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Free air conditioners available again in Pa. through utility assistance program

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Free air conditioners available again in Pa. through utility assistance program


A need for cooling bill assistance

Even when a household has access to an air conditioner, they may not be able to afford to run it.

“If you’re going to burn an air conditioner, it’s going to make your bill go up,” said Victoria Miles-Chambliss, secretary and treasurer of the Kingsessing-based nonprofit Empowered CDC, who helped people try to navigate the cooling program last summer. “It’s like, I either sweat to death or I get air conditioning and don’t have enough money to …  get medication or this, that and the other.”

Some states, including Delaware, allow LIHEAP money to be used for summer electricity bills. But so far, Pennsylvania’s LIHEAP cooling pilot program only covers air conditioning units or A/C system repairs.

A survey of over 100 residents of low-income neighborhoods in Philly by the faith-based nonprofit Esperanza and Community Legal Services last year found that just 6% of respondents lacked an air conditioner in their homes. But 76% struggled to afford their energy bills in the summer.

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“You can have the air conditioner, but if you can’t afford it, then it’s not going to really help you when it’s really hot,” said Christina Gareis, a former community public health coordinator at Esperanza who co-authored the report.

A whopping 89% of survey respondents said they limit their use of air conditioning to keep costs down.

“Most respondents are limiting A/C use so they don’t get a shutoff notice,” said Ángel Ortiz-Siberón, vice president of research & strategic initiatives at Esperanza. “Yet many of our respondents still dealt with shut off notices during the summer.”

Over the last few years, tens of thousands of PECO customers have had their electricity shut off for nonpayment each summer, excluding 2020, when terminations were paused because of the pandemic.

Nationwide, households of color experience energy insecurity at higher rates than white households. Nearly all of the respondents to Esperanza’s survey identified as either African American or Hispanic/Latinx. Many live in ZIP codes in North and West Philly that were at least partially redlined.

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“People should be able to be cool in their own homes, as opposed to having to leave their homes for a cooling center on high heat days,” Dr. Jamile Tellez Lieberman, senior vice president of community engagement, research and health equity at Esperanza, wrote in an email. “Even beyond A/Cs, it’s a question of equity and justice, colored by race.”

Based on input from residents, Community Legal Services and Esperanza recommended Pennsylvania expand LIHEAP bill assistance year-round to cover both heating and cooling by allocating state money to supplement federal funding.

“The number one barrier [to cooling] is that there’s not grant assistance available in the summer to the extent that there is assistance available in the winter,” said Joline Price, a supervising attorney in the energy unit at Community Legal Services. “We would want people to be able to get grants both for heating and cooling, not to be choosing between the two.”

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which administers LIHEAP bill assistance, said the agency is open to exploring a cooling program in the future.

“We recognize that sweltering summer months can pose a threat to the health of vulnerable Pennsylvanians,” spokesperson Natalie Scott wrote in an email.

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But without additional funding, Pennsylvania would need to take money away from the traditional heating bill assistance program to pay for cooling bill assistance, Scott said. DHS has not yet studied the demand and costs associated with running LIHEAP bill assistance year-round but plans to do so in the future.

“We plan to work in partnership with our stakeholders and advocates to analyze the demand and cost of these programs so we can balance these needs and serve the vulnerable citizens of the commonwealth throughout the year,” Scott wrote. “DHS is in support of additional funding or the expansion of LIHEAP to better serve Pennsylvanians during the summer heat.”



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Pennsylvania

Elections 101: Everything you need to know about election recounts in Pennsylvania

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Elections 101: Everything you need to know about election recounts in Pennsylvania


How does Pennsylvania recount votes?

Counties must submit their unofficial results to the Pennsylvania Department of State by the first Tuesday following the election, which is Nov. 12 this year. If unofficial results show the margin lies within half a percent for a statewide race like those for president or U.S. Senate, the secretary of the commonwealth will order a recount by Nov. 14, according to a Department of State directive. A losing candidate has until Nov. 13 to request a recount not take place.

Counties will then recount all ballots either by hand or using different tabulation machines than the election was initially conducted with.

The recount must begin by the third Wednesday following the election, which this fall will be Nov. 20, and results must be submitted to the secretary by the following Wednesday, Nov. 27.

In the case of precinct-level recount petitions, requesters must file their petition with the local Court of Common Pleas. A judge will then determine if it meets the legal requirements to take place.

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Can a recount change election results?

Recounts that change the outcome of a race are extremely rare, according to a study of statewide recounts by Fair Vote, a nonprofit focused on ranked-choice voting.

