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A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA


Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 30, 2022
Lobbying loops, hot plates, different tune, political calendars, Decision 2023, education grants, and three photos worth sharing. It's Tuesday.
DISCLOSURE DOCS

A state-run website for government lobbyist disclosures that has been criticized as unintuitive and error-prone is getting an upgrade. 

Spotlight PA reports that a 150% budget increase for the Department of State's "Lobbying Disclosure" line item will fund improvements to the online system, which lobbyists use to disclose which organizations have hired them and how they spend money to influence policy.

The $714,000 makeover is intended to make it a more user-friendly portal for watchdogs and lobbyists alike.

Justin Fleming of the Pennsylvania Association for Government Relations, a professional association for lobbyists, said lags in the website have resulted in inaccurate disciplinary action and delays that required multiple attempts for users to update the organizations or people that they worked with.

Read Spotlight PA's full report on the planned fix and the other line items that received big boosts in the new budget.

THE CONTEXT: A 2019 report commissioned by the state House Government Oversight Committee found that Pennsylvania's lobbying disclosure laws make it easy to underreport spending and difficult to ensure compliance.

State Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), former chair of the committee, told Spotlight PA he's unsure whether the report influenced the spending increase.

"I'd like to think [the report] triggered it, but I don't think the administration gives a crap what the legislature does," he said.

Meanwhile, efforts to reform state rules to limit lobbyist influence, including a proposed ban on gifts to lawmakers, have gone nowhere.

NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"We need peace. We thought America is the peace land."

—Abraham Kromah, a relative of 8-year-old Fanta Bility on the one-year commemoration of the child's fatal shooting by Sharon Hill police
 
📅 UPCOMING EVENTS

» PA LOCAL: ERIE’S BLACK ÉMIGRÉS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. via Zoom for a free Q&A with Armendia Dixon, an educator in two states post-Brown v. Board of Education. We will also discuss the legacy of the Great Migration in Pennsylvania and the history of Erie’s Black community. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

📷 POST IT
The Commandant's House at Fort Mifflin, via Don N. Send us your photos and art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
THE RECODE: State Sen. Scott Martin (R., Lancaster) wants to amend Pennsylvania's vehicle code to clarify that only identifiable information must be visible on a license plate, Capital-Star reports. A state court ruled last week that having any portion of a plate obscured, even an edge covered by a license plate frame, is grounds for a traffic stop, and Martin said scores of Pennsylvania drivers are at risk

CHANGE-UP: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro opposes some of the same COVID-19 mitigation measures that current Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf put in place, and which Shapiro himself defended in court as state attorney general, the AP reports. Shapiro has differed with Wolf publicly before, but the AP reports the split on COVID rules is "unusual, if not unprecedented."

EPICENTER, PA: If Pennsylvania feels a bit like the center of the political universe this week, it's not your imagination. President Joe Biden is bound for Wilkes-Barre today, Philly for a primetime address on Thursday, and Pittsburgh for Labor Day on Monday. Former President Donald Trump is bound for a rally near Wilkes-Barre with Mehmet Oz, Doug Mastriano, and Jim Bognet on Saturday.

EARLY ENTRIES: All of Philadelphia's City Council seats are up for election in 2023. The Inquirer (paywall) reports the campaigning kicked off over the weekend with Democrat and former Kenney administration education official Michael Galvan announcing their candidacy. Across the state in Allegheny County, WESA reports the first entrant in the race to replace county executive Rich Fitzgerald is in.

GRANT MONEY: In-state University of Pittsburgh students will likely receive $350 grants this semester, per Pitt News, the money coming from Gov. Tom Wolf's discretionary share of federal COVID-19 relief funds. Spotlight PA reported in July that Wolf quietly steered millions of the dollars to Pitt and several other state-related universities after an abortion-related budget fight that targeted Pitt.
PROPERTY TAX REBATE: Did you or someone you know get a property tax or rent rebate from the state in recent years and learn you no longer qualify? We want to hear from you. Your stories will fuel our reporting on the steady decline in the number of households getting help from a lottery-funded program that's meant to help older or disabled Pennsylvanians with housing costs. Reach out to Spotlight PA reporter Charlotte Keith at ckeith@spotlightpa.org.
IN OTHER NEWS

TEST-TAKERS: If you haven't exhausted your share of free COVID-19 tests from the federal government, this is your last week to order them. In related news: Expired at-home tests may still be good, per Axios.

GRADE 666: A back-to-school event hosted by The Satanic Temple has been approved by the Northern York County School District, per Fox43. District officials previously rebuffed the group, drawing a legal warning.  

OVERSHARE: Philadelphia's annual Naked Bike Ride took place over the weekend and someone used a bike share bike, via @peopledelphia.

COOL PHOTO: Speaking of memorable images... Here's one from journalist @KatinaZentz taken at a crab boil in Littlestown.

ONE MORE: This aerial image of York at sunset, taken and shared by u/Grashopha on Reddit, is an absolute showstopper.

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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
 
D R E W L S I E S N

*Note: We're going back to basics for the next two weeks, so no theme or "guess the theme" feature, but they will return.
 
Yesterday's answer: Preference

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Becky C., Hugh M., Craig W., Theresa T., David S., John P., Don H., William M., Jodi R., Ed O., Susan D., Kimberly D., Susan N.-Z., Beth T., Judith D., Nola D., Chuck M., Bruce B., Kathy F., Patricia M., Bill S., Karen W., Mike B., Connie K., Wendy A., Margaret Mary H., Al M., Elaine C., Mark O., George S., Marty M., Nancy S., Starr B., Marvin S., Ted W., Gina L., Steve H., Martin S., John F., Kim C., Daniel M., Ronnee G., Richard A., Fred O., Moon M., David W., Johnny C., Stanley J., Dianne K., Sharon J.-B., Jude M., Ana G., Becca S., David M., Fred H., James B., Jim M., Ted B., Eddy Z., Sandy S., John A., Sandy B., Mary Jo J., Jane R., and Myles M.
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