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How you can shape $1B opioid settlement spending

Plus, drama-free elections with a staff of two.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

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

Friday, May 19, 2023
Money moves, two-for-one, win some lose some, safety chief, election deniers, victim compensation, and cuts at IUP. Happy Friday and happy weekend.

Pennsylvania is set to receive more than $1 billion from a historic settlement with opioid companies, and billions more could be coming as states look to hold more companies accountable for turbo-charging an epidemic.

But tracking the money and its allowed uses is both difficult and important as some communities look to use shares to feed a failed War on Drugs, or, in the case of one Tennessee county, clear a mountain of municipal debt.

Spotlight PA and WESA break down the various windfalls, the process for deciding how the money will be spent, and how you can influence it.

Read the full report: Opioid settlement money: What you need to know.

THE CONTEXT: There's currently no single resource for people to see how counties and local governments plan to spend the money. 

But there are ways to influence the process. Jordan Scott, regional field organizer for the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Network, encourages people to try to serve on local task forces, research what their communities' needs are, and attend local meetings where the decisions happen.

Harm reduction and public health advocates said in interviews that they're concerned about proposals to spend local shares on law enforcement in several Pennsylvania counties, fearing a crowding out of other priorities, including proven harm-reduction and treatment options.

In Pennsylvania, an oversight board is responsible for ensuring local governments spend the money appropriately, but questions about discretion and transparency remain with more settlements looming

Read more: Policing vs. treatment for Pa.'s opioid settlement billions.

Support Spotlight PA and for a limited time, all gifts will be DOUBLED.

"That's not something to take lightly. I don't want to be the last and only."

JoJo Burgess who won Tuesday's Democratic primary for Washington, Pa. mayor and would be the 75%-white city's first Black mayor; the steelworker was a guest of First Lady Jill Biden at the 2022 State of the Union
» POLICING VS. TREATMENT: Join us Thursday, May 25 at 6 p.m. ET for a free panel on how Pa. wants to spend a $1B opioid settlement, the policing versus treatment debate, and the way Pennsylvania's spending plans compare to other states'. Register here, send questions to events@spotlightpa.org

» ELDER LAW: Join us Thursday, June 1 at 6 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on Pennsylvania's elder protection laws and how they could be improved. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Making friends at Hawk Rock with @yatsko. Have a photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
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We've got just 16 more days to hit our challenge goal of raising $40,000 in support of Spotlight PA's trusted, nonpartisan, no-nonsense investigative and public-service journalism for Pennsylvania. If we do it, every single gift will be DOUBLED. Don't miss this chance for your support to go twice as far.

Thank you to the 149 people who have given so far, including Karen M., who said, "You’re the only source of accurate information about what is going on in Harrisburg." Join Karen & make a tax-deductible gift now » 
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.'DRAMA FREE': The demands of processing ballots from Pennsylvania's different methods of voting have led some county election officials to say they actually run two separate elections every time. Spotlight PA and Votebeat have a look behind the scenes in Columbia County, which has managed to make light work of the task with a very small team since the expansion of Pennsylvania's mail-voting law.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.TALE OF TWO CITIES: The Intercept chronicles "how progressives won — and lost — in purple Pennsylvania" on Tuesday with big wins in Pittsburgh and a big loss in Philly. What might a progressive era look like in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County? PublicSource says a shift away from traditional power brokers, a potential paradigm reset that could have major consequences for elections and government function.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.SAFETY ROLE: In Philly, moderate Cherelle Parker won Tuesday's Democratic mayoral primary over the likes of progressive Helen Gym with a tough-on-crime platform. City voters also backed the creation of a new chief public safety director role that the current mayor warned "could create the opposite of the intended effect" and hamper the next administration's efforts, The Inquirer (paywall) reports.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.INCUMBENT WINS: Six GOP commissioners in three Pennsylvania counties who refused to certify last year's primary results in protest of Pennsylvania's mail-voting law easily won their primary races on Tuesday, Bolts magazine reports. If they win in November, they'll retain control over local election rules during the 2024 presidential cycle and, absent a precedential court decision, key aspects of mail voting.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CLAIMS DENIED: Every state has a program to reimburse victims of crimes for lost wages, medical, funeral, and other expenses, but the AP found that claims by Black families are more likely to be denied in states like Pennsylvania, often for subjective reasons. In Pennsylvania, a law went into effect in September that says applications cannot be denied because of a homicide victim's behavior.
🏆 PA IQ TEST: If you think you've been paying attention to the news, we're here to help you prove it. Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: Big primary wins, election week cyberattack, and a pivotal House special.

SMEAR CAMPAIGN: Brittany Hilliard earned the most votes out of four GOP candidates seeking two Kiski Township supervisor seats on Tuesday, even after a reported smear campaign that distributed images from her OnlyFans account to businesses throughout Apollo, per TribLIVE.

ABANDONED PA: WGAL's Matt Barcaro is exploring abandoned places in south-central Pennsylvania and posting videos from each at the bottom of this page. Barcaro has visited a defunct trolley line on a Gettysburg battlefield, a hidden silver mine, and more. Tell him where to go next.

WARHOL RULING: The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against late Pittsburgh pop art pioneer Andy Warhol in a copyright case involving an embellished portrait of Prince. In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan warned that the 7-2 high court decision would "stifle creativity of every sort."

IUP JOB CUTS: Five Indiana University of Pennsylvania executives have lost their jobs in a move the university says is meant to cut costs and streamline operations, TribLIVE reports. The university was once the largest in the state system, but its enrollment has fallen from 15,000+ in 2010 to about 8,800.

GREAT DEAL: Fifty-six-year-old Paul Brown paid $6,000 for two cracked windows from a West Philadelphia church that he saw on Facebook. Turns out they're Tiffany and worth a half-million dollars, per ArtNet.

Support Spotlight PA's local reporting in State College and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
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: Triumvirate

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Jane R., Bob C., Tracy S., Jon W., Donna M., Susan D., Don H., Vicki U., Wendy A., Eric F., Susan N.-Z., Dennis M., Stacy S., Stanley J., Tom M., James B., David W., Dianne K., John P., Elizabeth W., Dan A., Becky C., Daniel M., and William Z.
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