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PSU's $7M salary list omission, carbon-fee captures, and a 'no compromise' gun group vs. Philly

Plus, Pa. 'missing out on millions' amid carbon-fee delays.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 10, 2022
Seven million, missed money, gun group, bigger pardon, fracking fray, big shoes, and the Civil War gold saga. It's Monday. This is PA Post.

Penn State's head football coach makes a guaranteed $7 million a year, but he doesn't appear on the university's required list of its top 25 highest-salaried employees. Spotlight PA wanted to know why. 

For the latest installment of the Penn State Transparency Tracker, Spotlight PA's State College Bureau sent several questions to the university about James Franklin's omission from the school's latest top 25 filing.

The university pointed to how his pay is structured. 

While Franklin makes a guaranteed $7 million a year, $6.5 million of that is guaranteed supplemental pay, while the other $500,000 represents his base salary. The school says base salaries guide the top 25 ranking.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Why doesn't James Franklin show up on Penn State's list of highest-paid employees?

THE CONTEXT: Several other coaches making more than $1 million were also kept off the list because their base salaries were lower than $662,000, the lowest found on Penn State's latest top 25 report.

A push is underway to require more salary reporting from state-related universities, like Penn State, which receive millions of dollars in state funding annually while exempted from key Right-to-Know Law provisions.

Republican nominee for governor Doug Mastriano, in his role as a state senator, introduced a bill that would require Pennsylvania's four state-related universities — Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln, and Temple — to make public 175 more of its top salaries, among other reporting requirements. 

The Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, said he supports the bill, a rare moment of agreement between the two.

Mastriano's bill passed the state Senate 38-12 in September and was sent to the state House for consideration.


"This can't keep happening."

—Pitt sophomore Alea Gentile on protests and calls for action that followed a sexual assault in the campus' iconic Cathedral of Learning last week

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
»  LGTBQ Rights

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks. 

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:  

»  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 for 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

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» @StephenJ_Caruso: What outside groups are spending on guv race
» INQUIRER: Is the U.S. Senate debate being held too late? (paywall)
» NEW CASTLE NEWS: Town sets new campaign sign rules (paywall)
» NYT: The ultimate test for Fetterman's blue-collar appeal (paywall)
» WFMZ: Berks Co. rules out ballot curing for upcoming midterms
The fountain at Point State Park in Pittsburgh, via Kathy E. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
RGGI REVENUE: Legal challenges against Pennsylvania's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are costing the state millions, Capital-Star reports. Pennsylvania's neighboring states generated large proceeds from the program's most recent carbon-allowance auction, but legal issues surround Pennsylvania's entry, an embattled cornerstone of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's climate change agenda.

'NO COMPROMISE': A group called Gun Owners of America is leading the charge against Philadelphia's attempts to enact tougher local gun laws amid rising rates of gun violence there. The "no compromise" group succeeded in getting a recent ban on guns at city recreation centers and playgrounds blocked. Billy Penn examines the group, its motives, and the state law making its challenges far more likely to stick.

PARDON PUSH: Thousands of people applied for pardons of low-level, non-violent cannabis convictions through Gov. Tom Wolf's Marijuana Pardon Project. Advocates want him to issue a general pardon, something more akin to what President Joe Biden did at the federal level for simple possession cases last week. But Wolf says he lacks the "unilateral authority" to do that here, per City & State.

NO-SHOWS: The University of Pittsburgh and the state Department of Health backed out of a public forum on a series of state-funded studies about fracking and public health last week, saying there wasn't enough data to share. (The forum was held anyway.) Community members have also quit as study advisers in protest of the researchers' "resistance to accountability and transparency," per Allegheny Front.

KEY OPENING: The death of Chief Justice Max Baer has left Pennsylvania's Supreme Court with an even number of justices, setting up potential deadlocks at a critical juncture for the court. While the court can affirm lower court decisions without a majority ruling, experts told TribLIVE it's not ideal. They think the open seat should be filled quickly, but the timing makes that unlikely.

PSYCHIC POWER: You've probably heard about the FBI's dig for a fabled trove of Civil War gold in Elk County and the lawsuit that followed. Spotlight PA takes the case all the way back to the beginning and the psychic's premonition that set the ongoing saga in motion.

PITTSBURGH BRIEFS: Take Bigelow (it's reopened since Friday's mess); Gene Simmons, the snake, has been found months after disappearing on a walk in Duquesne; and an Italian heritage group will appeal a court ruling on the removal of the city's Christopher Columbus statue.

PHILADELPHIA BRIEFS: The Phillies have won their first playoff series since 2010 and are moving on; the box housing the city's embattled Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza just got a makeover; and a strike by Philadelphia Museum of Art employees has entered its third week.

NEW APPROACH: The Conversation reports Pennsylvania's state prison in Chester is getting a Scandinavian-style makeover, part of an ongoing experiment around more humane approaches to incarceration.

KEEPS TICKING: The Chockablock Clock that has stood in the atrium of Harrisburg's Strawberry Square for 30 years is coming down, but ABC27 reports it's due to get a new home at Shippensburg University.

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.

Friday's answer: Brilliance

Congrats to our weekly winner: Jane R.

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Barbara F., Becky C., Susan N.-Z., Don H., Elaine C., Wendy A., Marty M., George S., Jon W., Kimberly D., Craig W., Susan D., Bill S., Dianne K., David W., Stanley J., Kim C., and Irene R.
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