Pennsylvania Eyes Veterans Home Advisory Board

A push to reform the oversight of Pennsylvania’s half-dozen homes for veterans would create an advisory board to improve care and watch over the dwellings.

Senate Bill 933 would give a 15-member Veterans Home Advisory Board the responsibility to provide input on quality of care concerns for the more than 1,300 Pennsylvania veterans living in the six homes across the state.

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Pennsylvania Special Election Tips State House to the Democrats

A Democratic candidate has won a special election for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, retaining the party’s one-seat majority in the chamber.

Lindsay Powell is a Democratic political aide who previously served as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. On Tuesday, she won a special election to Pennsylvania’s state House District 21, which covers the suburbs of Pittsburgh, by a margin of 29% over Republican candidate Erin Authenreith according to results published by the Pennsylvania Department of State, which gives Democrats 102 seats to the Republicans’ 101.

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Pennsylvania Launches ‘Automatic Voter Registration’ Plan Ahead of 2024

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that he will implement “automatic voter registration” ahead of the 2024 election.

The governor rolled out his plan on National Voter Registration Day to “streamline” the voter registration process, which he argues will “save taxpayers time and money,” according to an announcement video. Shapiro’s plan will automatically enroll Pennsylvanians in the voting system, unless the individual opts out, when receiving an identification card or driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

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Pennsylvania’s Speed Camera Enforcement Laws Sunsetting Soon

State lawmakers must act soon before a trio of authorizations expire for traffic cameras that capture drivers violating traffic laws.

Provisions will soon kick in that would put an end to speed cameras in active work zones; camera-equipped school buses that ticket drivers who fail to yield to a stop sign; and speed cameras along Philadelphia’s Roosevelt Boulevard — one of the commonwealth’s most dangerous roads.

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Innovation Hyper-Focused in Philly, Pittsburgh, State College

Pennsylvania could become a national leader in innovation — if the support is there and state leaders embrace reform.

“Innovation matters so much to economic performance, yet the state’s innovation drift is resulting in a broader economic drift,” Brookings Metro Senior Fellow Mark Muro told legislators Friday at a Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing on innovation. “We’re really challenging the state to, above all, commit to innovation…the state needs to try harder on this front. We think you could win — if you actually tried harder.”

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Philly City Council Bans Supervised Injection Sites for Drug Use

After a raucous public comment period, Philadelphia City Council moved to ban supervised injection sites for narcotics across most of the city.

Council voted 13-1 vote on Bill #230410 to ban any site that “that provides space for any person to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the person’s body an unprescribed controlled substance” in all but West Philadelphia’s District 3.

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Both Parties Take Credit for Pennsylvania’s Improved Financial Outlook

Pennsylvania’s finances have improved in recent years, with Moody’s Investor Services announcing it has revised the state’s financial outlook from “stable” to “positive.”

The financial services company noted the commonwealth’s “recently improved financial position and above-average long-term liabilities dominated by its unfunded pension burden.” 

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Pennsylvania School Vouchers Called a Solution to ’19th Century’ Problem

As Pennsylvania’s divide over education funding continues, House Republicans once again championed their plan to give scholarships to students in low-performing schools to enroll elsewhere.

The House Republican Policy Committee met Tuesday in Philadelphia to hear testimony from education professionals, private school students, and parents on how families would benefit from Lifeline Scholarships, which has been controversial with Democrats who worry about diverting funding from public schools.

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‘Warehouse’ Growth Worrying Pennsylvania Environmental Groups

The online shopping industry, and the multi-billion dollar logistics and distribution network at its core, depend on Pennsylvania’s roads, land and workers for its warehouses.

And yet, environmental groups say that zoning ordinances for these facilities fall short, leaving the state’s land, air and water vulnerable to destruction.

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Pennsylvania Podiatrists May Soon Prescribe Medical Marijuana

Podiatrists may soon prescribe medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, that is if the Legislature takes the advice of the state’s advisory panel.

The Medical Marijuana Advisory Board voted this week in favor of a recommendation to add podiatrists to a list of more than 1,800 medical providers that includes among others psychiatrists, primary care physicians, specialists, anesthesiologists, and oncologists.

