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Court pauses crucial part of Pa. primary process

Plus, tell Spotlight PA what 2022 election coverage matters to you.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
February 10, 2022
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On hold, unreported deaths, college money, rare opening, crash case, proper citations, and closing a 58-year-old cold case. It's Thursday. Hello!
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Pennsylvania's highest court has temporarily paused a crucial part of this year's election process: the circulating of petitions that candidates will need to land on the May 17 primary ballot, the Associated Press reports. 

The state Supreme Court order applies to congressional and legislative races, as well as contests for U.S. Senate, governor, and lieutenant governor.

The petition-gathering period was set to kick off Tuesday and last for three weeks, but the high court paused it while preparing to hear oral arguments in a case that will decide Pennsylvania's next congressional map

The court is considering a shortened petition-gathering period that would start on March 1 instead of Feb. 15 and last for two weeks instead of three.

OPEN SOURCE: It has been a bumpy election season in Pennsylvania, with redistricting delays sowing uncertainty and idling campaigns. 

Spotlight PA has stayed on top of the developments throughout and will continue to do so. And as election season ramps up, so will our coverage.  

We'll be covering the high-stakes race to replace Gov. Tom Wolf, the fight for control of the legislature, the challenges facing local election officials, and everything else you'll need to make an informed vote.

But first we want to hear from you: What stories do you want us to cover? And what questions do you have about voting in 2022?

We'll shape our reporting based on the topics you care about and the tips you send us. Here's how to get in touch.
For all of February, we at Spotlight PA are giving you the chance to share a message of love, gratitude, or appreciation with the entire state. 

Here's how it works: Make a donation of $25 or more to Spotlight PA using this special link, put your shoutout in the "I am contributing because..." box, and we’ll include it in a special section of our PA Post newsletter. 
Show some love to a Pennsylvania business, a person, an animal, an animal that reminds you of a person, or your favorite reporters (👋). Make someone feel good, brighten a day, and support Spotlight PA at the same time.

"We will now have a seat at the table in discussions to demand an end to this sewage nightmare and protect the great Susquehanna River."

—Ted Evgeniadis, of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, on his entry into ongoing negotiations about vexing Harrisburg sewage overflows
» POLICY REVIEW: Bethlehem Area School District has kept its mask mandate in place since the Wolf administration's statewide rule was overturned. District officials say it might be time to reexamine the policy.

» MASK TRANSIT: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg says it's too soon to say when the mask mandate for planes, trains, and buses could be lifted. The federal rule is in place through March 18 but could be extended.

» BLOOD SUPPLY: Blood donations fell during the COVID-19 pandemic and Pennsylvania officials say a critical shortage is upon us. The Daily American explains how to donate blood and who's eligible

» 400 MILLION: As of Wednesday, 400 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded worldwide, the milestone coming just one month after reaching 300 million cases. The highly transmissible omicron variant drove the pace.

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).

» BALLOT BATTLE: Join us Thursday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on Pennsylvania's mail voting law, the ruling striking it down, and what's next. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org

A flock of birds on Bullfrog Pond in Derry Township. I wonder what they're meeting about... Thanks, Bob NSend us your gems. Use #PAGems on Instagram or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
UNDER-REPORTED: Despite laws requiring such disclosures, PennLive found less than half of all deaths in Pennsylvania county jails in 2020 were reported to the federal government and a significant number were not reported to the state. Sometimes semantics were used to sidestep the reporting requirements. Advocates say if someone's life is shortened by incarceration, the public needs to know.

BIG BOOST: Gov. Tom Wolf's newly unveiled budget plan includes a big funding boost for Pennsylvania's beleaguered state university system, the largest such boost in at least a quarter-century, the Post-Gazette reports. Wolf's pitch includes a 15% or $75 million hike in base funding and $200 million for targeted scholarships. But the plan is just a starting point for the lengthy period of negotiation ahead. 

HARM REDUCTION: Days after the U.S. Department of Justice signaled a newfound openness to safe injection sites, the nonprofit behind a stalled plan to open one of the overdose prevention centers in Philadelphia says it's having productive conversations with the federal agency. The nonprofit, called Safehouse, continues to argue in court that its main purpose is saving lives, not providing illegal drugs.

CRASH FINDINGS: The National Transportation Safety Board says excessive speed likely caused a bus crash that killed five and injured dozens on the Pennsylvania Turnpike two years ago. The federal agency has now closed its investigation into the chain-reaction crash that occurred in a light snow about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy called it "a tragic reminder that speed kills." 

PLAGIARISM PROD: Legislative leaders named as defendants in a landmark trial over Pennsylvania's funding of its public schools withdrew a witness whose expert report was flagged over plagiarism concerns. LNP reports Mark Ornstein was set to testify for the defense Monday but an opposing attorney argued portions of Ornstein's expert report were copied from another source without proper citations.

CASE CLOSED: A horrific Hazleton cold case has been solved after 58 years, authorities say. Today, state police will name the deceased suspect and city resident believed responsible for the 1964 killing of 9-year-old Marise Chiverella. A source told the Republican Herald it's the oldest case in state history to be solved with DNA and genealogy. 

CALLED OFF: Furious with Bellwood-Antis School District officials after a former coach was convicted of sexually assaulting two student wrestlers, a small group of community members disrupted last week's school board meeting, prompting police to get involved and this week's session to be canceled out of an "abundance of caution," which led to more protests.

NEW ARRIVALS: Axios reports Philadelphia's Black immigrant population jumped 121% between 2009 and 2019. They've come from places like Liberia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, and Jamaica. Pennsylvania's Black immigrant population jumped 156% in that same timespan.

MAIL DUMP: The mysterious and controversial website that lets people anonymously send fake feces by mail can be traced back to a father and son in Allegheny County, Motherboard reports. The enterprise is now at the center of an unusual legal case: United States of America v. Poopsenders.com.
SPACE OUT: If you, like me, sometimes look up at the Pennsylvania night sky and wonder how many human beings are up there in outer space at that very moment, there's a website (and app) that will tell us.

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: Arts and crafts

Yesterday's answer: Decoupage

Congrats to our daily winners: Doris T., Becky C., Vicki U., Elaine C., Kevin M., Bette G., Don H., Suzanne O., Bruce B., Mike B., Al M., Barbara F., Bonnie R., Michelle T., Susan D., Beth T., Christine R., Meryl B., Irene R., Stephanie J., Karen W., Kevin H., John C., Wendy A., Judith D., Daniel M., Mark O., Paul B., Starr B., Elizabeth W., Georgann J., Jill M., Dan W., Ronnee G., Kimberly B., Nancy S., Craig W., Mary Jo J., Heidi B., Steve D., David S., Scott R., Barbara O., Claudia G., Randy W., George S., Chris M., James B., Fred O., Nancy S., Jodi R., Mark C., Sharon P., Patricia R., Karen G., Bill S., Dianne K., David W., Bob S., Susan N.-Z., John H., Kim C., Pat B., Cindy G., John A., and Anne R.
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