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No gift ban in Pa. GOP’s lobbying reform plan

Plus, unmasking Pa. lawmakers’ secretive legal spending.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 15, 2021
Lobbying laws, blacked out, injection sites, custody case, money whip, 'climate menace,' and Pennsylvania's newest university (sort of). It's Friday. Excellent.

Months after promising to reform Pennsylvania's porous lobbying law, Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg unveiled a reform package this week that they say will close the "most pressing loopholes." 

But the legislation lacks one of the provisions reform advocates had pushed for the hardest: A ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators.

Capital-Star reports a spokesperson for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre) declined to say whether he supports the gift ban but said the door on additional reforms remains open

Critics of the new proposals certainly hope so, calling them a meager step.

THE CONTEXT: Corman announced plans to address lobbyist transparency, ethical conduct, and influence on the General Assembly back in May.

It was a rare position for a Pennsylvania legislative leader and one quickly undermined by Corman's attendance at a $5,000-a-ticket fundraiser hosted by one of Harrisburg's most prolific lobbying firms

In June, activists from the grassroots group MarchOnHarrisburg gathered outside Corman's Capitol office and briefly disrupted the Senate's voting session to demand a ban on gifts from special interests and lobbyists trying to influence public policy.

The group's executive director, Michael Pollack, called the reform proposals unveiled this week "a snowball" that doesn’t even begin to address the "avalanche" of issues around money in politics, per Capital-Star.


"It's not fair to voters to not know what they're voting for." 

—Allentown Councilor Candida Affa on vague language in a ballot question asking voters to decide whether English remains the city's official language
COVID-19 NEWS: An FDA panel has endorsed Moderna's booster shot and is expected to weigh in on Johnson & Johnson's option today; WESA offers some important context on last month's jump in statewide breakthrough cases; and, as of Tuesday, Pennsylvania had fewer ICU beds available than at any other point during the pandemic. 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).
» THE JUDICIAL VOTE: Join us Thursday, Oct. 21 at noon EST via Zoom for a free breakdown and Q&A on who will be on the ballot this November and how voters will decide the future of Pennsylvania's courts. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
A very muscular friend spotted on Hick’s Run road in Truman. Thanks for the photo, James NSend us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
PRIVILEGED INFORMATION: Spotlight PA and The Caucus dug through thousands of heavily redacted legal invoices to determine the reasons Pennsylvania legislators spend millions to hire outside lawyers and legal firms. The reporters found harassment claims, defamation suits, personnel issues, and more — along with a familiar lack of transparency.

LEGAL SETBACK: The U.S. Supreme Court won't review a supervised injection site plan meant to reduce overdose deaths in Philadelphia, but supporters of the effort say the fight isn't over. Meanwhile, The Inquirer reports on a new study that chronicles the struggles faced by Philly's frontline addiction treatment workers during the pandemic.

COURT RULING: A Pennsylvania judge has denied Trump-backed U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell's bid to seal records in his divorce and child custody case. TribLIVE reports Senior Common Pleas Judge James Arner agreed, however, to protect information relative to the physical and mental health of the couple's three children.

CASEY CURSE: "Mild-mannered" U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D., Pa.) is fired up — relatively speaking, of course — as he pushes key aspects of his party's multitrillion-dollar social spending plan. "Damn right, let's do more of that," Casey said, referring to GOP critics who already think Democrat-led COVID-19 relief spending was far too grand, Politico reports.

'LIABILITY BOMB': Up to 8% of Pennsylvania's man-made methane emissions come from inactive oil and gas wells, a lurking "climate menace," per Bloomberg Green. But the state's largest owner of such wells cut a deal allowing it to slow-walk the plugging process, creating what one expert calls a "liability bomb waiting to explode."
SCARY SAUCE: Heinz doesn't care how you use its ketchup. To prove it, the Pennsylvania-based company is marketing its flagship fun-dip as a Halloween prop, Food & Wine reports. "Tomato blood" is on sale nationwide.

PUBLIC OFFICE: Steelers-reporter-turned-housing activist Jacob Klinger is running for constable and looking to "disrupt" and transform the eviction process from the inside out, Pittsburgh City Paper reports. 

NAME CHANGE: Clarion, California, and Edinboro Universities are now collectively known as Pennsylvania Western University. It's all part of a contested merger meant to sustain the struggling system, per Capital-Star.

LEAF PEAK: Peak color has arrived in parts of Pennsylvania and is coming soon for the rest of the state with a broad cooldown expected this weekend. Find the latest projections in the state's updated fall foliage report.

EAT UP: The Inquirer's deputy food editor, Joseph Hernandez, has written a moving piece about navigating depression and loneliness, and how the humble egg sandwich taught him a lesson in self-love.
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.
Yesterday's answer: Pedagogy

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Susan F., Susan N., Barbara O., Craig W., David I., Kevin M., Joyce O., Jane S., Briann M., Neal W., Debbie D., Elaine C., Kimberly S., Judith D., Susan D., Elizabeth W., John F., Elizabeth W., Kevin H., Steve D., Heidi B., James B., Mary Kay M., Patricia R., Suzanne S., Jill A., Irene R., George S., Kim C., Jonny L., Ann E., Tim B., Don H., Jeff G., Cris F., Dianne K., Beth T., Bill S., Lewis M., Bridget C., Beth L., Rick D., hoffbrutus, Joel S., John H., David W., Doris T., Eddy Z., Anne R., Tish M., John P., and Myles M.
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