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Orchestra paid for Pa. pols' European excursion

Plus, a last-minute guide to everything you need to know to vote Nov. 8.

A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA

November 3, 2022 | spotlightpa.org
European excursion, Penn State profile, undated ballots, legislative elections, missing data, last-minute guide, SCOTUS decision, and unspent funds.

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In the waning days of summer, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra embarked on a whirlwind, nine-city European tour — its first international journey since the start of the pandemic.

It brought along two Pennsylvania lawmakers and picked up the costs for their airfare, hotel, meals, and other incidentals, Spotlight PA's Angela Couloumbis reports. 

The lawmakers’ European excursion, which the orchestra estimated cost $15,000, is the type of job perk that a gift ban would make impossible for elected officials and others in government. But Pennsylvania’s legislature recently adjourned for what will likely be the last voting day of its two-year session. It left a closely watched gift ban bill on the cutting room floor. 

Also this week, Wyatt Massey profiles Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi, who led the University of Louisville through crises. But her sudden move to Happy Valley raised questions about her motivations and commitment.

Finally, Spotlight PA is continuing its voter-centric election coverage ahead of the critical Nov. 8 midterms. Katie Meyer explained why undated mail ballots are such a big deal, while Stephen Caruso took a deeper look at how abortion is playing a role in key legislative races.

Kate Huangpu also has the latest on how many mail ballots were requested for the upcoming election and how that will impact when we have unofficial results. Keep scrolling for more election coverage. 


"That’s when I started wondering if she was all show and no go. She is in marketing, and that’s what that was, marketing."

—Michele Foster, a University of Louisville professor who worked on the school's anti-racism agenda, which "fell flat on its face."


This week, we're kicking off our biggest challenge in Spotlight PA history.

If we raise $125,000 by the end of this year, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism will DOUBLE it. That means if you contribute to Spotlight PA now, it will be matched dollar for dollar, powering our vital journalism into 2023.

Make a tax-deductible gift and start this campaign with a bang »

Next year will be pivotal to the state's future, beginning with a new administration in the governor's office and a new legislative session. Now more than ever, we need independent, nonpartisan journalists to hold our elected leaders to account, track our tax dollars, and ensure the government works for us all.

Our end-of-year fundraising campaign is our most important of the year, and we want to prove how much Pennsylvanians value Spotlight PA's work. Send a gift now and don't miss this special opportunity to double your impact.

Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:
»  Energy & Environment
»  College Funding & Student Debt
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGBTQ Rights
»  Abortion, Medicaid, & Opioids
»  Rural Health Care & Broadband
»  Taxes & Business Regulations
»  Election Security & Voting Rights

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:
»  Your complete guide to voting in the Nov. 8 election
»  Everything you need to know about mail ballots
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
»  These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election for 50+ years
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español: 
»  Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
»  Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
»  Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador
»  Una guía completa para las elecciones del 8 de noviembre

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» CNHI: Pa. officials say voters should hand-deliver mail ballots now
» NEW YORKER: How election subversion went mainstream in Pa.
» POLITICSPA: A look at the many races for the state House in Pa.
» POLITIFACT: Defect explains early ballots in Centre Co. drop boxes
» ROLLING STONE: Some Oz campaign staffers attended the J6 rally
» WITF: Why Berks Co. sheriffs are stationed at a mail ballot drop box
» Election officials should not count undated mail ballots on Nov. 8, Pa. high court rules
» Missing traffic stop data from Pa. State Police undercut 2021 analysis for racial disparities
» A Pa. county is charging people to search court documents — an unusual and undue burden, experts say

A last-minute guide to everything you need to know to vote Nov. 8

Election Day 2022 is approaching and Spotlight PA wants to make sure you’re equipped with the knowledge you’ll need to cast your ballot. 

Voters will choose a new governor and U.S. senator this year, elected officials who will help determine the future of major issues like abortion access and energy production. Voters will also cast ballots for representatives to the U.S. House and lawmakers to serve in the General Assembly.  

Before you cast a ballot, here’s a last-minute checklist of everything you’ll need to vote. 

First, the basics:

  • Make sure you’re registered. You can check your voter registration status here. Unfortunately, if you’re not already registered, it’s too late to vote in this election cycle.

  • It also is too late to request a mail ballot if you haven’t already. If you have, you can track your mail ballot here. It must be received by your county election office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Read more about mail ballots.

  • If you plan to vote in-person, find your polling place here

  • You need to bring a form of ID such as a driver’s license or a passport if it’s your first time voting at your polling location. You can find the full list of acceptable IDs here.

  • Any other questions? Call your county election office to check. You can find their number here, and read more Spotlight PA election guides here.

And here’s what you can expect to see on your ballot:

There will be no statewide proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. However, there may be local ballot initiatives depending on where you live. Check your county’s election website or sample ballot. Kate Huangpu, Spotlight PA

SCOTUS DECLINES: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a challenge of Pennsylvania's new legislative maps, which Republicans argued had placed an unconstitutional focus on creating more opportunities for candidates and voters of color. Courthouse News Service reports the Supreme Court did not issue any statement. There are no more challenges pending on the legislative maps.

'INCREDIBLY DISAPPOINTING': The Pennsylvania legislature is sitting on $100 million in federal funds it allocated to itself to spend on mental health needs. A 24-member commission was created to make recommendations about the spending, but WESA reports that disagreements on those suggestions have held the process up

POLICY GAPS: Most Pennsylvania schools lack official guidelines on the education of LGBTQ students, including how to handle name changes and gender identities, The Courier Times (paywall) reports. Meanwhile, the state's equity, inclusion, and belonging guides for LGBTQ students haven't been updated since 2016, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association has no tailored guidance at all.

HOSPITAL HARM: The Inquirer has a concerning new report on an alleged culture of abuse inside the forensic unit at Norristown State Hospital. According to the outlet, a dozen former patients and staffers described attacks by security staff there. One said his abuser told him: "You're here. You're crazy. They won't believe your word over mine." The unit treats people deemed incompetent to stand trial.

HEALTH DESERTS: Six Pennsylvania counties — Cameron, Forest, Greene, Juniata, Sullivan, and Wyoming — are maternal health deserts with no hospitals providing obstetric care, no birth centers, no OB/GYNs, and no certified nurse midwives, March of Dimes reports, via Capital-Star. More than 105,000 women age 18-44 live in counties with little or no obstetric care, per Pennsylvania's top doctor.

» ABC27: Bills to prevent, track overdoses head to Wolf

» INQUIRER: AG charges 4 Jehovah’s Witnesses with sexual abuse 

» PENNLIVE: Sick people in Pa. jails are suffering, dying

» PUBLICSOURCE: Exploring the rise in involuntary commitment petitions

» WITF: Bill aims to simplify medical insurance in Pa.

Send your answers to riddler@spotlightpa.org.

B-B-B (Case No. 171): What common, unhyphenated nine-letter word contains three syllables, each of which starts with the letter B?
Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.
Last week's answer: A dry stone. (Find last week's clue here)
Congrats to Carol T., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Jon N., Fred O., George S., Geoff M., Samantha S., Tish M., Annette I., Joe S., and Mary B.
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