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Harm reduction bill sees 'historic' movement

Plus, troubled mortgage relief program will soon reopen.

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.

February 22, 2024 | spotlightpa.org
Syringe services, mortgage relief, skill games, 2024 trouble, races to watch, rural budget, Paterno proposal, legalization push, and ethics officer.

A bill to legalize syringe services in Pennsylvania has passed a "historic" test, advancing out of a state House committee in what may have been a first-of-its-kind vote. 

But while harm reductionists celebrate, Republican critics remain, Ed Mahon reports.

Also this week, a 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.

Finally, Gov. Josh Shapiro wants to regulate and tax skill games to raise tens of millions of dollars in revenue. In making this proposal, the Democrat wades into a years-old battle for dominance of the gambling industry.

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» A deficit of experienced voting officials could mean trouble for Pa.’s 2024 election

» The Pa. Senate races to watch as Democrats seek the majority

» What Shapiro’s budget pitch could do for Pennsylvania’s rural communities

» Trustees drop proposal to name Penn State football field after Joe Paterno in heated meeting

» What to know about Shapiro’s pitch to legalize marijuana, its chances in the Pa. legislature, and more

Penn State gets new chief ethics officer 

Penn State named Amber Grove its chief ethics officer in February, ending a six-month arrangement in which the university’s top lawyer oversaw both the legal division and compliance office.

Federal officials and some compliance experts argue this setup — having the same person lead the legal and ethics divisions — can create conflicts of interest. For example, while an in-house lawyer might work to limit an organization’s legal liability, an ethics officer could argue the best action is to notify outside groups of potential problems.

Spotlight PA reported on potential problems with this situation in October 2023, when Tabitha Oman continued to oversee the ethics office after being appointed Penn State’s general counsel. At the time, a Penn State spokesperson said there was no conflict of interest because “in both cases the interests of the university are paramount.”

Grove, the university’s former Title IX coordinator, became Penn State’s chief ethics and compliance officer on Feb. 1, according to a university news release.

Penn State’s Ethics and Compliance Office is more than a decade old and was created following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The office manages the university’s internal misconduct reporting hotline, assists with investigating potential wrongdoing, and oversees Penn State’s compliance with internal, state, and federal policies. 

An investigation by Spotlight PA and the Centre Daily Times last year uncovered repeated allegations of misconduct and retaliation in the office between 2019 and 2021.

The university said last year that the ethics office was working to provide greater public transparency into its work, including sharing the number of reports it receives, outcomes of cases, and trends.

“I look forward to her critical leadership overseeing ethics and compliance efforts across the University, and guiding members of our community in ethical decision-making and in living the Penn State Values,” President Neeli Bendapudi said of Grove’s appointment in a news release

In the meantime, Ashley Owens, Penn State Altoona’s director of student accountability and conflict response, has taken on Grove’s old role. Wyatt Massey, Spotlight PA State College

🤔 NEXT QUESTION: Are you on top of the news? Prove it with the latest edition of Great PA News Quiz: Penn State pushback, election exodus, and Shapiro's 'sin tax'
» AP: Court to decide if Pa. mail ballots with wrong date still count

» AP: High court throws out GOP subpoena in 2020 election case

» AXIOS: Pennsylvania weighing bill to allow for medically assisted death

» CAPITAL & MAIN: Private equity abruptly closed aging coal plant

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» DAILY ITEM: PIAA must release thousands of documents

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» TRIBLIVE: NTSB blames Fern Hollow Bridge collapse on city, state, feds

» WESA: Western Pa. congressional reps at a crossroads for Ukraine

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