The group analyzed nearly 7,000 statewide races between 2000 and 2023, and found only 36 recounts in that time, only three of which resulted in a change of outcome.

“All three reversals occurred when the initial margin was less than 0.06% of all votes cast for the top two candidates,” according to the report.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, there have been seven statewide recounts since the 0.5% rule went into effect in 2004, and none of them changed the outcome of the race.

The most recent was in the 2022 Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

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In that race, Mehmet Oz beat Dave McCormick by 902 votes — a margin of 0.07% — triggering the recount. McCormick conceded before the recount was complete, but the count ultimately shifted the margin by only 49 votes, in Oz’s favor.

Voter-initiated precinct-level recounts are even less likely to affect the outcome of a race than those ordered by the secretary.

In 2022, when supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano requested recounts around the state, they did not substantially shift the margin in areas where the requests were granted.

Recounts in four Westmoreland County precincts resulted in only a three-vote difference from the original tally. Columbia County also recounted votes in some precincts, and results changed by only one or two votes, officials said at the time.

Could there be a recount this year?

Whether there is an automatic recount of a statewide race this year depends on the margins of victory this November. Current polling indicates the presidential race may be close in Pennsylvania.

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If the margin is within half a percent, Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt must order a recount by Nov. 14, according to a calendar of this year’s election. Counties would need to submit the results of that recount to the secretary by Nov. 27.

It’s likely at least some voters will request precinct-level recounts, which could negatively affect the state’s certification process. This year, there is a hard deadline for Pennsylvania to provide its certified slate of presidential electors to Congress.

If precinct-level recount petitions delay certification as they did in 2022, the state could run up against that deadline and the courts may be forced to intervene.



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Leaked clip reveals vulnerable Pennsylvania Dem’s thoughts on Trump supporters: ‘Horde of budding blood-and-soil fascists’

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Leaked clip reveals vulnerable Pennsylvania Dem’s thoughts on Trump supporters: ‘Horde of budding blood-and-soil fascists’


PITTSBURGH — An explosive unearthed podcast clip exposes swing-district Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-Pa.) slamming former President Donald Trump’s supporters as a “horde of budding blood-and-soil fascists.”

The attorney, then a University of Pittsburgh legal and policy scholar, made the comments in a 2020 appearance on “Save Us From The Johns” — a politics podcast that’s since been renamed “Save Us From The Op-Eds.”

“Day-job work right now is very focused on election protection,” Deluzio said of his work at Pitt. “And that’s, broadly speaking, making sure this maniac in the White House and his, you know, horde of budding blood-and-soil fascists don’t suppress the vote. And that is basically keeping me and everyone else who’s doing that work very busy, in Pennsylvania and everywhere else.”

Rep. Chris Deluzio said in 2020 he was “very busy” working against “this maniac in the White House.” Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Deluzio, 39, represents Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District, which covers Beaver County and part of Allegheny County in suburban Pittsburgh. He was first elected there — one of seven House districts the Cook Partisan Voting Index rates “even” — in 2022, winning 53.4% of the vote against Republican challenger Jeremy Shaffer.

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This year, Deluzio faces GOP state representative and Iraq War veteran Rob Mercuri in the general election. Representing Allegheny County in the Pennsylvania statehouse since 2021, Mercuri serves on the body’s Education, Finance and Government Oversight committees.

Deluzio is not the only vulnerable Pennsylvania House Democrat to have disparaged constituents.

Last week, The Post reported that Rep. Susan Wild locked her Facebook account after being called out for a bizarre comment she made on the platform calling a veteran she encountered at a Memorial Day parade homophobic.


Rep. Susan Wild locked her Facebook page after calling a veteran homophobic.
Rep. Susan Wild locked her Facebook page after calling a veteran homophobic. Shutterstock

Wild — who is seeking her fourth term in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District — has also expressed dismay about the redistricting of rural, red-leaning Carbon County into her territory.

Back in January, Wild said Carbon County voters had “drank the Trump Kool-Aid” by overwhelmingly supporting Republican candidates.

And during a virtual meet-and-greet in July 2022, Wild said she needed to “school” these voters on their strong support for Trump.

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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Step Up Push For Marijuana Legalization, With Emphasis On Social Equity

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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Step Up Push For Marijuana Legalization, With Emphasis On Social Equity


Pennsylvania lawmakers are stepping up their push to pass a marijuana legalization bill, emphasizing the need for bipartisan and bicameral collaboration to enact the reform with a focus on social justice.

