Teacher Shortage: Pennsylvania Bill Eases Access for Out-of-State Teachers into Classrooms

Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage is spurring action in the General Assembly to pass reforms and simplify its certification process for educators.

A proposed bill, SB224, would assist out-of-state teachers’ certification to teach in Pennsylvania. So long as a teacher completed a state-approved teaching program elsewhere, they would be eligible for a comparable certification in Pennsylvania. It would provide for reciprocity with other states, making it easier for teachers who move to Pennsylvania to start teaching.

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Pennsylvania Senate Democrat Proposes Eligibility License for Guns

A day after the school shooting in Uvalde, TX, Pennsylvania Democrats are calling for more stringent gun control in the state, with state Sen. Art Haywood (D-Abington) proposing eligibility licenses for firearm purchases. 

Pennsylvania already administers licenses to carry firearms in Pennsylvania, for which any person who is at least 21 years old and has a clean record may apply.

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Pennsylvania GOP and National GOP Side with Oz on Undated Absentee Ballots

The Republican National Committee joined Pennsylvania’s Republican Party this week in a legal effort to effectively help Mehmet Oz sew up last Tuesday’s Senate primary election battle against rival Dave McCormick.

As of Tuesday afternoon, McCormick is 982 votes behind the celebrity surgeon, though vote counting hasn’t concluded. Tuesday marked the final day that absentee military ballots could arrive at their respective counties and still get counted. What impact those final military votes will have on the race remains to be seen, though it bears observing that McCormick himself served in the U.S. Army and noted that fact well throughout his campaign. 

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Bipartisan Juvenile Justice Reforms Introduced in Pennsylvania

State Sens. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington) and Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) introduced legislation on Monday aiming to land fewer underage defendants in Pennsylvania’s adult criminal-justice system.

Responding to a report by the state’s Juvenile Justice Task Force, the two senators believe too many of Pennsylvania’s youth are tried as adults and too many are detained away from home for minor offenses.

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Pennsylvania Has One of the Lowest Worker Quit Rates in America

Job quit rates have been up since the pandemic, but Pennsylvania lags behind the national average. While that may look like stability and satisfaction with one’s job, it’s a sign of a lack of opportunity for workers in the commonwealth.

An analysis by WalletHub found that Pennsylvania had one of the lowest quit rates in the nation – it ranked 47th. In the last month, Pennsylvania’s resignation rate was 2.1%, with an average rate of 2.24% in the last year.

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Pennsylvania Senate Nomination Could Hinge upon Mail-In Ballot Decision

The determination of Pennsylvania’s unsettled Republican Senate nomination battle between Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick could depend on a federal court decision regarding undated mail-in ballots.

As of Sunday afternoon, Oz held 418,535 votes to McCormick’s 417,465, putting the former ahead by far less than the 0.5 percent maximum gap that triggers an automatic recount. While over 99 percent of all ballots cast in the election have been counted, an ongoing dispute about whether undated absentee ballots should be deemed valid has the potential to erase Oz’s lead.

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Pennsylvania Public School Finance Director Gets 14 Months for Stealing $100,000

A Philadelphia-area public school finance director was sentenced to more than a year in prison after he embezzled $100,000 from a school district over a seven-year period.

Christopher Gehris, an employee in the Phoenixville Area School District and its finance director since 2018, stole $94,613 from the district, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

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National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer Congratulates Guy Ciarrocchi on PA-6 Republican Primary Win

NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer congratulated Guy Ciarrocchi on his Republican primary victory in the race for Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District seat.

“Congratulations to Guy Ciarrocchi on his primary victory. Guy is a common-sense conservative with a proven record of standing up to Democrat overreach,” the chairman said in a statement.

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Pennsylvania Governor Reviewing Judge’s Injunction Against Interstate Tolling Plans; Republicans Laud the Decision

Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) announced this week that his administration is reviewing the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s order halting a plan to toll as many as nine of Pennsylvania’s bridges on Interstate-78, Interstate-79, Interstate-80, Interstate-81 and Interstate-83.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) board voted in November 2020 to toll bridges it hoped to repair or replace, though it was not decided whether that would apply to all nine bridges. 

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Guy Ciarrocchi Likely to Be Declared Winner of PA-6 Republican Primary

Guy Ciarrocchi is likely to be declared the winner and Republican nominee in the primary for Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District seat.

As of press time, Ciarrocchi holds a 2,224 vote lead over the second place candidate Steve Fanelli with under 2,000 votes remaining uncounted, according to The New York Times.

