Pennsylvania Perspective for Thursday, February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024


Proposed FY25 State Budget Weathers Criticism from Conservatives, Environmental Advocates

While Governor Josh Shapiro’s proposed FY25 budget has received praise for creating a pathway for potential recreational marijuana legalization and improving conditions in Pennsylvania’s rural communities — among many other things — it has also received its fair share of criticism. This week, House Republican Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove voiced his preference for competing with states like North Carolina and Texas rather than Ohio as stated during the governor’s budget address, advocating for program cuts and coordinated workforce initiatives, while activists and religious organizations believe the budget as proposed does not go far enough to ameliorate existing environmental injustice.

State Senate Races to Watch in 2024

Competitive state Senate races in Pennsylvania this year are particularly focused in the Western and central parts of the state. Democrats aim to flip the chamber, while Republicans seek to maintain control and retain leverage during budget negotiations with Democratic Governor Shapiro. Spotlight PA has more.

State House Committee Advances Syringe Services Legalization Bill

Last week, the state House Judiciary Committee voted 15-10 to advance legislation that would legalize syringe services, marking a significant milestone according to harm-reduction advocates. The bill faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate. Spotlight PA has more.

State Supreme Court Rules Republican Voter Information Subpoena Unenforceable; Federal Court Considers “Missing Date” Mail-in Ballot Case

As the high-profile swing state prepares for upcoming 2024 primary and subsequent general elections — despite facing a shortage of experienced election directors and bracing for more lawsuits, recount requests, and claims of fraud — state and federal courts continue to consider important voting-related cases. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled this week that Republicans’ post-2020 election subpoena for voter information was unenforceable, while a federal appeals court is weighing whether or not undated or incorrectly dated mail-in ballots need to be counted.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Consider Challenge to Life-Without-Parole Sentences

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be reviewing whether automatic life sentences for murder convictions violate constitutional protections for defendants, potentially impacting thousands of incarcerated individuals. The Associated Press has more.

State Mortgage Program to Reopen in March

Pennsylvania’s mortgage relief program, which has been closed for more than a year, will reopen in March with approximately $46 million in available funding. The program will prioritize homeowners facing foreclosure or property sale due to late mortgage payments. Spotlight PA has more.



Philadelphia Tourism Leaders Outline Priorities, Expectations for 2024 Following Year of Expansion

Following a year of significant growth, Greater Philadelphia region tourism industry leaders are outlining their strategies for sustaining momentum in 2024, which include focusing on leisure travel recovery and extending visitor stays. Experts expect the region to return to pre-pandemic levels by late 2024 or early 2025. The Philadelphia Business Journal has more.

City Council Considers Prohibiting Certain Establishments from Offering Skill Games

Philadelphia City Council is considering prohibiting certain businesses — particularly convenience stores and corner shops — from hosting casino-style skill games due to concerns about their proliferation, lack of regulation, and association with crime. Legislation is currently being considered by the Committee on Public Safety and could be put to a full Council vote later this month. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more.

SEPTA Receives $317M Federal Grant to Replace Aging Market-Frankford Line Cars

SEPTA has secured a $317 million federal grant — its largest ever — to purchase 200 rail cars for the Market-Frankford Line, replacing aging models with structural issues, a crucial investment toward modernizing transportation in Southeastern Pennsylvania. WHYY has more.

City Council Chief Clerk Michael Decker Passes Away at 58

Longtime City Council Chief Clerk Michael Decker passed away unexpectedly this week at the age of 58, leaving behind a legacy of dedication to public service and procedural expertise that earned him the respect and admiration of colleagues and city residents alike. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more.



VP Harris Announces $5.8B Federal Funding for Clean Water, Lead Pipe Removal During Pittsburgh Visit 

During a visit to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced $5.8 billion in federal funding for lead pipe removal and clean water projects, including $200 million for Pennsylvania, as part of President Biden’s infrastructure law. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star has more.

Pittsburgh Inaugurates New Downtown Police Substation, Explores Extending Ambassador Program

On Wednesday, Mayor Gainey helped open an expanded police substation on Wood Street to bolster downtown safety. The Gainey Administration also proposed legislation this week to extend the City’s pilot Downtown Ambassadors program for another year. WESA has more.

Fern Hollow Bridge Collapse Could Have Been Avoided, According to Officials

In a report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board, the 2022 collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge was attributed to extensive corrosion and inadequate maintenance oversight by Pittsburgh, PennDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration. The report also urged proactive measures to prevent future collapses. WESA has more.

Pittsburgh City Council Puts “Tiny Home” Proposal on Temporary Hold

Pittsburgh City Council members postponed a plan for tiny home villages to shelter homeless residents, seeking an eight-week extension from the planning commission to address zoning concerns. WESA has more.

Advocates Hope New Faces Are Coming to PRT Board

Advocacy groups hope that new Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato will add new perspectives to the Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) board, which oversees the local transit system. A group called Pittsburghers for Public Transit is requesting that Innamorato consider appointing replacements who regularly ride the bus. WESA has more.



Pennsylvania’s Likely Republican Senate Nominee Walks Fine Line with State’s Trump Base

In Pennsylvania, likely Republican nominee David McCormick and former President Donald Trump maintain a distant relationship, complicating McCormick’s bid against incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Casey and highlighting challenges in navigating Trump’s national popularity and policy positions. A recent Emerson College/The Hill poll shows Democratic Senator Casey leading McCormick by nearly 10 points in a potential general election matchup, with independents favoring Casey by 21 points. The Associated Press has more.

MacDonald Faces Legal Challenge to Candidacy in Contentious PA-12 Race

A legal challenge citing defects, irregularities, and a pattern of impropriety in petition signatures seeks to remove Laurie MacDonald from the 12th Congressional District Democratic primary race. WESA has more.

Beltway Briefing: Are Washington, Lincoln Turning Over in Their Graves?

Would the former leaders be disappointed we aren’t further along in our nation’s trajectory? Is the end of American exceptionalism closer than we know? Howard Schweitzer, Mark Alderman, and Towner French as they look back at our country’s historical struggles, discuss whether Tom Suozzi’s win is a good omen for the Democrats in November, and ask whether the absence of a clear foreign enemy today is at the root of all this internal dysfunction. Listen to the latest episode here.


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