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Feds were asked to 'infiltrate' Pa. protests


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 22, 2021
Survivor suits, reopening goals, protest spies, orphaned wells, college prerequisite, crisis 911, and Blockbuster lives. It's Thursday and Earth Day.
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A bill that would temporarily give survivors of decades-old child sex abuse a chance to sue perpetrators and their enablers cleared a key state Senate panel Wednesday. 

The Judiciary Committee's 11-3 vote positions the bill for a historic floor debate as early as next week, Spotlight PA reports. 

The committee’s chair, Sen. Lisa Baker (R., Luzerne), acknowledged long-standing objections by some Republican colleagues who believe such a change can only legally be made by amending the state constitution. 

But Baker added, “If you believe as strongly as I do that abuse victims have been denied a fair remedy for far too long, then we are obligated to attempt every avenue to deliver a just result." 

THE CONTEXT: The bill would temporarily lift the statute of limitations applied to sex abuse-related litigation, which advocates say brings an added measure of accountability for offenders and the institutions that cover up abuse. Lobbyists for the Catholic Church, the insurance industry, and the Boys Scouts of America have opposed the effort for years.

Yesterday's endorsement by the committee — though far from ensuring a favorable outcome for survivors and their advocates — follows a serious setback in the form of a Wolf administration error that derailed a ballot question on this very issue months ago.

Still, longtime Capitol observers called Wednesday’s committee vote a sea change in the chamber’s position. "Now, it’s time to deliver justice and closure," said Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office spearheaded a 2018 grand jury report on clergy sex abuse.

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VACCINE UPDATE: As supply outgrows demand, Pennsylvania health officials are changing course and plan to "greatly expand" the number of COVID-19 vaccine providers across the state. In other news: An FDA investigation turned up unsanitary conditions and improperly trained workers at a Baltimore plant where 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine were ruined last month. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» THE PRIMARY: On Tuesday, May 4 at 5 p.m., join Spotlight PA as we break down the judicial candidates and four questions you’ll see on the primary ballot. RSVP FOR FREE

POST IT: A floral-framed shot of Bowman's Hill Tower in Bucks County. Thanks for tagging us, @youbetkev!  Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
REOPENING PLAN: Gov. Tom Wolf says the state could lift remaining mitigation measures on businesses two weeks after Pennsylvania reaches a 65%-70% vaccination rate, The Morning Call reports. About 26.5% of the population has been fully vaccinated so far. Meanwhile, 82% of counties are still seeing "substantial" virus spread, per PennLive.

UNDERCOVER AGENTS: Philadelphia police asked federal agents to "infiltrate" racial justice protests last June, according to emails obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. Critics say it's an underhanded workaround for a decades-old ban on city police doing this themselves. As The Inquirer reports, it's not the first time either.

OLD WELLS: Pennsylvania has an estimated 200,000 orphaned oil and gas wells in need of plugging, one of the worst accumulations in the nation. President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan would set aside $16 billion to help tackle the problem nationwide. In an interview with the Post-Gazette, one Pennsylvania expert called it "the opportunity of a lifetime." 

SCHOOL RULES: Two Pennsylvania colleges will require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to on-campus programs and activities in the fall. Lehigh University has joined Drexel, and schools around the country, in adopting the mandate, Lehigh Valley Live reports. The Wolf administration wants all college students to get vaccinated before heading home for the summer.

CRISIS GUIDE: Philadelphia has a new script for 911 operators to use in determining when a call involves a mental health crisis. But experts say the script, quietly rolled out after the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., is far too long. And some question whether 911 should be fielding the calls in the first place, as Billy Penn explains.
LINE DRAW: Capital-Star staff found out just how difficult political mapmaking can be with a DIY redistricting attempt. The real process gets underway in Pennsylvania later this year. Catch up on Spotlight PA's coverage here.

HEALTH HELP: 110,000 Pennsylvania residents newly qualify for financial assistance when buying health insurance in the state-run marketplace, as reported by The Center Square. Find out if you're one of them.

ENOUGH ALREADY: There was snow in Pennsylvania on April 1 and April 21 this year, just the latest reminder that when Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of winter, he means it.

MEME MACHINE: It all started with a contextless tweet, per Newsweek. Now a one-time Pittsburgh sportscaster named "Mark Johnson" is Twitter famous because, um ... we'll get back to you.

EMPIRE FALLS: Not sure why, but I can't stop watching this timelapse of Blockbuster stores taking over the country and then disappearing in the span of 34 years. But don't worry: Philly has a backup plan, via Billy Penn.
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