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Pennsylvania High School Teacher Charged with Alleged Sexual Relationship with Student

A judge issued a warrant for the arrest Friday of a Pennsylvania high school choral teacher who has been charged with allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student.

Police in New Wilmington Borough charged Olivia Lois Ortz, 26, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, with two counts of intercourse/sexual contact with a school student, and one count each of unlawful contact with a minor for sexual offenses and criminal use of a communication facility – all felony-level charges, New Castle News reported Monday.

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The Tennessee Star’s Neil W. McCabe Comments on Pennsylvania Primaries and the Effects of a Trump Endorsement

Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, host Leahy welcomed The Tennessee Star’s national political editor Neil McCabe to the newsmaker line to weigh in on Tuesday night’s primary races in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

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Pennsylvania Senate Race Remains Unresolved

Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary between celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz and former hedge-fund chief executive officer Dave McCormick remains unresolved the day after voters went to the polls.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Oz leads McCormick by 1,610 votes out of more than 1.3 million votes cast for GOP Senate nominee in total. Oz has 410,822, or 31.29 percent of the vote while McCormick has 409,212 or 31.17 percent. The insurgent candidacy of veteran and political commentator Kathy Barnette gained 323,700 or 24.66 percent while four other candidates split the rest of the vote.

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Republican Mastriano to Face Democrat Shapiro for Pennsylvania Governor; Senate Race Too Close to Call

Pennsylvania Republicans on Tuesday gave State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) the nod to face state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) in the race for governor this year.

The Democratic Party also nominated Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) for the Senate seat from which Republican Pat Toomey will retire at the end of 2022. At this writing, the GOP primary contest for that seat remains too close to call between top-tier candidates David McCormick and Mehmet Oz. 

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Grove Proposes Bill to Address Future Pennsylvania Election Complaints

State Rep. Seth Grove (R-PA-York) told legislative colleagues on Monday that he will introduce a measure to ease the process by which Pennsylvanians can report voter fraud and other election-related problems. 

The bill would require the Pennsylvania secretary of state to establish a 1-800 hotline that voters could call to note any alleged misconduct they encounter in the course of an election. The secretary would also need to host annual training sessions for county-level prosecutors on the commonwealth’s election rules. 

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Surging ‘Ultra MAGA’ Pennsylvania Senate Candidate Kathy Barnette Answers Questions About Her Background

In a series of interviews Thursday, “Ultra MAGA” Pennsylvania senatorial candidate Kathy Barnette attempted to clear the air after her campaign came under attack for not being transparent about her background.

After her highly praised debate performance on May 4, Barnette surged to a statistical three-way tie with Republicans David McCormick and the Trump-endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz in the Republican primary race for the open U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

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Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Senate Front-Runner John Fetterman Says He Suffered a Stroke, Will Fully Recover

Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic front-runner in the state’s U.S. Senate race, announced on Sunday he suffered a stroke over the weekend, but he is on his “way to a full recovery.”

Fetterman, 52, posted a video of himself with his wife, Gisele. He said he was not feeling well on Friday and at the urging of his wife, he went to the hospital.

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Pennsylvania Activists Prioritize End of No-Excuse Absentee Voting

A coalition of more than 70 grassroots organizations across Pennsylvania issued a declaration at the state’s Capitol Building in Harrisburg last week urging lawmakers to repeal no-excuse absentee voting. 

The activists would end a provision of Act 77 of 2019, a law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, which permits Keystone State residents to vote via absentee or mail-in ballot without stating an excuse. Formerly, valid reasons for voting away from the polls mainly included out-of-town travel and illness. 

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Former President Trump Endorses Doug Mastriano for Governor of Pennsylvania

Former President Donald Trump weighed in on the GOP gubernatorial primary in Pennsylvania with only three days before the election, endorsing Doug Mastriano.

Mastriano, a state senator, has been leading the crowded field, according to the latest polls, and will likely be boosted by the Trump endorsement.

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Guy Ciarrocchi’s Role in Fight Against Pennsylvania COVID Overreach

Pennsylvania Sixth Congressional District Republican candidate Guy Ciarrocchi spoke with The Pennsylvania Daily Star and discussed his role was one of the ringleaders of the #VoteYes campaign, the successful effort resulting in the passage of a constitutional amendment in the Keystone State that limits the powers of emergency declarations.

The candidate explained the process that led to the passing of ballot measures that ended the Pennsylvania governor’s ability to issue emergency declarations lasting more than 21 days.