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Pittsburgh Mass Transit Budget Still Treading Water

Amid declining ridership rates, Pittsburgh’s public transit system has become more dependent on federal funds to remain afloat. 

The Port Authority of Allegheny County, which serves Pittsburgh’s 300,000 residents, budgeted $95 million in federal emergency funding to prevent the system from going into debt in fiscal year 2023, according to budget documents. The transit agency received $502.5 million in federal stimulus funding.

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Philadelphia City Council Mulls Lawsuit over Unenforced Herbicide Ban

The Philadelphia City Council may soon file suit against the city’s administration over an unenforced law.

A resolution on the council’s Sept. 14 agenda would permit legal counsel to compel Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to enforce a ban on toxic herbicides on all city-owned or used public grounds. That would include parks, trails, recreation centers and playgrounds.

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Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner to Resign, Mayor Confirms

Philadelphia’s first black female police commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, will leave her post in late September.

Outlaw assumed the post in February 2020 and will depart on Sept. 22 to assume a position with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Fox News reported.

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Upcoming Supreme Court Elections in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan Could Tip Majorities on the Bench Just in Time for the 2024 Elections

Three swing states will hold elections to their supreme courts over the next 18 months, potentially altering court compositions amid key cultural and political flashpoints such as abortion, guns and redistricting.

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More than 3,500 Minors Underwent Transgender Surgeries in Five Years, Study Says

Transgender advocates repeatedly claim that minors only take “puberty-blocking” drugs or cross-sex hormones, but never undergo surgeries in an attempt to force their male or female bodies to resemble the opposite sex, yet a new study estimates that more than 3,000 minors underwent transgender surgeries in a five-year period, and more than 400 of them had their genitals removed.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study Wednesday estimating that 48,019 Americans underwent “gender-affirming surgeries” from 2016 to 2020, and 3,678 of them underwent surgery between ages 12 and 18.

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Ivy League Business Schools to Offer ESG Majors and Courses in Fall, Despite Controversy

Despite the controversiality of the curriculum, business schools are still following the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiative.

The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance defines ESG as an effort that “grew out of investment philosophies clustered around sustainability and, thereafter, socially responsible investing,” though “there is no single list of ESG goals or examples, and ESG concepts often overlap.”

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Pennsylvania College Credits No More for State Trooper Cadets

Broadening opportunities for aspiring law enforcement officers, Gov. Josh Shapiro this week removed the 60-credit minimum requirement for state trooper applicants.

“This is the finest law enforcement agency in the nation,” he said during a news conference. “We need to show those who want to serve that this door of opportunity is open – and we want you on our team.”

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Pennsylvania Moves to Shift Primary Date Up

A Pennsylvania state Senate committee unanimously voted Wednesday to move its presidential primary election up in 2024.

The State Government Committee approved the bill, proposed by Vice Chair Republican Sen. David Argall, which would change Pennsylvania’s presidential primary from late April to March 19, according to the state legislature’s website. The proposed new primary date for the third Tuesday in March comes just two weeks after Super Tuesday, when over a dozen states hold their nominating contests.

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Pennsylvania Higher Ed System Hopes for Boost from Certificate Programs

In an effort to attract students and the general public alike, Pennsylvania’s higher education system will partner with Google to offer certificate programs that demonstrate their skills to potential employers.

Students can earn a certificate as they get college credit within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and the public can earn a certificate through non-credit courses and workshops without enrolling in PASSHE.

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Data Analysis Reframes Pennsylvania Education Issues

As Pennsylvania’s legislators prepare to return to Harrisburg to sort out the state’s education system and budget, a new report challenges what they call “funding cuts and teacher shortage myths.” 

A recently released report by the Commonwealth Foundation provides data showing increased spending and hiring alongside dropping enrollment numbers – suggesting more efficient spending options, including pension system reforms. 

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Policymakers Debate Skill Games Regulation

Corner stores, malls, and independent businesses that dabble in the unregulated gray area between games of skill and chance may soon find themselves facing stricter — or clearer — guidance from legislators.

The Democratic Policy Committee in Radnor this week to discuss the proliferation of skill games across Pennsylvania.

