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Pa. beefs up security at Capitol Complex

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Tom Lisi
January 12, 2021
Past reluctance, more security, dangerous boost, mounting debt, a new gig, and Girl Scout cookies. It's Tuesday.
In his first speech as top leader of the Pennsylvania Senate, Republican Jake Corman positioned himself as a reformer seeking to restore faith in government by greatly increasing transparency.

Corman said he would support lobbying reform and stressed the need for what he called “real-time reporting of campaign contribution expenses." He also suggested stricter disclosures for nonprofit groups that engage in political activity, which currently operate largely in the shadows.

But an analysis of his track record as a ranking member of the chamber's GOP caucus over the past five years by Spotlight PA and The Caucus reveals more talk than action on the subject.

THE CONTEXT: The majority party has faced criticisms regarding campaign finance disclosures, questionable ties to dark money groups, and how the legislature spends taxpayer dollars on its own operations. Here's one example.

Last year, top Senate officials used an obscure clause in the state constitution to redact details about how they spend tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money every year.

Senate leaders, including Corman and then-Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, did nothing to reverse the practice, even as their counterparts in the House decided to make more information publicly available.

"I can #PROUDLY and #HONESTLY stand firm when I say: I can assure you.... This ("Jeff") WAS NOT one of My Officers {end stop}."

— Michael Muldrow, police commissioner in York City, on a New York Times story that quoted a U.S. Capitol insurrectionist who claimed to be an off-duty police officer from York County
POST IT: A colorful sunset shot of Reading to help start your Tuesday. Thanks, @berksfoundationSend us your hidden gems use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
INCREASED PROTECTION: State officials have beefed up the "visible" presence of armed police officers at the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg, the Capital-Star reports. The Pennsylvania State Police are also prepared to deploy personnel if there is unrest this weekend.

DANGEROUS BOOST: The Southern Poverty Law Center has called the Lackawanna County-based social media platform Gab an organizing hub for white supremacists, and it's growing after last week's attacks on the U.S. Capitol, The Inquirer reports. Its boost comes after Silicon Valley giants effectively shut down another haven for pro-authoritarian domestic terrorists, Parler.
ABORTION FOCUS: The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging a Pittsburgh ordinance that establishes a 15-foot "buffer zone" outside abortion clinics for demonstrations, the Associated Press reports. The move leaves in place a lower court ruling allowing the measure, with some caveats. PublicSource also reports on how the new conservative makeup of the highest court could make abortion access a major issue in Pennsylvania politics.

PANDEMIC BILLS: Nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians have fallen behind on their utility bills, The Inquirer reports, with the debt totaling more than $808 million. That's a 70% jump from a year ago, and the number is only expected to grow.

OPEN RECORDS: The outgoing auditor general's chief of staff, Liz Gerloff Wagenseller, will become the state's next open records director, PennLive reports. Appointed by the governor, Wagenseller will have binding authority over disputes regarding requests from citizens for government records. The job comes with a six-year term. 

» FREE FOR SUBSCRIBERS: A live interview with Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the PA State System of Higher Education, at 5 p.m. Jan. 13. RSVP now and submit questions in advance to ypiper@spotlightpa.org.
WHAT A HUNK: A 1,500-pound, cast-iron printing press that produced the earliest editions of The Morning Call in Allentown is moving to a new permanent location at Bethlehem's National Museum of Industrial History.

ENDURING LEGACY: A Reddit user snapped this shot of a striking new mural in Philadelphia honoring the legendary hip-hop artist MF DOOM, who died in October last year. Family members confirmed his death Dec. 31.

PA PREY: The ancient art of falconry is alive and well in Pennsylvania — but it's no casual hobby. There are 204 licensed falconers in the state, and practitioners undergo an extended apprenticeship and follow strict wildlife regulations.

SWEET DEAL: Buying Girl Scout cookies won't be the same this year, but some state troops are adapting by offering delivery options. You can find cookie sellers by ZIP code here and learn more about how to buy the sweet treats online here.

SPECIAL SPOTLIGHT: Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania say they organized the Black Queer Town Hall in STEM event, in part, to address issues of representation. "We have been here, we have always been here, we’ve been struggling and fighting," cell biologist Derek Applewhite said.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Legislature

Congrats to our daily winners: Jessica K., Neal W., Jill G., Janet T., Bette G., Mary Ellen T., Irene R., Patricia R., George S., Susan D., David I., Ashley S., John A., David W., John C., Dennis E., Karen W., Heidi B., Kim C., Carol D., and Ron P.   
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