News & Brews February 21, 2024

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Pa. mail-in ballots back in court … again (& again)

The AP reports that yesterday, “[t]he 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held oral arguments in Philadelphia … over a district judge’s ruling in November that even without the proper dates, mail-in ballots should be counted if they are received in time.” Here’s a brilliant idea. How about we follow the law (which currently says ballots must be dated). And if the law is broken, change the law. Simple. Or at least it should be.

‘Plausible’ vs. ‘reasonable’ budget projections

State budget hearings kicked off yesterday. The Center Square reports that in his presentation to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) Director Matthew Knittel projected “a $4.2 billion budget deficit in 2024-25 with current policy, rising to a $6.7 billion deficit in 2028-29. The gap between IFO projections and Gov. Josh Shapiro’s estimate is about $1 billion in the current fiscal year, but $4.5 billion by 2028-29.” Knittel said Shapiro’s projections are “plausible” (which, incidentally, Merriam-Webster defines as “superficially fair, reasonable, or valuable but often deceptively so”). But he said the IFO’s projections are more “reasonable.” Budget hearings continue today. Scroll down to the last story for links to watch.

Johnny Doc ally sentenced to 13 months in prison

Former IBEW 98 official Michael Neill, an ally of former union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, was sentenced yesterday to 13 months in prison for his role in embezzling $600,000 from the union. The Inquirer reports that Neill “was part of the triumvirate of leaders, including Dougherty, who have been convicted of leading the fleecing of union coffers to cover their personal expenses, including hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of home repairs.”

‘Children of a lesser god’

Commonwealth Foundation Senior Fellow Guy Ciarrocchi breaks down Gov. Shapiro’s plan to slash $262 million from public cyber charter school students—after claiming that “every child of God deserves” access to a quality education. He explains the misleading justification Shapiro used (in fact, cyber charter schools DO have brick and mortar buildings), and he notes, “It’s time to stop dividing our children and positioning them as competitors — with one ‘stealing’ money from the other. It’s time to recognize that most parents have ‘school choice’ — they move or they pay for it; but, others don’t have any choice.” In short, it’s time to stop treating some kids as ‘children of a lesser god.’

Watch today’s budget hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee will hear from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education at 9:30 a.m. this morning (watch here) and from the Department of Community and Economic Development at 1:00 p.m. (watch here). The House Appropriations Committee will hear from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency at 10:00 a.m. (watch here) and from the Pa. State System of Higher Education at 1:00 p.m. (watch here).

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