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Pay raises, more mask time, candidate Oz, new role, three voters, contempt charges, and a unique way to deliver books. It's Wednesday. Hello December.
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Starting today, state lawmakers will see their pay rise by a record amount — roughly $5,000 for rank-and-file legislators, PennLive reports. People who hold leadership positions in the House and Senate will make even more, ranging from $108,819 to nearly $150,000 for top Republicans Bryan Cutler and Jake Corman. In total, more than 1,300 positions — including those in the executive and judicial branches — are getting a bump, per the AP. The automatic increases are driven by inflation, though some lawmakers are rejecting the raise and are calling for a pay freeze. THE CONTEXT: Pay increases for lawmakers have long been controversial in Pennsylvania. In 2005, the General Assembly voted at 2 a.m. — with no public input — to raise salaries for members of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches by 16% to 50%. The vote was rescinded after a wave of public outrage that saw the defeat of several lawmakers as well as the rare rejection of a state Supreme Court justice for another ten years on the bench. Cutler — who in the past said he donates his raises to charities — told PennLive the automatic increase was established as an alternative to voting on pay increases. But there are Democrats and Republicans who believe it should be done away with.
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» MORE TIME : Pennsylvania's school mask mandate will last until at least Dec. 8, the state Supreme Court has ordered. » THE PLAN : Gov. Tom Wolf says he's not considering new mitigation measures despite concerns over a new variant. » ABSENT PROTECTIONS : Federal laws that offered COVID-related paid sick leave have expired, leaving some sick workers with few options. To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Thanks, Stephen E., for this shot of Raccoon Creek State Park. Look at all that green! Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
HE'S IN: Mehmet Oz — a celebrity doctor who pushed an antimalarial drug as an unproven treatment for the coronavirus, echoing former President Donald Trump — is officially running for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat. He lives in New Jersey, per The Inquirer, but registered to vote at his in-laws' home in Montgomery County. NEW ROLE: The sole Republican on the Philadelphia board that oversees elections is stepping down to lead the good-government group Committee of Seventy, according to City & State. Al Schmidt was attacked by Trump for his role in carrying out the city's 2020 general election and faced death threats. GRIM TALLY: More than 100 people have died by homicide in Allegheny County this year, a spike mirroring national trends. “The source of this is not the same as something that motivates people to steal or to rob," an expert told the Post-Gazette. MISTAKE IMPACT: Officials in Berks County say just three voters who received Spanish instructions with the wrong election date returned a mail ballot after the deadline. The Reading Eagle reports another 189 ballots arrived too late because of U.S. Postal Service delays. CONTEMPT CHARGES: A U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is pursuing contempt charges against former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, the AP reports. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of Central Pennsylvania connected with Clark in an effort to advance Trump's false claims the election had been stolen from him.
PONY EXPRESS: Harriett’s Bookshop in Philadelphia survived the pandemic through community-building. What does that look like in practice? How about owner Jeannine A. Cook delivering books to kids by horse. WE'RE NO. 2: If you like meaningless "studies" meant to drive web traffic, try this one on for size: A "study" by Lombardo Homes ranked Pennsylvania No. 2 in its list of states that decorate the most for Christmas. Why not! RIVAL RIVERS: Congrats to Catawissa Creek, Connoquenessing Creek, French Creek, and the Monongahela River on their nominations for 2022 River Of The Year. Apparently creeks are rivers? I don't make the rules. PGH TO LA-LA LAND: The Post-Gazette spoke to Pitt grad Kelechi Urama, who is now a staff writer on the Starz comedy “Run the World.” I'm adding it to my watchlist. REVISED STATEMENT: Lancaster police now say a city menorah appears to have been damaged unintentionally. Surveillance footage, however, shows the people responsible "seemed to be aware that they had caused damage."
Unscramble and send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.
I S C M M Y T A Monday's answer: Thaumaturgy Congrats to our daily winners: Susan F., Myles M., Craig E., Kimberly S., Kim C., Lex M., Susan N.-Z., Beth T., George S., Dianne K., Elaine C., Bill S., Alan V., Doris T., Vicki U., and Ann E.