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Counties back $1B opioid deal as DAs fight it

Plus, the corporate takeover of Pa.'s legal pot market.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
January 28, 2022
Dear reader,

Dozens of amendments to our state constitution are pending in the legislature that would forever reshape Pennsylvania. That's why we've launched a new, nonpartisan public-service initiative to raise awareness and education about what might be coming to your ballot.

Our 📜 Amendment Tracker allows you to see and search all proposed amendments in one place. And we want to make improvements to the design and add other features, such as email alerts as amendments progress and events in support of public awareness.

To do all of that and more, we need your help. If you value this kind of public-service journalism, please support the Amendment Tracker by making a gift now. We're seeking to raise $10,000 in support of this effort by the end of January. Contribute now.


Christopher Baxter, Spotlight PA editor
$1B settlement, judicial redistricting, elector fraud, budget szn, the gatekeepers, Marijuana Inc., and a mystery animal disappears. It's Friday!
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"We have found zero evidence of election fraud. There is no evidence that he fraudulently harvested votes.”

—Lackawanna County DA Mark Powell on an investigation that began after a man was seen dropping off multiple ballots at a Scranton drop box last May

» STRIKE TEAM: A 23-person federal strike team will stay at WellSpan York Hospital for at least another month. The team was sent to help the strained hospital on Jan. 3 and originally slated to stay just 30 days. 

» MUST BE BOOSTED: The Philadelphia Theatre Company will require proof of a booster shot to get in, making it one of the first performance venues — if not the first — in the region to do so, 6ABC reports. 

» LONG HAULERS: A study published Tuesday in the medical journal Cell outlines four factors that can be found early in coronavirus infections and increase the chances of developing long-term symptoms.

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).
A beautiful Blue Jay, courtesy of @johnmcculloughphotographySend us your gems. Use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAY ONE: A Commonwealth Court judge began reviewing proposed congressional maps on Thursday, one day after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a Republican proposal, the AP reports. Here, via The Inquirer, is a look at what the different maps would mean for Pennsylvania.

FAKE ELECTORS: Federal prosecutors will investigate Republicans who sent fake Trump electors to Congress in an attempt to redirect electoral votes that actually belonged to now-President Joe Biden, The Guardian reports. The fake electors came from seven states won by Biden, including Pennsylvania. But careful wording of the commonwealth certificates could spare those involved from prosecution.

SAVINGS PLAN: Gov. Tom Wolf is entering his last budget season in office with tensions resurfacing around what to do with billions in leftover pandemic aid. Democrats want to spend more to help people and businesses quickly. Republicans want to go slow to avoid stretching the reserves too thin and Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, agrees, per WITF. An independent fiscal watchdog is also urging caution.

BILL BLOCKS: Most state House lawmakers support a bill regulating how many patients a single nurse can care for at a time, a move meant to ensure better outcomes. But as Capital-Star reports, majority support matters less in this instance than that of powerful committee chairs who decide "what bills see a vote and which wither and die without action," a dynamic that has frustrated reform efforts before.

BIG BUSINESS: Large companies and corporations control 83% of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana market, according to a new report that details the obstacles keeping smaller firms on the sidelines. Among the hurdles are high licensing fees and financing requirements, access to capital, and — the biggest of them all — a highly restricted number of available licenses, the Post-Gazette reports. 
FIRST-PERSON: Inquirer scribe Abraham Gutman's great uncle, Mishka, was killed by Nazis, most likely in a little-known massacre in an Ukrainian forest. Gutman wrote about Mishka on Holocaust Remembrance Day: "I want to know him. But there is no one to ask. That pain won't go away."

WEATHER WATCH: A nor'easter is set to swing up the East Coast today and into tomorrow, dropping large amounts of snow on New England and smaller amounts on southeastern Pennsylvania. Here are the latest predictions for the Philadelphia area, via the National Weather Service.

BAKED UP: If you're like me, you looked at Pennsylvania's "Official Groundhog Cookie Recipe" and thought: "72 or more" medium-size groundhog-shaped cookies sounds like a good start, but 72 cookies from 2 cups of flour seems ... unlikely. Well, I plan to find out and will report back.

ON THE LOOSE: The possible-dog-possible-coyote taken in by a Westmoreland County shelter last week has escaped the facility while waiting for test results to confirm its identity. TribLIVE reports the mystery animal clawed its way out and is currently on the lam

ON THE LINE: We leave you this week with the cornucopia of commonwealth character that is WNEP's Talkback 16 segment. This week's callers got hot about a squirrel named Butters and "the monkeys" but mostly mocked NFL legend Tom Brady ruthlessly. Enjoy the weekend. We'll see you Monday.

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.

Yesterday's answer: Inexorable

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Craig W., Barbara F., Vicki U., Susan D., Suzanne O., Doris T., Michelle T., Karen W., Bonnie R., Elaine C., Mike B., Don H., Patricia M., Kimberly S., John A., George S., Rick G., Cindy G., Bill S., David W., Susan N.-Z., Dianne K., Kim C., James B., Alan V., Suzanne S., and Elizabeth W.
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Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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