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Pa.'s victim advocate in the crosshairs of Senate GOP


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
September 29, 2020
Victim advocate in the crosshairs, GOP warns of "chaos," postal changes put on hold, a treasure in the trash, and a gynandromorph. It's Taco Tuesday.

Once largely unknown, the state Office of Victim Advocate is now a prominent voice in state government thanks to the work of the current advocate, Jennifer Storm. But that has earned her more than a few enemies, including the leadership of the GOP-controlled Senate.

Earlier this month, the chamber narrowly passed a bill that would require the victim advocate to be a licensed attorney, effectively disqualifying Storm from serving in that role, Spotlight PA reports. 

But this isn't the first time Storm has apparently been targeted. Funding for her office was cut by the Republican-led legislature, only to be saved by the Wolf administration, and her nomination for another six-year term has now languished in the Senate for 10 months.

The Context: On the right, sources say Storm has angered Joe Scarnati, the top Republican in the Senate, with her advocacy and pointed outspokenness in high-profile cases involving victims of sexual abuse. But Storm also has critics on the left, namely Sen. Sharif Street who has argued Storm has neglected victims of gun violence in cities like Philadelphia.

“We need an advocate who can speak to the full spectrum of people who have experienced trauma,” Street said.

Regardless of how lawmakers feel about Storm personally, they could simply give an up or down vote to her renomination, rather than changing the requirements for the job altogether.

“We’re changing the rules to disqualify a woman who has been serving as the victim advocate and has been doing an outstanding job in that role,” said Senate Minority Jay Costa (D., Allegheny). “It’s ridiculous. It’s unconscionable.”


"Just think about how many kids across the country aren't even getting the chance to play football. Sure, we would have liked to have had a 10-game schedule, but that's not the way things are."

–– Ben Haubert, a football player at a Bucks County high school, on how he's coping with an unusual senior season
POST IT: Thank you @riverrockadventures for this flashback of summer in Columbia River Park. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
ELECTION APPEAL: State Republican lawmakers have made good on their vow to appeal a recent state Supreme Court ruling that extends the deadline to return mail-in ballots. Lawyers for the Senate's GOP leaders told the U.S. Supreme Court the decision injects "chaos and the potential for gamesmanship" into the Nov. 3 election. Meanwhile, the GOP has yet to allow counties more flexibility in preparing to count the mountain of mail-in ballots, which officials warn could delay results for days.

WAIT, THERE'S MORE: Citing "a pronounced increase in mail delays," a federal judge in Pennsylvania has blocked changes to the U.S. Postal Service, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The ruling cited the potential for "irreparable harm" to the upcoming presidential election. 

FOR THE RECORD: With money from a grant, the York Area Regional Police Department has equipped all of its officers with body cameras, according to The York Daily Record. That's good news for transparency, but as Spotlight PA previously reported, state law makes it virtually impossible to obtain footage from these law enforcement tools. 

INFECTION CONTROL: Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard arrived at a Westmoreland County-owned nursing home Sunday to help get a COVID-19 outbreak under control, the Post-Gazette reports. The guard has assisted more than 30 long-term-care facilities in the state. Want the latest coronavirus data for your county? Check it out here.
DAIRY DILEMMA: The pandemic is dragging on, and dairy farmers in the state are left coping with the uncertainty that comes with it. LNP | Lancaster Online reports on what looms ahead for local dairy farmers already under financial pressure. 
TAKE A HIKE: Outdoors enthusiasts in the Lehigh Valley are getting an unexpected treat: 187 acres of new land to explore. The land on the outskirts of Allentown was acquired by the Wildlands Conservancy.  

ONE PERSON'S TRASH: If you've ever gone trash picking or dumpster diving, you're usually lucky to walk away with some unexpired Twinkies. But workers at a landfill site outside of Scranton found something much cooler: fossils thought to be more than 300 million years old.  

A RARE DISCOVERY: Researchers at Powdermill Nature Reserve in Westmoreland County are celebrating a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” They recently caught and banded a Rose-breasted Grosbeak that is a gynandromorph — meaning it's half male and half female.

MOUNTAIN MADNESS: It won't be the popular Spartan race series Pennsylvanians have come to know, but there will be a COVID-friendly obstacle course race at Carbon County's Blue Mountain this weekend. If "running, jumping, crawling, climbing, and carrying" sounds like a good time to you, there are still spots available. 

WHAT TO READ IF ... You want your heart to melt: I'm a sucker for a good love story or sibling tale. And this one from the Lebanon Daily News hits just right: a story of a brother and sister bonded together by World War II service.
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.
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