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New agency looks to boost Pa.'s outdoor economy

Plus, fixing Pa.'s broken school funding system.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Thursday, September 14, 2023
Open office, funding fix, census data, Medicaid cuts, campaign concerns, photo opp, and the Harrisburg Senators get skunked again.

Pennsylvania has one of the most lucrative outdoor recreation industries in the country and now it has a direct line to state government. 

The Office of Outdoor Recreation, announced by the Shapiro administration last month, will use its $422,000 budget to hire two staff members, fund travel to meetings with stakeholders across the commonwealth, and if all goes according to plan, bring more tourism dollars to Pennsylvania via its parks, forests, secret beaches, and other outdoor attractions. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report on the office, its inception, and what some will be looking for to tell whether it's working or not.

THE CONTEXT: The Office of Outdoor Recreation was created as part of this year’s budget after months of discussions with a 50-member advisory coalition about expanding the outdoor industry here.

Officials will be looking for ways to make targeted investments after years of complaints that the state isn't investing enough in tourism as a whole.

Asked how he’d measure the success of the new office, Edward Stoddard, communications director with the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, said he’d look at the demand for programs like e-bike rentals at Tussey Mountain, or businesses like Boal City Brewing opening along area trails. 


"Thank you for your vigilance, support of law enforcement, and cooperation during this effort that led to today's capture."
—Gov. Josh Shapiro on Wednesday's capture of Danelo Cavalcante after a weeks-long and massive manhunt in Chester County; more coverage below
Support Spotlight PA's independent, nonpartisan journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
We urgently need your help to make sure Spotlight PA's vital investigative and public-service reporting can continue.

The first 500 gifts of any amount made during our Fall Member Drive will be DOUBLED by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. This is a huge opportunity to leverage your gift and unlock HUGE matching support for Spotlight PA.

A big thanks to the 72 people who have given so far, including Tim C., who said, "You offer well-researched unbiased news on important issues."

Join Tim & contribute now »
» Sources: McCormick to launch U.S. Sen. bid this month, via Reuters
» High court won't intervene in Pa. voting machine dispute, via CNN
» DEP nets $100M PCB payout from chemical companies, via WHYY
» Man gets 7 years for US Rep. Scanlon carjacking, via Inky (paywall)
» US Rep. Dean, son talk substance abuse, recovery, via Capital-Star
» CRIMINAL SOLUTION: Join Spotlight PA, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and experts TONIGHT at 6-7:30 p.m. ET at Point Park University for a live discussion on how a Pennsylvania law traps people with mental health issues in jail. RSVP now; seating is limited. 

» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.
A good old-fashioned staring contest, via Starr B. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A longhorn cow looks at the camera from the other side of a fence.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MIND THE GAP: It will take at least $6.2 billion in additional state education funding to help Pennsylvania students meet goals for graduation rates and proficiency exam scores, a Penn State researcher told lawmakers this week, via PennLive (paywall). Officials must fix Pennsylvania's school funding system following a landmark February court ruling, and they're holding statewide hearings about it now.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
WITHOUT CREDIT: Poverty spiked in the U.S. in 2022, even as unemployment fell. According to WaPo (paywall), "the figures reflect the impacts of record inflation but also the uneven pace at which the government has ceased some forms of pandemic assistance," including expanded federal child tax credit payments. Bills to expand family tax credits in Pennsylvania remain in limbo in the state Senate.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.UNCOVERED: The above story pointing to a poverty uptick in 2022 used U.S. Census Bureau data that also found uncommonly low levels of people lacking health coverage that year. A Medicaid purge followed in states like Pennsylvania, where some 184,000 Pennsylvanians have already lost coverage. Of the 104,000 deemed ineligible (80,000 were cut for clerical errors), 12,000 have found other coverage through Pennie.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
MONEY TRAIL: Two GOP candidates for Somerset County commissioner may be investigated for campaign finance violations, the Tribune-Democrat reports. In a rare move, two election board members called on the district attorney to probe candidate Brian Fochtman (the current county prothonotary) and Irv Kimmel’s fundraising reports, saying it appeared the pair spent significantly more than they collected.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SELFIE DEFENSE: Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police is defending a group photo taken by officers with an injured Danelo Cavalcante after his capture Wednesday, saying the cops were "proud of their work." Bivens was later asked an unrelated question that's one of the strangest in recent news conference memory. And officials shared this photo of the dog that ended the search.
Join Spotlight PA for a day of conversation about Pennsylvania's growing communities of color and their lack of representation.

INDIGENOUS ART: What may be the first exhibit to focus solely on Lenape art is on display at the Michener Museum in Delaware County, part of the very homelands the Lenape were displaced from centuries ago.

WAXMAN INVITE: The Daily Pennsylvanian also reports that U Penn law professor Amy Waxman has again invited a white nationalist to campus, just as Penn weighs sanctions against her for similar incendiary conduct. 

PLAYER INJURIES: At least five Pennsylvania high school players have been flown to hospitals after going down during their football games this season, which only began weeks ago, PennLive (paywall) reports.

DAMAGE REPORTS: No trees were killed in the making of this four-year worst-case-scenario study of spotted lanternflies that suggests their forest-destroying potential may have been overblown, via WPSU.

SKUNK BALL: Skunks have interrupted at least two Harrisburg Senators games this year (one on Tuesday and one in May), proving mustelids either enjoy baseball or politics: It can be hard to tell the difference.

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. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Preliminary

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Stacy S., Richard A., Don H., Jon W., Judith D., Marty M., Starr B., Ted W., Eddy Z., Jane R., Carol S., Susan N.-Z., Dennis M., Tish M., Hallie W., Bruce B., Elaine C., Craig E., John P., William Z., Dan A., Joel S., Keith F., Ronnee G., Wendy A., and John E.
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