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Taxpayers pony up $270K for GOP election review

Plus, former House Speaker Mike Turzai plans run for governor.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

November 22, 2021
Voter vetting, crisis call, teacher strike, city portrait, siege sentence, and a skunk walks into a library. It's Monday and Thanksgiving week. 
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"Bills like these do nothing to address criminal justice reform, which is a priority for the governor." 

—Gov. Tom Wolf spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer confirming his opposition to a bill advocates say would hinder nonprofit bail funds
We've been issued an urgent challenge: If we raise $70,000 by Dec. 31, we'll unlock $70,000 in matching gifts. This is HUGE.

Don't miss this chance to support Spotlight PA's vital investigative journalism and have your contribution DOUBLED. The future of Spotlight PA depends on your support, and we can't afford to lose this critical journalism.

Make a tax-deductible gift right now and help us keep it going.
» SHOT CALL: The U.S. has opened COVID-19 booster shots up to all adults and is urging people 50 and older to get one, the AP reports.

» CASE COUNT: Pennsylvania's COVID-19 positivity rate is climbing ahead of the holidays, with Thursday's 6,637 new infections the highest since mid-April, the Post-Gazette reports. 

» TESTING TAB: Employees who opt for testing instead of a COVID-19 shot under President Joe Biden's sweeping mandate will foot the bill for those tests, CNN Business reports.

» MASK UP: Westmoreland County's Norwin School District is reinstating its mask mandate today, days after voting to keep masks optional, per WTAE. 

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).
It's Thanksgiving week, and we want to know what you're thankful for this year. Tell us your reasons here and we'll share some of our favorite responses in the Thanksgiving Day edition of this newsletter. 'Tis the season.
November sunbeams at Baytree Farm in Emlenton Borough, courtesy of PA Poster @johnmcculloughphotographySend us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
CASE BRIEFING: Unredacted footage published by Spotlight PA and NBC News last week shows 19-year-old Christian Hall had his hands in the air, a pellet gun in one, when he was fatally shot by Pennsylvania State Police on an I-80 overpass near Stroudsburg. Here's what you need to know about the case and why Hall's parents are calling for a new investigation almost one year after his death.

FIELD FORM: Former Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai is entering the Republican race for governor, joining a sprawling field of primary candidates, including the top Republican in the state Senate, Jake Corman (R., Centre), The Caucus reports. In the concurrent race for U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Politico reports that yes, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz is serious about his Republican run.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Weeks after hitting the picket line in a years-long stalemate, striking Scranton teachers have reached a tentative deal with the school district, the AP reports. Details of the agreement — which still needs to be ratified — were not released, but a joint statement notes a "strong compromise" by both parties. Students are expected back in classrooms today for the first time since Nov. 3.

'CITY OF PRAYER': Most outside mentions of Clairton, a steel town 15 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, involve industrial pollution concerns, reports of late-night shootings, or high school football. PublicSource sent a photographer there for a more nuanced portrait of the city — one the outlet calls a "microcosm of the broader Rust Belt" and the varied impacts of the steel industry's decline.

SIEGE SENTENCE: An ex-Lackawanna County school director is due to be sentenced today on a misdemeanor charge for his role in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol siege. Prosecutors want Frank Scavo, who shared a lawyer with Steve Bannon, to serve two weeks in jail. Scavo has also agreed to pay $500 in restitution. In August, a judge questioned why Jan. 6 defendants are paying less restitution than U.S. taxpayers.

Update: Vials labeled “smallpox” that were found inside a Montgomery County vaccine research facility contain no trace of the deadly virus, per the CDC.
BOOK SMELL: A skunk named "Foxy" was living inside Philadelphia's Fox Chase Library for a week before forcing the branch's closure. Locked out patrons were understanding: "Very few people seem to want to come inside once we tell them there's a skunk," the branch's manager told Billy Penn.

HORSEY SAUCE: Mama Stamberg's tangy, spicy, and Pepto Bismol-colored cranberry relish, an NPR Thanksgiving staple for half a century, can be traced back to a 1961 holiday trip to Allentown — the source of the recipe and its most controversial ingredient: a particularly pungent horseradish.

BUILDING PLAN: With the owner of the Boston Red Sox likely to become the new owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, PublicSource examines what a potential sale might mean for a long-awaited and hotly debated redevelopment project next to Pittsburgh's hockey arena.

GET SET, GO: When Ghulam Sakhi Danish arrived in Philadelphia after fleeing Afghanistan, WHYY reports the first thing he did was buy a pair of running shoes. Then, one week after arriving, he ran an 8K as part of the city's marathon. "I really wanted to get in with Philly people," he explained.

SCHOOL DANCE: Bob Mehalick has an unusual background, especially for a school administrator. The Crestwood School District superintendent has helped produce tours for musicians like Post Malone and Fetty Wap. Standard-Speaker reports he's also DJ'd in Dubai and London.  
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.
Friday's answer: Differential

Congrats to our weekly winner: Ronnee G.

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Al M., Susan F., David I., Craig W., Eddy Z., Irene R., Mike B., Marie S., Don H., Chris M., Bridget C., Barbara F., Beth T., Mary Kay M., Heidi B., Craig E., Jessica K., Elaine C., Jill K., Connie K., Doris T., Suzanne D., Susan R., Ted W., Marty M., Elizabeth W., Jodi R., Steve D., Bruce B., Kim C., Becky C., Vicki U., Frederick H., Alan V., Kimberly S., Fred O., Jill A., Joel S., James B., Dianne K., Sharon M., Tim B., Susan N., Bill S., Patricia R., Daniel M., Jay H., James B., Neal W., John P., George S., Tish M., Kathy B., Ann E., and Jacqueline H.
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