Hope you’re a bad-news-first kind of person.
The bad news: Orlando
To talk about the news in Pennsylvania this past week, we need to talk about what happened about 1,000 miles south, in Orlando, Fl. On the morning of June 12, a lone gunman shot and killed 49 people at a gay club in the city, injuring at least as many. The shooter was killed by police at the scene. This was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Pennsylvania cities responded quickly to the crisis. There were candlelight vigils honoring the victims in Allentown, Lancaster, Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, State College and elsewhere across the state. Pittsburgh’s Pride Parade took place Sunday with a 50-second moment of silence for the victims in Orlando.
Both of Pennsylvania’s senators responded as well. Republican Pat Toomey, as he fights to keep his seat in November’s general election, has backed legislation that would limit potential terrorists from buying firearms. Toomey is perhaps best known nationally for the Toomey-Manchin Gun Control bill, a bipartisan measure proposed after the 2012 shooting in Sandy Hook, CT. The bill, which failed in 2013 and 2015, would close background check loopholes.
Pennsylvania’s Democrat in the Senate, Bob Casey, has evolved on the gun control issue over the years. Originally a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat, Casey joined Senate Democrats Wednesday night in a filibuster calling for stricter gun laws. Casey proposed his own bill that would limit those charged with hate crimes from buying guns.
All of this talk about gun violence and gun control has been free advertising for gun sellers across the state. As PennLive reports, gun sellers report an uptick in sales and interest in buying firearms since Sunday. Many of these potential purchasers are interested in guns like that used in the Orlando attack.
Unlike handguns, there’s no waiting period to buy an AR-15 in Florida, where the attacks took place. There’s also no waiting period in Pennsylvania, which Philadelphia Daily News columnist Helen Ubinas proved when she bought one, on Monday, in seven minutes.
The good news: Pittsburgh
Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins on winning the Stanley Cup! And serious congratulations to the whole city on that parade. According to Mayor Bill Peduto on Twitter, there were 400,000 fans in attendance and zero arrests. (The city’s population is just over 300,000.)
Pittsburgh isn’t just winning on the ice. The city had some urban victories this week as well. Allegheny County was the only county in the state to receive a federal grant for lead paint removal. As we’ve reported, lead paint (and pipes, to a lesser degree) is a serious public health concern across the state.
The city is in the process of applying for a federal Department of Transportation grant that would give the city $50 million to improve public transit.
And the whole region will feel the effects of the new Shell ethane cracker plant coming to Beaver County. Shell is estimating 6,000 short-term construction jobs and 600 permanent plant jobs once it’s up and running. The state beat out Ohio and West Virginia in their bid to host the plant, and in a statement, Gov. Wolf said this is the biggest investment in Pennsylvania since World War II.
With all this investment and excitement, is Pittsburgh’s downtown ready for more residents? Yes and no. More people are moving downtown and amenities are starting to follow. But there are few key pieces missing, like, say, a grocery store.
The old news: education and alcohol
A hundred years from now, the Pennsylvania legislature will probably still be discussing education funding and liquor control — they’ll just be doing it in space suits.
This year, however, there have been some big moves made on both of these issues.
The new education funding formula allocates new funding based on district need. Previously, funding was based entirely on making sure no district received less than the year before. Districts with declining enrollment were favored under that scheme, while those with growing student bodies and growing needs were shortchanged.
How do you measure district need? It’s a mix of student poverty level, language fluency, median household income, local tax capacity and other factors. Some districts are so burdened by these challenges it’s as if they are serving four times as many students as are enrolled.
And after years of having to buy wine and groceries at different locations, Pennsylvania has relented. Grocery stores that already sell beer will be able to sell up to four bottles of wine per patron.
If educational-need-maps aren’t your thing, we’ve also put together a handy map of grocery stores that will sell wine. It’s semi-exhaustive, so if you know of a beer-toting grocery store in your area that isn’t on this list, let us know.
According to this map, there aren’t that many grocery stores in Philadelphia that sell beer (or wine, eventually.) You might be better off heading for an outdoor beer garden, like the pop-up garden built under the Reading Railroad Viaduct. Watch the former parking lot become a summer wonderland in under six minutes.
The unreported news: Harrisburg
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse has barred Penn Live/Patriot News reporters from attending his weekly press conference and has instructed his spokeswoman to ignore requests from the newspaper. This unusual move comes after the paper reported on some of Papenfuse’s business dealings in the city, particularly around his bookstore, the Midtown Scholar. Papenfuse said that he believes the newspaper “traffics in hate speech and cynicism,” but didn’t elaborate further. Penn Live/Patriot News editor Cate Barron says the paper plans to continue to report on the city and it’s leading public official.