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Pro-Life PAC Launches Digital Ad Campaign Supporting Kathy Barnette in Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Senate Primary

The national pro-life Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) and its affiliate Women Speak Out PAC announced Friday the launch of a digital ad campaign to support Kathy Barnette in the Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Senate primary race.

The campaign is part of an overall $2.3 million the pro-life groups will spend to defeat presumed Democrat nominee John Fetterman, who recently referred to abortion as a “sacred” right.

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Guy Ciarrocchi Blasts PA-6 Democrat Incumbent Chrissy Houlahan

Guy Ciarrocchi, a Republican candidate in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District race, blasted incumbent Democrat U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), saying “She let us down.”

Ciarrocchi explained how Houlahan’s actions in the U.S. House have disappointed the PA-6 community and how she’s been a rubber stamp for the Biden agenda, which is in direct contradiction to what she promised the voters in the previous election.

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Catholic Advocacy Organization Calls on Pennsylvania Catholics to Vote for Kathy Barnette in Republican U.S. Senate Primary Race

Faith advocacy group CatholicVote is urging Pennsylvania Catholics to vote for Kathy Barnette in the Republican U.S. Senate primary race, specifically citing Barnette’s strong pro-life views as “crucial” to the state’s reported three million Catholics, of which 537,000 are of voting age, the group states. 

The largest grassroots Catholic organization in the country, Madison, Wisconsin-based CatholicVote announced Tuesday its endorsement of Barnette, a pro-life advocate who has shared her own personal story about having been conceived in rape.

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Corman Withdraws from Pennsylvania Governor’s Race, Endorses Barletta; Santorum Adds His Support

Lou Barletta picked up two high-profile endorsements in his campaign for Pennsylvania governor on Thursday: newly withdrawn gubernatorial candidate Jake Corman and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). 

Corman, who serves as state Senate President Pro Tempore and represents a district that includes State College, polled consistently in the single digits throughout the Republican gubernatorial primary. Despite his ending his bid, his name will remain on the ballot as the deadline has passed for removing it. 

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PA-6 Republican Candidate Guy Ciarrocchi Explains Why His Former Employer Endorsed Incumbent Democrat in 2020

Pennsylvania Sixth Congressional District Republican candidate Guy Ciarrocchi spoke with The Pennsylvania Daily Star and explained why he is running against incumbent Democrat Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06) even though the board of directors of his previous employer, the Chester County Chamber, endorsed her for re-election in 2020.

Ciarrocchi served as Chester County Chamber CEO from January 2014 until September 18, 2021. In that role, he ran the day-to-day operations but did not have a vote in the endorsement process.

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Club for Growth Backs Kathy Barnette in Senate Race, Drops Millions to Support Candidacy

The Club for Growth on Wednesday endorsed Kathy Barnette, who is running in the GOP primary to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate.

The organization, which weighed in on the race with only one week to go, subsequently launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign to boost the candidate.

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Pennsylvania Senate Candidate Barnette’s Wikipedia Article Pulled

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, this week removed its entry for Kathy Barnette, a U.S. Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, on the basis that she hasn’t established sufficient “notability.” 

A FOX News contributor, Barnette has over 140,500 Twitter followers as of Wednesday evening — a number that grew by about 2,000 throughout the day. She has over 40,000 Facebook followers and over 1,410 YouTube subscribers, numbers that are also both growing rapidly. She has been surging in the polls, coming within two percentage points of celebrity doctor and frontrunner Mehmet Oz in this week’s Trafalgar Group and Fox 29 surveys.

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National Pro-Life and Faith Organizations Endorse Kathy Barnette for Republican Nomination for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania

The national pro-life organization the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) and faith-based group CatholicVote have endorsed Kathy Barnette for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

“We are excited to endorse Kathy Barnette for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List, in a statement. “Kathy is a courageous advocate for life who exposes the human cost of abortion. Her deeply compelling personal story ought to stir consciences across our nation, as she is proof that every child has dignity and deserves a chance and every mother deserves our support to choose life.”

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Pittsburgh Metro Area Down 54,000 Jobs Since the Pandemic

The Pittsburgh metro area’s economy has yet to recover from the pandemic, its effects still hurting job numbers. 

The Pittsburgh area, which includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties, is still missing 53,800 jobs that it had in March 2019, a 5.1% decline, according to an analysis from the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.

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Jason Killmeyer Runs on ‘Dive Bar Republicanism,’ Not ‘Country Club Republicanism’

When Jason Killmeyer announced in late winter that he would run for Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional seat, which is currently held by Democrat Conor Lamb, he said he knew he couldn’t run a “paint-by-numbers” campaign.

That is, as a political newcomer, he couldn’t count on getting politicians’ and party organizations’ support across Beaver and Allegheny counties to build a reputation as an early favorite. Though he knows he will be outspent in the Republican primary race that will conclude on May 17, the counterterrorism analyst and nonprofit executive is dauntlessly pursuing an intensive ground campaign involving lots of door knocking and other grassroots activity.

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Gubernatorial Candidate Doug Mastriano Leads in GOP Primary, New Pennsylvania Poll Finds

Gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and U.S. Senate contender Mehmet Oz are leading their respective GOP primary fields, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by the Trafalgar Group, spoke to 1,080 likely GOP voters in order to gauge each candidate’s support ahead of the May 17 primary election.

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New Trafalgar Poll: Barnette Reaches Second in Pennsylvania Senate Race

A new poll shows the GOP primary race for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania continues to be tight, but with Kathy Barnette now inching ahead of David McCormick to reach second place behind Mehmet Oz.

Barnette, an army veteran and political commentator, is polling at 23.2 percent. Oz, the celebrity surgeon, received 24.5 percent and former hedge-fund executive McCormick got 21.6 percent.

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One Year from Full Implementation, Nearly 7 Million Pennsylvanians Without REAL ID

With a year before the federal government enforces its REAL ID requirements, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is encouraging state residents to update their driver’s licenses and photo ID.

When federal enforcement starts on May 3, 2023, only REAL ID-compliant documents will be accepted at airports, federal buildings, and for other federal purposes. If someone doesn’t update their driver’s license, they would need to use a passport, for example, to take a domestic flight.

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Rep. Grove Rebukes Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s ‘Voter Intimidation’ Claims

Pennsylvania Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) castigated the state’s Democratic acting secretary of the commonwealth on Saturday for suggesting that stationing Lehigh County detectives at ballot drop boxes will amount to “voter intimidation.”

Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman last week said that tactics to intimidate voters have “a long history in this country” and that “the mere presence of police at a ballot drop box can deter voters from casting their ballot.” She also mentioned that she has been in conversation with her staff about attempting to dissuade Lehigh County from assigning law-enforcement professionals to watch drop boxes into which absentee voters may place their ballots.

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‘Treating Him Very Unfairly:’ Trump Gives Full-Throated Defense of Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania

Speaking at a rally in Greensburg, Pa., former President Donald Trump touted his endorsement of Republican Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz.

“I just think he’s gonna win. He’s a great gentleman. I’ve known him so long,” Trump said of Oz.

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Pennsylvania Moratorium Loophole Nets $45 Million in Oil and Gas Revenue

Since 2015, when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf issued a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on state forest and state park lands, the administration argued it was “striking the right balance” between economic and environmental concerns.

However, Wolf’s executive order didn’t stop all new leases on publicly owned acreage. 

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J.D. Vance to Speak at Trump’s Pennsylvania Rally

Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance will speak at a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, according to a release from Trump’s Save America PAC.

The rally, which will take place on Friday, is located in Western Pennsylvania and will include multiple candidates that Trump endorsed, like Dr. Mehmet Oz and Rep. Alex Mooney.

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Pennsylvania Senate Candidate Oz Getting Criticism for 2018 Turkish Election Vote

Some security and foreign-policy experts are raising questions about a 2018 photograph showing Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz voting in that year’s Turkish presidential election.

Oz holds dual citizenship in in the United States and Turkey; his parents moved from the latter to the former in the 1960s. The celebrity doctor, who is running for Pennsylvania Senate with the support of former President Donald Trump, has promised that he will renounce his Turkish citizenship if he wins retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat in November.

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Governor Election Will Decide Pennsylvania’s Membership in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Action in the General Assembly was not enough to stop the publication of regulations to enter Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but legal action could stop it in the future. 

If legal action doesn’t halt Pennsylvania’s entry into RGGI, the outcome of the gubernatorial election could determine whether the Commonwealth stays in the multi-state compact or leaves it by executive order.

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Former Prosecutor McSwain Running on Constitutional and Economic Conservatism

Bill McSwain, a Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, likes to emphasize his public-service experience — and his distinction as a relative political newcomer.

The 53-year old former federal prosecutor and Chester County native hasn’t held elected office, unlike other high-polling hopefuls state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg), former Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) and former County Commissioner Dave White (R-Delaware). That’s often among the first details McSwain and his supporters mention about him.

