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Top Pa. Republican sues journalists in public records spat


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
September 16, 2020
Refreshing science in schools, a discredited doc testifies in the House, GOP leader targets journalists in court, and more goat news. Brr, it's Wednesday. 
Climate debate heating up
Pennsylvania has taken its first significant step toward fulfilling Gov. Tom Wolf's directive to enter the state into a regional pact that targets climate change. A proposal to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative passed the Environmental Quality Board on Tuesday by a 13-6 vote, StateImpact reports. 

RGGI (pronounced "Reggie") is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the participating Northeast states. It requires electricity-generating plants to buy allowances for the carbon they emit. Over time, fewer allowances will be offered for purchase, thereby rewarding plans that emit less carbon. 

Even with the green light, however, the state still needs to follow a long, winding regulatory process that will keep Pennsylvania from formally joining RGGI until 2022 at the earliest. 

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania emits a lot of carbon dioxide — more than the vast majority of other U.S. states

Still, RGGI has become a target for conservatives and even some Democrats in the state Legislature who have taken steps to stop Wolf's order. Some argue the measure would kill jobs in vulnerable parts of the state, while others say Wolf has no authority to unilaterally impose a "carbon tax" without legislative approval. 

The GOP-controlled House and Senate — with help from some Democrats — recently passed a bill that would require legislative approval before the state joins a climate pact or enacts a carbon tax. The legislation now heads to Wolf, who is expected to veto it.

The tension was on full display during Tuesday's meeting. After the board rejected holding an in-person meeting in Indiana County — once a stronghold for coal — member Mark Caskey used a profanity to criticize "leftist Green New Dealers."

"I’m going to appeal the court case, and I’m going to take that appeal as far as necessary to ensure that we can continue to do what I need to do to make sure Pennsylvanians stay safe."

— A fired up Gov. Tom Wolf on a federal judge's decision that found parts of his COVID-19 orders limiting crowd sizes and closing some nonessential businesses to be unconstitutional. Read more from PennLive. 
POST IT: Dane Claussen snaps a mid-summer photo of Presque Isle in Erie. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
CHILLING SUIT: The campaign of the state Senate's top Republican is suing two journalists, including a Spotlight PA reporter, over public records fees. Should it prevail, the suit could make it easier for politicians to hide their campaign spending, while at the same time have a chilling effect on investigative reporting, according to The Caucus and Spotlight PA.

HIT REFRESH: Pennsylvania last updated its science standards for public schools in 2002. New ones under regulatory review and subject to approval by the legislature would teach kids more about climate change, WHYY reports. Some supporters of the changes worry what might happen once the process is in the hands of politicians.

COVID-19 LAYOFFS: A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found people in careers easily replaced by automation suffered more layoffs during the pandemic than those with jobs less able to be filled by a robot. The Inquirer reports the study cited the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which laid off 500 toll workers this summer and move to a completely automated system.

NO THANKS, DOC: A state House committee invited an Atlanta-based doctor to testify during a hearing on health care for trans kids. The problem? He was “discredited as an expert” on the subject by a Texas judge, the Capital-Star reports.

ABOVE 5 PERCENT: "Concerning" — that's the term the state Department of Health is using to describe an uptick in coronavirus cases Chester County, the Pottstown Mercury reports. Both Chester and Montgomery County are seeing notable increases in the percent of total tests administered that are coming back positive, which is a bad sign.

MAILBAG: Thanks to Travis D., who sent a note yesterday saying he loved the newsletter but was having a little trouble reading the font. We took a look and researched the most readable web fonts. As a result, we've changed this edition to Helvetica. Do you find it easier to read? Let us know.

IT'S FALL, Y'ALL: If you woke up this morning, stepped outside, and had to run back in to grab a sweatshirt, it hit you: Fall is just about here. For me, it's the activities that come along with it — apple and pumpkin picking, different foods, and Halloween fever. If you're in Central Pennsylvania, check out this guide to the best apple picking. And if you love apple cider donuts, I hear our editor in chief has a killer recipe. You can annoy him for it here.

STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE: Did you know Pennsylvania will probably decide the 2020 election? OK, you've likely heard that quite a bit by now, but FiveThirtyEight's got fancy charts to make the point very clearly.

THE BEST OF THE BEST: If you live in Philadelphia, congrats: You live near three of the 101 best pizzas in America, according to The Daily Meal. The consolation for the rest of us: All pizza is good pizza. 

KNOCK KNOCK: OK, I'm not intentionally trying to make this newsletter mainly about goats (or am I?). But I couldn't resist this story of a loose goat going door to door near Bethlehem, presumably looking for tin cans to crunch on. FYI: Police are looking for the goat's owner.

BLOWING IN THE WIND: While the devastating fires on the West Coast may be hundreds of miles away, smoke has made its way to Pennsylvania. 2020 continues to be a year of extreme events and weather, all the more evidence of ongoing climate change. The president, however, disagrees, saying Monday, “It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.”

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Harvests

Congrats to our daily winners: John C., Beth M., Patricia M., Brandie K., Rachelle G., Kim C., Lisa M., Theodore W., Jenn M., Martin C., Tracey C., Joel S., Patricia R., Chris W., Lynne E., Elijah R., Kathy B., Karen W., Cory N., Debbie H., Scott Z., and Ann and John.
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