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Lawmakers slip special projects into Pa. budget


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
December 4, 2020
No new shutdowns, child abuse concerns, an early retirement, another election lawsuit, budget secrets, and a contactless Christmas. Enjoy Tuesday.

Pennsylvania's hospitals are headed toward a "dangerous, disturbing scenario" if COVID-19 cases continue to surge at the current rate, Gov. Tom Wolf warned Monday.

But even with that dire warning, Wolf ruled out the widespread lockdowns and closures seen this spring, the Associated Press reported. Instead, the governor warned additional restrictions may be on the way, though he did not specify what they could look like. 

THE CONTEXT: The state still has a number of mitigation measures in place, from restrictions on bars and restaurants to a statewide mask-wearing order.

Those efforts have failed to slow a fall surge that has seen the state's daily hospitalization rate climb from roughly 500 people in the summer to more than 5,000 this month, as Spotlight PA's tracker shows. That's left a growing number of hospitals facing a staffing shortage.

At the same time, more than 500,000 people in the state are set to lose their unemployment benefits when two federal programs expire later this month, WHYY reports.


“It now becomes incumbent upon the community to watch out for each other. If the families are struggling, if caregivers are having a hard time with children, can their neighbor step up and be of help?”

— Sam Harrison, deputy commissioner at the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, on the rise of child abuse and neglect during the pandemic

POST IT: Thanks, Doug W., for this drone shot of Westmoreland Heritage Trail just west of Saltsburg. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
EARLY RETIREMENT: Pennsylvania's top military affairs official abruptly retired over the weekend amid investigations into dozens of coronavirus deaths at a state-run veterans' home, The Inquirer reports. The Wolf administration did not explain why Major General Anthony Carrelli was departing.

ANOTHER LAWSUIT: A group of Republican lawmakers filed yet another suit, this one in Commonwealth Court, arguing the election was so "severely flawed" the state's certification should be halted, PennLive reports. Today is the "safe harbor date," which essentially locks Congress into accepting a state's certified electors. 

ALL RISE: As the legal drama continues, Pittsburgh City Paper profiles the two state judges who have ruled in favor of Republican challenges only to be overruled by higher courts. Both were themselves elected as Republicans. 

STUNTED GROWTH: Since Pennsylvania legalized medical cannabis four years ago, the industry has spurred job creation and created new revenue. But state and federal regulations are still hampering the true economic benefits of the marijuana business, WESA reports.

VESTIGES OF WAMS: Free-flowing "walking around money" may be a thing of the past, but The Caucus found lawmakers still tucked special projects into the recently completed budget. Among the items: a grant for water treatment that went to a company connected to a former House speaker.
» GIVE NOW, GET A GREAT GIFT: Support essential local journalism and knock someone off your shopping list by becoming a member now. Contribute $15/month or $180/year and get this exclusive tote bag. Thanks to Laurie F. for claiming a tote yesterday and Annie & William M. and Tim P. for claiming totes earlier in the campaign (sorry we missed you before!). 
'SECRET ANGEL': Get the tissue box for this made-for-the-movies story. Read about this Pittsburgh-area man who months later met the woman who saved his life after he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

A GOOD SPECTER: Aid to Philadelphia-area restaurateurs is coming from an unlikely source as the pandemic surges. It's not a new relief package from Congress, but instead new spooky-sounding-but-actually-not "ghost kitchens" that increase delivery options.

CONTACTLESS CHRISTMAS: In a sure sign of the times, contactless delivery service of Christmas trees is sweeping Montgomery County. A portion of the proceeds from the unique option benefits food pantries in the area.

THE NEXT BEST THING: If you're missing live theater right now (raises both hands really quickly), I'm happy to report Mercyhurst Theatre Program in Erie plans to release a dramatized adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" this week. Ford's Theatre in D.C., whose stage version was an important part of my childhood, is similarly releasing an audio version for free

MISSING THE OFFICE: The New Yorker this week looks at the enduring legacy of "The Office," which perfectly captured the "stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing" jobs that fill up most of our lives. Are you working from home and missing your office? How are you adapting? Tell us! 
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. Love the scrambler? Make a donation to help us end 2020 strong.

Yesterday's answer: Luminescent 

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Chip K., David I., John C., Susan D., Kim C., Art. W., Jarrod B., Bill C., Kathleen M., Mary Ellen T., Thomas B., Scott Z., Dennis and Rose E., Carol D., Gail H., Irene R., Joel S., Dianne K., Lynne E., Chris W., Ron P., and George S.
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