First Read

First Read – Feb. 21, 2024

Mortgage relief program reopening … House Committee advances affordable housing bills … Philly’s 76ers area plan … and more

WEATHER: Philadelphia: partly sunny, high of 45; Harrisburg: mostly sunny, high of 46; Pittsburgh: sunny, high of 55. 


* While two Republicans remain in the race for attorney general, several Democrats are still vying for the party nomination, including Jared Solomon, who recently picked up an endorsement from Transport Workers Union Local 234. 


* A federal appeals court will decide if Pennsylvania voters must have accurate handwritten dates on the outside envelopes of mail-in ballots for the votes to count, a dispute with implications for this year’s presidential contest, The Associated Press reports.

* Yesterday, the state House Housing and Community Development Committee unanimously voted to advance housing access bills that aim to encourage more affordable housing and protect homeowners and tenants, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports.

* A Pennsylvania mortgage relief program to help homeowners catch up after the pandemic will reopen in March after being closed for more than a year to resolve a backlog of applications and a series of internal problems, Spotlight PA reports.

* Philadelphia is trying to gain control of East Market Street from the state, which could help the 76ers’ arena plan. Many of the main arteries in the city are state routes, which saves the city money but comes with restrictions, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

* Former labor leader John J. Dougherty has been convicted in a second trial two years after a jury found him guilty of federal bribery charges. This time, it’s for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union he led for nearly three decades, the Inquirer reports. 

* During a visit to the Steel City yesterday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the Biden administration is dedicating $5.8 billion of federal funding toward lead pipe removal and clean water, with more than $200 million for Pennsylvania, the Capital-Star reports.

* Philadelphia City Council is considering banning some businesses from having casino-style gaming kiosks that have proliferated across the city and have drawn attention from lawmakers concerned that they’re unregulated and untaxed, The Inquirer reports.

* The race in District 12 has been a contentious three-way contest, with first-term incumbent Summer Lee facing Democrats Laurie MacDonald and Bhavini Patel this spring. Now, there’s a legal effort to remove MacDonald from the ballot, WESA reports. 

* A plan to build tiny home villages to shelter Pittsburgh’s growing number of homeless residents was put on hold yesterday. The City Council members behind the proposal asked the planning commission for more time to craft a zoning change, WESA reports.

* Lancaster County commissioners yesterday voiced support for granting federal pandemic relief dollars to a shelter for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, including military veterans, LancasterOnline reports.


* PennLive has an op-ed by Annette Reiff who writes that you may think you don’t have time to read the 92-page ruling handed down by Judge Engoron in Donald Trump’s financial fraud case – but it’s a page-turner. 

* The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that Pennsylvania, the longtime national outlier for its appalling patchwork system for indigent defense, is finally making progress to beef up its support for defendants who can’t afford representation. 


* The Biden administration yesterday urged U.S. House Republican leaders to hold a vote on assistance for Ukraine and said a new sanctions package against Russia is on the way, citing the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Capital-Star reports. 

* Presidential candidate Nikki Haley could use crossover support in her fight against Donald Trump, but she has alienated the Black voters who are central to her state’s Democratic voting base, The New York Times reports. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To Jenny DeHuff, news & politics editor at FOX News Digital … Want to wish someone a happy birthday in our newsletter? Email their name, job title and upcoming birthday to


9:30 a.m. – The Pittsburgh City Council Standing Committee meets, Council Chambers, City Council Building, Pittsburgh. Watch here. 

9:30 a.m. – Senate Appropriations Committee meets, Hearing Room 1, North Office Building, state Capitol, Harrisburg. Watch here.

10 a.m. – House Appropriations Committee meets, Room 140, state Capitol, Harrisburg. Watch here.

10:30 a.m. – House Labor & Industry Committee meets, Room 515, Irvis Office Building, Harrisburg. Watch here. 

11 a.m. – House Democratic Policy Committee meets, Room G50, Irvis Office Building, Harrisburg. 

1 p.m. – Senate Appropriations Committee meets, Hearing Room 1, North Office Building, state Capitol, Harrisburg. Watch here.

1 p.m. – House Appropriations Committee meets, Room 140, state Capitol, Harrisburg. Watch here.

1 p.m. – House Republican Policy Committee, Cokeburg Volunteer Fire Department, 171 Lincoln St., Cokeburg. 

KICKER: “We’ve been kicking the can down the road too long, and almost to a degree that these operators believe that they don’t have to answer to the city of Philadelphia. Well, that ends today.” – Philadelphia Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. on skill games, via the Inquirer

NEXT STORY: First Read – Feb. 20, 2024