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Should coroners get a cut of opioid settlements?

Plus, 4 things to know as feds approve Pa.’s high-speed internet expansion plan.

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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.

May 30, 2024 | spotlightpa.org

At least three Pennsylvania counties have decided to spend part of their share of the state’s billion-dollar opioid settlement to support their coroners.

Some advocates for people and families dealing with addiction have questioned whether the use aligns with the terms of the opioid settlements — or whether it’s a good idea. It also remains to be seen whether a state oversight board will ultimately allow counties to use the funds for this reason.

Also this week, attorney general candidates are turning to very different donors to rebuild their campaign coffers after pricey primaries, while the Democratic establishment is starting to warm up to its candidate for treasurer. 

Finally, we explore why a state challenge to Pennsylvania's mail ballot dating rule may succeed even though a federal one failed.

Spotlight PA will soon launch a new weekly newsletter focused on caregiving and caregivers across Pennsylvania. Every Tuesday, "How We Care" will feature original reporting and perspectives on how we care for one another at all stages of life, the huge economic and policy questions ahead, and how it's affecting the lives of millions of people across the state. You can sign up for How We Care here.

» Penn State Health discontinues kidney and liver transplant programs, citing ‘ongoing challenges’ and federal scrutiny

» The COVID pandemic let Pa. House lawmakers vote remotely. The GOP says it’s time to restrict that rule.

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4 things to know as feds approve Pa.’s high-speed internet expansion plan

Pennsylvania is one step closer to receiving almost $1.2 billion in funding for high-speed internet after federal officials earlier this month approved the state’s initial plan for spending the money. 

More than 280,000 locations in Pennsylvania don’t have internet access at speeds that meet the federal definition of broadband, according to the state Broadband Development Authority. 

The agency now has one year to decide who will get the grant funding, pending final federal approval. Here are four things to know as the process gets underway. Charlotte Keith, Spotlight PA

1) This is a step forward but high speeds aren’t coming immediately. The Biden administration is gearing up to spend $42.45 billion to bring high-speed internet access to everyone in the U.S. Moving that much money involves layers of planning, public comment, and oversight. The bottom line: the latest development is another step forward for Pennsylvania. But for residents living in areas that will benefit from the new funding, faster internet service could still be several years away.

2) The end of a key federal program could mean the new broadband networks are less affordable than anticipated. The state submitted its plan before it became clear that the Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps low-income residents with the cost of an internet subscription, would likely run out of money, after a push to extend it failed to win support in Congress. Pennsylvania’s plan says that internet service providers who receive federal grants will have to offer monthly rates capped at $48.60. But that amount could still be too expensive for many residents without the subsidy, which lowered bills by up to $30 per month.

3) The federal government declined to weigh in on a tension between state and federal law. In the first draft of Pennsylvania’s plan, the Broadband Development Authority said that to avoid a conflict with federal law, it would waive an obscure state statute that limits when local governments can build their own internet networks. But in the version submitted to the federal government, the agency reversed course, declaring that there was no conflict. A group of media policy and telecommunications experts from Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania recently criticized the federal government for not doing more to clarify the issue, warning that it could lead to lawsuits and delays. 

4) If internet service providers don’t apply for funding in some areas, the state could step in. Some of the areas eligible for grant funding are particularly hard to reach, expensive to serve, and — perhaps — unlikely to attract much interest from applicants. In the event that the Broadband Development Authority doesn’t get any takers for certain areas, the plan says the agency could build the infrastructure itself and lease it back to internet service providers. 

🤔 NEXT QUESTION: Are you on top of the news? Prove it with the latest edition of the Great PA News Quiz: Shapiro’s RV road trip, pronatalist politics, and ‘monopoly’ money

» AP: Lawmakers question abuse, neglect investigations of older adults

» GUARDIAN: State House candidate is a leading 'pronatalist'

» ICN: Will lithium in wastewater be used to justify more fracking?

» NYTIMES: Fetterman keeps picking fights with the left

» TRIBLIVE: Pittsburgh City Council schedules more private meetings

» TRIBLIVE: Diocese wants probe of background check failure

» WITF: CDC reports suggest central PA drug deaths slowing 

Spotlight PA's 'Now Brewing the Truth' coffee mug, now available at the Spotlight PA store.
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TRIPLE THREAT (Case No. 258)I am a bird, I am a fruit, and I am a person. What am I?
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Last week's answer: Alas. Find last week's clue here

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