One item on new Gov. Josh Shapiro's budget wish list is an item seen on former Gov. Tom Wolf's wish list for his entire administration. "I'm asking you, respectfully, to work with me to finally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour here in Pennsylvania," the governor said during his budget address. Shapiro unveiled a $44.4 billion budget Tuesday at the Capitol. It's a budget that calls for $567 million more to be spent on K-12 education; expands the state’s Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program by increasing the income cap for both homeowners and renters to $45,000 and boosting the maximum rebate to $1,000; and increases child care services funding by $66.7 million to allow 75,000 low-income families to get subsidized child care.
Republicans aren't heavily critical of Gov. Josh Shapiro's first budget proposal. Senate President Kim Ward says there are some parts of the plan they agree with. "I think we support the vocational training aspect of what the governor talked about. It's very good. There are good-paying jobs out there in the trades and the skilled labor force that pay as much as a college degree. Not everybody needs to go to college or wants to go to college," Ward says. She says there are actually a lot of things the governor proposed that Republicans can agree with, but she cautions the devil remains in the details and trying to figure out how to pay for it all.
We're learning a bit more about a ransomware attack on Lehigh Valley Health Network. LVHN says a ransomware gang with ties to Russia known as BlackCat attacked its software system last month and posted to the dark web photos of LVHN cancer patients and personal documents. The health network said three, what they call "clinically appropriate" photos of patients receiving treatment were shared, as were seven documents with patient information. LVHN, which declined to pay the ransom demanded, calls the act unconscionable and despicable.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the Saucon Valley School District will not reverse its decision to deny the After School Satan Club to hold meetings in a district building. In a statement, the ACLU of Pennsylvania says, "It’s unfortunate that the school district is doubling down on its unconstitutional and discriminatory action against the club and The Satanic Temple.” The Saucon Valley School District's solicitor says the district rescinded its initial approval to allow the club to use a district building because the club violates school board policy. Mark Fitzgerald says, “We are extremely disappointed that advocates for the After School Satan Club would attempt to make this something that it is not.”
Lehigh University is saying that foul play is not suspected in the disappearance of 19-year-old student Daniel Lee, who has been missing since Jan. 20. In a statement released Tuesday, Lehigh University says self harm is a concern. The school says he phone and credit cards have not been used since he disappeared.
The Allentown Parking Authority has scheduled a public forum after residents voiced their frustrations at an Allentown City Council meeting last week. The meeting is Tuesday, March 21 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Americus Hotel. Residents say people who work during the day are unable to attend parking authority meetings that take place once a month on a Wednesday at noon.
Police in the Poconos are investigating a double stabbing in Monroe County. The incident happened this past Monday night on Main Street in Stroudsburg. Police say two males had been stabbed while another fled the scene after an altercation broke out on the street. This was not a random event according to authorities and there's no threat to the public.
The Giant supermarket chain is donating food and money to Allentown School District students. Giant presented a check for more than 14-thousand dollars Tuesday morning at Hays Elementary School and also donated over 13-hundred snacks. Company officials say it's part of their "Feeding School Kids Initiative," which comes from the extra money customers give when they round up their purchases. The program has raised nearly a million-and-a-half dollars overall to fight childhood hunger.
Gas prices in both the Lehigh Valley and across the state didn't move over the past week. According to AAA East Central, the average price of gas in Pennsylvania remained steady and stood at $3.62 Tuesday and here in the Lehigh Valley, that price also held fast, standing at $3.46 as of yesterday.
A state senator from Reading wants to raise the penalties for people who vandalize religious spaces. Senator Judy Schwank says her "Save Our Sacred Spaces" measure would classify any damage done to a church, synagogue or mosque not only as vandalism, but also as a hate crime. Schwank says when she and her co-sponsors have enough support, they say they will release a corresponding bill number. The legislation will be referred to either the Senate Law and Justice Committee or the Judiciary Committee.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has voted to open new applications for offshore wind projects -- despite public concern that those projects may be a cause behind a wave of recent whale deaths. The window for new applications for offshore projects will be open through June 23rd. It will be the third solicitation for bids for projects in pursuit of Governor Phil Murphy's goal of 100 percent clean energy for the state by 2035.
The New York Giants have put a franchise tag on running back Saquon Barkley. The Whitehall High graduate's tag is nonexclusive, which means the 26-year-old is able to negotiate a contract with other teams in addition to the Giants. They would have the right to match any team’s offer and also would receive two first-round draft picks if they decided not to match. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft and the offensive rookie of the year that season would earn just over $10 million on the tag. Barkley also had a standout season, finishing fourth in the league in rushing yards with 1,312.