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Trump ups election audit pressure on Pa. GOP


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June 7, 2021
Election redux, forever chemicals, true or false, trans rights, prison copays, home care, and fishing with a UFO. It's Monday, welcome to the week.
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Former President Donald Trump wants Pennsylvania to emulate a widely panned and highly partisan Arizona election audit here, exponentially upping pressure on Republican state lawmakers already split over the idea.

"The people of Pennsylvania and America deserve to know the truth," Trump said in a statement Friday. "If the Pennsylvania Senate leadership doesn't act, there is no way they will ever get re-elected!"

The online intervention came days after three Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers traveled to Arizona to cheer on the Trump-linked, privately funded hand recount of eight-month-old and exhaustively litigated election results there. 

One of the Pennsylvania delegates on that trip, "Stop the Steal" diehard and possible 2022 gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin), also called on Pennsylvania to follow Arizona's lead, an appeal he repeated in a celebratory Harrisburg rally on Saturday.

But Pennsylvania's Republican leaders are split on the idea, reflecting competing visions pulled between elections of the future and one election of the past. 

THE CONTEXT: State Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), a key voice in the GOP's ongoing election reform efforts, dismissed talk of another 2020 election audit here, adding, "We are focused on fixing our broken election law to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat."

But state Sen. Dave Argall, chair of the chamber's State Government Committee, told the Associated Press he’s open to it, noting a pending bill that would require the state auditor general to audit the 2020 election.

That bill is headed for a vote later this month and, if successful, the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf who promises he'll veto it.

The Inquirer reports lawmakers may also try to commission an audit without legislation, adding, "Any such effort would draw comparisons to the widely criticized review underway in Arizona." 

Republicans in other battleground states Biden won are considering the same.
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"Pennsylvania, where I'm from, is actually the only state in the Northeast that does not have a statewide non-discrimination policy, and that's not acceptable."

—Assistant U.S. Health Secretary Rachel Levine on the commonwealth's lack of LGBTQ legal protections
VACCINE UPDATE: Pennsylvania officials haven't ruled out an Ohio-style vaccine lottery here but say they're focused on appealing to the public's sense of civic responsibility for now. The state is trying to get 70% of eligible adults fully vaccinated and is currently at around 55%. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING: Join Spotlight PA for a live interview and reader Q&A with Sen. David Argall at 1 p.m. June 18. RSVP for FREE »
A sparrow sings a song at Kahle Lake, which straddles the border between Clarion and Venango Counties. Thanks, @johnmcculloughphotography, for tagging us. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
WATER QUALITY: A statewide search found toxic chemicals known as PFAs in a third of more than 400 water sources tested, the AP reports. Sites with positive tests were located in more than two dozen counties. Two sites had levels above the federal health advisory level. The chemicals used in nonstick cookware, carpets, firefighting foam, and fast-food wrappers have been linked to cancer and other health issues.

FACT CHECK: Viral social media posts declare a new Republican-led bill in Pennsylvania would "fine" women who miscarry. FactCheck.org looked into it and says while the claim is untrue, the bill's mandate that health-care providers bury or cremate fetal remains could translate to additional costs for women or their insurers.

LEGACY PUSH: One year has passed since the murder of Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells, a trans woman who became an icon in Philadelphia's intersecting Black Lives Matter and trans rights movements. Philadelphia Gay News says the one-year mark coincides with continued pushes for tougher hate crime laws, trans health-care protections, and more.

PRISON COPAYS: Pennsylvania prisons are halting a $5 copay charged to prisoners seeking medical care, a '90s-era rule meant to keep inmates from seeking "frivolous" treatment. Officials announced the indefinite suspension last week, saying some inmates weren't reporting COVID-19 symptoms for fear of being unable to pay the fee, per NBC10. 

HEALTH AID: President Joe Biden's embattled infrastructure plan includes billions to create more home health aide jobs. WESA profiles a Pittsburgh caregiver whose story is emblematic of the many performing such critical work — think caring for seniors and people with disabilities — often for less than $30,000 a year.
COLLEGE CUTS: Vivian Severn's music professor husband was laid off amid an ongoing push to consolidate six of Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities. In a recent faculty union-hosted forum, she detailed the collateral costs behind the political and policy debates. "I'm very emotional about this as you can imagine," the Post-Gazette quoted.

THIRD KIND: A new and inconclusive government report finds no evidence that UFOs spotted by Navy pilots were actual aliens but also doesn't rule it out, The New York Times reports. In Luzerne County, angler Shawn Keiderling says the same about a "saucer-like object" he photographed over the Nanticoke Bridge this month, via FOX56. 

CYBER ATTACK: Pittsburgh's WPXI-TV was one of two Cox Media Group news stations forced offline last week in an apparent cyberattack against the parent company, NBC News reports. Computers and phones were shut down in response. Broadcasts were affected but able to continue.

PHILLY SOUND: It's been 50 years since Philadelphia International Records made "the Philly sound" bop worldwide. NPR celebrated with a rebroadcast of Terry Gross' 2006 interview with Thom Bell, a chief architect of the sound that came to define the city.

JOBLESS DELAYS: Spotlight PA's Rebecca Moss spoke to WURD's Solomon Jones about an ongoing and contested update to Pennsylvania's unemployment benefits computer system. Officials call it a much-needed fix, but advocates warn it could make pandemic-era problems worse.
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