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Nearly 150k may be forced to change medications in 2020

The Investigator
Your exclusive guide to the best journalism in Pa.
December 26, 2019 | spotlightpa.org
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As Harrisburg quiets down, a brave skeleton crew persists in the Spotlight PA offices. We've been surviving on stale holiday cookies and watching the governor and lieutenant governor read mean tweets. (Although, for the record, "Thanks Boomer" hardly counts.) 

Plus: a change to Pennsylvania's Medicaid regulations will mean thousands may have to switch their prescription medications in the new year. And why it's really, really hard to run against an incumbent state lawmaker and win. 

Happy Holidays to all our readers. 
— Charlotte Keith, Spotlight PA

“It is a very dirty business. There are no morals or ethics or integrity involved in it." 

— Andy Lee, an unsuccessful, first-time candidate for the state House of Representatives, on running against an incumbent


Are public grand jury reports open to abuse or an important tool for transparency and reform?

A task force created by the state court system recently recommended eliminating public grand jury reports, which have been used in the past to publicly disclose details of some of the state's largest scandals. Here's everything you need to know about the issue and why it matters:
Q: What is a public grand jury report?
Investigative grand juries in Pennsylvania don’t indict, but they do issue reports. The “presentments” are most often used by prosecutors to justify arrest warrants, but the juries have also issued reports on topics of public importance, such as government corruption.

Q: Why does this panel want to get rid of them?
A bare majority of the task force supported doing away with them, warning that they can violate “due process” rights that offer protections to defendants and suspects in the criminal justice system. 

Q: How have these reports informed the public in the past?
A: Last year, it was a grand jury report that laid out allegations that about 300 priests had sexually abused children in Pennsylvania going back decades. They were also produced in the investigations into bonuses paid to legislative staff to work on campaigns, and the use of government computers in political campaigns.

Q: What’s the next step? Are these definitely going away?
A: Most of the task force’s recommendations went to the Supreme Court, which is having a rules committee review them. If the high court decides changes are warranted, the justices can change rules in response. The recommendation to eliminate grand jury reports, however, would require passage of a law, and the majority House Republicans have said they are not inclined to do that.

Q: Why should taxpayers care about this issue?
A: The reports have been used as a way to examine the actions of government officials, which involves spending tax money and implicates wider questions about what the public is getting for its money.

Read more

— Mark Scolforo, Associated Press

Only the best


Nearly 150K in Pa. may be forced to change medications beginning in the new year. Here’s why.

The new regulations are intended to cut costs, but some doctors worry about gaps in care and delayed approvals. 


Itching to unseat a Pennsylvania state lawmaker? Odds are you will fail.

Last year's election data shows that challengers to incumbent House members were almost all unsuccessful. 

» State parks have more visitors and less money — and fresh hopes to change that
» Pa. pension employees take pricey trips to Beverly Hills. Why are the costs hidden?
» Pa.'s safe school report provides plenty of numbers, but critics question their accuracy
» Auditor, department of state clash over voter roll issues 
» Workers turned away, told Erie Coke is closing down

Last chance! Make a tax-deductible gift now.

Time is running out to make a 2019 contribution to our team and help power a new year of accountability journalism from our state capital. Until Dec. 31, all gifts will be matched dollar for dollar. Give now and don't miss this opportunity.

Special thanks to our donors who had their gifts doubled in the past week: Frank E., Ellen G., Rachel C., Thomas B., Jennifer C., Stan & Maryann K., Bob Y., Michael S., Karen H., Nancy L., Kenneth B., Bruce F., Francis H., Daniel F., Lynn F.R. & Michael R., David S., Merrill & Nancy B., David F., Art F., Carl S. & Susan Y., B. Nelson, Matt L., Martin L., Robin C., Thomas T., Steven A., Gregory C., Joseph S., and Scott G.


Send your answers to newsletters@spotlightpa.org.
Holidates (Case No. 18): Christmas and New Year's Day occur exactly one week apart on the same day of the week. But in 2020, Christmas occurs on a Friday and New Year's occurs on a Wednesday. How could this be?
Stumped? Get a hint.
Want us to feature your riddle? Send it to us.

Last week's answers: The driver saw the deer because it was daytime. Congrats to Bob S., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Deborah D., Claudia M., Larry D., Fran S., Jonathan T., and Rachel C.

Special shout-out to reader Lt. Col. Kenneth Johnson, a retired USAF heavy jet pilot, who noted that our riddle “A Haul” (Case No. 16) was implausible.
He writes: “JP4 (Kerosene) weighs between 6.3 to 6.5 pounds per gallon depending on temperature. That is slightly lower than the weight of diesel fuel which is 7.1 pounds per gallon at room temperature. It could also vary slightly by temperature. That said the truck would have had to burn about 380 gallons in 80 miles to achieve a loss of 2400 pounds. That is not plausible at .21 gallons per mile."
» This week's Riddler hint: Get a calendar
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