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Cybersecurity anxiety enters PA budget talks

Plus, Biden's home-state critics.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Today: Cybersecurity spending, ghost gun lawsuit, prison population, transformation officer, and Biden's home-state critics.

Local governments in Pennsylvania could soon have access to up to $25 million in federal funding to help them combat cybersecurity threats against critical infrastructure, according to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal.

But following a wave of attacks against local infrastructure in Pennsylvania and other states, county and municipal leaders say the money is not enough to keep up with cybersecurity expenses — including required technology updates, higher insurance rates, and the rise of artificial intelligence. 

And Shapiro's budget proposal does not include dedicated state funding to help municipalities cover such costs.

Read Spotlight PA’s full report: Pa. local governments want long-term state money for cybersecurity as federal grant fills the gap.


“For those that do not get the inside joke, yes, I’m 38. Yes, my mother still makes me Easter basket. No, I do not care what anybody thinks about it.”

—State Rep. Jordan Harris (D., Philadelphia) riffing with his GOP counterpart in the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Seth Grove (R., York) 

EDUCATION EMPOWERMENT: Join us THIS Thursday, March 14 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a roundtable discussion with Pennsylvania reporters on transparency in education, and how you can hold school officials accountable. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org


A snowy day at Ridley Creek State Park in Delaware County, via Don N. Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A straight line of trees dusted with snow.
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Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
GUN SUIT: A Pennsylvania company is being sued in Michigan for illegally selling the ghost gun that cost a teen his eye, the Detroit Free Press reports. The lawsuit says JSD Supply of Butler County illegally sold parts to a Michigan minor who then assembled a pistol and fired it at the plaintiff's right eye in "a foreseeable and preventable accident." 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.GUN RULES: The ghost gun supplier in the above case is already on the federal government's radar. In 2022, one year after shipping the ghost gun kit to Michigan, JSD Supply sued the ATF for attempting to block it from selling and shipping more, saying the agency was prematurely enforcing rules that wound up snared in a legal back-and-forth.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.IN THE SYSTEM: Pennsylvania's prison population is rising again, though still below a 2011 peak, Axios reports. Meanwhile, researcher C. Clare Strange told The Conversation why the state's fresh overhaul of sentencing guidelines probably won't eliminate racial disparities, especially when courts inherit them from law enforcement.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.THE TRANSFORMER: The "first person to sell coffee on the internet" is now Pennsylvania's first chief transformation officer. Handpicked by Gov. Shapiro, Ben Kirshner told Philly Mag how he plans to improve Pennsylvania's economic climate — and his own experience as a "victim of bad service from the state."

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.IN BRIEF: A judge has ordered a takeover of six health care and rehabilitation centers in Western Pennsylvania after the owner stopped making payments on a $30.5 million loan; and DuBois is one step close to finding a replacement for former City Manager Herm Suplizio, who's charged with stealing more than $600,000 in city funds.

NAME CHANGE: Some 14,000 people have signed a nonbinding petition calling on officials to remove President Joe Biden's name from two roadways in his hometown of Scranton. Elsewhere: Stephen Caruso notes a nascent Dem protest vote forming here against Biden on Israel.

TRAIL TUSSLE: Pennsylvania's contested trail connector for all-terrain vehicles in northern tier state forests is a go through at least 2025. Its pilot phase was unpopular with 71% of nonmotorized recreationists and 46% of residents, who cited dust, noise, and police availability. 

SURPRISE GIFT: Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott — an Amazon shareholder and ex-wife to Jeff Bezos — has made a $4 million donation to a Philadelphia nonprofit that had no idea it was coming, per WHYY. 

PHILLY STITCH: Decades after I-676 split Philadelphia's Chinatown neighborhood in two, federal lawmakers on Monday announced $159 million in federal grants to help "stitch" it back together.

GROUNDED: A Montgomery County aviation museum's expansion is on hold due to toxic "forever chemical" contamination, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. Expansion funders are waiting, but there's no end in sight.

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Yesterday's answer: Changemaker

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