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Lawmakers sidestep good-government reforms

Plus, where is $50B in opioid settlement money going?

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Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
Friday, March 31, 2023
Lax rules, opioid funds, ACA decision, crisis pay, 'confusing' city, hoax law, and a major development for minor leaguers. Hi there! It's April Fools Eve.
The Pennsylvania Department of State is best known for its oversight of elections. But it also plays a key part in an area long neglected by the legislature: the role of money and lobbying in politics and policy-making. 

Both are large, time-consuming undertakings for the department. Annual budget hearings have long been a forum for lawmakers to put administration officials on the spot about what they believe are the most pressing and important issues of the day.

But during the five hours that legislators questioned Department of State officials this week, they inquired about the agency’s work on campaign finance and lobbying just twice.

Read more: Campaign finance, lobbying reform still receiving little attention in Pa. legislature.

THE CONTEXT: For those who follow the Capitol closely, the lack of interest came as little surprise.

Republican legislative leaders have not substantively discussed improving Pennsylvania’s campaign finance and lobbying disclosure rules for more than a decade, despite calls by good-government advocates and others for changes.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) has repeatedly introduced a bill that would place monetary limits on campaign donations, ban candidates from using donor dollars for personal benefit, and require more transparency on how candidates spend their money. 

Still, the legislation has never been brought up for a vote: “I think the General Assembly likes the status quo,” Costa said.

"Threats against me and my family multiplied in frequency, volume, and severity, including active threats of harm."

—Gisele Fetterman in an op-ed describing the response to her husband U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) seeking treatment for clinical depression
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» Why independents can't vote in Pa. primaries (Spotlight PA archives)

» How unequal policies disenfranchised Pa. voters in 2022

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Graffiti pier in Philadelphia, via Christine K. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Abandoned and graffiti-covered concrete structures.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SETTLEMENT CASH: As state and local governments across the country begin to receive their share of $50 billion in opioid settlement money, KHN finds the level of transparency about how those funds will be spent varies widely. Pennsylvania has promised to publicly report 85% of expenditures, per OpioidSettlementTracker.com.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.MAJOR RULING: After a federal judge on Thursday struck down an Affordable Care Act provision requiring insurers to cover preventive care, including cancer, heart, and pregnancy screenings, at no cost, state Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Philadelphia) says he'll introduce legislation to formalize those protections in state law.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.CRASH PAYMENTS: Norfolk Southern has paid three fire companies in Western Pennsylvania $1 million, Gov. Josh Shapiro said Thursday, the first reimbursement for costs associated with a toxic derailment just over the Ohio border. The Shapiro administration is directing individual Pennsylvanians who suffered losses to apply for help here.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CRISIS RESPONSE: Experts told The Inquirer messaging from Philadelphia officials about potential issues with public drinking water was vague, late, and “very confusing.” One public relations professional likened the shifting guidance on when exactly the water wouldn't be safe to drink to a ticking doomsday clock.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.HOAX LAW: State Sen. Michele Brooks (R., Crawford) wants to make it a felony to falsely report emergency threats towards "any educational facility in the Commonwealth" following a wave of hoaxes in schools statewide. State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) plans to relaunch his push to arm teachers post-Nashville.

PRIVATE FORCES: One day after a contractor shot a Philly woman in the head while serving eviction papers, two Democratic state senators introduced legislation that would ban the privatization of eviction enforcement.

TENTATIVE DEAL: Minor league baseball players have a tentative deal on their first ever contract with Major League Baseball. As Spotlight PA reported last year, that doesn't necessarily mean your local club is covered.

TROUT SEASON: Pennsylvania's trout season opens Saturday. Our PA Local newsletter took a dive into the commonwealth's fascinating and surprisingly controversial trout supply one year ago. 

SIGNING OFF: Philly jazz radio legend Bob Perkins hosts his last show Sunday. The Inquirer says his retirement plans include a podcast.

FUN RUNS: Tom Murphy VII ran every street in Pittsburgh, some in a Pac-Man costume with ghosts close on his heels, via WESA.

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 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Grievance

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Craig W., Fran B., Susan D., Eric F., Kimberly D., Bruce B., Don H., Vicki U., Wendy A., Stephen E., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Ada M., Craig E., Jane R., Jon W., Stanley J., James and Anne B., Dianne K., Barbara F., John P., Dan A., David W., Sarah B., Bill S., Daniel M., Amy Z., and Trey M.
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