The Pennsylvania Senate has passed nearly all the pieces of a long-overdue spending plan, including a bill that would let consumers buy wine in some supermarkets and restaurants. The lawmakers also passed an education measure that would distribute $350 million in new school funding. The votes suggest progress toward ending the budget stalemate, but no one would discuss what taxes would be raised to pay for the $30.8 billion spending plan, which is backed by state senators and Gov. Tom Wolf, but must still win support in the House. House lawmakers want to know what taxes might be raised before voting on other pieces of the agreement, while senators want the House's support before disclosing more details about taxes. "I don't think a tax package moves unless everyone agrees to it," said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.), minority chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Read more
The trial for a woman accused of taking part in an attack on two gay men in Center City last year opened Thursday. In her opening statement, prosecutor Allison Ruth told jurors that Kathryn Knott and her friends hurled slurs like "You dirty f---ing faggot. Is that your f---ing boyfriend? F---ing faggot, f---ing faggot, f---ing faggot" at the couple, and Knott "runs toward the fight" and "threw punches." Defense attorney Louis Busico, however, countered that the 25-year-old Bucks County woman was merely present when two men in her group got into a fight with the gay men. Two codefendents, 25-year-old Philip Williams of Warminster and 27-year-old Kevin Harrigan of Warrington, have pleaded guilty. "At no point in time will one of the [prosecution's] independent witnesses say she touched a soul," Busico said. Read more
Over the last month, about a dozen Upper Darby Township residents have received an unexpected house call from an unusual guest: Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood. Chitwood is making personal visits to houses where his officers have been called a dozen or more times this year, for fights, drug overdoes, domestic incidents and other issues. "That's the new strategy; I am personally going out and dealing with these nuisance houses," Chitwood said. "People may not realize their house is a nuisance, but when the f---ing chief knocks on the door, it's like 'OK, they mean business.'" And some of the residents are reacting with gratitude to chief's surprise appearance. "I was surprised that my house was one of the ones that was picked, but it's good to know that the number of calls to my house was noticed by police," Racquel Smith-Archer said. Read more
The use of Mark Twain's classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is still a contentious issue for schools. After the book was published in 1885, it was boycotted in some places for showing a friendship between a black man and a white boy. Now, a Montgomery County school is among those who have removed the book from its curriculum because of its frequent use of the N-word and perceived racist portrayals of black characters. A group of students at Friends' Central School said Huckleberry Finn made them uncomfortable. "We have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book in 11th grade outweigh the literary benefits," principal Art Hall said in a letter to parents. Read more
Pennsylvania's judicial ethics court has ordered state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin to make a case for why he should not be suspended while it weighs his fate in the Porngate email scandal. The Court of Judicial Discipline will hold a Dec. 21 hearing on whether to suspend Eakin as he awaits a trial on misconduct charges for exchanging sexually explicit, racist, misogynistic and homophobic emails. "Although these emails were originally intended to be private conversations, they have now become public, potentially resulting in grave damage to the public's confidence in and integrity of the Pennsylvania judiciary," wrote Judge Jack A. Panella, the court's president judge emeritus. Read more