Heads Up: Morning headlines for Feb. 20

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This just in: Dr. Bruce Dixon, who headed the county Health Department until being sacked by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, died early this morning. Early reports are he died from natural causes.

In Harrisburg, budget hearings are underway, and Democrats seem resolved to make it tough sledding for Gov. Tom Corbett's budget proposals.

Something about the very word "sequester" makes me reach for the No-Doze -- despite the massive cuts in store if automatic federal budget cuts go through next week. But the stakes are real ... as witness this first-hand testimonial about what would happen to Head Start programs in the South Hills, and around the state.

No surprise here: Allegheny County Council voted to approve gas-drilling on airport land. Notable for his opposition: County Councilor -- and state Democratic Party chair -- Jim Burn. Guess he and the executive still aren't reading from the same hymnal.

You knew that Sen. Pat Toomey joined in an effort to delay a vote on Chuck Hagel's appointment to Secretary of Defense, right? Again, no surprise, but it is sort of funny how Toomey gets credit for being a pragmatist in some quarters. He's moderate in style -- look! he even invited a Democrat to the State of the Union -- but ultra-conservative in substance. Which works, because style is all anyone pays attention to. (BTW, the Democrat he invited? Pennsylvania's leading champion of school vouchers. So, yeah.)

Luke Ravenstahl officially kicked off his mayoral bid last night, prompting yet another cute photo of his kid. Keep this up, mayor, and I'll be longing for the days when you used to threaten legal action against any reporter who so much as THOUGHT about writing about your family. (Full disclosure: I may just be jealous. This morning, MY kid looked up from his bowl at breakfast and asked, "That all there is?" Sounds like HIS endorsement is still in play, at least.)

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