The defense has begun presenting its arguments in the final penalty phase in the trial of Robert Bowers.  Last month, Bowers was convicted in the 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue that left eleven people dead.  Jurors have already found that Bowers is eligible for the death penalty.  This portion of the trial is so that they can decided if he gets it or will spend the rest of his life in prison.

For a fifth consecutive year the Board of Governors for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) voted unanimously today to freeze tuition. The decision keeps the tuition from inflation which would have made tuition 21% higher from 2018.  The House and Senate passed a state budget that would provide an increase of $33 million to PASSHE universities.  In the last two years, funding has been increased by the state by $108 million with PASSHE receiving $585.6 million.

A Portersville man was taken to the hospital following a one vehicle accident in Slippery Rock Township. State Police report 21 year old George Merrill was westbound on route 422 when he told police he began to have difficulty breathing before losing consciousness.  His vehicle traveled off the roadway struck a guardrail and overturned.  Merrill was taken to UPMC Jameson Hospital for treatment.

One-hundred-million-dollars that had been set aside in state funds for adult mental health could soon be redirected for school mental health grants.  Under the proposed state budget bill that’s awaiting final enactment, the 100-million would come from American Rescue Plan funds. A separate provision by Senate Republicans would use part of 50-million dollars in emergency relief money to cover hospital and health systems’ care for expanded mental health services.   

State officials say thousands of student borrowers in Pennsylvania are now eligible for loan forgiveness.  The Biden Administration on Tuesday announced that it has approved federal student loan forgiveness totaling 39-billion dollars.  The U.S. Department of Education says that will lead to automatic discharge for over 800-thousand borrowers across the country, including about 30-thousand in Pennsylvania.  Discharges are expected to begin in the next month.

 A new Franklin and Marshall poll says the number of Pennsylvania Republicans who support gun control is declining.  The results published this week by the Center of Opinion Research show the percentage of Republicans who were either strongly or somewhat in favor of gun control fell from 51 percent to 29 percent from the year 2000 to 2022.   The poll also found that the percentage of Democrats who support gun control increased from 66-percent to 82-percent over the same time period.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will soon hear two consolidated cases about business who sued insurance companies to recover income lost during the pandemic.  Similar lawsuits have favored insurers, but these state cases involve conflicting lower-court rulings. The lawsuits are between a tavern owner and a dentist and whether their insurance policies should have covered their  financial losses. In one case, an insurer was ordered to provide coverage and in the other, the insurer’s denial was upheld.  A federal appeals court predicted earlier this year that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would decide the policies do not provide coverage to recover lost pandemic income.

  A state committee has announced which counties and non-profits will get to distribute a million-and-a-half dollars in scholarships to help at-risk students go to college.  The funding, managed by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, was created to help kids in school districts that have high dropout or incarceration rates.  Exactly how the six school districts and non-profits chosen will determine which students get the funding isn’t clear. A commission spokeswoman said last week that the organizations’ proposals for implementing the scholarship program are still “a work in progress.”

A lucky lottery player, or players, in California this week will take home the billion-dollar PowerBall lottery prize.  Now people in Western Pennsylvania and around the country are hoping they might be nation’s next big winner.  The chance comes tonight with the Mega Millions game.  No player has won the top prize in that game since April and the estimated jackpot now stands at 720-million dollars.  Winning numbers will be drawn at 11 p.m.

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