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A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 27, 2021
Top-down, mask rule, school spending, mystery funds, ethics report, paper work, and 'robo-umpires' take the field. It's Friday, and this is PA Post.
POWER CENTER
For months, the top Republican in Pennsylvania's Senate walked a fine line as the movement to discredit the 2020 election results won support from some of his pro-Trump colleagues. Now, Jake Corman is all in.

Spotlight PA and The Inquirer have a closer look at the Senate president from Centre County whose messy ouster of the audit's previous GOP capitan touched off a bitter war of words and questions about motive.

That ouster saw state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin), the previous face of the audit push, stripped of his staff and committee power late last week.

The move, while rare, is a throwback to the hardball politics of the Capitol's past: a powerful legislative leader stripping a colleague of staff, assignments — and, ultimately, status.

THE CONTEXT: As Spotlight PA reports, the blessing of caucus leaders is needed for a wide array of legislator tasks — hiring staff, more money for district offices, working with outside spokespeople, consultants, or lawyers.

Eric Epstein of the nonpartisan good-government group Rock the Capital compared the dynamic to a feudal system where caucus leaders "lord over the rank-and-file like serfs on the manor."

Corman's sidelining of Mastriano recalls then-House Democratic leader Bill DeWeese's removal of 15 members from committee leadership posts in 2005. 

Only this time there's a closely watched and highly divisive election audit involved. Corman told KDKA-TV this week that he's been in touch with Donald Trump but didn't discuss the details with the former president
NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"Families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the U.S. Supreme Court's lifting of a nationwide ban on evictions late Thursday; local bans are unaffected

COVID-19 UPDATE: Pittsburgh Public Schools and its teachers union are working on a vaccine mandate deal; a Pittsburgh-area school district has been ordered to require masks by a federal judge; and U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations are higher this August than last August. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
📅 UPCOMING EVENTS
» FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 9 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on addiction treatment oversight issues in Pennsylvania and how the state can keep people safe as they pursue recovery. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
📷 POST IT
A goldfinch feeding on purple coneflowers (echinacea) in Cumberland County. "They love to feed on the blackened flower heads!" said PA Poster Carol D. Thanks for the photo! Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
MASK PASS: Republicans have rejected Gov. Tom Wolf's call for the legislature to return to the Capitol early to make masks mandatory in schools statewide, saying local control is still their preference. Wolf left the decision to local officials this year but said so few are requiring masks, as recommended, that state intervention is needed.

MONEY ORDER: Pennsylvania schools are making plans for billions of dollars in combined federal coronavirus aid, looking to offset pandemic learning losses, shrink class sizes, update HVAC systems, and much more. The AP reports Philadelphia public schools received nearly $1.8 billion, 10 times more than any other district in the state

RELIEF FUNDS: More than a third of Philadelphia's $276 million in first-round COVID-19 relief funds appears to have been spent on staffing costs for city police, prisons, the fire department, and the health department, WHYY reports. Efforts to break down the vague "public health and public safety" allocation proved much more difficult.

ETHICS LAPSE: Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet's travel expenses, speeches paid in cash, and missing financial interest disclosures violated the state's ethics law, the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission has ruled. PublicSource reports Hamlet will have to pay nearly $8,000 in fines while facing renewed calls for his ouster.

PSERS DO-OVER: It is by no means the biggest problem facing Pennsylvania's embattled public school employee pension fund, but a court's rejection of a legal filing over a small font and improper staples is highly unusual. "I have never seen it before. That could be because lawyers comply with the rules," a law professor told the Capital-Star.
IN OTHER NEWS
SENTENCED: A woman who spit and coughed on food at a supermarket near Wilkes-Barre while claiming to have COVID-19 was sentenced to two years in jail this week, the AP reports. The woman didn't have the coronavirus, according to her lawyer, but she was intoxicated. 

LOST DOGGS: Be on the lookout for several 3.5-foot-tall Snoop Dogg bobbleheads that were recently stolen from Philly-area grocery stores. According to PhillyVoice, the Corona-branded items are selling for more than $1,000 on eBay, if you're interested in obtaining one the legal way

'SQUISH, SQUASH': Pennsylvania officials are telling people to be merciless if they see spotted lanternflies, and the New York Times is on it! Whenever I see stories about these invasive bugs, I can't help but think of Gene & Wendell's "The Roach," which was featured in "Hairspray" and tells the listener to "squish, squash, kill that" (you guessed it) "roach." 

ROBOT OVERLORDS: Automated Ball-Strike Systems, or "robo-umpires," are becoming a fixture at some minor league games, and it's creating a bit of an existential crisis for baseball fans. A New Yorker write-up on the subject includes a dispatch from Lancaster, where a robo-ump presided over what sounds like a painful five-hour game.

BE THE CHANGE: If the recent United Nations report on climate change left you feeling a bit hopeless, this Billy Penn article on the most impactful choices individuals can make is for you. Tips include eating less meat, driving less, and reducing power usage. 
THE SCRAMBLER
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.
 
I E E E L P B R I C T P M
 
Yesterday's answer: Validation

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Neal W., Michelle T., Beth T., Craig W., Irene R., Jessica K., Yvette R., Judith D., Susan N., Don H., Kimberly S., Suzanne S., Patricia M., Jodi R., Erica S., George S., Kim C., Karen W., Sherri A., Mark O., John P., Al M., Christine M., Dennis M., Mike B., Bruce B., Elizabeth W., Craig E., Geoff M., Carol D., Bill S., Joel S., Rick D., Doris T., Steve D., Wendy A., Elaine C., Kevin H., and Tish M.

 

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