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Secret opioid cash meetings must stop: senator

Plus, UPenn temporarily bans encampments.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

Friday, June 7, 2024
Today: Secret meetings, mixed greetings, cellphone bill, demonstration guidelines, race polling, and a brand new lobbying group.
State Sen. Greg Rothman (R., Cumberland), who serves on a board that oversees Pennsylvania’s opioid settlement money, says he is concerned the group’s private meetings do not comply with the state’s Sunshine Act, echoing transparency questions first raised publicly by Spotlight PA and WESA.

“After a review of the statute, it is not clear to me that these working groups can legitimately meet in private,” Rothman wrote in a letter dated March 26, which his office recently provided to Spotlight PA. 

At a public meeting in February, the board approved a plan presented by Chair Tom VanKirk to have smaller groups review counties’ spending reports of the opioid settlement money. The groups would be responsible for making recommendations for the full board to consider in public. 

VanKirk said having these smaller meetings in private is “proper under the Sunshine Act” without detailing why.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Secret opioid cash meetings criticized by Pa. lawmaker after Spotlight PA and WESA reporting

“A lot of the things I used to love doing, I don’t think about doing them anymore.”

Jacqualyn James, a retired Pennsylvania high school teacher, on how a lack of cost-of-living adjustments on her pension payments makes it harder to deal with rising everyday costs.
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QUEERING THE NEWS: Join us Thursday, June 13 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free discussion with a panel of experts on Pennsylvania’s queer media landscape — past, present, and future. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
Dingmans Falls in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pike County, via Don N. Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
a waterfall coming down a mountain
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
CAPITOL COPS: Democratic lawmakers who serve in the Pennsylvania House say some of their Republican colleagues booed two former officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Washington Post reports. The alleged booing occurred when former U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn and former sergeant Aquilino Gonell appeared on the state House floor on Wednesday. They also spoke outside the Capitol to support President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, calling former President Donald Trump a threat to American democracy.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
DISTRACTED DRIVING: Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro signed a bill into law this week banning the handheld use of cellphones while driving, KDKA reports. The law also requires State Police and some local law enforcement agencies to collect race, ethnicity, and other data on drivers pulled over during traffic stops, but that information won’t be available under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
ENCAMPMENT BAN: The University of Pennsylvania has implemented temporary campus demonstration guidelines that ban encampments and formed a task force to review the school’s “open expression” guidelines, the Daily Pennsylvanian reports. Across the state, pro-Palestinian protesters disbanded an encampment at the University of Pittsburgh, fearing forcible removal by state troopers at the alleged behest of the school’s chancellor. 
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
TIGHT RACE: Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and Democratic challenger Janelle Stelson are statistically tied in the race to represent Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll. PennLive reports Perry’s support fell following former President Donald Trump’s hush-money conviction on May 30. The seat is a key Democratic target as the party tries to take back the U.S. House.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
LGBTQ LEGISLATURE: A lobbying group focused on LGBTQ issues and rights launched this week, WITF reports. Fairness Pennsylvania wants to help push through the passage of a bill that would expand certain nondiscrimination protections to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The group said it will also help lawmakers with bill language. 
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🤔 NEXT QUESTION: Are you on top of the news? Prove it with the latest edition of the Great PA News Quiz: Minimum wage to the max, Shapiro's radio hour, and Biden's border order.
RADIO HIT: Gov. Josh Shapiro appeared on popular hip-hop radio show The Breakfast Club where he was asked about Spotlight PA’s story about his use of the state plane
FIRST IN PA: Donald Trump’s campaign has opened an office in a Philadelphia neighborhood won by Joe Biden in 2020, the Capital-Star reports.
CITY UPGRADE: Pittsburgh leaders have unveiled a new vision for Downtown, with upgrades and changes meant to attract residents, TribLIVE reports.
SEE THE LIGHTS: The Northern Lights are expected to appear again in the U.S. Friday night into early Saturday, but FOX43’s weather team says the stunning display will not be visible from Pennsylvania
SPEED SKATING: Back by popular demand, the U.S. Roller Speed Skating Championship is returning to Hermitage from June 10 to 14.  
Spotlight PA's exclusive "All Sun, No Shade" beach towel, on sale now

Our exclusive 'All Sun, No Shade' beach towels are HOT!

Bold and thick, get ready for summer with this exclusive Spotlight PA swag. But hurry! Once they're gone, they're gone for the year. SHOP NOW >
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. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Harmonious

Congrats to our daily winners: Elaine C., Julie K., Jane R., Marc G., Bob C., Jody A., Jon W., Stacy S., Daniel M., Lynne E., Gerry L., Dan E., Barbara F., Beth H., Don H., Beth T., Dave M., Susan N., Amelia M., Dan A., Craig E., Jeffrey F., Richard A., Annette I., Ada M., Tom M., John P., Stanley J., Wendy A., Kimberly B., William Z., and Kimberly D.
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