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PSU court seal questioned, Wolf's $2K check push lives on, and election deniers at the polls

Plus, what the Kansas abortion vote could mean for Pa.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 4, 2022
State seal, Roe backlash, $2K stalemate, press run, election insiders, higher premiums, and music city. It's Thursday. This is PA Post.

Legal experts say Penn State did not prove it had legal standing to request the sealing of a case related to alleged sexual extortion against student athletes — a request that was granted by a judge and later reversed. 

Penn State said it was entitled to take the action because the institution represents the interests — in this case privacy-related — of its students. But experts are challenging that claim and whether the threat of embarrassment is enough reason to cut off public access to public records.  

Spotlight PA explains the case and surrounding arguments.

THE CONTEXT: Lisa Powers, Penn State's senior director of university public relations, previously told Spotlight PA that "the University's concern was focused on potential student victims and their right to privacy..."

But Melissa Melewsky of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association said potential embarrassment doesn't rise to the level of what the state constitution requires for sealing a court case like this in its entirety.

David Rudovsky, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, added that if the victims had asked Penn State to get involved, the university could have plausible standing. But it's unclear whether that happened and the university isn't answering questions about whether it did.

Penn State has declined to discuss key details about its handling of the case, including when potential victims were notified, how many students were involved, and when campus police were brought in.


"Knowing that we now have what we've been waiting on for 13 years, I think it's time for a celebration."

—Rosie Lopez-Torres of advocacy group Burn Pits 360 on Tuesday's passage of the PACT Act; U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) remained opposed

» TALK OF THE TOWN: On Friday, August 12 at 6 p.m. ET, meet our new State College regional bureau team, get an inside look at what we're investigating, and tell us how we can better connect with you. RSVP here. Tell us what you want to know about the bureau at events@spotlightpa.org

A spider's front yard in an Upper Darby garden, via Joe P. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
BALLOT ANSWER: Kansas voters rejected a state constitutional amendment declaring no right to an abortion there. A similar amendment is being pursued by GOP legislators in Pennsylvania, and while it won't reach voters any sooner than 2023, Tuesday's results in ruby red Kansas are welcome news for abortion access advocates here — especially ahead of November's midterms, The Inquirer reports.

PAYMENT PLAN: Gov. Tom Wolf is again lobbying around his plan for one-time, $2,000 direct payments to Pennsylvania households making $80,000 or less. Republicans rejected the pitch during budget talks because it relied on unspent federal relief funds. Now Wolf is proposing using unspent state surplus dollars instead. But KDKA-TV reports that Republican state lawmakers remain dismissive.

NO QUESTIONS: Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano shunned questions from local media outlets at stops in Lawrence and Crawford Counties on Tuesday. WTAE was asked to leave a New Castle stop, and the Meadville Tribune was told Mastriano didn't have time for questions as he railed against the press. It's a continuation of a freeze out that LNP reported was both unusual and potentially costly.

POLL WORK: The Republican National Committee is relying on 2020 election deniers — including Toni Shuppe of Audit the Vote PA — to pilot a sweeping "election integrity" operation that involves recruiting and coaching thousands of poll workers in battleground states like this one, Politico reports. Gov. Wolf recently vetoed a bill that would have loosened the reins on poll workers here.

GOING RATE: Some 375,000 people with health coverage through Pennsylvania's Affordable Care Act marketplace could see their premiums rise in January. The Post-Gazette reports health insurers are proposing an average 7.1% increase here, citing the rising costs of doing business, among other reasons. Final rates will be released in the fall following a review by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

HEAT MAPS: The heat is on, again. Temps will top 90 across much of Pennsylvania today and possibly 100 in southeast counties. On a related note: Axios reports July was Philadelphia's second-hottest on record.

HIKE STREAK: Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls are going up for the 15th straight year. TribLIVE reports tolls will go up by 5% on Jan. 8, 2023.

SIXERS SPRAWL: That contested plan for a new $1.3 billion Sixers arena in Center City Philadelphia? CBS3 reports it's getting even bigger.

PUB VETTING: City Paper sent a native of England with extensive ties to Scotland to gauge the authenticity of a new(ish) Pittsburgh pub.

BIG BANDS: It's going to get loud in Edinboro. The Meadville Tribune reports busloads of the nation's best student musicians are inbound.

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: Handwriting

Yesterday's answer: Descender

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Don H., Elaine C., Jessica K., Susan N.-Z., Susan D., Nancy S., Judith D., Bill S., George S., Doris T., James B., Dianne K., Cindy M., Warren D., Kim C., Vicki U., David S., Daniel M., John B., Stanley J., Kimberly D., and Carol H.-P.
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