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Voter guide, attack ads, and another missing radioactive device

Plus, Zuckerberg pulls out of election grants as Pa. bill looks to lock him out.


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April 18, 2022
Voter prep, Facebook frenzy, attack ads, utility grabs, dangerous disparity, and another missing radioactive device. It's Monday and Tax Day. 
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Voters from both major parties (sorry, independents) will head to the polls in a matter of weeks to choose their party's candidate for governor.

Many will be voting by mail, with more than 664,000 mail ballots already requested. But there are efforts underway to limit that option by rolling back Pennsylvania's 2019 expansion of the state's related law.

In an easy-to-use guide to the gubernatorial candidates, Spotlight PA covers their backgrounds, their endorsements, and their takes on repealing Act 77, aka Pennsylvania's embattled no-excuse mail-voting statute.

The law passed with support from many GOP lawmakers, including two now running for governor. But many of them later turned against it as former President Donald Trump blamed mail voting for his 2020 loss.

Legal action followed. And while the state's Commonwealth Court ruled the law unconstitutional in January, the matter is currently before the state's Supreme Court and the law remains intact, at least for now. 

At the same time, GOP-led efforts to chip away at Act 77 continue, upping the stakes in the governor's race even further.

Already in control of the state House and state Senate, the GOP hopes to regain control of the executive branch for the first time since 2015 this November.

Democrats, meanwhile, are looking to secure a Capitol firewall in Attorney General Josh Shapiro who's the only Democrat running for governor.

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"It was a war scene, there were a couple victims that made it to the firehouse."

Resident Chris Rosselot on violence at a Pittsburgh house party that left 11 people shot, two fatally, in the city's largest mass shooting since Tree of Life
» BROKEN RULES: Join us Wednesday, April 20 at 6 p.m. EST via Zoom for a free discussion on Pa.'s medical release law for state prisoners, who the law impacts, and the strain it places on people in prison, their families, and taxpayers. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
Down on the farm in Lancaster County with PA Poster Robert N. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
META MONEY: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg won't be donating any of his fortune to help Pennsylvania counties run this year's elections, the AP reports. In 2020, Zuckerberg funneled millions through nonprofits to help local election offices in states like Pennsylvania conduct a costly and complicated round of balloting. A conservative backlash followed — and continues in Harrisburg today. One of the nonprofits involved in 2020 is adopting a new model to help, without Zuckerberg.

ATTACK ADS: The super PAC behind ads hitting leading Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman for supporting a "government takeover of health care" is helmed by a consultant who works for the health insurance giant Cigna, The Lever reports. Erik Smith denies the ads were meant to benefit his clients, but they were meant to aid Conor Lamb, a Democrat who's also running for the U.S. Senate seat and who opposes the single-payer proposals that Fetterman backs.

PRIVATE EYES: Regulators have OK'd the $235 million sale of York's public wastewater system to Pennsylvania American Water, making it the largest privatization so far under a controversial 2016 law that encourages the option for smaller utilities, per The Inquirer. In Montgomery County, residents of Towamencin Township are fighting a similar sewer privatization push over the higher rates entailed, per WHYY. Pennsylvania American Water is among the bidders. 

ANTIDOTE ACCESS: Overdose prevention resources are not reaching Black people who represent an increasing share of opioid-related deaths in Allegheny County, Black Pittsburgh reports. Black people have accounted for more overdose deaths there than any other group in the last three years, but their access to lifesaving overdose treatments like Narcan remains limited. Observers see historic parallels in this, while harm reduction advocates are trying to fill the gaps.

UNANSWERED: The chain of events that changed Ashlee Smith's life began on the afternoon of Jan. 15, 2021, when she had what her mother called a mental health episode. After a fight with police, Smith was taken to a hospital in Sharon by ambulance. Reports say she was calm and had normal vital signs before the trip. But Smith arrived in cardiac arrest and now has brain damage. Police documented a scuffle on board the vehicle, but the Sharon Herald found a wall of silence around the details.
MASK DAY: Several Philly businesses and residents are suing to overturn the city's renewed indoor mask mandate, which takes effect today. It remains to be seen if this challenge will succeed where similar ones have failed. The rule is back as local officials hope to slow a recent rise in new cases there.

BIKE BURGH: What was biking like in Pittsburgh 20 years ago? Not great, according to Bicycling Magazine, which named it one of the worst cities in the U.S. on that metric. While a lot has changed for the better since, Pittsburgh Magazine reports advocates aren't done pushing yet.

SPEED ZONES: PennDOT's Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement Program issued over 644,000 tickets in its first 20 months, the Post-Gazette reports, and the department says the initiative is working as planned — minus a few hiccups, including thousands of erroneous tickets.

OPENING DAY: Recreational cannabis sales begin in New Jersey on Thursday. And while Pennsylvanians 21 and older can partake, they can't drive under the influence, can't take pot across state lines, and can't use it in New Jersey without a private property owner's permission. Here's a guide.

RADIOACTIVE: A device containing sealed radioactive material was inside a car stolen in Philadelphia. The vehicle was recovered. The device was not. Officials want anyone who finds the device to report it and avoid touching it. A similar nuclear gauge briefly went missing in Clinton County last year.
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.

*This week's theme: Let's dance!
Friday's answer: Unblemished

Congrats to our weekly winner: Deb N.

Congrats to our daily winners: Bonnie R., Susan N.-Z., Kim C., Craig W., Don H., Pat B., Elaine C., Suzanne S., Susan D., Vicki U., James B., George S., Bill S., Dianne K., Jude M., Elizabeth W., and Beth T.
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