November 17, 2023

President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, the two leaders’ first face-to-face meeting in more than a year. The meeting was a tense one until Xi promised to send us more panda bears, at which point Biden broke down crying and the two leaders went for ice cream.

Congress took a break from expelling members, censuring members, physically fighting one another, challenging Teamsters to fights and trying to impeach the entire Biden family to pass a stopgap budget. The so-called “clean CR” was essentially the same as what former Speaker Kevin McCarthy got booted from the dais for trying to pass. And with that, we have officially lost our ability to figure out Congress AT ALL.

Federal Democrats are urging the federal reserve to update banking regulations to ease restrictions on marijuana transactions, now that states have legalized the leaf. It is pretty weird to think that you can buy or sell it in half the country, but can’t use a bank to hold the money, and meanwhile, you can still just straight up go to jail for even smoking it in Pennsylvania.

The news out of the General Assembly was a mixed bag this week. Leaders of both chambers still have not finalized all the budget pieces, although many have now moved. They have one week left in December to get it done before beginning work on next year’s budget. Looks like we are moving toward full-time budget debates.

One of the unfinished items is the school code, which defines how to drive out hundreds of millions in state funding to public education. A bipartisan code bill passed the Senate this week, before the House said “not so fast, good people.” House Democrats then peeled back proposed increases in some private school funds, making the point that if indeed we are gonna flat-fund our universities, then everyone gets flat-funded. Everybody eats or nobody eats.

Three months into the fiscal year, the state’s “big four” universities will finally get their cash for the year, as both chambers passed, and Governor Shapiro signed, their appropriations. Because this measure required two-thirds of the General Assembly to vote yes, the money was held up in continuing partisan disputes that often had zero to do with the students. And if we hear the word “leverage” one more time, somebody is gonna need a doctor.

The House also passed a long-awaited cost-of-living increase to state employees who retired before 2001. Congratulations to our good friends at the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees. That one was for you, Mark McKillop. We have no doubt you were smiling down on the capital this week.

The House and Senate are still at odds over gun-control measures that the House has passed but are sitting idly collecting dust in the Senate. The debate seems to center on how much control the state should have over weapons. On one side, the answer seems to be “plenty.” The other side’s answer seems to be “none, and stop asking.”

Meanwhile, 60% of Americans now believe violent crime in this country is a big problem. On one side, you will hear, “if we just had gun control,” while on the other you will hear, “we need more guns, stop asking.”

And if you think the chasm between the two chambers is large on gun control, wait until you get a load of a new abortion protection bill the House passed this week. Send lawyers, guns and money, baby. The shit has hit the fan.

As unregulated “skill games” continue to infest every corner of the Commonwealth, we finally heard another option besides “well, they are already here, we should just tax them.” Yeah, there is a lot of cocaine in this state, we assume that same logic doesn’t apply there. Instead, how about just making them illegal? Sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey unveiled his proposed budget this week, which was heavy on public safety investment, as well as bridge maintenance. When you have as many bridges as Ed does, you gotta pay attention to them. In Pittsburgh, there are so many bridges that you often need to cross a bridge to get to a bridge.

Over on the Triad socials, we spent some time in the front row at the Harrisburg Regional Chamber as the two top women in the General Assembly shared their thoughts on the state of our state.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we take you 30,000 feet above Martha’s Vineyard, where a cargo plane was forced to do a 180 after a horse got loose inside the plane. While the horse presented no real danger, it had become unruly, playing its music without headphones, getting wasted on airplane wine and insulting the flight attendants. That’s what passes for news around here as the General Assembly heads down the backstretch, running to the wire. Since next week is Thanksgiving, we will spare you any of our nonsense and wish you all a blessed and happy holiday. It is also giving season, so drop a couple rubles off at the local food bank if you can. Until next time, from all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend.