News & Brews January 10, 2024

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Is Pa.’s ‘hold harmless’ policy really harmless?

The Inquirer looks at Pennsylvania’s “hold harmless” education funding policy, which says that schools will never receive less money than the previous year, even if enrollment declines. In other words, schools with declining student populations continue to receive more funding, while funding for schools with growing populations doesn’t take into account the added students. Unlike many issues, support for (or opposition to) hold harmless is less about party and more about geography.

~65% of Pa.’s General Fund budget goes to health & human services

According to the latest annual financial report released by the governor’s office, spending on health and human services in the commonwealth accounts for about 65% of total General Fund spending. Reporting on this, the Center Square notes, “The state of Pennsylvania’s cost for health and human services department has increased from $24.1 billion to $59.1 billion from 2006 to 2023. That is a 63% increase over the 17 years after adjusting for inflation.”

Will ChatGPT write Pa. state policy? 

City & State PA reports, “Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that his administration is partnering with OpenAI on a new generative artificial intelligence pilot program that will give state employees access to OpenAI tools with enhanced security and privacy features…. [T]he pilot program will begin this month and will initially be limited to employees in the Office of Administration, who will use the AI tools to create and edit copy, update policy language, draft job descriptions and help employees write code.”

Another stab at changing Pa.’s primary election date, 2028 edition

After the most unproductive legislature in 50 years couldn’t agree last year on legislation to do what pretty much everyone agreed should be done—change Pa.’s 2024 primary election date—one lawmaker is trying again, this time for 2028. WITF reports that Republican Rep. Keith Greiner (Lancaster County) has introduced legislation that would move the 2028 primary election date from the fourth Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday of March (which is March 21). The legislature has several years to pass this — it remains to be seen if they’ll be able to do so.

Biden coming back to Pa. on Friday 

Given presidential candidates are expected to make oodles of trips to Pa. this election year, I likely won’t be sharing news of every single visit (as that might get pretty old pretty fast). But President Biden will make his second trip of 2024 to Pa., heading to Allentown on Friday. Per a White House press release, the president “will discuss how communities across America are coming back thanks to Bidenomics and his Investing in America agenda, which have ushered in a small business boom, created good-paying jobs with rising wages, strengthened local economies, and lowered costs for hardworking families.” I didn’t realize the White House hired fiction writers.

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