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Orchestra spent $30K on Pa. lawmakers' Europe trip

Plus, Pa. high court deadlocks on undated ballots.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
November 2, 2022
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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra spent $30,000 to take two state lawmakers on tour in Europe, comping concert tickets and picking up the costs for their airfare, hotel, meals, and other incidentals.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre) and state Rep. Rob Mercuri (R., Allegheny) were joined by their spouses on the trip.

The symphony, which secured nearly $10 million in state funding over the past five years, has hosted elected officials before on international tours and extended invites this time to all four legislative caucuses.

It's the type of perk that a legislative gift ban would make impossible. But the legislature has consistently failed to pass such a ban.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra paid $30K to take 2 Pa. lawmakers to Europe.

THE CONTEXT: Spotlight PA learned of the European excursion through an anonymous source who shared the information after reading that several legislators were offered free trips to Wyoming this summer.

The Europe trip will not be publicly reported on the lawmakers' financial disclosures until May of next year, and even then, officials report few details: just the value of the gift or hospitality, and who paid for it.

Corman, through a spokesperson, declined to comment. Mercuri did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

And while calls for a ban on gifts from lobbyists and public policy influencers continue, no proposed bans or even limits have received a floor vote.


"We continue to believe that if the annexation moves forward that the voters of both the City of Pittsburgh and the Borough of Wilkinsburg should have their voices heard on the question through the ballot box."

—Attorney Chuck Pascal after a judge denied a push that sought to fast-track Wilkinsburg's annexation by neighboring Pittsburgh using a 1903 law

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Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:

»  College Funding & Student Debt
»  Energy & Environment
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGBTQ Rights
»  Abortion, Medicaid, & Opioids
»  Rural Health Care & Broadband
»  Taxes & Business Regulations
»  Election Security & Voting Rights

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:  

»  Your complete guide to voting in the Nov. 8 election
»  Everything you need to know about mail ballots
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
»  These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election in 50+ years
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español:

»  Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
»  Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
»  Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador
»  Una guía completa para las elecciones del 8 de noviembre

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» @ADAMBONIN: Ex-GOP Gov. Tom Corbett warns against Mastriano
» ABC27: What to do if your Nov. 8 mail ballot still hasn't arrived
» INTERCEPT: Pro-Israel lobby group goes after Summer Lee, again
» TRIBLIVE: Allegheny Co. addresses ACLU's mail ballot concerns
» WTAE: PA-17 debate canceled after Jeremy Shaffer calls out sick
Fall foliage at Longwood Gardens, via Don N. And here are some fall foliage views, via NASA. Now a request: We want to see (and share) your mail ballot selfies and other voting pics. Email your Decision 2022 photos to us here, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
SCOPA DEADLOCKS: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has deadlocked on the legality of undated or misdated mail ballots and told counties they must segregate such ballots and cannot include them in Nov. 8 vote counts, per Spotlight PA. The state's high court is down to six members following the death of Chief Justice Max Baer, setting up the 3-3 impasse. Thousands of midterm votes could be affected.

BALLOT GUIDE: In light of the above news out of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it's crucial that you make sure your ballot is filled out correctly before turning it in. Find tips for completing and submitting your mail ballot and making sure it's counted in Spotlight PA's guide to mail ballots, which originally published in September. It's too late to request a mail ballot for this election if you haven't already. 

POLICE REPORT: State Police are investigating a reported assault of a Democratic state House candidate at his home in Fayette County. WTAE reports Richard Ringer, who is running to replace GOP state Rep. Matt Dowling, said he found a man outside his home around 5 a.m. and confronted him. Ringer has reported multiple incidents at his house over the past three weeks. The motive is unclear.

HOME BUYS: A 222-unit Harrisburg housing complex once touted as a model of affordability is riddled with deficiencies and has been hit with more than a thousand code violations by the city. PennLive reports that one entrepreneur — a native of Harrisburg himself — wants to buy and fix the Residences at Governor's Square, but officials say his offer is millions short and they don't seem open to negotiating.

PENNIE DATES: The 2023 open enrollment period for Pennsylvania's Obamacare health insurance marketplace is open now through Jan. 15. The state says nine out of 10 Pennie customers qualify for financial savings, meaning most are eligible for subsidized monthly premiums. Enroll by Dec. 15 for coverage that kicks in New Year's Day. Enrollments done between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15 will kick in Feb. 1.

RESCUE CALL: After Allentown said no to rescue funding for the local minor league baseball team, which put the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs' MLB-affiliate status in jeopardy, Lehigh County said it will find a way. But Lehigh Valley Live reports it's unclear where exactly that $1.5 million will come from.

TOP TENS: Patch reports Pennsylvania has dominated the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of America's best retirement havens. Of the list's top 10 metro areas for retirees, five are in the commonwealth. They are: Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Reading, and York.

NEW CHARGES: A Hermitage man recently indicted over a cheating scandal that rocked the world of professional fishing is now charged with harassing a woman via text messages and hazardous driving, The Herald reports.

TOUR DATES: Taylor Swift's next tour — in support of her Midnights album — will include stops in Philly and Pittsburgh next year.

PHILLIES WIN: The Phillies won big last night, and that means they're up 2-1 in the World Series. Game Four starts at 8 tonight at home.

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: Redundancy

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., David S., Elaine C., Susan D., Becky C., Susan N.-Z., Jody A., Craig W., George S., Don H., Irene R., Dianne K., Steve D., Michelle T., Kim C., Mark O., Wendy A., Jane R., Mike B., James B., Starr B., Bill S., Chuck M., David W., and Stanley J.
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