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Pennsylvania Governor Touts State’s Revenue Intake, Republicans Urge Caution

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), amidst his push for a larger state budget, is welcoming reports of high revenue intake, but Republicans are urging caution in response to the new economic downturn.

Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue indicate the commonwealth’s General Fund took in $6.5 billion in April, an amount exceeding the department’s prediction by 38.7 percent. It is the largest sum of taxpayer dollars that the state has collected in one month. In Fiscal Year 2021-22 so far, the General Fund has received $40.7 billion, or 12.4 percent more than forecasted.

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Affordable Housing a Growing Concern Statewide in Pennsylvania, Low Priority in the Statehouse

Housing costs in Pennsylvania are rising, but the General Assembly has not prioritized the expansion of housing supply as an area of concern. As rents and housing prices rise across the Commonwealth, inaction now could cause pain in the near future.

Housing prices statewide rose by 14% from 2020 to 2021, as The Center Square previously reported, and in central Pennsylvania, apartment rents have increased 40% since 2017. Rents in Philadelphia increased almost 10% in 2021. The Lehigh Valley has had similar pressures, with one-third of households spending at least 30% of their income on rent or mortgages.

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Proposed Pennsylvania Law Would Make Drunk Drivers Pay Support to Children of Those They Killed

A newly proposed Pennsylvania law would require drunk drivers who cause deadly accidents to pay support to the children of those they killed.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Pittsburgh) is currently seeking cosponsors in the House of Representatives for the legislation.

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Bill to Expand Education Choice Passes in the Pennsylvania House

A bill with some momentum in the General Assembly would expand school choice with public funding, but may struggle to become law despite public opinion that supports it.

The Pennsylvania House passed an education bill to give students in low-performing schools a scholarship to move districts. The bill, HB2169, was introduced by Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Wellsboro, to establish a Lifeline Scholarship for students to leave an underperforming local school and enroll elsewhere. It narrowly passed 104-98.

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Pennsylvania House Republicans Hail Bipartisan Vote to Cut Corporate Tax

Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers voiced optimism last week that the commonwealth’s onerous Corporate Net Income Tax (CNIT) might finally soon get reduced, given a recent overwhelming state House vote to do so.

At 9.99 percent, the Keystone State’s CNIT is the second highest in the U.S. A bill by Rep. Joshua Kail (R-Monaca) would reduce the rate to 8.99 percent. His legislation passed the House of Representatives 195-8.

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Surprise Home Reassessments Create a Tax Burden in Pennsylvania for New Owners

Spot assessments can be used across Pennsylvania to reassess a property’s value, resulting in higher tax bills for homeowners. According to a new report, Allegheny County’s school districts have driven an increase in spot appeals, increasing assessed values by almost $462 million.

The result is that homeowners must pay more in taxes, incentivizing school districts to request a spot assessment.

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Boyle Proposes Public Financing of Pennsylvania Legislative Campaigns

Pennsylvania State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) this week announced to colleagues his proposal for public funding of some state-legislative campaigns.

The measure would require a candidate to have raised at least $10,000 from “small-dollar donors,” meaning those who have contributed between $1 and $200. State Rep. Boyle would allocate payments to hopefuls amounting to six times the total small-dollar contributions they’ve amassed.

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Pennsylvania Lawmaker Proposes ‘Office of Election Crimes and Security’

Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) announced on Thursday he intends to draft legislation creating an Office of Election Crimes and Security.

The new division within the Pennsylvania Department of State would be charged with probing all alleged violations of voting laws. The proposed bill also targets “ballot harvesting,” the illegal practice of hand-delivering absentee ballots — usually by depositing them in election drop boxes — on behalf of voters other than oneself. Currently, state law treats ballot harvesting as a misdemeanor; Mastriano’s measure would make it a third-degree felony.

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Hernandez-Mendez Sentenced for Hit-and-Run; Victim’s Family Suspects Political Influence

Gabriel Hernandez-Mendez, the father of former Pennsylvania congressman and current Republican gubernatorial candidate Lou Barletta’s grandchild, received a 1-2 year sentence on Tuesday for a hit-and-run.

The incident, which occurred in June, left 15-year-old bicyclist Hector Padilla dead. Padilla’s father Pedro has said that he recognizes that what happened was an accident but that he also believes a much more severe sentence was warranted insofar as the 45-year-old Hernandez-Mendez drove away from the scene and kept quiet about it for 45 days.

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