Wendy A., and John H.
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