At a “Cannabis Day at the Capitol” rally hosted by DACO and Black Cannabis Week on Tuesday, several legislators underscored their commitment to advancing legalization in the Keystone State.

Rep. Chris Rabb (D) gave an impassioned speech, stating that lawmakers “don’t talk about the history that put prohibition on this place—and if we don’t acknowledge the context in which this policy was radically changed in the 1930s, then we don’t do justice to the fight today. And that policy change was born out of racism.”

“I’ll say it again, because these are words that a lot of my colleagues don’t want to use—because it may seem impolite or controversial or problematic—but you know what’s more problematic? Racism itself,” he said. “We are here today because there was a time when this plant was associated with people who were marginalized and victimized to benefit other industries who are afraid of cannabis.”

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Rabb also seemed to draw a line in the sand on the need to incorporate social equity provisions into any legalization bill that advances, saying it’s going to be “really hard to get 102 votes in the House” if the legislation primarily favors “wealthy people” who “play around the margins.”

“If this legislation that ultimately is enacted into law is not centered on social equity—and when I say social equity, I don’t just mean Black and brown folks. I mean rural folks, folks with disabilities, the law enforcement community, farmers, all kinds of folks—this doesn’t just happen,” he said.

Sen. Sharif Street (D), who has championed legalization legislation over recent sessions, also participated in the rally, echoed Rabb’s points, saying “an essential part of passing adult-use is it’s gotta be making sure that they seal and expunge the records of all those folks who are convicted of cannabis crimes.”

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“We gotta make sure that Black and brown business folks have a have an opportunity to participate in the recreational adult-use,” he said.

Rep. Napoleon Nelson (D) said that while Pennsylvania might not be one of the first states to legalize, “we’re going to be the first to do it right.”

Brittany Crampsie, spokesperson for ResponsiblePA, told Marijuana Moment that, as lawmakers “consider adult-use legalization in this year’s budget, voters and reform advocates across the state are urging the legislature to pass adult-use cannabis legalization now.”

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“It is essential that our state no longer trails its neighbors in implementing equitable laws around cannabis,” she said, adding that the organization commends legislators who participated in Tuesday’s event “for calling on their peers in both chambers for leadership and consensus-building at this critical time.”

While the rally only featured Democratic lawmakers, ResponsiblePA organized a separate event last month where Sens. Dan Laughlin (R), who is sponsoring cannabis legislation with Street, said the state is “getting close” to legalizing marijuana, but the job will only get done if House and Senate leaders sit down with the governor and “work it out.”

“We need to work it out, and that doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Laughlin said, adding that while he understands Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) has again included legalization in his budget proposal this year, “you need to sit down with House and Senate leadership and try and work out a package where we can get this done.”

Warren County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Robert Greene, a registered medical cannabis patient in the state,  also spoke at that rally. In January, Greene filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn a ban preventing medical marijuana patients from buying and possessing firearms.

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Meanwhile, last month the governor’s office said that the Biden administration’s move to federally reschedule marijuana “adds support” for an effort to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania.

Two Pennsylvania House panels held a joint hearing to discuss marijuana legalization in April, with multiple lawmakers asking the state’s top liquor regulator about the prospect of having that agency run cannabis shops.


Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Also in April, members of the House Health Committee had a conversation centered on social justice and equity considerations for reform.

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That took place days after Rep. Amen Brown (D) filed a marijuana legalization bill that he described as “grounded in safety and social equity.”

“I’m here to get this done,” Brown said at this week’s rally, noting that he and other people he knows have a “personal experience” with current marijuana policy.

At a prior meeting in March, members focused on criminal justice implications of prohibition and the potential benefits of reform.

At another hearing in February, members looked at the industry perspective, with multiple stakeholders from cannabis growing, dispensing and testing businesses, as well as clinical registrants, testifying.

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At the subcommittee’s previous cannabis meeting in December, members heard testimony and asked questions about various elements of marijuana oversight, including promoting social equity and business opportunities, laboratory testing and public versus private operation of a state-legal cannabis industry.

And during the panel’s first meeting late last year, Frankel said that state-run stores are “certainly an option” he’s considering for Pennsylvania, similar to what New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) recommended for that state last year, though a state commission later shied away from that plan.

The cannabis proposal the Brown filed in the House in April is an identical companion to a bipartisan Senate cannabis legalization measure that was introduced last year.

Doctor’s Lawsuit Over Psilocybin For Cancer Patients Will Be Argued This Summer, With Separate Rescheduling Case Headed To Mediation

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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