August 4, 2023

It was another trying week for former President Trump, as a federal grand jury indicted him for attempting to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. The indictments join a federal classified documents case and a state “hush money” case, and there is still potential for additional criminal indictments as well.

Trump pushed back on the allegations, claiming that he is a victim, that it’s all just a “witch hunt,” that he has “done nothing wrong,” that the Department of Justice has been “weaponized” and that the 2020 election “was stolen” from him. Almost everybody had something to say about it.

Switching to some positive news, Gov. Josh Shapiro signed Pennsylvania’s $45.5 billion budget bill into law, allowing tens of billions of dollars to flow to school districts, counties and nonprofit organizations. Still to consider is additional legislation allocating approximately $1.1 billion to programs for public legal defense, housing and aid for poorer school districts. Before signing, Shapiro vetoed a $100 million private school voucher program coveted by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.

Governor Shapiro signed an executive order on Monday creating the Commonwealth Workforce Transformation Program, a first-in-the-nation job training program that provides workforce development grants to ensure companies, contractors, unions, and others who are working to build Pennsylvania’s infrastructure have the skilled workforce they need. The initiative could support as many as 10,000 jobs.

Citing a significant disruption to military readiness, President Biden has decided to keep U.S. Space Command headquarters in Colorado, overturning a decision by the Trump administration to move it to Alabama. The location debate had become entangled in the ongoing battle between Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville and the Defense Department over providing travel reimbursement for troops seeking reproductive health care. Tuberville opposes the policy and is blocking hundreds of military promotions in protest. Hey, we report, you decide.

Allegheny County voters will determine control of the House in a special election Sept. 19. Democrats have tapped Lindsay Powell, director of workforce strategies for the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit economic development organization, InnovatePGH. The Republican nominee is Erin Connolly Autenrieth, of Shaler Township, a realtor. The seat was vacated by now-former Rep. Sara Innamorato, who is running for county executive. Control of the lower chamber is currently knotted at 101 for both parties.

This week we add “health care” to the growing list of rural Pennsylvania’s needs. That message comes to us from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania during a hearing with hospital and health care center executives and public health experts. Dr. Jill Owens, president of Upper Allegheny Health System, said the difficulty of attracting and retaining health care providers, along with other challenges, have led to “care deserts” and declining health outcomes for rural Pennsylvanians.

This week, the deadline for placing a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot came and went, meaning that survivors of childhood sexual abuse will continue waiting for their day in court. The measure would give abuse survivors a two-year window to seek monetary damages against their abusers, but there is a lack of consensus over whether it requires a vote of the people or merely the approval of the General Assembly and governor.

Just as we were trying to put it all behind us, it appears that COVID-19 cases are once more on the rise. While the number of hospitalizations is still near an all-time low, it’s on the rise for the first time this year. Neighboring New York has seen COVID hospitalizations rise 22% in the past seven days compared with the previous week.

Robert Bowers joined 101 other men on Pennsylvania’s Death Row this week as a federal jury handed him the death penalty for killing 11 people and wounding six others in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018. It was the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in U.S. history. Pennsylvania has executed three inmates since 1976, and none since 1999. Our sincere condolences remain with the Tree of Life victims and families.

A new report found that Pennsylvania ranks in the top half of states when it comes to interest in artificial intelligence technology. California, Massachusetts and New York ranked the highest overall. According to the study’s news release, Pennsylvania was 22nd overall when it came to AI interest. Alas, number one was the home of Silicon Valley, California.

City & State magazine had no trouble finding and honoring 100 women across the Commonwealth “who meet at the intersection of politics and policy.” You can read about them here.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we scoot on down to Sarasota, Florida, where a male manatee named Hugh died following a “high intensity” sexual encounter with another male manatee named Buffett. Governor DeSantis immediately accused the animal kingdom of being too “woke” and called for banning same-gender sex among marine creatures.

And that’s what passes for news around here as we move into the Dog Days. Enjoy a respite from the heat for the next few days as overnight temps fall into the 60s, and we’ll see you back here next week.