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Pennsylvania Waives Bus Driver Regulation amid Persistent Shortage

The pandemic revealed all sorts of problems in Pennsylvania’s education system. School districts struggling to recruit school bus drivers was an overlooked one, and the problem hasn’t abated. 

PennDOT, however, took a step forward recently in removing a licensing requirement that’s long been a stumbling block.

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Two Pennsylvania Local Level Officials Join Forward Party

A third party seeking to bridge the political divide and offer more choices for voters has added two local Republicans to its roster.

One official, a longtime Democrat – although defeated in the primary election – won enough write-in votes to secure the GOP nomination. He will again be facing his opponent in November, but from the other side of the fence. 

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Despite Budget Crisis, Penn State Offers In-State Tuition to Illegal Immigrants

Amidst a budget crisis, Pennsylvania State University offers in-state tuition rates to qualifying illegal immigrants while American citizens across the country are charged out-of-state tuition. 

An admissions page on the university’s website states that “Undocumented students, with or without DACA, can be eligible for in-state tuition if they meet Penn State’s residency requirements.”

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Pennsylvania School Voucher Battle Heads Back to Campaign Trail

Though school choice supporters lost a budget fight over a $100 million voucher program, the next battle appears to be at the ballot box.

On Monday, the Commonwealth Partners PAC announced plans for a $10 million campaign “to elect school-choice lawmakers,” saying the group would “continue to fight for kids’ interest against special interests,” according to a press release.

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Solar Power Comes to University of Pittsburgh Campus

Officials and community members recently cut the ribbon on one of the largest solar projects in western Pennsylvania.

Through a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh and Vesper Energy, the school says it is achieving its renewable energy commitments while providing educational opportunities. 

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Natural Gas Well Setbacks Questioned After Health Impact Study in Pennsylvania

Regulations that dictate appropriate setbacks for natural gas wells from drinking water sources and buildings may not be generous enough, according to the state’s agency tasked with overseeing the industry.

The Department of Environmental Protection said it would support efforts to reconsider whether 1,000 feet constitutes a safe distance after a study from the University of Pittsburgh suggested links between unconventional wells and incidences of asthma and childhood cancer.

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Study Finds ‘Dirty-to-Clean’ Pennsylvania Job Transition Rare

Though more workers have jumped in recent years from carbon-intensive jobs – like natural gas extraction – to “green” jobs in renewable energy, the numbers remain miniscule.

Fewer than 1% of workers make a fossil fuel-to-renewable jump, while most end up in another carbon-intensive job, an unrelated job, or find no work at all.

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Undone Pennsylvania Budget Leaves Struggling Schools Empty-Handed

As the first day of school nears across Pennsylvania, the undone budget will leave the poorest districts without the earmarked funds the state promised.

Teachers, administrators, and advocates recently told the House Education Committee that without the money, schools can’t address worker shortages, or provide mental health support, programs for pandemic-induced learning loss, technology upgrades, and building maintenance.  

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More Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Coming to Pennsylvania

Gov. Josh Shapiro said Monday Pennsylvania will spend $34 million on dozens of projects in the commonwealth to build out charging stations for electric vehicles.

The money is part a five-year, $172 million federal grant and the latest installment will support 54 projects in 35 counties.

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In-State Tuition at Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh Among Costliest Nationwide

Attending a public college is an affordable choice for many students, and the costs are significantly lower for those in-state.

Even so, two Pennsylvania state-related universities rank among the top 10 of those with the highest in-state tuition in the nation. 

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Georgia Court Posts, Then Removes from Website List of Criminal Charges Against Trump

A website for Georgia’s Fulton County on Monday briefly listed what appeared to be criminal charges against Donald Trump, with the county’s district attorney expected to indict the former president as soon as Tuesday. 

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Rural Health Care Safety Net Faces Irreparable Tear in Pennsylvania

Health care access in rural Pennsylvania becomes less tenable day by day, and many fear what this means for the state’s efforts to revive its most remote communities.

“The people in rural PA are truly scared about access to health care,” said Rep. Marty Causer, R-Bradford, during a recent meeting of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania hosted in his district.

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Pennsylvania Agriculture Leaders Worry About Research Funding, California Regulations

As the federal farm bill gets debated in Congress, Pennsylvania lawmakers and agricultural leaders hope to see a boost in research funding along with action to improve broadband internet and child care in the rural reaches of the state.

Senate and House lawmakers from around Pennsylvania came together Wednesday to talk about their priorities and concerns for farmers.

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Manufactured Pennsylvania Homeowners Rally for Lot Rent Caps

Residents of manufactured home communities often face the same problem: constantly rising lot rental fees that some critics say “predatory” investors use to hold residents “hostage.”

That’s why Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Reading, offered a simple solution that’s gained the approval of advocates long battling the issue: rent caps.

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Pennsylvania Considers Letting Psychologists Prescribe Medicine for Patients

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a shortcut of sorts to expand health care access: let psychologists, not just psychiatrists, prescribe medication.

A handful of states and the federal government already do so, but critics worry about a lack of proper training and other innovations of the past that have not panned out.

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Governors Highway Safety Association Suggests Improvements to Prevent Accidents on Pennsylvania’s Rural Roads

Rural America has 20 percent of the country’s population and 46 percent of the nation’s car crashes. A lack of resources, both in cash and workers, poses a challenge to avoiding wrecks and deaths.

Though rural traffic studies have been of questionable quality, a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) suggests broader cooperation to pool local resources, more public outreach, and better road design to curb collisions.

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Hemp and Pennsylvania’s ‘Bio-Based Future’

A circle of farmers in Pennsylvania have embraced hemp as state and federal money encourages growth of the industry.

With government support, farmers troubleshoot how hemp plays a role in the production of textiles, paper, automotive bio-composites, and construction projects.

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Pennsylvania Property Tax, Rent Rebate Expansion Crosses Finish Line

Seniors across Pennsylvania can officially look forward to 2024.

That’s because Gov. Josh Shapiro will finally sign a $134 million expansion of the state’s property tax and rent rebate program for low-income seniors and disabled residents that will go into effect in the new year.

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Pro-Life Father Targeted by Biden DOJ Announces Pennsylvania Congressional Run

Mark Houck, the father of seven arrested and charged by President Joe Biden’s administration for his pro-life advocacy, is now running for Congress.

“I am running for Congress to further protect my family, those in the 1st district & the Republic,” Houck says on his campaign website. “I will focus on restoring traditional values & principles that are central to the American identity, such as faith, family, & freedom of speech, religion, & the right to bear arms.”

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Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter

A jury announced Wednesday that they believed Robert Bowers, who killed 11 people in a targeted attack against Pittsburgh Jews in 2018, should receive the death penalty, according to multiple reports.

A jury determined in July that Bowers was eligible for capital punishment despite his defense team arguing that he suffered from mental disorders that prevented him from understanding the weight of his actions. The jury deliberated for over ten hours during the course of two days before issuing its verdict that Bowers should be put to death for deliberately going after Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue, according to various reports.

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Proposal Argues Brownfields Better for Solar than Farmland

The growth of solar generation in Pennsylvania over the last decade owes largely to farmers willing to share their land, a fact that leaves others worried about neighboring property values and future sustainability.

As such, Sen. Doug Mastriano – former gubernatorial candidate and right-wing firebrand who represents a district that spans Franklin and Adams counties – recently introduced a bill limiting the use of farmland for solar development in Pennsylvania. The legislation would prohibit development on prime farming land considered class one or class two by the USDA.

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Budget Deal Teased in Pennsylvania

On the 28th day overdue, a key budget negotiator released a hopeful, albeit stern, message indicating a budget deal may come together in August after all.

Senate President Kim Ward, R-Greensburg, said Friday that Republican leaders in the chamber are “actively negotiating” with Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro and “things are moving forward.”

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Lawsuit Claims Pennsylvania School District Discriminates Against Parochial Students

A group of parents says State College Area School District bars their children from joining extracurricular activities simply because they attend faith-based schools.

The families, members of the Religious Rights Foundation, recently filed a lawsuit against the district for prohibiting their students from participating in sports, clubs, and college-level classes, based on religious discrimination.

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