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Will clergy abuse victims see emergency relief this spring?


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 18, 2021
Uncertain relief, pipeline whistleblower, Proud Boy arrest, mysterious death, special elections, life sentence, and lanternfly honey. Welcome to Thursday. 

Prospects are dimming in the legislature to employ a rarely used, emergency tactic so voters can decide this spring whether survivors of decades-old sexual abuse should have a chance to sue perpetrators, Spotlight PA reports.

State House lawmakers left the Capitol on Wednesday without a final vote on a measure that would have resurrected the hard-fought referendum on whether to give those survivors, who are time-barred under the statute of limitations, a two-year reprieve to pursue civil litigation.

GOP leaders positioned the bill for a potential final vote next week, after Democrats publicly lambasted them for refusing to take action.

"They have absolutely no courage to do the right thing," said Rep. Mark Rozzi (D., Berks), a survivor of child sexual abuse who has been at the forefront of efforts to pass the two-year reprieve. "I don’t believe these politicians deserve to be in this building."

THE CONTEXT: The question was initially set to be decided by voters in the May primary. But in a stunning admission last month, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration acknowledged that it had failed to take the proper administrative steps to get the referendum on the ballot, devastating survivors and their advocates who have waited years for a resolution.

The mistake forced the resignation of the state’s top election official and prompted an investigation by the state’s inspector general.

Even if the House negotiates a deal in the coming days, the measure still has to pass the Senate. Republican leaders there have not committed to backing it, and some GOP senators have raised concerns about whether creating the two-year reprieve in the statute of limitations amounts to an emergency.


“Our powers are limited, but we want the public to know we are standing with them.”

—Westmoreland County Commissioner Sean Kertes on voting to join a growing list of Pennsylvania "Second Amendment sanctuaries"
VACCINE UPDATE: Pennsylvania is ordering COVID-19 vaccine providers to make sure all Phase 1A-eligible people are scheduled for appointments no later than March 31. But officials say it's too early to know when eligibility might open to the next group in line, those in Phase 1B. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» The Fettermans: Join Spotlight PA at 5 p.m. April 6 for a conversation and reader Q&A with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Second Lady Gisele Fetterman on immigration, legal cannabis, racism, and more. RSVP FOR FREE

POST IT: A little lamb saying hi to their mom at Fair Winds Farm in Lancaster County. Thanks, Dale HSend us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
WHISTLEBLOWER: The head of Pennsylvania's Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion warned authorities that a pipeline connecting shale fields with a soon-to-be completed Beaver County cracker plant could represent "a very se­ri­ous pub­lic safety mat­ter for Penn­syl­va­nia." The let­ter from Secretary Patrick McDon­nell cites first-hand information indicating the pipeline “may have been con­structed with de­fec­tive cor­ro­sion coat­ing pro­tec­tion," the Post-Gazette reports.

NEW ARREST: Philadelphia Proud Boys leader Zach Rehl was arrested by the FBI at his Port Richmond home Wednesday, weeks after photos and videos surfaced placing him in the thick of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, The Inquirer reports. Sources familiar with the investigation told the paper Rehl is charged with conspiring to obstruct Capitol law enforcement and the 2020 election results.

DEATH IN CUSTODY: The circumstances of Everett Palmer Jr.'s 2018 death at York County Prison seemed unusual, so much so that they drew attention from national media and then-President Donald Trump. But this month's release of a 174-page grand jury report provides the deepest insight yet into what transpired in the weeks, hours, and minutes before he died, the York Daily Record reports.

SPECIAL ELECTIONS: A special election for Jeff Pyle's vacant western Pennsylvania state House seat will be held on May 18, the day of the state primary. Pyle, a Republican, retired this week for health reasons. He represented parts of Armstrong, Indiana, and Butler Counties in the 60th House District. The special election for his seat is the fourth slated for primary day, per the Associated Press.

SECOND CHANCE: Joe Ligon was the oldest and longest-serving "juvenile lifer" in the country when he was released from a Pennsylvania prison in February, seven decades after going in. Now 83, Ligon is navigating a modern world he never could have imagined, all while confronting the legacy of a crime that saw him locked away at the tender age of 15, CBS News reports. 

BEE CHANGE: Is Pennsylvania's spotted lanternfly problem changing the smell and look of honey from Pennsylvania bees? It's too early to say for sure, but experts suspect the combination of a naturally occurring herbicide and what is, in essence, lanternfly pee might be giving a darker color and bacon-like smell to one of Pennsylvania's premier crops, Atlas Obscura reports.

ICYMI: Learn what the planned redrawing of Pennsylvania's political maps could mean for communities across the state with this video from Spotlight PA's Tuesday panel on the consequences of redistricting and gerrymandering. "The self-interest of the communities in the process is not necessarily the same as the self-interest of the people in power," panelist Salewa Ogunmefun explained. 

RADAR LOVE: Pennsylvania is the only state that limits radar gun speed enforcement to its state police. But this week's 25-0 transportation committee vote in favor of allowing small, local departments to use the tool could signal a coming change. Many local officials certainly want that to happen, as PennLive reports. Local residents? Um, not so much

MISSING PIECES: We may never know the true extent of COVID-19's disproportionate impact on Pennsylvania's communities of color. That's because officials failed to ensure the collection of necessary data. Spotlight PA reporters Ese Olumhense and Jamie Martines tell WITF's "Smart Talk" how early-stage failures grew into late-stage ones.

OLD DOGS: Senior living at Bucks County's Happy Tails Rescue Retirement Home includes fine raw-food options, healing reiki treatments, state-of-the-art laser therapy, and neighbors with names like Phatsy Cline. The forever home for senior dogs without families is run by Stacey Herrick, who told The Inquirer all about the work's emotional highs and emotional lows.
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.

Friday's answer: Asparagus

Congrats to our daily winners: Bob R., Craig W., Patricia M., Becky C., Neal W., Kerri G., Irene R., Susan D., David I., Jeff M., Jessica K., Bruce B., Bill C., Keith F., Marsha B., Chris M., Patricia R., Elaine C., Dianne K., Mary Ellen T., Karen W., Tom M., Dennis M., Jill A., Elizabeth W., George S., Alice B., Craig E., Heidi B., Ken S., David W., Beth T., Parker B., Joel S., Brandie K., Theodore W., Maureen G., George S., Suzanne S., Anna T., Ron P., Sue B., Carol D., Donna W., Lex M., and Rick D. 
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