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$1B broadband plan OK with PA law, officials say

Plus, Penn State, Dept. of Education file lawsuit to block release of records.

This is The Investigator, a free weekly newsletter with the top news from across Pennsylvania.
A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

January 25, 2024 | spotlightpa.org
Broadband reversal, charter funding, deleted records, gaming rules, ethics complaint, PSU suit, GOP endorsement, alcohol deaths, and energy goal.
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A state agency reversed its position on whether a Pennsylvania law could cause problems for a huge infusion of federal money aimed at expanding access to high-speed internet, Spotlight PA's Charlotte Keith reports.

Also this week, lawmakers are considering significant changes to the way charter schools are funded as they undertake a monumental overhaul of public education mandated by a court ruling.

Finally, thousands of records, including evidence logs from Pennsylvania State Police’s crime labs, were accidentally deleted from state servers at the start of the year.

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RICHEST LITTLE CITY: Join us TODAY from 6-7:15 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on the corruption case rocking this small Pennsylvania city and how local government can protect against wrongdoing. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

» Proposed update to state gaming rules could offer relief to Pa.’s fire companies, nonprofits

» What’s next for the Jan. 6th ethics complaint against Doug Mastriano

Penn State, Dept. of Education file lawsuit to block release of records

Penn State and the Pennsylvania Department of Education are asking Commonwealth Court to block the release of university records requested by Spotlight PA that were deemed public by the Office of Open Records.

The case tests the limits of the university’s exemption from the state’s open records law, which grants it large exceptions compared to public universities in other states.

The lawsuit combines separate cases involving Spotlight PA and the state departments of education and agriculture.

In May 2023, Spotlight PA requested records from the education and agriculture departments relating to the agencies’ respective secretaries and their roles on Penn State’s Board of Trustees. The newsroom requested materials provided to the secretaries for the August 2022 board retreat, as well as a screenshot of all files made available to the secretaries to fulfill their duties on the board.

Commonwealth Court ruled in 2013 that records provided to an agency secretary as part of that official’s role on the Penn State board are considered public records, even if the university is largely exempt from Pennsylvania’s open records law.

The education department denied Spotlight PA’s request on the basis that it did not possess or control the records, due to them being sent to Penn State trustees through a file-sharing service. The agriculture department denied the request on similar grounds.

Spotlight PA asked the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records to review the two denials, and the office ruled on the Department of Education case in September, finding that the records related to the Penn State board retreat should be made public. The office denied petitions by Penn State and the Department of Education to reconsider its decision.

The university and the education department then requested Commonwealth Court reverse the ruling.

In the case involving the Department of Agriculture, the open records office again ruled the documents related to Penn State’s board retreat should be made public. Penn State then asked Commonwealth Court to overturn the decision

In November, Spotlight PA agreed to consolidate the two legal cases given their similarity. Penn State and the Department of Education have until Feb. 8 to submit their legal arguments. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is representing Spotlight PA in the matter.

A resolution in the court case could determine the outcome of three other cases filed by Spotlight PA that are on hold with the open records office. These requests could provide valuable insight into the university’s financial standing and the operations of its top officials. Wyatt Massey, Spotlight PA State College

🏆 NEXT QUESTION: Did you stay on top of the news this week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: Trump travel, 'monopoly power,' a rare ethics complaint, and Punxsutawney PETA
» APGOP endorses York County prosecutor for state attorney general

» AXIOSAlcohol deaths spiking in Pennsylvania 

» CAPITAL & MAIN: Will Pa. meet Shapiro's renewable energy goal? 

» HEALTHCARE DIVE: Nurse sues UPMC over alleged labor abuses

» KDKA: Wall Street turns 100s of homes in Pittsburgh area into rentals

» LEBANON DAILY NEWS: Commissioners eliminate ballot drop box

» REUTERSPa. cannot bar adults under 21 from carrying guns 

» SCOTUSBLOG: Court to weigh in on law used in Jan. 6 prosecutions

» TRIBLIVE: Feds slam synagogue shooter's push for new trial 

» WESA: Norfolk Southern touts progress in East Palestine

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AGE ADD (Case No. 240): Bill and Ben's combined age is 91. Bill is now twice as old as Ben was when Bill was as old as Ben is now. How old are they?
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