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Pa. court tosses mail voting law in election year

Plus, bridge collapse highlights Pa.'s infrastructure struggles.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
January 31, 2022
Dear reader,

Democracy dies in darkness. We didn't come up with it, but we sure agree, and that's why we're hoping you'll help us end January strong.

Last week, we launched a new, nonpartisan public-service initiative to raise awareness and education about the state constitutional amendments that might be coming to your ballot.

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Christopher Baxter, Spotlight PA editor
Seismic cases, broken bridges, no endorsement, stolen gun, and a double album's worth of Pennsylvania ditties. It's Monday. This is PA Post.
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"We believe the individuals we have subpoenaed today have information about how these so-called alternate electors met and who was behind that scheme."

—U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Mississippi) on a Pa. businessman and 13 others sought for questioning about a pro-Trump 'fake electors scheme'
» ON GUARD: While the omicron wave appears to be subsiding across the state, the death rate here remains elevated. "It is much too early to let down our guard," Pennsylvania's acting health secretary said.

» SCHOOL SUITS: One Pennsylvania court reached opposite conclusions in nearly identical lawsuits looking to restore mask rules in two school districts. TribLIVE explains the legal incongruity as appeals are pending.

» NEW LOOK: Even as omicron strained hospitals, Gov. Tom Wolf eschewed the kinds of restrictions he favored earlier in the pandemic. The New York Times says the pivot is about pragmatism but also this year's elections.

» SAFE STUMPING: With the 2022 elections looming, City & State reports Pennsylvania political campaigns are once again balancing the need for personal touchpoints with lingering public health concerns

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).
The mighty (and icy) Susquehanna River, courtesy of @yatskoSend us your gems. Use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
'MASSIVE DAMAGE': Officials leading a federal investigation into Friday's catastrophic bridge collapse in Pittsburgh say a preliminary report will be released in about 10 days but pinpointing the cause could take much longer, per WESA. Among the early focal points: footage from a Port Authority bus that was one of several vehicles on the bridge when it fell. Ten people were injured in all, none seriously.

BILLIONS NEEDED: One in eight Pennsylvania bridges are in "poor" condition, and while that doesn't mean they're at imminent risk of collapse, it almost always means costly repairs are warranted. Pennsylvania will receive an extra $1 billion-plus for bridges over five years under the federal infrastructure law, but state officials say they need $8.1 billion more each year just to cover baseline needs.

BILLIONS DIVERTED: As debate swirled about the politics of Pennsylvania's infrastructure problem, some cited a 2019 WHYY article about $4.2 billion for bridge repairs that went to shore up the State Police budget instead. Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed changes meant to lessen such fuel tax diversions as State Police coverage areas grow, but those pitches have struggled to find legislative support.

NO WINNER: Pennsylvania's Democratic Party committee deadlocked in Saturday's vote to endorse a candidate in the U.S. Senate primary, with U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb earning the most support but not the two-thirds majority needed to win the nod. AG Josh Shapiro, meanwhile, easily earned the committee's gubernatorial endorsement. GOP state committee endorsements are slated to happen on Feb. 5.

GUN CHECK: A gun stolen from state Sen. Marty Flynn (D., Lackawanna) was used to shoot a man in Scranton a few days after it was reported missing, police say. A teenager has since been charged in the non-fatal shooting. Flynn has declined to comment on the incident. As a state representative in 2014, he famously shot at a man he said had tried to rob him and another lawmaker in Harrisburg.
CAT FANCY: The White House has a new pet with a Pennsylvania connection. Willow, a 2-year-old gray and white farm cat, is from Pennsylvania and named for First Lady Jill Biden's hometown of Willow Grove.

CEO SAGA: Douglas Lindey stepped down as Mercer mayor the same month he was sworn in after his eligibility was challenged. With no backup, the borough has a workaround to put him back in office, per the Herald. 

TOUCHDOWN: The radioactive, blue whale-sized superload has landed — and only one day behind schedule. PennDOT confirms the freight reached its final destination in Lawrence County after a brief winter weather delay

RETURN FLIGHT: A great horned owl is back at its Mount Joy nesting spot, "quelling fears that owls would abandon the popular bird-watching site after a human climbed up and took an owlet from its mother last spring," per LNP.

PLAY NEXT: "The Guy Who Sings Songs about Cities and Towns" cut a banger of an album about Pennsylvania with track titles like "York is a City (Good Nice)," "Altoona Altoona Altoona!," and "Oh Yeah! Millcreek Township!"
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: Words that start with the letter "B"

Friday's answer: Extenuating

Congrats to our weekly winner: Nancy S.

Congrats to our daily winners: Vicki U., Mike B., Michelle T., Irene R., Barbara F., Beth T., Eddy Z., Don H., Suzanne O., Al M., Lex M., Doris T., Stephen G., Becky C., Kirk B., Wendy A., Judith D., Ted W., Nancy S., Susan N.-Z., Cindy G., John B., John A., Ellen G., Heidi B., Craig W., Susan D., Mark O., Elaine C., George S., David S., David W., Kimberly S., Rick G., James B., Jill A., Ronnee G., Michael K., Keith F., Tish M., Bill S., Daniel M., Connie K., Dianne K., Kimberly B., Starr B., Kathleen C., Elizabeth W., Gina L., John H., Patricia R., Joel S., Kim C., Karen M., Chris M., John P., William S., Donna J., and Shawn I.
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