The state DEP once again is declaring a Code Red Air Quality Action Day for all of Pennsylvania.  Smoke from Canadian wildfires is again lingering in parts of the U.S., increasing the level of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere.  Sensitive individuals like older adults, young children, and those suffering from respiratory diseases should not spend a lot of time outdoors.  Residents are encouraged to avoid burning leaves, trash, and other items and to limit gasoline-powered equipment usage in order to reduce air pollution.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has rejected Republican arguments that challenged the state’s mail voting law. The issue was settled by the court Tuesday, regarding recent decisions in the legal battle over whether to count ballots with missing or incorrect dates.  A provision in the broader statue known as Act 77 includes a clause that says the mail voting law must be scrapped if any of its individual requirements are struck down by courts.  Fourteen GOP state lawmakers had said counting ballots with missing or incorrect dates would have invalidated Act 77. But the Commonwealth Court disagreed unanimously.  Opponents have said the Republicans’ efforts are attempts to invalidate the mail voting law and federal voting rights protections.

The Pennsylvania Senate has confirmed Richard Negrin to be the state secretary, for the Department of Environmental Protection. The confirmation came Monday for the former executive. He was most recently Vice President of Regulatory Policy and Strategy and head of external affairs at Commonwealth Edison, where he led environmental initiatives. The Department notes Negrin is one of the few Latinos to be named to the executive level in Pennsylvania.   

The state House has approved a bill that would create a medical debt relief program for low-income families. House Bill 78 does not specify how much the state would spend on the program; that amount is expected to be worked out during budget negotiations. The bill’s sponsor Arvind Venkat is a Democrat from Allegheny County who is also an emergency room doctor. He says it proposes a partnership with companies that purchase distressed medical debt that creates a win-win situation for all.

Former Allegheny County Department of Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen will not be the state’s next Department of Health secretary after all.  Governor Josh Shapiro this week has pulled Bogen’s nomination for the post.  Reports say she did not have enough support in the state senate to be confirmed.

A federal grand jury has indicted a Pittsburgh woman on social security fraud-related charges.  Prosecutors say that 70-year-old Susan Mentser of stole and converted more than 21-thousand dollars in supplemental social security income benefits that had been deposited into her deceased mother’s bank account.  If convicted, she could be sentenced to more than ten years in prison. 

The state Senate has voted to officially confirm Thomas Cook as the new state Fire Commissioner. Cook was nominated in January. The position is responsible for the operation of Pennsylvania’s emergency service training program and supports the state’s 24-hundred fire departments and their personnel. Michael Humphreys was also confirmed as the state Insurance Commissioner. He was the acting commissioner under Governor Tom Wolf. His main role will be to monitor the financial solvency of the state’s insurance companies and oversee licensing.

AAA projects that this Independence Day weekend will see a record-setting 43.2 million people driving 50 miles or more away from home. Moreover, AAA expects to rescue more than 400,000 motorists nationwide. In the interest of roadway safety, it’s crucial to ensure vehicles are in proper working condition before taking any trips. Mike Hoshaw, vice president of automotive services, AAA East Central says make sure you have a spare tire for you vehicle and pack an emergency kit.  Triple-A East Central has responded to over 75 thousand calls for roadside assistance since the Memorial Day weekend.

Hunting licenses and antlerless licenses for Pennsylvania residents are now on sale and can be purchased at many county treasurer’s offices. State officials say hunters can also now get their antlerless licenses at the same time they purchase a hunting license. The cost of a resident antlerless deer license is six-dollars and 97-cents. Non-resident sales start Monday, July 10th, with licenses costing 20-dollars more for non-residents — a total of 26-dollars and 97-cents. 

Organizers are prepping for tomorrow’s opening of the 2023 Big Butler Fair.  The Butler County event is billed as the largest fair in Western Pennsylvania and promises nine days of fun that will include fireworks, midway games, demolition derbies, concerts and truck pulls.  The fair opens at 9 a.m. tomorrow and runs through July 8th

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