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This Hour: Latest Pennsylvania news, sports, business and entertainment

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PHILADELPHIA SCHOOLS

Funding for Philly schools stalls in Capitol

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has harsh words for the state Legislature's intra-Republican Party squabble that is stalling funding for the city's schools.

Nutter told reporters Thursday that Philadelphia schools won't open Sept. 8 as scheduled because House Republican leaders canceled voting sessions before then.

Stuck in limbo is legislation authorizing a cigarette sales tax in Philadelphia to provide millions for the city's deficit-plagued schools.

Philadelphia officials are warning of 1,300 layoffs and classrooms of 40-plus students. They say they can't open the schools safely in September without more money.

House Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai say they failed to reach a consensus and won't return until mid-September.

They're asking Gov. Tom Corbett to advance the school district the money it needs to open the schools on time.

SUDAN-DEATH SENTENCE-US

Sudan woman arrives in US, faced death over faith

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, which was later overturned, has arrived in the United States after a flight from Rome.

Meriam Ibrahim stopped in Philadelphia briefly before flying on to Manchester, New Hampshire, where she will make her new home.

Her husband, who has U.S. citizenship, had previously lived in New Hampshire and has family already there.

Officials at Philadelphia International Airport say she arrived with her family late Thursday afternoon.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was at the airport to greet her.

GAS DRILLING-STATE FOREST

Forests agency adds public step to drilling plan

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania state lawmaker says it's an important victory that parks and forests officials will accept public comments on the terms of agreement to allow two natural gas exploration companies to drill in Loyalsock State Forest.

Still, Rep. Rick Mirabito told the Williamsport Sun-Gazette on Wednesday that he wished the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources had agreed to accept comments for 30 days, rather than just 15.

Agency officials say there's no deadline to come to terms.

They say the state doesn't own the subsurface rights on a 25,000-acre tract known as the Clarence Moore lands and cannot prevent Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum and Southwest Energy from drilling there. But officials say they hope to minimize the environmental damage.

Drilling opponents argue that the state has more power than it says to prevent the drilling.

PPL-POWER LINE PROPOSAL

PPL proposes 725-mile power line network in Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - PPL Corp. wants to spend billions of dollars to build a 725-mile system of electric transmission lines that will bring energy from the booming Marcellus Shale natural gas fields to customers on the heavily populated eastern seaboard.

The Allentown-based utility said Thursday the 500-kilovolt line would span Pennsylvania and reach New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

The company says the cost would exceed $4 billion and it'll probably take a decade to build.

The proposal requires regulatory approval and the precise route hasn't been determined.

A rough map produced by the company shows a line running from Pittsburgh through Pennsylvania's rural northern tier and into New York.

A second branches south through the Susquehanna River corridor into Maryland. A third spur runs through the Lehigh Valley and into New Jersey.

COAL DUST RULE

Coal dust limit to try to combat black lung

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The Obama administration's push to reduce black lung disease by limiting coal dust in mines is taking effect.

Initial requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor's coal dust rule become effective Friday. It was proposed in 2010.

New requirements include increased dust sampling in mines and citations when coal operators don't take immediate action for high levels.

In February 2016, better monitoring equipment will be required. In August 2016, the allowable concentration of coal dust will drop.

Ohio-based Murray Energy and the National Mining Association sued separately over the rule.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says black lung has killed more than 76,000 miners since 1968.

It is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by coal dust exposure, where particles accumulate in the lungs.

POT TRIP

Lawmaker lauds Colorado's handling of marijuana

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania state senator who is charging a nearly $5,000 trip to taxpayers to see how Colorado is dealing with marijuana's legalization says it's home to a high-tech, high-paid industry and isn't a state full of "stoners."

Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County wrote an editorial this week about his three-day trip last weekend with three staff aides.

Leach is perhaps the Pennsylvania Legislature's foremost proponent of legalizing marijuana.

Sen. Mike Folmer of Lebanon County traveled to Colorado for a three-day trip with a staff aide two months ago. A spokesman says they paid their own way. Folmer supports a narrower legalization of a marijuana extract for medical purposes.

A bill co-sponsored by Leach and Folmer awaits a Senate vote. House GOP leaders and Gov. Tom Corbett oppose it.

HOMELESS ADVOCATES-THEFT

2 homeless advocates accused of stealing $350K

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Two executives at a Philadelphia organization serving the homeless are accused of stealing $350,000 and using the money for personal expenses ranging from the purchase of shoes and the renting of a Hummer to a trip to Disney World.

The U.S. Attorney's office announced the indictments Thursday of 38-year-old Erica Brown of Glenolden and 62-year-old Nathaniel Robinson of Philadelphia. The two were top executives at SELF Inc., which received federal money to help the needy.

From 2005 through 2010, prosecutors say Brown spent $199,000 on personal expenses with a corporate credit card and Robinson charged $154,000. Both have since left SELF.

Lawyers for the two did not return calls.

Both face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

BAYER-ICONIC SIGN

Bayer, out: Plug pulled on iconic Pittsburgh sign

PITTSBURGH (AP) - An iconic sign atop Pittsburgh's Mount Washington won't have the Bayer name in lights much longer.

The chemical and pharmaceutical giant said Thursday that it no longer wants to pay for the 30-foot-tall advertisement and asked sign owner Lamar to turn it off as quickly as possible.

The Bayer name has been in lights on the sign since 1995 and the company has long complained that the 90-year-old sign is in need of lighting upgrades and repairs.

A real estate manager for Lamar tells the Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh that a new advertiser is being sought and an application is pending with the city to authorize repairs and upgrades.

The Germany-based Bayer has about 2,200 employees in suburban Pittsburgh where it houses the North American headquarters of its material sciences business.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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