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Pa. lawmaker subpoenaed by Jan. 6 investigators

Plus, Pa. job training program for laid-off coal miners has languished for years.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
February 16, 2022

CHILD CARE CRISIS: At Spotlight PA, we’re continuing to investigate the state’s child care crisis as providers struggle to hire enough workers and keep their doors open. Right now, we’re working on a story about the state’s Child Care Works program, which the Wolf administration says makes it possible for low-income families to find reliable child care. And we want to hear from you! If you’ve struggled to find reliable and affordable child care, or have experience with Child Care Works, let Spotlight PA reporter Ed Mahon know at emahon@spotlightpa.org.

Life after coal, Mastriano subpoenaed, jury duty, 911 delays, CRT bans, new judge, and a blizzard of snow geese hits Pa. It's Wednesday.
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Four years after Pennsylvania set aside millions of dollars to train laid-off coal miners for new jobs in trucking, manufacturing, and cybersecurity, no former miner has received any training from the program, per WTAE.

Gov. Tom Wolf visited the United Mine Workers of America Career Center in Greene County in 2018 and announced $3 million in funds to expand training options there. Another two million in state and federal funds followed. 

But the center's deputy director, Lisa Adams, said bureaucratic hoops, the pandemic, and grant money rules, in particular, have slowed progress to a crawl. Wolf's office said the grant rules predate his administration. 

In the meantime, former miners like Ronald Wright of Coal Center are left to seek out other training programs, often with a high price tag. "It's like you're stuck in a hole and trying to climb out of it," Wright told WTAE.

THE CONTEXT: Greene County was the site of a mine closure that saw 180 workers laid off last year, the latest in a string of industry contractions there. Statewide, the number of mining jobs fell by 38% between 2011 and 2018

As market forces and climate-focused policies move away from coal consumption, the question about what to do for dislocated workers remains. 

For many, training is necessary for any pivot to a career offering comparable pay. But training programs have been slow to materialize — or worse.

"It's embarrassing and emblematic of the way government runs," state Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R., Greene) said of delays at the mine workers career center near Waynesburg. "It shouldn't be this hard to do the right thing." 
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.

"The clear result of the final map is that Butler County residents are victims of excessive partisan or political classifications and other circumstances..."

—A group of Butler County residents, one running for political office, in the first lawsuit filed against Pennsylvania's new state House map
» GRADUATING CLASS: PublicSource profiles Pittsburgh students whose high school careers were largely disrupted by COVID-19. "They have memories," Jayla McCoy said of prior senior classes. "We don't." 

» UNKNOWN COSTS: The Biden administration promised four free COVID-19 at-home tests for every American household, and shipments are underway. But what it's spending on the tests is largely a mystery, KHN reports. 

» LEGAL CHALLENGE: The union representing Philadelphia firefighters is suing over the city's vaccine mandate for employees, saying up to 30% of the union's members could be suspended as a result.

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 glassy shot of the Schuylkill River from the East Falls Bridge in Philadelphia. Thanks for sharing, Erik J. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
SIEGE SUBPOENA: State senator and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) has been subpoenaed by the U.S. House panel investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The AP reports the select committee wants documents and information about efforts to name alternate electors for Trump in Pennsylvania. It also wants to know what Mastriano himself saw outside the Capitol building on Jan. 6. 

JURY PROBE: An Allegheny County grand jury will be convened to investigate the death of Jim Rogers, who died after he was repeatedly tasered by Pittsburgh police investigating a reported bicycle theft in October. Eve Pfeiffer of the Justice for Jim Rogers group called the move an effort to hide from responsibility. Pitt law professor David Harris told WESA how the process will work and what the jury's role will be.

WAIT TIMES: The Inquirer reports Philadelphia police are taking 20% longer on average to respond to 911 calls during the pandemic, including 90 minute waits for some domestic violence victims or, residents say, no response at all. The police union blames a lack of staff and BLM protests for driving people away from the profession. Others note the high number of police abusing injury benefits.

CRT BANS: The board of the Butler Area School District has adopted a resolution banning critical race theory in its schools, making it at least the second school district in Western Pennsylvania to do so amid a building conservative backlash. But with CRT steeped in misinformation, PublicSource explains what it is and how it morphed from a niche academic topic to a "full-blown political rally cry."

TREE OF LIFE: The trial of accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers will have a new judge at the helm following a high-profile judicial retirement. U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose is stepping down from the bench after 28 years. U.S. Judge Robert Colville will take over the case, one plagued by delays in the years since it started with the murders of 11 people inside the Pittsburgh synagogue.
STORY TIME: Pittsburgh will become the sixth U.S. city with a Story Club, an open mic-style event that lets people take the stage and spin a yarn. Story Club Pittsburgh replaces The Moth series, with notable differences, per WESA.

CAPITAL TV: Harrisburg has its own nighttime live talk show. It's called "Harrisburg Black NewsBeat" and it stars Dr. Kimeka Campbell, who told PennLive: "This is the second best thing I did, next to marrying my husband."

BIRD BLIZZARD: As many as 85,000 snow geese descended on the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area last week, creating a "blizzard of birds" before actual snow blanketed the area, LNP reports. 

SKATE SPOT: Carlisle could be getting its first permanent, public skate park by the end of the year, The Sentinel reports. The design was approved by the borough council last week and construction is set to start this summer.

TAKE FIVE: You've mastered Wordle, now try Worldle. And, yes, that one letter makes a big difference. This time you'll be shown the outline of a country somewhere on planet earth and have six tries to correctly identify it. Enjoy.
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: Performing arts

Yesterday's answer: Cyclorama

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan N.-Z., Susan D., Mark C., Bonnie R., Doris T., Don H., Elaine C., Kimberly S., George S., David I., Karen W., James B., Suzanne S., Vicki U., Dianne K., Bill S., Jude M., Ann E., Craig E., Kim C., and Pat B.
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